Infallible interpretation,


#1

I’ve been reading some Apologetic material from an Apologist who often likes to ask Protestants “Is your interpretation of this verse infallible?” The idea is that if they say no, it demonstrates that the rest of their interpretations or passages may also be wrong. If they answer yes…well, they’re basically backed into a corner. My question is:

What if someone turns the question around? What if someone asks me? I’d have to answer no, because I’m certaintly not infallible…so what should I respond? This has been bothering me for days. Thank you :slight_smile:


#2

[quote="ErricFiggy, post:1, topic:296042"]
What if someone turns the question around? What if someone asks me? I'd have to answer no, because I'm certaintly not infallible....so what should I respond?

[/quote]

I think that St. Augustine answered your question a long time ago, better than I could answer it:

For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. [St. Augustine (354–430): *Against the Epistle of Manichaeus

]
I pondered if I could add something worthwile to this sentiment, but found myself unable.


#3

Thank you David :) I figure i'd say something along the lines of " I don't rely on the Bible alone for my interpretation; I look to the Bible, to what the Church teaches, and to what the early Christians believed." but I guess I then run into the problem in that the Church hasn't infallibly interpreted much of the Bible; they leave it up to us and interpret as long as our interpretation doesn't go against Sacred Tradition or the Magisterium. Sorry, I'm thinking aloud :o


#4

[quote="ErricFiggy, post:3, topic:296042"]
I look to the Bible, to what the Church teaches, and to what the early Christians believed." but I guess I then run into the problem in that the Church hasn't infallibly interpreted much of the Bible; they leave it up to us and interpret as long as our interpretation doesn't go against Sacred Tradition or the Magisterium.

[/quote]

It seems you are a good Son of the Church, and I am quite sure that St. Augustine would agree and approve.

FWIW, I remember a thread here on CAF in which someone had asked which specific Biblical passages had been formally defined. There were many responses - most of which were quite weak, merely quoting passages which had been cited in witness of certain doctrines (but a mere citation is not conclusive evidence of a formal definition). Of the various responses, I considered the number of substantiated citations to be rather few, considering the broad scope of Sacred Scripture.

But the doctrine of the Catholic Church does not stop where the official interpretation of Scripture ends. As St. Augustine himself said, even the Scriptures themselves depend on the authority of the Church. Without that, we have nothing.


#5

[quote="ErricFiggy, post:1, topic:296042"]
I've been reading some Apologetic material from an Apologist who often likes to ask Protestants "Is your interpretation of this verse infallible?" The idea is that if they say no, it demonstrates that the rest of their interpretations or passages may also be wrong. If they answer yes...well, they're basically backed into a corner.

[/quote]

Man.. that sounds like John Martignoni if I had to guess. hahahahahha

My question is:

What if someone turns the question around?

You and just about all the responses are hitting the nail on the head. As Catholics.. we don't just pick up a bible, read it, and interpret it on our own. We don't reinvent the wheel every generation by re-interpreting things on our own, typically with a modern bent and without cross checking our work. -- We don't believe that every Christian is called to do so, as many Non-Catholic Christians believe they are.

NO, instead, we CROSS CHECK our interpretation with that of Church teaching, for one, but independent of that.. we ALSO, perhaps more importantly, cross check our interpretation with Historical Christianity (aka Holy Tradition)
See..that's the 3rd leg of our religious stool that we rest upon. 1) Christ, 2) Scripture, 3) Holy Tradition (magestrium and history)

Non-Catholic Christians by contrast have a 2 legged stool to sit upon. Christ and Scripture, that's it.

The idea is that IF our interpretations are CORRECT, then the early Christians.. (ya know.. those who KNEW the Apostles and were taught from them, or those who were taught by someone who knew the Apostles) then our interpretation will agree with their understanding and won't contradict.

IF we find that our interpretation disagrees..then we have reason to assume that WE are wrong.. not all of Christendom throughout history. NOT that the entire Christian faith fell into Apostacy..but that perhaps WE missed something and should try to re-align our beliefs with history, not the other way around.

This may sound like common sense, but you'd be surprised at how many non-Catholics will bristle at this simple idea. To them it will sound like we are putting MAN above God and trusting some long dead people over Christ.

But we aren't.... we are using history as a litmus test to ensure that WE, ourselves, aren't injecting our own bias and adding to scripture. We are using the early Christians from the 1st through 4th centuries as a type of 'tie breaker' when it comes to interpreting Scripture.

There is a popular Catholic saying which kinda hints at this point: "To be knowledgeable of history, is to cease to be Protestant"

Because the farther back you go in history.. the more Catholic the church looks.

So if someone turns it back around on YOU... then you should thank the Lord for the opportunity he has given you. use it to talk about Holy Tradition (aka Historical Christianity) That person may have thought that they have trapped you, but in reality they have actually opened the door for you to show one of the Unique strengths of your faith. They have accidentally played right into your hand. (so to speak) heehehhehe


#6

[quote="ErricFiggy, post:1, topic:296042"]
I've been reading some Apologetic material from an Apologist who often likes to ask Protestants "Is your interpretation of this verse infallible?" The idea is that if they say no, it demonstrates that the rest of their interpretations or passages may also be wrong.

[/quote]

Personally, I don't find that line of argument productive or convincing when Catholics take that approach. If you're discussing a particular interpretation, I would stick with context and exegesis and whatnot. Going after the person is a logical fallacy. Martignoni uses that a lot, and maybe that might get the person to at least be open to someone else's interpretation, but it also seems to turn a lot of people off and they end up thinking you are a blind zombie if that's the extent of your proof.

Now, I agree that the Church has the charism of infallibility, but simply articulating that to support an interpretation is not convincing to someone else. Invariably, the Church's interpretation is founded on sound analysis of a text or doctrine -- the Holy Spirit guards that soundness.


#7

[quote="DavidFilmer, post:2, topic:296042"]
I think that St. Augustine answered your question a long time ago, better than I could answer it:

I pondered if I could add something worthwile to this sentiment, but found myself unable.

[/quote]

Because of course we know Augustine was infallible, right?

:rolleyes:

:)


#8

[quote="Nic2009, post:7, topic:296042"]
Because of course we know Augustine was infallible, right?

:rolleyes:

:)

[/quote]

NO, just perhaps in this case, said things more succinctly. The idea is NOT that merely because he said it, though he is a highly regarded theologian, that it has to be true. NO, just that I'm sure the poster agrees with his sentiment and therefore quotes him.


#9

[quote="jschutzm, post:8, topic:296042"]
NO, just perhaps in this case, said things more succinctly. The idea is NOT that merely because he said it, though he is a highly regarded theologian, that it has to be true. NO, just that I'm sure the poster agrees with his sentiment and therefore quotes him.

[/quote]

So if I apply your method, in whatever case Augustine only agrees with modern catholicism is infallible, happens to be correct, as you say said succinctly or so the story appears is that a fair summary of your statement?
BTW: Could you please cite the allege quote in context for me?
The quotes I have read have no mention of the denomination Catholic let alone Roman catholic.
Thanks.
:)


#10

[quote="Nic2009, post:9, topic:296042"]
So if I apply your method, in whatever case Augustine only agrees with modern catholicism is infallible, happens to be correct, as you say said succinctly or so the story appears is that a fair summary of your statement?
BTW: Could you please cite the allege quote in context for me?
The quotes I have read have no mention of the denomination Catholic let alone Roman catholic.
Thanks.
:)

[/quote]

NO, I feel you completely misunderstood. Not putting forth a method, really at all. Explaining why people quote stuff at all. Have you never quoted someone before? Never used an old saying?, a figure of speech?, a line from a movie?
All these things follow the same principle. Wouldn't call it a method to apply in all theological lines of reasoning. - You may think the person was putting forth an argument. I took it more as his opinion or belief, stated in the form of a quote. - that's all.

I was/am speculating on the posters reason or intent on quoting Augustine. So I shouldn't speculate further. So perhaps it would be best if we simply waited and saw if that person circles back to this particular question and clarifies.

As for my OWN reason for quoting anyone.. not just Augustine. Is that I understand or believe something to be true. Perhaps with good reason. And I find a famous person who shares that same belief, but said it better then I.
I then. liking the way that person phrased it..quote them.

There quote only slightly has more credibility then my own words because of their notoriety, but only in so much as their words represent reality or express logic.
OR, if expressing a personal opinion or view, that their words align with my own beliefs and therefore resonate within me.

I mean this is the main reason anyone is quoted, really.

I'm not saying it is an argument in and of itself...but again, speaking of myself, it is a succinct way of expressing a larger idea that would take much more explaining and which is truly at the heart of the issue. The issue of Authority.
So in this specific case.. it states the Catholic view..but is not on its own.. a convincing argument to non-Catholics.


