Do Church Doors Erase Bibles?

Moose Norseman has a post in response to a bit of writing by John C. Wright.

In effect, the Lutheran claim is a claim of the right to rebel against the teaching authority of the Church, on the grounds that the Church is apostate. Unfortunately, the sole witness for the apostasy of the Church is an alleged disagreement between Church teachings and the scriptures on which the Church relies for those teachings.

But the sole witness for the validity, canonicity, historicity, and divinity those selfsame scriptures is the authority of the Church whose members wrote them, gathered, sanctified, protected, promulgated and canonized them.

This is false. It is an opinion woefully uninformed about the history of The Church of Rome, the Orthodox Church, and the Reformation which came out of the Church of Rome. It’s also very common among all those who call themselves Christian. Here is a very truncated version; particularly concerning Martin Luther and those who heard him.[1]

~30-33AD: Pentecost happens in Jerusalem. You can read about it in Acts. Then you can continue reading Acts, and then Romans, and then the rest of the NT. It contains (some of) the history of the spread of Christianity by the Apostles and their helpers; which occurred in a generally westward direction. The Gospel is established in Asia Minor and Greece prior to Rome; though it is all under the Roman Empire. Among the important churches are Jerusalem and Antioch. However; in Revelation we get addresses to seven churches none of which have I mentioned yet: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These are all in Asia Minor; what is now called Turkey.

330AD: Constantine, emperor of Rome moves the Roman Empire’s capitol to Byzantium, and renames it after himself: Constantinople. This is the seat of power.

1053AD: The Great Schism happens. The Church in Rome and the Church in Constantinople separate. From then until 1543, there is dispute between the two churches/empires and a good deal of bloodshed back-n-forth. You can read about the Massacre of the Latins and the Siege of Constantinople on your own.

1299AD: The Ottoman Empire is founded in Anatolia; a province of Asia Minor. Muslim in religion, they proceed to move westward, and conquer for the next 200 years. During this time, theologians, historians, and other academics in the Constantine Empire flee westward to escape the Ottomans. They bring with them texts and documents which had been either forgot, or ignored, in the west. As these documents are translated and disseminated in the sphere of the Church of Rome, many theologians began to study them. It was a reunion of scholarship. The teachings of the Early Church fathers (so many of whom were in Asia Minor) reveal a gulf between the teachings of that Early Church, and the teachings of the Roman Church. Among other things: The official translation of the Bible of the Church of Rome is found to have many discrepancies and errors when compared to the treasure-trove of documents the eastern scholars brought west.

They also brought with them Greek ideas about art and architecture and all sorts of things. Western buildings from the Middle Ages fell out of fashion, and deemed Gothic; which meant Germanic as in the Visigothic and Ostrogothic kings who had crushed the Western Roman Empire and divied it up amongst themselves. In other words: They called them barbarians. Well, western Europeans got bad feelings about this and so they started a Renaissance to be cooler than the Greeks. In this milieu is born a movement among the Roman academics called Humanism. They are seeing the discrepancies between what the actual Early Church Fathers said in these exiled documents, and what the Roman Church does. Questions are asked. New translations of the Bible are written; this time cross-referenced with the thousands of translations brought out of the Eastern Roman Empire to check for accuracy in word and meaning.

1440: The printing press is invented by Gutenberg. Literature becomes cheap, literacy becomes easy, and the Roman clergy’s stranglehold over theological education is broken. Even some priests learned to read! That’s right, a good number of them could not. It was too expensive. This is the world and maelstrom into which Martin Luther is born.

1453AD: The Fall of Constantinople occurs at the hands of Mehmad the Conqueror and his Ottoman Empire. The second Roman Empire never rises again. Christian scholasticism is shifted permanently west.

1517AD: Roman Catholic theologian, monk, and priest Martin Luther writes his 95 Theses and posts it for debate; as was the habit of Roman Catholic academics. He had been influenced by the writings of Erasmus and others of the Humanist movement, and was incensed by the practice of the sale of Indulgences; particularly as done by Johann Tetzel. The printing press spreads Luther’s ideas.

Obviously this is far from complete. What I want to demonstrate is that the criticism of the Church in Rome came from explicitly Christian sources–as recognized by the Church of Rome itself.

John C. Wright cannot say “Unfortunately, the sole witness for the apostasy of the Church is an alleged disagreement between Church teachings and the scriptures on which the Church relies for those teachings.

