A searching challenge to my last post was made in this comment which I reproduce in full:
Disagreements on this site exemplify the problem with your reduction to Scripture as the supreme, final authority on matters of faith and practice. Such reduction is little more than wishful thinking – how you might like to organise things if you were God.
Christians using the Bible as their final authority are in disagreement about everything except that the Bible is the supreme, final authority on matters of faith and practice! They disagree on basics like who to baptise and how, who leads communion and what it means, what in the Bible is historical and what is metaphorical, and how to apply teachings concretely in areas of money, sex, politics, economics, war,… In short, there is no thing where Christians agree on what the Bible teaches. Far from being a positive argument, yours is the strongest argument against the Protestant approach (Shawn’s attempt to make all others into his own image notwithstanding).
You have just powerfully demonstrated the inadequacy of Protestantism. And worse, if your equation can be read in both directions, you have just powerfully demonstrated the inadequacy of your God.
Excellent responses have been made by MichaelA. Here I have my own go ...
I am going to set aside this statement, "there is no thing where Christians agree on what the Bible teaches." which strikes me as a heat of the comment assertion which is obviously false. There is plenty Christians agree on which is taught in the Bible.
The serious charge within the comment is whether 'my' view which by implication is a or even the 'Protestant' view is nonsense: "such reduction is little more than wishful thinking"; worse "how you might like to organise things if you were God"; worst "you have just powerfully demonstrated the inadequacy of your God".
Further, with "everything" substituted with the phrase "many things", the following is a quite fair description of Protestant reality: "Christians using the Bible as their final authority are in disagreement about [many things] except that the Bible is the supreme, final authority on matters of faith and practice!"
Is it wishful thinking to take John 1:18 as a cue for thinking about Scripture? I suggest the debate over John 1:18 is whether it is a true statement or not; then, if it is a true statement, what are the implications of the statement.
As best I can tell, Christians are agreed that John 1:18 is a true statement. My question is then to ask whether Christians (Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox) have then pursued the implication of the statement for our understanding of the texts we have agreed are Scripture.
Indeed, that question is the great Protestant question to other Christians, but particularly to the Roman Catholic church with its claims of two revelations from God, 'Scripture' and 'Tradition' (noting an observation made to the post below in a comment by Alison). Turning John's question in a Roman direction, Is there a basis, an authority from God for making the Roman claim about Tradition as a separate revelation? Is this also 'wishful thinking' on the part of Roman theology?
At best the basis for such claim itself lies in Scripture, with its words about Petrine authority and apostolic authority, about the Holy Spirit's role in teaching the church. A Protestant point about Scripture as supreme, final authority is that even when Christians disavow such a claim, it is hidden within the theology of the disavowers!
Importantly, for my argument in the post below, and overlooked (it seems to me) by commenter John is that John 1:18 implies the final authority of Scripture on matters of faith and practice as those matters of faith and practice respond to Jesus Christ as the full revelation of God. Far from 'wishful thinking' I am simply trying to follow the logical implications of John 1:18.
If my logic is wrong, it is wrong. But the matter (as I have posted it) has nothing to do with wishful thinking. Other 'Protestant' arguments about Scripture may involve wishful thinking. Mine involves logic. Is my logic wrong?
Nevertheless, commenter John makes a good point (in my words): suppose the logic of Peter's argument re John 1:18 and scripture is accepted, it has not led to mutually agreed submission to the authority of Scripture, just to debates and divisions over the meaning of Scripture, so what is God up to by proceeding in the way he apparently has?
Inadequacy of God?
At first sight this seems like quite a compelling objection, particularly if we omit discussion of alternatives. Here is why I do not find it compelling.
1. My focus, on Scripture as the revelation of God in and through Jesus Christ, ties Scripture to Jesus Christ. If we think of Jesus as an outcome of the 'organisation' of God then how did that work out when Jesus lived and taught on earth?
Not too well! What he said was misunderstood (even by his disciples), opposed (by religious leaders he considered should have known better) and capable of diversity in the remembering (four gospels).
