Confession to God Alone? Scripture Alone?

A discussion from a comment on the post Bare Minimum for Salvation

Lena: I just want to say that Jesus did in fact die for the sins of mankind. No matter what “works” you do it is not enough to get you into the kingdom.

BFHU: AMEN!

Lena: Thankfully though, there is hope and you can have that hope. God offers His grace as a gift for the taking, should you so choose to accept it. How do you accept this gift? You have to BELIEVE that Jesus died for you—and yes—He paid the WHOLE price!

BFHU: Protestants do not believe in the necessity of reparation for their sins. Therefore, they believe that every sinner, no matter how evil their past life will be saved and rewarded in Heaven exactly the same as a person who lived their whole life loving God and trying to please Him. The Catholic Church believes that the Death and Resurrection of Christ is all that is needed for every single human being to be saved, and make it to Heaven, if they will to be saved. Jesus opened the gates to Heaven which no mere human being is or ever was capable of doing. But, in justice, the goodness or the evilness of our lives WILL have consequences and these will be administered to us by the Justice and the Mercy of God. So it is worthwhile to do our best to live a holy life. So, we have nothing to fear but must commend ourselves into the loving hands of God. No matter how evil our life might be however, we can be saved by throwing ourselves upon the mercy of God, even with our last breath.

Lena: We have been bought with the blood of Jesus. How can you begin to believe? You can have faith by reading the Holy Bible—word for word (Romans 10:17).

BFHU: AMEN!

Lena: The Holy Word of God is ALL YOU NEED to know of His truth and of His gift of grace.

BFHU: The Sacred Scriptures are very precious indeed and full of Truth for Salvation. Protestants believe that all they need and should trust is what can be found in Sacred Scripture. They reject any religious teaching they cannot see in scripture. This is a very appealing doctrine because, if it is true ,then I have all I need right in black and white in my Bible. But, there is a problem that even Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant sects found out about very early in the history of Protestantism. That problem is:

The words of scripture are not self interpreting.

If they were, everyone who ever read them would all come to exactly the same conclusion as to their meaning. However, after 500 years of Protestants believing that every individual is able, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to read Scripture and come to all truth, the fact is, there is NO UNITY. There are over 40,000 different Protestant denominations. And every single one of them proclaim their church to be led by the Holy Spirit. But, since God is not a God of confusion something is wrong.

1 Corinthians 14:33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace

Either the Holy Spirit has been falling down on the job or the Protestant idea that each person can read the Bible and accurately interpret it is flawed.

Lena: If you choose to decide on accepting His gift of salvation, then you REPENT your sins to Him and to Him ONLY. It is, after all, a private matter that you take up with God. Its no body’s business what your sins are—NOBODY. God can hear you and He knows your heart—so if you are not sincere—He will know it (Acts 1:24).

BFHU: We of course believe that we must repent and turn away from sin in order to accept the gift of salvation as you explain. And there is no fooling God with insincerity. But we would have to disagree about confessing our sins to no one but God because i”t is a private matter.” This clearly contradicts sacred scripture.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another.

In the early church confession was made before the priest and the whole assembly. You really had to humble yourself. But, this was changed to confession privately to the priest to graciously accommodate those weaker souls with the graces of confession, who could not bring themselves to confess before the whole church. The priest, after all, was the one ordained by Jesus to hear confessions with the power to bind and loose in John 20.

John 20: 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Since it is impossible for a man, even though a priest of God Most High, to forgive or not forgive sin unless he actually hears the confession of sin the Catholic Church sees in this verse of Sacred Scripture the institution of the sacrament of confession.

Lena: And if anybody tells you that God cannot hear you, are themselves going against God—woe to them!. God can hear the prayer of one who wants to repent because it is HIS WILL that you ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9).

BFHU: Amen!

Lena: This is about you and Him—so you need only to pray to HIM and no one else.

BFHU: This is true. We are not obligated to pray to the Saints to ask for their intercession.

Lena: Then go to a “bible following” church which has no doctrines other than following the Word of God and ONLY the Word of God.

BFHU: I know that Lena truly believes what she just said but is unaware of all that every Protestant church actually adopted from the Catholic Church with no questions asked. The table of contents for the New Testament was decided by the Catholic Church. The Doctrine of the Incarnation and the Doctrine of the Trinity was hammered out over centuries by the Catholic Church. The date to celebrate the “Sabbath “, Christmas, and Easter was decided by the Catholic Church.

Lena: Then out of obedience, get BAPTIZED. In baptism you are buried with Christ—when you come out of the water you are rising to a new life (Romans 6:4). You live for Him. The best way to thank Jesus for what He has done is to “serve” Him. And how does one serve our Lord? By doing “works” but this time, it will be under HIS grace through faith and in love with a willingness behind it. There is hope in Jesus.

BFHU: Amen!

Lena: The doctrines and Precepts of the Catholic Church are the doctrines of man. Thankfully, God did not write those doctrines.

BFHU: Well, we of course, believe that our Doctrines and Precepts were infallibly imparted by God through men, exactly as the sacred writing of Holy Scripture were the physical work of man by the infallible power of God. So, if God could write scripture using the hands of men He could write Doctrine and Precepts, Dogma and encyclicals all by the hands of mere men.

Lena: The doctrines of man will change as people and cultures change.

BFHU: This is absolutely true. The English Protestant Church in America (Anglican/Episcopalian) now ordains active homosexuals to their office of Bishop. Many Protestant denominations now ordain women under the pressure of our western culture and some even advocate and authorize homosexual “marriage”. Until the turn of the last century all Christians both Protestant and Catholic denounced contraception as evil. But, the same denomination that ordained a homosexual bishop, was the first to renounce this belief and give the A-OK to the use of contraception. As far as I know every single other Protestant denomination approves of artificial contraception.

It is only the Catholic Church that has not changed her doctrines to suit the prevailing winds of culture for 2000 years. Protestant churches do change. The reason they don’t think they do is because when their church starts going down the road of accommodating the culture and compromising Truth, a remnant will leave the decadent church and start a new one. But, because there is no final authority that speaks for God it is just a matter of time before the new and faithful church will be corrupted by Our Enemy. But Jesus promised that the Gates of Hell would not overcome His Church-The Catholic Church.