But the sole witness for the validity, canonicity, historicity, and divinity those selfsame scriptures is the authority of the Church whose members wrote them, gathered, sanctified, protected, promulgated and canonized them.”

That’s a gross falsehood which darkens the mind of any who believe it. You cannot say–with integrity and knowledge–that the Church in the Eastern Roman Empire was not a legitimate Church. The Orthodox Church bore witness before the Romans. It was there first.

Nor did Martin Luther begin his criticism of the Roman Church from the outside, but from within. They trained him! In modern speech we would call him a whistleblower, and he sought out justice from the hierarchic structure of the Roman Church. But the Church in Rome was threatened because ignorance, corruption, and abuse were rampant in that structure.

Wright might as well say that he can’t be sure his Bible contains the same words on one side of the church door as it does the other.


[1]  (The story of Henry VIII is the story of a Roman Catholic and superstitious opportunist; which church Reformers under him both used, and from whom they suffered.)

Advertisements

27 thoughts on “Do Church Doors Erase Bibles?

  1. Of course Church Doors erase Bibles. My Bible has 73 books and extensions to sections that other who cling to the perfection of the 66 elided books.
    I have yet to find in the Bible where the canon of scripture is listed.
    But the more fundamental problem is our Lord himself. He was literate so could have written a super-Bible with every possible question or objection answered and perfect prophecy from Pentecost to his return. He didn’t. He got 12 angry men and founded a church.
    At Pentecost, there was NO New Testament. By 100 AD there were lots of Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and such. Which ones were inspired – canonical?
    Either the Church, “The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth”, defines what the Bible says and in narrow cases what it means (“Unless you eat/eat/gnaw-on my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you / This IS my body/blood, etc.).

    Wright’s point is that the artifact cannot be more accurate than the tool. Where did scripture come from? How do you handle ambiguous passages and contradictions (I and the Father are one ; The Father is Greater than I)? You claim your spirit leads each individual into the truth but there are 31 flavors, 57 varieties, or in any case lots of different opinions on what scripture says. If there were ONE consistent “Bible” church you might have a case, but instead everyone says everyone else is wrong, apostate, in error, or something else.

    I can only look at two foundational doctrines – Divorce and Contraception. The Catholic Church has stood unmoving (even if they can be corrupt in their application). All four Gospels condemn Divorce – in red letters – in no uncertain or ambiguous terms. The tradition that goes back before the exile, perhaps to Onan is that contraception is a grave sin, hence the Comstock laws.

    Find whichever church, feminized or not. Few teach that Contraception is intrinsically evil, or that the one Flesh put together by God cannot be undone except by death. If you can do a 180 on those, how can I trust you are not forcing the rest of scripture into what you believe instead of vice versa?

  2. “I have yet to find in the Bible where the canon of scripture is listed.”

    Funny, I haven’t seen one with limbo, purgatory, the immaculate conception, the pope, or myriad other Roman syncretism in it either.

  3. Funny, I haven’t seen one with limbo, purgatory, the immaculate conception, the pope, or myriad other Roman syncretism in it either.

    So? The argument for those points does not rely solely on scripture, but the whole of Sacred Tradition, both written and unwritten.

    If you want to contest those ideas, fine. Just keep in mind than those advancing them don’t adhere to Sola Scriptura. A doctrine, might I add, that was invented 1500 years after Christ.

  4. The Orthodox Church bore witness before the Romans. It was there first.

    Technically there was no Orthodox Church before the split, or Roman Catholic Church before the schism either. There was just the Catholic Church. As for the Church in the east being older- this is true. By a decade or two.

  5. 1543AD: The Fall of Constantinople occurs at the hands of Mehmad the Conqueror and his Ottoman Empire. The second Roman Empire never rises again. Christian scholasticism is shifted permanently west.

    That date should actually read 1453AD.

  6. Maybe not even a decade or two. There were already Christians in Rome by the time St. Paul arrived. and St. Peter was martyred there only about 30 years or so after Our Lord’s ascension.

    And regarding discrepancies between copies in the East and West, what else is new? I’m given to understand there are minor variances even between copies that came all from one or the other. Not to mention there are some words in the Greek that we don’t really know what they mean, though we can generally get a ballpark idea from the context (the word porneia, for instance, as Fr Paul Mankowski points out in Remaining in the Truth in Christ, varies widely in translation: sometimes fornication, sometimes, incest, sometimes adultery, often within the same translation of Scripture despite little contextual evidence). Also, amusingly enough, while St. Jerome started translating the Scriptures into the Vulgate in Italy, a large portion of the work was done while living in Bethlehem; presumably he would have had access to some of the Eastern texts there.

