50 Responses

  1. deti

    Well, this is a sticky wicket, isn’t it? At least it is when you have Catholics and Orthodox folks talking to evangelical Protestants and mainline Protestants.

    At least Catholicism seems to be uniform. When you talk to Prots, you get a dozen different answers on any particular scripture, and that’s from the people who halfway kinda know what they’re talking about. The rest haven’t cracked open a Bible or heard any kind of theological teaching in 5 years or more.

    As an aside, there’s an epidemic of divorce and remarriage even among fundies, Charismatics and evangelical Prots. I don’t see how someone like Paula White or Joyce Meyer or Charles Stanley or John Hagee can ever preach on marriage and be taken seriously. White and Stanley are divorced but not remarried. Meyer is on her second husband. Hagee is divorced and remarried. All are in high profile, active preaching/teaching ministries among fundies and Prots. And these are just examples.

    the problem in the Christomanosphere, and perhaps you’ve said this, is that people on the sites and blogs are all talking about what this or that scripture means; and among the arguments, one is right and the other is wrong. There is no real uniform teaching among prots and fundies; and it’s a real problem. It really is, particularly in the CMS when we’re talking about marriages ending and what is the future for the ex H and ex W. There are a lot of men out there who aren’t comfortable with the orthodox answer, which is: divorce is never allowed under any circumstances; and there are some Catholics who hold that divorce is only allowed for adultery. But in either case even if divorce is allowed, remarriage is never permitted while the ex spouse lives. This is a hard teaching because if you divorce it means no church remarriage and life long celibacy, in order to stay faithful to scripture and church teaching.

  2. Non Sola Scriptura | Cail Corishev

    […] Novaseeker had a similar inspiration to write on the same topic.  Check it out; he goes over the history of Sola Scriptura and covers the problems with it more […]

  3. deti

    I’m a prot, I know many prots and Catholics. About 40% are divorced; almost all of them, men and women, are on second/third marriages.

    I see from the most liberal reading of the Sermon on the Mount that divorced is allowed (not blessed, not approved, but ALLOWED) only for adultery. It was probably allowed simply because the betrayal is so great and so fundamental as to prevent the H and W from ever living together in peace again. (and if you really want to get technical about it, only men could get a divorce from a wife; a wife couldn’t divorce a man.)

    But I see nowhere, nowhere at all, that remarriage is allowed while the spouse still lives. I see Mary Magdalene was forgiven her sin; but scripture and history don’t record she ever married or remarried.

  4. Cail Corishev

    Funny, I just wrote an article on the same topic for the same reason, though we took different angles on it. But yes, ultimately, I can quote Aquinas and someone else can quote Sheila Gregoire and someone else can quote Oprah on what Ephesians says about marriage. If there’s no authority to say which one of them is right, how can we ever settle it? Mostly we don’t. People who think like I think choose to believe the guy I quote, but I have no way to convince the people who prefer Oprah’s take and believe she’s just as capable of interpreting scripture as a Doctor of the Church.

    Of course, people who appeal to scripture are appealing to the authority of the Church, because the Church made the scriptures available to them in the first place. So they accept the Church’s authority to create the book and maintain its integrity down through the centuries, just not to interpret it.

  5. Jehu

    I wrote on this a while back on my own blog
    http://chariotofreaction.blogspot.com/2010/04/sola-scriptura-or-solo-scriptura.html
    Although I’m Protestant, I’m of the opinion that most Christians today—and pretty much all elite Christians and seminaries, are insufficiently respectful of tradition. Even when you think—this is black and white, it’s here in Scripture so I’m correct, you should be very wary indeed if the implication of your ‘discovery’ is that pretty much every Christian pre-1950 was wrong.

  6. Learner

    “Sola scriptura itself leads to the proliferation of alien viewpoints, the alienation of believers from one another, and the idea that belief is personal — all of which contradicts the clear history of Christianity where belief was collective, enforced (in terms of boundaries, and allowing considerable diversity within these bounds), and taught, and where the journey with the Spirit was not principally a hermeneutical one, but rather more a sanctifying one through synergistic praxis.”

