Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"Saint & Sinner's" Critique of The Catholic Verses, Part I: 1 Timothy 3:15 (Church Authority & Sola Scriptura)



See S&S's introduction, my response, and his present paper to which I am replying. His words will be in
blue. Citations from my book will be in green.

* * * * *
“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” -1 Timothy 3:14-15 NASB
“. . . the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” [RSV, as always in my book]

The section under consideration runs from pages 3 to 7.

Exegesis
Paul begins verse 14 by telling us that he wrote “these things”. This begs the question: what are “these things”? They are the subject of the previous 13 verses: the qualifications and proper behavior for church leaders in the local church (3:1-13).
Verses 1-13
He starts off chapter 3 with the qualifications for an overseer (i.e. an elder): he must be monogamous, slow to anger, loving, a good teacher, not an alcoholic, not a new convert, and have a good reputation. Paul then moves on to the qualifications for a deacon: he must be a man of dignity, a non-alcoholic, etc. He also mentions female leaders within the church: they must not be gossips but temperate and faithful.

The question of the exact nature of church offices in the New Testament is a complex one (see my article on bishops in the NT). Ecclesiology underwent development, like everything else. I've recognized this in my writing. I find it a bit amusing, however, that S&S (being an adherent of Reformed "low church" presbyterian ecclesiology) wants to avoid the term
bishop, even though that is the usual translation of the Greek words episkope and episkopos, found in 1 Tim 3:1 and 3:2. S&S is using the NASB version (one that I love and am very familiar with, having read most of the Bible in this version in the early 80s). He says that "elder" is a synonym for "overseer" (NASB: 1 Tim 3:1-2) yet the notes for NASB at 1 Tim 3:1 state "Or, bishop".

The KJV translates
episkopos or its cognates as "bishop" (or "bishoprick" -- Acts 1:20) at 1 Tim 3:1, 3:2, Phil 1:1, Titus 1:7, and 1 Pet 2:25. The usual Greek word in Holy Scripture translated as elder, on the other hand, in English translations is presbuteros and its cognates (1 Tim 5:1-2,17,19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1,5; at least 18 times in the book of Acts in KJV). KJV (according to Young's Concordance) translates presbuteros as elder 62 times, and never as bishop. But episkopos and related words are never translated as elder.

Isn't it interesting then, that S&S never once uses the quite-biblical word
bishop in a positive sense, as a scriptural term, in his entire article. He mistranslates episkope / episkopos as elder because that is more amenable to his low-church Reformed ecclesiology. Who is engaging in eisegesis? Moreover, he made the following claim of alleged "anachronism" on my part, in his Introduction:
a.) Anachronism: This is a fallacy of history in which one imports a modern or later concept or definition back into a belief or word of a previous age. For instance, it is all too common for a Roman Catholic apologist to see the word, “church,” in the Biblical text and say that it is referring to the clergy, i.e. the priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and the Pope. However, in the New Testament, the word, “church,” Greek: ecclesia, simply meant “congregation” which referred to the entire people of God, the laity and the clergy.

I'm not anachronistically importing the word
bishop into the context of 1 Timothy 3; it is already there. I didn't put it there. The Holy Spirit decided to do that. But S&S wants to pretend it isn't there, and so uses elder and likes the NASB because it uses the term overseer, that doesn't sound so Catholic and episcopal in ecclesiology. But certainly he is not so ignorant as to not know that elder is the usual translation of presbuteros, not episkopos. That is biblical language, and habitual English Bible translation. It is what it is, whatever ecclesiology one has.

Many non-Catholic Bible translations use the word
bishop at 1 Timothy 3:1-2, or mention it as an alternate, in notes:
KJV
ASV
NKJV
RSV
NRSV
NEB
REB
Phillips
Moffatt
Amplified
NASB overseer (Notes: "Or
bishop")
NIV overseer (Notes: "Or
bishop")
CEV church official (Notes: "Or 'bishop'")
NASB and NIV (arguably due to evangelical low church Protestant bias) depart from the mainstream of English biblical translating tradition (KJV-ASV-RSV-NRSV-NKJV) in this respect (which is one reason why, no doubt, they make note of "bishop" as an alternate). Therefore, the context that S&S wants to examine, shows us that bishops are definitely being referred to, so that when we see "church" later in the chapter, it does indeed include the notion of bishops, whether S&S cares for it or not.

It is hardly impressive to deliberately remove the word
bishop (episkopos) from a discussion of context, so that the unsuspecting reader will not realize it is there in the first place. I am simply going by the words in the Bible itself; S&S is off on a tangent of presbyterian ecclesiological bias (and there is your eisegesis, folks; how ironic, huh?). Isn't dialogue wonderful? How many readers on either side would have known this without my pointing it out?

Verses 14-15
He wrote the things mentioned above so that the leaders within Timothy’s church would know how to conduct themselves. After all, this isn’t something like a college fraternity. Rather, it is the remnant that God chosen to redeem (Romans 9:22-27), to purchase their salvation with His own blood (Acts 20:28). It is the group that God has called out of the world for His own eternal glory (Ephesians 1:12) and to be the chosen ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) by which to spread the word of His covenant lawsuit against the heathen (Acts 17:22-31).
The church is to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16) in that we are the representatives of God to a world in rebellion against Him and bearers of the truth now revealed to us at the first coming of Christ (John 17:14-21). As such, the church is to “conduct” itself worthy of such a calling by its Master (1 Thessalonians 2:12, cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).

Isn't it funny that when I engage in extensive cross-referencing, as S&S does above (which I think is perfectly proper and relevant), James White accuses me of not doing exegesis, because I haven't stuck to the immediate text, and it alone. For example, in critiquing the same book (my argument from Luke 1:28), White writes:

Armstrong writes, "The Catholic argument hinges on the meaning of kecharitomene." This alone is sufficient to establish the propriety of the previous five installments, for the meaning of the term can only be determined lexically, grammatically, and syntactically, and we have seen that beyond question the term does not, in fact, carry the weight assigned to it by Rome. But we continue on with Armstrong's argument, for he refers to the abridged edition of Kittel's TDNT regarding grace, and while what Kittel's says is quite true, given the passages being referred to (1 Cor. 1:29, Romans 5:20-21, Galatians 5:2, 1:6), unless Armstrong can establish, contextually, that the meaning of the noun "grace" in those passages is carried into the participial form of a vocative participle used as a greeting by an angel in a completely different context and used by a completely different writer, we once again have no reason to find it a compelling argument.
Speaking of common charges and shortcomings, then, anti-Catholics habitually make the claim, not just that Catholics are wrong in their exegesis, but that they are not engaging in exegesis at all. yet already, with S&S's very first argument (or observation) I have shown that if anyone was eisegeting, it was him, due to his distorting and confusion of biblical language and terminology, borne of an ecclesiological bias that he brings to Holy Scripture.

