Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Self Authenticating Scriptures?

The "Reformed" Net-Apologist who calls himself Turretin Fan quoted a Dr. Bahsen on the definition of the self authentication of the Scriptures. He quoted Dr. Bahsen's explanation as follows:
Throughout the history of redemption God has directed His people to find His message and words in written form. Indeed, God Himself provided the prototype of written revelation when He delivered the tablets of law upon Mount Sinai. And when God subsequently spoke by His Spirit through chosen messengers (II Peter 1:21), their words were characterized by self-vindicating authority. That is, it was evident from their message that they were speaking for God -- whether the claim was explicit (e.g., "Thus saith the Lord...") or implicit (the arresting power or demand of their message as a word from the Lord of the covenant: e.g., Matt. 7:28-29).

Moreover, their messages were of necessity coherent with each other. A genuine claim to inspiration by a literary work minimally entailed consistency with any other book revealed by God, for God does not lie ("...it is impossible for God to lie," Heb. 6:18) and does not contradict Himself ("But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no," II Cor. 1:18). A genuine word from God could always be counted upon, then, to agree with previously given revelation -- as required in Deut. 13:1-5, "If there arises among you a prophet..., saying `Let us go after other gods...,' you shall not hearken unto that prophet....You shall walk after Jehovah your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice...."

My response.

Nowhere in the early Church does anyone teach this self authentication process exactly as Dr. Bahsen presents it here. Oh sure, you can always perform a hatchet job with the Church Father's writings, and cut and paste quotes out of context like we are used to seeing from TF. Whenever you call his bluff however he always seems to disappear. We saw that with the Aquinas debacle where Turretin Fan tried to quote St. Thomas out of context several times in an attempt to frame St. Thomas as being some sort of proponent for a Scripture Alone. I correctly interpreted the out of context quotes he presented, in a 10 page response I composed. As we know, he disappeared after I posted it, now almost 3 weeks ago. So now he is onto something new. Let me continue.

There is an element of truth in what the Dr. presents here regarding the consistency of Revelation. What the Dr. fails to understand however, is the method in which Christians of the true faith determined this consistency of Divine Revelation. It was not by self authentication.

We must quote John Calvin here to give a more complete picture of what is going on here. Calvin gives us a clear example of how he thinks Sacred Scripture is self authenticated.

"Let this point therefore stand: those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men. We seek no proofs, no marks of genuineness upon which our judgment may lean; but we subject our judgment and wit to it as to a thing far beyond any guesswork!" Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.vii.1, 2, 5

If we read Calvin here, we see the old "I have a hot line to the Holy Spirit" routine. Calvin arrogantly thinks that God speaks to each believer and verifies the authenticity of the Scriptures in a private manner to ultimately give us the Biblical canon. Historical sources tell us that Christians in the early centuries did not self authenticate the Scriptures in this manner. It was ultimately determined by a collective Body. Calvin's method is characteristic of the prideful individualism that we have come to see in all forms of Protestantism.

Photo of the "Reformed Charismatic", Greg Haslam
(Source-Adrian Warnock)

Here are a few facts about the canon of Scripture that TF and those like him don't want you to know. The early Church as a collective Body determined the Canon by comparing it to what had been preached and believed everywhere as Divine Revleation, long before the New Testament Scriptures were ever used. It was never an individual effort to determine them. The Protestants are very ignorant about the Church's early liturgies, and the role that the liturgies played in determining the Biblical canon. It is the living Church that recognizes Scripture for what it is, based upon her infallible character and shared authority which Christ passes on to Her through the apostles to recognize and interpret His Word. The Scriptures, or the written Word of God, were never given as an authority that stood alone from those who preached the Oral Word as a Body, or what we call the Church, capital C.

Once again we see the Protestants trying to pry the authority of Scripture away from the authority of God, the authority shared by God with His only Church, and those whom God chose to send to preach His Word as a Body, not as individuals. This is not only Biblical, it is historical. When presented with these facts, the Protestant has no choice but to invent a new process of authentication to disassociate themselves with anything remotely Catholic in nature. In order to do this they invent a false opposition between authorities, then moving the entire argument away from the Body of Christ, to each individual. I have spoken about this false opposition of authorities many times before. Here, and here for example. The collective Body of Christ and His church is ultimatley left in the dust with this self authentication process. I would like to entertain this topic a bit further, but right now I have some projects to get done so I can't dive in any deeper. There is a nice article on Called to Communion that addresses this issue in more detail.

May God bless and keep you,
Matthew Bellisario

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