The hermeneutic of the WCF vs the hermeneutic of Newman

Here is my look at a comment that is instructive because it seeks to show how “Roman Catholics and Protestants do the same thing”, but where really, they are doing something completely different.

In seeking to compare the Roman Catholic doctrine of “the Church” with Reformed doctrines, Erick said:

Just as the expansive explanation for Covenant theology,…

This is only “expansive” because the OT is “expansive”. But this is true revelation, and not something that’s merely assumed.

… the points of Calvinism,…

Again, this is derivative from a doctrine of God based on a thorough study of both OT and NT.

…the rationale for infant baptism …

Again, all based on a thorough understanding of OT and NT in context.

Just as [these other items= require hashing out what seems to be only “implications” …]

Here is where criticisms of Newman and “development” take their full force. The WCF talks about “the consent of all the parts [of Scripture], the scope of the whole [of Scripture] (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it [Scripture] makes of the only way of man’s salvation,…”

Thus, when the WCF acknowledges that its doctrines are “either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture], it is talking about something that is completely different with what you are talking about in this next statement:

Just as [these other items= require hashing out what seems to be only “implications”, it is the same with the Fathers.

In the fathers of the Church, fundamentally, they believe in a visible teaching Church which has a perpetual unity based upon Christ’s giving the keys of the kingdom to the Church.

Here is where you are getting this wrong. You are not beginning here with a study of “all the Scriptures” to arrive at your conclusion. You are taking a Roman concept (“the keys”, which supposedly were given to Peter as a kind of seal indicating the later concept of the papacy), and you are reading that Roman Catholic concept back into one single verse.

In the first place, “the Fathers” didn’t hold to that Roman concept of the papacy. That’s been thoroughly analyzed.

And in the 16th century, Luther followed Origen in holding that “the keys” were given to all believers. (Notwithstanding the verb tense in the original Greek).

You are not arriving at your concept of “visible teaching church” from “all of Scripture”. You are beginning with the concept “visible teaching church” and then mining “the fathers” for kinds of proof texts that suit your needs.

Finding something “implicit in” is in no way “deducing by good and necessary consequence”.

Your problem is that you are using a faulty hermeneutic.

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2 Responses to The hermeneutic of the WCF vs the hermeneutic of Newman

  1. Erick Ybarra says:

    John Bugay,

    Thus, when the WCF acknowledges that its doctrines are “either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture], it is talking about something that is completely different with what you are talking about in this next statement:

    just as [these other items= require hashing out what seems to be only “implications”, it is the same with the Fathers.

    In the fathers of the Church, fundamentally, they believe in a visible teaching Church which has a perpetual unity based upon Christ’s giving the keys of the kingdom to the Church.

    I was not referring to the Scriptures, but the writings of the Father’s themselves. In other words, when you read the Fathers, there are beliefs which are implicated from their statements which give us a clear understanding of the presuppositions that they were working with.

    But if doesn’t help the Catholic/Orthodox side, for reformed Protestants do not worry too much what the Fathers believed, or even the Christians who lived when the Apostles were planted and watering the churches. All that matters is what Scripture says, and what can be clearly deduced from that (begging the question that is was written for such a hermenutic only).

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    • John Bugay says:

      I was not referring to the Scriptures, but the writings of the Father’s themselves. In other words, when you read the Fathers, there are beliefs which are implicated from their statements which give us a clear understanding of the presuppositions that they were working with.

      Perhaps you could provide some specific examples of these. I think that’s what Andrew has been asking about in other comments.

      But if doesn’t help the Catholic/Orthodox side, for reformed Protestants do not worry too much what the Fathers believed, or even the Christians who lived when the Apostles were planted and watering the churches.

      I think we all have to be realistic with the data that exists. More Protestants are, thankfully, taking an interest in this period.

      Brandon Addison has put together a very thorough compilation of what is being said about authority in the ancient church.

      In addition to his work “Canon Revisited”, Michael Kruger, for one, has been helping to put together works that look realistically at this period (first three centuries). For example, his work The Early Text of the New Testament compiles the best sources of physical evidence that we have from that period — the actual manuscripts of the various New Testament texts. It’s critical to note that we have hundreds of these physical artifacts from the earliest church — we don’t for example, have hundreds of Mary statues from this period. Or we don’t actually have pieces of the “real cross” or gallons of milk from Mary’s breasts. But what we do have is physical testimonials of their reverence for the Scriptures.

      Kruger will also be putting together a book on “second century Christianity”, which will provide the latest research into the things that we talking about. His work will clarify much, and given his position as a seminary professor, we will see a lot of interest building among Protestants to genuinely understand what was going on.

      All that matters is what Scripture says, and what can be clearly deduced from that (begging the question that is was written for such a hermenutic only).

      You are flailing at the air on this one. No, it’s not true that “all that matters is what Scripture says”. What you will see is a rising tide of Critical Biblicism, individuals who revere Scriptures but who will, through a careful process of reading and understanding, allow their presuppositions to become challenged, in such a way that more and more people will be able to be honest about these sorts of things. As the article says:

      You can cultivate an awareness of your hitherto unquestioned presuppositions. Once you become self-conscious of your operating presuppositions, you can compare and contrast your operating presuppositions with the teaching of Scripture. Scripture can correct your presuppositions. Give you new presuppositions. It’s a dialectical process in which some of your governing assumptions are confirmed by the study of Scripture while others are challenged and overturned.

      One way of becoming presuppositionally self-aware is to acquaint yourself with competing interpretations or competing theological traditions. That can make you conscious of interpretive possibilities which wouldn’t otherwise occur to you. Help your break out of one myopic way of looking at the text. You can then test these alternatives against the text of Scripture. Which has more explanatory power? Which is able to harmonize and integrate more data?

      v) It’s also quite possible to get your interpretation right the very first time. Much of Scripture is pretty straightforward. .

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