Thus, the Bible was interpreted by him through this biased filter: exactly what he accuses me of doing by approaching Scripture as a convinced Catholic. In fact, we all come to the Bible with our biases. I'm the first to admit that. One of the biggest fallacies in S&S's approach (as very often in White's also) is the notion that Catholics are super-biased in their biblical commentary, whereas good ole Calvinist fundamentalists like him have no such bias and simply "go by the Bible." How many times have we heard that from this sort of Protestant (which is not the
only kind at all)?

But here is S&S all over the ballpark, in a supposed examination of the immediate context of the chapter, citing seven other books (three of them from authors other than Paul). Like I said, I have no problem with this per se. I love systematic theology and cross-referencing. I'm only pointing out that if
I did this, James White would claim it is not even "exegesis" at all. Wouldn't it be nice if White (and other anti-Catholics who claim I am only eisegeting and not exegeting) would admit that S&S isn't doing exegesis, either, if he does largely the same as what I often do in examining a particular text?

We see his considerable bias (and, I would say, a sort of stuffy arrogance in approaching the tasks of hermeneutics and exegesis) in his remark about his belief-system:
Due to my philosophy of science, Instrumentalism, I allow Scripture to speak for itself, and so, I am a YEC.

"YEC" = young earth creationist. To let Scripture "speak for itself" one must think the earth is 6-10,000 years old (and the universe not much older). Right. This is the conclusion that nimble minds like S&S and fellow anti-Catholic fundamentalists "Turretinfan" and Steve Hays come to. Of course, probably 95% or more of all biblical commentators and exegetes (and thinking, committed Christians of all stripes) don't think that this is the plain, clear teaching of Scripture at all. So
they are all not letting Scripture speak for itself, in its obvious meaning? Thus, all of a sudden, it ain't just Catholics who eisegete Scripture, but the vast majority of S&S's fellow Protestants (no doubt many reading this at this very moment). Hence, "Turretinfan" writes:
Instead, we see modified old earth creationists holding to ever more erratic views of the text of Scripture, as they attempt to remain popular with the scientific crowd.
Other than this trivial aside, I have no beef with what S&S wrote about verses 14 and 15. It doesn't really prove anything against my position (and I wonder why S&S would think that it does do so?).
The next verse should also be noted: “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He [i.e. Jesus] who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (v.16). Here, Paul recites what is believed to be an ancient Christian hymn, and he cites this to show that the proper behavior we are to imitate (i.e. “the mystery of godliness”) is that of Christ Himself. In other words, because we are Christ’s representatives to the world, we are to act like Christ before the world so as not to bring reproach upon the gospel (cf. v.7).

Great. No problem. Christians are to imitate our Lord Jesus Christ.

“The Pillar and Support of the Truth”
This brings us to the phrase we are inquiring as to its meaning. From the context I explained above, the church, the entire body of Christ and not just the clergy, is the “pillar and support of the truth” in that it is the representative of God and bearer of the truth of the gospel. The church is to conduct itself so that it will not bring disrepute on Him who gave it such a mission. Instead, it is to hold up the truth of the living God so that the unbelieving would either: a.) be convicted of their rebellion and repent or b.) be judicially hardened in their unbelief and bring greater condemnation upon themselves, storing it up for the judgment.

Okay; let's assume S&S's invisible church model, of all the clergy and laity working together as one big happy family for truth and truth alone. Fine and dandy. But how does this work in
real life, in practice, in concrete terms? I have a host of questions that perhaps S&S or his cronies (who possess a unique and profound insight into true biblical exegesis, as they freely admit) would be so kind as to answer for me. Protestants en masse are the "pillar and support of truth." Excellent! Okay, now what is this truth? Surely S&S can inform me.

Such a luminary as James White, the king of the anti-Catholics, could not, however, when I challenged him in 1996, and has not answered my questions about what this truth is, ever since. He stated in his own examination of this same argument in
The Catholic Verses (my emphases):
The church is the household of God, under His divine and sovereign rule. It is a divine institution, established at the command of God, sustained by His Spirit. And the church has a purpose as a result: it is the firm, unmoving ground upon which the truth can stand without fear of falling to the ground. The terms "pillar and foundation" speak to the strength of the church in providing a ground upon which the truth can be based.

. . . the church would endure because it is not a merely human institution,
it is divine in its very nature. God had decreed the church to function as the ground and support of the truth, holding forth the word of life and worshipping Him who is truth itself. This did not make the church the truth itself (indeed, Paul's epistles, written to churches, almost always have corrective elements, demonstrating the constant need for reformation in the fellowship), but the intimate relationship between the true church and the truth itself is unmistakably taught in Scripture.
Very eloquently stated. It's easy to be eloquent when there is no specific content, and everything is expressed in super-broad, vague, ethereal terms. That allows Protestants to avoid the obvious difficulty that immediately arises: how can they speak of one church unified in truth, given their own ecclesiological chaos and doctrinal relativism, brought on by innumerable competing truth claims amongst themselves? And that is the insuperable difficulty I challenged White and Eric Svendsen with in 1996. Here is what happened (White's words in purple):
I believe it is vitally important to believe in what the Apostles taught. Which, of course, is exactly why I cannot embrace the teachings of Rome. In fact, it is fidelity to the apostolic message that is the strongest argument against the innovations of Rome over time, Dave.
Why not boldly tell us, then, James, precisely what "the Apostles taught"? In particular, I am curious as to their teaching in those areas where Protestants can't bring themselves to agree with each other; for example:
1.TULIP2. Baptism3. The Eucharist4. Church Government5. Regeneration6. Sanctification7. The Place of Tradition8. Women Clergy9. Divorce10. Feminism11. Abortion12. The Utility of Reason13. Natural Theology14. The Charismatic Gifts15. Alcohol16. Sabbatarianism17. Whether Catholics are Christians18. Civil Disobedience
. . . That's pretty easy, Dave. I have 27 books filled with their teaching. Where shall we start? I guess we could start with the apostolic teaching that we are justified by faith and so have peace with God (Romans 5:1). That's a wonderful thing to know, isn't it? The Apostles also taught that Jesus Christ was and is fully deity (Colossians 2:9), and that's really important, too!
Absolutely. But you guys got this doctrine from us, so big wow!
Are you saying that the Bible is insufficient to answer these questions? That God's Word is so unclear, so confused, so ambiguous, that these issues cannot be determined by a careful and honest examination of the Bible?
It's irrelevant what I think, because I'm asking you. But let's assume for the sake of argument that it is clear, sufficient, and perspicuous. Okay, now, please tell me what it teaches on these issues! Does anyone not understand my argumentation here? Is it that complicated? This is the essence of my whole argument in this vein. If we grant your perspicuity, then tell us these doctrines that are so clear. Yet you guys want to either run or cry foul when we hold you to your own principles!

