Monday, May 11, 2009

Holy Scripture, the Church, and Scholarship, II

Here follows the second installment of my translation of an article by the New Hieromartyr Hilarion (Troitsky), Archbishop of Verey (+1929). Part one is here. Two or three more installments are forthcoming. It should be noted that the title of this article could also be translated “Holy Scripture, the Church, and Science.” I have elected to translate the Russian наука in the title as “scholarship” rather than “science,” inasmuch as the latter in contemporary English usage is very often taken as a synonym of “natural science.” In the body of the article I translate it sometimes as “scholarship” and sometimes as “science,” depending on context. Readers should bear in mind that they translate one and the same Russian word.
Thus, the Church is the guide to the interpretation of Holy Scripture.

The necessity of precisely this guidance becomes especially clear when one considers to the end the great lie that Protestantism drew on its flag, and after it every imaginable sectarianism and human frivolousness and free-thinking generally. Protestantism rejected the necessity of Church norms and principles for the interpretation of Scripture. But then, obviously, everyone has to be directed in the interpretation of Scripture by his own so-called common sense [literally, sound mind]. There is no need to mention that people’s common sense can very often judge the very same phenomenon, the very same fact, differently; but I think, and this is indisputable, that our minds, in the understanding of Holy Scripture, left to themselves, cannot at all be sound. To speak frankly, how often it happens that we go astray in our lives, that our reason does little more than justify our (fallen) will through sophistries.

Normally we agree with one another very easily about questions that do not affect our lives, that do not concern the direction of our wills. That is why in questions of natural science, and particularly in mathematics, there are so many universally accepted and unquestioned truths. Why, in fact, should I not accept that the sum of the angles of a triangle is always equal to that of two right angles? Or that the sum of the areas of the squares on the cathedi is equal to the area of the square on the hypotenuse, as the Pythagorean theorem affirms? Why should I not accept these mathematical truths? Their recognition binds me to absolutely nothing. I think one can, and even should, agree with the brilliant philosopher Leibniz, who said: “If geometry conflicted with our passions and our present concerns as much as morality does, we would dispute it and transgress it almost as much – in spite of all Euclid’s and Archimedes’ demonstrations, which would be treated as fantasies and deemed to be full of fallacies – and Joseph Scaliger, Hobbes and others who have written against Euclid and Archimedes would not find so few supporters as they do in fact” [New Essays on Human Understanding, 1.2.96]. Yes, when the matter concerns life itself, then immediately fierce, often passionate debates flare up, debates without end. That is why there are so many debates about philosophical truths, and even more about religious truths. Theological sciences are the most vitally important sciences, and therefore their tenets attract such a mass of debates.

But how does all of this relate to our question? Namely that, if the interpretation of Holy Scripture is left to each individual person, then one will find as many understandings of the word of God as there are people, that is, one will not find Holy Scripture at all. St Vincent of Lerins spoke of just the same thing back in the fifth century: “Owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation” [Commonitorium, 2.5].

Scholarship, with all its methods, is powerless to establish any sort of unanimity. There are many scholarly interpretations. One can probably say that there is a shelf of books written on every verse, but not only have doubts not been settled, or differences of opinion smoothed over, but just the opposite – these doubts and differences of opinion grow more and more.

The individual person will also constantly go back and forth in his understanding of Holy Scripture if he is not guided by the authority of the Church. The intellect, left to itself, can go even further in abusing Scripture, justifying the wise words of Clement of Alexandria: “others, giving themselves up to pleasures, wrest Scripture, in accordance with their lusts” (Stromata, 7.16; [c.f., 2 Pet 3:16]). The books of Holy Scripture give particularly wide scope for unlimited and arbitrary self-judgment. Indeed, philosophers and founders of other religions left behind them whole volumes of their works, expressing everything more or less fully and definitely, and therefore there is not limitless room for arbitrary reinterpretation. But Christ Himself wrote nothing: other people wrote about Christ, even those who were not witnesses of His deeds or immediate hearers of His teaching. From the perspective of autonomous reason it is perfectly legitimate to ask whether Christ’s teaching was conveyed properly, and if His life and deeds were related correctly by the writers of the books of the New Testament. Even if we grant that these books are authentic, does that mean that everything written in them corresponds to reality? The authenticity of the books does not yet guarantee their accuracy. It is undeniable that authentic reports even from eyewitnesses are often false: the author either saw the events poorly, or misunderstood them, or remembered wrongly if he wrote decades after the events. If one begins from such a perspective, then there open limitless possibilities for one’s judgment to affirm whatever it likes, and one will found a “Christianity” in accordance with one’s own personal tastes and one’s own personal desires. I am not talking about alleged possibilities only, but about real historical facts. Already in the second century, as St Irenaeus of Lyons relates, there were people who prided themselves in correcting the apostles and in being wiser not only than the bishops, but even than the apostles (Against Heresies 3.1.1; 1.2.2).

