Feser on Problems with Sola Scriptura and the Quakerish Solution

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Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    Interesting. I like this argument very much, actually.

    It’s a good argument as to why America was not founded to be a “Christian nation.”

    Seems to me one of the most radical religious beliefs ever (EVER!) entertained was the concept of a priesthood of all believers. Embracing that view (which I do!) entails that every individual who believes in Christ has a direct, unmediated relationship with God. Course, any particular person’s view of Christ, and the resulting relationship with God (including what God is or might be!), will in turn depend on how the many and varied testimonials about Christ – not necessarily limited to the Big Four – are themselves interpreted, including the possibility of a complete rejection of any of the conventionally accepted views following from (any of) those testimonials and any narrow meaning of the term “Christian religion” derived from them. Which leads me to the Big Finish: to what extent does the concept of a Priesthood of all Believers include people who view Christ (ie., “believe in him”) as merely affirming that each individual can establish their own direct, unmediated, a-Religious relationship with God? If so, then it’s possible that our nation was founded as a “Christian nation”, but one which is radically different than promulgated by contemporary Christians.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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      says:

      The emphasis on the individual’s experience of God is existentially satisfying but it also leads to weird places like Person P saying “A” and Person Q saying “~A” and, according to this, both of them being not wrong.

      And the only way that both A and ~A can be not wrong is if A is nonsense.

      I mean, the wackiest example of this knowledge received by God (but not by His Word) relates to the Wedding at Cana. People who know in their heart that Jesus was the Son of God (in an interesting sense of the term… more interesting than “we’re all God’s children” gets us), who know in their heart that the Wedding at Cana happened, that Jesus was at this wedding, that Jesus committed a miracle there… but it wasn’t that Jesus turned water into wine but that he turned it into a tasty non-alcoholic drink (or maybe a raisin paste).

      How do you know this?, I asked. The Bible says this thing and it also uses the word “oin” (which is a word that we still use today, pronounced a little differently), I said.

      “I know it in my heart.”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        The emphasis on the individual’s experience of God is existentially satisfying but it also leads to weird places like Person P saying “A” and Person Q saying “~A” and, according to this, both of them being not wrong.

        Isn’t that the conundrum Jon was trying to resolve in the OP, tho (granted, with a different focus)? Doesn’t that exact problem exist not only between but also amongst members of various sects basing their beliefs on the same texts?

        And the only way that both A and ~A can be not wrong is if A is nonsense.

        Indeedy. And yet!, people continue to believe that scripture reveals spiritual truths regarding A.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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          says:

          Isn’t that the conundrum Jon was trying to resolve in the OP, tho (granted, with a different focus)?

          Well, the conundrum gives the game away, though.

          Did you ever read “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti“?

          Back before we had psychiatric ethics, Milton Rokeach dealt with three of his patients who all thought they were Jesus Christ by putting them in a support group with each other. The take that two of them had was something to the effect of “those poor deluded guys, no wonder they’re in the nuthouse” (the third believed that the other two were dead and being operated by machines).

          The interpretation of the Bible by an outside source (preferably an infallible one) can prevent this guy knowing A in his heart and that gal knowing ~A.

          In practice, government must assume the detestable power of Henry the Eighth, now less detestable that we’ve seen where the priesthood of the individual inevitably leads: ad absurdum.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            The interpretation of the Bible by an outside source (preferably an infallible one) can prevent this guy knowing A in his heart and that gal knowing ~A.

            I don’t see how. I mean, history is replete with examples of folks who’ve rejected “outside” interpretations of religious texts.

            That point notwithstanding, are you talking about the use of religion as tool of social control? IF so, that’s a different topic, no?Report

  2. Avatar DavidTC
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    says:

    As a, uh, Baptist in bad standing, or at least in somewhat disagreement with my church, I have come to a conclusion:

    There is no such thing as sola scriptura.

    Everyone reads scripture through a lens, imperfectly. Some denominations explain what that lens should be, and explicitly put that information in front of everyone, saying ‘This is what your lens should look like.’. Sola scriptura denominations, OTOH, just have that lens grow ‘organically’, apparently, without anyone managing it.

    I’ve…started to distrust the second of those, despite being raises Baptist and still being that. At least with the first, I can point at the published documentation of the lens, which everyone agrees exists…and I can argue with that. With the second, it’s much harder, because people wearing those lenses literally cannot see the lens, and think what they are seeing is the *actual truth* of how to view the scripture.

    And I’ve also come to notice that a lot of the ‘organic’ growth, in recent decades, has been *deliberately structured by politics*.Report

    • Avatar Tim M in reply to DavidTC
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      says:

      I really like this lens analogy.

      I’m from a similar background (raised evangelical), but I’ve gone through a long atheist period. The all-consuming certainty of my parents’ churches really turned me off. After all, I could see various nuances, conflicts, and complexities in their theology – so how do people have “faith”?

      I’ve come to see Christianity itself as a lens through which to see the world. Just as we read scripture with the color of our own interpretations, we all navigate life through the color of our religious and moral beliefs. Grounding my beliefs in the general shape of Christianity – God, Jesus, sin and forgiveness – is what works for me.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to DavidTC
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      says:

      I agree pretty strongly with everything @davidtc says here.

      If I had one very minor quibble, it would that this sentence:

      And I’ve also come to notice that a lot of the ‘organic’ growth, in recent decades, has been *deliberately structured by politics*.

      doesn’t need the “in recent decades” bit.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    I know what “nugatory” means, but it sounds like something that should be covered in chocolate.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      I always assumed the word “nugat” as a confection descriptor came from “nugatory.” Is there anything more unnecessary and worthless than whatever that crap that’s inside of a 3 Musketeers Bar is?Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        “nougat” – refers to “nut” (see also “nucleus”) – so used for the nutty filling of some chocolate confections. Arguably, it is or should be a matter of shame to the candy industry, and for all of us, that nowadays any filling, including the whipped chocolate and egg whites filling of the 3 Musketeers Bar, is referred to as “nougat.”

        “nugatory” – less well-attested etymology, refers to unimportant things, trifles (-> trivia), also jests – in programming refers to code that can be removed safely, but retained without harm.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    Richard Rohr has written a lot about a non-dualistic view of things in which A and -A are both true and correct.
    The classic example is the Trinity, in which things are separate yet intertwined.
    The idea is found in most religions where the reality of the universe is more mystical than we can grasp.
    Even on a more prosaic level it can be said that we find our most authentic individual self in the communion with others.Report

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