My Reader To You: 16.02.10

Derek Ouellette —  February 16, 2010

Blog of the Week: A Sure Foundation

Blog of the week goes out to Harry over at Harry’s Heresy Blog. Their Harry makes the conservative case for the necessity of building Christians on a sure foundation; that foundation being the Word of God and right teaching. It is a pastorally sensitive post:

As one can tell, I hold to a very high standard of scripture as did Jesus and Paul. Jesus used scripture to rebuke Satan’s temptation (Matthew 4: 3-4, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16)   that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. In (Matt 19:1-6) in response to the Pharisee’s question on divorce, Jesus goes back to (Gen 1:27)…

Theology After Google

Florin over at Theological Perspectives writes an interesting article making the case for the demise of the “expert”. She writes:

Google represents the third step in the process of knowledge distribution, effectively ending the tyranny of the expert. Although until Google, pretty much all knowledge has been captured into books (a great and successful effort), full access to all these books continued to be limited to just a few (usually the scholars), which perpetuated the old aged limited access to knowledge.

Emerging Church is Dead(?)

Matthew over at Mere Orthodoxy tells the story of Jeremy, an “Emergent” who is growing disenchanted with the “Emergent Church”. I find this to be ironic because the Emergent Church is supposed to be a safe haven for people who are disenchanted with the institutional church (here is a blog, quoting a blog, quoting a blog. Sorry):

At any rate, Ben Simpson (whose blog I have been enjoying of late) pointed me this afternoon to this promise to take-down the emerging church by Jeremy Bouma, a 29-year-old participant in the movement who has grown a bit disenchanted with it.  Jeremy’s only one person, of course.  But he is an insider, and he’s not exactly going to hold back.

That is all for today. Enjoy.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Eric Gregory

    The foundation of truth is the Church, not Scripture. It’s in people who are empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit (which Harry mentions) and not a the of texts from the apostles we now have. This is just one of the reasons why Richard Hooker’s “three-legged stool” of (1) Scripture, (2) reason and (3) tradition are necessary for the understanding of Christianity. We cannot understand Scripture without both our own reason and the traditions of the Church. Occasionally we find that some traditions are not “Holy Tradition” (e.g. indulgences in the Reformation period) and both Scripture and reason overturn it. Scripture is the “highest” authority (as it is the authority of the apostles themselves), but it is the “first among equals”, and not the “supreme” authority it’s often touted to be.

    Protestants would do well to look on Anglican theology for a method of coming to truth, in this Episcopalian’s opinion :)

  • Eric Gregory

    Another thought (that I posted in conjunction with the above on Harry’s site):

    The Church was established in order to be the truth on earth – it is given the authority by Christ himself. Nowhere in Scripture do we have an understanding of the New Testament being “God-breathed” – how are we to know, without the traditions of the Church (which is the vehicle through which the Kingdom comes to earth) and human reason, that the Scriptures are true? They weren’t even canonized until half a century after the Resurrection!

  • Derek Ouellette

    Hi Eric,

    You comment that “nowhere in scripture do we have an understanding that the New Testament is “God-breathed””. You are mistaken. And though I hardly hope to convince you, let me give you some advice that might point you in the right direction.

    Advice 1: Don’t think: “Scripture = Book with Paper”. Think: “Scripture = Authority of the Apostles written down”. Begin to get this thinking right and you may correct this comment: “They weren’t even canonized until half a century after the Resurrection” – to state the obvious as a rebuttal: the Apostles were still alive!

    Advice 2: Your reasoning for this is:

    premise: not canonized
    conclusion 1/Premise 2: therefore not scripture
    conclusion 2: therefore not “God-breathed”

    This is bad reasoning because it ignores the organic nature of the scriptures. If your reasoning were to stand then Jesus and the Apostles could not appeal to the O.T. scriptures since they were not officially “canonized” also until 80 years after the Resurrection!

    Furthermore, in the N.T. Paul’s letters were considered on equal footing with the O.T. scriptures by Peter and (evidently) others. If the early church believed all scriptures to be “God-Breathed”, then it stands to reason this would include the writings of the Apostles (such as Paul) who’s letters were recognized as carrying the same weight of authority as the O.T.

    The reasoning for this is:

    Premise 1: N.T. Scripture is simply the Apostolic authority
    Premise 2: Paul’s letters (as a case in point) were considered equal with the “other scriptures”
    Premise 3: All Scripture is “God-Breathed”.
    Conclusion: N.T. writings must be “God-Breathed” and equally as authoritative as the O.T.

    So I have served you a light meal of both Reason and Tradition to show you that the believers authority (in matters of orthodoxy and orthopraxy) is God’s authority as it is exercised through the writings of the apostles and the prophets, i.e. the scriptures.

    Eric, there is a fine line between discussing view points which is good for the soul and the mind, and being contentious which is good for neither the soul nor the mind, neither does it reflect the humility of Christ.

