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« The Origins of Life Debate | Main | Cloud of Witnesses »

November 19, 2009


I agree totally. Very condescending. What groups would this appeal to? Joel Osteen’s congregation?

I agree with that this is troubling, but I'm confused by the following statement: "Christianity affirms verbal inspiration for the Bible. That means the very words were God-breathed, not the general message, but the actual words. Playing with the words shouldn't be taken lightly even for good intentions."

If this is true--if the very words of the Bible are inspired--aren't we doing similar damage to them by translating them into English, no matter how close the translation?

I am also against this attitude towards the Scriptures. It totally is forbidden by the verses in Deut, and in Revelations to not add or take away from the Words. Unfortunately, whilethis is a very flagrant violation, other violations are ignored, like changing the plan of salvation to suit our tastes, rather than heed the proscription set forth in the whole book;

I think they should do a revised version. Instead of just adding your own name to all the good parts, you should be able to add a buddy's name, too. For example:

Acts 17:11 "Now Melinda was more noble-minded than Amy..."

Seriously, though, the "Letter to Melinda" made me laugh. I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly. I think the best point you made is that Christians tend to misapply to themselves promises that were made to other people, and it seems like this personalized Bible could perpetuate that problem.

Sam, thought the Acts reference was funny!!!

Melinda, your thoughts on the the Personal Promise Bible are spot-on and I totally agree. This sort of thing is very spiritually dangerous.

I had to giggle because I thought, "Yeah, I agree, Melinda. But, where in the Bible does it teach what you're saying is correct?". It doesn't, does it?

Isn't this the problem with Sola Scriptura? It's each to his own. You just happen to think reason and your hermeneutical method is the right one as Protestantism doesn't believe in dogma: i.e., a definitive way to define Scripture.

In short, without dogma, aren't you simply subject to relativised hermeneutical methods? Isn't it merely like the Mormon, 'burning in the bosom', as to which method is authoritative - OR - 'sola ratio'?

As always, I think Stand to Reason is great, but STR never addresses this one - that its own method is relativist - one among many of the thousands of Protestant views of Scripture - or are you claiming to be authoritative or magisterial?

Of course, those who do what you criticise, are wrong. Well, from my perspective they are. Period. But that's because I trust in our Magisterium's view of Scripture. There is one right way of viewing scripture and others are erroneous or dissent.

But how can you say that if there's not an authoritative hermeneutical method beyond someone's own 'lights' or Holy Spirit's 'guidance', to which some Protestants hold?

If I honestly apply reason, I have to say that Dei Verbum makes more sense than STR on this because it is authoritative yet not in scripture, whereas your view isn't in scripture either, so how is it authoritative? Why should people who personalise scripture listen if you're not an authority, because only scripture is?

If you are some form of authority, from where do you get your authority - reason or God? And if it's reason, how is it Christian, if it's the Holy Spirit, then those you criticise would claim the same thing.

But, if it's Faith and Reason, then you're simply claiming the same as the Catholic Magisterium, aren't you, as Scripture and Tradition are their counterparts?

To me, STR can accuse the world of being relativist (which it certainly is), but I notice it doesn't apply it's brilliant method to the glass house in which it is sitting, which is formally isomorphic with the world in this regard, isn't it?
- Each to their own discernment?

I agree, Melinda. In women's Bible studies I also hear the name of Christ being substituted into verses, e.g., "Christ is patient, Christ is kind. Christ does not envy, . . ."

James, the protestant position isn't relativism. Protestants still believe there's some objective meaning to the Bible that we have to discover. It isn't as if we think all interpretations are equally valid or is true for the interpreter or anything like that. THAT would be relativism.

I don't think the Catholic Church has solved anything by having an interpretive authority. Whenever we use language to communicate, we have to also use interpretation. Interpretation is just the process of figuring out what somebody means by what they say. You are interpreting my words as you read this. And anything the Catholic Church teaches must be interpreted as well.

No matter how many interpretive authorities you put between God and man, you can't get past the fact that in the end, if any person is to understand what God is trying to communicate, he's got to use his own mind to process the information that enters it. You seem to think that reason and hermeneutics aren't enough for a person to understand the Bible, so we need an authority to help us out. But that only postpones the problem because before we can rely on any source of authority to tell us what the Bible means, we've first got to figure out which source of authority to listen to. Should we listen to the Catholic authorities, the Mormon prophets, the Watchtower Society, Ellen G. White, or who? We certainly can't rely on any of these sources of authority to tell us which source of authority we should listen to because that would be viciously circular reasoning. Ultimately, we're going to have to look at Biblical and historical evidence and apply reason to the best of our ability to discover which of these authorities to listen to. If we need an authority to tell us what the Bible means, then how can we possibly use the Bible to discover which authority to listen to?

