Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Further Response to TGE (Part I)
Further Response to TGE (Part I)
04/04/2005 - James White
In Dr. White's latest reply to me he says that I provided only one example of his misconstrual of sola Scriptura: his position on paedobaptism. He claims that his exegetical work on Hebrews 8 and 10 in the Reformed Baptist Theological Review proves that my accusation is false. It may be that he didn’t argue that way in the particular article that he references, but he has on many occasions in his chatroom argued that way. I'm sorry, but I truly feel like I am on solid ground to point out that if you are going to accuse someone of holding to a particular viewpoint, documenting it should not be so very difficult, especially when I have written so many works that provide page after page of exegesis. If I do not practice sola scriptura, then should it not be possible to demonstrate this rather easily? And yet we have found it very difficult to get straight answers on what should be a rather easily documented allegation. When I say a Roman Catholic, or a Mormon, or someone else, is violating the principle of sola scriptura, I am able to demonstrate it by reference directly to the scriptura. If one cannot do so, one might wish to avoid addressing the issue.
Certainly his recent blog post on removing the "trailer" (tradition) from one's "boat" (theological system) before sailing the boat supports what I’ve said about his attitude toward other Protestants. I am sorry the humorous story has proven so very difficult for folks to understand. Whether someone gets the illustration or not seems to provide some indication of how deeply one has been influenced by various traditional viewpoints. You are not supposed to put a boat in the water with the trailer still on it. The boat was not designed to function in that fashion. But you see, the folks driving the boat around didn't realize it was not supposed to be attached. See? They expected the boat to function in one particular way, but it could not do so. They did not understand the relationship of the boat to the trailer. See? I have no idea what TGE thinks this means, but once again, I am one of those who believes that Scripture, and Scripture alone, is theopneustos. If you join to that which is theopneustos that which is not theopneustos, you are joining things that are not meant to be connected, and that is true even if you do not realize your error. Are there Protestants who do this? Yes. Is TGE disputing this?
The issue is not his level of competence with grammatical technology. Rather, the issue is the "pre-exegetical" assumptions of which I am not sure he is sufficiently aware. Exegesis is not merely a matter of grammar, something Mr. Enloe surely must know. But I reject the idea that the text of Scripture is unknowable outside of "pre-exegetical assumptions" that take the dress of tradition. I believe Isaiah meant what Isaiah meant when Isaiah spoke and wrote; I believe Ephesians had a meaning when it was penned that does not change over time.
Dr. White asks if I “admit the WCF represents a Reformational viewpoint of sola scriptura in section 1?” Yes, I admit that the WCF represents a Reformational viewpoint of sola Scriptura in section 1. I also believe that the WCF presents a Reformational viewpoint of sola Scriptura in section 31—a section which, like section 30 on ministerial censures of the Church, is entirely absent from the 1689 LBC (which otherwise very closely follows the WCF). I believe that these omissions by the LBC are very significant and constitute strong arguments that Dr. White's understanding of sola Scriptura is inaccurate. In my seemingly vain attempt to determine just what the nature of the "clothing" I have denied Scripture might be, I take this to be an example: Section 31 of the WCF is about synods and councils, and since I hold a different ecclesiology, evidently this results in nuda scriptura. Problem is, I have defended my ecclesiology in print, by reference to...Scripture alone, and in opposition to the form of ecclesiology Mr. Enloe holds. Has Mr. Enloe read the work to which I make reference? Is he saying that one must hold a Presbyterian form of church government to actually practice sola scriptura? If this is the case, then is this ecclesiology part of the "clothing" that Scripture must have? And if so, is it proven by some means other than the exegesis of the text of Scripture itself? Why did Dr. Robert Reymond argue for the Presbyterian form of church government by reference to Scripture in our work on the subject if, in fact, this is a tradition that exists outside of Scripture? Can Mr. Enloe go through my exegesis of Hebrews 8 from the Reformed Baptist Theological Review and demonstrate how holding to a different ecclesiology impacts my handling of the text?
I deny that a Reformational view of sola Scriptura is conveyed by the title of Dr. White’s recent book on the subject, Scripture Alone. For sola Scriptura isn’t the affirmation that "Scripture is the alone authority". Rather, it’s the affirmation that "Scripture is the alone infallible authority". When pressed Dr. White usually formally defines the position correctly, but I think that especially in controversy he doesn’t correctly practice it. Mr. Enloe is, of course, completely in error in his assertion, as any even semi-careful reading of my book demonstrates. I am very consistent in asserting that Scripture is the sole INFALLIBLE rule of faith. I have been consistent concerning this for many years. The very book to which he makes reference to the title (has he even bothered to read the work?) begins by saying:
The term sola scriptura literally means “Scripture alone.” Unfortunately, this phrase tends to be taken in the vein of “Scripture in isolation, Scripture outside of the rest of God’s work in the church.” That is not its intended meaning. The term must be defined within a particular context. It means “Scripture alone as the sole infallible rule of faith for the church.” It is a positive assertion of the nature of Scripture and its capacities, as well as a negative statement indicating that it is only Scripture that possesses the unique capacities that makes it the sole infallible rule of faith. A rule of faith, of course, is that which governs and guides what we believe, and why. One work, placing the phrase in its historical setting in the Reformation, defines it, “the freedom of Scripture to rule as God’s word in the church, disentangled from papal and ecclesiastical magisterium and tradition.” I confess I have no idea why Mr. Enloe would make such a patently false assertion when it is so easily refuted.
The WCF’s understanding of the "final" authority of Scripture is not separable from its corporate, catholic understanding of the ministerial application of Scripture by the Church. Why does the WCF in 31:3, the very section Mr. Enloe refers to, say the following?
It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of His Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with, reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word. (emphasis added)How does Mr. Enloe determine if certain decrees are "consonant to the Word of God"? Does he accept the condemnation of Douglas Wilson promulgated a few years ago by a duly ordained ecclesiastical body? Why reject that and accept the affirmation of Wilson by the CREC? Is Enloe picking and choosing which "clothes" he wants to put on Scripture? And how does any of this impact the exegesis of Hebrews 8? Has a council spoken authoritatively and finally on the exegesis of said text? How then could their conclusions be tested and found to be "consonant" with the Word of God if we are, in fact, dependent upon those councils to know what the text says? The irony here is that I have seen Mr. Enloe, in years past, raise the very same questions of Roman Catholics who were promoting their traditions in denial of sola scriptura. The questions are piling up.
Further, the WCF's understanding of "the Church" is incompatible with Dr. White’s understanding of "the Church". This is the major problem in Dr. White's claim to be upholding the Reformation Scripture principle. Which Reformation? Dr. White denies the basic ecclesiological position of the mainstream Protestant Reformers, and I believe that this involves him in denying their Scripture principle as well. OK, I believe the New Testament teaches that the Apostles established elders in local assemblies, and I find no evidence, even in Acts 15, of an ecclesiastical structure above the local church. I have argued this point from Scripture in the 2004 work noted above (which presented five views on the subject). It is Enloe's point that only Presbyterians practice sola scriptura? How about Lutherans? Anglicans? Did anyone prior to the Reformation practice sola scriptura, then? If so, how could they, if they did not have a Presbyterian ecclesiology? And once again, surely, if Mr. Enloe is right here, can he show us how my exegesis of the text of Hebrews 8, or James 2, for example, has been twisted or perverted by my holding to a different ecclesiology than his own?
The controversies of the 12th-15th centuries demonstrate that the Reformation's views of authority and ecclesiology spring out of the intense late Medieval debates between papalists and conciliarists. Each position had long historical pedigrees and went through a great deal of development. Many members of the Westminster Assembly had drunk deeply from the well of conciliarism. Examining the historical moorings of the WCF’s theology, I find it implausible to assert (if indeed White would assert this) that Chapter 31 was written because the Assembly was somehow "inconsistent" with what it said in Chapter 1 or because it wanted to "add" other authorities to Scripture. I affirm the WCF's teaching on sola Scriptura in its full-orbed, non-perfectionistic manner. Adhering to the 1689 LBC as he does, James White cannot say the same with any historical plausibility. So, does it not follow that sola scriptura is only a relevant doctrine after the medieval period? Could anyone practice it prior to, say, AD 1000? And are we saying that the Westminster Assembly in some fashion provides an insight into Scripture and the meaning of Scripture that did not exist before? Is the WCF part of the "clothing" of Scripture that I deny? And before the WCF, was Scripture, by necessity, "nuda"? Was the meaning of Hebrews 8 knowable prior to the Westminster Assembly? James 2? How is it that my exegesis of James 2 is almost identical to that of many of the Westminster divines? And why does my exegesis of Hebrews 8 sound so much like the conclusions arrived at by John Owen? Since Doug Wilson takes exceptions to the WCF, does it follow he practices 'semi-nuda scriptura"? I fully accept that there are differences between myself and the Magisterial Reformers on the meaning of baptism and ecclesiology: there are, in fact, a number of differences between the Magisterial Reformers themselves and even amongst the Westminster divines, for that matter. But I do not see how this then means that I do not practice sola scriptura. Is Enloe actually arguing that to hold sola scriptura in a "Reformational" sense one must agree with everything the Reformers said and believed? Does Enloe agree with everything the Reformers said or believed? Or do we need to go earlier to the medieval period?
02:00:00 - Category: Reformed Apologetics - Link to this article -