Double Standard?

May 24, 2009

Often, Rome charges that the Scriptures are ambiguous and unclear, needing Tradition and the Magisterium to properly interpret them. On the contrary, we believe that the Scriptures teach that they are perspicuous. That is, they are plain and clear enough in the necessary places to know of what we must believe concerning salvation and do in response to so great a salvation.

Yet, isn’t it interesting to observe Rome’s double speak? For, on the one hand, she says that the Scriptures are unclear, yet when arguing for blasphemous doctrines such as the sinlessness of Mary, her assumption, Apostolic succession, etc., the Papists begin arguing for the clarity of Scripture as it stands on its own.

William Whitaker once wrote,

Indeed all the papists in their books, when they seek to prove any thing, boast everywhere that they can bring arguments against us from the most luminous, plain, clear and manifest testimonies of Scripture . . . For in every dispute their common phrases are,””This is clear,””This is plain,””This is manifest in the scriptures, and such like. Surely when they speak thus, they ignorantly and unawares confess the perspicuity of the scriptures even in the greatest questions and controversies (A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Cambridge: The University Press, reprinted 1849), 401).

The Roman Catholic church, with her proliferation of doctrines and commandments of men that are contrary to Scripture and human reason, contends that there are two sources of special revelation, Scripture and Tradition. They contend that outside of Scripture, the Apostles passed down unwritten, oral tradition. Yet, what is interesting is that such an idea originates, not with the Christian Church, but with heretical Gnostic sects.

Irenaeus, an early church father, once wrote concerning the heretics of his day,

Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures…When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce (ANF; Vol. I, Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book I.8.1, III.2.1, emphasis mine).

But isn’t it interesting to note the similarities between Rome and early Gnostics? They both believe the Scriptures to be ambiguous or unclear. They both believe that “perfect knowledge” of unwritten tradition is needed to interpret Scripture. They both believe that the viva voce (living voice) is superior to the viva verbum (living word).

The great problem with Rome is that she tries to bind the consciences of men with her own invented doctrines and commandments.

Francis Turretin once wrote,

The object of the papists in this and other controversies set forth by them concerning the Scriptures, is obvious, viz., to avoid the tribunal of Scripture (in which they do not find sufficient help for the defense of their errors) and to appeal to the church (i.e., to the pope himself) and thus become judges in their own cause (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1:85).

If Rome insists that there is Apostolic Tradition, why is it that Rome has never been able to define what exactly the content of this Tradition is? They speak of oral Tradition, but they cannot tell you all that it entails. How can they even be sure what to bind consciences of men with if they cannot even say what the body of doctrine is contained within Tradition?

There is no viva voce of unwritten, oral Apostolic Tradition. Such a belief is rooted in Gnosticism. Rather, the only viva voce is that of the Holy Spirit, the Author and Teacher of the Scriptures, and thus, the Scriptures become the viva verbum, because the Spirit speaks through them.

Hebrews 4:12-13
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 

Word and Spirit

May 20, 2009

The Spirit and the Word are inseparable. Scripture cannot be understood without the illumination of the Spirit by virtue of the fact that Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). And the Spirit does not speak in new revelations but speaks through the inspired Word of God. Francis Turretin once wrote,

He [the Holy Spirit] is not given to us in order to introduce new revelations, but to impress the written word on our hearts; so that here the word must never be separated from the Spirit (Is. 59:21). The former works objectively, the latter efficiently; the former strikes the ears from without, the latter opens the heart within. The Spirit is the teacher; Scripture is the doctrine which he teaches us (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1:59).