Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Romanist's Fallacious Argument From Silence

 Bryan Cross recently wrote over at Greenbaggins:
"I make the claims and arguments I make about infallibility because I believe them to be true and sound. If you think something I have said is false or unsound, please show it to be false or unsound."
That Rome contradicts Scripture does not persuade Bryan Cross that he is wrong about infallibility. Yet I have a more fundamental problem with Bryan’s remark - namely his fallacious argument from silence.

Prove Bryan's "argument" about infallibility is unsound:

1. There is no OT precedent of infallibility. (From Scripture, which Bryan does not dispute)

2. The burden of proof is that Bryan proves infallibility in the NT church. (From 1 and def. of fallacious argument from silence)

3. Bryan has yet to put forth a proof for NT infallibility, only assertions. (Observation)

4. Bryan's shifting of onus to a demand that one must prove infallibility wrong is nothing more than a fallacious argument from silence and, therefore, to be considered invalid. (From 2 and 3)

5. Invalid arguments are always unsound. (def. of valid and sound arguments)

6. Bryan's argument is unsound. (From 4 and 5)


Bryan has been repeatedly asked to produce an argument that begins with Peter as the "the rock" and concludes with a perpetual, infallible magisterium located in Rome. Maybe one day he'll take up the challenge or else abandon the claim.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sophistry and Confusion is Integral to Romanism

Bryan Cross from "Called to Communion" recently wrote this on Greenbaggins:

"But when a Catholic attempts to reason with a Protestant about, say, the gospel, and the Catholic appeals to the pope and the authority of Trent, etc., he begs the question, because the Protestant does not accept the authority to which the Catholic appeals. And likewise, when a Protestant attempts to reason with a Catholic about the gospel, and the Protestant appeals to his own personal interpretation of Romans 3, that begs the question, because the Catholic doesn’t accept the authority [i.e. personal interpretation] to which the Protestant appeals. That conversation isn’t going anywhere, because both persons are each appealing to paradigm-relative standards. So the conversation will go on for years, even five hundred years, or the communities will just turn their backs on each other and give up (and the back-turning isolation will remain for even five hundred years). To get over that hurdle, both sides have to recognize the paradigmatic nature of the disagreement."
I wrote to Bryan:
"1.  It’s interesting that when a Protestant points to God’s word you call it an appeal 'to his own own personal interpretation…' but when a Roman Catholic appeals to the pope and councils you don’t portray those appeals as reflecting mere opinion of the Roman Catholic, but rather you presuppose that what is inferred by the Roman Catholic is as equally true as the doctrinal pronouncement. In other words, nothing is lost in the translation for the Roman Catholic. And when it comes to the gospel, why there is perspicuity within Rome that cannot be found in Scripture is a curious thing, especially given that Rome was to have based her gospel upon Scripture.
2. You suggest the 'conversation isn’t going anywhere because…' of different authorities to which the Roman Catholic and Protestant appeal. But rarely, if ever, have I seen a Roman Catholic appeal to the pope or Trent to make his case. Rarely does one find a Roman Catholic assert 'the pope has said so and that settles it.' No, the Roman Catholic makes appeals to Scripture because Scripture, so it is claimed, is an authority for Rome, just not her only authority. Indeed, the faithful Catholic won’t interpret Scripture so as to undermine his understanding of Roman Catholic teaching, but notwithstanding he does attempt to reconcile James with Paul by the analogy of Scripture. That’s why I find it rather misleading to index the Catholic-Protestant impasse to a Protestant’s subjective understanding of Scripture versus a Roman Catholic’s appeal to the clear pronouncements of popes and councils. At the very least, doesn’t a Roman Catholic try to justify the very idea of the popes from Scripture? Or is his reasoning so circular that he would dare to justify the papacy from an appeal to the papacy?