. . . People who call themselves Protestants disagree on every point above; people who call themselves Roman Catholics disagree on every point above, too. So what?

. . .
I hope all on the list realize what is being said here. A person with the entire NT in his hand cannot know what the apostolic message was unless he likewise has Roman "tradition" alongside! Imagine it! Those poor Roman Christians. From about A.D. 55 until around A.D. 140 they could not have demonstrated fidelity to the apostolic message! Why not? Because they didn't have access to Roman Catholic tradition (there was no monarchial episcopate in Rome until the latter period, and hence no "Pope"). Does that make any sense? Of course not.
All the more reason for you to tell us what this mysterious "apostolic message" is. According to this curious illogic, one can "know" what the message is, without the Catholic Church, but they can't tell me what it is, what it consists of!
. . . I get the real feeling, Dave, that you well know that your questions have been and will be answered,
If they have, I've missed it. Please, somebody send me that post. If they "will" be answered, when, and by whom, I wonder? But I don't "know" one way or the other, despite your "real feeling."
. . . You well know what the Bible teaches on these topics.
James, James! This is the whole point! We know, but you guys can't figure it out. Hence your reluctance to answer (I can think of no better reason). You claim busy-ness, which plagues us all, but you still have time to write this and evade my question again. A short answer to my question surely wouldn't put you out. . . .
Problem is, you don't accept that.
How silly is this? I "don't accept" what the Bible teaches on these points, but you don't have the courtesy to explain to me just what it is that it teaches on them. Such a view is below contempt, and should cause you to blush with shame.
Instead, you accept another authority that tells you something different.
Sheer goofiness. Different than what? Again, if I don't have your answer, what do you expect me to believe? If this isn't "The Emperor's Clothes," I don't know what is.
Tell us all again, Dave: are you saying the Bible is insufficient to answer these questions? Are you saying we can't know what the Bible teaches about tradition, for example? That a serious exegesis of relevant texts can't provide us with any level of certainty or knowledge? Is that what you really want to say to this group, Dave?
Quadruple "NO" (that's NO NO NO NO). Now, how 'bout your equally forthright answer to me?
We see plainly that White never answered the simple question of what this "truth" was that he talks about, concerning these 18 matters. He claims over and over that the Bible can give us the answers, but apparently he can never tell anyone else what the answers are. Anyone who reads the above paper can see that Dr. Eric Svendsen could not answer, either; didn't even try to answer the question, and hemmed and hawed and switched the topic, and obfuscated and indulged in obscurantism and other forms of evasion.

It's all a big illusion. The lengthy citation was designed to illustrate the sheer absurdity and content-free nature of the Protestant claim of some kind of church offering some kind of support for "truth" (that folks can then refer to and lean upon).

S&S waxes eloquent by referring to "
the church, the entire body of Christ and not just the clergy, is the “pillar and support of the truth” in that it is the representative of God and bearer of the truth of the gospel. " White states similarly, in speaking of "firm, unmoving ground upon which the truth can stand," etc. Yet when asked the obvious question, "what is this truth of which you speak; what is its content, that I may know it and stand on this firm, unmoving ground in confidence?" S&S and White and Svendsen cannot answer. White couldn't in 1996; he can't now, and I guarantee that S&S will not be able to, either. So what good is a "church" that cannot answer this question? In what sense is it a "pillar and foundation of the truth" at all?

I touched upon these huge difficulties in my paper on the perspicuity of Scripture (Appendix One from
A Biblical Defense of Catholicism):

Protestant freedom of conscience is valued more than unity and the certainty of doctrinal truth in all matters (not just the core issues alone). The inquirer with newfound zeal for Christ is in trouble if he expects to easily attain any comprehensive certainty within Protestantism. All he can do is take a "head count" of scholars and pastors and evangelists and Bible Dictionaries and see who lines up where on the various sides of the numerous disagreements.

Or else he can just uncritically accept the word of whatever denomination he is associated with. In effect, then, he is no better off than a beginning philosophy student who prefers Kierkegaard to Kant - the whole procedure (however well-intentioned) is arbitrary and destined to produce further confusion.

The usual Protestant reply to this critique is that denominations differ mostly over secondary issues, not fundamental or central doctrines. This is often and casually stated, but when scrutinized, it collapses under its own weight. Right from the beginning, the fault lines of Protestantism appeared when Zwingli and Oecolampadius (two lesser Reformers) differed with Luther on the Real Presence, and the Anabaptists dissented on the Eucharist, infant baptism, ordination, and the function of civil authority.

Luther regarded these fellow Protestants as "damned" and "out of the Church" for these reasons. Reformers John Calvin and Martin Bucer held to a third position on the Eucharist (broadly speaking), intermediate between Luther's Real Presence (consubstantiation) and Zwingli's purely symbolic belief. By 1577, the book 200 Interpretations of the Words, "This is My Body" was published at Ingolstadt, Germany. This is the fruit of perspicuity, and it was quick to appear.

Protestants will often maintain that the Eucharist and baptism, for instance, are neither primary nor essential doctrines. This is curious, since these are the two sacraments that the majority of Protestants accept. Jesus said (John 6:53): Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. This certainly sounds essential, even to the extent that a man's salvation might be in jeopardy.

