Leader Do’s and Don’ts: Titus 1

spurgeon-feature

Today’s reading: Titus 1-3 and Philemon.

“How should churches choose their leaders?”

An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. Titus 1:6-9

In modern politics the emphasis is on appearance and speech, but church leaders should be chosen based on their character. Paul describes the ideal character of a church leader in Titus and also in I Timothy 3. The words for church leaders – elder, overseer, and shepherd – are used synonymously and have an overlapping meaning. To call someone an elder was to describe their status as a respected senior member of the church; to call them a shepherd or overseer was to describe their duty.

To the elders (presbuteros) among you, I appeal as a fellow elder (presbuteros), a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds (poimainō) of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (episkopeō) — not because you must, but because you are willing… 1 Peter 5:1-2

Paul lists a set of positive qualities leaders must possess and negative qualities that should not be found in them.

Must be:

  • blameless; without any accusations against them
  • husband of one wife; not meaning they can’t be single, but if married they should have only one wife, “a one-woman kind of man”
  • father of well-behaved children who share the Christian faith

Must not be:

  • overbearing; self-willed, caring only for their own interests, arrogant
  • quick-tempered; habitually angry, one who nurses his anger along
  • drunken; one who is always abusing alcohol, or by extension one who lives a debauched lifestyle (but not a condemnation of the normal moderate use of alcohol)
  • violent; one who abuses people physically or verbally
  • given to dishonest gain; one who is greedy and will stoop to any means to profit himself

Must be:

  • hospitable
  • love goodness
  • self-controlled; of a sound mind, temperate, with his own desires bridled
  • upright; righteous, virtuous
  • holy; free from sin and wickedness
  • disciplined; having a strong control of his own person
  • holding to the truth of the Gospel
  • able to teach believers and argue the faith effectively with doubters

The process of appointing church leaders has very limited discussion in the New Testament. In Acts 6 the congregation of the Jerusalem church chose the deacons. In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas chose the elders for the Asian churches. Here, in Titus, Paul charged Titus to choose the overseers for the Cretan churches. First Timothy 4:14 suggests that eventually elders began ordaining other elders. As the church developed, its method of ordination changed. In the beginning only the apostles appointed elders. Then those chosen by the apostles began appointing elders. Eventually the elders began appointing other elders.

Advertisements

38 thoughts on “Leader Do’s and Don’ts: Titus 1

  1. In reading scripture, can you prove that polygamy is against God’s plan for mankind? Many will refer to this verse in Titus. But truthfully, it restricts only the bishop, or perhaps elder (presbyter). Even Luther realized from scripture alone polygamy cannot be refuted. This is why the wisdom of the Spirit speaking through the Church is so important. Left to scripture alone, we might not come to such conclusions.

    This speaks to Holy Orders (all three forms are clearly mentioned in scripture):

    “The divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times have been called bishops, priests, and deacons.” Catholic doctrine, expressed in the liturgy, the Magisterium, and the constant practice of the Church, recognizes that there are two degrees of ministerial participation in the priesthood of Christ: the episcopacy and the presbyterate. The diaconate is intended to help and serve them. For this reason the term sacerdos in current usage denotes bishops and priests but not deacons. Yet Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called “ordination,” that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

    “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5

    This along with Acts 22:16, 1 Corinthians 6:11, 1 Peter 3:19-21 constitute the scriptural basis for what is known as baptismal regeneration, long held by Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and a few other Protestants.

    What is it?

    1262 The different effects of Baptism are signified by the perceptible elements of the sacramental rite. Immersion in water symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal. Thus the two principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit. CCC

    • Have you read in the Didache about the extensive preparations the early church made for the baptism of the new believer, including fasting for several days beforehand? It is a meaningful event, and as you quoted, full of symbolism. I know you believe it confers grace, and thus should not be withheld from infants, but it seems like robbing it of its power to withhold it from professing adults who are the only ones who can appreciate the symbolism (and applying the symbolism to another is not the same as seeing it applied to yourself).

      • I believe it is precisely because of its salvific nature that parents wanted it for their children, even though they new in ancient Rome it could be a death penalty for the child and the parents. Christians could lose their lives at any time. If they died, they wanted to die with what Peter told them was the life-saving grace of baptism.

