Monday, April 23, 2007

Refuting the Ludicrous Anti-Protestant Sodomy Charge Against John Calvin

By Dave Armstrong (4-23-07)

A Catholic on my blog first brought this issue up in a combox thread. To his credit he later retracted the line of inquiry and accusation after I presented the material presented below ("let me say you did great job of getting to the truth of this matter. You’ve convinced me that there is nothing to this old and unfounded slander against Calvin. . . . congratulations on a job well done.").

But first he had cited a judgment: "both the character and morals of Calvin were infamous" -- from Catholic historian Johann Baptist Alzog (1808-1878), appearing in both his books, History of the Church (1912) and Manual of Universal Church History (1878).

Before I looked into the question a bit to see what I could find, I had asked: "Who is saying that Calvin had 'bad character and loose morals', and what evidence does he produce for this claim? I would take broad accusations like that with a huge grain of salt."

To answer my question, the article, "What are we to Think of John Calvin?" by a Rev. Fr. Philippe Marcille was produced (see some quotes from it), as well as The History of the Protestant Reformation, Vol. 1, by Archbishop Martin Spalding (1810-1872; see also volume 2 and some quotes).

* * *

I responded again:

!!!!! I don't know the first source. It could be some goofy "traditionalist". They love to "find" spectacular dirt on Protestants (and popes as well). Yes, sure enough: my suspicion was dramatically confirmed. This priest has written at least two articles for what appears to be an SSPX magazine (Lefebvrite schismatics): The Angelus.

That's quite sufficient in my mind to totally discredit the man as any sort of credible expert on anything to do with the Church, let alone writing about the Protestant founders. I found his name: "Abbot Philippe Marcille FSSPX". FFSPX stands for "Fraternité Sacerdotale Saint Pie X"; see this schismatic group's website.

Archbishop Spalding is an old source. Catholic writing on Protestants was quite biased for a long time. A lot of the more negative assertions have been discarded with more objective and ecumenical scholarship. Abp. Spalding was not a professional historian.

Unless this can be backed up by someone of impeccable historiographical credentials, I wouldn't accept it as factual at all, let alone spread it around. Now, of course, you have me curious (having never heard this before), and I will look to see what I can find, but it strikes me as the kind of sensationalistic charge that someone would drum up if they wanted to utterly discredit someone. I don't know who would have started it (if it is untrue), but it likely began during Calvin's lifetime.

* * *

I found some more material on this "Calvin and sodomy" business:
Jerome Bolsec, an ex-Carmelite friar who embraced the reformed faith in Paris, settled in Geneva and served as a physician. He publicly attacked Calvin's doctrine of predestination, was banished from Geneva, and eventually returned to catholicism. His "revenge was to publish in 1577 a scurrilous biography of Calvin, accusing him among other things of sodomy, which continued to be an arsenal for anti-Calvinist polemics for the next two centuries" (Lindberg, 266).
The article on Bolsec in Wikipedia confirms that his book was not exactly a neutral biographical source. Actually, it was taken right from The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), which states:
published biographies of the two Genevan reformers, Calvin and Beza (1519-1605). These works are violent in tone, and find little favour with protestant writers. Their historical statements cannot always be relied on. They are "Histoire de la view, des moeurs . . . de Jean Calvin
Williston Walker (who was an actual historian at Yale), in his book, John Calvin (New York: Schocken Books, 1906; rep. 1969) writes about Bolsec on pp. 116-119, 315-320. Some excerpts:
The more specific charge, to which reference is now made, was formulated thirteen years after Calvin's death, by Jerome Hermes Bolsec . . . that Calvin had been convicted of heinous moral turpitude . . . No evidence has ever been produced of the existence of such a document as Bolsec alleges. Jacques Desmay, the earnest Catholic writer who used his stay as Advent and Lenten preacher at Noyon in 1614 and 1615 to learn all he could of Calvin's life there by records and tradition, found nothing of it. An equally determined Roman historian of Noyon, Jacques Le Vasseur, in his Annales of 1633, expressly repudiated it; and careful modern Roman Catholic scholars, such as Kampschulte and Paulus, reject it as "unworthy of serious refutation.

. . . The whole calumny would be unworthy of discussion had the accusation not been repeatedly renewed by a certain class of controversialists during the last century -- in one instance as recently as 1898.

(pp. 116-119)

More from Protestant historian Philip Schaff (alternate URL):
5. Philibert Berthelier (or Bertelier, Bertellier), an unworthy son of the distinguished patriot who, in 1519, had been beheaded for his part in the war of independence, belonged to the most malignant enemies of Calvin. He had gone to Noyon, if we are to believe the assertion of Bolsec, to bring back scandalous reports concerning the early life of the Reformer, which the same Bolsec published thirteen years after Calvin’s death, but without any evidence.768 If the Libertines had been in possession of such information, they would have made use of it. Berthelier is characterized by Beza as "a man of the most consummate impudence" and "guilty of many iniquities." He was excommunicated by the Consistory in 1551 for abusing Calvin, for not going to church, and other offences, and for refusing to make any apology.

768 See above, p. 302 sq. That abominable slander about sodomy, which even Galiffe rejects, Audin and Spalding are not ashamed to repeat.
Notes to a Life of Calvin (I believe, by Theodore Beza), defend Calvin:
The life of Calvin was also charged with immoralities. But this was done principally by the famous Bolsec, of whom Beza gives some account.

After he had been banished from Geneva, through the influence of Calvin and Farel, for sedition and Pelagianism, he wrote a life of Calvin, with a view to destroy the reputation of that great and good man.

The great Dr. Moulin observes, that not one of Calvin’s innumerable enemies ever carped at the purity of his life, but this profligate physician, whom Calvin had procured to be banished from Geneva, for his wickedness and impieties. The reproach of such a man, says Middleton, was an honor to Calvin, and especially upon such an account, for as Milton truly says, “Of some to be dispraised, is no small praise.” The calumnies of Bolsec, however, were reiterated by other enemies, and are sometimes, even in this age, raked from the filth where truth has long since consigned them. “One of the greatest uses,” says Middleton, “which may be drawn from reading, is to learn the weaknesses of the heart of man, and the ill effects of prejudices in points of religion. No less a person than the great cardinal Richelieu, has produced all accusation against Calvin, on the credit of Bertelier, than which none was ever worse contrived, and worse proved; though it has been adopted, and conveyed from book to book. Bertelier pretended, that the republic of Geneva had sent him to Noyon, with orders to make an exact inquiry there into Calvin’s life and character; and that he found Calvin had been convicted of sodomy; but that, at the bishop’s request, the punishment of fire was commuted into that of being branded with the Flower-de-luce. He boasted to have an act, signed by a notary, which certified the truth of the process and condemnation. Bolsec affirms, that he had seen this act; and this is the ground of that horrid accusation. Neither Bertelier, nor Bolsec, are to be credited. If Bertelier’s act had not been suppositious, there would have been at Noyon, authentic and public testimonies of the trial and punishment in question; and they would have been published as soon as the Romish religion began to suffer by Calvin’s means. Bertelier had no party against him in Geneva more inexorable than Calvin, who held him in abhorrence, on account of his vices. Bertelier was accused of sedition and conspiracy against the state and church: but he ran away, and, not appearing to answer for himself, was condemned, as being attainted and convicted of those crimes, to lose his head, by a sentence pronounced against him, the sixth of August, 1555. No envoy or deputy was ever sent from Geneva on public business, who was not in a higher station than that of Bertelier; besides, there were some considerable persons at Noyon, who retired to Geneva, as well as Calvin: by whose means it was very easy to receive all the information which could have been desired, without going farther.

If what Bertelier said was true, he would have had his paper when he fled from Geneva: but it is plain he had not the commission he boasted of, after that time. But can any one believe, that, before the year 1555, when those who were called heretics durst not show themselves for fear of being burnt, a deputy from Geneva should go boldly to Noyon, to inform himself of Calvin’s life? Who will believeth that if Betrelier had an authentic act of Calvin’s infamy in 1554, he would have kept it so close, that the public should have no knowledge of it before 1557? Was it not a piece which the clergy of France would have bought for its weight in gold? ‘But why (says Bayle), do I lose time in confuting such a ridiculous romance? Nothing surprises me more than to see so great a person as cardinal de Richelieu, depend on this piece of Bertelier; and allege as his principal reason that the republic of Geneva did not undertake to show the falsehood of this piece.’ The truth is, this cardinal made all imaginable inquiry into the pretended proceedings against Calvin at Noyon, and that he discovered nothing; yet he maintained the affirmative on the credit of Jerom Bolsec, whose testimony is of no weight in things which are laid to Calvin’s charge. Bolsec would have been altogether buried in oblivion, if he had not been taken notice of by the monks and missionaries for writing some satirical books against the Reformation. He was convicted of sedition and Pelagianism at Geneva, in 1551, and banished the territory of the republic. He was also banished from Bern: after which he went to France, where he assisted in persecuting the Protestants, an even prostituted his wife to the canons of Autun. He was an infamous man, who forsook his order, had been banished thrice, and changed his religion four times; and who, after having aspersed the dead and the living, died in despair.

Varillas thought Bolsec a discredited author: Maimbourg rejected the infamy that was thrown upon Calvin: and Florimond de Remond owns, they have defamed him horribly. Papyrius Masso spoke very ill of Calvin, but would not venture to mention the story of the Flower-de-luce: and he called those, mean wretched scribblers, who reproached that minister with lewdness. It is not strange that cardinal de Richelieu, in one of the best books of controversy that has been published on the part of the church of Rome, should be less scrupulous and nice than Remond, Masso, and Romuald; and that he should give out, as a true matter of fact, the story of Bolsec, which began then to be laid aside by the missionaries? Richelieu intended to have reconciled both religions in France, but was prevented by death; and there was not one story which people did not believe, when it defamed him or cardinal Mazarin.

* * *

Protestant regular on my blog "Grubb" wrote: " Thanks for getting to the truth about Calvin's character regarding sodomy." And a Calvinist, Robert Fisher, was nice enough to comment on my blog: "I disagree with you about Calvinism, but I saw how you weren't drawn in to disparaging Calvin personally, and actually defended him - you are a class act."

Whatever the truth is, is my concern and goal. It is irrelevant in this regard whether I disagree with someone's theology or ethics or have some personal beef, etc. My responsibility as an apologist (and a published, somewhat known one, in the public eye) is to seek truth and present it to the best of my ability, in fairness and charity, in all my writings.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Refutation of David T. King: Does Material Sufficiency of Scripture Contradict Belief in Mary's Assumption?

By Dave Armstrong (4-22-07)

Following up on my last reply to anti-Catholic Reformed Pastor David T. King (in which he pretended that various Church Fathers were good little Protestants insofar as they supposedly taught sola Scriptura), I would now like to challenge his claims that a belief in material sufficiency is inconsistent with a belief in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pastor King's lengthy exchange (mostly with a Catholic, David Waltz; this now being the "Three David Discussion") is posted at James Swan's blog. His words will be in blue.

* * * * * 

You have never tried to defend the Roman dogma of the assumption of Mary, and you know very well that many of your communion's scholars would never attempt to do so from Holy Scripture.

I wouldn't be so sure about it. I am merely a lay Catholic apologist and no scholar and I took a crack at it. I'm sure far greater minds than mine have (at least in the way I will outline later on).

The Roman response here is typical, cut and paste anything that remotely appears to be a response to the issue at hand.

Just for the record, showing the usual sweeping King attack on large masses of people. We shall see how he responds to these criticisms of his arguments. If experience is any guide at all, I would strongly advise anyone waiting eagerly to see what King will do with my reply to not hold your breath (or if you insist on doing so, to be sure to have a very good life insurance policy).

The retreat to material sufficiency on the part of any Roman Catholic is but an exercise of private judgment, because your communion has nowhere officially spoken authoritatively on the relationship of Scripture to tradition.

It has spoken a lot on the relationship per se, but it has not required Catholics to believe in the material sufficiency of Scripture or to deny it. We have freedom to believe either. The majority position among scholars is the former.

I know you know this because I've told you repeatedly in the past in personal conversations. You know very well that a dogma like the assumption bears no scriptural support, not even implicitly. 

I don't know what Mr. Waltz knows "very well", according to you. But I know that I believe there is considerable implicit support, as I shall show in due course.

Your present pope, as a cardinal, is on record as having denied material sufficiency...

Cardinal, now Pope Joseph Ratzinger, while commenting on the documents of Vatican II (article nine of Dei verbum), stated that “no one is seriously able to maintain that there is a proof in Scripture for every catholic doctrine.” See Joseph Ratzinger’s “The Transmission of Divine Revelation” in Herbert Vorgrimler, ed., Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969), Vol. 3, p. 195.

He could very well mean that there is not explicit or clear support for every doctrine, which is obvious, and which I would readily agree with.

Though he argues for material sufficiency, Cardinal Yves Congar states concerning examples of Roman tradition: Certainly it would be impossible to prove in every case a truly apostolic origin; it is not even impossible that the contrary could be proved. Yves M.-J. Congar, O.P., Tradition and Traditions: An Historical Essay and A Theological Essay, trans. Michael Naseby and Thomas Rainborough (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1966), p. 62.

In the sense of strict historiography, this could be asserted, yes. This causes no difficulty for the Catholic position.

. . . a dogma like the assumption has neither material support in Holy Scripture, nor in tradition. . . . Why even bother to appeal to material sufficiency or tradition, when neither can support a dogma like the assumption? . . . But I know, and you know, that the assumption is nowhere taught in Holy Scripture, and your alleged support for the material sufficiency of Holy Scripture is but wishful thinking, and a ruse to distract from the fact that you've really embraced the principle of sola ecclesia. . . . you know that your own theologians have declared it has no support in Scripture, . . .

At this point (after Pastor King has presented his basic argument that he will now mostly repeat over and over like a mantra) it would be very useful to do a quick survey of just exactly what a Catholic means when they refer to material sufficiency of Scripture. I shall contend that Pastor King doesn't understand nuances in how a Catholic views this matter: qualifications that make a big difference regarding whether our belief in the dogma of the Assumption would contradict our conception of material sufficiency. If one uses Pastor King's incorrect definition, his conclusion would arguably follow. But once the correct definition is understood, it is seen that King's conclusion doesn't follow because his assumed premise (of definition) is false.

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin provides a very helpful overview:

As the Second Vatican Council stressed in its constitution Dei Verbum, "It is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws its certainty about everything that has been revealed. Therefore both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence" (DV 9).
One of the principal architects of Dei Verbum was the French theologian Yves Congar, who thought Catholics could acknowledge a substantial element of truth in sola scriptura.
He wrote that "we can admit sola scriptura in the sense of a material sufficiency of canonical Scripture. This means that Scripture contains, in one way or another, all truths necessary for salvation" (Tradition and Traditions, 410).
He encapsulated this idea with the slogan Totum in scriptura, totum in traditione ("All is in Scripture, all is in Tradition"), which he attributes to Cardinal Newman. According to this theory, Scripture and Tradition would not be two sources containing different material but two modes of transmitting the same deposit of faith. We might call it the "two modes" view as opposed to the "two source" view.
The decrees of Trent and Vatican II allow Catholics to hold the two-mode idea, but they do not require it. A Catholic is still free to hold the two-source view.
. . . Congar spoke only in terms of the Bible containing "all truths necessary for salvation." He did not speak of it containing all theological truths. This is an important distinction that comes up in discussions of sola scriptura.
Protestants often define sola scriptura by appealing to the idea that Scripture contains all truths needed for salvation. In practice, though, they often apply the term much more expansively, as if the Bible should be expected to contain all truths of Christian theology.
. . . I certainly can't think of any truths directly connected with salvation that aren't at least alluded to in Scripture.
But if we apply it more broadly, problems emerge. There seem to be theological truths that are not mentioned in Scripture. For example, the Bible does not state that public revelation is closed. As far as I can tell, it is neither stated nor clearly implied. Nor does the Bible say that God will not inspire any more books of Scripture or that there will be no more apostles. One needed to be a witness of the ministry of Christ to be a member of the Twelve (Acts 1:21-22), but Christ appeared in a vision to name Paul an apostle, even though he was not an eyewitness. If he wanted, Jesus could have kept appearing to people throughout history and appointing them apostles. We know from Tradition that this didn't happen — that the apostles died out and handed the Church over to their successors, the bishops — but the Bible doesn't tell us this. . . .
Other truths of Tradition are not stated directly in Scripture but are implied clearly by the biblical author. For example, while the Bible doesn't come out and say that the Holy Spirit is a person rather than a force, it is implied in numerous passages, such as those in which the Spirit is depicted as speaking to people (e.g., Acts 13:2), and the biblical authors meant us to understand this.
Some truths of Tradition can be inferred from Scripture even though the biblical authors did not clearly imply them. For example, Christ having both a human will and a divine will can be inferred from his being "true God and true man" (CCC 464). Various biblical passages state or imply that he is true God and true man, but in none does the biblical author state or imply that he had two wills. We have to figure that out by inference.
A truth is sometimes alluded to or reflected in the text even though it can't be proved from the text alone. The Immaculate Conception may be reflected in what Gabriel says to Mary in Luke 1:28, and the Assumption may be reflected in the wings the woman is given in Revelation 12:14, but you couldn't prove these truths from the text alone.
Ironically, Pastor King radically contradicts himself (apparently without even knowing it) in his book, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume I: A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, by stating on page 129 (emphases added):

"Scripture alone is the only certain, infallible norm by which all theology, doctrine, creeds (beliefs), practice and morality of the Christian Church is to be regulated, in accordance with that which is 'either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture'..."

Now, think for a moment, the implications of this, and the vicious logical circle that will result. He demands of Catholics that they must find explicit support for the assumption of Mary in Scripture, lest they contradict their belief (i.e., for those who hold it, since it's not required) in material sufficiency of Scripture.

But yet when it comes to his pet doctrine of sola Scriptura, King freely admits that it may be simply deduced from Scripture (!!). Well, if it is the case for this "pillar of the Reformation" -- upon which all distinctively Protestant doctrines are built --, that King allows mere deduction, then we must point out that this is, of course, exactly how the Assumption can also be indicated in Scripture. Thus, it follows that King's position logically forces him to concede that the biblical evidence for the Assumption is not fundamentally lesser in kind than the biblical evidence for sola Scriptura. This is what we call a double standard, if he continues to press the supposed huge difference where it, in fact, does not exist.

King is not alone in implying that the Bible doesn't contain explicit proof for sola Scriptura. Protestant apologist Norman Geisler admits:
[T]he Bible does teach implicitly and logically, if not formally and explicitly, that the Bible alone is the only infallible basis for faith and practice.

(Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, co-author, Ralph E. Mackenzie, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995, 184; emphases added)

He denies that there is either "formal" or "explicit" biblical proof for this foundation of Protestant theology and its very rule of faith. So if even sola Scriptura lacks this sort of biblical proof (and I would also deny that one can find even implicit or logical proof for it in Scripture), why is it required of Catholics to provide more for a doctrine like the Assumption? There are such things as "implicit" and deductive proofs from Scripture or at least indications.

So how does one find implicit or indirectly deduced support for the Assumption in Scripture? There are a number of ways to do this. For example, in my apologetic efforts I have maintained that the key component of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (sinlessness) is explicitly taught in Luke 1:28. By making a straightforward, deductive biblical argument, the Immaculate Conception (in its essence) can be strongly supported. There are many other arguments as well. My section: "Scriptural evidence: the Immaculate Conception of Mary" in my book A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, ran 15 pages; filled with biblical arguments.

This has implications for the Assumption. If Mary indeed was preserved from original sin, then she would not undergo decay (i.e., she would be in a state or condition that held sway before the fall of man; see Gen 3:19; Ps 16:10). Therefore, when she departed this life, she would experience bodily resurrection immediately without her body undergoing decay. From one thing follows the other. If one is completely without sin, this arguably includes original sin, and without original sin, there is no decay; ergo, the Assumption follows as a matter of course.

Another deductive biblical argument for the Assumption of Mary is regarding her as the firstfruits of the general resurrection that St. Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 15. What better person to follow Jesus in resurrection than His own mother, who made the way of salvation possible at the Annunciation? Though this is no ironclad proof, on the other hand, it is a very plausible scenario, and contradicts nothing in the Bible.

Yet another indirect way is to contend that the notion of an Assumption itself is not at all a foreign concept in Scripture. It's not ruled out at all, based on the analogies of many other saints. I cite my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, p. 190:
Lest one think that a bodily ascent into Heaven (of a creature, as opposed to Jesus) is impossible and "biblically unthinkable," Holy Scripture contains the examples of Enoch (Heb. 11:5; cf. Gen. 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1,11), St. Paul's being caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4), possibly bodily, and events during the Second Coming (1 Thess. 4:15-17), believed by many Evangelicals to constitute the "Rapture," an additional return of Christ for believers only. All these occur by virtue of the power of God, not the intrinsic ability of the persons.
Recently, I realized that another biblical passage (the "Two Witnesses") was an additional example of a sort of Assumption:
9: For three days and a half men from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb,
10: and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.
11: But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
12: Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up hither!" And in the sight of their foes they went up to heaven in a cloud.

(Revelation 11:9-12; cf. Matthew 17:27:52-53)
Another biblical argument used regarding Mary's assumption is the "woman clothed with the sun" passage in Revelation 12, which has obvious connections to Mary as well as to the Church (it has a double application).

Think of these what a person will, they are at least biblical arguments, and not too different in kind from those used to "prove" that the Bible teaches that it is the only final authority. And there is much in the Bible that flat-out contradicts sola Scriptura (indications of binding tradition, authoritative oral tradition, apostolic succession, strong Church authority, the papacy, Holy Spirit-led councils: the council of Jerusalem, etc.), whereas nothing in Scripture contradicts the possibility of Mary being assumed into heaven (and many parallels show it to be entirely possible and plausible).

All your pontifications about material sufficiency doesn't mean a thing to me while you avoid the particulars like "the assumption."

I saw Mr. Waltz give plenty of argumentation. If he didn't, however (if we grant Pastor King's claim), I certainly have. So let King scold others for (actually or supposedly) avoiding his arguments, while we observe what he does with the arguments I make in direct reply to his.

I am not going to let you get away with this tactic again. I am not being mean or uncharitable to hold your feet to your own professed belief by insisting that you make it good on a particular case. You see, as long as folks such as yourself can get away with speaking in generalizations, and never deal with the problems of the particular, it all sounds plausible. But the moment your theory is subjected to the particulars, it begins to unravel. . . . Mr. Waltz, it is charitable to hold you to your own principles. I am not going to let you off the hook by permitting you to speak in generalizations, all the while avoiding the particulars, because that is where your theory begins to unravel.

I'm delighted to extend the same sort of charity to Pastor King himself. Funny thing, though, his behavior in similar situations in the past hasn't particularly struck me as indicating that my critiques were acts of charity towards him! In fact, quite the contrary. His fleeing for the hills and sudden symptoms of "clamming up" would seem to imply to me that he was a bit uncomfortable with all my expressed charity. Impressions are sometimes somewhat misleading, though, I confess.

For a Roman Catholic to attempt to hold to or argue for the material sufficiency is, in my opinion, an exercise of sophistry. Why? Because your best exegetes . . . recognize that the Assumption is not a development from the text of Holy Scripture.

One must look at what sense they intended when they said this. I suspect that most of them had in mind what I have been expressing, rather than King's mistaken understanding of material sufficiency. After citing four writers: including two Protestants and a liberal Catholic, King concludes:

This is a glaring, unresolved consistency for any Roman Catholic professing to hold to the concept of material sufficiency. The dogma is absent in Scripture and tradition, but must be maintained by the “faithful” because Rome requires it. These men are neither stupid nor biased. They are being honest, and that’s why I regard it as an exercise of sophistry for a Roman Catholic to affirm a concept of “material sufficiency” on the one hand, while a dogma like the “assumption” defies it on the other.

I have found more indication for the Assumption in Scripture, I contend, than can be found for sola Scriptura. It's also true that the canon of Scriptura is, of course, nowhere found in Scripture itself, and it is necessary to know in order for sola Scriptura to be able to be practiced. So the belief that Scripture is the only infallible authority itself rests upon an unquestionable tradition determined ultimately by the Church. Students of logic will surely recognize this as a vicious circle; whereas the assumption entails no such logical contradiction. It is simply an instance of indirect deductions from Scripture.

So, no, I don’t know that “the Assumption is theological development from an implicit reference in Holy Scripture.” I know the claim, but I think it is pure sophistry, and it’s not uncharitable for me to state my conviction as such. What should be questioned is your assertion that it is an “an implicit reference in Holy Scripture,” while at the same time confessing you haven’t done much study on it.

Wonderful; now that Pastor King has seen some of the arguments Catholics produce on that score, surely he will be excited to interact with it, no?

You’re the one arguing for material sufficiency, and you have yet to demonstrate, and I know you can’t, where it is found in Scripture.

This is symptomatic of the incomprehension of the proper definition of material sufficiency, highlighted above . . .

The fact remains that you still haven’t shown that the dogma of the “assumption” is materially derived from Scripture.

Like I said, Pastor King eventually simply repeated himself over and over, like a dog who keeps barking and barking, and the sound never changes.

There is no development for the “dogma” of the assumption that finds material support in Holy Scripture. Your own communion have never defined the “relationship between Scripture and tradition” and many Roman Catholic theologians from the past denied material sufficiency. I’m sure you don’t know what material sufficiency means, because you think you can believe it and the dogma of the “assumption.” The two beliefs are incompatible.


Why pursue the question of material sufficiency with me, when you know very well your own communion has avoided that question like the plague ever since the days of Newman or Vatican II.

It has? Wow; I didn't know that . . .

We disagree again on both Ratzinger and Brown. I don’t care what they said in other contexts. I know what they said in the statements I gave.

This is a scream! "Don't confuse me with the facts! And above all, I must never take into consideration the context of a writer's overall thought, lest the entire thesis of my book collapse in a heap, because I started hunting down when all these fathers also talked about Tradition, the Church, the Pope, Councils, and apostolic succession. Circular reasoning and heads in the sand at the proper moments must rule the day!"

I wish I had a nickel for every time a Roman Catholic told me that I don’t understand this or that.

He would be a rich man indeed. I wish I had a penny for every time King and other anti-Catholics have fled from my critiques of their materials and refused to utter one word in defense of their critiqued materials. I'd be the richest man in the history of the world: more than Croesus and Bill Gates combined, times twenty.

But, again, for all of your comments, for all of your verbiage, we have yet to see a single passage of Scripture from you that demonstrates the dogma of the "assumption" has any material support from Scripture.

And I have started passing over some of King's innumerable droning repetitions of this same theme. I don't even want to ponder the repetition that must occur in this man's sermons. His congregations must know them word-for-word by now if he uses at all the same technique he does here.

I refuse to grant what has not been proven, namely, that a Romanist can consistently hold to the view that Scripture is materially sufficient. . . .

For if the dogma of the "assumption" may be proven from Scripture, then virtually anything may be proven by this kind of "name it/claim it" approach to Holy Scripture.

Okay, how about reincarnation, seances, Mormonism, Christian Science, and Jehovah's Witnesses? Are all those part of the "virtually anything" that is as harmonious with Scripture as the Assumption? I can easily show how all of them (and sola Scriptura as well) contradict Scripture repeatedly. But can King show us how the Assumption is contrary to Scripture, in terms of possibility and consistency with the biblical worldview?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Heinrich Bullinger's Belief in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By Dave Armstrong (April 2007; revised on 6 April 2008)

A Catholic, David Waltz, cited in a discussion thread a book that cited a quotation of (Protestant "reformer") Heinrich Bullinger, from my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. Here it is:
Elijah was transported body and soul in a chariot of fire; he was not buried in any Church bearing his name, but mounted up to heaven, so that . . . we might know what immortality and recompense God prepares for his faithful prophets and for his most outstanding and incomparable creatures…It is for this reason, we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up to heaven by the angels.
He was then given the fifth degree by an anti-Catholic for actually citing me, as if this were the most outrageous thing in the world! It was suggested that my information was inaccurate or highly skewed.

For those a bit more fair and objective, the source information given is provided in my book (1stBooks original edition, p. 152, footnote 57, and current Sophia Institute Press edition, p. 209, footnote 229).

The secondary source I got the Bullinger quote from was Max Thurian's book, Mary: Mother of All Christians, translated by Neville B. Cryer, New York: Herder and Herder, 1964, 197-198. This was, of course, listed in my book (both editions). Thurian was a Reformed Protestant at the time he wrote this book (I believe he later became a Catholic).

I also listed the primary work: De Origine Erroris (16), from 1568. I must have found that from some other source (likely Janssen), because it isn't in Thurian. Thurian, in turn, took the citation from W. Tappolet, Das Marienlob der Reformatoren, Katzmann-Verlag, Tubingen, 1962, p. 327. Tappolet is also a Protestant author.

I didn't list this further source in my book because I figured most readers of a popular (English) apologetics book cared little about a German-language reference source. But of course if someone was dying to find this out, they could have found it in Thurian's footnote. And with the name of the original primary work, they could run it down in some such source anyway.

I tracked down the original source further. There were several editions (apparently having to do with different languages), and I found one listed for 1568:

Bullinger, Heinrich, 1504-1575.
[De origine erroris. 1568]
De origine erroris libri duo / Heinrychi Bullingeri ... ; ab ipso authore nunc demum recogniti, & aliquot locis praeclarè aucti ... ;
accesserunt his insuper eiusdem authoris libris duo de concilijs, opus uarium, utile, & nostro seculo tantum non necessarium.
Tiguri : Excudebat Christophorus
Froschouerus, 1568.
[4], 183, [5] leaves.
Staedtke, J. Heinrich Bullinger Werke 1:14.
Zurich ZB
7 microfiches.
Order no. PBU-673
My anti-Catholic critics can exert themselves to prove that I lied about the citation, since I got the lie from a Reformed Protestant author, who in turn got it from another Protestant (probably Lutheran) author. I can't wait to see them prove that. Always major on the minors and obfuscation . . .
Do these critics really think I am so stupid I would leave myself open for that sort of a major error? After having written four published books, with two of the most reputable Catholic publishers, I think I know a little bit about footnotes and sources: at least as much as certain critics of mine do.

I'm not perfect, and I make innocent errors in documentation sometimes, like anyone else, but none of my critics have ever caught me in some huge whopper, much as they would love to do so. Seeing the huge volume of writing that I produce, I think that is a pretty good record indeed.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Refutation of David T. King: Were St. John Chrysostom and St. Irenaeus Sola Scriptura Advocates?

By Dave Armstrong (4-20-07)

This is the same old same old: historical revisionism and anachronism galore: a tired attempt to make the Church fathers into something they were not, simply so the distinctives of Protestantism can be shored up and given a sophistical semblance of historical continuity that they (quite glaringly and obviously) do not possess.

I've written about sola Scriptura about 5,834 times. One tires of it. But what the heck: one more time won't hurt, I reckon, in light of deluded confident assertions from a person who, time and again, refuses to defend his arguments. I highly doubt that this time will be any different, but you never know. There is always a first for everything.

My standard approach to this business of:

Church Father X believes in sola Scriptura, because, look, see!: he praises Scripture in this place and this, and the other over there, and says that Christians ought to read the Bible to learn theology! Obviously, then, he agrees with the formal Protestant principle of sola Scriptura! Who could possibly doubt it?
is the following (I cite my paper about St. Athanasius' view of authority, of my 5,834 on this topic):

We'll look to see if the person thinks Scripture is formally sufficient for authority without the necessary aid of Tradition and the Church, or if he does not, as indicated in other statements. A thinker's statements must be evaluated in context of all of his thought, rather than having pieces taken out and then claiming that they 'prove' something that they do not, in fact, prove at all.

In other words, even if you find a quote where a Father seems (at first glance) to be stating something akin to sola Scriptura (since he is writing about the Bible without immediate reference to Church or Tradition), one must examine what the same person believes about Tradition, Church, and apostolic succession, because the very question at hand (what is the rule of faith?) has to do with the relation of all those things. For that reason, all three (or four) have to be examined in his writing, to understand properly how he views their relationship vis-a-vis each other.

The Protestant always puts the Bible above Church and Tradition, and denies that the latter two can be infallible. Catholics and Orthodox believe in a three-legged stool, where, practically-speaking, Church and Tradition have equal authority with Scripture, because they are the necessary framework and interpretive grid through which Scripture can be properly interpreted in an orthodox sense.
Pastor King's words will be in blue; St. John Chrysostom's (c. 347-407) in green. St. Irenaeus' (c. 130-c. 200) words will be in purple.

"Tarry not, I entreat, for another to teach thee; thou hast the oracles of God. No man teacheth thee as they; for he indeed oft grudgeth much for vainglory’s sake and envy. Hearken, I entreat you, all ye that are careful for this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul. If ye will not any other, yet get you at least the New Testament, the Apostolic Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If grief befall thee, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take thence comfort of thy trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather dive not into them merely, but take them wholly to thee; keep them in thy mind.

This is the cause of all evils, the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how ought we to come off safe? Well contented should we be if we can be safe with them, let alone without them."

Source: NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, Homily 9.

This source is available online. Fellow anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer suggested a similar passage, for the same purpose:

Let us not therefore carry about the notions of the many, but examine into the facts. For how is it not absurd that in respect to money, indeed, we do not trust to others, but refer this to figures and calculation; but in calculating upon facts we are lightly drawn aside by the notions of others; and that too, though we possess an exact balance, and square and rules for all things, the declaration of the divine laws? Wherefore I exhort and entreat you all, disregard what this man and that man thinks about these things, and inquire from the Scriptures all these things.

(Homilies on Second Corinthians, 13, c. 7, v. 1)

So the great Father loves Scripture. Amen! Of course, King assumes that anyone who loves Holy Scripture must believe that it is the only binding, infallible authority and must accept the formal principle of sola Scriptura. But this is clearly a logical fallacy. There are number of different positions one can take with regard to the relationship of Scripture, Church, Tradition, and apostolic succession.

St. John Chrysostom's own position is not sola Scriptura, and this can easily be shown. He also accepts an authoritative oral tradition that isn't (by definition) even written; therefore, the furthest thing from sola Scriptura and the Bible alone as ultimate authority. Furthermore, he grounds such authority in the testimony of Scripture itself (just as I, as a Catholic apologist and critic of sola Scriptura, have done, and would do). To show this is a rather easy matter. In fact, it can be demonstrated from St. John Chrysostom's homilies on other epistles of Paul (i.e., of the same sort as the present one -- or two, including Engwer's prooftext -- under consideration).

Let's assume for the sake of argument that King's and Engwer's citations above indicate (or prove?) St. John Chrysostom's belief in a key plank of sola Scriptura: the ability of the individual to interpret for himself without necessary aid from some semblance of binding corporate Christian authority. Now, assuming that, how does a person holding to his alleged beliefs on the subject explain the following "counter-evidence" from the same writer?:

Since then he had already admonished them concerning these things when present, and some perhaps listened to him and others disobeyed; therefore in his letter also again, he foments the place, like a physician, by his mode of addressing them, and so corrects the offence. For that he had heretofore admonished them in person is evident from what he begins with. Why else, having said nothing of this matter any where in the Epistle before, but passing on from other accusations, doth he straightway say, “Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you?”

. . . "That ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you." It appears then that he used at that time to deliver many things also not in writing, which he shows too in many other places. But at that time he only delivered them, whereas now he adds an explanation of their reason: thus both rendering the one sort, the obedient, more steadfast, and pulling down the others' pride, who oppose themselves.

(Homily XXVI on 1 Corinthians; commenting on 1 Cor 11:2)

Thus, St. John Chrysostom is stating that some of these "traditions" St. Paul refers to and that which he delivered to his charges, were "not in writing." And the Bible says we are to "hold fast" to them. This is impossible in a sola Scriptura view because it would be considered "unbiblical" by definition and therefore not binding (not being in Scripture itself, according to that view); therefore one could not "hold it fast." Conclusion: he cannot possibly believe in sola Scriptura if this is his opinion. He comments in similar fashion on the related verse, 2 Thessalonians 2:15:

"So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours."

Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther. Here he shows that there were many who were shaken.

(On Second Thessalonians, Homily IV)


Not by letters alone did Paul instruct his disciple in his duty, but before by words also which he shows, both in many other passages, as where he says, “whether by word or our Epistle” (2 Thess. ii. 15.), and especially here. Let us not therefore suppose that anything relating to doctrine was spoken imperfectly. For many things he delivered to him without writing. Of these therefore he reminds him, when he says, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me.”

(Homily III on 2 Timothy - on 2 Tim 1:13-18)

He even appeals to an apostolic unwritten tradition of intercessory prayers for the dead (mentioning also the Sacrifice of the Mass:

Mourn for those who have died in wealth, and did not from their wealth think of any solace for their soul, who had power to wash away their sins and would not. Let us all weep for these in private and in public, but with propriety, with gravity, not so as to make exhibitions of ourselves; . . . Let us weep for these; let us assist them according to our power; let us think of some assistance for them, small though it be, yet still let us assist them. How and in what way? By praying and entreating others to make prayers for them, by continually giving to the poor on their behalf.

. . . Not in vain did the Apostles order that remembrance should be made of the dead in the dreadful Mysteries. They know that great gain resulteth to them, great benefit; for when the whole people stands with uplifted hands, a priestly assembly, and that awful Sacrifice lies displayed, how shall we not prevail with God by our entreaties for them? And this we do for those who have departed in faith, . . .

[NPNF Editor's note: "The reference doubtless is to the so-called 'Apostolical Constitutions,' which direct the observance of the Eucharist in commemoration of the departed"]

(On Philippians, Homily 3)

This is no Protestant, who don't pray for the dead, and don't even have a Mass, let alone a Sacrifice of the Mass. Concerning the "sacred writers" he stated:

. . . it was no object with them to be writers of books: in fact, there are many things which they have delivered by unwritten tradition.

(On Acts of the Apostles, Homily 1)

Pastor King accepts none of these things. He would consider them outrageous. They are no different than what I and other orthodox Catholics believe. Yet King looks down as us as non-Christians and pretends that St. John Chrysostom (who agrees with Catholics on this and lots of other things) is a wonderful man of God and supposed quasi-Protestant. Look at the very sub-title of his book, after all: "The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura."

But if this is one example of many supposed "proofs", and it is radically taken out of context with the rest of the Church Father's thoughts, so that it amounts to little more than a gross misrepresentation and falsehood. St. John Chrysostom casually assumes an existing tradition, when he states, for example:

Ver. 8. “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth.”

Who are these? The magicians in the time of Moses. But how is it their names are nowhere else introduced? Either they were handed down by tradition, or it is probable that Paul knew them by inspiration.

(Homily VIII on 2 Timothy)

For, “remember,” he says, “the words of the Lord which he spake: It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (v. 35.) And where said He this? Perhaps the Apostles delivered it by unwritten tradition; or else it is plain from (recorded sayings, from) which one could infer it.

(Homily XLV on Acts 20:32)

But back to David King. After he gives his prooftext, he attempted to defend it as proving that Chrysostom held to sola Scriptura, as follows:

Anyone who understands the distinction between the material and formal sufficiency of Holy Scripture can readily see that Chrysostom's quote here assumes the basic perspicuity (formal sufficiency) of Holy Scripture, as he urges his readers not to wait "for another to teach thee."

This doesn't follow at all. What St. John Chrysostom asserts is material sufficiency (all that is necessary to be believed by the Christian is present in Scripture, either explicitly or indirectly, or deduced from clear scriptural teaching). Catholics readily agree with that. It is not a Protestant distinctive at all.

sufficiency of Scripture, on the other hand, is the notion that Scripture is the only final infallible authority, and that no tradition, Church, council or teaching passed down by apostolic succession is sufficient to be infallible, as Scripture is. This is sola Scriptura, and Chrysostom clearly rejects that, since I have already shown how much non-biblical tradition (i.e., tradition not based solely in the biblical text) he accepts (he was also a very strong supporter of the papacy and strong central papal authority).

His quote also assumes the availability of the NT scriptures for his audience, and its sufficiency to meet the needs of those who read them. Chrysostom here does not, as you suggest, treat Scripture as one would "vitamin supplements," but as utterly essential for he says that the ignorance of Holy Scripture "is the cause of all evils."

So what? The Bible itself says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. So if ignorance of Scripture is so bad that we must adopt Scripture alone in order to avoid all evil; likewise, by analogy, if money is a similar cause of lots of evil, then if Scripture Alone is the solution to the one problem, Poverty Alone and no money at all must be the solution to the other. This is the absurdity of King's exclusivist reasoning. I just did a reductio ad absurdum on his view.

The logic is impeccable. I challenge anyone to show how it is not. The reasonable person would conclude that, just as it doesn't follow that Scripture is the only infallible authority, it also doesn't follow that the only solution to the temptations of riches is to have no money at all. Both are extreme, illogical solutions to the problem.

The failure to take vitamin supplements is not the cause of all bad health in the physical realm. His analogy is clear for anyone to see, i.e., unless someone is determined not to see it.

Scripture is wonderful for the soul and well-being. No one is denying that, so I don't see how it is relevant in a Catholic-Protestant discussion.

There is a specimen example of someone [Jonathan Prejean] who is determined not to see it. All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. Remember the eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia. Since therefore, while he had no man to guide him, he was thus reading; for this reason he quickly received an instructor. God knew his willingness, He acknowledged his zeal, and forthwith sent him a teacher. But, you say, Philip is not present with us now. Still, the Spirit that moved Philip is present with us. Let us not, beloved, neglect our salvation!

This makes little sense. "Necessary things are all plain" in Scripture (perspicuity), but the eunuch "had no man to guide him." Why did he need a guide at all, then, if it was so plain? But King says that God knew he was willing to learn, and so He sent an instructor. But that's already another proposition. Here are the two different ideas:

1) Scripture is plain in its main teachings; plain enough for anyone to understand (Luther's famous "plowboy") and sufficient in order to obtain salvation.

2) God will send an instructor to anyone who is willing to be willing to follow Scriptural teaching wherever it leads. If no instructor is present, the Holy Spirit will suffice.
Only the first is truly perspicuity in the classic sense. Only the first is a situation in which nothing else is needed except Scripture. The second concedes that something else is necessary in order to properly understand Scripture in the first place. Now, either proposition can be defended or disputed, but they are different propositions from the outset. King has switched horses in midstream, hoping that the reader wouldn't notice the shift.

In any event, he doesn't defend either proposition above by simply presenting them both, jumbled together. Once he concedes that a reliable instructor is necessary, however, then he has already given up 75% of the argument, and opens the door for the possible authority of the Church, Tradition, apostolic succession, bishops, councils, and popes. It's a loophole a mile wide.

1) We do not quote the ECFs to prove sola Scriptura. We quote them to prove that they do not represent the modern day Roman position with respect to the material and formal sufficiency of Scripture. In other words, we quote them to show that it is Rome that has departed from the ancient church's view of Holy Scripture, not Protestants.

If that is so, then Pastor King has failed in this instance. Jason Engwer failed to defend his claim that ten different Fathers believed the same sort of thing. I thoroughly refuted him on the CARM board (he left the much-anticipated and advertised debate after having replied on four of the ten Fathers I dealt with). See my paper chronicling this exchange (+ part two); also an additional dialogue with Engwer at the same time (+ part two). Separately I showed that this myth of "proto-Protestantism with regard to sola Scriptura" didn't apply to St. Athanasius or St. Gregory of Nyssa, either. It's always the same. This claim is pure fiction. King then cites St. Irenaeus:

Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200): We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed “perfect knowledge,” as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, Book 3:1:1.

To claim him as supposedly an adherent of sola Scriptura is miles beyond absurd, since he was one of the Fathers who particularly espoused and developed the idea of apostolic succession: which itself runs counter to sola Scriptura. John Calvin expressly repudiated apostolic succession:

But by what arguments do they prove their possession of the true Church? They appeal to ancient records which formerly existed in Italy, France, and Spain, pretending to derive their origin from those holy men who, by sound doctrine, founded and raised up churches, confirmed the doctrine, and reared the edifice of the Church with their blood; they pretend that the Church thus consecrated by spiritual gifts and the blood of martyrs was preserved from destruction by a perpetual succession of bishops. They dwell on the importance which Irenæus, Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, and others, attached to this succession (see sec. 3). How frivolous and plainly ludicrous these allegations are, I will enable any, who will for a little consider the matter with me, to understand without any difficulty.

(Inst., IV, II, 2)

We (say they) are the pillars of the Church, the priests of religion, the vicegerents of Christ, the heads of the faithful, because the apostolic authority has come to us by succession. As if they were speaking to stocks, they perpetually plume themselves on these absurdities. Whenever they make such boasts, I, in my turn, will ask, What have they in common with the apostles? We are not now treating of some hereditary honour which can come to men while they are asleep, but of the office of preaching, which they so greatly shun. In like manner, when we maintain that their kingdom is the tyranny of Antichrist, they immediately object that their venerable hierarchy has often been extolled by great and holy men, as if the holy fathers, when they commended the ecclesiastical hierarchy or spiritual government handed down to them by the apostles, ever dreamed of that shapeless and dreary chaos where bishoprics are held for the most part by ignorant asses, who do not even know the first and ordinary rudiments of the faith, . . .

(Inst., IV, V, 13)
But St. Irenaeus expressly states and holds over and over what Calvin and subsequent Protestants repudiated (it is directly contradictory to the formal principle of sola Scriptura and formal sufficiency of Scripture). I dealt with his views at length in my 40% debate with Jason Engwer (before he decided to flee for the shelter of the hills), but here are a few highlights:

As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth.

(Against Heresies, 1, 10, 2)

. . . Hyginus, who held the ninth place in the episcopal succession from the apostles downwards.

. . . those apostles who have handed down the Gospel to us . . .

(Against Heresies, 1, 27, 1-2)

The Universal Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles.

(Against Heresies, 2, 9, 1)

. . . the only true and life-giving faith, which the Church has received from the apostles and imparted to her sons. For the Lord of all gave to His apostles the power of the Gospel, . . .

(Against Heresies, 3, Preface)

But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth . . . It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.

(Against Heresies, 3, 2, 2)

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about.

(Against Heresies, 3, 3, 1)

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

(Against Heresies, 3, 3, 2)

The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. . . . To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Sorer having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

(Against Heresies, 3, 3, 3)

. . . the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.

(Against Heresies, 3, 3, 4)

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?

(Against Heresies, 3, 4, 1)

. . . carefully preserving the ancient tradition . . . by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established.

(Against Heresies, 3, 4, 2)


2. Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, - those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismaries puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth . . .

(Against Heresies, 4, 26, 2)

And then shall every word also seem consistent to him, if he for his part diligently read the Scriptures in company with those who are presbyters in the Church, among whom is the apostolic doctrine, as I have pointed out.

(Against Heresies, 4, 32, 1)

8. True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; . . .


Scholars sum up his view of authority:
For Irenaeus, on the other hand, tradition and scripture are both quite unproblematic. They stand independently side by side, both absolutely authoritative, both unconditionally true, trustworthy, and convincing.

. . . Irenaeus and Tertullian point to the church tradition as the authoritative locus of the unadulterated teaching of the apostles, . . . transmitted faithfully from generation to generation.

(Ellen Flessman-van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church, Van Gorcum, 1953, 139, 138)

Besides appealing to the Scriptures, the fathers, particularly Irenaeus and Tertullian, refer with equal confidence to the "rule of faith;" that is, the common faith of the church, as orally handed down in the unbroken succession of bishops from Christ and his apostles to their day, and above all as still living in the original apostolic churches, like those of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome. Tradition is thus intimately connected with the primitive episcopate. The latter was the vehicle of the former, and both were looked upon as bulwarks against heresy.

Irenaeus confronts the secret tradition of the Gnostics with the open and unadulterated tradition of the catholic church, and points to all churches, but particularly to Rome, as the visible centre of the unity of doctrine. All who would know the truth, says he, can see in the whole church the tradition of the apostles; and we can count the bishops ordained by the apostles, and their successors down to our time, who neither taught nor knew any such heresies. Then, by way of example, he cites the first twelve bishops of the Roman church from Linus to Eleutherus, as witnesses of the pure apostolic doctrine. He might conceive of a Christianity without scripture, but he could not imagine a Christianity without living tradition; and for this opinion he refers to barbarian tribes, who have the gospel, "sine charta et atramento," written in their hearts.

(Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. II: Ante-Nicene Christianity: A.D. 100-325, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970; reproduction of 5th revised edition of 1910, Chapter XII, section 139, "Catholic Tradition," pp. 525-526)

His most characteristic thought, however, is that the Church is the sole repository of the truth, and is such because it has a monopoly of the apostolic writings, the apostolic oral tradition and the apostolic faith. . . . the unbroken succession of bishops in the great sees going back to the apostles themselves provides a guarantee that this faith is identical with the message which they originally proclaimed.

(J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised 1978 edition, 192)
For much more along these lines, see my debate with Jason Engwer (Part Two).

I am sorry that it irritates you for us to quote the fathers in demonstrating that Rome has departed from their view on Holy Scripture. But you need to take that up with your own communion.

As we see again and again, the exact opposite is true: the fathers utterly contradict anachronistic, revisionist views of Protestants, awkwardly forced upon them in a desperate attempt to give Protestantism some remote semblance of historical continuity. Pastor King's ignorance with regard to the Fathers' views on these matters is breathtaking.

Where did he [Cardinal Newman] make any attempt to show where tradition is on an equal par with Holy Scripture, or that it is infallible. [?]

St. Irenaeus alone, in the above citations, is sufficient to more than establish this. And he is only the tip of the iceberg.

1) Irenaeus' use of the word "tradition" is not to be taken as synonymously with extrabiblical revelation. It is clear that he often uses it as synonymous with Scripture, or with teaching derived from Scripture. It is the Roman uncritical use of such an assumption that betrays a lack of understanding of Irenaeus.

This is sheer nonsense. One counter-example will suffice. St. Irenaeus clearly teaches that apostolic succession is an authoritative, binding, infallible tradition: indeed, quite sufficient to definitively refute heretics (most explicitly in Against Heresies, 3, 3, 3). Now, King's choices in how to deal with this are limited to only a few:
1) Deny that St. Irenaeus teaches this (hardly possible).

2) Deny that it is a biblical doctrine -- in which case the Father is teaching as authoritative something not in the Bible at all, thus neatly, decisively putting the lie both to King's assertion above, and to the claim that Irenaeus believes in sola Scriptura.

3) Assert that it is a biblical doctrine. This, too, contradicts sola Scriptura, because that view holds that only the Bible is infallible, whereas apostolic succession is the view that this historical, institutional, episcopal succession is as infallible in preserving truth as the word of Scripture. And, of course, if King admits that it is a biblical doctrine, then he has to explain why he rejects it?
Any way he chooses, he loses. And that is because he is stating (whether he knows it or not) historical falsehood in the first place.

I don't have to agree with every doctrine Irenaeus espouses . . .

Granted, (from his perspective, but actually in the Catholic approach, too, since we don't hold Fathers to be infallible). However, he does have to show that Irenaeus believes in sola Scriptura, and that is impossible, based on what we have seen above. Also, if it can be shown that Irenaeus believes in doctrines that King thinks are not present in Scripture at all, then that sort of shows that Irenaeus doesn't believe in Bible Alone (by King's own criterion).

Your claim that Irenaeus represents the views of your modern day communion in apostolic succession is far more problematic than my understanding that he attempted to base all his theology on inscripturated revelation. Yet, you do so shamelessly. Does your communion believe in a future, literal thousand year reign of Christ on the earth as did Irenaeus? Does your communion believe that Jesus lived to be at least 50 years of age as did Irenaeus?

This is another astonishingly ignorant argument, betraying a dense incomprehension of the definition and nature of of apostolic succession. The latter doesn't mean:
Every father whom we revere is right in every jot and tittle, and his entire teaching is part of apostolic succession.
Rather, it means:
Whatever is true theology can be shown to have been passed down in unbroken succession, passed on from the apostles to their successors, to the Church through history up till today (whereas falsehood and heresy cannot so trace itself back).
You see, if you are going to accept uncritically everything Irenaeus supposively passed down as apostolic teaching, then that is more of a problem for you as you shamelessly claim him as exclusively your witness.

Since this is based on the same dead-wrong premise just exposed and examined, no further answer is necessary.

King then wrongheadedly (as usual) cites St. Augustine, but I don't have time to pursue the views of another Father, when I have already done so in my debate with Engwer (Augustine is covered in Part I, section VII).

He [St. Augustine] actually invited people to test what he or anyone else claims as dogma from the standard of Holy Scripture.

So what? I do that all the time, too: all the time. And I am a huge critic of sola Scriptura. See my paper: "If the Church Fathers Can Be Remarkably Transformed Into "Sola Scriptura Protestants" by "Bible Prooftexts", Why Not Me, Too?!!"

King then cites St. John Chrysostom's comment (Homily IX) on the famous sola Scriptura "prooftext" of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which is no better than the text itself for King's purposes: neither proves it in the slightest, but only material sufficiency: which Catholics already accept. Besides, in his Homily II on the same book (cited above), Chrysostom refers to an oral tradition given from Paul to Timothy, which the latter was to "hold fast." This is hardly compatible with sola Scriptura.

The polemic of Rome is self-serving and diminishes the authority of Holy Scripture by insisting that the Scriptures are too obscure to be understood by the ordinary man.

That is simplistic. It is more accurate that we say (very much like St. Irenaeus) that Scripture is rather easily able to be potentially distorted by the ordinary man, if that man is not connected with a Church with an authoritative Christian tradition to guide him against going astray. There is nothing in Catholic teaching that would preclude the possibility of a spiritually-seeking man, to find theological truth in Scripture alone. But that same Scripture points to an authoritative Tradition and Church and apostolic succession: so it always leads away from Protestantism, even by itself.

Our view toward Holy Scripture is the view of the ancient church.

That's hogwash. I've disproven this time and time again, and no reputable Church historian can be found to back this up. It's an utterly ludicrous claim.

So when we interpret 2 Timothy 3:14-17 as the Scriptures teaching that they are sufficient in and of themselves, that rules out the need for any other infallible authority. Other authorities, like Chrysostom, can be helps, but they are not infallible.

Okay, let's grant this momentarily for the sake of argument. If Chrysostom truly believed this (which I deny), then how is it that he believes in the following doctrines (since Pastor King would vehemently deny are taught in Scripture)? The reputable Protestant historian Philip Schaff writes:
Even Chrysostom did not rise above the spirit of the time. He too is an eloquent and enthusiastic advocate of the worship of the saints and their relics. At the close of his memorial discourse on Sts. Bernice and Prosdoce—two saints who have not even a place in the Roman calendar—he exhorts his hearers not only on their memorial days but also on other days to implore these saints to be our protectors: "For they have great boldness not merely during their life but also after death, yea, much greater after death. For they now bear the stigmata of Christ [the marks of martyrdom], and when they show these, they can persuade the King to anything." He relates that once, when the harvest was endangered by excessive rain, the whole population of Constantinople flocked to the church of the Apostles, and there elected the apostles Peter and Andrew, Paul and Timothy, patrons and intercessors before the throne of grace. Christ, says he on Heb. i. 14, redeems us as Lord and Master, the angels redeem us as ministers.
(History of the Christian Church, Vol. III, Chapter 7, § 84. The Worship of Martyrs and Saints, 439-440)
Again, King has some tough choices. If the Father believed these things (as Schaff says he did), then he didn't do so on the basis of Scripture Alone (if King is right that one can find no biblical support for these things). But if that is true, then Chrysostom didn't believe in Scripture Alone as the final infallible authority, and King's claim that he did is false. If he did believe in sola Scriptura, furthermore, then his views should reasonably be expected to resemble Protestant views, and we know that very few Protestants hold these kinds of beliefs.

Our exegesis find a very good precedent in a man like Chrysostom. And again, we don't quote Chrysostom in order to prove sola Scriptura, but to show that such witness as he agree with us, and not with modern day Rome.

A patristic "Proto-Protestant" who believes in intercession of the saints, oral tradition, and praying for the dead? Nor does he even believe in what King claims he believes (sola Scriptura). It hasn't been proven. All that King has proven was that St. John Chrysostom held to the material sufficiency of Scripture, just as Cardinal Newman did, and as I do.

King cites Athanasius, Basil, and Augustine. I've dealt with each of their views on Scripture and Tradition in the other papers mentioned above.

I am not going to let you get away with this tactic again. I am not being mean or uncharitable to hold your feet to your own professed belief by insisting that you make it good on a particular case. You see, as long as folks such as yourself can get away with speaking in generalizations, and never deal with the problems of the particular, it all sounds plausible. But the moment your theory is subjected to the particulars, it begins to unravel. You're walking away from the burden of explaining a particular regarding the very subject at hand. . . . it is charitable to hold you to your own principles. I am not going to let you off the hook by permitting you to speak in generalizations, all the while avoiding the particulars, because that is where your theory begins to unravel.

Nice preaching. This was all in reply to someone else, not me. King has been running from me like I am a leper ever since I refuted his rather dogmatic, confident claim that Pope St. Pius X thought Cardinal Newman was a flaming liberal who believed in evolution of dogma; that was in March 2002, over five years ago. We shall see if Pastor King will hold good to his word in defending his own claims. Nothing I have seen of him leads me to believe that he will. Mark my words.

As for my comments about the use of sophistry previously, it is my studied belief that a Roman Catholic must indulge in such for the maintenance of their apologetic, whether he/she can or does recognize it to be so. I do not regard it as inflammatory to critique and assess a particular argument as sophistry. I think that those who take offense to that do so in frustration, because of their inability to sustain their claims.

This all very much applies to his own argument, too, of course, which I would describe in many ways as well: revisionism, special pleading, obscurantism, obfuscation, sophistry, selective citations and proof texts radically out of context, tunnel vision, historical anachronism, circular logic, just for starters . . .