Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Permissable disagreement on non-essentials

The protestant doctrine of "permissable disagreement on non-essentials" is an admission that their interpretation of Holy Scripture, on these issues, is not guided by the Holy Spirit, but is personal. If the claim is made that the interpretation of non-essentials is of the Holy Spirit, then they are claiming that the Holy Spirit does not teach the truth, but is self-contradictory. Either the Holy Spirit teaches the truth, which is singular and non-contradictory, or their interpretation is personal and not of the Holy Spirit.

Rather a huge admission!

I will assume a protestant believes he is guided by the Holy Spirit in essentials, while admitteding he is not guided by the Holy Spirit in non-essentials. Because the Holy Spirit teaches only truth, it would follow that all who turn to the scriptures and are guided by the Holy Spirit in understanding them, must come to the same conclusion, otherwise it is their own opinion, rather than the meaning of the word of God.

Now, because protestant A's non-essential always seems to be protestant B's essential, we need to filter out and discover what all protestants believe in common, to see what they all agree to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. It will not do to exclude groups who disagree on their own "essential" because the others are also following the same rule of faith. Therefore, to me, the outsider, all claims have equal validity.

The only doctrinal issue of faith that I observe that seems to be universally held by all protestants, is the rejection of the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Thus, since all protestants agree on this, it would follow that this is the only essential article of faith for protestant Christianity (what is remarkable about this is it is a denial of an article of faith, a negation, rather than an affirmation of anything!).

Yet, by the same rule of faith, to be fair to the outsider looking in, we have to set against this the members of the Catholic Church who do accept this authority. Thus, it logically follows that either this is also a non-essential, and therefore there are no essentials, or it is an essential.

If it is an essential, here are the two choices in how we decide which answer is true.

A. God has given us an authority that can answer infallibly all questions pertaining to what is necessary for our salvation in His Name, or
B. God has left us on or own, with nothing that can be known with certainty of what is necessary for our salvation.

I think the choice is clear!


  1. Hey, Mark.

    Interesting insights on the permissable disagreement. I actually hadn't heard of such an idea although it makes sense from that side of the Tiber.

    If you hold the term Protestant to those churches that went into schism during the 1500s, the two pillars of belief are sola scriptura (the Bible as the sole infallible source and rule of faith and practice) and sola fide (justification by faith and not by works).

    If you stick with rejection of Papal authority, then you have to lump in the Eastern Orthodox churches in with Protestants. With the former, you still have valid sacraments and doctrine (mostly). With the latter, you get the multiplication of interpretation. I've heard others describe the Protestant perspective as a personal magesterium.

  2. Hey O, good to hear from you!

    If you haven't seen it, you might want to read Fr. Bart de la Torre's "Seven Principals of Protestantism" - found at

    ultimately, I think protestantism is a "magisterium of a church of one"