John Thayer Jenson, you asked in Comment 271:
I don’t see how this helps me to know which of us is right and which is suppressing the truth by his wickedness. I believe God’s Voice has told me the Catholic Church is His Body and men can be saved only through it; you believe – well, you don’t believe that! Is one of us suppressing the truth by his wickedness, therefore?
[Question]: Is [the Church’s] structure established by Christ or by the vote of human beings?
[Response]: 1 Timothy 3:1ff, among other passages, gives us the divine structure of the church, and human beings didn’t vote on that God-given structure. That structure says that the “bishop must be…” while the history of [Roman Catholicism] demonstrates to us that the “bishop need not be…” in terms of what is prerequisite for that office.
Not only is there an explanation for why “the bishop need not be…”, but on top of that you have also superimposed a papacy, and you especially have all kinds of explanations for why “the pope need not be…” In this case, the “…” lists all kinds of, really, divinely-structured guidelines such as “be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)”.
Now, I know that you have “an explanation” for all of that – for if popes and bishops do not qualify, then the “unbroken succession” goes out the window, and Roman Catholicism is very clearly shown not to be what it says it is.
In that vein, it seems especially clear to me that the Roman Catholic system is “suppressing the truth by wickedness” – the irony of it is that you allow for what we call “wicked popes” by this method!
But really, the way you asked the question is, “which of us is right and which is suppressing the truth by his wickedness?”
The answer, of course, is that given by the Bereans (Acts 17), “they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” This, too, is the same response given by Francis Turretin, who (vol 3, page 2), actually seemed to complain that his opponents would not actually discuss the facts, but “to this day … (although they are anything but the true church of Christ) still boast of their having alone the name of the church and do not blush to display the standard of that which they dispose. In this manner, hiding themselves under the specious title of the antiquity and infallibility of the Catholic church, they think they can, as with one blow, beat down and settle the controversy waged against them concerning the various and most destructive errors introduced into the heavenly doctrine”.
Turretin’s response to that was to compare “the way of the authority of the church” with “discussion and examination of doctrine”. He cites Matthew 28:19, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them …” on “the necessity of a preceding instruction and knowledge”, as well as Acts 2:41, “they were added to the church who had been taught before by the apostles”; “the Samaritans who believed were baptized” (Acts 8:12). As well, he cites Paul (“test all things and hold fast to what is good”) and John (“try the spirits”). “Surely this could not be said if this examination were either impossible or dangerous to them”, meaning, to the individual members. (See Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol 2, pgs 1–6 for this complete discussion).
Thus, “examination of faith and knowledge [of doctrines] ought to precede knowledge of [authority of] the church”. And if “the Church” is teaching things that are not just simply deviating slightly from the Scriptures, but blatantly teaching things that are opposite (“a bishop must be…”), well, then, what are we to make of their so-called “authority”? The answer is to conclude that it’s a false authority! (And you’ve got to admit, there are also plenty of warnings about false authority, of “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, etc., in the New Testament.
The charts here represent another a fortiori argument, here is how Roman “interpretation” (that is, “what the Magisterium says”) outstrips, “suppresses Scriptural truth by its wickedness”.
The first image here represents “Scriptural theology”. The items in the list, the Doctrine of Scripture, Doctrine of God, The Trinity, Doctrine of Christ, etc, are taken from standard Systematic Theologies – On these things, I hope, it may be seen that there is no controversy, for it may be said, for example, that Aquinas and others, too, followed this pattern.
The second chart shows how “the churches of the Reformation” viewed these things. On balance, they retained this “Scriptural theology”, while differing, as I’ve said, on what I’ve called “adiaphora (from the Greek ἀδιάφορα “indifferent things”). Now, to be sure, to some people these things do not seem to be “indifferent”, but from God’s perspective, the method of the practice of these things is indifferent. For example, on the topic of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said “do this”, he didn’t say “develop an Aristotelian viewpoint of how this happens and make it the dogma”. This is why I say, “from God’s viewpoint, it is indifferent”.
[There is a theological distinction outlined by Herman Bavinck in his “Reformed Dogmatics” vol 1, in which he discussed the difference between the Scriptures quoad se [in themselves] and the Scriptures quoad nos [as they have to do with us]. As one writer asked, “are [these] identical with one another and perfectly correspond at every single point? Is content and expression, essence and form, God’s absolute truth and the Church’s assimilation into her consciousness, confession, cultural language and ideas, articulation, and proclamation identical at every point?” (cf. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:30-32). I would, in fact, commend all of Bavinck’s Vol 1 (“Prolegomena” to you as an excellent example of what a “Conservative Protestant IP” looks like when someone has taken the time to think through all the ramifications of it.)]
At any rate, the other two charts here show the relationship of how Scripture supposedly is augmented by “tradition”, but when “tradition” stops meaning “what the church has always practiced” and begins meaning “Tradition” as the current Roman Catholic Church defines it, then the kind of distortion occurs that is shown in the fourth chart. This is my understanding of how it is Roman Catholic Doctrine that “suppresses the truth by wickedness”.