The fallible decision to follow the Church

A Catholic argument against sola scriptura is that if the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith, then that means that the Protestant has no infallible reason to believe the Bible, which means that the Bible isn’t an infallible rule of faith after all. A rebuttal that I heard from James White, is that since the Catholic has made a fallible decision to follow the Church, that means that the Church and, by proxy, the Bible aren’t infallible rules of faith after all, and thus the Catholic has the same problem, and you can’t make an argument against your opponent that refutes your own position. I heard this and thought, “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense.”; it seems to me that it’s some kind of fallacy, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint it. What is the Catholic response to this?

I hope you have mis-stated Mr White’s argument, because as reported above it makes no sense. (I have no direct experience of Mr White myself, but from his reputation I would expect him to be better than this)

In no particular order:
[LIST=“i”]
*]As a Catholic, I do not believe scripture to be infallible, so the whole upshot is kind of moot. I am not sure any protestants believe so either? In any case, I do believe scripture to be inerrant, which is a different quality.
And at the risk of tackling too much at once: I do not believe scripture to be inerrant because it testifies so to itself, because it does not do so – I believe it is inerrant because the Church tells me so.
*]As a Catholic, I am not sure I would describe the Church as *infallible *either, so I do not mind if Mr White asserts that it is not. I *do *believe the Church to be *unfailing * (which I am not sure is the same thing?), because Christ promised it would be so.
*]*Even if *I may make a “fallible” decision to follow the Church, how does *that imply the Church to be fallible??? How does *my fallibility cause the Church to be fallible? :confused:

(* Or as I would put it: “capbable of failing”)
[/LIST]

tee

The protestant does the same thing…watch what happens when some words are substituted for the protestant polimic:

, is that since the (Catholic) the protestant or White has made a fallible decision to follow the (Church,) his own interpretation or his own pastor or himself… that means that the (Church) his own interpretation or his own pastor or himself and, by proxy, the Bible aren’t infallible rules of faith after all, and thus the (Catholic) ]the protestant or White has the same problem, and you can’t make an argument against your opponent that refutes your own position. I heard this and thought,

The whole argument is that Catholics and Protestants are on the same boat; pointing out is just proving their point.

Following God is in fact infallible.
So, following God’s church isn’t fallible.

Following some other person’s own personal interpretation of the bible is fallible. In fact, it often changes throughout time and differs from one person to another because of this. It’s fallible to follow Mr. White, but it is always infallible to follow God as it’s one decision that will deliver you every single time.

This claim that it’s a fallible decision to follow God’s church is just a complete fallacy used to try and claim the church is fallible as well, but God’s methods are infallible. His church is infallible. God is infallible, and so his plan is as well. Part of that plan as shown in the bible is the church which is also infallible in those conditions that it states it’s infallible.

The written word simply cannot serve as a rule of faith; it cannot refute error or provide clarity where there’re misunderstandings; a living authority is necessary for that. And the bible is far from crystal clear on all matters even as many SS proponents claim it is clear, all the while disagreeing in their interpretations with other SS proponents-their opponent proponents, so to speak. :slight_smile:

Doesn’t 2 Tim 3:16 prove that Scripture really is an authority?

Never without the auspices of the Church, which Timothy was a member of. And the 2nd letter of Timothy, itself, along with the rest of what we now call the New Testament, wasn’t considered to be Scripture at the time it was written; St Paul would’ve been referring to the Tanakh. Now the 2nd letter of St Peter, OTOH, also verse 3:16, which does refer to some of the writings we now include in the New Testsment has this to say about them:
"He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."

We’ll always need the guidance of the Church to ensure correct understanding.

I believe what you meant to say was “the written word ALONE cannot serve as a rule of faith?”

Yes, as in ALONE without the Church interpreting its meaning.

My initial reaction is that this isn’t what Catholic apologists really argue. Some Catholic somewhere might, but it wouldn’t be a good argument. Obviously one’s personal belief that the Church is the infallible interpreter of scripture is itself a fallible judgment, just as a Protestant’s personal belief that scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith is also fallible. The Catholic apologist’s real argument is that the reasons and evidence supporting the Church’s claim to infallibility are far stronger than the Protestant’s contrary claim.

I think what White means to defend against is the argument (just one among many) that scripture alone is not formally sufficient to allow the Protestant to know all of the necessary truths of scripture. An infallible interpreter is necessary. The Catholic argument for that is based not only on the Bible and on patristics, but also on the practical reality that Protestants can’t agree amongst themselves on fundamental Christian doctrines as individually interpreted from Scripture.

The Protestant response is often White’s argument: “you Catholics claim that we need an infallible interpreter, but your own judgment that the Church is the infallible interpreter is itself fallible.” In this context, White’s response is a very bad argument because (1) it doesn’t deal with the reality that Protestants can’t agree on key points of doctrine from “the Bible alone,” and (2) it’s at odds with the Early Church Fathers, the history of the Christian Church, and the language of scripture. None of these sources support the idea that scripture alone is formally sufficient.

