“Ecclesialism” vs. Sola Scriptura (vs. “The Other Paul”)

“Ecclesialism” vs. Sola Scriptura (vs. “The Other Paul”) March 25, 2024

“The Other Paul” is an Australian Anglican in his 20s. He runs a ministry with the same name (see his YouTube channel and website). Paul’s particular areas of interest are “biblical exegesis and the first few centuries of early Church history,” but he also addresses “just about any other topic pertaining to Scripture or history.” He also frequently engages in ecumenical dialogue and debate with other Christian traditions, especially Catholics and Orthodox, and is working towards becoming an Anglican clergyman.

I use RSV for Bible verses unless otherwise indicated. Paul’s words will be in blue.

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I am responding to the first portion of Paul’s video, “Ecclesialism – A Critique” (7-14-22).

3:21 With ecclesialism the definition is Scripture, sacred tradition, and the magisterium of the Church . . . [as] the sole infallible rules of faith.

This is correct. We like to call this the “three-legged-stool” concept of the rule of faith, and we submit that this is the view that the Bible teaches. In other words, in following it, we are being quite “biblical.”

3:47 The aim of it is that you can apply any argument of sola Scriptura to ecclesialism in order to see if the one making the argument for ecclesialism is actually being consistent.

Sounds fun! I’m game. Protestants need to get all the help they can get in defending the unbiblical tradition of men known as sola Scriptura, so if Paul has a new approach, more power to him, but I’m pretty sure that it’ll fail, alongside all of the other many failed and futile attempts to bolster up a falsehood. We’ll see! Dialogue and debate are what demonstrate if a position can hold up under scrutiny and close (or “cross-“) examination.

By the way, I call folks by the name that they wish to be known by, just as we do with personal names. The larger term is “Protestant” or one of its sub-groups (which for Paul is Anglicanism). So I call him by his own chosen name. “Romanist” or “papist” is not what any Catholic I know of wishes to be called, or has ever called themselves (other than in a sarcastic manner). We call ourselves “Catholics.” “Roman Catholicism” is tolerable (that’s a separate issue which can be discussed), but the Catholic Church is not only Roman. It also includes Eastern Catholics. What would they be called by someone like Paul? “Easternists”?

4:41 The point of it is simply to say, “look, you have not thought through your objection because it applies to you as well, so now that we have demonstrated that it does apply to your system, given how devoted you are to your system, maybe you will be compelled to exercise some more intellectual humility and charity in analyzing the argument before you apply it to another system.” So that’s the whole point of it: to basically force some introspection on critics from Rome and the East.

I’m willing to listen to any argument. This sounds interesting. If an argument overcomes my own, I grant its superiority, forfeit the argument, and change my mind (as I did in 1990, moving from Arminian evangelicalism to Catholicism). But if I determine that it fails in critiquing my view and establishing itself as superior, then I show why it does (here’s where apologetics comes in), and urge followers of it to adopt the Catholic view, until a better one is proven. And I do all that through use of the Bible, reason, and (if applicable) Church history.

As for “intellectual humility and charity,” well, that works both ways. Protestants have no monopoly on those characteristics. But it’s always charitable to show someone the error of their ways, in cases where they are in fact, in error. Falsehood never did anyone any good. So to persuade someone that they have been sold a bill of goods, or have false premises, leading to false conclusions, is always an act of charity and love. The person will be better off after realizing they have been in error, and having been shown a better way.

By the same token, if I am wrong and am shown that through reason and Scripture and historical argumentation, and have no refutation to offer, then I will change my mind (because I always want to follow truth, to the best of my abilities, with the illumination of God’s grace), as I did in 1990, and in 1977, when I went from practical atheist / occultic practitioner, to evangelical Christian. I’ve also changed my mind on many other social, moral, and political issues through the years. My most recent major change of mind was on the death penalty (in Dec. 2017): I’m now opposed to it.

5:21 So many people accept the same scriptures and yet they disagree on all manner of important things regarding Scripture.

Very true. It’s a shame.

7:15 This is a new argument. I do believe I’m genuinely breaking some new ground in this issue

We’ll see. I am answering as I read, as I always do with this sort of thing, and at this point I think I know the line of argument he will attempt to make. If I’m correct, I have already answered it many times, over some 28 years.

15:49 The disunity argument [is that] people who accept sola Scriptura disagree, therefore Scripture alone is insufficient as the sole infallible rule of faith.

It’s only one problem of many (I wrote a book called, 100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura), but we don’t even have to frame this objection in that way. We can simply say, “the Protestant system by its very nature produces hundreds of competing sects. There is no such thing as denominationalism in the Bible; nor is there an acceptance of the hundreds of falsehoods necessarily present in Protestantism (contrary to the biblical notion of ‘one truth’), based on the law of contradiction.” It’s the denominationalism that is the unbiblical scandal; however it came about. Again, falsehood never helped anyone. It is massively present in Protestantism (wherever one may locate it), by virtue of the laws of contradictions and of logic. This is not a good thing. And it’s not a biblical thing. See my latest article on the topic.

16:45 you can point to any number of sedevacantists and the anti-pope sects in Roman Catholicism.

It’s clear to one and all that Catholicism is a system that has a pope and that he is the leader of the Church, who should be granted extraordinary reverence as such. That is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. The sedevacantists and the pope-bashers, therefore, are plainly not in line with the teachings of their own professed Church. They have rejected it, which is possible for anyone in any group: to be dissidents or heterodox (rebels or radicals), as defined by their own professed tradition.