Sundry implications
Can Rome produce an infallible tradition not found in Scripture that has its origins with the apostles? Of course not, which leads to the question – If Scripture does not inform the Roman Catholic magisterium about what Scripture has to say, then who or what does? To deny that the popes affirm the analogy of Scripture for the magisterium is to reduce Scripture to brute particulars that have no discernible coherence, which would mean that the magisterium with respect to interpreting Scripture must be making things up as they go along and that any appeal to Scripture is disingenuous at best. Therefore, it’s not so much that Rome denies the intelligibility and lucidity of Scripture. Rather, Rome would have us believe that Scripture is only intelligible and clear to the magisterium. Consequently, individual Roman Catholics should not, as they do, appeal to Scripture to justify the Roman Catholic communion and the church’s need for the popes. Rather, Roman Catholics should be consistent by simply pointing to the authority of the popes to defend the claims of the popes, and once they do that then yes, we will be at an impasse. That, however, would be an admission of being a blind follower of something other than Scripture, which is an embarrassment for Roman Catholics yet a necessary implication of their view of the church and Scripture.

In sum, as soon as a Roman Catholic argues from Scripture he denies the need for an infallible magisterium. Once he points to Rome apart from Scripture, he shows himself to be a blind follower of something in the face of Scripture."

~ End of my response to Bryan ~

Roman Catholics such as Bryan find themselves on the horns of an epistemological dilemma and in turn fall into a form of skepticism. By placing a mediator between God and men they render God’s living word inoperable. If their authority is Rome, then Scripture is rendered useless because any interpretation of any passage of Scripture must await adjudication for one to know what Scripture is saying.  Yet when a Roman Catholic reads Scripture they demonstrate that an infallible magisterium is unnecessary to know the truth. Roman Catholics live in a tension that they cannot reconcile. We all get that I think.

Roman Catholics pay lip service to the authority of Scripture, for given an apparent discrepancy between Scripture and tradition Scripture always loses. Whereas Protestants can become more Reformed and move toward the OPC! :) For instance, Scripture teaches that all miracles appeal to the mind through the senses. Now then, imagine that Jesus looked as though he were sinking in water yet claimed to be walking on it. Or imagine that the Israelites drowned in the Red Sea but that tradition said they crossed over on dry ground and only looked as though they drowned. Should we believe such testimony in the face of contrary truth? So it is with the hocus-pocus of the mass. We are told we must believe, lest we risk hell(!), that the bread and wine has changed into the body and blood of the Lord; yet the elements continue to manifest the physical properties of bread and wine. Not only is there no biblical precedence to accept such obviously false claims, in principle we are warned and commanded not to do so! Yet such blind, irrational faith is required for one to be a good Roman Catholic. Yes, the demands are high, maybe because the stakes are so high. The skepticism created by Romanism begets doctrinal infidelity. No, demands it!
Finally, Scripture has always taught that Scripture itself is to judge the teachers of God’s word. After all, if we were to allow the teachers to judge the Scriptures then the rejection of Christ by the religious leaders of his day would have been justified. There would be no Christianity! So it is with Rome. By placing herself above the Scriptures she too has fallen away - no less than the Jews. Or should we measure damnable heresies by degree? Roman Catholicism actually presents a bigger problem to true believers because she does hold to enough truth to be a more superior tempter.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

John Robbins on 1st Table of The Law

 In Slavery & Christianity, John Robbins penned these words:

“In Romans 13 Paul makes it clear that the proper role of civil government is the enforcement of the so-called second table of the Ten Commandments: Romans 13:9 explicitly mentions adultery, murder, theft, false witness, and covetousness. Civil governments have no power over the mind, and so they have no authority to enforce the first table of the law.”

It’s often difficult to know where to begin untangling enthymemes due to the nature of unspoken premises. We can add to those difficulties the ambiguity of such phrases as “no power over the mind,” noting that whatever the phrase was intended to mean a consistent use of the phrase - the same meaning throughout the relevant context that is, may be demanded.

Robbins does not seem to be arguing:  “Romans 13 only teaches that government may enforce the second table of the law; therefore, government may only enforce the second table of the law.” That, of course, would be an argument from silence of the fallacious variety and to transfer the word "only" most improperly.
At the very least Robbins appears to be arguing that Romans 13 only teaches that government may enforce the second table of the law and since civil governments cannot extract what is in a man’s mind they cannot possibly enforce the first table of the law, nor can God expect them too.

