Saturday, January 30, 2010

Non-Rube Goldberg Response

Response to Steve Hays

I actually think Rube Goldberg machines are cool!  That being said, Mr. Hays accusation of "Rube Goldberg prooftexting" is without merit.  Even if it were true, a Rube Goldberg machine may be an overly complicated means of performing a simple task, BUT IT WORKS!  Mr. Hays attempt to insult backfires on him in more than one way.   Before you continue, enjoy this Rube Goldberg Honda commercial...

sw: “It's still A definition which is used by some Protestants.”

Steve writes: i) If Scott is attacking, say, the Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura, then, at a minimum, he should cite a formulation of the doctrine from some recognized source, like the Westminster Confession, Turretin, &c. That would at least supply a respectable starting point.

sw: That was not an attack - it was an example.  The only point in bringing that one up was that there are extremes in the interpretation of exactly what sola scriptura is.  Hays does not contest this and is making more of that quote than I did.
Steve continues: For example, the Westminster Confession doesn’t use the word “only.” Rather, it refers to the supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture.
sw: Though often touted by Protestants, the Westminster Confession really doesn't speak to "sola" as in "sola scriptura."  Certainly it speaks to "satis scriptura" or "suprema scriptura" but it doesn't preach "sola scriptura."   Words mean things - if you don't MEAN "sola" then why use the word "sola?"

Steve continues:  ii) Let’s also keep in mind that 16-17C theological formulations reflect the state of the debate at the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

They were not designed to address or anticipate unforeseen or unforeseeable objections which might crop up at a later date.
sw: Words still mean things - if you don't MEAN "sola" - then don't SAY "sola."

Steve posits:  It’s possible that Catholic epologists like Francis Beckwith are raising a more specialized objection than traditional formularies take into account. In which case we’re at liberty to refine the formulation–if need be.
sw: So refine it all you want, but if you're using a standard which explicitly states "sola" then be consistent.  If it's the "sole infallible source for the church on matters of faith or morals," then there is no other source.   That's what "sola" means.   Words mean things.  So let's not try to make this a Rube Goldberg argument - just explain "sola" in terms of "sola" and then let's see how it stacks up.

Steve writes:  Francis Beckwith isn’t Robert Bellarmine. Polemical theology always adapts to the challenges of the moment.
sw: And Steve Hays isn't a Dr. Francis Beckwith or Dr. Robert Bellarmine, but he certainly is polemical.  We, as Christians, should strive to be less insulting and/or polemical in our apologetics and try to be more in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15-17.
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
(1 Peter 3:15-17 NASB)
“Scott earlier responded: And? Here we sit waiting for the evidence to support this threefold allegation and...??? Silence.”

I’ve produced copious documentation concerning the intratextual, intertextual, and paratextual evidence for the canon of Scripture. This is in the public domain.

I’m not obligated to give Scott a private tutorial. If he presumes to oppose my position in studied ignorance of what I’ve already written on the subject, that’s his problem, not mine.

Remember, he initiated this debate, not me. He responded to something I wrote, not vice versa.
sw:  Well, if Mr. Hays wishes to "cop out" of this without substantiating the statement he made to me, then he concedes the point.  If Mr. Hays has indeed already responded precisely to the challenge here, then at least provide a link to the document he claims he's written.  He cannot expect those who challenge him to read every jot and tiddle he's blogged or published elsewhere.  Either he has a valid argument, or he hasn't - and thus far on this point, he has no argument, just an unsupported assertion.

sw: “Sure, some books are mentioned by other books, some passages can be identified as quotes from other passages - but there is no set list - nor is it even possible to establish one based on Scripture Alone.”

Steve writes:  Long on assertion, short on argument.
sw: At least I used complete a complete sentence.  I conceded that some books mention other books, some passages refer to passages elsewhere - but there's no set list or canon within the confines of Scripture - except in the Table of Contents, which was put there by the Catholic Church, initially.

Scott had written:  “Well, I'm sure you could come up with some sort of list, but not one with precisely 66 or 73 books in it.”