    Just wanted to say that this is beautiful 🙂

  7. sunshinemary

    I understand and even agree to a certain extent with some of the criticisms you’ve made of Sola Scriptura. I could accept that the Church needs a uniform authoritative body to help us interpret Scripture. The problem that I had with Catholicism (and recall that I used to be Catholic, sort of) is that so many of their beliefs appear to be pulled out of thin air. It’s not that the Pope was interpreting Scripture for us; it’s that some ideas are not in any of the Scriptures at all. Why should I believe doctrine that cannot be found in any Scripture?

    As a result of this devolution of authority ultimately to the individual (which is an authority every remaining Christian in the West seems to exercise when he or she elects to “change churches”),

    Correct me if I am wrong; did you not change churches? From Catholic to Orthodox? How did you decide to do that? Did a higher authority or governing body instruct you or did you elect to do so as an individual? Were you not following Scripture, as in Philippians 2:12:

    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

    I’m not part of the Christian manosphere, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but I think trying to make an issue out of Sola Scriptura will be fruitless. There are Catholics, Messianic Jews, Orthodox, and every shade of Protestant; you won’t get everyone under one umbrella on this issue and there is zero chance the Christo-manosphere as a whole will ever agree on the subject.

    For me personally, a far bigger concern is that Scripture is the absolute foundation of all my beliefs. Therefore, to write the essays I post on my blog, I must refer to the Scriptures on which I’m basing my thoughts. The problem arises when male commenters ask questions or want me to defend my position and I must explain the Scriptural basis of what I’m saying. This gets uncomfortably close to violating 1 Timothy 2:12:

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet

    Here is Cane Caldo’s comment to me on explaining Scripture to men who have apparently not read the Bible too much:

    By God, I would be offended! That ought to be a stripe on a man’s back to have to be told by a woman that they have to follow God. And that’s if you’re doing it right. There are times when God allows women rule over men, but that is a source of shame to those men. Men who don’t lead forthrightly should at least have the sense to be ruled in modesty, and modesty means quiet.

    In other words, I ought to shut up already. And he may be right. 🙂

    Anyway, your essay was an interesting read even though I don’t entirely agree with you.

    1. Cail Corishev

      I don’t think quoting Scripture is wrong; it’s just that Sola Scriptura makes it terribly ineffective. You can quote a verse to support your argument, and someone else can claim the same verse supports his opposite argument. Without an authority to tell you who’s right, you’re at an impasse. Without that authority, quoting Scripture is really only preaching to the choir.

      The problem that I had with Catholicism (and recall that I used to be Catholic, sort of) is that so many of their beliefs appear to be pulled out of thin air.

      It can seem that way when you haven’t been properly educated. As a cradle Catholic growing up in the 70s and 80s (we’re about the same age, I think), it seemed that way to me, because we were too busy making macaroni pictures of Jesus to learn any real history of the Church. I’ve since learned that it all really does hang together, and no doctrine ever came out of thin air. Even doctrines that were officially defined relatively recently, such as the Immaculate Conception, were generally believed to be true for centuries before they were made settled dogma. (In fact, sometimes the reason for a doctrine to be defined by a Pope or Council was that a belief that had always been accepted in the past had come under attack from heretics, and had just never needed to be made official dogma before.)

      Anyway, if there’s some point of Catholic doctrine that seems like it came out of nowhere, the truth is that if you look into it, you’ll be surprised to find a long history of development and discussion, books written by saints down through the centuries, all tied back to references in Scripture.

      I wrote more about this on my blog, but: the key is that Jesus left us a lot more than the Scriptures. He also founded a Church, and not so we’d have people to eat donuts with on Sunday mornings. A main purpose of the Church was to bring the gospel to the nations, and presumably not just to drop off the books, but to teach them what it meant. You can’t teach something if you don’t have the authority to do so. The Church is here to teach us and administer the Sacraments. The Scriptures are part of what the Church has to teach us, but only part, because there is also oral tradition — most things weren’t written down back then, after all — and the further writings of the early Church Fathers who knew the Apostles, plus later saints canonized by this same Church, and so on. It all builds back to Jesus saying “on this rock.”