St. Paul, too, regards communion with equally great seriousness and of the utmost importance to one's spiritual well-being and relationship with Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:14-22, 11:23-30). Thus we are already in the realm of salvation - a primary doctrine. Lutherans and many Anglicans (for example, the Oxford Tractarians and C.S. Lewis), believe in the Real Presence, whereas most evangelicals do not, yet this is not considered cause for alarm or even discomfort.

. . . The same state of affairs is true concerning baptism, where Protestants are split into infant and adult camps. Furthermore, the infant camp contains those who accept baptismal regeneration (Lutherans, Anglicans, and to some extent, Methodists), as does the adult camp (Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ). Regeneration absolutely has a bearing on salvation, and therefore is a primary doctrine. The Salvation Army and the Quakers don't baptize at all (the latter doesn't even celebrate the Eucharist). Thus, there are five distinct competing belief-systems among Protestants with regard to baptism.

Scripture seems to clearly refer to baptismal regeneration in Acts 2:38 (forgiveness of sins), 22:16 (wash away your sins), Romans 6:3-4, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Titus 3:5 (he saved us, . . . by the washing of regeneration), and other passages.

For this reason, many prominent Protestant individuals and denominations have held to the position of baptismal regeneration, which is anathema to the Baptist / Presbyterian / Reformed branch of Protestantism - the predominant evangelical outlook at present.

. . . The conclusion is inescapable: either biblical perspicuity is a falsehood or one or more of the doctrines of regeneration, justification, sanctification, salvation, election, free will, predestination, perseverance, eternal security, the Atonement, original sin, the Eucharist, and baptism, all "five points" of Calvinism (TULIP) and issues affecting the very gospel itself - are not central. Protestants can't have it both ways.

Or, of course, people like Martin Luther (due to his beliefs in the Real Presence and baptismal regeneration), John Wesley, C.S. Lewis, and entire denominations such as Methodists, Anglicans, Lutherans, Churches of Christ, various Pentecostal groups, and the Salvation Army can be read out of the Christian faith due to their "unorthodoxy," as defined by the self-proclaimed "mainstream" evangelicals such as Baptists, Presbyterians and Reformed (even so the last two groups baptize infants, although they vehemently deny that this causes regeneration, whereas Baptists don't). Since most Protestants are unwilling to anathematize other Protestants, perspicuity dissolves into a boiling cauldron of incomprehensible contradictions, and as such, must be discarded or at the very least seriously reformulated in order to harmonize with the Bible and logic.

Whether one accepts the Tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church or not, at least it courageously takes a stand on any given doctrine and refuses to leave whole areas of theology and practice perpetually up for grabs and at the mercy of the "priesthood of scholars" and the individual's private judgment, which in turn often reduces to mere whim, fancy, or subjective preference, usually divorced from considerations of Christian history and consensus. For this so-called "dogmatism" and lack of "flexibility," the Catholic Church is often reviled and despised. But for those of us who are seeking to be faithful to Christ within its fold, this is regarded, to the contrary, as its unique glory and majesty, much preferable to the morass of competing truth-claims (i.e., relativism) which prevail within Protestantism (even among the subgroup of evangelicals).

Orthodox Catholics believe that Christians can place full confidence in the firmly-established Tradition which is found not only in Holy Scripture, but in the received doctrines of the Catholic Church, appointed by our Lord Jesus Christ as the Guardian and Custodian of the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
ConclusionThe church (i.e. the body of all Christians) is the bearer (“pillar and support”) of the Gospel of the grace of God (“the truth”) to the unbelieving world. The church is to behave in such a manner as to not bring disrepute upon the One whom they serve, but instead, they are to act like Christ seeing that they are His representatives.

I have just shown that this is an impossible position for a Protestant to take, because it has
no discernible meaning and content. Protestants are forever condemned to theological relativism (in many areas, not all) because of their false first premises (sola Scriptura, private judgment, supremacy of "conscience" over against the authority of received Christian Tradition).

S&S has also assumed certain things above without proving them; namely, that "church" here means simply all believers. He also blithely assumes without evidence that "truth" in 1 Timothy 3:15 refers to the
gospel only, not all spiritual matters. This is not at all obvious, and I see nothing in the immediate context that proves it beyond any doubt. The gospel is certainly a very important part of Christian truth, but not the sum and total of it.

We see this in the many instances of
truth (Gk., aletheia and cognates) in the NT. For example, John 16:13: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth." Jesus was speaking to the disciples, who were obviously believers, who understood (and had received) the gospel. Therefore, the "truth" referred to must include more than the gospel itself. In fact, the later part of the same verse proves this: "he will declare to you the things that are to come."

Many other counter-examples could be given. In Romans 1:18 Paul refers to wicked men who "suppress the truth." This truth, in context, goes beyond simply the gospel, to "what can be known about God" (1:19): His "eternal power and deity." God's attributes are not the gospel (cf. 1:25: "the truth about God"). The larger meaning in many places can be seen in any linguistic reference work, such as Vine's
Expository Dictionary, Kittel, Robertson, Vincent, Thayer, or other such aids. Jesus says "I am the truth" (Jn 14:6). Obviously, He didn't mean, "I am the gospel."

Granted, "church" has a wide latitude of meaning in the NT. Whether it means "all believers" in 1 Timothy 3:15 or a more strict meaning of an organization with bishops, etc. (or both) may be disputed by well-meaning exegetes in good faith, with honestly held differences. The difficulty remains, however, in either scenario, of how to interpret being the "pillar and bulwark" of truth if "church" is defined in a less hierarchical or institutional or "visible" way. In what sense does the doctrinal chaos and inability to unify on so many doctrines in Protestantism constitute supporting (the one) "truth"? Thus, S&S's (and Protestants') difficulties remain however
ecclesia is defined at the particular application of 1 Timothy 3:15.

The High Church [Mis]interpretation
Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and various cult apologists will cite “the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” in v.15 to allegedly prove their doctrine that their church is either infallible or that the clarity of the truths of the Christian faith depend upon their church hierarchy’s pronouncements.

