Friday, June 5, 2015

The sola scriptura that you haven't heard

To my fellow-Protestants,

If you continue to say asinine things like "The Bible alone is the only authority" or "The Bible alone is the only source of knowledge," any Anchorite epologists will eat you alive.

To my Anchorite Friends,

You probably think that sola scriptura means "The Bible alone."  If you converted from Protestantism to Anchoritism, you likely didn't have a good grounding in historic Reformed dogmatics (you probably didn't read Muller or Bavinck's Prolegomena; you probably reduced the Reformed faith to the Five Points).  However, to be fair to you, your Protestant interlocutors are likely making the same mistake.

Sola Scriptura means the Bible is the principium cognoscendi.  It is our external cognitive foundation for theological knowledge.  It is the final authority of theological knowledge.  If it is the final authority for theological knowledge, that necessarily implies lesser sources of knowledge. This means Protestants cheerfully welcome lesser warrants of belief:  traditions, liturgy, lives of the saints (Hebrews 13:7), general revelation, and (and here is where I get in trouble), words of wisdom.

If the Bible is the only source of theological knowledge, then it can't be a judge of theological knowledge (obviously, since any other knowledge is necessarily wrong).

Someone could respond, "Yeah, but it's your interpretation of the Bible that is the final judge of knowledge, which means you think you are the final judge."  That sounds like an impressive rebuttal, but it's not.  As Bavinck pointed out, this person confuses the organ of knowing with the source and standard of knowing.

(1)  Yes, I am using my own reason and judgment.  I would be a fool not to.

Everyone, including the Anchorite, uses his reason to evaluate claims.  But I know my reason is prone to error.

(2) Since fallible, my reason is open to correction from other cognitive sources (tradition, alternative interpretations, natural revelation).

Someone could object, "But that's making everything subjective.   How is this not relativism?"  I refer to the aforementioned confusion of organ and source.

(3) Any type of reasoning which sees reason as an organ of knowing will be subjective.

(3') The organ of knowing is within the knowing subject.

Is this a vicious relativism? We see that charge but no reason to think so.

(3*) The organ of knowledge is within the knowing subject.  The source of knowledge is external to it.

Case study for Eastern Orthodox.  Vincent of Lerins said the church has always taught the imputation of Adam's guilt.  Have fun with that one.  


  1. Interesting this.

    I'm not expert on Latin, having only had a year of it in High I'll run this by my Latin professors...but this is my take...and it seems fairly clear cut. The exact quote from Vincent of Lerins is "Who ever before his monstrous
    disciple Coelestius denied that the, whole human race is involved in the
    guilt of Adam's sin?"

    Nowhere does Vincent use the word "imputation." You have bootlegged that into the text. Indeed, the whole human race is involved in the guilt of Adam's sin. The question is how are we involved? His statement in no way makes it clear what he means by "involved." Eisegesis vs. Exegesis. When one takes the time to read the Latin it becomes clear....

    "... reatu praevaricationis Adae omne humanum genus denegavit adstrictum?" The literal translation here is; "denied the guilt of the transgression of Adam the whole human race constriction?" The word "praevaricationis" = transgression / guilt and is in the genitive singular form and modifies "Adae." = Adam. Then follows; "the whole human race denied constriction?" omne humanum genus...adstrictum.
    The word "adstrictum" is translated as "involved." A better translation would be; to draw, bind, or tie together, to bind, to tighten, contract. See doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0059:entry=astringo I'll run it by a Latin prof...but to me it appears that the point of Vincent's statement in the Latin is "Who ever before his monstrous disciple Coelestius denied that the whole human race is constricted through the guilt of Adam's transgression?" The word guilt here is not applied to the whole human race, but to Adam, and I believe that in Latin this may be clearer, but this is a guess at this point. Again, I will check with an expert and update either way.

  2. I suppose it's no coincidence that you happened to refer to Vincent of Lerins in a post about sola scriptura. You throw out his name as some kind of proof for imputation of guilt, while ignoring the remainder of his thoughts about the very subject of the place and interpretations of Scripture.