        Of the seven recorded baptisms in scripture, five involved families, so we know this practice included children. The catacombs have similar records.

        I would agree with you, I would love to have been aware of my own baptism, but I would not want to die without it either. One of the amazing things about God’s grace, is that we do not always have to be aware of it, to be blessed by it.

    • Left to scripture alone, we might not come to such conclusions.

      Or, perhaps, polygamy isn’t actually sinful (though it’s pretty clearly a terrible idea). Why assume that it is, unless Scripture indicates it as such?

      (I’m not arguing that Scripture can’t be used to prove polygamy is sinful, mind; just that, if we genuinely believe this is an issue where Scripture is silent, perhaps we should be silent as well.)

      You’re arguing that, because we have extrascriptural convictions, we need an extrascriptural source to confirm them; what if, instead, we should call those convictions themselves into question before the bar of Scripture?

      • Good questions. So to start at the beginning, how can you feel confident that scripture is comprised of the proper books? Why the book of Hewbrews? Why not the Didache? There is no table of contents. Scripture is not self-authenticating. How do you know it is the proper canon?

      • It’s as you said earlier: I have a fallible canon of infallible books. I’m a fallible human being – there’s always going to be a step where I have to say, “Yes, reason, evidence, and the Holy Spirit persuade me that this source is reliable.”

  2. But don’t you see how untenable that position is? When you quote scripture, you cannot even be sure it is true authentic scripture. It could have been included in error. Some might be right, some might be wrong, but you have no way of knowing which. So no firm conclusions can be drawn, they will always be undermined by the possibility that the scripture you are appealing to is erroneous.

    • But don’t you see how untenable that position is?

      It’s not untenable; it’s unavoidable. We both have “It seems to me” steps in our faith: mine is the one where I accept Scripture, and yours is the one where you accept an organization. Nobody gets away without the part where they say, “I’m persuaded that this source is reliable.”

      That doesn’t make the step unimportant; it matters what evidence pushes you to that point. But there’s no getting around making it.

      you have no way of knowing which

      Reason; evidence; the Spirit. The sum total of which doesn’t make me infallible, but it’s hardly “no way of knowing” – and when you were persuaded the Magisterium was reliable, that wasn’t an infallible judgment, either.

      • The difference seems to be that you are admitting your source is unreliable and unsubstantiated. I am saying the exact opposite. My source is both reliable and substantiated, because I believe my source (it’s not my source, it’s the Church’s) to be the Holy Spirit.

      • The difference seems to be that you are admitting your source is unreliable and unsubstantiated. I am saying the exact opposite. My source is both reliable and substantiated, because I believe my source (it’s not my source, it’s the Church’s) to be the Holy Spirit.

        It seems to me that you’re misunderstanding me. You’re saying that the Catholic Church relies on the Holy Spirit, and therefore you have an authoritative source, right? I say that Scripture relies on the Holy Spirit, and therefore I have an authoritative source.

        But that wasn’t your original question. Your question was, “What initially convinces you to trust Scripture?” And I answered: it’s a fallible decision, guided by reason, evidence, and the Holy Spirit. And my question to you is: “What initially convinces you to trust the Catholic Church?” My suspicion is that your answer is the same as mine: reason, evidence, and the Spirit, ultimately producing a fallible answer.

        Am I wrong? Did something else initially persuade you that the Catholic Church was reliable? If so, what? Was that decision infallible?

        Because if not, we both have an initial fallible step, and all the charges you’re laying apply equally to both of us.

  3. It seems we both agree that scripture is infallible in matters of faith and morals (at least I think you are saying that). The dispute is over the canon of scripture. You say your canon is fallible. I say mine is not. Does that sound accurate?

    Why is mine infallible? Because the Church has transmitted the true canon to us directly from the Apostles and the early Church, and that process was guided and protected by the Holy Spirit. How do we know that? We know that because of the tripartite foundation of the Church – sacred scripture, sacred tradition, and the Church herself (Magisterium). Each leg is supported by the two opposite legs. Thus scripture is attested to by both the Church and Her tradition. Tradition is attested to by both the Church and sacred scripture, and the Church is attested to by both tradition and scripture.