A century ago the rationalists Eichorn and Paulus, recognizing the authenticity of the entire New Testament, nonetheless “corrected” it with their astonishing, and at times outrageous, interpretations, so that not a single miracle was left in the entire New Testament. Marcion, a heretic of the second century, said that only Paul properly understood Christ’s teaching, and that the other apostles distorted it with Jewish insertions, and Leo Tolstoy affirmed that even the Apostle Paul, “not understanding Christ’s teaching very well” (a literal quotation), did much to distort it. To whom should one listen? It is unclear, and it seems that only one thing is beyond doubt: without the authority of the Church, a person quickly places himself above the apostles, above Christ Himself, and will begin to replace Christ’s teaching with the fanciful images of his own idle fantasy. If one interprets Holy Scripture with his reason alone, then soon he will be left without Scripture. Without the Church there will be no Scripture! Even if the books of Holy Scripture remain, in words and letters, even then each person will place his own content into these forms.

It does not stop there. Reason does not stop even at the destruction of the very books of Holy Scripture. Questions about the authenticity and generally about the origin of the sacred books are the subject of the field of isagogy. At the present time isagogical studies have so expanded that they appear as nothing less than a mysterious labyrinth, from which no exit is at all visible. Every year newer and newer questions are posed, old solutions to old questions are rejected, and hypotheses are piled one on top of another. It sometimes seems that people are simply engaging in scholarly sports, writing learned books only to have something to write. Scholarly literature on isagogical questions has been growing for over a century. It is not surprising that a mountain of books has been written, but one cannot help but be astonished by the fact that there are almost no sold and indisputable results. How many self-sacrificing scholarly efforts have been dedicated to researching the origins of the New Testament alone! It would seem that scholars should long ago have come to agree about something! However, to this day, alongside the most orthodox works appear books that refute them in virtuoso fashion. Almost every day brings its own “last word of scholarship.” What is the cause of this phenomenon? The cause lies in the properties of scholarship itself, namely that it cannot be independent and free in deciding the most important questions that relate to our very lives. It gives people the very answers for which they were looking. Once again we return to the same conclusion: man, left to his intellect alone, will soon lose Holy Scripture, soon lose the very books of Holy Scripture, explaining them away as forgeries of the second century unworthy of special attention. Only the Church can give one an entirely satisfactory foundation for the recognition of the authenticity and Divine-inspiration of the well-known books of Holy Scripture.

There are two kind of knowledge: external or scientific knowledge, and inner and immediate knowledge, or self-consciousness. Science draws its knowledge either from the investigation of certain facts or, in historical questions, from their written monuments. It judges all phenomena by their external evidence, by the external traces these phenomena have left behind. But do all phenomena leave behind them sufficient external traces? How many facts from our personal lives pass noticed only by ourselves! If someone set out to confirm some event from our lives wholly scientifically, he would meet with great difficulty: not having sufficient scientific data, and interpreting the existing data in his own way, he would most like describe this event to us in such a way that we would not recognize it at all. Nonetheless, all the most brilliant scientific reasoning could not force us to change our knowledge of the events of our lives. When a known fact is in our consciousness we cannot perceive it other than how it appears to our immediate consciousness.

