3 Reasons Why Catholics and Protestants Interpret Scripture Differently
While Protestants are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Catholic professor Matthew Levering is asking a basic-level question:
Was the Reformation a mistake?
In his similarly titled book, Levering makes it clear he believes “they were right in seeking reform” (31). Yet he does “consider that the Reformers made some doctrinal mistakes” (15), and addresses nine of them. Over the past few weeks we’ve engaged a few of his arguments here and here.
Concluding the book, Kevin Vanhoozer offers a “Mere Protestant Response.” He evaluates Levering’s theological method in establishing Catholic doctrine as biblical, showing why Protestants and Catholics interpret Scripture differently.
Here are three important differences highlighted by Vanhoozer.
1) The Locus of Authority
The main interpretive difference between Protestants and…
Was the Reformation a Mistake? An Excerpt by Catholic Theologian Matthew Levering
I hold that the Reformers made mistakes, but that they chose to be reformers was not a mistake.
In 1517, the Church was in need of a spiritual and theological reform. In today’s excerpt from Was the Reformation a Mistake? Why Catholic Doctrine Is Not Unbiblical, Matthew Levering provides the backdrop to the Reformation and reasons why the Reformers were not wrong to challenge the Church in Rome.
Before proceeding, let me make some additional observations about whether the Reformation was a “mistake,” as my book’s title asks in light of the five-hundredth anniversary. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’s preaching of the kingdom of heaven includes his sobering parable of the wheat and the weeds.…
[Common Places] New Voices for Theology: Jeremy R. Treat’s “The Crucified King”
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” —William B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”
Yeats probably did not have the academy and church in mind when he penned these lines in 1919, but he could have, for theological things, and the gospel itself, have been coming apart for centuries. Theology itself has come apart: what God joined together—doctrine and life—has been cast asunder, into the academy and church respectively. And, within the academy, the disciplines of biblical theology and systematic theology go their separate ways, speaking different languages. Even worse, the story and logic of the gospel have come apart in both the church and the academy, with some Christians focusing on the significance of Jesus’ death with its promise of heaven (cross) and others on Jesus’ message about the reign of God with its promise of justice…
Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy: Kevin Vanhoozer and “Literary Meaning, Literal Truth, and Literate Interpretation in the Economy of Biblical Discourse”
At the 65th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society three weeks ago we introduced a new timely resource releasing today, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. It represents some of the finest, cogent work on evangelical reflection on inerrancy.
Two weeks ago we gave you a taste of Al Mohler's and Peter Enn's main arguments. Last week we introduced the international perspective of Michael Bird from Australia. Today we are providing the final two perspectives, who are interested in renewing and recasting inerrancy for our modern day, beginning with Kevin Vanhoozer.
Vanhoozer brings a special blend of linguistic and literary acumen along with hermeneutical and theological dexterity. This experience with linguistics and textual literacy in the hermeneutical enterprise leads Vanhoozer to suggest that what the evangelical community needs now is a so-called “well-versed” inerrancy.
As Vanhoozer explains, “Accounts of inerrancy are well-versed, first, when they understand ‘the way the words go.’ Well-versed inerrancy acknowledges that biblical truth involved form as well as content. Well-versed inerrancy thus takes account of the importance of rhetoric as well as logic for ‘rightly handling the word of truth.’” (204) He also “gives priority to the Bible’s own teaching about God, language, and truth. ‘Well-versed’ thus stands for ‘the whole counsel of God’—the overarching story line of the Bible that features the economic Trinity,” which constitutes God’s words and acts in history. (205)
In light of his “well-versed” inerrancy, Vanhoozer proposes this definition: “to say that Scripture is inerrant is to confess faith that the authors speak truth in all things they affirm (when they make affirmations), and will eventually be seen to have spoken truly (when readers read rightly).” (207)
Since as a linguist Vanhoozer doesn’t waste words, each one in his definition is pregnant with meaning, making this a potent, packed definition of inerrancy. We cannot reach inside and tease out the meaning of every word, that’s what the book is for. But I did want to draw attention to this part of the definition: “In all things they affirm.”