Lena: God however, is the same today as He was yesterday, and He will be the same tomorrow. Thats why you can count on HIS WORD—IT NEVER CHANGES.

BFHU: Amen! Thank you .

About these ads

32 Responses to Confession to God Alone? Scripture Alone?

  1. Morse says:

    The Roman Catholic Church has not reformed and as a result, as already seen by many, is of no relevance in the modern world.

    What does ‘Salvation’ mean?

    Why become so obsessed with the ‘next life’?

    Roman Catholics do not have ‘the truth’ anymore than any other dedomination or religion.

    The language used in the article above is a great example of objective quaint and mythological jumble.

    Better to use the term ‘God’ as a religious and not metaphysical verb; thus ‘God’ not a supernatural being ‘up there’ or ‘out there’ but rather a religious ideal, at least this way religion has a fighting chance of meaning something in the 21C.

    To see ‘God’ as an ideal would give freedom to live an exitential fully human life. Faith can then become a creative frameing of our own life rather than some pilgrimage to a destination post mortem.

    Salvation is to live in this life – be satisfied with this life and find inner peace; this would be achieved if, as Don Cupitt writes, the painted veil of illusion has been finally dropped away.
    ………………………….

    One final point; Lena Writes: God is the same today as yesterday….mmmm have you not read the God of the Hebrew Scriptures?

    M.

  2. bfhu says:

    God changes not and neither do the dogmas of the Catholic Church. We are not here to be relevant but to be faithful to our Holy God and obedient to Him no matter what the worldly wise think about us and Him.

    Our bodies will die in a few short years but our souls will live forever. We focus on the next life in order to bring as many souls to happiness as possible. Since the next life is eternal it is more important.

  3. Morse says:

    Dear bfhu,

    Hi, I think we may live forever but only in the memories of others; I feel that what you say is not logical, the language the Roman Church, any religion for that matter, uses means little to many.

    Its a little like a doctor talking in medical jargon – it only means something to other doctors or medical students. Thus what you say may mean a lot to another Roman Catholic but little if anything to to a none Roman Catholic.

    Regarding the language (all religious language seems to be illogical) a sentence can only be factually significant to any given person if he or she knows how to verify the proposition; accept the proposition as being true.

    What this means is that I as audience, for want of a better word, do not understand the supernatural language you use such as ‘eternal’ ‘dogma’ ‘God’ ‘Holy’ ‘souls’ ‘next life’ and therefore your sentences become non-sensical although well-meaning I’m sure.

    Truth can only be verified if its truth could be conclusively established, all religious language goes beyond the boundaries of grammatical sense.

    So whilst I do not doubt you passionately believe what you say, to me it makes no sense whatsoever.

    Therefore why not internalise ‘God’? ‘God’ can then have an empirical meaning and spirituality becomes not a supernatural noun but rather a successful practice for many (as it does for the Buddhist – not that I follow this path)

    You may retain your worship, communion, liturgy, but done under an understanding of mere human practices and patterns not supernatural pretense.

    This way I feel Christianity can be safeguarded rather than becoming post 17C irrelevant.

    Yours M

  4. bfhu says:

    You could use this opportunity to expand your vocabulary. These words are not that specialized although you do need the grace of the Holy Spirit to understand.

    What does 17C mean?

  5. Morse says:

    17C means 17th Century. Religion (Christian) was relevent until around this time – it no longer can claim any relevance (post enlightenment) unless it changes and leaves supernatural doctrines behind.

    Please do not take offence but I’m genuinely not sure if you are being sarcastic or you miss my point.

    The language expressed even in your last reply such as ‘Grace’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ are only of use to those already in the faith or inculcated into…hence why a new language and new interpretation is required.

    The Grace and Holy Spirit you feel crystallise your already expressed belief.

    What is required is a theological understanding of your words not an historical or ‘realist’ understanding.

    This is not easy and has its critics but people like your own Hans Kung plus Don Cupitt, F.D Maurice, John Hick, Francis Young,have been advocating this for years post Bultmann, Re ‘The Myth of God Incarnate’.

    In short what is required is a theological justiication for theological beliefs. Following this the metaphysical doctrines can fall and the Roman Catholic Church as well as all Churches can become relevant to people outside their often tall and guarded walls.
    Yours
    M

  6. happy says:

    Ha.. sorry… but it makes perfect sense and not just to Roman Catholics! Why become “obsessed with the next life?” Well, this life will be gone in a snap and the next one is eternity?!?

    Bfhu, this is a great post. Easy to read and well thought out. Thanks for your time and effort as always!

    Ally

  7. Morse says:

    Hello ‘Happy’

    This post is interesting I’d agree, indeed the website has had a lot of work.

    “Eternity’ could you expand and explain what this actually means logically, namely what is ‘eternity’ what does it mean? and what should one do and why to gain it? or is it simply just a theological metaphor?

    A metaphor would make some sense because Jesus’ understand of ‘eternal life’ was spiritual not physical.
    N.B: ‘Eternal life’ and ‘resurrection’ do not appear together in the synoptics only in John which is full of christology and of course dated much later.

    Anyway back to the language: I’d be genuinely interested in what ‘eternity’ actually means to you and how you logically explain it (without metaphor) if you have a ‘realist’ understanding of the term.

    Yours
    M.

  8. bfhu says:

    Morse:
    Eternity simply means forever.

    From Webster’s

    eter·ni·ty
    1: the quality or state of being eternal
    2: infinite time 3plural : age
    4: the state after death : immortality
    5: a seemingly endless or immeasurable time

    We have immortal/eternal souls that once created by God will always be in existence. Our souls will be judged immediately after death and consigned to Eternal Joy/Happieness/Heaven or Eternal damnation/sorrow/Hell.

    This life and how we live it will determine our final destiny. Our Enemy wants to win as many souls as possible to join him in Hell and Our Father in Heaven wants to save all souls to live with Him in Heaven. (This is what we mean by salvation (from Hell))

    This is all a Spiritual battle between Good and Evil. At the end of time our physical bodies will be resurrected and reunited with our souls where ever they are: Heaven or Hell.

    Hans Kung is a heretic. I don’t know about the others you mentioned.