And where do we even get the idea that there is such an authority or that we should attribute such authority to anybody? Don't you get that from your understanding of the Bible?

As a teaching authority, the Catholic Church does not strike me as being all that reliable. When I compare some of the things put out by the Council of Trent to what the Catholic Church teaches today, they seem to be at odds with each other. So either the teaching magisterium was unreliable then or it's unreliable now. Of course you could claim there's no inconsistency between what they taught then and what they taught now, but the only way you could maintain such consistency is by reinterpreting Trent. But that would prove my point--the point being that even the teachings of the church need to be interpreted. Who will interpret them? Well, that's up to the individual Catholic, and Catholics seems to disagree with each other about a lot of things.

We have nothing but our own cognitive faculties to process information and come to beliefs, regardless of what authority we attribute to other sources. It seems to me that if we are smart enough to look at the scriptures and history and apply reason to discover who really has teaching authority, then that would prove that we're capable of understanding the Bible by the use of reason.

I don't know about you, but I can live with the fact that I'm fallible and that I could be wrong about things. I don't see any way around it. Proposing an infallible interpreter doesn't solve the problem as far as I can see.

Hi there, Sam. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

I can see your point, but, like Melissa, how can you talk for Protestantism?

How can you say, "Protestants still believe there's some objective meaning to the Bible that we have to discover. It isn't as if we think all interpretations are equally valid or is true for the interpreter or anything like that.", can you? - Because surely not all Protestants are required - or do - believe that? It's just your view, like Melinda has hers, isn't it?

For example, Greg uses his little example of the Rabbi, The Catholic Priest, and 'Great Greg Koukl'.

Now, I'm not going to knock the great Greg Koukl, because I think he is! As I think he's right on so much and STR is really needed because of the 'Scandal of the Evangelical Mind', which people over at the Veritas Forum are at pains to try to redress (Dallas Willard, JP Moreland, William Lane Craig, James Sire, etc., of which I have most of their books).

However, in that example he gives, they're both woolly liberals, whilst Greg's orthodox.

BUT, what if it was put as, a Jew, Catholic Priest, and Protestant? And what if the Catholic priest or the Rabbi we're very orthodox, whilst the Protestant was John Shelby-Spong or Harvey Cox?

With the tables turned like that, who'd then be in favour of homosexuality? The Protestant, surely. But 'Protestant' is a placeholder for Greg or Harvey Cox, so the 'Catholic Priest' in his example, is just as disingenuous, I think.

Homosexual acts are a grave evil in Catholicism. Any Catholic priest who teaches otherwise is in dissent. But, how are John Shelby-Spong or Harvey Cox (both brilliant minds who've used their reason to come to their conclusions) wrong within Protestantism? there's nothing from which to dissent, and if you say 'scripture', then you have to have an authoritative interpreter or interpretation, don't you?

Who can adjudicate? Can Greg or Melissa, just by appealing to reason?

It seems to me that you can't appeal to reason alone, nor what many call 'the Holy Spirit' (i.e. subjectivism), so you need a 'third position' to avoid relativism, don't you?

That is, to deny all interpretations are universally valid (relativism, as you define it), you would have an authoritative interpretation, wouldn't you? That is, only a definitive interpretation of Scripture - dogma - proves you don't believe in relativism, surely?

James, you make a good point about the diversity without protestantism, but I was referring specifically to protestants who affirm sola scriptura, because I thought that's who YOU were talking about in your earlier post. If there are any protestants out there who affirm sola scriptura but who do not believe there is any objective meaning to the Bible, I'm unaware of them.

I don't see why we need an authoritative interpreter to tell us that John Shelby Spong is wrong. It's not as if the mere fact that people have disagreements renders all views equally valid in the absense of an authoritative interpreter. Rather, I would say we should incline our belief to the stronger case, which is exactly what YOU do when you choose the attribute authority to the Catholic Church rather than the LDS Church.

I just don't see any way around having to make a judgment. If Greg Koukl and John Shelby Spong offer arguments for and against homosexuality, we should render a judgment based on who we think makes a more persuasive case. I don't see how it helps to have an authoritative person to make that judgment for us because we STILL have to make a judgment about which authority to listen to. There's no way around having to make a judgment without appealing to some authority.

That is, to deny all interpretations are universally valid (relativism, as you define it), you would have an authoritative interpretation, wouldn't you?

Maybe we are defining "authority" differently. If by "authoritative interpretation," you mean simply a correct interpretation, then of course I agree with you. But if you mean we have to have somebody invested with divine authority to make these kinds of judgments for us because we are incapable of making them ourselves, then no, I don't agree with that. If we were in such a hopeless situation, then how on earth could we ever be competent enough to judge which authority to listen to--the Catholic church, the LDS church, the Watchtower Society, etc.?