    (P.S. my understanding of the authority of God’s Word comes through the influence of the Anglican Bishop, N.T. Wright – and I still disagree with you based on his work)

  • Eric Gregory

    (Mistake on my part: the canonization of the New Testament was a half-MILLENNIA, almost 500 years/5 centuries, after the Resurrection… the apostles were certainly NOT alive then, nor was it clear that Paul and others knew they were writing what would become the canon of the N.T. – we wouldn’t have lost his other writings if that were the case, yes?)

    Actually, my thoughts follow this:

    1. Jesus gave authority to the Apostles
    2. Apostles gave authority to others, giving rise to the three orders of ministry (bishop, deacon, priest)
    3. The Church is living, and not simply writings (as St. Paul asks those to whom he writes to adhere to his words while he was with them, and not only those he has written down)
    4. The Church is what the Jesus started and the Apostles continued
    5. The Church adapts to culture (not adhering to culture, but always seeking new ways to proclaim the gospel to an ever-changing world)
    6. Words to not adapt to culture without effort and extrapolation, learning the culture of the time of writing (which is good and necessary)
    7. The Church is the “pillar of truth” in this world
    8. Scripture is indeed the teachings of the Apostles but does not include everything, since we do not have evidence of all of their writings or verbal teachings
    9. The Spirit guided the Apostles and continues to guide the Church
    10. In light of 1-8, we ought to cherish Scripture as the teaching of the Apostles, but not neglect the Traditions of the Church or our own Reason when discerning God’s will in our lives

    Scripture is indeed the first among equals when it comes to the “three-legged stool” of Hooker. It’s primacy comes from the teachings of Christ and the first-hand accounts of the Apostles. However, it does not speak to every piece of contemporary life and needs constant interpretation. I would certainly agree that if anything we determine is in conflict with Scripture, we need to rethink it.

    What I reject about Reformed theology is the overemphasis on the Scriptures, and the underemphasis on the Church and human reason. When I hear Protestants touting “the Bible” without realizing that it took 450+ years for the Church to agree upon what was considered the New Testament (and even then, books like Jude, James, Revelation, Hebrews, and others were fought over and eventually included – even Luther himself didn’t like those books and placed them at the end of his Bible translation). How did we come to have the Scriptures as we have…

  • Eric Gregory

    How did we come to have the Scriptures as we have them? Through the council of bishops at synod – through the perception of the Spirit by the Living Church. Protestants seem to fail to realize this truth, relying on God’s providence throughout the ages to have the canon we have now. Which is fine. What’s NOT fine is when Protestants fail to recognize that the God whose Spirit moved the bishops at synod to come to agreement on the canonization of Scripture (which should include the “apocryphal” books, yes?) is the SAME God that we have with us today. We need not only look to Scripture for truth (which can be difficult due to the need for more and more interpretation as the years progress), which is what I hear from a lot of evangelical Protestants.

    With an overemphasis on the Bible and a derogatory view of the Church catholic, evangelical Protestants seem to neglect how God moved between 1AD and 1500AD, somehow believing that the “truths” of the Reformation were what the Apostles initially intended without recognizing that God’s Spirit has been guiding His Church throughout history (though it has strayed, as it will continue to stray). This is why I emphasize Tradition and Reason as part of the same gift that God gives to us with the Scriptures. We need Scripture to help form our Traditions and our Reason, but we do not do away with the others and look to Scripture alone.

    I guess my point, though not plainly spelled out by any means (apologies for that), is that the evangelical Protestant Church needs to embrace more than just Scripture (and certainly more than their interpretations of Scripture) in order to be relevant and to actually proclaim the truth of the gospel to an ever-changing world. I love the Scriptures, and I wouldn’t dismiss them by any means, I just think people need to be careful of an overemphasis on books and an underemphasis on the active Spirit found in our brothers and sisters. If the Scriptures were looked at as you look at them, I don’t think I’d have an issue, but I think that Scriptures tend to be elevated as somehow “God-dictated” instead of “God-inspired”, and they simply don’t measure up to that challenge.

    God speaks through people (especially living ones), not simply through text. If incarnational ministry weren’t important, Jesus wouldn’t have come to earth as a human child. We need living people, not just writings.

  • Eric Gregory

    Thanks for letting me flesh that out a bit, I was not intending to be contentious by any means, but really get a burr in my saddle when people claim that the writings we have (as amazing as they are) are what was meant as the “pillar of truth in the world”. It’s not. People are. We are to be the pillar of truth, and we are to be informed by Scripture, reason and tradition together. If we neglect reason, we have blind and unrefined faith. If we neglect tradition, we do not have what was passed down to us from the Apostles and from cultures of the past. If we neglect Scripture, we do not have the words of the Apostles themselves, or the words of the Christ.

    We need strong and biblically sound leaders in the Church today, but, especially for those parts of the world where reading is a luxury and not expected, we need not claim that every person should be reading the Scriptures for themselves. (This is not an argument for a pre-Vatican II world. I love that I can read the Scriptures in my native tongue.) We are to continue in the teaching of the Apostles and in the breaking of bread, not only the reading of a physical book. The teachings of the Apostles are not wholly contained within the Scriptures – they come down through tradition as well.