  9. Morse says:

    Dear Both,

    Thank you for your reply.

    I note you explanation of ‘eternity’ is a dictionary definition but how do you logically define ‘eternity’ there is a difference.

    You are still using words such as ‘eternity’ ‘sin’ ‘heaven’ ‘hell’, these words are supernatural (can not be proven or justified through logical propositions) so I would ask how can you interpret them in a realist or historical sense or point of view?

    How can you postulate a transcendent experience from an historical or realist point of view? It can not be undertaken unless you admit that your proposition above is merely theologically sought (I could understand you if this is your case). If, however, you take a historical or realist perspective you have to conclude the furthest you can go is agnosticism (can not be logically explained)

    Otherwise you find yourself down a cul-de-sac of supernatural beliefs that are neither theological nor historical.

    N.B Hans Kung, I feel the R.C is poorer theologically without him (personal opinion)

    Thank you for the engagement.

  10. happy says:

    Faith :)

  11. bfhu says:

    Dittos, Happy.

    But Morse, how can you believe that the beauty and order of our world and the universe just happened? The probablility is so minute that it is illogical to reject creation by an intelligent being.

    If, however, you are correct, when I die–oblivion. But if I am correct when you die–Hell.

    It is more logical to live in obedience to God for the short time here in return for eternal happiness.

  12. Robert says:

    Morse,

    Eternity is known to be an attribute of God in the “second part” of the cosmological argument. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that eternity follows trivially after having demonstrated God’s immutability.

    The definition of eternity which Aquinas asks whether God is, is marked by (1) having neither beginning nor end, and (2) having no succession (neither ‘before’ nor ‘after’), that is being simultaneously whole.

    These seem to me to be quite reasonable as far as the mode in which it is defined and the way in which it is proved. Naturally, if you’ve gutted natural theology/ philosophy you’ll find this quite unacceptable, but St. Thomas puts forward a quite reasonable definition of eternity nonetheless.

    “You are still using words such as ‘eternity’ ‘sin’ ‘heaven’ ‘hell’, these words are supernatural (can not be proven or justified through logical propositions)”

    I’m unclear as to exactly the scope and mode of your verification criterion. Could you clarify please? Thanks.

  13. Morse says:

    Hi Happy,

    ‘Faith’ is a ‘theology of the gaps’ precisely because it requires no justification and creates no argument. In fact it is the most dangerous part of any religion.

    ‘Faith’ is worrying (R.C) because it claims supernatural beliefs on the basis of ‘divinely backed authority’ of its human proposers.

    Bfhu: Hi again; I.D. is a ‘theory of the gaps'; if it could be proven that any complex organ existed which could NOT have existed without many slight modifications then Darwin’s evolution by natural selection would be in error. But, there is no such case, evolution is a scientific fact.

    I’m still struggling with how you define ‘hell’ or ‘eternal happiness’ ( I wish not to push and annoy but I feel no answer forthcoming)

    For maintaining a proposition which refers to a transcendent ‘reality’ ( a real post death event / place ) can not have any literary significance because it goes beyond our ‘sense experience’ and ‘epistemic knowledge’.

    For example, a common known example (altered a little) albeit ff

    ‘Dogs are obedient’

    ‘Unicorns exist’ ‘existence’ is not an attribute.

    One is within the parameters of language the other not so… thus is the case with metaphysics. Your ‘die-hell’ comment is not logical on the grounds that it can not be verified through your ‘sense experience. Its grammar is in error.

    N.B: So my charge is where does this knowledge of ‘hell’ as a realist ( I take it you are) come from?

    It can not simply come from scripture, as we have already noted, that requires historical perspective which leads to agnosticism – it has to as an historian.

    If however it comes from R.C doctrine then we are back to theology ( which I could understand ) and theology can not by its nature be understood in a ‘realist’ sense.

    We have ourselves a problem?

    Once again your engagement and response intrigue, not because I’m playing some word games (I’m not I have a titanic seriousness in my theology) but merely because the views on this site seem to be held with such confidence. I find that confidence of interest, if not a little worrying.

    Yours M.

  14. Morse says:

    Dear Robert, Hi,

    The scope and mode of my verification criterion:

    My scope revolve around the rules that determine the literal significance of language. The criterion used is the ‘criterion of verifiability'; a sentence is thus verifiable when one know how to verify the given proposition, knows how to verify its truth or falsehood.

    This then negates metaphysical statements.

    However I do see a way forward building upon the work of Kant, Kierkegaard and Bultmann; we abandon ideas of objective eternal truth and a supernatural world-beyond and move to a religion of ‘non-realism’.

    Cosmological argument: After Kant I feel this is somewhat nebulous; as is ‘eternity’ which is inextricably bound within, although I’ll grant Aquinas’ argument was of its time.

    I also extend thanks for the engagement, its not presumed. Most enjoyable thus far.
    M.

  15. Robert says:

    Morse,

    “‘Unicorns exist’ ‘existence’ is not an attribute.”

    I prefer not to follow this silly modern prejudice. Existence is certainly a predicate. The question which modern philosophy bequeaths to us is not whether it is a predicate but rather what sort of predicate it is. Kant tries to make a distinction between logical and real predicates. Existence is supposedly the former but not the latter.

    Quite frankly, his distinction is wholly unimpressive. However, this distinction is necessary to wave away certain arguments for God’s existence a priori. But if his distinction does not hold (which, as I said, I see no reason to hold… but if you wish to argue on its behalf, I’d love to engage you) then neither does the prejudicial attitude against arguments for God’s existence.

    That distinction is the necessary “philosophical work” which must be done to sustain your position.

    “…can not have any literary significance because it goes beyond our ’sense experience’ and ‘epistemic knowledge’.” and “is not logical on the grounds that it can not be verified through your ’sense experience”

    Of course, neither is your verification criterion susceptible to verification through sense experience. But then the verification criterion is equally ‘nonsense.’

    “My scope revolve around the rules that determine the literal significance of language. The criterion used is the ‘criterion of verifiability’; a sentence is thus verifiable when one know how to verify the given proposition, knows how to verify its truth or falsehood.”