That is, if Scripture and the divisions which ensue among its readers imply that in Scripture God has offered a flawed way of speaking to the church of God and that this reflects badly on God, is the situation any the worse for the plan of God to speak to us through Jesus of Nazareth?
2. The comment made by John could (in my reading) be the comment of an atheist (i.e. highlighting general weaknesses in the Christian case for God, "Look! How inadequate your God is, because ...") or it could be the comment of a fellow Christian with an alternative commitment to authority in the church (e.g. as a Roman Catholic or as an Eastern Orthodox) and thus the comment focuses on an apparently Protestant set of weaknesses: "Look! How inadequate the Protestant view of God is ... (with some implied superiority of another or other view(s) of God)". Here I am going to assume the latter and not the former. That is, I am going to ask in response: are alternative views of Scripture and the God of Scripture better than a Protestant 'full, supreme authority' view, measured by the criterion of division?
(Since writing the above paragraph I have realised a very long answer is possible, indeed necessary, so, causa brevitatis, the next few sentences are an outline not an essay).
1. Other approaches to authority in respect of belief have not saved the church from division: Rome and Constantinople split in 1054.
2. Other approaches to authority/belief can obscure hidden division: e.g. many Roman Catholics simply do not follow Rome's teaching on contraception. No division as in 'schism' has occurred; but the practice of daily life is divided from the abstraction of Humanae Vitae. A virtue of Protestantism is that schisms reveal actuality of belief and practice rather than obscuring it.
3. Other approaches to authority/belief can cover over corruption in leadership: for several hundred years Rome has had non-corrupt Popes (good!) but that should not obscure the historical fact that commitment to papacy as a model of authority to ensure good leadership has not guaranteed sound leadership. The Reformation was triggered by a deep theological corruption which tied the selling of indulgences to the costs of building a splendid church in Rome. If we head East we note that the great virtues of Eastern Orthodoxy concerning unchanging doctrine, guarded by bishops and patriarchs has not saved Orthodox churches from arrogant, high-handed episcopal leadership.
4. More importantly for the approach I am taking, vesting the authority of Scripture in the authority of Christ, the question before us is less about whose or which authority and much more about where is the true source of revelation from God for the church today. On this matter all roads lead back to Scripture. For the claim, for example, that Tradition is a second source of revelation, the backing or basis of it lies within Scripture and its testimony to the authority Christ gave the apostles re binding and loosing. The debate between the two Christian streams which place most weight on Tradition, Rome and Constantinople, is most sharply divided over the procession of the Holy Spirit. In the end, this is a debate about what Scripture says and not what Tradition says.
But in which church or set of churches lies the greatest freedom to explore what truth is? Here the risk factor of Protestant division needs to be weighed alongside the freedom of Christians to think publicly about difficult matters. Again, we can easily forget as we admire Rome's doctrinal unity (and, by the way, I do admire it) that Rome has flip-flopped through the centuries on important matters of truth. One day Galileo is consigned to doctrinal outer darkness, the next he is hailed as a true scientist. Almost in living memory Rome proscribed against 'critical biblical scholarship' (at the beginning of the 20th century) and a few decades later reversed the interdict. Key theologians at Vatican 2 just a few years previously had had their teaching licences suspended.
Disagreement among Christians?
There is a lot of disagreement among Protestant Christians, including those invoking the authority of Scripture: agreed, accepted, acknowledged. But there is also a lot of agreement. The experience of many Protestants working together in gospel mission is that what we agree on (Jesus is Lord and Saviour, God is gracious, believers together constitute the body of Christ, etc) outweighs what we disagree on. Together we (say) study at a non-denominational theological college, acclaim the works of international scholars (or dispute them from shared presuppositions), cherish saints and heroes of the faith, and, most importantly, say the Nicene Creed together.
Only one John, commenter or gospel writer, can be correct. What do you think?
Tuesday a.m.: am publishing what is written to date ... may revise as time allows.