Postmodernism and Roman Catholic Apologetics

I came across this interesting quote by D. A. Carson which reminded me of the rhetoric of Roman Catholic apologists who claim that the only way to have true knowledge of scripture is to have an absolute and infallible knowledge of scripture.  Since most protestants do not claim to have absolute and infallible certainty of the correctness of their interpretation of God’s word, this is said to be proof that an infallible magisterium is necessary for any true and sufficient knowledge of God’s word.

(As an aside, I drew attention to this very topic here, and also pointed out here that an “infallible” magisterium hasn’t really solved the “problem” of disagreements about the interpretation of the rule of faith, whether that infallible rule is scripture alone or scripture + tradition.)

I found it funny that Roman Catholic apologists sound a lot like postmodernists.  For fun, try replacing the word “postmodernist” with “Roman Catholic apologist” as you read this quote:

One of the most common devices in the postmodernist’s arsenal is the absolute antithesis: either we may know something absolutely and exhaustively, or our vaunted knowledge is necessarily relative and personal.  Once that antithesis is established, it is so terribly easy to demonstrate that we do not and cannot have absolute and exhaustive knowledge about anything – after all, we are not God, and omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God – that the alternative pole of the antithesis must be true.  But in fact, the antithesis is false.  It is easy enough to demonstrate the wide range of things we  may know truly without knowing them exhaustively.  When we speak of “certainty” or “confident knowledge,” we are not claiming what can properly belong only to omniscience.  The falsity of the antithesis underlying so much of postmodernist theory must constantly be exposed.

D. A. Carson, “Is the Doctrine of Claritas Scripturae Still Relevant Today?,” in Collected Writings on Scripture (Crossway, 2010), pg. 190.

Of course “true” and “sufficient” are equated in the rhetoric with “absolute” and “infallible,” a univocity that cannot be upheld.  Instead we trust that the Holy Spirit himself will guide us into a true and sufficient knowledge of God’s word.  Jesus, after all, promised us this much (John 16:13).

Rev. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA