You wrote here:
“the Reformed Protestant claims that he only accepts as true what is written in Scripture… He also says that this can only be determined by means of grammatical-historical interpretation of the Bible…he also insists that the literal meaning of the Bible is “one” (WCF I.ix): that is, what God means or intends by a passage is the same as what the human author meant or intended by it.”
Here I think you take the meaning of the Westminster Confession completely out of context. Jesus Christ is the Word incarnate. In Him we have two natures (divine and human) and yet He is One person (The Second Person of the Holy Trinity). In this, you seem to be a Scriptural Nestorian. There is only One Truth (Christ). How is the Westminster Catechism in denial of that reality?
Furthermore, your point about the “literal meaning” of the Bible seems to me a strawman unless you clarify your point. Poetic literature for example is not “literal”. When the Scripture teaches that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, I do not start counting.
“Now, all this being the case, how is this not an assurance of the truth that is obtained “by sight”? In truth, this entire methodology revolves around man … Man becomes the measure of the content of revelation.”
Here you completely exclude any operation of the Holy Spirit in the mind of the believer when he/she looks at Scripture. Are you maintaining that Protestants or even individual RC’s do not possess the guidance of the Spirit in any measure? That is not official RC dogma in my understanding. Therefore, your point here is another strawman because you ignore the agency of the Third Person of the Trinity which is most certainly not by sight. If Protestants believed what you assert, handing out Bibles is all that evangelism and discipleship would require but Reformed Christians do not act thus. Hence, you have failed to grasp the Reformed position.
“I would assert that this Protestant model is far better described as “assurance which is by sight” precisely because it is an assurance founded upon what a man sees for himself in the Bible.”
The Reformed position is akin to the Bereans in Acts 17 who were called “noble minded” because they searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul was teaching was correct. I have yet to hear a RC refute that except with sophistry that centres on epistemological quandaries that deliberately ignore any action of the Holy Spirit as you have.
“In contrast, the Catholic is expected to assent to things he might not even understand. For example, I do not understand the doctrine of transubstantiation. I have read multiple explanations, but I still don’t get it. I have read St Thomas’ explanation, but it’s way over my head. Nevertheless, I believe it because the Catholic Church teaches it: I believe it by faith. How is this “assurance which is by sight”?”
I accept the mystery of the Divine Nature of the Trinity and the Hypostatic Nature of Christ as wonderful examples of grasping things by faith. If you are unaware of this, please let me educate you that Protestants do affirm these doctrines. If you are aware of this, then I find your argumentation disingenuous. Which is it? Yours is an “assurance by sight” because of what you believe about the Magisterium. The Pope is the “Holy Father” to you and cannot err in essential pronouncements. You SEE the Vicar of Christ leading your church and RC’s argue that without such a visible perpetual office we would be lost. I do not SEE the head of the Church because it is Christ but nevertheless, I believe He is still leading despite all the Roman challenges to create doubt with “how do you know …” questions.
I also believe as Calvin taught, in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in a fashion closer to the Easter understanding which is left to mystery rather than the precision attempted by the doctrine of transubstantiation. That Thomas Aquinas even tried to explain it speaks to his over-reaching rationalism and implicit faith in Natural Law.
“And yet Christ actually was visible on this earth, and many of His disciples abandoned Him because of what He infallibly taught in John 6:30-71. All but a handful of them disappeared at the crucifixion. St Peter denied that he even knew Him. St Thomas flatly said he wouldn’t believe without tangible proof. The Israelites saw the plagues on Egypt, and they saw the parting of the Red Sea, and they heard the Voice of the Living God forbidding them from worshiping other gods, and they still made the golden calf.”
ALL these examples stem from a time BEFORE the Holy Spirit was given and before Christ’s Person was fully revealed, therefore I find your argument very weak. Is the fact that Peter denied Christ proof that he or his alleged successors could err again or that the Roman See is therefore fallible? You would of course argue to the contrary claiming that the Holy Spirit would not allow such a thing but that seems to be as far as you allow the power of the Holy Spirit to reliably operate. Protestants hold that Christians have the gift of the Spirit and hear Christ’s voice. If He were physically present, the Holy Spirit would assure that all those called by His Name would come to Him as Jesus promised in John 6.