      1. sunshinemary

        we were too busy making macaroni pictures of Jesus to learn any real history of the Church.

        What, you too?! 🙂

  8. Escoffier

    Needless to say, this is a huge problem in philosophy as well, especially since so many of them wrote in a way that encourages a variety of interpretations. You can torture Plato into meaning almost anything you want him to mean.

  9. Will S.

    Confessional Protestant churches – Lutheran, Reformed, Reformed Baptist – are able to maintain Sola Scriptura without it necessarily resulting individualist interpretations, because they are guided by confessions and catechisms, so that their people understand why they interpret Scripture as they do. The difficulty, of course, is that some will disagree, and schism, and so even within traditionalist confessional Protestant traditions there is a proliferation of denominations, with differing interpretations of the confessions themselves.

    Nevertheless, there are a far smaller number of confessional Protestant denominations out there than the total number of the rest of Protestant denominations. So they (or rather we, I should say, since I’m Reformed) are hopefully doing something right. Not having anything other than mere ‘statements of faith’, if any creeds or confessions at all, it’s no wonder evangelicals have ended up endlessly splintered.

  10. Will S.

    Anyway, as regards the Christian manosphere, I don’t see any easy way out of the situation. Protestants will quote Scripture and/or confessions to back up their perspectives, and Catholics and Orthodox may dispute such interpretations, and/or quote their Magisteria, etc. While we would do well to avoid arguing with each other unnecessarily, wasting time and energy on such things, I can’t see any way for anyone whose worldview is shaped by their faith tradition’s particular interpretations (i.e. all of us who are believers; such is inevitable), to not default to backing up their positions by turning to such. And Protestants hold to Sola Scriptura, and while lamenting the multiplicity of myriad denominations that has resulted, will nevertheless continue to hold to it, so long as they remain Protestant. We can’t give it up; it’s part of us. 🙂

    1. Will S.

      Perhaps, then, we would do well to adopt a policy of glossing over such occurrences, and not getting bogged down by our inevitable disagreements over them. Then we can work together, to witness the Red Pill to the wider Christian world (and even the non-Christian world).

      1. Will S.

        ‘Witness’ is probably a poor choice of word, since by no means do I wish to equate what we’re doing to witnessing our Faith. ‘Testify’ might be better, because its usage in legal terms (‘testimony’) and otherwise make it less decidely religious (even though it can also be).

      2. Cail Corishev

        “Glossing over” is probably the best we can do. If someone structures his marriage around his personal interpretation of Scripture, it makes sense for him to say that’s his basis for it, and others who feel the same way will agree and they can discuss it further in that context. But he has to understand that others will step in with differing interpretations, at which point he has a choice: gloss over it and try to agree to disagree about the theology while discussing the rest, or get into a theological argument that derails the topic he was really trying to get at.

        And to be fair, it’s no different for us Catholics or Orthodox, unless we want to shut everyone else out of our discussions. We can say our interpretations carry the imprimatur of the Church, but non-believers will shrug that off and counter with their own interpretations, at which point we have the same choices: gloss over it or get bogged down in arguing.

        Unfortunately, sometimes the difference in interpretations encompasses the topic, so it can’t be glossed over. For instance, some people somehow think that when St. Paul said women should submit to their husbands, he meant wives should give them lists of chores to do so they can feel useful. You can’t gloss over that in a discussion of wifely submission, because it contradicts the entire concept. Sometimes you may just have to kick out the heretics and limit the discussion to people who agree on some basic principles.

        1. Will S.

          Agreed, CC, though I don’t think there’s any difference between confessional Prots and R.C.s/E.O.s on Pauline marital teachings; liberal mainline Prots, who are no more Christian than liberal Catholics, may certainly disagree with all of us, but they’re not believers, anyway, as far as I’m concerned; they’ve gone beyond the pale…

          1. Will S.

            No problem, B.; I’m pretty busy myself these days. Cheers!