Steve replies: Of course, I’ve addressed the Apocrypha on numerous occasions.
sw: The point here was not the deuterocanonicals - the point, which Mr. Hays appears to have missed entirely, there is NO LIST of EITHER 66 or 73 books.  The statement was NOT about the deuterocanonicals ("Apocrypha" is polemical and inaccurate as the 7 books in question are not and never have been "hidden" - as "apocrypah" means - and remember, "words mean things!")
Scott wrote earlier: “That statement flatly denies the ‘sola’ in sola scriptura.”

Steve retorts:  i) Of course, that’s illogical. If Scripture itself has a doctrine of providence, then it hardly violates the primacy of Scripture to consider extrascriptural data which Scripture implicitly warrants.
sw: Again Mr. Hays does not seem to grasp the concept of "words mean things!"  Does "sola" mean anything, or was it just a catchy slogan to go along with other "solas?"  It must be noted again - everytime "sola" is emphasized, Mr. Hays argues for something OTHER THAN SOLA!  In this case he's arguing for the "providence" of Scripture and the "primacy" of Scripture - neither point can be equated to "sola."  THAT is my point.  Mr. Hays could just concede this point, as a few others have, and save some face.  The more he ducks, dodges and otherwise avoids - the more he gives me the opportunity to expose the diversionary tactics.
ii) For example, Scripture takes for granted the use of logical inference and sensory perception to process and interpret Scripture.
sw:  "Long on assertion, short on argument."

It’s not as though 16-17 theologians who hammered out the formulation of sola Scriptura ever intended to exclude those “extrascriptural” factors.

Sola Scriptura involves a more restricted claim than what Catholic epologists are straining to contrive.
sw: Interesting, I thought we were restricting the claim too narrowly to actually giving the word "sola" the meaning of "sola."  It seems the Protestant argument changes with the wind.

“Scott earlier said: I'm sorry, but the fact is you don't have to interpret every statement (beyond a linguistic level of interpretation). Certainly some level of interpretation CAN take place, even in very clear statements - like ‘thou shalt not kill’ - this can be taken many ways beyond the basic, ‘don't kill.’ Jesus tells us that if we are even just angry with our brother without cause, or if we call him a fool that we've already committed the sin against him and stand in danger of hellfire (Matthew 5:22). Now does this interpretation lessen that which is originally stated?”

Steve replies:  Well, that’s an ill-chosen example to illustrate Scott’s contention since, as one leading commentator points out, Jesus’ comparison is hyperbolic. Cf. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, 200-202.
sw: With all due respect, I disagree that it is hyperbolic.  Why does Mr. Hays seem to be arguing for a lesser meaning to Jesus' words here?  Regardless, the point is that not every word of Scripture needs an in-depth interpretation - "thou shalt not kill" still means "do not murder."
Earlier Scott said: “That being said, let us not be diverted here! This discussion is about sola scriptura, a statement like ‘you're no better’ than we are is not a defense of sola scriptura (even if the statement were true).”

Steve said:  i) Scott is the one who’s diverting the discussion, not me. He does a bait-and-switch as he baits the trap with the allegation that sola scriptura is logically self-refuting, then switches to the claim that if sola Scriptura is implicitly taught in Scripture, then that’s subject to interpretation.

But whether or not it’s subject to interpretation is hardly equivalent to self-contradiction.
sw: Mr. Hays missed the point - interpretation is not part of Scripture.  The interpretation is extra scriptura - and thus if sola scriptura is the rule of faith - then this interpretation is outside the rule.
Steve continues:  ii) Let’s also keep in mind that I’m not attempting to defend sola Scriptura, per se. Rather, I’m responding to the specific objections of Scott. And I’m also doing my best to keep the discussion on track. The specific point at issue is whether sola Scriptura is internally inconsistent.
sw: As am I trying to stick to the internally inconsistent point.  Mr. Hays may disagree with my conclusion - but I am not drifting from the point.  False accusations get him nowhere.
Earlier Scott wrote: “I beg to differ. Reliance upon implicit teaching (the point Mr. Hays is responding to now) also relies wholly upon interpretation, whereas if it were explicitly taught - that leaves less room for variations of implication.”

