tisdag 22 september 2015

Dwight Longenecker rightly attacked Sola Scriptura - but went wrong himelf

Links first.

Page 1 and page 2 of his article.

The good part:

I understand that an educated and intelligent Protestant knows that Biblical exegesis is a complex and subtle art which requires a learned and expert scholar. This is not the way it is perceived however by the vast relatively unlearned populace. They hear Protestant preachers issue prohibitions and pronouncements based on a Bible text and they respond by asking why this text was authoritative and that one is not.

In the public square therefore, the most common objection to Christian teaching on traditional marriage is the argument that goes like this: “You say gay sex is an abomination because one verse in the Old Testament says so, but why don’t you therefore outlaw bacon sandwiches, eating shrimp and say every boy needs to be circumcised? Huh??”

Even the most basically informed Christian will be able to answer the question, but the question would not exist if it weren’t for the false doctrine of sola Scriptura.


The Catholic Church has good answers as to why certain teachings (like dietary prohibitions) are not applicable while others are universal and foundational.

There is also a bad part.

The Catholic Church doesn’t mind if there are historical inconsistencies or editorial mishaps because the Church is the greater authority and the living inspiration of the church is there to balance the written inspiration of the Scriptures.

Inspiration has a very precise meaning in Catholic doctrine. A Bible text which is inspired (that means all texts that are in original manuscript or correct copies and translations thereof, and that of books deemed by the Church to be part of Canon) has God Himself for author.

If Amwaz is 160 stades or 32 km from Jerusalem, and we find Emmaus in Gospel of St Luke as being 60 stades or 12 km from Jerusalem, we have options:

  • The Syriac manuscript which says 160 stades preserves the correct original reading;
  • Amwaz is same city community but not strictly same locality as Emmaus. Emmaus was torn down by Romans and rebuilt, this may have been further away from Jerusalem;
  • Christ made a miracle so that a distance of 32 km was walked in a walk of 12 (less probable, but not outside His Omnipotence);
  • and that's it.

If one were speaking of a merely human text, one could say they walked together 60 of the 160 stades, and that Luke misunderstood the distance, or that he was told "hundred sixty" and only heard "sixty", but since St Luke in writing of Gospel as well as Acts was an Inspired Author, these options are strictly off-limit. Actually my third option would also involve an error on part of St Luke, since he wrote:

Luke 24:13 And behold, two of them went, the same day, to a town which was sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, named Emmaus.

He said the town was that distant, not that they walked that distance.

(Furlongs = older English translation of stades. Not Old English, since that would be "furhe lang", and 60 furlongs would be "seoxtige furhom lang", but just older Modern English, when translators picked an English measure roughly equivalent to the stade.)

My own normal common sense favourite is that Amwaz was rebuilt further away from Jerusalem than Emmaus was when the disciples went there in company with Our Lord and also than Emmaus still was when St Luke came to Holy Land to make his research before Year Seventy.

Inspiration is therefore a total exclusion of any error, even factual errors "totally beside the point", in the text. Such a thing is NOT the ecclesiastic infallibility, which only excludes error that "fallunt" - deceive - in relation to the necessary beliefs and commandments and works of perfection relevant to our Salvation. Since infallibility does not amount to inerrancy, it's cause is not lightly to be equated with "inspiration" which for one thing is an intimate thing between God and the Holy Writer (while infallibility may be external, such as a Pope going off to teach an error providentially stumbling and breaking a leg and getting correction while in bed, so that he doesn't teach that error, or even getting contradicted by fraternal correction, as with Pope John XXII, after teaching it, but in that case also accepting correction), and for the other produces not just infallibility (freedom from salvation relevant deceptions) but actual inerrancy, freedom from any factual error.

Therefore, the Church cannot enjoy any "inspiration" in the full sense and what the Church does enjoy cannot balance, only preserve, the Inspiration of the Sacred Writings. Such a preservation is done with utmost deference.

This is very much more than sixty or hundred sixty furlongs away from what Dwight says here:

Consequently it is a very big deal when Biblical scholars poke through the Bible and say, “Well, we don’t think this particular story happened exactly like this.” or “The external historical record indicates that these Bible stories are not completely historical.” or “Textual and linguistic evidence indicates that there are two or three different authors here…” If the Bible is all, then the findings of Biblical scholars are an earthquake which shake the faith of many Protestants. The Bible, it turns out, is not the perfect perfect book from heaven they were told it was.

Well, the Bible IS precisely a perfect book, and if not Fallen from Heaven in our time, at least virtually so for each book in its time and for all times.

What Kent Hovind says about chariot warriors being 10 times more than chariots in one comparison between 2 places in King James is precisely what the Traditional Haydock comment (1859, one year after Darwin and not the least Darwinistic or Old Earthish) attributes to the French Bible commenter Dom Augustin Calmet.

Catholic Bible understanding, as far as factuality is concerned, is in fact very much the Fundamentalist one. Kent Hovind and Dom Calmet agree : if you study the matter close enough, there is really no contradiction anywhere in the Bible.

Tota Scriptura (inerrancy of all sacred Scripture) must not be thrown out with the bathwater of Sola Scriptura (infallibility only of inerrant Scripture or "paper Pope" being only Pope).

The one was as much affirmeed by Trent as the other was condemned by Trent.

Hans Georg Lundahl
St Emmeram