So while White’s argument appears sound at first blush, it’s only because he’s mischaracterizing what Catholic apologists are claiming in the first place.

Except there is a difference:

calledtocommunion.com/2009/07/ecclesial-deism/


Aquinas believed that faith in Christ necessarily involves trusting the Church, because Christ cannot fail to guide and protect the development of His Church.

I came to see that I did not fully trust Christ, not because I thought Him untrustworthy, but because I had not understood that Christ founded a visible hierarchically organized Body of which He is the Head, and which He has promised to protect and preserve until He returns. I had not apprehended the ecclesial organ Christ established through which the members of His Body are to trust Him. I came to see that faith in Christ is not something to be exercised invisibly, from my heart directly to Christ’s throne, as though Christ had not appointed an enduring line of shepherds. Inward faith was to be exercised outwardly, by trusting Christ through those shepherds Christ sent and established. Jesus had said, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”29

This is the sacramental conception of faith, not simply belief that, but belief through. This is the sacramental conception of the Church, the basis for the priest speaking in persona Christi.

But upon coming to understand that Christ founded a visible hierarchically organized Body of which He is the Head and which He promised to preserve, I came to see that the way to trust Christ is to trust His Church of which He is the Head, just as the early Christians trusted Christ precisely by trusting the teaching of the Apostles. Trusting the Apostles did not subtract from (or compete with) their trust in Christ. On the contrary, when Jesus tells the Apostle Thomas, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed,”30 He implies that greater faith is required and shown in those who trust in Christ not by seeing Him, but by believing the testimony of the Apostles. Jesus refers to this way of believing when He prays, “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.”31

I posted this on another thread, but it applies here as well

How do we know infallibility gets passed down? Good question!

Christianity is a revealed religion. God has revealed Himself to man through the Person of Jesus Christ.

**We would have to presuppose that God is infallible in being and essence, in Who He is, and What He does!
**

Is God infallible? We all would posit Yes on this I suppose, James White included!
Does God do everything infallibly? Yes, of course!

Do you believe that God has revealed Himself to man through the Person of Jesus Christ?
Did He do that Infallibly? Yes! Christ has infallibly revealed Himself to man!

What was the mode that Christ chose to deliver the message, that He is God with us!

A Church! Christ chose a Church to Infallibly preserve and communicate His revelation through a deposit of faith. The fullness of Truth subsist in Her , so She by His Infallible mediation is indeed infallible, when presenting Him, being that She was conferred by God Himself.

So, Christ has infallibly revealed Himself to man.

The mode that He chose to deliver this message is an infallible visible social order, the Church.

Christ infallibly chose an infallible visible social order, to mediate His infallible authority to the world.

The infallible Social Order He conferred has infallibly written, compiled, and discerned Holy Writ, to be profitable for teaching, correction and reproof.

All of this is complete in the Person of Jesus Christ, who is infallible!

The Church actively participates in the Mediation of Christ Authority. This continuity can be traced back to Christ Himself. Christ makes Himself Present through the Church daily, bearing witness to His Majesty, and also to Her being an active participent in the unfolding of divine wisdom. He is the Head, She is His Body. He is the Logos, the Actus Purus, but the Church, His Bride, an inseparable reality, that operates through Him, With Him, In Him, In unity, and in Conformity to Her Husband Jesus Christ, which is Her Head!

In other words, God did not leave us alone to discern, who He is by our own intellect, If that were true, then He would be reserved for the Intelligentsia, and not the common man! Instead Christ has given us, the manifold wisdom of God, the Church so that our faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Peace and Love in Christ!

Hi CatholicSoxFan.

(emphasis added)

I’m glad that you didn’t say "**The **Catholic argument … " because there are a great many Catholic apologists (although I admit I can’t give you a number) who don’t use that argument.

Go Sox! (Well, unless you mean White Sox. I don’t really care about them.)

Right. Thanks.

I still don’t get what the big deal is? Suppose James White himself were to stand before me and accuse:
**"you, tee_eff_em, and other Catholics claim that we need an infallible interpreter, but your own judgment that the Church is the infallible interpreter is itself fallible."

My response is: Yeah? **So!? **I take the fallibility of my own judgment as axiomatic.

I don’t say that anyone should follow the Church because *I say it *is unfailing. I say people should follow the Chuch because it is unfailing. I fallibly (bah! big deal!} make that judgment based on Christ’s promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against his Church, and I ask others to make their own fallible (who cares!?) estimation whether or not our Lord was being truthful in that promise.

Easy, no? :shrug:

Again, to make it plain: How does or should the fallibilty of my judgment affect whether or not the Church is capable of failing?

tee

My track record here is that I always regret getting into discussions in Apologetics because of some of the posters here, as my tolerance is much less than that of some others…But some posts I cannot seem to resist, and IMHO you are struggling here. Allow me to help you out.