Steve replies:  i) Keep in mind that I reject his assumption that sola Scriptura is self-refuting unless Scripture itself teaches sola Scriptura. That commits a level-confusion–by conflating a criterion with the objects of a criterion.
sw:  Mr. Hays needs to consider the meaning of the word "sola" and then IF that word is used to DEFINE the "sole rule of faith" - then Scripture should indeed contain THAT RULE!  If it does not, then we're not talking "sola," rather "satis" or "suprema" scriptura.  We can understand Mr. Hays NEED to hang on to the misapplied terminology, for those who invented and/or initially supported the terminology hung the very fabric of Protestantism upon the terminology!   Thus the modern Protestant apologist is left with just a "spinning wheel" to attempt to spin new arguments from an "old pot" - but that pot was dried, cured and broken long ago.
Steve continues:  Sola Scriptura would still be valid even if the Scriptural criterion didn’t name itself as the operating criterion, for (a) our source of information regarding a norm, and (b) the norm as a source of information, are two distinct issues. Even if a given norm were the only norm, that doesn’t mean the norm must be self-referential–as if a norm is also a norm for itself.
sw: Mr. Hays is essentially conceding my point and then attempting to establish that my point is not necessary for "sola" scriptura.  Obviously THAT is the point we disagree upon.  If Mr. Hays (et al) wishes to CALL their "sole rule of faith" something which it is not, fine - I am just doing my part to expose the internal inconsistency of the terminology.  Again, if they called it "satis scruptura" or "suprema scriptura" - my argument goes away.  It is the insistence upon calling it "sola" which makes the "rule" self-refuting.  I repeat, if it is the SOLE rule to go by and that RULE does not INCLUDE the teaching of SOLA scriptura - then to go OUTSIDE the rule for an interpretation is inconsistent with the RULE itself.
Steve continues:  ii) Assuming that implicit teaching is ambiguous, that cuts against Scott’s position, not mine.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that sola Scriptura is self-refuting unless Scripture teaches sola Scriptura.

If, however, the self-witness of Scripture is ambiguous on that point, then that would vitiate Scott’s argument. A self-contradiction is a logically stringent allegation. Any ambiguity would invalidate the allegation by introducing a fatal equivocation into the syllogism. If you allege a logical self-contradiction, then you have no wiggle room.

For Scott’s argument to go through, the onus is not on the Protestant to prove that Scripture unequivocally teaches sola Scriptura. Rather, the onus lies on Scott to prove that Scripture unequivocally fails to teach sola Scriptura.

That’s the only way for him to generate a self-contradiction (assuming that we even concede his premise for the sake of argument).
sw: Again, I understand Mr. Hays need to spin this and put the onus back upon me, but my position is in the negative - MY position is that sola scriptura is NOT TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE.  Thus, no matter how much he would like to "wiggle" and turn this back to me, the onus truly lies with the person holding the positive in debate.  I am not asking Mr. Hays to concede just for the sake of argument - but to concede in general terms as folks like R.C. Sproul and D.T. King have already done (both are quoted here).  If Mr. Hays is willing to join his compadres here, then we're done.
Scott said: “But, to the point - interpretation of implicit teaching is extra scriptura, yes it is based upon the Scripture at hand, but should not be confused with the actual Scriptures themselves. In other words this alleged implicit self-witness cannot be considered part of Scripture thus it is definitely related to the matter of sola scriptura being self-refuting.”

Steve replies:  Well, that’s just plain silly. The implicit self-witness of Scripture would be a part of Scriptural teaching–rather than something apart from Scriptural teaching. There is nothing extrascriptural about the implicit teaching of Scripture–as if the implicit teaching of Scripture is actually The Martian Chronicles.
sw: I did not say "scriptural" as in "relating to Scripture" - but Scripture itself, as per the definition of sola scriptura I have been working with (as James White professes:  "Scripture alone is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church").  Now if Mr. Hays is denying White's definition, let him say so and I will refocus upon which ever variant of sola scriptura Mr. Hays adheres to.
Scott asked:  “Is Steve saying he's never used 2 Timothy 3:16 in an attempt to support the sola scriptura invention of the 16th century?”

Steve replies: My position was never based on discrete prooftexting.
sw: Please just answer the question Mr. Hays!  I did not ask if your position is "based" in such, but have you NEVER used 2 Timothy 3:16.  You did not answer, you responded to something I didn't ask. 
Scott posits:  “If the BIPM did claim to be the sole standard and then WITHIN the BIPM it gave another standard - then yes, it would be self-refuting.”

Steve responds:  Really? Why would a sole standard have to name itself as the sole standard in order to be the sole standard?