#11

[quote="ErricFiggy, post:1, topic:296042"]
I've been reading some Apologetic material from an Apologist who often likes to ask Protestants "Is your interpretation of this verse infallible?" The idea is that if they say no, it demonstrates that the rest of their interpretations or passages may also be wrong. If they answer yes...well, they're basically backed into a corner. My question is:

What if someone turns the question around? What if someone asks me? I'd have to answer no, because I'm certaintly not infallible....so what should I respond? This has been bothering me for days. Thank you :)

[/quote]

Perhaps it would be best to give the "theological note" ("de fide", "sententia certa", "probabile" or some other). Or at least to mention that such "theological notes" exist and that they indicate different levels of certainty. After all, the question "Is your interpretation of this verse infallible?" is essentially equivalent to "What certainty level should be assigned to your interpretation?".


#12

[quote="Nic2009, post:9, topic:296042"]
BTW: Could you please cite the allege quote in context for me?
The quotes I have read have no mention of the denomination Catholic let alone Roman catholic.

[/quote]

Do you actually want to contest the fact that St. Augustine was a (Roman) Catholic?

He did, after all, author his epic epistle, "On the Holiness of the Catholic Church," which is familiar to many members of this Forum (and is often cited).

I am aware that some Lutherans revere Augustine (mainly on the undisputed merits of his Confessions - which remains the second-best-selling book of all time (second, of course, to the Bible itself)).

But you cannot claim Augustine as one of your own on THIS forum without proper justification.


#13

[quote="jschutzm, post:10, topic:296042"]
NO, I feel you completely misunderstood. Not putting forth a method, really at all. Explaining why people quote stuff at all. Have you never quoted someone before? Never used an old saying?, a figure of speech?, a line from a movie?
All these things follow the same principle. Wouldn't call it a method to apply in all theological lines of reasoning. - You may think the person was putting forth an argument. I took it more as his opinion or belief, stated in the form of a quote. - that's all.

[/quote]

The problem I see here, is that quoting someone as evidence to support infallible interpretation, of which St. Augustine says nothing. It wasn't voted in as dogma more than 1400 years after his death. Albeit Augustine thought Rome, not unlike the East was wrongly overreaching in the claims of rule and authority. I would submit that there is a higher reliability in their collateral witness of two than the one anachronistic witness of the modern day claim of the Roman Catholic church.

I was/am speculating on the posters reason or intent on quoting Augustine. So I shouldn't speculate further. So perhaps it would be best if we simply waited and saw if that person circles back to this particular question and clarifies.

Sure why not.

As for my OWN reason for quoting anyone.. not just Augustine. Is that I understand or believe something to be true. Perhaps with good reason. And I find a famous person who shares that same belief, but said it better then I.
I then. liking the way that person phrased it..quote them.

Sure, that's fine and all, but does nothing to support the idea that Augustine supported infallible interpretation.

There quote only slightly has more credibility then my own words because of their notoriety, but only in so much as their words represent reality or express logic.
OR, if expressing a personal opinion or view, that their words align with my own beliefs and therefore resonate within me.

Yes I got it the first time, but thanks for clarifying.

I mean this is the main reason anyone is quoted, really.

Good, just so long as we understand Augustine is not a proof text, uninspired as it is, for infallible interpretation.

I'm not saying it is an argument in and of itself...but again, speaking of myself, it is a succinct way of expressing a larger idea that would take much more explaining and which is truly at the heart of the issue. The issue of Authority.

Don't you mean unaccountable power? After all that is what authority means to the Roman Catholic church.

So in this specific case.. it states the Catholic view..but is not on its own.. a convincing argument to non-Catholics.

Of course not especially with supplemental witness to the contrary. Besides as I stated, in my reference search the word Catholic never appears.

:)


#14

[quote="DavidFilmer, post:12, topic:296042"]
Do you actually want to contest the fact that St. Augustine was a (Roman) Catholic?

He did, after all, author his epic epistle, "On the Holiness of the Catholic Church," which is familiar to many members of this Forum (and is often cited).

I am aware that some Lutherans revere Augustine (mainly on the undisputed merits of his Confessions - which remains the second-best-selling book of all time (second, of course, to the Bible itself)).

But you cannot claim Augustine as one of your own on THIS forum without proper justification.

[/quote]

Catholic to Augustine does not mean ((((Roman))) Catholic, I don't care how many parentheses you use.
:)


#15

[quote="Nic2009, post:14, topic:296042"]
Catholic to Augustine does not mean ((((Roman))) Catholic, I don't care how many parentheses you use.
:)

[/quote]

I have to maybe correct you a bit.