  11. Anonymous Reader

    Then essentially you are saying that there should not be a CManosphere, but rather a Prot-Manosphere, a Catholic-Manosphere and an Orthodox-Manosphere. Within each there will of course be subsets – within the Catholic-Manosphere there will be a Latin-mass-Manosphere, for example, insisting that non-Latin-mass-Manospherians are not correctly following Catholic tradition; it is unlikely that liberation theology Catholics will become involved in the man/androsphere, but they would surely have a different view than Latin-mass adherents, as would those who revere Santa Muerte, and so forth, and so on. There’s intrinsically nothing wrong with this idea, really, because the C-manosphere is itself a subset of the larger man/androsphere. Let there be one, ten, many different subgroups of the man/androsphere, so long as they agree on broad issues then some progress will be made. The inevitable claims of “You lot are doing it all wrong!” will just have to be lived with; agreeing to disagree, rather than tearing into old fights over and over again. All that said, we must bear in mind that the entire man/androsphere is still basically a niche within the universe of thought.

    Considering how unlikely it is that even one church of any denomination will be addressing man/androsphere issues in the next 5 years or so, it is even more unlikely that any denominational leadership will even acknowledge these issues. So focusing on denominational orthodoxy may not be all that useful, as a general thought.

    More broadly, there are demographic issues at work. Most of the growth of the Roman Catholic denomination is in Latin America and Africa. The issues that men face in the Anglosphere are not necessarily the same as those faced by men in Peru, or Nigeria. The reverse is also very much true; there’s not a lot of concern about witches and witchcraft in the industrial North, at least not yet. To the over all RC denomination, the concerns of the RC-man/androsphere (Latin Mass and others) will not be a very high priority.

    The Orthodox have other demographic issues, perhaps typified by the situation of the Halki seminary. Populations in those parts of Eastern Europe that are traditionally Orthodox are in decline, for various reasons. The larger Orthodox church (Greek, Russian, etc.) may also not be all that interested in man/androsphere issues. In Russia, for example, women have 13 abortions for every 10 live births, in the aggregate. In the face of that sort of demographic disaster, frivorce will of necessity be considered less important.

    Given the reality that man/androsphere issues are still rather a niche, than a broad concern, perhaps as others have commented it would be more useful for C-man/androsphere writers to concentrate on areas of agreement, and let disagreements be minimized.

    Finally, I would have a care regarding zealousness in the enforcing of “orthodoxy”. In the last 1,000 years, there are abundant examples of where that leads, in Christendom.. The “Beziers solution” is always a temptation to men in a hurry, regardless of religious tradition, even if only in a metaphorical sense. It seems to me that re-fighting the 30 Years War would not be useful for anyone concerned about civilization, although I suppose the feminists would enjoy the spectacle. That fact alone should give pause, surely?

    1. Will S.

      Why not acknowledge the existence of both? The manosphere itself is a multiplicity of POVs, a clearinghouse of information and perspectives, is language I believe B. himself has used. Since divisions exist within the Christian faith itself, why shouldn’t those be reflected in any pan-Christian endeavour? Doesn’t mean we need to let those derail us, though.

      I think we should think in terms of spiritual warfare, and also, frankly, consider the example of real war: did Christians in WWII in any given European country with the war on their soil then bother to spend a lot of time in infighting between Christians? Or did they instead band together and present united fronts? Notwithstanding those lamentable ones that bended the knee to Baal, er, Hitler, did not the rest tend to oppose the Nazis together, and set aside doctrinal bickering?

      Well, we are at war. We can’t help but be part of each of our distinctive traditions, with their differences, but we don’t have to fight each other.

  12. Escoffier

    “spiritual warfare” is precisely the terms on which modernity conquered ancient and medieval thought, your analogy is perfect.

    1. Will S.

      Not sure I quite follow your meaning, Escoffier; could you elaborate a bit?