“So we see that things should not be expected to be “clear and easy” simply because the Magisterium occasionally makes infallible proclamations concerning faith and morals.”
Yes, it would be. If I accepted Roman authority as RC’s do, there would be no question that I would accept all her teachings. It is simply nonsensical to affirm the authority of the Magisterium and then not accept her pronouncements. That is “clear and easy”. Furthermore, there are aspects of Scripture which I find difficult to understand and doctrines which I have difficulty submitting to but nevertheless I strive to do so.
“It appears that Zoltan is a presuppositionalist. But his assertion here is incorrect. We know, apart from any faith proposition, that a whole is greater than any of its constituent parts. We know, apart from any faith proposition, that “A” and “non-A” cannot both be said to be true at the same time and in the same respect. We know, apart from any faith proposition, that the sun is shining in the sky.”
We do “know” these things at one level because we are made in God’s image but a faith proposition rests at a more basic level of which you seem to be unaware given your natural law presuppositions. First, we have to believe that what we sense actually corresponds to reality. Is this KNOWN without contingency? Eastern religions often assert that what we see is illusion and that what is real is not to be grasped with the normal senses. Hindu’s would argue that 1 + 1 = 1. Are you aware of this? As for A and non-A, you presuppose here that finite man knows how to completely define terms. If you know something is A then it follows it cannot be non-A. However, if you have inadequate understanding of either term, then your conclusions would be erroneous. Therefore, since we are finite and dealing with limited knowledge, it is entirely reasonable to hold an apparent truth provisionally in certain areas. In this way, the natural mind cannot comprehend that God can be One and yet Three Persons. It SEEMS a contradiction and we require God’s special revelation to grasp this truth.
In our knowledge, we must have “faith” that God created a reasonable universe because of His very Nature. That this is not self-evident is abundantly clear in the teachings of many pagan religions where deities were most often seen as capricious or dualistic, would you not agree? This is why the Scriptures describe unbelievers as “groping in the dark” or “not knowing their right hand from their left”. Without some “faith” presupposition, we are left with Menos paradox.
“The Magisterium does not promise to do such a thing… The Magisterium does not exist for the sake of answering just any question. It is not a Magic 8-Ball for theology. There will always be questions that it does not (and cannot) answer, precisely because God is infinite.”
Here I think you are nit-picking. When I used the term “all” I did not mean every minute detail so allow me to clarify. My statement was referring to the more major quandaries; anything that she deems is essential. Are you asserting that Rome does not or cannot rule on these infallibly? Remove the word “all” if you wish and my point stands. Whatever is essential to believe, Rome promises to sort that out infallibly if you wish to coin it that way. Now I believe that the Church has ruled on certain things authoritatively because those pronouncements are thoroughly scriptural. However, the RCC has regrettably become more Roman and less catholic when she pronounces on things like the immaculate conception of Mary.
“Scripture does indeed command us to submit to earthly authorities. But Zoltan erroneously identifies the Magisterium’s authority with that of mere human institutions (to whom we may say (verse 29), when necessary, “We ought to obey God rather than men”). But the Church is not a mere human institution. It is the Body of Christ. Consequently the two cases are not congruous, and the fact that we may under certain grave circumstances disobey earthly authorities does not mean that the Church’s teaching concerning faith and morals is fallible.”
Here you beg the central question of authority. As a Protestant, I maintain that the Church has real and secondary authority to Scripture. Her authority is, however, fallible because she is the body of Christ as you say and NOT Christ Himself. Church history is very messy and at one point the majority held to the Arian heresy. In Revelation, Jesus spoke to the seven Churches and rebuked some of them for holding to false teaching or tolerating immorality. How can this be possible if the Church could never err? Was Jesus uttering idle threats when He said He would remove their lampstands from His midst if they did not repent? Could there be any application of these epistles to Rome?
It seems you have missed my central point here which was not to argue the nature of Church authority at this stage but rather to illustrate that even though one may decide to disobey an authority on the basis of conscience, then that does not make previous submission to said authority “faux submission” as David Meyer asserted. Do you grant this point? Moreover, I would point out that if one states “I ought to obey God rather than men” are they not really saying they must obey their own understanding of God’s commands rather than men? Are they not therefore only submitting to themselves as Meyer argues?