1) The Catholic faith is mainly called "Roman Catholic" by Protestants, it started as a Protestant slur against Catholics in the 1500s. It was meant to portray the entire Catholic faith as Pagan and linked to the much maligned Roman Empire.

Many Catholics, over the years, have more or less adopted this description and used this name/term themselves.. but that in no way diminishes the fact that A) the faith is not officially called that and B) it is technically still a cultural insult, a slap in the face.. kinda like a racist using a slur to identify a minority. Especially if used to differentiate Catholics from Christians and Catholics now from earlier Catholics.

2) Logically, You will not therefore see the use of the terminology "Roman Catholic" by the Early Church Fathers because, quite frankily, as I've pointed out, that is a 16th century invention.

3) ECF didn't always identify the church by name.. as there was no other Christian church to contend with, so the term Christian and Catholic were interchangeable. Again, it is a more modern idea to pit the words Christian and Catholic against each other or to treat the 2 as separate. Many people read into history a post-Reformation distinction between Christian and Catholic.
There may have been 'fringe' groups like the Gnostics, Aryians, etc. back then..but to be Christian, WAS to be Catholic... even if you held some heretical ideas like the Gnostics. I bet if you talked to a Gnostic, back then,..they'd still identify themselves as Catholic.

4) So the term Roman Catholic is offensive to some.. just FYI. Similar to how Protestant is offensive to some Christians.

5) Just like all the ECF, they lived pre-Schism, so you can't use the East-West separation as a distinction.


If you are trying to differentiate Christian and Catholic and Roman Catholic... please explain what you are referring to and your particular view of history..because clearly, the majority on this forum do not see Roman Catholic, Catholic, and Christian as 3 separate things, at least not immediately surrounding Augustine's time.


#16

[quote="jschutzm, post:15, topic:296042"]
So the term Roman Catholic is offensive to some.. just FYI.

[/quote]

It's kinda offensive to me - although I realize that most people who use the term "Roman Catholic" do so out of ignorance. What I find most disturbing is when Catholics use the term - we ought to know better.

The Church does not describe Herself using this phrase - She is always the "Catholic Church."

The phrase "Roman Catholic" is of protestant invention - and was intended as derisive. Out of ignorance, some Catholics have adopted this phrase.

Similarly, the Mormon Church is officially known as the Church of Latter Day Saints. The term "Mormon" was originally a slur, but the LDS have embraced it, so that it is no longer considered derogatory. The Catholic Church has never officially embraced the term "Roman Catholic," but the widespread (and misinformed) acceptance of the term among the laity could lead to the term being generally accepted at Magesterial levels (we see such activity happening now, with the Church apparently acknowledging an implicit distinction between "dogma" and "doctrine," a distinction which modern Catholic theologians have made, but the terms have traditionally been used interchangeably.)

But, at any rate, the term is not currently used by the Catholic Church. When St. Augustine spoke of the "Catholic Church," he meant exactly the same thing as we mean today.


#17

Actually, I think you have completely misunderstood why I ask that question, and others like it. You don’t seem to be very aware of my methodology at all. That “line of argument” is not meant to be “convincing,” or a “proof,” of anything - I rarely, if ever, try to “prove” anything when it comes to a theological argument, and I think people who do, are generally making a big mistake. Also, this particular argument is not designed to be a stand alone argument. You seem, however, to think it is. Have you ever read anything I’ve done where that argument is used as a stand alone “proof”?

This particular question is designed to do two things: 1) to get the other person to stop and think; and 2) as importantly, or even more importantly, to get the Catholic asking the question to realize that the person they are dialoguing with is, in essence, assuming themselves to be infallible and the Catholic need not accede to that assumption. And, simply by asking the question, the Catholic is realizing that the other person is indeed not infallible. Which, in and of itself, gives the Catholic more confidence in situations like this.

Also, you are making a mistake to think that this is a logical fallacy of the ad hominem variety. It is not. #1, it is not a personal attack. It is not the same as calling the person stupid, or dumb, or hateful, or damned, or any such thing. It is merely asking a question: Are you infallible? And, the reason you are asking the question in the first place is because the underlying question you are trying to get to is: Is your argument infallible? The only way an argument involving the interpretation of a particular passage of Scripture can be infallible, is if the person making the argument is infallible, or they are quoting someone who is infallible. So, it is incorrect to characterize a question of this nature as an ad hominem argument. It is nothing of the sort.