    Since scripture does not attest to its own canon, you are left with a fallible collection of books that make an interesting read, but which are stripped of power and validity by the very fact that (by your own admission) you haven’t a clue which books, if any, are authoritative and authentic.

    Further, the Church came first, instituted by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Christianity is not a religion based on a book (Islam is). It is a religion based on the Word made flesh. The Church is not based on reasoning, She is based on revelation. Next, Her stories and traditions began orally. So long before there was a written New Testament, you actually had the true New Testament (Covenant) which was the blood of Christ. Only later did scripture actually get recorded and written down. The Church compiled them together, and they were called “The Books of the New Testament”, or the books that attested to the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. To paraphrase Dr. Scott Hahn, “The New Covenant became a sacrament before it became the New Testament, and it’s recorded in the New Testament!” And at this point, both the Church (guided by the Holy Spirit as Paul tells us) and tradition were properly poised to proclaim together which books were and were not to be properly included in the canon. This is how we can look on the canon of scripture as infallible. This is how we can have full confidence that scared scripture is the inspired word of God.

    Again, none of this is reasoned. It is revealed.

    • It seems we both agree that scripture is infallible in matters of faith and morals (at least I think you are saying that). The dispute is over the canon of scripture. You say your canon is fallible. I say mine is not. Does that sound accurate?

      No, that completely misses the point I was making. You believe you have an infallible canon because it’s provided for you by the Catholic Church. But your belief in this canon is still predicated on your faith in the Catholic Church itself.

      So: why do you believe in the Catholic Church? Why do you think it’s a reliable source? And is your choice to believe in the Catholic Church an infallible decision, or not?

      Because if it’s not infallible, then we both start from basically the same position: we were persuaded, fallibly, to accept some source. For me, that source is Scripture. For you, it’s the Catholic Church – but we both have a step of fallible reason at the beginning.

      • But in truth, we are not starting at the same position.

        You are starting with a fallible collection of writings, by your own admission.

        I am starting with the Church, who attests to the infallible nature of scripture, both the contents as well as the table of contents. How can She do this infallibly? Ultimately by the power of the Holy Spirit, but more basically, because She was there at the time and was in a position to testify, “These are the books that we know were given to us by the Apostles and the early Church.” It’s not rocket science. it’s not deductive reasoning. She was present and Her tradition preserved what happened. It is the same as John writing in his gospel “This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.” Christ himself foretells of the power of the Spirit who will guide and direct the writers of scripture, so we know we have an infallible message. Paul tells us the Church is protected by the Spirit and is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth”, so we have a reliable canon.

        Why else would you pick these 27 books at all? There are a lot of other potential choices, why these 27?

        By your view, either approach leads to error, and therefore to an unreliable collection of writings.

        By the Church’s view, God saw to it that such a thing would never happen.

        And doesn’t it make sense that God would want us to feel secure beyond doubt about this story, the story of our redemption through the blood of Christ? I am a bit baffled as to how you have a seemingly absolute knowledge of your salvation, yet an incomplete trust in the canon of scripture, when your understanding of salvation is in large part formed by the writings in your unauthenticated canon.

      • Eric, I can’t help feeling like you’re either not understanding or refusing to engage with my point. I don’t contest that, once one accepts the Catholic Church as an infallible source, the choice of which books count as Scripture falls out as an established thing. My question is, “How do you get to the point where you accept the Catholic Church as an infallible source?”

        Because you don’t start by having that; you weren’t born with the innate knowledge that Catholicism is true. It’s a conclusion you had to reach somehow. How did you reach it?

        Did you reach it through personal infallibility? That seems… theologically suspect.

        Did you reach it through fallible reason, evidence, and the Spirit? Then that is your starting point, not the Catholic Church – and it’s a starting point we share.

        Did you reach it through some other means? If so, what?

        Maybe an analogy will help clarify this. Suppose that, when you first asked me why I believe the Bible is what it is, I had answered, “Oh, my friend Ron – Ron C. Calhoun – told me that these were the books of Scripture. Ron is infallible on this matter, so I can trust what he says as authoritative.”