We do derive that meaning from the text, yes. Again, the same problem remains for the Protestant. If you don't like how Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans interpret the passage, then what do you suggest as an alternative? How do we determine the truths (indeed, the one "truth") of the Christian faith? How do we wade through all your interminable disagreements? How do you resolve the conundrum of perspicuity, discussed above? In what fashion do you possess "authority" to present to the unbelieving world the one truth, given your own inability to agree on it? How can you claim to be one, as Jesus and the Father were one? At least our view (agree or disagree) is coherent, self-consistent, and sensible, whereas yours (if we are talking about Protestantism as the alleged purveyor of "one truth" and the "pillar and support" of it) is virtually meaningless and cannot be defended except in the vaguest generalities.

Furthermore, in the very next section of my book I provide a crystal-clear example of the Church exercising its infallible authority: the council of Jerusalem, that made a binding pronouncement, guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28-29), that was binding upon the faithful, and proclaimed as such by Paul himself, in his missionary journeys (16:4). What more does S&S want?
That surely was a case of "the clarity of the truths of the Christian faith depend[ing] upon their church hierarchy’s pronouncements." Why isn't the clear biblical model of that council, accepted and promulgated by Paul himself, good enough for him? We even have a clear example of a monarchical bishop in James, bishop of Jerusalem. In fact, Protestants use his example in an effort to argue that James presided over the council, not Peter, precisely because he was a bishop (sort of like the local mayor).
Since this is part of a review of Dave Armstrong’s book,
The Catholic Verses, I shall use him as an example and review the other minor arguments put forth in the section of his book dealing with 1 Timothy 3:15.

A Review of Dave Armstrong’s The Catholic Verses on 1 Timothy 3:15
[Unless otherwise stated, all of these quotes come from Dave Armstrong, The Catholic Verses: 95 Bible Passages That Confound Protestants (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2004).]
After quoting only verse 15, Dave writes his commentary on the verse:
“Catholics accept this passage at face value: the Church is the ground or foundation (the word used in the New International Version [NIV] translation) of the truth; it is infallible; it is specially protected by the Holy Spirit so that it can be the Guardian and Preserver of apostolic tradition and truth and doctrine.” (emphasis original; Armstrong, op. cit., p.3)
That’s it!!! There was neither a discussion of the entire previous passage, an entire 14 verses that preceded verse 15, nor of verse 15’s connection to verse 16! The context of the previous verses is primarily ethical/moral, not epistemological. This should have some bearing on one’s interpretation (if not an overriding one). This is a classical case of Text Isolation (see my intro. to this series, part f).

Fundamental to any interpretation of an author's work is an understanding of the purpose of that work. This is why I delved into that question at length in my first post on S&S's planned review, showing how James White had massively misunderstood this in his critical reviews. S&S looks to be doing the same thing. I am delving into context more now because S&S has made an issue of it and I am defending my book and elaborating upon its meaning and background factors relevant to its arguments and positions.

The book itself, however, made no pretense of being an elaborate commentary of biblical evidences for Catholic positions. I had done that already in my first book,
A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. The purpose here was to examine how Protestants try to exegete verses that we Catholics believe don't fit particularly well into a Protestant framework. Therefore, I was not trying to prove Catholic biblical arguments for our positions (making S&S's exclamation "That's it!" a proof that he is clueless and out to sea with regard to my purpose). I merely stated the Catholic belief, as here. I wasn't trying to defend it. It's the distinction between what someone believes and why they believe it. And that is because my purpose was as I stated in the Introduction:
I shall now proceed to offer a critique of common Protestant attempts to ignore, explain away, rationalize, wish away, overpolemicize, minimize, de-emphasize, evade clear consequences of, or special plead with regard to "the Catholic Verses": ninety-five biblical passages that provide the foundation for Catholicism's most distinctive doctrines.

(p. xiii)
Second, the term “foundation” in the Greek text, hedraioma, can be translated as either “foundation” or “support”, neither of which necessarily mean (in this context) “source” or “dependent upon”. Even apart from the previous verses, the phrase “pillar and support of the truth” could mean any number of things only one of which is “source” or “dependent upon”. It was Armstrong’s underlying presuppositions that caused him to see in this verse a proof for infallibility. Thus, this is also a case of Superficial Reading (see intro., part i.).

Technically speaking, I wouldn't say that the Church is the "source" of Christian truth, if by that one means "origin." That is clearly God. The Church
preserves this truth with the direct aid of God the Holy Spirit. That's why I described the Catholic Church in my book (above) as the "Guardian and Preserver of the apostolic tradition and truth and doctrine." S&S, in his rush to refute me, misinterpreted what I was arguing, neglecting my own context (and this is becoming a regular habit with him, so it seems).

Even his crony "theojunkie", writing in the combox for S&S's post presently being critiqued, understood my remark from context, but then (lest I ever be defended in anything whatever by an anti-Catholic!) pulled back from making a definite claim (at least he showed some common sense, though, in reading my words):

I am reluctant to say this, for DA will likely misinterpret my limited defense of his text to mean I'm on his side...

This is the quibble: DA's quote does not say "source of the truth". It would seem to imply this, except that he then seems to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit empowers the church to "guard and preserve" the truth. The implication there is that the source is God.

That said, since Orthodox [another poster, presumably Orthodox in affiliation] seemed to defend the notion that the church is the "source" of the truth, I suppose you probably did read DA right.
One doesn't think that a "preserver" of something was the origin of that same thing. That would be as foolish as saying that the salt used to preserve meat (in pre-refrigerator times) created the meat (salt would then equal a bull or a pig). It's absurd. S&S can't even interpret the plain meaning of English words ("Guardian" and "preserver"). A guard or guardian doesn't originate the things he guards (be it a child or a bicycle or a bank). In the same manner, I have argued that the Church didn't create the canon or the Bible, but rather, authoritatively proclaimed it. God was the author. This concept is often very poorly understood by Protestants, too, yet it is made very clear in Catholic conciliar statements.

I used the word "ground." So does Gerhard Kittel's
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (abridged edition, translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985). In its commentary on stylos (pillar) on p. 1097 it states, discussing 1 Timothy 3:15 in particular:
The cultic community is the house of God and as such it is the pillar and ground of the truth.
Likewise, the same work comments on hedraioma (bulwark) as used in our passage, on p. 200:
The church is here a solid defense against the confusion of myths, offering individual faith and thought a sure ground with its confession (v. 16).
I noted how NIV uses the word "foundation." Other translations use similar terminology:
KJV / NKJV / ASV pillar and ground
Phillips pillar and the foundation
Williams / Moffatt pillar and foundation
Barclay pillar and buttress
CEV strong foundation of truth
Amplified pillar and stay -- the prop and support -- of the Truth
As for infallibility, that follows straightforwardly from what we see in the Jerusalem council. The Holy Spirit guided the decision; therefore it was infallible, and regarded as such by everyone. It was binding. I noted in the next section in my book (p. 10) how Presbyterian commentator Albert Barnes interpreted the phrase "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost" as "a strong and undoubted claim to inspiration."