      Although evangelicals, who are subconsciously far more modernist than they realize, are fond of the term, I still think it has validity, when understood in correct context. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…”, as St. Paul said…

      1. Escoffier

        The early moderns saw themselves as waging spiritual war against Christianity and the Bible. Our texts against THE test, so to speak. Our promises against His promise.

        Machiavelli, who has nothing explicitly good to say about Christianity, nonetheless borrowed from it (so he claims) the concept of “spiritual warfare” or propaganda. His analysis of the ancient world is that Christ–the “unarmned prophet”–was in fact unarmed only in the conventional sense. In fact, He was well armed–with words. Words defeated arms and only new words can defeat His words.

        Overcoming modernity will require another spiritual war.

        1. Will S.

          Agreed, Escoffier. Since we don’t wield the swords right now, let us hope the pen is still mightier, and that reason will prevail, ultimately.

  13. Myrddin

    The existence of multiple, contradictory interpretations does not rule out the existence of a true interpretation. Nor is tradition an easy solution: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans all claim to be the true line of tradition going back to the beginning. Whereas other denoms claim that lines of tradition are like the Pharisees: holding the traditions of men as the doctrine of God.

    The problem is not sola scriptura, else the RCC and EO would not have split. The problem is human nature. Each of us fancies himself like God, knowing good and evil.

  14. Slumlord

    Very, very good post, though the Trad Catholic is strong in you Nova.

    i don’t have time for a full exposition this morning but this is a topic I’ve thought about a lot.

    Ultimately there needs to be an authority.

    It’s the wrong way of looking at the problem. The problem is knowing what God actually wants instead of knowing whom to listen to. What we actually need is someone who never gets it wrong with regard to God’s intentions–it’s the problem of infallibility. Yep, there’s that dirty word.

    Ratzinger, prior to being pope, has written several very important essays on the topic. I’ll try to link them later today. In essence, he is not a big supporter of the authoritarian position, because he recognises that authority can be wrong, rather, his position is that (provided certain conditions are met) the Pope is never wrong when he pronounces on faith and morals. In other words, the Papal office is “protected” from saying something stupid by a charism of sorts.

    His argument is that the only reason we should obey the Pope is for the same reason we should obey a maths teacher when they pronounce 2+2=4. It’s not because of the “authority” of the maths teacher, rather the proposition being proposed is correct.

    Ratzingers view is that only the truth has authority and commands obedience. Not the Pope.

    This is why the beatification of Newman was so symbolic because it was Newman–a former Protestant–who got this right. In fact, I’d go so far as to say Newman never really became Catholic, or rather he remained a Protestant in a Catholic sort of way.

  15. Avadoro Worden

    Nova,

    Spengler if have read him is quite good at this stuff, i used to hang out there a long time ago.

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HI12Aa03.html

    It’s a rather brutal essay, poor yanks, but good.

    Quote:
    ********
    That is not quite true, I concluded in the August 29 essay; most Americans acknowledge the Bible as a supreme authority. But that is not quite the case if the Bible is to be taken “literally”, that is, the way an ignorant man would read it on the surface. In that case, the authority is not the Bible at all, but rather the authority of the ignoramus who reads it. This writer accepts the authority of the Bible, but confesses his inability to understand most of it without the assistance of learned commentators. Paradoxically, biblical literalism is a resentment-driven revolt against authority.

    Professor Mark Noll addressed the “scandal of the evangelical mind” in his eponymous book a decade ago. As religious historian Grant Wacker summed it up, “The problem, in short, is evangelicals’ appalling parochialism, their unwillingness to break out of the vast but all-too-comfortable ghetto of evangelical churches and colleges and publishing networks and engage an intellectual world long ago captured by [Karl] Marx and [Charles] Darwin and [Sigmund] Freud.” [1] But I am talking about something more workaday, namely the way in which daily evangelical practice turns millions of people into idiots.