Let us take the “juridical error” as an example. All the existing evidence, all the data of the preliminary investigation demonstrates the guilt of the defendant. The prosecutor’s brilliant speech conclusively demonstrates his guilt. The defendant himself and his counsel cannot say anything in defense. The jury brings in a guilty verdict. The public leaves with the thought that justice reigns in the courts and that the defendant was sentenced justly. But the defendant himself knows that he is innocent, and no one can prove the contrary to him. Recall the brilliant trial so ingeniously portrayed by our great Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov. Could the swan song of the old prosecutor, in which there was so much about the “psychology that cuts both ways” and the “psychology at full steam,” have convinced Karamazov himself that he was guilty of killing his father? Or could the trial in The Living Corpse [aka Regeneration, a play by Tolstoy] have convinced the Karenins of their guilt? Is it not obvious that our self-consciousness is, for us, more reliable than all scientific knowledge?

It is precisely in the Church’s self-consciousness that knowledge of the authenticity of the books of Holy Scripture is given. These books were written for the Church, they were bestowed to the Church; the Church has preserved them, and expressed at the Councils its knowledge that the given books are authentic, apostolic, Divinely-inspired Scriptures. In the definitions of the Councils we hear the voice of the Church, which can be viewed as one “person,” because the one, personal Spirit of God enlivens it.

Scholarship has put the Church on trial; it has made its preliminary investigation. Reason has spoken with the effective and persuasive speech of the prosecutor. But the Church knows what it knows, and it cannot change its knowledge. The task of the Church’s theological scholarship is that of the speech of the defendant. For if a defendant, conscious of his own innocence, refuses any defense, then he will be convicted. If the Church refuses any defense, then the audience will leave the halls of the scientific court judging the Church. This is a temptation that the Church must prevent. Theological scholarship should review all the charges made against the Church, investigating all the documents and giving them a proper interpretation. The Church’s witness about its own self-consciousness should direct the fundamental solution to the question. The Church’s witness is not only a fully sufficient foundation for the recognition of the authenticity of the sacred books, but the only reliable basis for this recognition. The Blessed Augustine expressed this truth beautifully when he said: “I would not believe in the Gospels myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so” [Against the Letter of Mani Called ‘The Foundation’ 4.5]. In fact, Protestants or sectarians who reject the Church appear to recognize Holy Scripture. But this recognition of theirs is built on air. Let them try to consider this question to the end: why do they consider precisely these books, and none others, as Divinely-inspired Holy Scripture, as authentically apostolic works? One cannot cite scholarship, because a hopeless debate about the authenticity of a large part of the sacred books is still ongoing. One cannot cite one’s personal opinion, for this would mean to refuse to give a reasonable answer. To the question of why one or another books is authentic, apostolic Holy Scripture, all those who reject the Church remain and will remain without an answer or else will engage in different sorts of “rhetorical guile.”

From everything that has been said, we hope that it is obvious that it follows that only in the Church does Holy Scripture have its defined volume and its defined content. Faith in the Church is the true compass by which everyone seeking enlightenment of mind and knowledge of truth in Scripture can, without fear of destruction and ruin, direct one’s boat, whether one is an unlettered simpleton or an enlightened man of science.

It follows, in conclusion, that everything is determined by faith. It is altogether important to establish a principled attitude towards all the so-called negative sciences. Above all one needs to note that the most perverse conceptions about the state of modern scholarship about Holy Scripture reigns among us. If scientific knowledge in general is not widespread among us, then this can be said with special emphasis about scholarly knowledge of Holy Scripture. One often meets with such reasoning: contemporary scholarship has “conclusively demonstrated” that the books of the New Testament were written neither by the apostles nor in the first century. This is said in a tone of self-confidence that does not permit any objections, spoken in the name of science. After all, it is well known that it is the people who are least engaged in science, and who stand furthest from science, that like to allude to science and are particularly inclined either to degrade or to extol it.


Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Thank you for the translation!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

St Hilarion gives here an excellent, solid, opposition to precisely the modern academic Biblical studies that we were discussing earlier (and also offline). Johann Gottfried Eichorn (1752-1827) was a professor in Jena and Göttingen, and is generally considered the first modern Biblical critic. He was succeeded at Jena by Heinrich Eberhard Gottlob Paulus (1761-1851).

