fredag 22 augusti 2014

Must a Christian Believe in Sufficiency of Scripture, and If So, in What Sense?

I was reading the Awake! of August 2014. If you have also picked it up, you know it features a short article about dreams. Not surprising, since there were dreams in the story of Joseph, also featured. Now to resume the article. It concludes:

  • 1) Dreams certainly did come from God in Biblical times.

  • 2) They do not come so to people already having the Bible in our times, since we should be content with the Bible.

  • 3) This is argued from a kind of total sufficiency of Scripture, including the passages on dreams included in it.

Unless I misunderstood something, they mean the only dreams instructing anyone now are the pretty few ones in the Bible.

Let us note a thing, going to interpreters of dreams is forbidden to the Christian. This of course pagans having certain dreams and using prophets as interpreters did not know. But the prophets interpreted according to inspiration from God. Council of Ancyra forbids consulting those that go by dream books, like those in use in New Age movement, of course, but I would clearly suspect equally the Freudian and Jungian ones used by therapists paid by medicaid systems. And in some cases, dreams are clear to oneself, immediately, so no interpreter is needed, this does not fall under ban, as far as I know, of the Council of Ancyra. With this red herring out of the way, least one should interpret my answer as endorsing New Age dream books, let's get to refuting this.

The first thing to note is that there is Biblical prophecy about dreams being part of the life of the Church, as well as of visions (a Catholic will very often be aware of Rue de Bac, La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima). The dreams and visions actually recorded in Holy Writ are a bit fewish to be a complete fulfilment of the prophecy. If one adds the records of Catholic Mysticism and actual Prophecy, that would correspond better.

The second thing is to note they back up the conclusion by two passages of the Bible - or rather the limiting part of the conclusion. I will cite the two passages from Douay Rheims and I will cite the Haydock comment for them as well.

I Cor 4:6 quoted passage essentially the words [go not] "above that which is written."

Verse in full:

But these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollo, for your sakes: that in us you may learn, that one be not puffed up against the other for another, above that which is written.

So, going past or beyond what is written is not wrong in itself, only if it leads to puffing oneself up against each other?

But several prohecies have been followed by no party implication at all. So they do not fall under the verse. Let us see what Haydock comments gives:

Ver. 6. These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself, and to Apollo. Literally, these things have I transfigured in me and Apollo, that is, I have represented the divisions and disputes among you, as if it were by your contending, whether I, or Apollo, or Cephas were the best preachers, without naming those, as I might do, who are the true causes of these divisions, by striving who should be thought men of the greatest and brightest parts.

That in us, and by our example, who have no such proud disputes, you might learn that one be not puffed up against the other, and above that which is written, against the admonitions given in the holy Scriptures of being humble: or against what I have now written to you, that we must strive for nothing, but to be the faithful ministers of God, and not seek the esteem of men. (Witham)

It is the opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas and likewise of Estius, that St. Paul, Apollo, and Cephas were not the real causes of the divisions that existed amongst the new converts at Corinth, but that in making use of these names, he wished to teach them, that if it was unlawful to keep up these divisions even for the sake of the apostles, how far should they be from doing any thing of this kind for those whose authority was much less in the Church. But Calmet is of opinion, that the divisions amongst the Corinthians were certainly on account of Paul, Apollo, Cephas, and perhaps some others, whose names are not mentioned.

What about the part concerned with going beyond Scripture? Haydock comment cited Bishop Witham as saying: "and above that which is written, against the admonitions given in the holy Scriptures of being humble: or against what I have now written to you, that we must strive for nothing, but to be the faithful ministers of God, and not seek the esteem of men."

The words "that which is written" (in Greek probably one participle) are thus not concerned with all of Scripture, but with admonitions in Scripture against haughtiness and party spirit. Or even about what was just written before in that passage of that very Epistle which was not yet necessarily considered as Canonic Scripture. And in either case the disobedience is not concerned with extra-biblical sources for religiously or practically relevant information, but with haughtiness and party spirit.

So far from being the Reformers' case against Tradition and Magisterium, so far from being in any way a case against heeding dreams or visions - provided they do not contradict Scripture, of course - they are the very case against the Reformers. Unless they were to claim their party spirit was motivated by that which is written - as a Creationist might one day have to claim against Bergoglio's claim to Papacy. But the Scriptures cited by Reformers were actually misapplied in their criticism of Rome.

The other passage is more concerned with sufficiency of Scripture. But in a manner not quite as they meant it.

II Timothy 3:16,17. Here is DR:

16 *All Scripture divinely inspired is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, furnished unto every good work.

They cited it more like in verse 17 "that a man may be perfectly furnished unto every good work". And they unerlined (or italicised) "perfectly" and "every". Implying, if one needed extra information one would also by Scripture itself be only imperfectly furnished or only perfectly furnished to some but not every good work.