    Unless we adopt an extreme empiricism or scientism, why would we exclude the possibility of philosophical truths? Even the annoyingly precise analytic philosophers have moved beyond their Vienna Circle logical positivist roots to begin re-exploring metaphysics.

    Is metaphysics dead? Well, suffice it to say that news of its demise was quite premature. It lives on, still, in copious discussion on problems such as “what is a person?” and “what is identity?” and many other problems. In sort, academic metaphysics has undergone a revival, which belies the post-Kantian dreams of the destruction of metaphysics. Surely it has not shown up in the same guise as medieval scholastic metaphysics, but it is metaphysics nevertheless.

    I can’t (Kant?) help but think that you are merely stuck (ironically) in one historical stage of philosophy, and are thus failing to see how the problems with which you are grappling aren’t quite so current anymore.

    As to the cosmological argument– you may enjoy William Rowe’s book on it. He does not think it is a ‘proof’ but he does offer some very interesting criticisms of the ‘traditional’ objections to the cosmological argument which have been popular since the modern era.

    God bless,
    Rob

  16. Morse says:

    Hi Rob,

    Yours response was an enjoyable read: regarding ‘existence’ we must part company. I can not see how ‘existence’ can be a predicate in a metaphysical sense; quite illogical as are all metaphysical statements.

    I must also part company with you regarding Kant; I feel the distinction between logical and real is your way of trying to corner me regarding Kant ( I wonder from which source you drew this fictitious argument? ) because its merely a tautology anyway?

    Kant is more concerned with ‘a posteriori’ positions which eliminates metaphysics.

    I feel we are moving into areas that do not answer my original charge to Bfhu – or we will go around in circles and not discuss the elephant in the room which is:

    1. How can you confidently discuss supernatural beliefs without having to admit they are purely theological? not historical because there are based on the basis of ‘divinely backed authority’ of its human proposers.

    2. Supernatural beliefs can not come from scripture, as we have already noted, that requires historical perspective which leads to agnosticism – it has to as an historian.

    3. If Supernatural belief comes from R.C doctrine then we are back to theology ( which I could understand ) and theology can not by its nature be understood in a ‘realist’ sense.

    A few points ff (although its the one above which interests me most )

    How is the verification criterion ‘nonsense’ if logical and within the parameters of logical grammar? Its only metaphysical statements that make it nonsense.

    Regarding the revival of metaphysics this is simply not true, not in a realist sense which you would obviously support;

    Metaphysics( now theological philosophy) has gone beyond realism and sees non-realism as its only survival, and contrary to your opinion, is reverting back to Kant, Bultmann, Bonhoeffer,and Wittgenstein as pointers to this new way of seeing things.

    Look at anything post 1960, such as the ground breaking ‘Myth of God Incarnate’ and ‘Honest to God’ ‘Sea of faith’. Cupitt Kung, Geering, even Mcgrath.

    So regarding the zeitgeist; I’d have to question your sources?

    So, theological or historical; your supernatural beliefs?

    Yours
    M.
    I know not of William Rowe’s book but will look it up. Regards

  17. happy says:

    Morse,

    I have had an encounter which would take me pages and pages to explain. Let me just say the same thing I tell my family. I can tell you 100% without a doubt, I have “Faith” in my God. I KNOW there is life beyond this one and I believe in a heaven and hell. Now, you could argue my encounter all day and choose not to believe myself or anyone else and that’s fine,whatever. I certainly don’t wish that for you or anyone else. This has been and will continue to be talked in circles forever.
    I don’t understand how Faith in a loving God is dangerous. If I pattern my life after the teachings of Jesus I am certainly none the worse for it. No reason for justification or argument. It’s just a good thing. Like BFHU said when I die and if I am wrong, I have lived a good life and then oblivion, but when you die and you are wrong…!!!????. And by the way, I am not wrong! :)

  18. Morse says:

    Dear Happy,

    I find your confidence of really interest.

    I would say that I have, through my studies, met many people of differing faiths who also have had ‘encounters’ with their Deity so I would have to conclude that its more likely psychological than metaphysical.

    I would also argue that faith in any religion is dangerous precisely because it requires absolutely no justification for its actions.

    I would grant you that to live by Jesus’ teachings is worthwhile, but then this dovetails with my original question: Why the Supernatural belief (about him)?

    Jesus never claimed coequal divinity with a deity, moreover dogmatic theology did not exist then 30 C.E ff, and ‘salvation’ was not dependent upon doctrinal belief. What can be said with a degree of confidence historically is that the first follower that knew the historical Jesus experienced ‘salvation’ through his new thinking, morality and philosophy.

    I can say: Yes to Jesus as my teacher!

    Hope this makes some sense and I thank you for your response.
    M.

  19. Robert says:

    Morse,

    Kant introduces the distinction in types of predicates in the section where he discusses the ontological proof. Check your copy of the Critique of Pure Reason between B626 and B627.

    “regarding ‘existence’ we must part company. I can not see how ‘existence’ can be a predicate in a metaphysical sense; quite illogical as are all metaphysical statements.”

    I think the word ‘metaphysics’ is too much of a stumbling block in this conversation. I’m not sure what you mean when you say “existence” as understood metaphysically. The only important thing is whether there is any sense in which we can say that something exists.

    It is quite obviously the intuitive position that we can, and indeed we often do. That is why the burden of proof is on people like Kant who must make distinctions to show why existence cannot be predicated in the usual sense. This is also why contemporary analytic philosophy assumes the burden in devising a scheme whereby they can eliminate talk of “existence” from speech, thus decreasing their “ontological commitment” (cf. W.V.O. Quine). This indeed has been the standard procedure in contemporary analytic philosophy at least since Bertrand Russell in “On Denoting” (I think… the names all blur together).

    “Kant is more concerned with ‘a posteriori’ positions which eliminates metaphysics.”

    Not exactly. Kant is a little bit inconsistent. Are there such a thing as non-analytic, yet necessary truths? Kant, I do believe, actually thinks so.

    Open once again to the Critique of Pure Reason, but this time to B15 on mathematical judgments. He uses the example of 7+5= 12. He claims that it is not analytic. “Arithmetic propositions are therefore always synthetic” (see B16). Yet indeed they hold with necessity.

