Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Question 5 from Affirmative

Question 5 – Canon Comparison

In your rebuttal, you take issue with canon of a Scripture, a bit of an aside, since this debate is actually over the issue of whether Scripture alone is the rule of faith, not the identification of Scripture. Furthermore, as already observed, given Scripture, the canon simply falls out as a table of contents.

On the other hand, the canon appears to pose some interesting problems for your counterplan of papist tradition. Although your rebuttal claims, “The universal Church guided by the Holy Spirit has determined the Canon as well as the full Revelation of God,” you must be aware of the fact that there are several glaring problems with you claim. After all, there is some kind of definition of the Canon provided by Trent, but Trent at the same time endorsed as “authentic” the “old Latin Vulgate” of the day – a version riddled with errors.

Furthermore, the “Canon” promulgated by Trent was fairly clearly aimed not at promulgating an authoritative canon of what was in Scripture, but at opposing the canon identified by the Reformers: specifically asserting that the so-called Deuterocanonicals and the various additions to several Old Testament books must be accepted. I think you would be hard-pressed to find any notable papist theologian that would assert that Trent locks you into an Old Latin Vulgate equivalent of the King James Version Only movement. The promulgation of the Nova Vulgata by John Paul II seems to confirm the fact that the Old Latin Vulgate, endorsed by Trent as authentic, was not actually as good as the Latin could get. Even the Nova Vulgata has problems that should be addressed, and the sorry tale of the Clementine Vulgate just demonstrates the great futility of Rome attempting to define the content of Scripture at any detailed level.

Of course, the Reformed answer is consistent: the Holy Spirit persuades believers as to the authenticity of the Word, and he uses means to that end including (contrary to your straw men) the churches as well as the study of history and archaeology, reason, and the like.

But even setting aside the issue of the detailed level of the canon (and – after all – the difference between the Tridentine canon and the Reformed canon is not very large), and further setting aside the issue of how on earth the New Testament church would have any kind of authority over the already-existing canon of the Old Testament, there is the problem of the canon of oral tradition (the previously discussed category of HMDT) and living authoritative interpretation (the previously discussed category of IAT).

If difficulty in identifying the canon is supposed to be a problem for those who follow Sola Scriptura as defined by the WCF, it would seem that if no canon of HMDT and IAT can be found then a doubly-large problem exists for your counterplan.

Indeed, that is the question I hereby pose to you: where is the counterplan’s canon, not simply the canon of Scripture, but the canons of the HMDT (which one would presume is a fixed quantity) and the IAT (to date, since, apparently in your view IAT can produce new content that is also the “Word of God”)?

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