    Though it is perhaps a mistake to regard “The East” as a monolith. Even before the final schisms, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and later Constantinople all operated more or less independently of each other in day-to-day operations, and Rome, being distant and increasingly a backwater after the Emperor moved East, exerted fairly little pressure on them either. These days there is enough variation in theology between Byzantine Churches that saying “the Orthodox believe” is nearly as dangerous as saying “Protestants believe.”

  7. Either the Church, “The Pillar and Foundation of the Truth”, defines what the Bible says and in narrow cases what it means (“Unless you eat/eat/gnaw-on my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you / This IS my body/blood, etc.).

    Of course, “the Church” means “the Lutheran Church”, not “The Catholic Church which is governed from the Vatican.” No, I’m not actually a Lutheran.

    Everyone assumes that they are the authority.

    Lutheran preachers can claim ecclesiastical descent from the apostles just as much as any Roman Catholic priest. Same for Baptists, etc. Ordination proceeded from Luther and other dissenters.

    The only thing we know for sure is that dissent has been ongoing since the apostolic era.

    The Orthodox Church separated from the Church of Rome long before Luther. Protestants weren’t the first to get that idea.

  8. “So? The argument for those points does not rely solely on scripture, but the whole of Sacred Tradition, both written and unwritten.”

    And are entirely unchristian to say the least. You’d have been laughed out of the early church for adhering to any of the extra biblical Roman nonsense like the idolatry of Mary or transsubtantiation.

  9. @asdgamer

    Lutheran preachers can claim ecclesiastical descent from the apostles just as much as any Roman Catholic priest.

    It’s certainly true of my Anglican Church. I belong to a parish which leans Anglo-Catholic, so my concern isn’t merely theoretical; nor is it directed at something outside my world.

    Anyways, I’m not convinced that Roman Catholic problems aren’t Protestant problems, or Orthodox problems for that matter. And I am convinced that the more we look outside for the problems (It’s that damned liberalism from Bob that’s infecting all of us!”) that we are missing something we were warned about.

  10. @feeriker

    Thanks. Fixed.

    I knew that was out of order yesterday, but I was under time constraints.

    No worries. In fact, most Greeks would probably prefer the 16th Century date, if they have to admit at all that they lost Constantinople!

  11. And I am convinced that the more we look outside for the problems (It’s that damned liberalism from Bob that’s infecting all of us!”) that we are missing something we were warned about.

    Pet peeve in Bible study groups – when we spend time criticizing other churches for liberal ideas and wrong practice (Ex: gay marriage, Jesus no the only way, etc) and stop there.

    “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

    We have close to zero influence on those other people, especially when we only know it third-hand through national news. But we have control over what *we* think, do, and say …

  12. @ Cane
    The problems we have, that are not confined to denominations, must be larger than a set of beliefs as a necessity. The only thing I can think of is that the way individuals, communities, and nations view the world has drastically changed. Our metaphysics and philosophy is drastically different than when Christ walked the world, and still extremely different than when any of the schisms you’ve been discussing occurred.

    That is not to say that one has to be a philosophical man or theologically trained to avoid heresy and schism. It is simply stating that the viewpoints we take in with our milk and honey make a difference, and can be opposed to what we should take in with our Bread and Wine. Many of our saints could never read or write. As you point out, it is possible that the historical majority of priests never could either. The Faith is made to be understood and followed by unlettered farmers and yet still make them saints.

    So, how do we view/think of the world different than how they did? That is the question I think the Church militant must reconquor and defend.

    [CC: I think I corrected it as you wanted.]

  13. The main thing that attracts me to Roman Catholicism is their basic view of soteriology. I can’t seem to fit the Calvinist, Arminian or Lutheran views into my understanding of the NT.

  14. I’m not convinced that Roman Catholic problems aren’t Protestant problems

    Surely, each and every sect has its own “Sacred Tradition.” RC’s, Lutherans, Baptists, etc.

  15. @tz

    Wright’s point is that the artifact cannot be more accurate than the tool. Where did scripture come from?

    Protestants believe the Holy Spirit wrote and compiled the Scriptures. I was unaware Romans thought different.