        Would that mean that I had an authoritative source – that I had no reliance on my own fallible decision-making process? No! It would just push the decision one step earlier: to my initial choice to believe that Ron is, in this area, infallible. My end decision is still just as fallible – I don’t gain any extra surety from adding an extra step in the process, right?

        What I’m arguing is that this is our situation as well. You have a “Ron”: the Roman Catholic Church. I’ve asked you several times, “Why do you believe Ron?” and each time, you’ve replied, “I know what the Bible is, because Ron told me, and Ron knows!” And that may or may not be true, but it’s not what I’m asking!

        What persuaded you the Catholic Church is trustworthy? Was that decision based on reason, evidence, and the Spirit, or was it based on something else? Was it a fallible decision on your part? These are the points of interest – not whether, once that decision to trust has been made, a definition of Scripture reasonably follows.

  4. The answer to your question comes from the description I mentioned before: the Church is comprised of three entities working together, synergistically one might say, scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium. They are interconnected in that they support and attest to each other. They are not separate entities, they are a tripartite system. What if we wrote it as a theorem.

    A = scripture
    B = tradition
    C = Magisterium

    A is true and says B and C are true
    B is true and says A and C are true
    C is true and says B and A are true

    Assume any one statement is false, and ABC are still supported by the other two. Assume two are false, you still have one source saying all three are true. Its only when you nullify all three that it falls apart. This works, and it works beautifully. A fallible collection of infallible books fails miserably. So I am left with only one logical choice, either the Church is the true Church, or both systems are deceptions. Since I have had a personal encounter with our risen Lord, and faith in our heavenly Father, and feel love from the Holy Spirit, I am going to side with my faith in God.

    So if you believe scripture, you believe the Church was instituted by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, so its infallibility comes from the Spirit and not from man, and you believe oral and written traditions should be maintained. If you believe tradition, you believe the canon of scripture is authentic and the Church is the true Church. If you believe the Church, then you believe in the traditions She passes on, and you believe the scripture She holds to be sacred.

    If you believe in neither of these, then let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about something else.

    But before that, why these 27 books? You never said.

    • The answer to your question comes from the description I mentioned before: the Church is comprised of three entities working together, synergistically one might say, scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium.

      It still seems like this is missing my question. I’m not asking about the resultant philosophy; I’m asking about your personal journey to belief in that philosophy. Why did you come to believe any of this? What was your starting point from which you concluded that any of ABC were true?

      Since I have had a personal encounter with our risen Lord, and faith in our heavenly Father, and feel love from the Holy Spirit, I am going to side with my faith in God.

      Is that your answer – that you initially accepted the truth of all these things on faith, and that having accepted them, you find the resultant belief structure to be self-supporting?

      Because that first step is fallible, right? You can be wrong about it: and if you were, then everything else that follows is also wrong.

      That’s exactly the position I’m in, except that the thing I initially take on faith is the canon of Scripture. If I’m wrong on that, then I’m wrong on everything else; if I’m right on that, then I have an authoritative base as you do. But in both our cases, the root of everything else is (evidence-driven, Spirit-informed) faith.

      So if you believe scripture, you believe the Church was instituted by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost

      When I use those words, they don’t mean quite the same thing as when you use them; in particular, they don’t imply any lingering unwritten infallibility. (The capital makes quite a difference.)

      But before that, why these 27 books? You never said.

      I offered a brief summation: reason, evidence, the Spirit. I can expand on the evidence in more detail, but it’s just going to be an elaboration of, “Here are a lot of good reasons to consider these books inspired, and those other books not inspired.”

  5. And not are they inspired or not inspired. How did you manage to come up with the exact same list of 27 books that the Catholic Church came up with nearly two millennia ago?

    • The Word of God calls to the people of God. There is a natural – not infallible, but natural – tendency of the sheep to hear their master’s Voice; the churches of two thousand years ago recognized the same features I recognize in it now.

      Among these features: that many of the books are, as nearly as anyone can tell, written by people who actually served Christ as apostles (Matthew, John, 1 & 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Revelation); that others are written based on immediate close-partnership interviews with those same men (Mark, Luke, Acts); that others are based on a unique apostleship revelation and are hailed as Scripture by those same eyewitnesses (the writings of Paul), or are hailed in turn by Paul (James).