So, although some have said that Orthodoxy has had no interaction with critical Biblical scholarship, it's telling to have this evidence from St Hilarion, and other such statements from St Nektarios and others. We see that the Saints suffered no illusion as to the nature of these critics and their work. They were not uninformed themselves, and their rebuttals work on a different level from those of the more reactionary fundamentalist rebuttals that appeared in England and America at the time. For one, the Orthodox writers had the solid foundation of an ancient tradition and a long-established ecclesiology. Protestantism, and particularly the unchecked individualism at its root, had long been anathema. The value of the Church as final arbiter was not questioned. These are still the case today. So why are some so intent on "introducing" such "criticism" now into Orthodox circles? It boggles the mind.

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks again for this. I'd love to interact with this from a Protestant perspective, but I just don't have the time :( Just a question. The article rejected interpretation of Scripture outside of Church Tradition on the basis that it is subjective, and so our own limited categories twist the truth that the text is trying to convey. But doesn't the same criticism apply to our interpretation of Church Tradition? That is equally subjective. It seems to me that appeals to epistemology cut both ways. You can cite all the Fathers off by heart and still be far from salvation (to allude to the article). I doubt that a modern Orthodox theologian today has the same concepts in mind as his ancient predecessors, despite the fact that they may be mouthing the same words.

So my question, how does being committed to Church Tradition save us from subjectivity? How does your the epistemological critique only apply to Scripture?

I should add that, from my Protestant perspective, what really counts is this:

It follows, in conclusion, that everything is determined by faith.Faith, that is, that is in neither Scripture nor Church Tradition but in the substance of both: Christ.

P.S. You may be interested in this series of audio lectures by leading lutheran theologian Robert Jenson (Bently Hart loves him) on interpretation of Scripture and the Church. I also translated an important article on the regula fidei by the Lutehran scholar Bengt Hägglunnd here.

Felix Culpa said...

Kevin and Phil: I'm having problems with both my laptop and my WiFi connection just at the moment, but I'll reply as soon as I can (hopefully tomorrow, if all goes well). Meanwhile anyone interested in contributing a comment is more than welcome.

Phil Sumpter said...

Best of luck. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Phil, Tradition, nebulous as it may be in its precise contours, is for Orthodox what the Magisterium is for the the Roman Catholics. While much of it, particularly the canons of all the Synods, the Ecumenical and those approved by them, is written, there is likewise an unwritten component, the Holy Spirit guiding the Church. When inspiration is uncertain, written Tradition takes over: the unchanging dogma of the Church, the same inspired by the Holy Spirit in the first place. This is how it's viewed.

St Hilarion (and St Nektarios and those other nineteenth and early twentieth century Orthodox Saints who have interacted with modern scholarship) all saw clearly what was going on in Biblical scholarship, particularly in Germany. While the Orthodox Church has an immutable set of dogma (all historically defined and available to all to read) and thus a solid foundation of dogmatic instruction on which to rely, they see (as do we) nothing of comparable institutional solidity in any of the forms of Protestantism. All is left up to the individual, whether the individual chief theologian of a Protestant movement, or, as so often today, to the individual believer. It is dangerously loose. Our Saints, and many of us Orthodox ourselves, understand clearly and perfectly how easily a person is deceived. Reliance upon the solid Tradition of the Church is therefore necessary.

I hope that helps.

Phil Sumpter said...

I appreciate your comments Kevin. They help me understand the Orthodox position a bit better. However, they still don't give an answer to my question. You said:

Reliance upon the solid Tradition of the Church is therefore necessary.I still don't get how doing this protects you from the kind of subjectivity that the article accuses Protestants of having when they read Scripture, unless you think that simply reciting the outer form of a tradition is enough to guarantee one's grasp of its truthfulness. The article itself rejects this idea (as it should, seeing as a distinct between the letter and the spirit is central to Christianity) when it says that one can learn Scripture off by heart and still be far from salvation. True, but on the same logic this also applies to tradition. As far as I can see. I'm happy to be corrected!

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Right, but we don't see the work of the Synods as anything other than as assured by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Synods are not just "other writings" of average believers, but really and truly inspired (just like the OT and NT) decisions and statements. He wouldn't inspire one thing at one time and one thing at another. This assurance is tied to both our ecclesiology and our Theology proper: 1.) the Church is the Body of Christ and spiritually infallible, and 2.) God does not change His mind. Thus, the clearer dogmatic writings (and I speak here particularly about dogmatic issues rather than lesser philological ones, etc) provide the official interpretation of the less-clear writings (Scripture or Patristic), in those cases where necessary.