If I were a relativist, I would not think the Bible had any objective meaning. It's possible for the Bible to have an objective meaning even if nobody knows what that meaning is. So even if we were in the unfortunate position of not being justified in any interpretation without an authoratitive entity to tell us what the Bible means, I would STILL not be a relativist, because that's not what relativism is. At worst, protestants like me are unable to know what the Bible means, and we have to make guesses, but since we believe the Bible does means something independently of our opinions (in other words, our opinions do not determine what the Bible means), we are not relativists.

It's evident in the fact that protestants disagree with each other that we are not relativists. To disagree with somebody is to say that they are wrong, but it's impossible for a person's interpretation to be wrong unless there is an objectively correct interpretation. So by disagreeing with each other, we prove that we are not relativists.

Woops! "diversity without protestantism," was supposed to be "diversity within protestantism."

Hi there, Sam. Thanks for engaging me on this one.

Sorry. I suppose I have been unclear.

A few minutes ago I went to a blog I follow and it pointed me to this (below) - which strangely goes over the same ground as I have recently, but is written by a Protestant - and he's a far more capable writer than myself, and can be found here:

Like Frank Beckwith, I'm a 'revert' to Catholicism, and although there's more to it, I reverted reluctantly at first - but one strong reason was because no-one could answer this dilemma satisfactorily. Churches were splitting all around me, and all the neo-pastors were making poorly substantiated claims that all the others were in error, when it just seemed like battles of egos from the outside. They were the individuals crying, "I will not submit!".

In essence, I suppose I was hoping that if anyone would have an answer to it, it would be someone at STR!

I have now come to love the Catholic Church because it's nothing like the lies I was taught about it by my Evangelical friends who grossly misrepresented it.

"I don't see how it helps to have an authoritative person to make that judgment for us", isn't ho we see authority. That's the very misunderstanding which is just so wrong. The Church for us is the mystical body of Christ - Christ - so it's not a man (Pope) but the whole Church - Jesus Christ still present in the world. We submit to Jesus Christ truly alive and present in our world which/who is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth... We have a very organic view of church - a church visible. It's 'infallibility' is in that it is Christ, whereas we are all, including the pope, fallible sinners.

Thanks, Sam. Your thoughts have been helpful, and I'm very grateful.


I am a Catholic, but I'd like to suggest you consider and investigate one of the points Sam has made. The post-Vatican II "Catholic" Church is at odds with the Council of Trent and the Catholic Church. The Vatican II Conciliar Church and the Catholic Church are not the same. Greg Koukl has even recognized this fact on a few occasions on his radio show. I won't go into details since there is plenty of information available out there, but I just hope you might consider this as a possibility in your own mind and look into it further.

Hi Chris. Thanks for replying. Of course, Greg's a Catholic, too! He's just apostate. :)

But seriously, the conspiracy theory you're proposing is as reliable as a Jack Chick Tract! That's why I ignored it.

But I'm surprised you take it seriously as a Catholic. Because, if you do, then your position is either as sedevacantist as those who spread that rubbish (i.e., SSPX), or maybe you don't understand Apostolic Tradition?

Unfortunately, like many, probably because of appalling catechesis, or its lack, Greg left the Church, and I don't blame him.

Most Catholics (including myself) - if we were taught anything at all in the first place - it was modernism: that which the sedevacantists and so-called 'traditionalists' were repudiating, and rightly so. However, they went too far, and stepped into heresy, just like the modernists they were attacking.

Modernism is a grave error, but to propose the extreme traditionalist's 'hermeneutic of suspicion', as it's called, as evidence against Catholicism, is clutching at straws, because those who propose it are also apostate - so it's not the view of the Church. Now if you think the Church has a vested interest in suppressing truth, well, within a Church with no doctrine, you can believe that if you like, that's why I said what I said: on a Catholic Blog, you'd be wrong, but here, there isn't any wrong as long as it accords with reason, which is what a secularist would argue as his working premise, too.

Sadly, both extremes build their case more on their hatred of the other viewpoint rather than love of what they're proposing.

At root, it's an error called integrism.

I am surprised that no one here seems to disagree with Melinda. I disagree to this extent: Every person's story in the Bible is my story. Job, David, Moses, heroes and failures are mine when I put myself into the text and interact with my spiritual ancestors. Because Abraham is my father, Moses is my lawgiver, and Jesus is my savior these people are personalized to me.
If anything I would object to the trivialization that Sam cleverly pointed to with Acts 17:11. That I would not defend.
Taking it personal is the way to go.

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