    So even if we want to follow Kant’s scheme and divide our knowledge into a priori and a posteriori truths, synthetic and analytic, it in nowise follows that we cannot find necessary synthetic truths. But then “metaphysics” is not impossible.

    What is sweetly ironic is that his denial of the ontological proof seems to rest especially on affirming that synthetic a posteriori truths may not be necessary.

    “or we will go around in circles and not discuss the elephant in the room which is:”

    I think you will find that questions of philosophy and natural theology are exactly what lead us into this mess. Resolving those questions will be essential in resolving these latter questions.

    “1. How can you confidently discuss supernatural beliefs without having to admit they are purely theological? not historical because there are based on the basis of ‘divinely backed authority’ of its human proposers.”

    Propositions based on revealed truth are discussed on the basis of faith. I don’t see what exactly the problem is here. I don’t see why we have to make such a sharp distinction between revealed truth (“theological” as you say, but I’d prefer to say revealed truth) and “historical truth.” Indeed, revealed truth is necessarily historical because it must be revealed to someone, who must be at some place and time.

    “2. Supernatural beliefs can not come from scripture, as we have already noted, that requires historical perspective which leads to agnosticism – it has to as an historian.”

    To be quite precise, faith– the theological virtue– comes from God in the proper sense of causation (although mediated, no doubt, through secondary causes). It does not come from the Scriptures taken merely as an historical testimony because the assent of faith is a different sort of assent than assent to historical truths. While the assent to historical truths can and should precede the assent of faith, it cannot necessitate it.

    “3. If Supernatural belief comes from R.C doctrine then we are back to theology ( which I could understand ) and theology can not by its nature be understood in a ‘realist’ sense.”

    Forgive me because I am very unclear as to what you are driving at in these questions.

    Besides, in saying that ‘theology can not… be understood in a ‘realist’ sense’ we are back to the philosophical question once again. We cannot bypass it.

    “How is the verification criterion ‘nonsense’ if logical and within the parameters of logical grammar? Its only metaphysical statements that make it nonsense.”

    If you are claiming that (i) all statements must be verifiable by sense experience in order to be meaningful and true, and that (ii) the verification statement is meaningful and true, then it follows that (iii) the verification statement is meaningful and true if and only if it is verifiable by sense experience.

    “Regarding the revival of metaphysics this is simply not true, not in a realist sense which you would obviously support;”

    Lewis? Chisholm? Taylor? These people seem happy enough to discuss problems like identity, the self, determinism, fatalism, etc.

    “Look at anything post 1960, such as the ground breaking ‘Myth of God Incarnate’ and ‘Honest to God’ ‘Sea of faith’. Cupitt Kung, Geering, even Mcgrath.”

    I read the Myth of God Incarnate in my Christology course two years ago. Fun read.

    “Jesus never claimed coequal divinity with a deity, moreover dogmatic theology did not exist then 30 C.E ff, and ’salvation’ was not dependent upon doctrinal belief. What can be said with a degree of confidence historically is that the first follower that knew the historical Jesus experienced ’salvation’ through his new thinking, morality and philosophy.”

    To say that His first followers experienced their ‘salvation’ through His ‘new thinking, morality and philosophy’ itself seems like a banal and misguided way to describe how a first century Jewish man interacted with his contemporaries. Morality and philosophy? Is He a Greek philosopher or a Jewish Rabbi? Come on.

    I suspect that something more along the lines of N.T. Wright’s criticism of the liberal Protestant theology is more true. The (synoptic) gospels present a picture of Jesus, Who in several key ways shows His divine prerogative by means of playing with important Jewish religious symbols, including Land, Torah, the Temple. It is quite telling that Jesus claims what can be none other than divine authority over these things. As to the Torah, He legislates by Himself (the Sermon on the Mount). He acts out an (N.T. Wright, I think, plausibly describes) eschatological sign of the Temple’s demise by throwing over the tables of the money changers (which of course halts sacrifice– and He never could really help Himself in predicting the Temple’s demise, which really must be read in harmony with this), and then culminates His earthly life by setting up a new ritual (by altering the Passover ritual) which puts Himself in the center, as if He were the replacement of the Temple.

    And in the midst of doing all of this He claims Himself to be greater than Solomon, Moses, Abraham and all of the greats of Jewish history.

  20. Robert says:

    I’m sure that I’m missing a load of information. It’s been a while.

    But nevertheless, I want just to integrate Wright’s position with one more important point.

    Jesus lived and died around 30-33 AD. The Gospels, we will say, were written from 65-80 AD.

    The thesis which people like yourself, Morse, advocate, is that in 30 AD all that existed was “low Christology.” That is, only Christ as great moral teacher.

    The gospels, it is said, confirm this. And it is only the Gospel of John (90+ AD) which starts developing precipitously high Christology (pre-existent Logos, special filial relationship with the Father, etc). The historical development, it is said, shows that high Christology is an invention/ false development of later times.

    This simplistic narrative is not true.

    True, Jesus did die from 30-33 AD.

    Then consider the Pauline epistles which are written from 50-60 AD. Paul approaches the people he addresses, sometimes, as already being familiar with the faith. Indeed, some of his epistles have poetic structures which suggest that he was quoting back to them early creedal hymns. They tend to take a “V” structure from pre-existence, to kenosis, then to death, and back up to exaltation. We know these, especially, “though He was in the form of God, He did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at…” as well as a few others.

    In other words, Paul presents high Christology as already established in the Christian community prior to his epistles.

    Then the synoptic Gospels come. The gospels do not have a dirt low Christology either. As I’ve pointed out above they have some more subtle, but not very much less strong, assertions. One more important point– they also, affirm a unique filial relationship with the Father. The sense in which Jesus is a Son of the Father is in a stronger sense than which He calls His followers to be Sons of the Father. Consider the parable of the wicked tenants. Jesus is the beloved son. Likewise, the doctrinal position of Jesus in Matthew is that of an exclusive relationship between Father and Son (Matthew 12:25-26).

    The Christology of the synoptic Gospels is not something to laugh at. Indeed, considering that the communities addressed by Paul already had a very high Christology, there is no need to drive an opposition between them.

    Finally, then, the Joannine writings, which we all recognize as high Christology. This is no problem, but questions of pre-existence, unique filial relationship, and nearness to divinity are already anticipated in and contained in Paul and the Synoptics.