    "CHAPTER II: A General Rule for distinguishing the Truth of the Catholic
    Faith from the Falsehood of Heretical Pravity.

    I HAVE often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many
    men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak
    universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith
    from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost
    every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any
    one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics
    as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we
    must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the
    authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic

    But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture
    is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than
    sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the
    Church's interpretation? For this reason,--because, owing to the depth of
    Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one
    understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to
    be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For
    Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius,
    Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another,
    Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another.
    Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such
    various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets
    and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of
    Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

    CHAPTER XXVII: What Rule is to be observed in the Interpretation of

    BUT it will be said, If the words, the sentiments, the promises
    of Scripture, are appealed to by the Devil and his disciples, of whom some
    are false apostles, some false prophets and false teachers, and all without
    exception heretics, what are Catholics and the sons of Mother Church to do?
    How are they to distinguish truth from falsehood in the sacred Scriptures?
    They must be very careful to pursue that course which, in the beginning of
    this Commonitory, we said that holy and learned men had commended to us,
    that is to say, they must interpret the sacred Canon according to the
    traditions of the Universal Church and in keeping with the rules of
    Catholic doctrine, in which Catholic and Universal Church, moreover, they
    must follow universality, antiquity, consent. And if at any time a part
    opposes itself to the whole, novelty to antiquity, the dissent of one or a
    few who are in error to the consent of all or at all events of the great
    majority of Catholics, then they must prefer the soundness of the whole to
    the corruption of a part; in which same whole they must prefer the religion
    of antiquity to the profaneness of novelty; and in antiquity itself in like
    manner, to the temerity of one or of a very few they must prefer, first of
    all, the general decrees, if such there be, of a Universal Council, or if
    there be no such, then, what is next best, they must follow the consentient
    belief of many and great masters. Which rule having been faithfully,
    soberly, and scrupulously observed, we shall with little difficulty detect
    the noxious errors of heretics as they arise.

    1. So...what, exactly?

      I have no problem with tradition. The problem is you guys can't empirically verify this tradition without begging the question.

      Further, I'm not sure what your long copy/pasting actually addresses per my argument in the post.

    2. Per my is the text of the email I received back regarding the translation of Vincent of Lerins.

      "Many thanks for your email. I am delighted to be of assistance.

      Quis ante prodigiosum discipulum ejus Coelestium reatu praevaricationis Adae omne humanum genus denegavit adstrictum?

      Who (quis), before (ante), his (eius - genitive of 'is' = 'he'/'that man'), monstrous (prodigiosum - masculine accusative singular agreeing with 'discipulum'), pupil ('discipulum' - accusative singular, governed by 'ante'), Coelestius ('Coelestium' - accusative singular, in apposition to 'discipulum'), denied ('denegavit' - 3rd person singular perfect indicative active of 'denego'), the-entire ('omne' - neuter accusative singular of 'omnis = 'entire', agreeing with 'genus'), human ('humanum' - neuter accusative singular of 'humanus' agreeing with 'genus'), race ('genus' - accusative singular, direct object of 'denegavit'), to-have-been-bound ('adstrictum', elliptical form of 'adstrictum esse', perfect passive infinitive of 'adstringo' = 'I bind', very literally 'to be having been bound'), by-the guilt (reatu' - ablative singular of 'reatus-us', masculine 4th declension noun = 'guilt'), of-the-sin ('prevaricationis' - genitive singular of 'prevaricatio - prevaricationis' f. = 'sin'), of-Adam (genitive singular of 'Adam').

      or, in more idiomatic English:

      Who, before his monstrous pupil Coelestius, denied that the human race had been bound by the guilt of the sin of Adam?

      The construction following 'denegavit' is the accusative and infinitive, representing indirect speech. The meaning is what that the human race is bound by the guilt of Adam. 'adstrictum' goes grammatically with 'genus', and the 'sin' is 'Adam's'.

      With best wishes."

    3. Even if your reading holds, we still have Vincent saying I am responsible for Adam's guilt.

      And that's a side issue to my larger post.