Sunday, January 26, 2014

What I Believe

The recent attempt at a dialogue with a Bible-only commenter hasn't borne fruit, yet. That's ok, not everyone is into discourse.

Perhaps what is needed is to first establish the common ground that we have. To effectively disagree with someone you must first have something you both agree on. Otherwise you have no common terms or concepts which you can both appeal to. The debate ends up being two unrelated soliloquies interrupting each other. So what, potentially, do I have in common with most Bible-only Christians?

First and foremost, we have Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour. No one and nothing takes precedence, once you have recognized Him. As a Catholic I feel obliged to point out that this includes, logically speaking, the Bible. Not that they are opposed to each other or in tension somehow. Rather, that the Bible only stands–directly and indirectly–on Jesus Himself:
“[S]cripture cannot be broken”

(John 10:35 RSV)

And I find the ancient Roman baptismal formula (via Tertullian) to be an excellent summary of Christian beliefs about Jesus:
We,...believe that there is one only God...that this one only God has also a Son, His Word, who proceeded from Himself, by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. Him we believe to have been sent by the Father into the Virgin, and to have been born of her-being both Man and God, the Son of Man and the Son of God, and to have been called by the name of Jesus Christ; we believe Him to have suffered, died, and been buried, according to the Scriptures, and, after He had been raised again by the Father and taken back to heaven, to be sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come to judge the quick and the dead.

Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian (ANF III; Accordance electronic ed. 9 vols.; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1885), n.p.

This testimony [circa A.D. 213] is an early example of the ancient belief of those who eventually defined for us the canon of Scripture. Of course the remainder of the formula will refer to "the Holy Church". And examining what the First Christians meant by that may well divide us.

Second, we have the Scripture, though my Protestant brethren have a truncated version. We will both profess, I hope, verbal plenary Inspiration of Scripture. For the meaning of this the Wikipedia gives a good summary:
This view gives a greater role to the human writers of the Bible, while maintaining a belief that God preserved the integrity of the words of the Bible."[18] The effect of inspiration was to move the authors so as to produce the words God wanted.[17] In this view the human writers' "individual backgrounds, personal traits, and literary styles were authentically theirs, but had been providentially prepared by God for use as his instrument in producing Scripture."[18]

Admittedly that might actually separate me from some Catholics today but it doesn't have to. This language is generally associated with Evangelicals but is fully compatible with orthodox Catholic thought.

If my interlocutor avers the Dictation Theory of Biblical Inspiration then we must part ways and begin our conversation there.

Is that enough to begin with?

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