A few observations are in order:
1. Although the second table reference pertains to all relationships, which would thereby include relationships with individuals who are to wield the sword, in verses 8-10 the persons in view are not qua state persons but merely all individuals without distinction. John Murray is correct that a transition occurs in verse eight of Romans 13, from whence man’s relationship to the state gives way to an imperative pertaining to all relationships. Verse seven brings a line of thought to its conclusion, underscored by the translation “therefore”.  In verses 8-10 the apostle moves on to address love toward neighbor as the fulfillment of the law (hence the reference to second-table law), and love for neighbor has little to do with the state’s responsibility to punish criminals, a prime import of verses 1-7.

2. Robbins seems either to base, or at least corroborate and bolster, the conclusion that civil governments have no authority to enforce the first table of the law upon the premise that civil governments have no power over the mind. Robbins: “Civil governments have no power over the mind, and so they have no authority to enforce the first table of the law.” [Bold emphasis mine.]

Yet if a lack of power over the mind (insert your own definition of what that means) is a sufficient condition to prohibit the enforcement of the first table of the law by civil governments, then either God was wrong to require Israel to enforce such laws, or else power over the mind was some sort of supernatural gift given under the Law that has now ceased in the newer economy.

Moreover, three of the four laws contained in the first table are not typically (and two can't be) confined strictly to the mind but are manifested in observable actions, not unlike second table tansgressions that demand civil sanctions. Therefore, it would be hasty to conclude that sins against the first table cannot be sanctioned because they are only confined to the mind - as if they do not entail observable displays of blasphemy and rebellion which, by the way, can be an immediate source of second table sins. (i.e. Erode the first table and the second goes with it.)

3. Robbins takes the references to second table sins as either establishing or at least corroborating his view that the civil magistrate is to be concerned with the second table. And although it is true that the civil magistrate is to be concerned with the sins contained in the second table, not all sins mentioned in verse 9 are punishable by civil magistrates, like covetousness. Covetousness is a sin of the mind, over which (Robbins informs) the government can have “no power” (again, whatever that means). Accordingly, the references to the sins from the second table cannot successfully be used to argue that sanctions are to be confined to the second table simply because covetousness is not a punishable sin, though its manifistation in action can be.
Robbins does footnote:

“They [civil governments] do have the obligation to obey the so-called first table of the law. God’s law governs all individuals and institutions. There are no exceptions for presidents and kings.  That means, for example, that no one should be permitted to take an oath – either in court or on being inaugurated into office – on any book other than the Bible. Swearing by Allah or Zeus is worse than useless: They are not the truth.”

Robbins does not merely state that no one should take an oath on any book other than the Bible. No, Robbins clearly states that not one should be permitted to take such an oath. But doesn’t that presuppose some form of enforcing the first table of the law, the very thing Robbins says governments may not do?!
Generally speaking, I find it rare to find such inconsistency within such close proximity of itself; yet it's my experience that such is common place when one tries to escape the civil demands of God’s law, whether first or second table. That is not intended to be a slight against John Robbins, to whom I am exceedingly grateful for having faithfully promoted the works of Gordon Clark. Rather, I would simply use Robbins as an illustration of the obvious inconsistency and arbitrariness that results from denying the authority of God's law over civil rulers.

Heidelberg Catechism

Question 100. Is then the profaning of God's name, by swearing and cursing, so heinous a sin, that his wrath is kindled against those who do not endeavour, as much as in them lies, to prevent and forbid such cursing and swearing?

Answer: It undoubtedly is, (a) for there is no sin greater or more provoking to God, than the profaning of his name; and therefore he has commanded this sin to be punished with death. (b)

(a) Prov.29:24 Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not. Lev.5:1 And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity. (b) Lev.24:15 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. Lev.24:16 And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.
Westminster Larger Catechism

Question 108: What are the duties required in the second commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

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