Tonight I attended a theological debate between Dr. Eric Svendsen and Fr. Mitchell Pacwa on the issue of ultimate authority within the Christian faith – with Svendsen affirming the Sola Scriptura position of Protestantism (that is, the Bible alone) and Fr. Pacwa upholding (whether he meant to or not) that of “Sola Ecclesia” position of Roman Catholicism (that is, the Roman Catholic church alone).
Rather than attempt to give a point-by-point summation (which has already been done elsewhere, and far more succinctly than I daresay I would be capable of), I can only offer my own sense of things – for I was quite weary from the day`s/week`s labors and I fear that my faculties were not up to my own operational standard.
Svendsen made his case in a very precise and logical manner, unpacking Scriptural proof-texts as support for his own position as well as bringing forth numerous evidences from the texts of the “Church Fathers” as well as the numerous internal inconsistencies of Roman Catholic positions documented through the eons of Time.
Pacwa utilized a strange (though interesting) rhetorical tactic of playing his case more to the perceived sensibilities of his audience, rather than a reasoned interaction with the propositions set forth by his opponent.
The mixture of these two combined for a fascinating conversation and robust exchange of ideas, which was only limited by the time constraints and/or format of the deliberations.
Even so, there was palpable tension coming from the largely Roman Catholic audience… whether it was the frequent under-the-breath mutterings and scoffing which would catch my ear as Dr. Svendsen spoke, or the egregious fawning that seemed to follow upon any point Fr. Pacwa made. I was not the only one who noticed this stark incongruity.
It was as though these audience members were not so much interested in gaining a deeper understanding of these issues through contention and dialogue, but merely to see their guy “win” against the “other guy” (serving to validate their beliefs, I reckon).
Upon further consideration, I suppose this is quite important to a Roman Catholic… for, if “my guy” (that is, the Protestant) fails to adequately defend the position of Sola Scriptura, it is only he that is mistaken or has failed to capably represent those whom are in agreement with him by conscience. Scripture is not is bound by humanity`s frailty, not dependent upon it for validation. In fact, it is quite the other way `round.
However, if “Holy Rome” (which claims divinely-appointed infallibility) has been shown to be in error and/or contradiction with itself… then what is to keep the ardent Roman Catholic from nihilism?
On an informal note, I was glad to finally meet Alan & Aubrey Maricle. He is someone whose site I have followed for quite a long time, and it was good to finally put a person to the words and introduce myself as a long-time follower of his many spirited exchanges.