    So while the liberal Protestant biblical criticism has done a valiant job, there’s just a bit too much information to shoo away before we can pretend that we can only ascribe low Christology to Jesus, and not any high Christology whatsoever, despite its dispersal throughout the entire Christian corpus.

    God bless,
    Rob

  21. Morse says:

    Dear Rob,

    I most enjoyable read once again. Much of what you say I would question and indeed will continue the polemic albeit following my hols (I’m away for 5 day)

    Especially regarding the early scriptures and christology / myth.

    N.B ‘The Myth of God Incarnate’ Profs Francis Young, John Hick, Don Cupitt where all my tutors at one time or another.

    Thus its indeed interesting how we see things differently.

    N.T.Wright I have to say I have never been impressed (especially when he was at Lichfield)

    Speak soon and thank you for the excellent engagement.
    M.

  22. happy says:

    M.

    Your response exactly what I guessed it to be.
    That’s OK. Doesn’t change what happened. I don’t really expect you to believe that though.

    :)

  23. Morse says:

    Dear Rob,

    Gosh where to begin.

    Regarding N.T Wrights polemic:

    Have you heard of the ‘Jesus Seminar’ between 1985-93 carried out by 80 fellows.

    They examined 1330 reported saying of Jesus, 420 in Mt, 177 in Lk, 392 in Mk, 140 in Lk, 140 in Jh and 210 in Thms.

    Theses sayings where then graded and used towards to ‘Gospel of Jesus’ arguably the most intense academic study undertaken reflecting the teachings of Jesus 50-60 CE before the Pauline Christology and concluded no supernatural apparatus or Messiahship appears.

    I would therefore have to conclude that Jesus was a secular moral teacher.

    ***The truth is that there is simply no enough evidence to suggest He was anything other.***

    But there is a way forward and for me its quite simple; the resurgence, following the crucifixion, of the Jesus movement was ‘spiritual’ and I will go along with the ‘resurrection in the hearts of men’.

    This may lead nicely to theology and realism and I’ll try to bring in Kant:

    For Kant all the questions one can ask must be asked from the standpoint of the individual – ones experience – this was later worked upon by Wittgenstein in his private-language games. ( I can know only my world)

    Therefore existence becomes dependent upon not metaphysics but rather reference and meaning, would this negate existence from speech? I’m not sure but I feel it does limit what we can say about metaphysics.

    Lewis? Chisholm? Taylor? I’m not familiar with these authors / scholars do tell me of their books and I’ll look them up.

    I write:

    “2. Supernatural beliefs can not come from scripture, as we have already noted, that requires historical perspective which leads to agnosticism – it has to as an historian.”

    You respond:

    To be quite precise, faith– the theological virtue– comes from God in the proper sense of causation (although mediated, no doubt, through secondary causes). It does not come from the Scriptures taken merely as an historical testimony because the assent of faith is a different sort of assent than assent to historical truths. While the assent to historical truths can and should precede the assent of faith, it cannot necessitate it.

    …theological virtue -comes from God in the proper sense of causation… ff

    What does this actually mean and how can it be proven or verified? To date I feel you have sagacious arguments which whilst I disagree(with some not all) I do understand as much of our polemic is about interpretation of scripture and philosophy.

    But now I genuinely can not see the validity of what you say; because your position stands or falls on ‘faith in a higher causation’ – where is the evidence? It can not come from scripture – there is simply no evidence in scripture to support your position.

    Anyway I have not answered all of your questions (I’ll try to come back to them) and I feel I have perhaps not been precise enough in my questions posed.

    Speak soon Rob,
    M.

  24. Robert says:

    Morse,

    From everything I’ve heard, the Jesus Seminar is typical loony liberal Protestant theology. :) Forgive me for such a crude characterization, but I don’t find the internal evidence of the gospels sufficient to exclude Jesus’s “higher Christology” statements.

    N.T. Wright is important because he does show a plausible way to concede some things to the liberal Protestants, i.e., the need to contextualize Jesus in the concrete circumstances of second Temple Judaism, but that nevertheless he shows how even given that we can understand Jesus’s claims to be consistent with His time (i.e., not merely late inventions of the gospel writers to aid their communities), and simultaneously consistent with orthodox Christianity (in a broad sense). I think he does a great job.

    “of the Jesus movement was ’spiritual’ and I will go along with the ‘resurrection in the hearts of men’.”

    I just don’t find this plausible. The apostles didn’t think of Him as a spiritual messiah, but as a worldly messiah, as the gospels themselves indicate (esp. the end of Luke on the Road to Emmaus– “we thought he was the Christ… but he was crucified”). Some event after His crucifixion changed their minds, and also gave them a far reaching interpretive key to His entire life, and the entire Scriptures. The gospel of Luke shows this to be Him, risen and glorified, teaching the apostles how all the Scriptures lead up to and culminate in Him.

    Resurrection in the hearts of men? Again, you need to be faithful to your own movement’s strictures. Is is really plausible that a bunch of Jewish peasants in the Second Temple Judaism context would create a “spiritual resurrection?” These are Jews, after all, and not Greeks. It may, may, maaaaay have been somewhat plausible to a Greek (who would not see the need for resurrection anyway), and certainly seems plausible to a 20th century post-metaphysical Christian, but it is beyond belief that it was invented by Second Temple Jews who were looking for a worldly messiah.

    “Therefore existence becomes dependent upon not metaphysics but rather reference and meaning, would this negate existence from speech? I’m not sure but I feel it does limit what we can say about metaphysics.”

    Even given our limitations in language, I think you are simply ignoring the intuitively obvious. It is the case that statements like this are meaningful:

    “There is some X such that X is a square.”

    Or,

    “There is no X such that X is a round-square.”

    Like I said, I’m not asking for some Platonizing view where saying,

    “X exists”

    commits us to some “form” of existence itself existing. And what I’m asking for is surely admissible.

    You argue against it by talking about language, but short of an extreme skepticism my statements are still plausible.

    “What does this actually mean and how can it be proven or verified?”

    Why does something need to be proven or verified in order to be reasonable to believe?

