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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Gateway, Part 2

I wholeheartedly grant that even a large preponderance of the so-called Reformers did not intend to be the arbiters of their own rule of faith, via Sola Scriptura. I grant that many of them, and the spiritual descendants after them, do not grant that they are biblicists. They believe that they have a healthy respect for tradition, and the accumulated weight of considered reflection over centuries. But what a person believes concerning himself, and the reality of what is, under the light of logic may well be different. Who is the arbiter of what Scripture says, if the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is not? It would seem, quite frankly, that any alternate authorities do not function as true arbiters, if indeed that purported authority over the man is predicated on his prior agreement that it agrees with him. At this point, many will object, saying that no adherent of the Reformed or Lutheran (or other) system submits to himself, but rather, the Word of God. Yet it is the failure to distinguish between divinely-revealed things, and fallible human opinion that is most troubling. At this, many have protested, believing that the Catholic relies on a belief that the Scriptures are opaque, and not even profitable for reading. Nonsense.

I believe rather that even the most educated Protestant does not see the magnitude of the dogmatic variance that Sola Scriptura and its attendant ecclesiology has caused. He can't, really, because doing so would lessen the credibility of his claim that his particular set of doctrines x is divinely revealed truth. As Mr. Noltie is always quick to point out, every interpreter believes that his system--though acknowledged fallible in the abstract--is the most accurate reflection of the "plain" Scriptures. Might I suggest, however, that choosing between doctrinal positions in the absence of infallible certainty is most foolish? That certainty is the consequence of divinely protected infallibility. That infallibility marks the distinguishing feature of dogma versus pious opinion. In even the best form of Sola Scriptura, there is no systemic or methodological way to distinguish revealed truth from human opinion. There is no principled reason to assent to any particular set of doctrines over another, because it has no discernible advantage--that is, bearing the mark of divine origin--over another.

Preference and kinship are not sufficient reasons to assent to any doctrine. Thus, if an interpretive method leaves one with only preference and kinship to commend a particular doctrine or set of doctrines, this indicates that both the doctrine, and the method of discerning it, did not come from God, but from myself, or another human. I gave up being Protestant and Reformed because I could not know whether what I believed was actually true, and from God. That's what any Christian would, and should, do. You cannot lay your whole being down, you cannot preach to sinners good news to save their eternal souls, if you do not know that God said it. There cannot be half-way heralds of Jesus Christ. Ever. Anywhere. Martyrs do not die for "probably true." If, despite our best efforts, Sola Scriptura leaves us confused in the particulars, searching for the common denominator--and the lowest one, at that--and longing for a unity that can never be realized, maybe it's a bad principle.

I need to be clear: I never was tempted with agnosticism or atheism. Not even a little. But when we accept our disunity as Christians as something normal and unavoidable, we obscure Him who is Truth itself. We do not need to pursue unity for its own sake, but for Him, and his loving intention for the world. In a funny way, it was like playing hide-and-seek with Jesus. I found him hiding in plain sight, behind the Barque of Peter.

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