Monday, December 07, 2009

Is self-reference required?

I often read other people's blog. My teachers here taught me that in order to write, you should read. So I read some comments and interactions that take place in other people's blog. Recently I have read of an RC Apologist saying that Scripture does not teach the Reformation principle -Scripture Alone, or sola scriptura. Hence, it is not taught by Scripture.

His objection (I paraphrase).

"There is no Scripture in Scripture, that says Scripture alone is sufficient for faith and practice".

In logic, this is called a self-reference. It is a statement that speaks about the statement itself.

Here is another example:

"This statement is a lie".

Our language is capable of self-reference, but such referencing is not capable of being evaluated. It goes into cycles. So in the above, if that statement is false, then it is true and is not a lie, which it said it is etc etc, you can go crazy at this.

So going back to the requirement of the RC apologist, he seems to be saying that in order for sola scriptura to be true, you should find a statement of it in Scripture. There is one in Scripture such as 2Tim 3:16-17 that matches this but this is dismissed by RC apologists because it is not explicit enough.

There is a fallacy going on in the apologist's requirement. There is no necessity that for a document to be true, it has to state something about its own truthfulness and if it does not, then it is not adequate to inform.

Another point is this, even if there is one such explicit statement, the apologist can come back and say - well self-reference is not valid anyway because you are simply stating your statement is true, does not make it true.

Sophistry is like that, your system is able to prove or refute too much. At first blush they think this is virtue, but as I often say - this is not virtue, instead it is vile. A form of reasoning that is able to prove anything you like is not a good thing because that means you have falsehood also inside it.

Ex falso quodlibet - from a contradiction (falsehood) you can deduce anything. This is the fallacy that sophistry includes and is hidding inside that form of reasoning and for this reason is able to prove anything.

As fallen people, we are capable of sophistry. Even in culture such as the pop culture of young peole, you can observe this happening today.

When people are swimming in their own sophistry, they are not aware of it or fanatical adherence makes them deny it. It is like telling the fish - hey do you know you are swimming in water? Huh, what water?


William Weedon said...

Of course, I would hasten to tell said apologist (whoever he or she is) that it is not Scripture that tells us this; it is the Church's tradition which tells us this. And tells us so most definitively. I'd also correct the common misunderstanding that sola Scriptura that forgets that it is ablative - it is BY Scripture alone that we may know with certainty the teaching of God.

L P said...

Pr. Will,

Agreed. True indeed the Church has something to do with it.

Technically there should be outside witnesses for the document, and we do have that in Jesus' sayings. Jesus affirmed Scripture cannot be broken. Now again, it can be more complicated than that in the area of debate/discussion.

The idea of self reference to me is not a valid opposition, it is in a way a red herring. But in the popular level specially in the internet, the uncritical gets hooked by this because at first look, the opposition looks convincing.

God bless,


Brett Meyer said...

LPC, I think these verses from Revelations declare Sola Scriptura quite clearly and with promise. Rev. 22:18-19, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

L P said...

Hi Brett.

I wonder why I focus on 2 Tim 3? I have read Rev 22:18-19 and convince it teaches sola scriptura and should be used. Thanks for that.

As a side info, I was interacting last week with an ex-Lutheran (ex-LCMS, and ex-WELS) who turned Roman and we were discussing James 2:24. He makes some good expositions but he latches on to this verse as contra sola fide. I was chiding him that the context bears that the faith mentioned there is dead faith.

Here is what a typical reasoning an RC go into.

Let A =2, and let B=2, therefore he says A+B = 4. Fair enough.

Then say C = 3. He concludes A+B+C = 8.

The same is what happens when you are discussing sola scriptura with them. They will agree with you with the assumptions but will deduce wrongly. Weird.

God bless,


acroamaticus said...

I'm going to respectfully disagree with Pr Weedon on this mattter (assuming I have understood him correctly, that is). Certainly there is ample evidence in tradition for sola scriptura (see for e.g. some of the quotes I have listed under that heading at 'Lutheran Catholicity', but I would also contend that the doctrine is derived directly from scripture and our Lord. I used to think that sola scriptura was derived by logical inference from scripture, but the more I've studied the matter the more I incline towards the view that it is directly taught in scripture in its essential content.

L P said...

Pr. M.

So you would prefer a witness besides the Church tradition?

I have no doubts the Lord was a Scripturist.


acroamaticus said...
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acroamaticus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
acroamaticus said...

Corrected version:

Yes, Lito - we can't establish a doctrine on the basis of tradition, it has to be derived from scripture, either expressly (e.g. justification by faith) or by logical inference (e.g. infant baptism, although some would say this is expressly commanded, and I'd be inclined to agree).

Scripture is not only the norm or canon by which we judge all doctrine, which I take to be what Pr Weedon means by referring to the instrumental ablative, it is also the source of all doctrine.

Yes, I think Jesus is a prime example of a "scripturalist" as you say, or what Joseph Ratzinger would somewhat dismissively call a 'biblicist'; of course, the Pope has good reason to seek to weaken the clarity and sufficiency of scripture!

Btw, I have a theory that the loss of belief in scripture's clarity and sufficiency immediately precedes swimming the Tiber in most cases.

L P said...

Pr. M,

Btw, I have a theory that the loss of belief in scripture's clarity and sufficiency immediately precedes swimming the Tiber in most cases.

I can certainly believe that.

I have seen though a Lutheran leaving for Mother Church because he said he saw a lot of antinomian stuff in his synod(s). He was LC-MS then ELCA.