This confuses our knowledge of a standard with what we learn from the standard. The fact that a standard (even a sole standard) is a source of knowledge doesn’t logically entail that such a standard must also be a source (much less the only source) of our knowledge of said standard. That, once again, commits a level-confusion.

I might use a ruler to measure plywood. The ruler might be my only standard of measurement. Does that mean my knowledge of the ruler must derive from the ruler itself? Am I not allowed to use eyesight to find the ruler?
sw:  Again Mr. Hays changes the subject.  The BIPM is not merely a ruler, it is a set of rules regarding measurement.  The BIPM defines precisely what it is - an international standard.  If there was unanimous consent on the BIPM (which there is not) then it could claim to be the unanimous consent for the sole rule of measure throughout the world - and if it had such distinction, I believe the BIPM would include that in their definition to "rule out" any other "rule" from valid consideration.  But we digress on the speculation of the BIPM regarding the FACT that it does not contain within itself that it is the SOLE rule of measure.  The introduction of the BIPM to this discussion only helps MY case for it is a perfect example of a NON-SOLA rule!  Certainly it is *A* rule, but it is not the SOLE rule.

As for Mr. Hays' ruler as his only source to measure plywood - here Steve, let me loan you my tape measure and carpenter's square, there's a couple more sources of measurement for you.
Scott wrote:  “Scripture itself tells us that Jesus empowered His first bishops with infallible authority and FURTHER states that He sent those bishops out in the same way He was sent out. Since part of the way Jesus was sent included the empowering of these bishops with this authority, then in order to be obedient to His Will and Command, they too would have to select bishops and empower them similarly.”

Steve replies: Only if we cater to his Rube Goldberg “exegesis” of the Catholic spooftexts.
sw: Mr. Hays dismisses where Scripture itself exposes ANOTHER AUTHORITY, and tries to brush it off as a "Rube Goldberg exegesis."  Mr. Hays fails here for at least two reasons - 
1) Rube Goldberg devices have a purpose and do work!
2) I *like* Rube Goldberg devices!

Scott wrote: “…as much as I was pointing out what is lacking and what has to be added to the ‘slogan’ to make it viable.”

Steve replies:  Which begs the question of whether something must be added to make it viable.
sw: If something must be added, then even the rule itself does not stand alone!
Scott wrote:  “Then I point out that if the ‘rule’ were valid - it would be found within itself - unless, of course we're accepting that sola scriptura is a fallible rule of faith.”

i) That fails to distinguish between a fallible or infallible rule of faith and fallible or infallible knowledge of the rule. To say that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith doesn’t entail that our belief in (or knowledge) of its status as the only infallible rule of faith must, itself, be infallible.

ii) And even if, ad arguendo, the Catholic rule of faith were infallible, this doesn’t mean that Catholics infallibly know their infallible rule of faith. So Scott’s objection can only undercut the Protestant rule of faith by undercutting his Catholic alternative.
sw: Again, trying to point back to the "Catholic alternative" is not a valid response to whether or not sola scriptura is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church.  
Now, as much "fun" as this bantering back and forth may be - it is time consuming and unless Mr. Hays feels there is a significant point in the text which followed, I'm stopping here.  If there is something in particular in Mr. Hays' response that I have not included, I welcome him to bring it to my attention and will respond directly to it.  Further bantering back and forth on tangential matters is not furthering this debate for either of us.  
I will summarize my points, and if Mr. Hays wishes to respond to just the summary below rather than point by point above, I invite him to do so.

i) Mr. Hays turns to the Westminster Confession of Faith - but the WCF does not teach sola scriptura either, as Mr. Hays rightly points out, it never uses the term "only" to define its stance on the Scriptures.  His concession is accepted.
ii) Where does "sola" fit into the "sola scriptura" definition?  Keep it simple, no going Rube Goldberg on us, OK?
iii) The interpretation of Scripture, while "scriptural," cannot be considered PART OF Scripture.
iv) If Mr. Hays, et al, wishes to refer to this "rule of faith" as "satis scriptura" or "suprema scriptura" - then fine - he concedes it is not "sola scriptura.  If he wishes to continue to cling to sola scriptura - then let him present a non-Rube Goldberg definition of sola scriptura - and demonstrate how, though that definition is not found IN Scripture that it is not a contradiction to the "sola" part of "sola scriptura."


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