I hope that's a little clearer!

Phil Sumpter said...

Cheers Kevin,

2) is clearly dependent on 1), so I guess that the idea of the infallibility of the church is the main crux in our differences. I do think that Scripture functions as a critical norm over against tradition. One recent example of this in practice in the Catholic church is Vatican II's repudiation of the doctrine of the collective guilt of the Jews for the crucifixion and the annulment of God's covenant with them. This is the only church doctrine which has no precedent in Catholic church tradition, the justification of which can only be grounded in Scripture (esp. Romans 9-11). I applaud this move by the Catholic church and consider it to be very Protestant and in accord with the original definition of the regula fidei in the early church, i.e. authoritative apostolic tradition (whether contained in Scripture or early tradition) is a critical norm over all other truth claims.

The question I'm left with is, doesn't this contradict the Catholic and Orthodox idea of the infallibility of the Church? How did the Catholic Church justify this theological move? And have the Orthodox done something similar?

How does the Orthodox church justify it's claim to infallibility?

In any case, this still doesn't get to the issue I mentioned in my last comment, which is that Hilarion's accusation of subjectivity on the part of Protestants in terms of their relation to Scripture also applies to the Orthodox in terms of their relation to Tradition. There's nowhere we can run for ultimate security apart from to the Holy Spirit, who may work through both media (Scripture and/or Tradition) or who may decide not to reveal himself at all. It's all about our faith and God's initiative (isn't it?). In the grace of God, a mentally handicapped Southern Baptist could be a better witness to the truth than a Patriarch (I should add that I'm aware that I'm dabbling in things way over my head, but it's only through provocative conversations like these, and the patience of people such as yourselves, that I can learn anything at all!).

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

No, we're still at cross purposes.

Remember, for the Orthodox, Scripture is part of Tradition, not a separate entity. It's one of the foundational elements of Tradition, but is only a part of it, and not the final arbiter. The final arbiter in these cases is, as I stated, the body of dogmatic theology found in the Synods and the various Church Fathers whose writings are explicitly stated as such within the context of the Ecumenical Synods. These are a solidly defined corpus (of hundreds of thousands of pages of writing) which, in addition to the "unwritten" tradition found in a life in Christ, determine proper interpretation in Scripture. The Holy Spirit ensured complete and total inaccuracy within the context of the Ecumenical Synods, and so their determination of the various works as likewise "infallible" functions as a Divine stamp of approval as well. This is the Orthodox way.

The way Catholicism justifies its theological gymnastics is anyone's guess. They claim infallibility for their Magisterium, but they have quite clearly contradicted a number of things over the years (Filioque, anyone?). Orthodox, of course, define that behavior as heterodox. Changing texts that were set at one council in another council is a perfect example of the kind of unbridled variability decried by St Hilarion, one that has flowered into the last forty years of liturgical, theological, moral, and administrative chaos of Catholicism.

I don't think we need to bring up the thousands of Protestant sects. There is no core there that prevents this variability from spinning out of control. Ostensibly, the founders of the various branches (Luther, Calvin, et al.) are intended to be the infallible sources, or are at least de facto such. Yet Protestantism as a phenomenon has spawned more sects than any other related body. In effect, "Protestant" has become simply a catchall for "everything not Orthodox or Catholic". The claim that the Holy Spirit is inspiring all those tens of thousands of sects to fragment and continue to fragment presents a worrying picture of what such a mentality thinks of what God wants for humanity. And the Orthodox have perfect answers within the Ecumenical Synods to a number of standard Protestant ideas, e.g., iconoclasm: it is heresy, and anathema, so defined in the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787. Any contradiction of that is not inspired by the same Holy Spirit Who inspired the Synod. So, we are very clear on what is inspired and what is not. We have standards, which are actually written down, however lengthy they are, and however poorly known. But they exist and function to determine, as guarantors of Tradition, what good interpretation of the Bible is, what a writer says is orthodox or not, whether a writer is inspired or not, and whether something is or isn't a heresy.

Is that closer to the mark for what you're asking? I've never been a Protestant, so I feel like I'm missing some import in your particular vocabulary that otherwise appears clear.

