Absolutizing the Vincentian Canon

I often come back to problems in the claim that a teaching of the church (or indeed, a church) is true because of the three criteria:  everywhere, always, and by all.   At its broadest level, it’s an unremarkable claim and I can see the truth in it.  If you read the book of Revelation, for example, and find space aliens that no one else find, then the tremendous burden of proof is on you.  On the other hand, when we try to justify a doctrine or a particular church expression by this claim, we run into huge problems.   So far I have only documented problems within the discourse of fellow-Christians.  The problem becomes far more radical if you move the claim outside the Christian religions and attempt to justify your faith by the mantra everywhere, always, and by all.

Judaism:  Whether or not one thinks that the Church replaces Israel or whatever, the fact remains that Jews can claim the always tenet in a way that Christians cannot.   In fact, the Christian scriptures seem to point back to the Hebrew canon (2 Timothy 3:16).  Anchorites love to say how this verse doesn’t prove sola scriptura, but whatever it means, it seems to think that one can find sufficiency in God’s revelation to Israel.  I think Judaism is inadequate, but not because of the Vincentian canon but by using eschatology*–looking forward to the Messiah.

Hinduism and Buddhism:  These religions are far older than Christianity and for a long time could also claim the everywhere tenet as well.

*Is the category of Eschatology in fundamental tension with the Vincentian canon?  The former looks forward to God’s action of shalom and wholeness while the latter looks backward and absolutizes the past.

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