DR does not have "perfectly furnished" but "perfect" and "furnished". That is perfect in his person, not just as far as knowledge but also as far as personal justice is concerned. And furnished to every good work, but perhaps not so perfectly as not to need extra information. Let us see what Bishops Witham and Challoner have to say in the Haydock comment. No, even more. Let us take the context. It actually contradicts the interpretation of Bible alone. Let's take 14 - 17 in a stride.

14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, and which have been committed to thee: knowing of whom thou hast learned.

15 And because from thy infancy thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which can instruct thee unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 *All Scripture divinely inspired is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, furnished unto every good work.

Here are the comments on two verses, Bishop Witham and Father Haydock on first, Bishops Witham and Challoner - as just mentioned - on second, the verses being 14 and 16:

Ver. 14. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, &c. St. Paul here gives particular advice to his disciple, St. Timothy, who had been long since instructed in all the truths and mysteries of the Christian faith, who had received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, of prophecy, of interpreting the Scriptures, who was a priest, a bishop of Ephesus, the metropolis of Asia, whose office it was to instruct, direct, and convert others. He tells this great bishop, that the holy Scriptures are able, and may conduce or can instruct him unto salvation, (ver. 15.) unto his own salvation and that of others. (Witham)

The apostle here entreats his disciple, and in him all future Christians, to adhere to the true deposit of doctrine. He teaches with Catholics, that all Scripture is profitable; but not with Protestants, that Scripture alone is necessary and sufficient.

Ver. 16. All scripture divinely inspired is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, or admonish, to instruct others in justice, and in the ways of virtue, that thus he who is a man of God, a minister of the gospel, may be perfect and instructed unto every good work. But when our adversaries of the pretended reformation, undertake from these four verses to shew, first, that every ignorant man or woman is hereby warranted to read and put what construction his or her private spirit, or private judgment, suggests upon all places of the holy Scriptures; and secondly, that the Scriptures alone contain all truths which a Christian is bound to believe; or at least, that the Scriptures teach him all things necessary to salvation, without regard to the interpretation and authority of the Catholic Church: I may at least say (without examining at present any other pretended grounds of these assertions) that these consequences are very remote from the text and sense of St. Paul in this place. As to the first, does this follow; the Scriptures must be read by Timothy, a priest, a bishop, a man of God, a minister of the gospel, whose office it is to instruct and convert others, therefore they are proper to be read and expounded by every ignorant man or woman? Does not St. Paul say elsewhere, (2 Corinthians ii. 17.) that many adulterate and corrupt the word of God? does not St. Peter tell us also, (2 Peter iii. 16.) that in St. Paul's epistles are some things....which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as also the other scriptures, to their own perdition? See the preface to the Gospel of St. John, where reasons are brought for which it was requisite that the Church should put some restraint to the abuse which the ignorant made of reading the Scriptures in vulgar tongues. As to the second consequence, does it follow: every Scripture divinely inspired is profitable for St. Timothy, for a priest, a bishop, a man of God, a minister and preacher of the gospel, to teach and instruct, and conduce to bring both him and others to salvation; therefore they contain all things that a Christian need to believe? &c. Is not every Christian bound to believe that the books in the canon of the New and Old Testament are of divine authority, as in particular these two epistles of St. Paul to Timothy? Where does the Scripture assure us of this? But of this elsewhere. (Witham)

Every part of divine Scripture is certainly profitable for all these ends. But if we would have the whole rule of Christian faith and practice, we must not be content with those Scriptures which Timothy knew from his infancy, (that is, with the Old Testament alone) nor yet with the New Testament, without taking along with it the traditions of the apostles and the interpretation of the Church, to which the apostles delivered both the book and the true meaning of it. (Challoner)

All Scripture is profitable, but Scripture is not alone necessary, not alone sufficient. On top of the Scriptures mentioned to St Timothy, the Old testament, he also needed the New Testament (which was not yet in its entirety written) but even more immediately the Christian meaning of the Sacred Writings. It is profitable to a bishop (would certain Evolution believing bishops took note, "all" obviously including Genesis), but may still be hard to digest for the average Christian. As has been said elsewhere by Sts Peter and Paul. Verse 17 specifies "the man of God", not meaning us laymen, but meaning the clergy. And since even clergymen have distorted Scripture meanings, meaning the good and faithful clergy.

Note, since some Evolution believing bishops would use these Catholic principles to dissuade laymen from reading and believing Creation and Flood, that the Catholic Church HAS abundantly encouraged laymen to believe the Biblical History through the Centuries. Historia Scholastica is the historic narrative from Genesis to Acts in the Bible, also contains references to Josephus and other Christian historians, and it was translated into vernaculars, on order of the Church. Hard places would rather be places dealing with things like Sacraments in unusual wording to those accustomed to the scholastic one (some would conclude since wording is different, meaning would be different, not so), or places dealing with freewill or - as here - sufficiency of Scriptures.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Octave of the Assumption
of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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