(On the treatment of Jews in the eastern churches, I can recommend these classics: Joshua Starr, The Jews in the Byzantine Empire 641-1204; Steven Bowman, The Jews in Byzantium 1261-1453; and Jacob Neusner A History of the Jews in Babylonia in five volumes, and his related Aphrahat and Judaism: The Christian-Jewish Argument in Fourth-Century Iran. The history is one of general and long-lasting tolerance punctuated by brief, acute episodes of persecution, typically initiated by the secular rulers, not through Christian theological fulmination. This is not to say east=nice and west=mean, but rather that the proportion of time and theological and secular energy spent on persecution of Jews appear to be inversely related in the two regions.)

Anonymous said...

Kevin & Phil,

I've not much to add except two quotes from Yves Congar that I've found helpful:

"They [Protestants] have also been rediscovering the Church for about a generation now, at least in her communal aspect, if not yet in that aspect revealing her as a public institution of divine right and an organically structured body. This discovery is leading an increasing number of Protestant theologians to realize that the Scriptures, a book given to God’s People, can be understood in its fullest and purest sense only if it is read in the Church, in the fellowship of the entire People of God."

"To give the meaning of Scripture is to explain it in the light of God’s plan, whose focal point is Jesus Christ. The modern studies on the apostolic “kerygma” (the preaching of Christ and of the saving Gospel), those that have shown that our Gospels were a means of teaching about Christ, that they aimed at presenting the historical Christ from a certain number of accounts and showing that the prophetic predictions had found their fulfillment in him – all these studies prove that the apostle’s preaching and tradition did in fact consist in revealing the entire structure of the economy of salvation, in relation to Christ, as to its centre, around whom all the rest was arranged, shaped and took its meaning."

Both taken from his The Meaning of Tradition.

Phil Sumpter said...


thanks for the quotes. I think I agree with Congar.


I'm sorry for my late response. I have been pretty stressed lately. Thanks again for you clarifications.

I have another question: Did the Synods explicitly declare the works of the fathers to be infallible, or is this how their decision was later understood? I be interested to know how they understood this themselves.

Ostensibly, the founders of the various branches (Luther, Calvin, et al.) are intended to be the infallible sources, or are at least de facto such. I'm not aware of anyone who thinks like this. You can be a Lutheran and critique Luther, as long as it is done in the light of the substance of Scripture.

"Protestant" has become simply a catchall for "everything not Orthodox or Catholic". Maybe, but then Protestants will say that not every Protestant is a Christian. Jehovah's witnesses may be Protestants, but they are universally rejected as heretical.

The claim that the Holy Spirit is inspiring all those tens of thousands of sects to fragment and continue to fragment presents a worrying picture of what such a mentality thinks of what God wants for humanity As far as I understand, this is seen as a failure, one against which we ought work. The solution is a matter of mutual love and dialogue and not institutional conformity. As I've been trying to say, one can subscribe verbally to the Orthodox creed but still be far from the truth (or far from "salvation," as the article put it). The issue for me is about the Orthodox claim that sticking with Orthodox tradition guarantees the truthfulness of your faith. I guess it depends on how one defines truth, and I unfortunately don't have the time right now to think that through! What you've said so far does sound fairly rationalisitic. Having said that, Orthodoxy has a strong mystical tradition. I don't know. I have a lot to learn.

I'm afraid, however, that this isn't really touching on my point, which is that I don't get how totally subscribing to Orthodox tradition can guarantee your salvation. In my understanding it is ultimately and initiative from God who meets us where we're at on his terms. He can do that through Orthodox tradition or he can do it through other media - even immediately, through a hotel room Gideón's Bible, for example. If Hilarion wishes to argue for Orthodox tradition as the exclusive vehicle for salvific knowledge, he will have to do more than appeal to mere epistemology (i.e. the subjectivity that accompanies all Scriptural reading) because, as I said, this argument cuts both ways.

Is that becoming clearer?

Nathan said...

How does biblical interpretation in the proper context of the church actually function? If there is a passage which requires interpretation and has not been commented on by ecclesiastical authority, how does a Christian go about finding the proper interpretation? Does it require a synod or council to decide the matter authoritatively?

Phil Sumpter said...


interesting question.

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