Sunday, October 21, 2007

Burning in the Bosom

Francis, your consistent approach thus far has been that the Holy Spirit witnesses to individuals what God's word is. You were given the opportunity to provide something more objective, but you quite reasonably recognised that whether a book is God-breathed is not the kind of question that lends itself to say, historical investigation. Thus you didn't have any kind of real argument why Esther or the Johannine epistles are God-breathed, or 1 Clement is not God-breathed beyond the witness of the Spirit.

Orthodox on the other hand would say that there is an objectively discoverable reality of where God's people are. God gives his revelation to his people. His people preserve it. Thus where his Word is, is objectively stated by where his people are, which is an historical, continuous, objectively tracable entity. You on the other hand say that God gave his revelation, but who might be preserving it cannot be stated as a prior principle. You hope or assume that God has preserved it, hopefully somewhere reasonably accessable to you, but where one might look to find its authoritative form, one can't say. You just have to look, and wait for the Holy Spirit to inform whenever and whereever you happen to find it.

This means you've cut yourself off from any way of knowing what God's word is that is rooted in space/time and the physical universe. Your first principle is what the Spirit witnesses to you, as an individual.


1) What does this witnessing feel like?

2) How do you know the feeling from (1) is the Holy Spirit and not your corrupt heart, a demon or other phenomenon?

3) How does it differ to Mormon burning in the bosom (other than presumably yours is real and theirs isn't), and how do you know it differs? How does it differ to the Islamic idea that you read the book and it is obvious that there is no book ever written like the Koran?

4) Isn't the idea that the Spirit witnesses to every Christian a 66 book canon, objectively and empirically a lot of nonsense, given the number of better Christians than you or I who have held a smaller or larger canon?

5) How can you guard against a false witness of what the Spirit testifies to, given there have been so many false claims?

6) How do you explain someone like John Chrysostom, who memorised the scriptures (at least his canon of scripture) from Genesis on forward, who tirelessly dedicated himself to the Church and to God, who wrote a commentary on nearly the whole bible, and yet he held to the shorter New Testament canon of the Syrians, despite the fact he was aware of the other books? Didn't the Spirit witness to him?

7) How come the Spirit witnesses a 66 long list to every Christian, but he doesn't witness the 5 points of Calvinism, the correct understanding of infant/believer baptism, the correct understanding of the eucharist, or any of many more significant points? Isn't your theory rather arbitrary?

8) Gnosticism has been defined as religious groups that believe in "an inferior material world, one needs gnosis, or esoteric spiritual knowledge available only to a learned elite." Isn't this yet more evidence (as if we needed any more) that protestants are gnostics, abandoning the idea that God provides all knowledge through revelation in the material world, whereas you believe in esoteric internal revelation?

9) If the Spirit witnesses that 14 verses of 3 John is scripture, what does that tell us about our approach to Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11, which are a similar size? Is it scripture if I believe the Spirit tells me it is scripture? Is that more than enough reason? When protestants come to discuss these passages, why is "what the Spirit witnesses", never on the agenda? What does the existance of Mark 16:9-20 in virtually every manuscript tell us about the Spirit's witness, and what does a consensus that is building in protestantism to exclude this passage on grounds other than the Spirit's witness tell us about what protestants really believe?

10) Does this mean you can't enforce church discipline if the relevant passage is denied by the person in question to be scripture? So if for example, someone agrees with the Syrian church or is sympathetic to the disparaging things that Martin Luther said about Revelation, are they entitled to just say in the Church "that doesn't apply to me, leave me alone"? Or conversely, can a leader as an individual decide that an extra book is scripture and enforce discipline on its basis? If not, what principle or authority stands in the way?

11) Doesn't your epistemology make this entire debate futile? You have your "truth" that you think the Spirit witnesses to you, and I have my truth that I think the Spirit witnesses to the Church and to me, and that's really the end of the discussion?

12) Since Luther is on record as saying that Revelation is "neither apostolic nor prophetic" and stated that "Christ is neither taught nor known in it", and since you are on record as saying that the Holy Spirit dictates to Christians the 66 book canon, what does this say about Luther being a Christian, or alternatively, what does it say about your theory?

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