I also noted how R.C. Sproul stated: "For the Reformers, no church council, synod . . . is regarded as infallible. All are open to correction and critique." (p. 8). So which will it be?: the plain example of an infallible council and Church decision in the council of Jerusalem, or the unbiblical Protestant dogma that what we see before our eyes in the Bible is impermissible and ought not be accepted by the good Protestant?

Catholics see something like the Jerusalem Council as a concrete application of the notion under consideration in 1 Timothy 3:15. That is not eisegesis; it is intelligent biblical cross-referencing and systematic theology. All these things must be harmonized. This is how we do it. It is neither unreasonable nor implausible, let alone an alleged example of unsavory eisegesis. Now, S&S can reject what he calls my "superficial reading" of this passage, but the Jerusalem Council and its implications for authority and ecclesiology is not nearly as easily dismissed. I
can't wait to see if he will tackle that in his continuing series. That will be a load of fun.
Likewise, he commits the fallacy of anachronism (see intro., part a.) when he equates the word “church” with the clerical orders. The word ecclesia in the New Testament referred to the entire people of God (laity and clergy), not just the clergy as it came to mean in later times.

Where did I even claim this, let alone commit the fallacy? Far as I can see, I referred to the Church. The Church is infallible. I didn't speak of bishops or popes or even priests in this section. Yet I am accused of equating the "Church" with "just the clergy" as if I were not even
myself part of it (if I am not, how could I be "received" into it?). This is ludicrous. Catholics believe also in the consent of the faithful or the sensus fidelium. My intellectual hero, John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote an entire treatise about that: On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine. Newman had written as an Anglican about the steadfastness of the laity during the Arian crisis, when many bishops (but alas, not the bishop of Rome) had gone astray and adopted this heresy, whereby Jesus Christ is a creature, not God.
This is quite manifest by the fact that the phrase referred to in this very verse, “the household of God, which is the church of the living God,” is used elsewhere and in equivalent phrases (1 Cor. 3:16, 2 Cor. 6:16, Eph. 2:21, 1 Peter 2:5, and 4:17) all of which refer to the entire body of the redeemed. This fact also shows quite clearly in the inclusion of women in this “church” (v.11).

It may very well mean that. But that doesn't let S&S off the hook, because he still has to explain how the entire mass of Christians can be the pillar and support / foundation / bulwark / ground, etc. of the truth, when Protestants cannot even agree amongst themselves on so many things. He has to make some concrete sense of the passage beyond the vague generalities that Protestants are awkwardly reduced to, knowing full well that if they get too specific, that the illusion of Protestant "unity" will crumble to dust.
Lastly, even under the assumption that “pillar and support of the truth” means that the church is the source of the truth,

I have not argued that it is the "source", so this is a red herring. S&S needs to read more carefully.
this does not necessarily mean that the church is *infallible* as Mr. Armstrong claims.

I gave my (I think, very strong) argument from the Jerusalem Council. S&S can deal with that.
The Old Testament clerical authority, the Levites, were given the task of being the guardians and teachers of the Torah, but yet, they fell into grave error time and again resulting in God sending the prophets.

In OT times, the Jewish assembly was not yet given the gift of infallibility. Things change after Jesus comes and the Holy Spirit indwells believers. Is this not elementary? Nevertheless, the analogy of the Jews is far closer to the Catholic conception of authority than to
sola Scriptura. I engaged in a lengthy dialogue with a Baptist on this topic years ago, that became Chapter Nine of my book, More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: "The Old Testament, the Ancient Jews, and Sola Scriptura" (see an archived version of that paper).
[Although it should be noted that the Levites weren’t the only ones given the task of teaching the Torah since it was given to every head of each household to teach their sons and daughters God’s law privately (Deut. 6:7-9), another proof that God intended His word to be perspicuous to the common man.

This is simply untrue, as I noted in the above paper:

Deuteronomy 17:8-13: The Levitical priests had binding authority in legal matters (derived from the Torah itself). They interpreted the biblical injunctions (17:11). The penalty for disobedience was death (17:12), since the offender didn't obey “the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God.” Cf. Deuteronomy 19:16-17, 2 Chronicles 19:8-10.

. . . Ezra 7:6,10: Ezra, a priest and scribe, studied the Jewish law and taught it to Israel, and his authority was binding, under pain of imprisonment, banishment, loss of goods, and even death (7:25-26).

Nehemiah 8:1-8: Ezra reads the law of Moses to the people in Jerusalem (8:3). In 8:7 we find thirteen Levites who assisted Ezra, and “who helped the people to understand the law.” Much earlier, in King Jehoshaphat's reign, we find Levites exercising the same function (2 Chronicles 17:8-9). There is no sola Scriptura, with its associated idea "perspicuity" (evident clearness in the main) here. In Nehemiah 8:8: “. . . they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly [footnote, "or with interpretation"], and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”
So the people did indeed understand the law (8:12), but not without much assistance -- not merely upon hearing. Likewise, the Bible is not altogether clear in and of itself, but requires the aid of teachers who are more familiar with biblical styles and Hebrew idiom, background, context, exegesis and cross-reference, hermeneutical principles, original languages, etc.

. . . I think all Christians agree that prophets, too, exercised a high degree of authority, so I need not establish that.
Furthermore, the only ones who believed in "Bible alone" in Jesus' time were the Sadducees, or theological liberals. As I wrote in my paper / book:
Christianity adopted wholesale the very "postbiblical" doctrines which the Sadducees rejected and which the Pharisees accepted: resurrection, belief in angels and spirits, the soul, the afterlife, eternal reward or damnation, and the belief in angels and demons.
d) But these doctrines were notable for their marked development after the biblical Old Testament Canon was complete, especially in Jewish apocalyptic literature, part of Jewish codified oral tradition.
e) We've seen how -- if a choice is to be made -- both Jesus and Paul were squarely in the "Pharisaical camp," over against the Sadducees.
f) We also saw earlier how Jesus and the New Testament writers cite approvingly many tenets of Jewish oral (later talmudic and rabbinic) tradition, according to the Pharisaic outlook.
Ergo) The above facts constitute one more "nail in the coffin" of the theory that either the Old Testament Jews or the early Church were guided by the principle of sola Scriptura. The only party that believed thusly were the Sadducees, who were heterodox according to traditional Judaism, despised by the common people, and restricted to the privileged classes only.
I provided tons of OT references in support of my view; S&S comes up with one: Deut 6:7-9. All that says is that the Jews were urged to teach the Law to their children. Big wow. That doesn't prove sola Scriptura or perspicuity, because it doesn't exist in total isolation from the passages I cited, that prove a system of authority and authoritative interpretation (and he falsely accuses me of "text isolation"). It doesn't prove anything of the sort, being merely a command for parents to be responsible in the religious, spiritual upbringing of their children. People from all religions do that (to varying degrees, of course). We home school all four of our children, and teach them about Catholicism. Does S&S think that this "proves" we believe in perspicuity and sola Scriptura too, or that parents who teach their children about Christianity must believe in that unbiblical myth? It's a ridiculous argument.
However, I’m getting off track, and that shall be saved for a later discussion.] Thus, Armstrong commits the fallacy of the overextended conclusion (see intro., part g.).

Sheer nonsense, as shown. The only one massively committing fallacies is S&S. I shall be happy to continue pointing this out, if he insists on continuing.

Moving on:
“Reluctant to acknowledge the Catholic Church headed by the Pope in Rome, Protestants must fall back on an alternative notion of an invisible, spiritual church that cannot be identified in earthly, historical, concrete terms.” (ibid., p.4)
This is a straw-man. The invisible church manifests itself visibly when it congregates, but not every one who congregates is truly a member of the redeemed. This can hardly be denied since the New Testament witnesses to it (Acts 20:28, 2 Cor. 11:13-15, 1 John 2:19, Rev. 2:14-15, 2:20, etc.)

I don't deny that there is a sense of the Mystical Church. Catholics believe that, too (and I've written about it), but we don't deny the visible, institutional, historically continuous Church. That's where Protestants go astray. Some try to maintain the visible church in some sense (Calvin tried). But then it is a matter of implausible definition, as if some Protestant denomination can fit the biblical specifications for what "Church" in this visible sense means. His problems continue to be: what is this visible Church? What does it teach? How is it the pillar and ground of truth, as Holy Scripture describes it?

Protestants cannot
do this, pure and simple. Their ecclesiology and rule of faith do not logically permit it. As I have contended above, even if we grant this invisible church, the problem remains of identifying the doctrines of this ethereal, nebulous, mysterious entity. And until the Protestant can do that, it is folly and a pipe dream to pretend it is a foundation or support of "truth." It is playing games with reality and logic and the Bible.

He notes Martin Luther’s stance on the subject of the visibility of the church, but yet, he never deals with the Reformer’s defenses of it. To quote Luther himself:

“Under Elijah the prophet, all the people and every public institution among them had gone astray into idolatry, so that he thought he was the only one left; yet, while the kings and princes, priests and prophets, and all that could be called the people and church of God, were going to ruin, God had reserved seven thousand to Himself (1 Kings 19:18). But who saw them, or knew them to be the people of God? And who will dare to deny that in our day, under these principal men of yours (for you only mention persons of public office and of great name), God has kept to Himself a church among the common people, while allowing all whom you mention to perish like the kingdom of Israel? For it is God’s prerogative to bring down the chosen ones of Israel, and, as Psalm 77 says, to slay their fat ones (Psalm 78.31); but to preserve the dregs and remnant of Israel, according to Isaiah’s words (Isaiah 10.22).”

–Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1957), p.120.
And again:

“Look at the time of the Arians, when scarcely five catholic bishops were preserved in the whole world, and they were driven from their sees, while the Arians reigned everywhere, taking to themselves the public name and office of the church. Yet under these heretics Christ preserved His church; though in such a way that it was not for a moment thought or held to be the church.” –Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1957), p.121.
But this is a selective presentation of Luther's ecclesiology. The fact is that he contradicted himself: sometimes speaking of the invisible church and other times of a visible one (Lutheranism, after all, adopted a state church model and gave secular princes the power that bishops once had, and this was quite concrete and "visible" indeed). Luther also says things like a quote that I have had posted on my Church Page for some time:

This testimony of the universal holy Christian Church, even if we had nothing else, would be a sufficient warrant for holding this article [on the sacrament] and refusing to suffer or listen to a sectary, for it is dangerous and fearful to hear or believe anything against the unanimous testimony, belief, and teaching of the universal holy Christian churches, unanimously held in all the world from the beginning until now over fifteen hundred years.
(Martin Luther, in the year 1532; from Protestant Luther biographer Roland H. Bainton, Studies on the Reformation [Boston: Beacon Press, 1963], p. 26; primary source: WA [Werke, Weimar edition in German], XXX, 552)
Luther scholar Paul Althaus elaborates:
The official and the secret church are identical at the point of the gospel, sacraments, office of the keys, etc. Luther finds all these present also in the official church. This assures him that the hidden church is not a Platonic ideal. According to Luther, it has historical reality . . . God has always preserved his church, even under a church organization such as the papacy which erred in many ways. He has done this by marvelously preserving the text of the gospel and the sacraments . . . This remains true even though they were only a weak and hidden minority within the official church. Luther repeatedly says this. Thus he sees a line of truth in the actual history of the church along which the promise that the Holy Spirit will lead the church has again and again been fulfilled.

. . . an obvious historical continuity which Luther always recognized. But this continuity of leadership through the Spirit and of the preservation of the true church is definitely not identical with and is not guaranteed by the official tradition and supposed apostolic succession of the ecclesiastical structure.

(
The Theology of Martin Luther, translated by Robert C. Schultz, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, 343-344)
So Luther's views are nuanced and complex (and a bit contradictory) as always. I obviously could not delve into all this in the context of the purpose of my book. I gave a capsule summary that was not inaccurate as it reads. I noted (citing Althaus) that Luther applied 1 Tim 3:15 to his "hidden" or invisible church (which notion -- I have repeatedly contended presently -- is nonsensical). Althaus cites in supporting footnotes from the English edition of Luther's Works (vol. 13, p. 89). This is online (Selected Psalms II):
Elijah complained that he alone was the last remaining servant of the true God. The church was, therefore, so hidden at that time that it was nowhere except in the eyes of God, who said: "Yet I have preserved for Myself seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal" (1 Kings 19:18).

And thus the church existed and continued also under popery. But it was truly so hidden that if one had judged it according to its outer appearance, one would have concluded that it existed nowhere.

Therefore we must take careful and conscientious note of the following. First, there always have been, always are, and always will be those who glorify God and teach rightly about God, even though their number may be extremely small.

(commentary on Psalm 90)
Thus, Mr. Armstrong fails to take into account the very Biblical and historical doctrine of the “remnant” (Romans 9:24-33). The visible succession of office does not necessarily guarantee the truthfulness of the teaching authority. To quote John the Baptist speaking to the Pharisees:

“…do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham” -Matthew 3:9

[As with modern Jews, the Pharisees supposed themselves to be not only God’s chosen people but also His spiritually redeemed people, those that would receive the resurrection unto eternal life (Dan. 12:2), simply because they were genealogically descended from Abraham. Some modern Jews even believe that atheists will be saved as long as they’re ethnically Jewish!]

I don't have to deny the "remnant" motif at all. But that is not the sum total of biblical teaching on the Church, which is the point. The same Paul who gave us 1 Timothy 3:15 (whatever it means) also participated in the Jerusalem Council and promulgated its binding and infallible decrees. so obviously he does not believe only in an invisible church or remnant, by his own actions.

S&S then writes about general issues concerning sola Scriptura. I have a ton of stuff on that elsewhere, in the greatest depth (including an entire book), so I need not spend time on it now.

S&S then deals with my treatment of Calvin's ecclesiology. His is as complex as Luther's. He sometimes says there is still a true Church headed by Rome, even if exceedingly corrupt, and he certainly acknowledges Catholic baptism. Other times he writes as if the Catholic Church is utterly apostate. It's a whole discussion in itself (this paper is quite long enough by now), and Calvinists themselves have disagreements as to Calvin's view of the historic Catholic Church.

The true remnant of God never died and cannot die (Matthew 16:18), but the visible/outward authority can just as it did under Elijah the prophet or under Athanasius during the Arian ascendancy (see the Luther quotes above). This is clearly what Calvin meant.

Okay; let's assume he meant it like this. It's a falsehood to say that Catholic visible authority "died" during the Arian crisis. It may have among eastern bishops, but not at Rome, which always held the correct faith and supported St. Athanasius in it. I wrote in a paper on Orthodoxy:

Arius (c.256-336), the heresiarch, was based in Alexandria and died in Constantinople. In a Council at Antioch in 341, the majority of 97 Eastern bishops subscribed to a form of semi-Arianism, whereas in a Council at Rome in the same year, under Pope Julius I, the trinitarian St. Athanasius was vindicated by over 50 Italian bishops. The western-dominated Council of Sardica (Sofia) in 343 again upheld Athanasius' orthodoxy, whereas the eastern Council of Sirmium in 351 espoused Arianism, which in turn was rejected by the western Councils of Arles (353) and Milan (355).
That's why Athanasius sought refuge in Rome itself; precisely because it hadn't "officially" apostatized! Hence The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states: "in 339 he was forced to flee to Rome, where he established close contacts with the W. Church, which continued throughout his life to support him . . . Rome, where his orthodoxy was recognized by a Council held in 341." (pp. 101 and 83; Athanasius died in 373 and the Arian crisis was essentially over by 381 and the Council of Constantinople). Luther's, Calvin's, and S&S's take on the Arian crisis is, therefore, in error. Modern church historians know better.
Again, Mr. Armstrong cites Calvin’s opinions but never deals with the arguments Calvin presented: the instances in which the Old Testament “Church” became corrupted and God had to send the prophets (a remnant in themselves) to restore the “Church” (Institutes 4.2.10). [I realize that he has limited space in his book, but he could have at least spent a page or even a paragraph dealing with the Reformer’s main arguments.]

Al this is secondary. I was simply trying to show that both Luther and Calvin applied 1 Timothy 3:15 to a supposed "hidden" or "invisible" church that was to be regarded as the primary meaning of "church" over against the apostolic, patristic, Catholic visible conception. Remnant or no, my argument is not overthrown, since S&S has not proven that Calvin and Luther did not believe these things. They did. Their ecclesiologies had complexities, however, that I couldn't possibly fully treat in a book of this sort.

Also, it is *NOT* the position of historical Protestantism that the church didn’t exist for 1,400 years. Rather, there were many great and godly men in all ages and not just a few of them within the Church of Rome itself (including a few Popes, no doubt!) who, although they agreed with Rome on almost everything, were part of that Remnant. We still hold that there are still many within the RC and EO communions.

I agree with the first sentence, but there were many Protestants then (the radical Anabaptists) and now that believe this. The contradiction, however, lies in the assertion that great men of the past "agreed with Rome on almost everything" yet were still somehow Christians. Today, the standard anti-Catholic line is that in order to be a good Christian, a man has to be a bad Catholic; i.e., dissent on any number of doctrines that Protestants don't like. If I am a good Christian, then I can't possibly believe all that Rome teaches, or I am no Christian at all. And those who are regarded by these same folks as likely or possibly Christians who are Catholic are invariably the ones who dissent and don't fully accept Catholic doctrine, because it is thought that the Council of Trent anathematized the gospel and defined Catholicism (as a theological system) out of Christianity.

The rest is of little importance, or reiteration of topics already dealt with (and I will hear the usual droning complaints about the length of this paper, and a bunch of hooey about my supposedly straying from the topic, as it is). As expected, S&S didn't succeed in proving that I committed a single fallacy. But he has committed several, as shown above. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to clarify my intent and meaning, and to make my case all the stronger. That's the blessing of apologetics. There are lots of insults that go with the territory, too, but alongside those the apologist has glorious experiences of time spent in Holy Scripture, plumbing its depths and reaping the blessings that come with a deeper study of God's inspired revelation.

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