      This leaves a couple of less well-supported examples, notably Jude and Hebrews – neither of which are essential to the basic salvation story, so an error here is at least not fatal. That these books are of the same basic character as the other books of the New Testament; that they appear to be from the correct period and are not (as in the Gospel of Thomas) obvious back-dates under pseudonyms; that they are nigh-universally acclaimed as Scripture at the time of their writing – these are good reasons to think them Scripture.

      Having answered your question: will you address my point, in turn? Was your original decision to trust your various sources fallible, or not? If it was fallible, then isn’t the ultimate root for each of us a fallible faith?

      • But really, in honesty, you have given a half answer. For you did not compile the list yourself. You borrowed the list from the Church. And that is the whole point.

      • I borrowed the list from my brother Christians, who have a lot of wisdom to borrow; I find the reasons compelling, as they did. “Protestant” doesn’t mean you’re required to believe everything said before 1500 was wrong.

        Will you answer my questions?

  6. I think the difficulty here, is that you are trying to reason your way to an understanding. I don’t think that approach is going to work well. This entire paradigm is structured on grace through faith, not reason. The real question, is what do you believe, and why do you believe it.

    Ultimately for me, it is the reality of what happened. Following the ascension, the Church was instituted. Her traditions began to be formulated. Finally, scripture was recorded. All three formed a cohesive triad. The beauty of it does not resemble a human institution, it looks divine. Because it all comes from above, not from reason. It is all based on faith. We cannot prove or reason any of it.

    Then came the negatives. The heresies. All the great minds of the Church working feverishly to preserve the truth against heresies. This also does not look human. Its looks divine. Humans give in to sin, the easy, the self-serving. These saints of the Church worked to preserve the truth of Christ, against the lies of the father of all lies. First the gnostics, then dissenters, then reformers.

    Sola scriptura is one of those heresies. It rejects the charism of the Church, replaces it with reason, and produces the rotten fruit of false teaching, such as homosexual bishops.

    There is another heresy coming, pointed out in the book of James, and it’s a doozy. It completely contradicts scripture, and many Protestants accept it without question.

    I think what really sealed it for me, was just a desire to get as close to Jesus as I could. That meant not on doctrinal unity and purity, but chronology. What did the early Church fathers believe and teach. Look at the Church before the Edict of Milan, before there was anything that one would call the Catholic Church. What did that most resemble? Was it the Protestant church were I was going each Sunday? No, not even close. It was the Catholic Church. Newman was right, “To go deep into history is to cease to be Protestant.”

    But this is the paradox. You cannot reason your way to the Church. It is a path of faith. Credo ut intelligam. Believe that I may understand. The reverse does not work.

  7. And there is every reason to borrow it from your fellow Christians. It has been authenticated by tradition and by Christ’s bride, the Church.

  8. Supported by reason, yes. Proven by reason, no. I have shown the reasoning that supports it, a system that possesses internal cohesiveness and continuity, something that Sola Scriptura can never possess. The pillars that support it: scripture, tradition, and the Church, are all structures that exist and can be externally verified. All three testify that all three are rooted in the Holy Spirit. Beyond that, I am not sure what “proof” or “reasoning” you are seeking.

    The Church has to be experienced. You cannot tell the temperature of a river by looking at it. You have to take the plunge.

    Now, there are ways of gaining additional information. You can look at the lives of those who have gone there before. They can share their insights. They can share their experience.

    You can look at the doctrines of other churches to see how they compare. While belief requires faith, you can certainly reason that heresies are false teaching. Both Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are easily refuted heresies based on reason. But that only serves to reject false teaching. It still doesn’t prove the RCC is the true Church. Only experience will do that. Credo ut intelligam.

    Or you can study history. If you believe there was such as thing as The Way, or the early church, you can launch an investigative search to discover where that church is to be found today. That study has been conducted. You will not like the results.

    But perhaps I am misunderstanding you. How does one reason a church to be a valid church?

    • Respectfully, I’m not sure whether it’s worth continuing in this vein. I asked you some pretty straightforward questions, and you declined to answer while saying that your approach isn’t based on reason. It’s hard to avoid the feeling that, under these conditions, you can defeat any argument I make by either ignoring it or dismissing it as “trying to get there by reason.”

      If you’d like to continue as a logical back-and-forth, I’d be happy to do so. My preference would be that we begin with concise, straightforward answers to the questions I ask here:

      Was your original decision to trust your various sources fallible, or not? If it was fallible, then isn’t the ultimate root for each of us a fallible faith?

      which I’ve asked several times above. You initially laid the following charge:

      So no firm conclusions can be drawn, they will always be undermined by the possibility that the scripture you are appealing to is erroneous.

      and I’d like to address that one issue without switching to James, or sola scriptura, or whether the Bible teaches infallibilty, etc.

      • “Was your original decision to trust your various sources fallible, or not? If it was fallible, then isn’t the ultimate root for each of us a fallible faith?”

        This is a straw man argument. My choice really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. I am not questioning your choice. I am rejecting any canon of scripture not supported by the Church. The question ultimately, is where is the church of Jesus Christ to be found today?

        Sola Scriptura is a heresy. It does not even pass logical scrutiny.

        Christianity is not a “reasoned” religion. It is revealed. It is not based on a book. It is based on the Word made flesh.

        How does one reason a church? I cannot even conceive of what you are talking about. How do you reason your Church?

      • “Was your original decision to trust your various sources fallible, or not? If it was fallible, then isn’t the ultimate root for each of us a fallible faith?”

        This is a straw man argument. My choice really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. I am not questioning your choice. I am rejecting any canon of scripture not supported by the Church. The question ultimately, is where is the church of Jesus Christ to be found today?

        B and I say that reason and the Spirit have led us to trust the Scriptures, which then lead us to the faith and doctrines we hold. I would assume that reason and the Spirit led you to trust the Scriptures and the Catholic Church.

        Your original point:

        When you quote scripture, you cannot even be sure it is true authentic scripture. It could have been included in error. Some might be right, some might be wrong, but you have no way of knowing which.

        The problem with this is, you don’t have a more validated way. I, with my fallible human judgment and fallible human impression of the Spirit’s leading, believe the Catholic Church does *not* maintain the best interpretation of Scripture. You, with your fallible human judgment and fallible human impression of the Spirit’s leading, believe they *do.*

        You can’t just say that it’s bad that each man “is his own pope” and makes decisions based on what he thinks is best, because that is what we all are doing. If you allow the Catholic Church to override your judgment when you are initially in disagreement, it’s because you have judged it right to do so. (Through reason, evidence, and leading of the Spirit.)

        So that’s the original point – Protestants trust the canon of Scripture we have, recognizing it may be flawed, but using their discernment as best they can. You can’t criticize our canon because it’s based on discernment, because ultimately your choice to trust the Church’s canon is also based on your own discernment.

  9. I appreciate the chance to clarify this discuss. Not only is it a wonderful reflection on what we believe, its also hugely important.

    What I see is that you are interjecting yourselves into the argument, and that was not the basis of the original discussion, though I can understand why you would, because at some point we all step back and ask, “Why do I believe what I believe?” But that was not the original point.

    The original point is that Sola Sciptura is a flawed system for the simple reason that the Bible is not self-authenticating. It does not and cannot establish or verify the canon of scripture. It has nothing to do with what we believe, it is a simple construct of fact and logic. This is why the RCC has always rejected it as heresy.

    How does the Church differ? The Church construct is triparte as we have already discussed. What difference does that make? It makes all the difference in the world, because now the canon of scripture can be externally verified, by both the Church Herself and by the tradition She has established. Just as the Apostle John verified his gospel internally, so the Church verifies the canon of scripture externally.

    So at this point, there is no issue of belief, this is just the plain facts of how things are. Sola Scriptura cannot produce a trustworthy canon, and in effect renders scripture powerless. What non-believer would be persuaded by a canon as illogical as that?

    The canon we have is not based on my “discernment”, as you say. It is based on events and facts. This is the crucial distinction.

    1) The Church was instituted by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
    2) Epistles and the Gospels were read aloud in the Church as they were written.
    3) People have memories and they keep records.
    4) The Church brought this memory and record forward through time.
    5) In time, She verified the canon by calling out the names of the books She remembered and recorded.

    So again, there is no discernment or belief on my part at this point. These are historical facts that can be researched and verified. “The problem with this is, you don’t have a more validated way.” Actually, by God’s providence, we do.

    Now we move on to the second part of your discussion, which I admit I do not fully understand. Perhaps you can give a specific example of what it is you do, that you are trying to ask me about. It just hasn’t clicked in my brain yet.

    What I would say, however, is that faith does not have as one of its qualities, fallibility. You make that association, and I would suggest it’s not a proper one. The object of faith certainly could be fallible, but faith itself isn’t, it’s just faith. It could be misplaced, misdirected, but faith is neither fallible or infallible itself. That’s the straw man argument.

    Then I would say, let’s look at the two systems as operational processes. How well do they function.

    With Sola Scriptura you cannot completely rely on the information you have. By your own admission, you do not even know which books, if any, are authentic. Sure, you can have faith in them (and by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit working through the Church you are right to have faith in them), but in reality you just don’t honestly know what is and what isn’t authentic. So like Luther, you begin to weigh some parts more favorably than others (Throw Jimmy in the stove). And as doctrinal disputes arise, who will settle them (each man his own pope)? There are at least five possible doctrines regarding the Eucharist. Which one is correct? Protestants cannot agree, so this leads to division, separation, disunity. It simply doesn’t work.

    With the RCC, you see a system that is both internally and externally validated. Read back through history, all the way back to Christ, you will begin to understand the truth She represents. But to truly understand, as I have previously stated, you have to experience Her.

    The story of why I believe, is perhaps for another time, or not. But here are two quotes from our modern prophet that made some sense to me:

    “I never dreamed that the Roman religion was true; but I knew that its accusers, for some reason or other, were curiously inaccurate.” Chesterton

    “People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad . . . The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable . . . It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob . . . It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to avoid them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.” Chesterton {Orthodoxy, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1908, 100-101}

    • I want to be clear on what you’re saying, here: the Roman Catholic Church is unarguably correct, in such a way that it is literally impossible that anyone could be mistaken on the subject, and thus your decision to trust in it is infallibly correct, requiring no discernment or judgment on your part.

      Is that your claim? Can you confirm that that’s the position from which you’re starting, via a brief, unambiguous answer?

  10. I think your question exceeds the boundaries of our discussion, and launches into new territory. Not that we can’t go there, but for now I would just prefer to stay focused on the question of Sola Scriptura and how it relates to the canon of scripture.

    If you step back for a moment, and just look at the topic broadly, isn’t it a wonderful thing, that God empowered the early church to preserve the history of her formative years, including the canon of scripture, so that today, Christians of all walks can feel secure that they are hearing and reading the true gospel. We know this is important.

    Christ gave the Apostles special charisms:

    “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:18

    They diligently recorded the story:

    “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.” Luke 1:1-4

    The Holy Spirit breathed life into the early church:

    “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4

    The importance of tradition was stressed:

    “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.: 2 Thes 2:15

    The church is recognized for a special, supernatural role:

    “….the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

    “…that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:10

    “that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:27

    “He is the head of the body, the church.” Colossians 1:18

    All this from scripture. So unless you don’t believe scripture, then all of this comes as truth. The Bible attests to both scripture and tradition. It does not, and cannot attest to itself. To do that, you need the church scripture refers to, and her tradition. Otherwise, why would Paul say to Timothy, “guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us”?

    If you only accept scripture, it all collapses like a house of cards. If you listen to scripture, and accept scripture, tradition, and the church, then you maintain all three, for 2000 years and counting.

    Again, Christianity is not a religion based on a book, it is a religion based on the Word made flesh.

    • I don’t think anyone but you has brought up Sola Scriptura. The discussion started with, “If the Bible doesn’t say anything about polygamy being wrong, should we use extra-scriptural sources to say that it is wrong, or should we just remain silent on it?”

      You changed the course of the conversation by asking how we can have confidence in our canon, and, paraphrasing, we replied “The same way that anybody has confidence in anything,” which you take issue with because you believe the Church to be, objectively and without possibility of anyone doubting, the sole authority on the canon and interpretation of Scripture.

      I disagree that they are, and that the Bible identifies them as such – but that is certainly beyond the scope of our discussion.

      And this is all definitely beyond the scope of Bobby’s original, very good post summarizing qualities required for elders in a church.

      • I (not surprisingly) agree with Allison. The very heart of our discussion is your opening attempt to answer the question, “Is there a difference between the certainty with which a Protestant can hold to his faith, and a Catholic can hold to his?” You asserted there was, because my faith is ultimately based on fallible decision-making rather than anything absolute. I challenge you to state, plainly, that at no stage in the process of accepting Catholicism did you rely on your own fallible decision-making – because if you did, then we share whatever risks that incurs.

        How can the answer to that possibly be beyond the bounds of our discussion?

        By contrast, no one other than you has brought up Sola Scriptura. I’m not a disciple of Martin Luther; I’m not obliged to defend all the same lines he defended. I don’t claim the axiomatic impossibility of truth outside Scripture; I simply deny that your particular traditions happen to be true. As such, I have no interest in defending claims I haven’t made.

  11. A spirited discussion, but I would like to request that we hold off on further comments until I have time to do a summary and some moderation of the thoughts that have been posted.

  12. This thread began as a discussion of the reliability of extra-biblical sources. It quickly turned into a debate on the RCC’s triad of the church, tradition, and scripture versus the primacy of scripture that is common among Protestants. I think primacy of the scripture rather than Sola Scriptura would be a more fitting description of the belief of most Protestants.

    Eric gave reasons for his acceptance of the RCC triad. Brian gave reasons for his acceptance of the reliability of scripture. Both, it seems, rely on a step of faith. Both involve reasoning, an exercise of the mind, based on the evidence before them and the experience of their own lives. Both proclaimed the trustworthiness of scripture. It is accepted that the early Catholic Church was responsible for authenticating and formulating the Bibical canon. It relied on work done by the earlier church before it became the Catholic Church, which relied on work done by the dispersed church, which relied on the Jerusalem church, which relied on the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, who fulfilled God’s covenant relationship with Israel and the books of the Old Testament. All this work is available to all believers whether or not they are members of the RCC. Acceptance of the canon does not require Christians to accept all the tenets that have subsequently come from the RCC. Believers can learn much from each other’s writings and traditions, however.

    I take issue with Eric’s claim that Christianity is not based on a book. If he means not a book alone, then he may be right. The value of the Old and New Testaments to Christian faith is priceless. I do not believe there could be a Christian faith without the Bible, just as there could not be faith without Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Old Testament, in particular, is essential for validating Jesus’ claims. Jesus quoted it extensively. Ignorance of the Bible is one of the main reasons for the loss of faith in our nation today. Revelation, as mentioned by Eric, includes the special revelation of God’s written word.

    There may be a benefit for Protestant Christians to examine the doctrine of Sola Scriptura if they claim it as doctrine. Is the Bible self-authenticating? Do we not all use extra-biblical sources (writings, preachings) to understand the Bible? I also think Catholics and non-Catholics should be able to question the RCC’s extra-biblical traditions, writings and proclamations. Is that possible?

    • Both, it seems, rely on a step of faith. Both involve reasoning, an exercise of the mind, based on the evidence before them and the experience of their own lives.

      I definitely agree; whatever our branch of Christianity, this is a step we share. (We share it as well with every other faith, I think – and for that matter, with every decision we make in any context.) The objects of our faith – the things we decide to claim as reliable sources – are certainly different, but the step of faith itself is a point of commonality. As Eric noted in another thread, we don’t even “know” that the sun will rise – every action begins with faith.

      There may be a benefit for Protestant Christians to examine the doctrine of Sola Scriptura if they claim it as doctrine.

      Absolutely. I think we absorb a lot of beliefs as part of Christianity without properly questioning where they really come from – the Bible? the Reformers? our denomination’s history? American culture? That charge could be laid at a lot of things: our view of the Second Coming, say, or of alcohol – or, maybe, of cultural things like democracy or slavery or polygamy. Some of these beliefs may be backed by good, solid Scripture; others may be in the category of “really good ideas” rather than outright sins – but either way, it behooves us to know why we defend these things.

  13. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Leader Do’s and Don’ts: Titus 1 | ChristianBlessings

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