    There is such a thing, after all, as rational reliance on an authority. That is, given that the authority has the proper grounds for holding a proposition, so we too, although not authorities, may have the proper grounds for holding that proposition to be true.

    Your positions seems to be that I personally can only hold a proposition to be true if

    (1) I can verify or prove the proposition.

    But the very existence of rational reliance on an authority testifies ~(1).

    Now, I agree that direct understanding must be somewhere for it to justified, but it of course need not be in me. That is why one may believe an authority reasonably– for the authority has that knowledge, and I rely reasonably on him. ~(1) then is the case.

    The more important question is whether we ought to accept someone as an authority on something. This is where the question of the historicity of the gospels comes in. I note, however, that revealed truths are not such that proofs from reason can, in the strict sense of a demonstration, obtain. That is why I said that historical testimony should precede (i.e., it can incline us towards it) but cannot force assent.

    In this case, the gift of faith is really a gift of hearing, so to speak– from on high we are given the gift of adhering in trust to the Church, to whom the saving teaching has been passed on, handed down. Surely the ultimate/direct knowledge is in Jesus and the blessed saints who behold God’s face, but it is proximate in those of us sojourning on earth. But that is where the gift of faith makes its ‘leap’ if you must use such words. It is not the problem of whether X can be verified, but whether we may reasonably take the Church as the authority we take it to be.

    “Faith” is a difficult subject, and misunderstood, especially by many of the polemicists of our age.

    God bless,
    Rob

  25. happy says:

    Very well said Rob. I enjoy your writing!

  26. Morse says:

    Dear Rob,

    You write:

    From everything I’ve heard, the Jesus Seminar is typical loony liberal Protestant theology. :) Forgive me for such a crude characterization, but I don’t find the internal evidence of the gospels sufficient to exclude Jesus’s “higher Christology” statements.

    But I take it you have not read! this I must say is not an argument rather a display of you own bias. Thats disappointing.

    Whereas I have both heard in person and read much of N.T Wrights works. Some of what he does say I quite like, but regarding Jesus Christology being of His time I feel that is no argument I’m afraid: To be consistent of His time???

    Do tell me where N.T Wright comes to this conclusion as I find that interesting- I’d like to read it further…

    Lk and Messiahship: I’m simply not impressed with your answer Rob; the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah because it did not bring about the Messianic age foretold by the prophets and with regarding to an awakening of the disciples that could easily be interpreted as a spiritual awakening.

    Nothing you have said would lead to to another conclusion.

    You write:

    Is is really plausible that a bunch of Jewish peasants in the Second Temple Judaism context would create a “spiritual resurrection?”

    I would say very much so! More than a physical resurrection!

    The whole of Acts is given over to the spiritual, the disciples certainly felt enriched with the spirit, self-confident, revived and thus started to preach with confidence.

    This I would argue is much more convincing and would indeed mean something to many today who simply do not believe that men (a man) rise from the dead.

    Do tell me of your sources they genuinely interest me and, as said, I’d like to read them further.

    Yours M

    N.B: Time limits my response regarding ‘existence’ but I fear we are going round in circles however interesting.
    There is an excellent debate in Betrand Russells book “why I’m not a Christian’ it will be familiar to you in light of what we have debated to date.

  27. Morse says:

    Dear happy,

    I too enjoy Rob’s writing but please don’t feel you have to support him to show your disproval of my views – it read that way I’m afraid.

    I simply enjoy the ‘ping-pong’ as I know does Rob, even though we sit on differing theological platforms.

    I also thank you for the engagement thus far.

    M.

  28. happy says:

    M,
    You make me chuckle! I appreciate that he is gifted in expressing what I lack in the area of writing.
    I always appreciate and enjoy what Rob has to say. I don’t really care “how it read”. I was simply giving him a thumbs up on his expressing views that I agree with. I think it was beautifully expressed.

    Ping pong away.

  29. Morse says:

    Dear Rob,

    You write:

    In this case, the gift of faith is really a gift of hearing, so to speak– from on high we are given the gift of adhering in trust to the Church, to whom the saving teaching has been passed on, handed down. Surely the ultimate/direct knowledge is in Jesus and the blessed saints who behold God’s face, but it is proximate in those of us sojourning on earth. But that is where the gift of faith makes its ‘leap’ if you must use such words. It is not the problem of whether X can be verified, but whether we may reasonably take the Church as the authority we take it to be.

    For me (post Cupittean Sceptic) this is, after all the philosophy and our ping pong, all you have to support your arguments in a resurrected Christ – your ‘faith’. The same must be said for Your version of a metaphysical ‘God’ heaven, hell, original sin, limbo, and the Pauline Christology and Dante states of being.

    Faith is only faith because it requires not a scrap of evidence; so how do you define ‘faith’? genuine interest.

    And its you ‘faith’ I find so worrying precisely because it (faith) demands no evidence; scripture can not be relied upon ( I’m absolutely amazed if you genuinely believe this to be so as a historian and/philosopher or theologian unless you studied at a R.C seminary and not a mainstream University )

    Trust in the Church? Authority of the Church? that leaves you position wide open for criticism, how do you try to convince me that this is a logical position based upon evidence?

    I surpass all this by being ‘honest to God’ (pun) and admitting ‘God’ for me is a spiritual ideal – a deymythologised non-realist ‘God’.

    Speak soon no doubt.
    M

  30. Robert says:

    Morse,

    I admit to not having read the Jesus Seminar first hand, but I’ll admit, at this point I’m still mostly a dilettante. I’ve taken one Christology course, which devoted had but one part of it devoted to ‘biblical Christology’ (i.e., historical critical method). Honest to God, I’ve not been doing badly for my narrow base, no? Hehe. I merely must admit that I am limited– at 21 years old I’ve just not had enough to study all of this. :) I hope to read more broadly at some later point. Sorry to disappoint.

    “esus Christology being of His time I feel that is no argument I’m afraid: To be consistent of His time??? ”

    What I meant is this– it seems that a criticism levelled at the gospel writers is that they put things in Jesus’ mouth with He could not have possibly said, given his particular consciousness as a 1st century Jew. The rebuttal, then, from the orthodox must be to show how we can uphold both Jesus, the 1st century Jew, and the later formalizations of doctrine. But we do that by showing how such doctrines are understandable with reference to how a first century Jew would understand them, and this just seems to be in general N.T. Wright’s idea.