    If one is compelled to take every word at face value, the reader stumbles into an impenetrable swamp in the first chapter of Genesis. This startling document breaks with all conceivable precedents in numerous ways. To begin with, it posits a god who merely is there, unlike the gods of the pagan world who are born and presumably also will die. The gods are immortal but not eternal and ultimately subject to fate. The biblical god stands outside of nature in a universe that knows no such thing as fate. The heavenly bodies, divine beings in all previous theogony, are set in the heavens as lamps and watches for the convenience of humankind. [2]
    ******
    The fact is that Americans are beholden to the Old World and will be until Americans can produce minds with the depth and scope of a Soren Kierkegaard, a Karl Barth or a Franz Rosenzweig. As I noted last year, the most important theologian working today in the United States might be an Orthodox Jew, Michael Wyschogrod. [6] It is well and good to throw off the authority of the compromised and often corrupt state churches of Europe, but the threadbare homespun of evangelical thinking is very, very far from being a replacement.

    It is not that Americans are inherently stupid. They make themselves stupid by resenting authorities that seem distant and alien to them. Until that changes, the evangelicals will be America’s non-commissioned officers, not its generals and statesmen.
    *******

  16. Rollo Tomassi

    I’m not part of the Christian manosphere, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight,..

    Noted without comment.

    1. sunshinemary

      Don’t flatter yourself that you’ve made some big, important discovery there, Rollo. I have publicly maintained that position since the very first days of my blog’s inception. I am a Christian and my site is Christian. I am not allied with anything other than the cause of Christ. Furthermore, it is pure hubris for a woman to believe she is part of the MANosphere, even if she is interested in some of same subjects.

  17. sunshinemary

    typo:
    some of same = some of THE same

  18. The Problem of Sola Scriptura, period « Nomad Forgotten

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  19. Jacob Ian Stalk

    @Sunshinemary

    “I am not allied with anything other than the cause of Christ.”

    Not to disturb the thread too much but I’m not sure about this claim. In your post Can marriages with no physical attraction be saved? Should they be? you wrote this:

    And if you are a Christian who believes this, but you cannot show me support for your position from the Bible, then you are playing Christianity a la carte, picking and choosing what you feel like believing; you are a Churchian and should repent of your heresy on your knees before God.

    There seems to be a dual allegiance to many of your positions – to Christ in ideation but to yourself in authority. From what I’ve read of the Christian Manosphere, most bloggers share this problem to some degree but the men seem to recognise it for what it is and break it down with humility. In much of your writing, however, there’s a certitude and defiance thatis at odds with the humility shown by others, which is perhaps why you’re concerned about violating 1 Tim 2:12. Rather than remain silent in the ‘sphere (in which you do have a stake by the fact of your presence) I encourage you to pray more on this point and self-correct if necessary.

  20. Jacob Ian Stalk

    There’s a coding error in my previous comment. The blockquote should end after the words “…on your knees before God”.

    Sorry for any confusion.

  21. Jacob Ian Stalk

    Here’s my previous comment again, hopefully with the correct code.

    @Sunshinemary

    “I am not allied with anything other than the cause of Christ.”

    Not to disturb the thread too much but I’m not sure about this claim. In your post Can marriages with no physical attraction be saved? Should they be?, you wrote this:

    “And if you are a Christian who believes this, but you cannot show me support for your position from the Bible, then you are playing Christianity a la carte, picking and choosing what you feel like believing; you are a Churchian and should repent of your heresy on your knees before God.

    There seems to be a dual allegiance to many of your positions – to Christ in ideation but to yourself in authority. From what I’ve read of the Christian Manosphere, most bloggers share this problem to some degree but the men seem to recognise it for what it is and break it down with humility. In much of your writing, however, there’s a certitude and defiance that’s at odds with the humility shown by the others, which is perhaps why you’re concerned about violating 1 Tim 2:12. Rather than remaining silent in the ‘sphere (in which you do have a stake by the fact of your presence) I encourage you to pray more on this point and self-correct if necessary.

  22. Jason

    I assume you’re already familiar with his work NovaSeeker, but it might be worthwhile for you to reflect upon some of Rod Dreher’s recent essays at the American Conservative, in which he has been discussing many of the same issues that you and others have hitherto discussed on this blog.