Look at the argument itself. Allow me to introduce you to Max, who will in turn introduce you to his jar of peanut butter. Max maintains that his jar of peanut butter is infallible. It has NEVER made an error. Now, I will tell Max that he has made a fallible decision, based on his extensive reading and life experiences, that his jar of peanut butter is infallible. He will tell me that the jar is infallible because it says it is, right there on the label. I look on the label and see that it warns you that some people are allergic to peanut butter, but he reads it as self-declaring itself as infallible.

I believe your friend is putting you in the same position as Max is in. Logically, you cannot authenticate an authority greater than you are, as the authentication of an authority requires a greater authority than that of the authority being authenticated. Catholics tell me that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who convicts them of the Church’s infallibility, despite claims by some Catholics that the Church is self-authenticating. You believe the Church because the Holy Spirit worked in you, no? Not because of your reasoning abilities or your ability to discern, apart from the grace of God, the authority of the Church.

You cannot authorize the authority of the Church. You can only witness to it. I see in the OP the confusion of the two.

CatholicSoxFan #1
A Catholic argument against sola scriptura is that if the Bible is the sole infallible rule of faith, then that means that the Protestant has no infallible reason to believe the Bible, which means that the Bible isn’t an infallible rule of faith after all. A rebuttal that I heard from James White, is that since the Catholic has made a fallible decision to follow the Church, that means that the Church and, by proxy, the Bible aren’t infallible rules of faith after all, and thus the Catholic has the same problem, and you can’t make an argument against your opponent that refutes your own position. I heard this and thought, “Wait, that doesn’t make any sense.”; it seems to me that it’s some kind of fallacy, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint it. What is the Catholic response to this?

The Catholic answer to the Bible, the Church and the truth is as follows:

Things that the original spectators could easily observe and accurately report:
Fact 1: There was a man called Jesus.
Fact 2: He claimed to be a messenger sent from God.
Fact 3: He did enough to prove that He was such a messenger.
Fact 4: Crowds followed Jesus and He had an inner circle to whom he spoke much more.
Fact 5: He commissioned His followers to continue His teaching and founded His Church.
Fact 6: Jesus affirmed that God would protect that teaching.

The writings of these facts—the Gospels – are comparable with other ancient documents from writers such as Caesar, Tacitus, Thucydides and others, they are all reliable as history.

Historically, they prove that the messenger sent from God worked many miracles to support His mission and teaching to the extent of forgiving sins. God as Truth cannot provide such power to prove falsehood, so the claims of Jesus are true, culminating in the fact of His resurrection from the dead.

So from the reliability of the Gospels as history, we now know that:

  1. An infallible Church was founded by the Son of God
  2. That infallible Church teaches that the Bible, as She has given us, is the inspired Word of God.

Since Christ’s Church defined what historical writings are the inspired Word of God, and no others, and since no one else has that authority historically from Christ, “sola Scriptura” is a fantasy from the beginning.

So, thus following the Church’s teaching is following Christ.

So what do Christians think we had before the bible? For the early Christians didn’t all they have was tradition and the telling and retelling each other what Jesus taught them?

THE BIBLE IS BASED ON TRADITION, YOU CAN’T HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER. If you believe in only the bible you are still believing in tradition. That is where the bible comes from.

The objection in the OP is looking at the question from the wrong perspective. We need to look first back to the time when there was only one Church. The infallibility of the Church meant there was no reason to reject its doctrine and instead create a new “Church” based on new doctrines. The Chuch is infallible so that all Christians would be of one mind in the certainty of the truth. The Holy Spirit ensures that the true faith will always be preached by Christ’s Church. This is a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit, the necessity of the truth, and God’s desire that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. This is why heresy is a grave sin against faith, since it ultimately rejects the power and the authority of the Spirit of Truth in the Body of Christ.

Protestants argue the true faith and Gospel was lost for over a thousand years until they devised it (or re-devised it from their perspective) over a thousand years later, more or less depending on the version of Protestantism. What does this say about the importance of the truth or the power of the Holy Spirit? Jesus died on a cross and then permit His Gospel to be lost for most of history afterward, with no continual, unifying principle? Why even send the Holy Spirit only to supposedly remove Him for most of history?

If the Holy Spirit does not ensure the saving truth in all its integrity is maintained and preached by the Christian Church in all ages, then it means the truth can’t really be that crucial for salvation or that important. And if that’s the case, why are the anti-Catholics even bothering?

Sure, ultimately we all are subject to the possibility self-delusion, but looking to the Church with historical continuity to that community that was promised the Holy Spirit mitigates that possibility to a much greater extent then going by one’s own private interpretation of Scripture.

I think he is using the same argument Catholics use against sola scriptura. Catholics often point to protestants and say every man is fallible, so the inerrancy of scripture is meaningless if everyone interprets it for himself. We will end up with as many interpretations of the bible as there are interpreters. I think Mr White is basically saying that the same implies to the infallibility of the Church. Each man who follows the Church is fallible, so the infallibility of the Church is meaningless on the same grounds that the inerrancy of scripture is in the Catholic argument. In each case there is a divide between the infallible object and the fallible subjects. Fallible men are interpreting infallible/inerrant objects in both cases.

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