Friday, May 10, 2013

Protestant Relativism and the Problem with Authority

I found this blog post very interesting, and the discussion that ensued with another blog follower even more interesting. Ultimately it was a great discussion highlighting the differences between most protestant positions on authority, or perhaps the lack of authority.  Here is the Blog

Evangelicalism And The Problem Of Orthodoxy

And below I will cut and paste my discussion front he comments.

Jon  a day ago
I really enjoy your blog Zach, especially posts like this that resonate closely with me as to why I left the evangelical tradition.
I am really curious, with your knowledge of the reformation and church history, what is holding you back from becoming Orthodox/Catholic?
For me, once I saw the historical truth of Christianity and saw that the early church believed things like infant baptism, the real presence in the Eucharist, the authority of bishops/Magesterium etc... And this same church under the Holy Spirit canonized the New Testament, I had a hard time saying God left that tradition at some point and an even harder time justifying why I did not have the same traditions as the first century church. 

Bob M  Jon  20 hours ago
This is the other danger with not understanding church history: Idealizing the past. Just because the church once thought a certain way does not mean we should forever think that way. The history of mankind is the story of God constantly refining our understanding and practice, and that refining process is not over. That's not to say that there isn't value in traditions but we shouldn't treat them as better just because they're older, either.

Jon  Bob M  19 hours ago
With all due respect, I could not disagree more. Of course if you simply mean non revealed traditions, like wearing sandals verses shoes, or meeting in catacombs rather than churches then, sure those can change and do change. However, Revealed truth from God does not change. Our understanding of it may grow over time, but the fundamental truth deposited by God in the NT, and through Christ and the Apostles is the only truth.
During the Old Testament times, God was constantly revealing bits of the truth through his prophets and people. Then the fullness of God's truth was delivered through Christ and the Apostles. The Bible makes it clear that Divine Revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle. Of course their are pseudo christian groups that deny this (i.e.: Mormons), but Evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants, affirm this fact. Because of this, we must accept teachings on foundational parts of the Christian Faith as they were presented to us by the Apostles. The Apostles taught an essential doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, an essential doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Authority of the Church, etc... Much of this is found in the NT, and further readings of the earliest church fathers (those that learned directly from the Apostles) further confirm.
I suppose if you want to say that Luther, Calvin, Zuigli, etc..., received Divine Revelation from God and were prophets, then you would have authority for your position, otherwise, they simply replaced God's revealed truth with their own.
Zach makes a great point on the number of denominations today, there are so many, that you can find which ever one floats your boat. This makes Matt 18 pointless regarding handling disputes, you know, first you confront your brother, than you meet with others, than you take it to the church. This worked great when there was 1 authoritative church (and still works great for Catholics), but this is how all those denominations were created. When someone disagreed with the church, then they just created their own, or found one that did agree with their position. This makes truth relative to the individual, which is a false position. There is one truth revealed by God, and it is our duty to follow that truth not out own.

Bob M  Jon  3 hours ago
"The Bible makes it clear that Divine Revelation ceased with the death of the last Apostle."
Where exactly does the Bible make this clear?

Jon  Bob M  2 hours ago
The New Covenant, sealed by the blood of Christ is eternal. He died, resurrected, ascended into heaven and will come back to judge the living and the dead. The correct attitude of a Christilan is to accept this revelation and live it while expecting the end times. If there were to be a new revelation, it would be in addition to and outside the eternal covenant... outside of Christ.
Here's how Dei Verbum, the scripture document from the Council, states it: 4. Then, after speaking in many and varied ways through the prophets, "now at last in these days God has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb. 1:1-2). For He sent His Son, the eternal Word, who enlightens all men, so that He might dwell among men and tell them of the innermost being of God (see John 1:1-18). Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh, was sent as "a man to men." (3) He "speaks the words of God" (John 3;34), and completes the work of salvation which His Father gave Him to do (see John 5:36; John 17:4). To see Jesus is to see His Father (John 14:9). For this reason Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making Himself present and manifesting Himself: through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but especially through His death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth. Moreover He confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.
The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Tim. 6:14 and Tit. 2:13)

Jon  Bob M  2 hours ago
The following verses seem to indicate that the Christian faith was delivered complete, once and for all, to the saints of the first-century Church, that Christians are to hold to those ancient apostolic traditions, taught by word of mouth or by letter, and that Christians are to reject any new teachings that are contrary to those ancient apostolic traditions.
3Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3)
15So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel-- 7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9

Bob M  Jon  44 minutes ago
1) None of these verses indicate that revelation has ceased, only that, only that further revelation may not contradict scripture itself. I believe the Bible itself to be Divine Revelation of a unique type. However...
2) You seem to be equating the ancient apostolic traditions with the canon of scripture itself. I believe this is misguided, although from your worldview I understand your position. Having had many conversations with a Russian Orthodox priest, I know the logic. However...
3) There is a difference between scripture and the church's historical interpretation of scripture. I do not hold the interpretations of Dei Verbum to be of equal weight to scripture itself.

Jon  Bob M  19 minutes ago
Well, a couple of thoughts,
1) The Bible, particularly the New Testament Canon is a Tradition.
2) Your position that there is a difference between scripture and the churches historical interpretation of scripture is understandable but mistaken. You see, the New Testament is a tiny piece of the entirety of what the Apostles taught. It is the core, and the foundation of beliefs and faith. However, Jesus and the Apostles taught so much more than what is written, as the verses I shared state. We must look at scripture coupled with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. John 20:30-31 " Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
Are we to believe these things were unimportant? Or are we to understand, especially in those times (paper a luxury and writing tedious), that there was a lot of clarifying dialogue preached to Christians by the Apostles?
I must say, I find your position understandable in our culture. It is this attitude of relativism and finding your own truth that permeates our culture today. This is how people find justification for abortion and homosexual marriage and a host of other issues within the pages of scripture. This is also how people like Joseph Smith were able to create their own religion.
I suppose you would say, that since God is still revealing his truth to us, we can never know who holds it other than our individual self. After all, you would have no authority to say my interpretation is wrong and yours is right, nor anyone else's for that matter. Maybe the truth is held with the mormons, pentecostals, methodists, evangelicals, SDA, Jehovah's witnesses, evangelicals, or dare I say even cult groups like the Branch Davidians. How are we to know anything for certain with your point of view???
I suppose at this point you would say, "well if its contrary to scripture then that group does not hold the truth". However, your position sets you up for failure as you cannot approach the historical teachings of the church to settle your dispute and the groups that differ from you go to the same pages of the Bible to justify their positions. Hmm if only there was a magesterium and historical writings from the early church that we could go to for clarification of what Christ and the Apostles were really teaching!!! Oh Wait there is!!!

I will keep you apprised of any future responses!

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