  23. Escoffier

    Thinking about this some more. I have nothing to add re: the theological aspect but rather some thoughts on the “problem of authority” as a whole.

    I definitely get B’s point. It’s a problem that exists in philosophy as well, with a peculiar twist. Philosophy as such is hostile or at least disdainful of authority as such. Philosophy is the quest for wisdom, for knowledge of the whole through unassisted (that is, unassisted by scripture, prophecy or any form of revelation) reason. Hence, philosophy refuses to accept claims made by authority until and unless philosophy itself can investigate and validate those claims. If it can neither prove nor disprove them, then philosophy’s position might be described as “agnostic.”

    I might go further in this vein and say that Socratic philosophy accepts almost nothing as proven and remains skeptical about everything. This is not the radical skepticism of Descartes, nor the superficial skepticism of certain post-moderns (“How do I know that if I crash my car into that wall, I won’t simply pass through?”). Rather, it is a “zetetic” or searching or longing skepticism that never stops ceasing to find the answers, contemplating individual beings, the whole, and the parts in relation to the whole. So, Socrates must remain open to the possibility that what he thinks he knows about gravity is wrong (as it in fact turned out to be). However, he is not going to jump off the Acropolis on that basis and expect to take flight. His investigation into things allows him to form probabilistic conclusions even as those conclusions must remain provisional. There is a famous line by some Church authority dismissing Galileo’s telescope: “If it contradicts Aristotle, it is false; if it confirms Aristotle, it is superfluous.” But as one of my teachers liked to say, Aristotle would have been the first to look through the telescope.

    The problem arises because philosophy is difficult and made more difficult by writers (above all Plato) who wrote in ways to partially obscure what they were saying. We all know that in any intellectual endeavor, some are going to do better than others, and only a few are going to do really well. This is a reflection of the ancient teaching that, in all times and places, only a few will ever be fit for philosophy. Hence given the inherent difficulty, those less versed in the subject need the help of those more versed. Plato and Xenophon had Socrates, after all. Plato founded a school which taught, among others, Aristotle. And Aristotle founded his own school (and taught Alexander the Great).

    So even the ancients, who first promulgated the teaching that philosophy and authority are oil and water, saw the value of “guidance.” In my own education, I have lived this. Among the schools I have studied at, one was “Protestant” in the sense that it emphasized everyone coming to the source material and giving their own thoughts, with the faculty as equals, not lecturers. (Even though all faculty members had PhDs, we were not to call them “Professor,” ever.) Another was much more directed and driven. On the whole, I found I got far more out of listening to more learned people tell me what they thought the books said than I did being cast onto deep waters by myself in a little boat. And it didn’t prevent me from thinking for myself either, I was able to formulate disagreements with them over the years in part by having something to react to. In terms of which was more helpful in figuring out what the source material actually said, there was no comparison.

    The bigger problem is, Who gets to be the authority? I mean, in terms of the scholars (to say nothing of authors) I look up to and trust the most, I believe they are good guides if not necessarily authorities. But that judgment presupposes that I accept my own inferiority of insight to theirs. Clearly, I wouldn’t accept their guidance if I thought I knew more than they do! However, that leads to the quandary of, who am I to judge? If I accept their guidance only because I see them as my superior, how can I—in my very inferiority—be a competent judge of who knows what they’re talking about and who does not? Then, not to be immodest, but there are people who know even less than me and among those people one finds many who are hostile to any authority or guidance, not out of philosophical principle but out of amour-propre. They are intuitively hostile to any external limitation on their own power, behavior, or thought.

    Ultimately, the people most worthy of being authorities, and most able to see the value from authority as such, are the ones least needful of authority. Conversely, those most needful of authority are typically the most hostile to it.

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  26. Warrior Jael

    I’d say the bigger problem is that while scripture addresses husbands and wives, it says little about men and women generically. A woman is not barred from being POTUS or a CEO as long as her husband approves.

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