(Note: I find it quite interesting, though, that in making your statement about ad hominem arguments, you made an ad hominem attack - “blind zombie,” eh? I’ll have you know that I see quite well for a zombie, thank you.)

Finally, I am curious as to your statement that that particular question “seems to turn a lot of people off.” Can you back that statement up with evidence? What people is it turning off? The people who realize that you’ve backed them into a corner and that they have no reasonable response to your question, so they get upset with you (and maybe make an ad hominem attack or two) in order to avoid answering your question? Are those the people it turns off? In that case, I would say that that question worked exactly as it was designed to do. It was designed to plant a seed, and if they got upset with you, and were “turned off,” then it seems the seed was planted pretty deep.


#18

That's a good answer John. No decent apologist tries to offend his opponent because it's counter productive. However, like you said, you have to try to get them to rethink their position, to question and compare what they currently think and believe with the facts that you offer.

Often a-Cs (especially the ones who feel they have to "straighten the unsaved Catholics out) will disregard this and I suspect that many of you regulars here at CAF have seen this as often as I have. You'll often see things like, " I love Catholics but I know God is calling you to 'come out of her my people' and be saved." Then they'll let go with a barrage of pretty standard a-C propaganda, polemics, and rhetoric that can leave the receiving Catholic reeling, not because he has no answer, but because he has been hit with too much to respond to at one time. (That's why CAF's rules mandate single topic threads.:thumbsup:)

Inquiring as to their authority for their doctrines is important, and that's why showing the unscriptural nature of Sola Scriptura is so important. When n-Cs begin to see that they cannot provide scriptural support for the doctrine that the Bible is their final and ultimate authority (a claim the Bible nowhere makes), they have to either rethink their beliefs and question their sources, or withdraw from the dialog back to their comfort zone.

Either way the seed, as you say, has been planted. It's important for us all to understand that the Catholic Church is the infallible authority, both historically and scripturally in order to help plant these seeds that can lead to conversion.

Keep in mind that most n-Cs do not lay claim to infallible interpretation, stating that they are not, but that the Bible is and that it interprets itself. (Often stated as "scripture interprets scripture" which is fallacious and untrue as well as unscriptural.)


#19

Hello everyone :)

Thank you all so much for taking the time to answer my question. On a side note, I was always a little confused with the usage of the term "Catholic" and "Roman Catholic", but this cleared it up nicely! So thanks for that as well :thumbsup:

John: I've recently started reading your material and I love it. I'm a very analytical person, thinking "If I say this, they'll say that; then I can respond with this." so reading your newsletters help me to see how an actual conversation might look like. I really appreciate it :D

Church Millitant: I also found your post particularly enlightening. So thank you very much :thumbsup:


#20

[quote="John_Martignoni, post:17, topic:296042"]
Actually, I think you have completely misunderstood why I ask that question, and others like it. You don't seem to be very aware of my methodology at all. That "line of argument" is not meant to be "convincing," or a "proof," of anything - I rarely, if ever, try to "prove" anything when it comes to a theological argument, and I think people who do, are generally making a big mistake. Also, this particular argument is not designed to be a stand alone argument. You seem, however, to think it is. Have you ever read anything I've done where that argument is used as a stand alone "proof"?

[/quote]

Stand alone? No. And I don't think I suggested you did. I did say that you used that method and warned against using it as the extent of one's proof. Obviously, your newsletters and debates have far more depth. That's not a secret. However, I am still not particularly fond of the "are-you-infallible" method even as an eye-opener. If you are familiar with my posts, I am much more fond of avoiding personal analysis or psychology unless absolutely necessary, and sticking strictly with the subject material.

you made an ad hominem attack - "blind zombie," eh? I'll have you know that I see quite well for a zombie, thank you.

I didn't call you or anyone a blind zombie, so I'm not sure what you're talking about there. :o

What people is it turning off?

It turns some off good-faithed people in forum-land, for instance, because neither they, nor you or I bear the charism of infallibility. It can come across as the Catholic apologist seeking a stalemate if one is not careful and does not stick with the subject's content. Believe me, there are amateur apologists out there who are fully capable of poor apologetics and invoking the "are-you-infallible" argument with nowhere to go after that. I simply stand by the warning that if someone is going to invoke the "are-you-infallible" method (which I discourage), that must be ancillary to actual exegesis, historical data, theological reasoning, etc...

Rest assured, I am familiar with your body of work and have referred others to your apologetics on numerous occasions. You can do an Advanced Search above for your name in posts made by me to see that is the case. :rolleyes:


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