    @Bruce

    Do you mean the role of free will?

    @Dalrock

    That is an excellent comparison.

  16. Cane Caldo,

    I mean simply that my reading of the NT (common sense reading – I am not learned in theology) indicates that genuine Christians retain the ability to sin gravely with full understanding/consent of the will and that such sin can lead to loss of salvation. I do not get the impression that any Protestants teach this. Arminians come closer to this but seem to only admit the possibility of explicit apostacy that is something like the opposite of being saved.

    Of course other Roman Catholic teachings don’t follow from this but I don’t really seem to fit in with Protestants.

  17. Pingback: Recycled Romanism regurgitated – Moose Norseman

  18. Gents,

    As much as I’ve enjoyed the current series of discussions, I’d like to ask an off-topic question, because this seems like the best place to ask it.

    My kids and I just read through 2nd Samuel 11 – 18, which cover David & Bathsheba’s adultery, the rape of Tamar and Absalom’s rebellion.

    Those passages bring up a question I always ponder when I read through them, but haven’t been able to work out. Many great men appear to be terrible fathers. Why is that?

    Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

  19. Pingback: The Scriptures, Tradition and Canon | Christianity and masculinity

  20. @ Oscar,

    The Scriptures are about man’s relationship with God. Of course, it’s going to include example(s) of how fathers failed.

    I think the problem isn’t really the example of bad fathers, the fact that we tend to hone in on the bad rather than the good. We see 9 good things but 1 bad.. we tend to look at the bad thing.

    For example, how many times have we looked at the terrible things David did (of which you listed 2 — Bathsheba and Absalom) but never looked at David’s charge to Solomon as he was about to die?

    1 King 2:1 As David’s [a]time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and [b]show yourself a man. 3 Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in [c]truth with all their heart and with all their soul, [d]you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

  21. I think the problem isn’t really the example of bad fathers, the fact that we tend to hone in on the bad rather than the good. We see 9 good things but 1 bad.. we tend to look at the bad thing.

    A related reason is that there are many more ways to fail than to do right. So when someone does right, it is easy to gloss over all the ways he didn’t do wrong, and oversimplify what it takes.

    For example, top athletes/musicians make what they do look easy, but it actually takes a lot of commitment to reach that level. (and plenty crash and burn due to fame/drugs/women/etc)

    In short, we can learn more from the failure than from success. Especially when we’re pre-disposed to the same sort of failure. That tiny sin, that tiny flaw of pride, envy, lust, greed … will grow to enslave and consume us if not hacked off with prejudice.

    It is more instructive to look at bad fathers and point out, “don’t do drugs, don’t chase whores/sluts”, rather than to point at a good father and say, “be like that”.

  22. @Oscar

    Many great men appear to be terrible fathers. Why is that?

    I challenge the premise of the question. David’s sins are not particularly the sins of a bad father. They are terrible sins when done by any man.

  23. Gents,

    I was thinking specifically of the rape of Tamar. I mentioned Bathsheba and Absalom’s rebellion because they’re all linked. I apologize if I caused confusion.

    David failed to discipline his son, Amnon, when he raped David’s daughter, Tamar (Amnon’s half sister). Absalom (Tamar’s full brother) waited two years to avenge Tamar, then had Amnon murdered. David also failed to discipline his son, Absalom.

    In both cases, the punishment for each son should have been execution, according to the Law. I completely understand why David would hesitate to execute his own son, but for the sake of his family and his kingdom, it would’ve been the right thing to do.

    It seems to me that David’s sins of omission in this case were both the sins of a father and a king, which makes sense since David was both.

    The points about us seeing sin – and learning from it – more easily than we see virtue are well taken. It very well may have been that David wanted those sins recorded so his descendants would learn from his mistakes, which would would have been commendable.

  24. “Protestants believe the Holy Spirit wrote and compiled the Scriptures”

    I wouldn’t be so sure of that…maybe:
    “Protestants believe the Holy Spirit inspired and was the active agent in compiling and preserving the Scriptures.” The first sounds too Islamic.

  25. @GKC

    Your formulation is fine by me, but I’m not terribly concerned if someone accuses me of sounding Islamic. I’ve been called a “Christian Taliban” many times. What’s one more?

    At the end of the day we believe the writings in the Bible to be inerrant and wholly good, but men are sinful. The former can’t really be produced by the latter unless the actual author isn’t men. And all the glory goes to God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s