The SS is self-refuting argument goes something like this: since the doctrine of SS is not found in Scripture, and SS teaches that all true doctrine is found in Scripture, therefore SS is not a true doctrine.
Because I am not convinced that every version of SS falls prey to this fallacy (though it may be weak for other reasons), I did not suggest that argument in that prior blog entry.
What I suggested is that without extra-Biblical theological knowledge--whether it is from the Holy Spirit, the Church's Magisterium, or some criteria of canonicity--it is difficult to figure out how one arrives at 66 particular books (73 in the case of Catholics and Orthodox) that constitute Scripture.
Consider, for example, the dispute between Catholics and Protestants over whether the deuterocanonical books belong in Scripture. Neither Protestants nor Catholics cite Scripture (the other 66 books) as authoritative on this matter, since the question is whether the Scripture is the 66 or the 73. The Catholic couldn't cite the 66 since he or she does not believe that the 66 is "the Bible" without the 7. And the Protestant couldn't cite the 66 without begging the question, since the issue to be resolved is whether the 7 belong with the 66.
My reflection was really prodded by some recent reading on natural theology, and that got me thinking about the necessity of non-biblical theological knowledge in the formation of the canon. The paragraphs in that post were adapted from portions of Return to Rome, where I was not arguing against sola scriptura, but rather, explaining how the Catholic and Protestant views of biblical authority (in the context of the ETS's doctrinal basis) require non-biblical grounds for their claim.
One of the temptations to which many of us succumb (including yours truly) is to read a person with which one disagrees as offering the least plausible version of his case. I suspect this is why some of you--though I impute only benign intent--have mistakenly read my reflection as a version of "SS is self-refuting."
For the record, I see nothing non-Protestant in my Protestant brothers and sisters suggesting that our knowledge of the canon's scope depends on extra-biblical revelation such as the Holy Spirit's work in the believer's heart and/or in the historical development of the Church in its earliest centuries. Both, of course, lead to other questions that elicit their own difficulties and possible answers. But I do not think that either route is indefensible or prima facie irrational.
(Update: Just came across a commentary on my original post by a fellow named Howard Fisher. Mr. Fisher opines:
First, I would love to ask how Mr. Beckwith knows there are 66 books of the Bible. He would obviously say, as a Roman Catholic, that it is the RC church's authority to tell us this information. Of course, then I would ask how he knows the church has this authority. Of which he would then explain that Jesus told us in Matthew 16 that Rome has this authority. To which I would then ask how he knows Matthew 16 is God's Word. He would then respond by saying the church says so. To which I would ask...I think you might get the point now.
Catholic theological reasoning is not modernist, as what one often finds in some enclaves of the Fundamentalist Protestant world, as exemplified by Mr. Fisher's series of odd queries and speculations about my alleged answers to them. Catholics don't begin with doubt and try to find a first clear and distinct idea ("scripture alone," e.g.) from which to deduce a linear series of fundamental doctrines and beliefs about church government. Rather, we begin with what we think we have good reason to believe is true: the Catholic Church in the present is identical to the apostolic church of the first century. It is, to be sure, far more developed in both theology and ecclesiology, but the seeds for such development were present from the start. Thus, we don't cite Matthew 16 as evidence of this. Rather, we read Matthew 16 in light of the history and development that has already taken place. We believe in order to understand, to paraphrase St. Augustine.
So, the Catholic is as confident of the church's authority as he is of the authority of Scripture, since, for the Catholic, the latter is the book of the former. Just as you can't have a human being without a soul, you can't have the Bible without a Church. For the Catholic, there are not two things for which we must account, Church and Bible. Rather, there is one thing--Christ in the world--that provides us with both Church and Written Word. Just as Jesus was both flesh and Logos, the Church and its authority is manifested in both Magisterium and Scripture.
For the Catholic, as well as many Protestants, Christianity is not merely a set of propositions to which one must assent. Rather, it is the Gospel of the Word made flesh. It is the good news that we may participate in the divine life. But it is not about Christ being an individual's "personal Savior." Rather, it is about becoming an adopted son of the Father and being in communion with all members of Christ's body, both living and dead.
I, of course, understand that many Protestants do not share this account of Christ and His Church. But for Catholics it seems to us to best account for the phenomenon and authority of Scripture, the development of doctrine, and the role of the Church and its authority in the reading of the first and the orthodoxy of the second.)