With Protestantism it’s entirely different. Contradictions and differences of opinion are institutionalized. A Zwinglian who denies the Real Presence in the Eucharist is neither dissenting against his own Protestant sub-tradition, nor against Protestantism-at-large. He or she is allowed — indeed, encouraged! — to have this opinion, and it’s perfectly fine! That’s what they find in the Bible. But Lutherans or High Church Anglicans, who believe in the Real Presence, are perfectly in accord with Protestant principles, too. That’s what they find in the Bible. This is how the very core principles of Protestantism lead to ecclesial chaos and theological relativism.

Someone is necessarily wrong here: either the Zwinglian or the Lutherans + Anglicans.  Either one is wrong or both are, but they can’t both be right, because the views can’t be harmonized. This is the fundamental difference. Everyone knows that the extremists on the far left and far right of the Catholic Church (i.e., individual Catholics) are out-of-sync with their own Church, and everyone knows what the Catholic Church teaches (a pope, who is to be reverenced). It’s not a one-to-one straight comparison.

18:44 So now since that is a comparable system to sola Scriptura, we can therefore see that there are numerous groups that accept ecclesialism as a system and yet they disagree on a lot, and therefore ecclesialism by the same token of the argument against unity, against sola Scriptura . . . is insufficient as a rule of faith.

It’s not at all. There is no equivalence, I I just showed. There is an essential difference. We can only go by what any given Christian group “officially” teaches: in the “books.” We can’t go by every wacko extremist who was once part of a group and left it; if not formally, then in spirit. And, sure enough, I did know where Paul was going with this. I have exposed its fallacies since at least 1996:

Dissident Catholics: Disproof of Catholic Doctrinal Unity? [6-3-96]

Have Heterodox Catholics Overthrown Official Doctrine? (vs. Eric Svendsen, James White, Phillip Johnson, & Andrew Webb) [6-3-96]

Dialogue on the Logic of Catholic Infallible Authority [6-4-96]

Church Authority & Certainty (The “Infallibility Regress”) [July 2000; some revisions on 12-8-11]

The Protestant “Non-Quest” for Certainty [3-15-06; abridged and links added on 7-12-20]

Ecclesiological Certainty (?) & the “Infallibility Regress” [5-22-03 and 10-7-08]

Glorying in Uncertainty in Modern Protestantism (Dialogue with a Calvinist) [11-11-09]

Does Church Infallibility Require Infallible Catholics? [6-8-10]

Radically Unbiblical Protestant “Quest for Uncertainty” [2-12-14]

St. Paul: Orthodox Catholic or Theological Pluralist? [12-28-18]

Catholicism, Protestantism, and Theological Liberalism [Facebook, 7-28-22]

So, nothing new under the sun; but E for effort!

31:30 In their own paradigms the scale of the differences between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, even if they’re less in number, are orders of magnitude more serious because they involve anathema; they involve damnation, whereas even most very serious disagreements between mainstream Protestant dominations they don’t. [The] vast majority of us don’t consider each other to be damned for differences of opinion.

First of all, we don’t consider the Orthodox “damned”. We say that they possess seven valid sacraments; therefore, that they are brothers and sisters in Christ; part of the Body of Christ. That’s as far from “damned” as is imaginable. Protestants are also our brothers in Christ and in the Body of Christ, by virtue of a valid sacrament of baptism. The Council of Trent taught that. Some Orthodox (they have 17 competing jurisdictions) deny that we have valid sacraments or even grace, and some don’t. So they are a mixed bag.

Secondly, an anathema is not the same thing as being damned. See:

Anathemas of Trent & Excommunication: An Explanation [5-20-03, incorporating portions from 1996 and 1998; abridged on 7-30-18]

Only Catholics Issue Anathemas Against Dissenters? (vs. James White) [3-12-04]

Do Catholics Excommunicate People to Hell? [2007]

Bible on Authority to Anathematize & Excommunicate [2009]

Did Trent Anathematize All Protestants? + Dialogue on the Definition of “Christian” (Are Catholics Included?) [6-5-10]

Catholicism & Non-Catholic Salvation (Vs. Gavin Ortlund) + How Early Protestants Widely Damned Other Protestants Who Held Different Theological Views [2-9-24]

Thirdly, obviously, Protestants generally don’t anathematize other Protestants because they couldn’t care less that they disagree. It’s a matter of indifference among Protestants to disagree (therefore sanction falsehood) on a host of issues. They can’t even come to agreement on whether abortion is murder and whether marriage is between a man and a woman. Unless Paul’s church is one of the Anglican break-off groups, it accepts both things. Abortion is fine and dandy; so is active homosexual sex. So says official Anglicanism (the largest and longest-lasting version of it), supposedly in the name of Christianity and the Bible.

The video at this point became so rambling and incoherent that I couldn’t make out what he was arguing, and after about fifteen minutes of trying to, I gave up. I find it to be pretty much true across the board, that video presentations are far less coherent, sensible, and documented than written material. Form and structure are badly needed.

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Photo credit: PIRO4D (8-1-16) [Pixabay / Pixabay Content License]

Summary: Anglican “The Other Paul” claims that Catholics are as divided as Protestants. I show how the principles are entirely different, & that Protestantism institutionalizes error.

 

 

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