  • Eric Gregory

    Last thing:

    I don’t mind being proved wrong, and often find myself arguing for a position that I don’t necessarily agree with in order to get a well-rounded response to my arguments. It might be peculiar, but I fight hard from one viewpoint in order to come to a more full understanding of the opposite. It’s tough through words on a blog, especially if the person I argue with doesn’t know me personally, so I appreciate your willingness.

    Thanks, Derek!

  • Eric Gregory

    Seriously, last thing:

    I thought this blog series on inerrancy (which we didn’t discuss, but might be relevant) would at least be of interest to you: CLICK HERE

  • Derek Ouellette

    When your earlier comment had said, “half a century” I thought, “great! We’re making headway.” But alas, we must digress.

    I, of course, am familiar with the traditional Catholic argument (sigh) claiming the Church equal (at least) in authority based on the councils selection and closing of the canon. At first glance there is an inner logic to this: Church chooses which books are in and which are out, therefore Church Tradition is equal (at least) to the scriptures.

    But such is an over simplistic reading of history. The truth, as I have tried to point to, is much more sobering. That the early believers placed apostolic authority on equal footing with the O.T. scriptures; which Jesus himself on many occasions appeals to regardless of the Traditions in which those scriptures were formed. When the Apostles died what remained of their work carried on that same authority – what we today refer to as the N.T. scriptures.

    When the councils “closed” the canon they did so to prevent certain church leaders from trying to “sift out” and “add in” other writings which were not universally accepted (Marcion). It was a matter of confirming what was held firm from the beginning, that Apostolic authority is the Church’s authority. It was not a matter of plucking this book but not that one to be in the canon as Catholics like to imagine it.

    The idea which you cling to, that Apostolic authority was passed down so that say Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius also had the same Apostolic authority is simply a misnomer (all Christians have authority if Christ of course, to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the powers of the evil one, but that is not what we are talking about). These were leaders in the church, no question, but in the defense of the truth they appealed to Apostolic authority (i.e. the scriptures prior to 325 A.D.).

    Your comment on the Deuteronocanical books I will address briefly: It is a well documented fact that these books were NOT a part of Jerome’s Vulgate. Jerome himself made many commentary notes while translating other O.T. books like 2 Kings, defending and stating his reasons for leaving them out. The Church never recognized them as scripture in the same way as the O.T. and N.T. and it was not until the Council of Trent (1545 A.D.), that they were added in as, literally, “Second Canon”. And the Hebrew scriptures do not contain them. (If you are interested, I recommend “The Book: A History of the Bible” by Christopher De Hamel

    Are they useful? You bet. But in the same as Josephus and Philo, not Moses and Jeremiah; that is, they are not scripture. (You will disagree with me, that is your prerogative.)

    I will not comment on what appears to be contradictory statements which you make since Harry has already done so so well. I am referring, of course, to your statement, “the scripture is the highest authority… but not the supreme authority”. As Harry asks, did I miss something?

    You have thanked me for letting you “flesh it out a bit”, but have you considered anything suggested in my first comment, or would that require you to change your paradigm too much? Because it appears that you’ve only dug your heels deeper into your dogma.

    I don’t blame you for this, it’s what we all do. Blogger, Flint Jahbone writes perceptively:

    One of the most powerful things, broken into 2 subcategories, in our world is perspective/perception. The way one views something is how they’ll treat it regardless of its real worth, value or meaning. Once you see something one way, it is very hard to see it in any other way. (Italics mine)

    You revere the work of N.T. Wright as equal canon to the New Testament (you said this on another comment), but N.T. Wright himself has suggested a new paradigm, one that has caused my paradigm to shift dramatically from how I used to see the scriptures. It is the same paradigm I have been putting forth here and so, since his work is as much canon as the Apostle Paul’s work is canon (in your mind), I encourage you to pick it up. The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of the Scripture by N.T. Wright

    I need to say something about your treatment of Protestantism as a whole as it pertains to this discussion. You caricature Protestantism by saying that they fail to realize that the councils were led by the Spirit during the closing of the canon and that he is the “SAME God” that we have today. This is false, no educated protestant would deny this, and if you can find one wing nut who does, well, that one is a loose nut not to be used as an example for the rest.

    Regarding inerrancy I realize and agree that Christians need to perhaps refine and nuance their terminology from time to time. I have already done this and found the following books helpful: Evangelicals & Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics, several essays by several different scholars; and especially Divine Authenticity of Scripture: Retrieving an Evangelical Heritage by A.T.B. McGowan.

    As I said in my opening comment to you that I did not hope to convince you. That hopelessness remains. I am sure (if you stick around) that this discussion will come up again, but for now this will be the last comment here regarding this subject.

    Thanks for your thoughts, I trust we have both learned something here.