    “he Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah because it did not bring about the Messianic age foretold by the prophets and with regarding to an awakening of the disciples that could easily be interpreted as a spiritual awakening.”

    But Jesus’ first *disciples* initially rejected Him as the messiah after His crucifixion precisely because a crucified messiah = a failed messiah to them. I’m talking about the subset of first century Jews who were Jesus’ disciples, not all 1st Jews in this instance, because the critical question here is what Jesus’ own disciples thought about His messianic claims, not what Jews who rejected His messianic claims thought about Him. That is why the Lk reference is pertinent.

    “I would say very much so! More than a physical resurrection!

    The whole of Acts is given over to the spiritual, the disciples certainly felt enriched with the spirit, self-confident, revived and thus started to preach with confidence.”

    But the Acts does not depict gnostics, or Greek wise men. There is no opposition between the spiritual and physical. Surely they were enriched by the Spirit, but that is what led them to proclaim and work healing as a sign of the realized Kingdom. Healings happen to people according to their bodies.

    Jews expected a general resurrection– a bodily resurrection. Why would they suddenly interpret the novel Christian idea of Jesus’ individual resurrection in a totally spiritualized, i.e., anti-corporeal sense? Since Jews weren’t necessarily expecting eternal life in contemporary popularized sense of “heaven” I submit that a totally spiritual resurrection would be simply incomprehensible.

    “This I would argue is much more convincing and would indeed mean something to many today who simply do not believe that men (a man) rise from the dead.”

    It might be more convincing to us today, but to a 1st century Jew? Many first century Jews had no scruples about believing that men, real men, would rise bodily from the dead. That was a common belief.

    “Time limits my response regarding ‘existence’ but I fear we are going round in circles however interesting.
    There is an excellent debate in Betrand Russells book “why I’m not a Christian’ it will be familiar to you in light of what we have debated to date.”

    I’m somewhat familiar with the type of symbolic logic which men like Bertrand Russell pioneered, trying to reduce philosophy to symbolic notation in logic. The funny thing is that it is Bertrand Russell himself who started the contemporary analytic strategy of eliminating ontological commitment (“metaphysical” commitment, if you will) by eliminating the necessity of talking about something.

    The idea is this– anything which we can eliminate from our language completely we need not quantify over, i.e., we need not count it as an existent. He deals with this by dealing with problems of sentences like “The present King of France is bald” and discussing what sorts of existential commitment these cause us to have.

    To make a long story short, I don’t mind Russell’s strategy at all. All I’m asking you to do is to show that his strategy is successful, that is, that we can “eliminate” ontological commitment to existence by eliminating it or reducing talk of it to something more fundamental. But I don’t think that can be done. We must speak of existence, and we can’t eliminate it by reducing it to some other way of speaking.

    Perhaps we are far closer than we realize?

    “Faith is only faith because it requires not a scrap of evidence; so how do you define ‘faith’? genuine interest.”

    What makes faith seem so unreasonable to many is that many contemporary writers have taken it to mean, as you do, belief without evidence. But that is not what faith is. Consider, for instance, doubting Thomas and the witnesses of the Resurrection. Surely they had both evidence and faith.

    Part of the problem is a conflation of “evidence” and “demonstrative proof.” The former is possible, surely, although much more slim to those of us who cannot touch His risen body, but the latter has always been impossible because unaided human reason cannot grasp deductive arguments for truths of the faith. In other words, the one who touched the body of the risen Christ surely had evidence, for the resurrection was a testimony in favor of the faith, but not knowledge in the sense of demonstrative proof, for their intellects remained “dark,” i.e., their intellects still did not grasp the “form” of that which they assented to.

    This is very much connected with what St. John of the Cross calls the ‘dark night.’ The dark night is so dark, and is such a night of faith, precisely because the object of faith (God) cannot be grasped by any created form. The mystical ascent to God, therefore, must necessarily proceed by means of a divestment of created forms. The intellect is in “darkness” inasmuch as it lacks a the ‘form’ of God.

    Faith is not exclusive with evidence, then. Indeed, most Christians allow that some evidence is compatible with faith, whether it be the testimony of the Scriptures, the testimony of miracles or simply the testimony of a personal ‘witness’ to the power of God.

    When I think of faith I think primarily in terms of belief in a trustworthy authority.

    “how do you try to convince me that this is a logical position based upon evidence?”

    Like I’ve said, I’m not trying to demonstrate the faith. One can at best clear away objections, which gives room for grace to work.

    God bless,
    Rob

  31. happy says:

    Morose,

    You have to understand also, I enjoy and have enjoyed Rob in the past, because he is my daughters age and always dazzles me! I would love to set them up! ha!

  32. Morse says:

    Dear happy and Rob,

    Ha, I can see why he would be your ideal son in law.

    Whilst thinking today I could not help but be reminded of C.S. Lewis who said ” I believe in God like I believe the sun has risen – not because I see it but by it I see everything else”

    This seems apposite.

    Re Russell:

    You write:
    All I’m asking you to do is to show that his strategy is successful, that is, that we can “eliminate” ontological commitment (”metaphysical” commitment, if you will) to existence by eliminating it or reducing talk of it to something more fundamental.

    Russell discussed this very thing with Father F.C. Copleston, SJ in 1948 in a BBC debate.

    I’ll allow you to read in full when you have the time but they arrived at an impasse, I think we will too – primarily over the word ‘exists’ and thus whether ‘God’ can be a ‘proper’ name if used in such sentences as ‘God (if exists) is the cause of the world’

    (Metaphysical commitment ) Ontological argument / commitment; for me is a word game too far; clever yes, but so was Zeno’s paradox, but we don’t really expect Achilles never to have caught the tortoise.

    Wittgenstein however did find a way through the muddle – namely ‘family resemblance’ therefore forgoing Russell’s logic he, Wittgenstein saw language does have meaning by the way it is used.

    Therefore I find this bypasses all the difficulties of ‘metaphysics’ it clears the table and allows ‘God’ to be used but within language – its poetry – but that’s all.

    Over to you.

    Yours M.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 92 other followers

%d bloggers like this: