Last thing on Scripture for a while

September 30, 2007

Here’s a good statement of the protestant position on Sola scriptura and it’s relation to the authority of the church. I’m going to quit talking about this for a while, because I’d like to stop and do some more reading about the topic before I say any more. In particular, I want to look at Keith Matheson’s book, “The Shape of Sola Scriptura”. Reading the description of the book on amazon, I found somebody posted a great quote that I wish I had read two weeks ago:

“This also is certain, that no one should rely on his own wisdom in the interpretation of the Scripture, not even in the clear passages, for it is clearly written in 2 Peter 1:20: ‘The Scripture is not a matter of private interpretation.’ And whoever twists the Holy Scripture so that it is understood according to his preconceived opinions does this to his own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). The best reader of the Scripture, according to Hilary, is one who does not bring the understanding of what is said to the Scripture but who carries it away from the Scripture. We also gratefully and reverently use the labors of the fathers who by their commentaries have profitably clarified many passages of the Scripture. And we confess that we are greatly confirmed by the testimonies of the ancient church in the true and sound understanding of the Scripture. Nor do we approve of it if someone invents for himself a meaning which conflicts with all antiquity, and for which there are clearly no testimonies of the church.”

–Martin Chemnitz, “Examination of the Council of Trent” Vol. 1, p. 208.


Too Cute to Pass By

September 27, 2007

Found this here.

From Peter Van Inwagen’s God, Knowledge & Mystery: Essays in Philosophical Theology (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995):

One advantage philosophers bring to theology is that they know too much about philosophy to be overly impressed by the fact that a particular philosopher has said this or that. Philosophers of the present day know what Thomas Aquinas and Professor Bultmann did not know: that no philosopher is an authority. Philosophers know that if you want to pronounce on, say, the project of natural theology, you cannot simply appeal to what Kant has established about natural theology. You cannot do this for the very good reason that Kant has established nothing about natural theology. Kant has only offered arguments, and the cogency of these arguments can be (and is daily) disputed.

Answering again.

September 27, 2007

My previous post has provoked a bit of controversy. WTM, Mike Liccione and Fr. Al have all contributed some helpful and interesting comments. In my opinion, however, the most incisive criticism of my position so far, has come from Prof. Scott Carson. I left a lengthy rejoinder to him at his blog, but I’ll post it here for your reading enjoyment and to clarify any remaining problems.

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Is submission to (the Pope’s) authority a virtue?

September 26, 2007

Virtues are those habits of characters which enable a human being to live well. This claim means that a just person’s justice is a habit by virtue of which he or she is a good person. Something is fulfilled in the just person that is lacking or deformed in the unjust one. The difficult task then is specifying a list of the virtues–which habits of character are those which enable us someone to live well? The most common way to set about elaborating this list of virtues, or investigating whether a particular concept deserves to be called a virtue, is to specify a moral psychology.

The question I’m asking is whether submission to authority as such is a virtue. I’m raising this question to investigate a common claim from catholic apologists that a catholic espouses a virtue of submission by not questioning the authority of the pope while the protestant is guilty of a vice of hubris, or somesuch, for failing to do the same.

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Elizabeth Anscombe on Protestantism and Divine Command Ethics

September 23, 2007

[I am skeptical about the claim she makes here, but I thought it was interesting. This is from Anscombe’s famous paper “Modern Moral Philosophy”.]

To have a law conception of ethics is to hold that what is needed for conformity with the virtues failure in which is the mark of being bad qua man (and not merely, say, qua craftsman or logician)—that what is needed for this is required by divine law. Naturally it is not possible to have such a conception unless you believe in God as a law-giver; like Jews, Stoics, and Christians. But if such a conception is dominant for many centuries, and then given up, it is a natural result that the concepts of ‘obligation,’ of being bound or required as by a law, should remain though they had lost their root; and if the word ‘ought’ has become invested in certain contexts with with the sense of ‘obligation’, it too will remain to be spoken with a special emphasis and a special feeling in these contexts.

It is as if the notion ‘criminal’ were to remain when criminial law and criminal courts had been abolished and forgotten. A Hume discovering this situation might conclude that there was a special sentiment, expressed by ‘criminal’, which alone gave the word its sense. So Hume discovered the situation in which the notion ‘obligation’ survived, and the word ‘ought’ was invested with that peculiar force having which it is said to be used in a ‘moral’ sense, but in which the belief in divine law had long since been abandoned: for it was substantially given up among Protestants at the time of the Reformation.* The situation, if I am right, was the interesting one of the survival of a concept outside the framework of thought that made it a really intelligible one.

*They did not deny the existence of divine law; but their most characteristic doctrine was that it was given, not to be obeyed, but to show man’s incapacity to obey it, even by grace; and this applied not merely to the ramified presecriptions of the Torah, but to the requirements of ‘natural divine law’. Cf. in this connection the decree of the council of Trent against the teaching that Christ was only to be trusted in as mediator, not obeyed as legislator.

Vincent of Lerins’ Text

September 22, 2007

I’ve grown interested in typesetting lately and I’ve decided to try my hand at it. Here hot off the presses, my latin edition of Vincent of LĂ©rins’ Commonitorium, which I think not only looks nice, but has useful things like .pdf tags and the entire document is searchable. [I got my text from The Latin Library.]

Ahmadinejad at Columbia University

September 21, 2007

[This isn’t really scholasticism-related, but it’s too juicy to pass up.]

So the anti-Semite president of Iran is coming to give a speech at Columbia University. I’m torn here. Part of me thinks it was a terrible idea for him to come and for Columbia to invite him. Part of me wants to go and see what happens. What on earth does this man have to say?

What is your opinion, O readers mine? Should I go or should I stay? What question should I ask if I get a chance?