Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reply to Protestant Apologist Jason Engwer's "The Canon & Church Infallibility" (An Alleged Disproof of Catholic Development of Doctrine), Pt. III

[Eusebius.jpg]
Eusebius (c. 263-339), the first great Church historian


SEE PART ONE


SEE PART TWO


Part III

10. We're not living in the context of somebody like Papias or Irenaeus, much as we aren't living in the context of the Old Testament patriarchs or a contemporary of Moses or Jeremiah.

No kidding. But that is why we can study history, isn't it?: to get our psyches wrapped around a particular time period, just as biblical exegesis attempts to think along with the Bible writer we are studying.

The churches at the time of Papias or at the time of Irenaeus had some advantages that we don't have today.

Yes: no Protestants to disagree with everything under the sun and to think in heretofore unknown (and often anti-biblical) categories, and viciously self-contradicting ways! But there were a lot of heretics running around. One had to cling to Rome in order to know for sure what was orthodox and what wasn't. That was the gold standard. Rome faithfully kept the faith of the Bible and the apostles.

The evidential value of consulting a bishop of Rome in the second century doesn't lead us to the conclusion that there's just as much evidential value, or any, in consulting a Pope today.

Back to this nonsense again. Everything goes back to the Bible. If we can ground a doctrine in the Bible, then we can know it is true on those grounds. If there is such a thing as priests, bishops, and popes, and hierarchical ecclesiological structure in Scripture (as there assuredly are), then those things are worthy of belief as well, as part of the apostolic deposit. If there is such a thing as the Church and the indefectibility of that Church (as there assuredly are), then we can certainly believe that this extends through history.

How do we do that? By following the line of apostolic succession and determining what was believed everywhere and by all, and the true line of development of doctrine. If an office was valid in the New Testament, then it was intended for the Church perpetually, not just for New Testament times. Thus, the biblical argument for papal succession follows straightforwardly, as a matter of practical common sense. There are also abundant biblical analogies and models for infallibility and apostolic succession (link one / link two).

I've said before that if I were in the position of somebody like Papias, I wouldn't adhere to sola scriptura.

I wouldn't either, if I had read the Bible and had read both Catholic and Protestant beliefs regarding the rule of faith. There is no contest whatever as to which rule of faith is more in conformity with the Bible (and Church history).

But we aren't in his position. We're in a much different position. If sola scriptura had been widely or universally rejected early on, it wouldn't follow that it couldn't be appropriate later, under different circumstances.

This is extremely interesting, since Jason seems to be conceding (subtly, in his use of hypothetical illustration) that sola Scriptura is very difficult to document in the fathers (as indeed is the case: I proved it again and again in my own excruciatingly long debate with him on that very topic). And he is employing the typical Protestant theological relativism or doctrinal minimalism. I fully agree with what Nick wrote on my blog; about this comment of Jason's (and I thank him for highlighting a very important thing):

In other words, by his own admission, sola Scriptura is relative. He wouldn't have 'seen enough' in Scripture way back then in Papias' time to embrace it . . . but somehow sola Scriptura becomes "appropriate" later on.

The great irony here, in addition to this relativism, is the huge implication that this carries for the ostensible Protestant project to co-opt the Church fathers and make them out to be Protestant. Traditionally (oops: sorry for the bad word there), in the heady, revolutionary days of the 16th century, that was the goal. The very word "reformer" means that the intention was to return a thing to what it was formerly: not to overthrow it. That was the Protestant myth, that died a slow death in many of us: such true believers were we as Protestants.

John Calvin always sought to demonstrate that the fathers (above all, St. Augustine) agreed with his positions, over against the Catholic ones. I know this, because I have just completed a critique of Book IV of his Institutes. Luther and Lutherans have sought to do the same thing: though not without much ambiguity. That's because historic Protestantism still believed in truth all down the line, and each brand thought that it had it. What was a given then: unthinkable to even question, is now a mere option.

That was historic, "magisterial Reformational" Protestantism. But (to think according to Jason's mentality for a moment), that was then, and this is now. After having expended tons of energy and hours sophistically defending Protestantism and revising history to make it appear that it is not fatal to Protestant claims (which is a heroic feat: to engage at length in such a profoundly desperate cause), now, alas, Jason comes to his senses and jumps on the bandwagon of fashionable Protestant minimalism, relativism, and the fetish for uncertainty. He resides, after all, in the "much different position" of the 21st century. He knows better than those old fuddy-duds 1500 years ago. What do they know, anyway?

So now he "gets" it. Assuming that sola Scriptura was "widely or universally rejected early on" (as in fact it was), it doesn't matter, you see, because (hallelujah!) it can be "appropriate later, under different circumstances." Why are we having this discussion at all, then, if it doesn't matter a hill of beans what the fathers en masse thought? The rule of faith is as variable as the weather and President Obama's latest opinion on war policy.

Jason has arrived. It took a while, but better late than never. He now knows that all the historical argumentation is ultimately just a game: to make Catholics look like dumbbells and to bolster up the hopeless anti-Catholic fringe position within Protestantism. If cornered, he can appeal to the oh-so-cool fetish of uncertainty and nuanced relativistic theology and ecclesiology. That's the cure-all. It's the timeworn Protestant slippery fish / moving target routine (like the ducks at a carnival sideshow), in a clever new guise. It's also a curious mix of fundamentalism and postmodernist mush.

Ultimately, then, he shows himself to be a-historical in the final analysis (and Protestantism so often is, by its very origins and fundamental nature, though many individual Protestants seek to learn history and incorporate it in their worldview). It's a classic case. How much these four sentences of his reveal! They're like a suicide bomb strapped to his entire argument. It just went up in smoke. But it has far more problems than just this relativistic foolishness.

11. The ecumenical councils are the most popularly accepted examples of an exercise of alleged church infallibility. Yet, there have been many disagreements, and continue to be many, regarding which councils are ecumenical and which portions of the ecumenical councils are to be accepted.

Like what? Again, we have mere vague statements. Does anyone think this sort of method of "amateur apologist sez whatever slogan comes into his head and expects it to be accepted as Gospel Truth" is impressive?

Councils like Nicaea and First Constantinople helped in sorting through some controversial issues, and those councils were eventually widely accepted, but they were also widely rejected for a while.

By whom? And how does that disprove that they were what they were, anyway, because some folks didn't accept them?

While heretics and the many branches of what we call orthodoxy widely agreed about scripture, there was no comparable agreement about a system of church infallibility. The Arians would reject anti-Arian councils, and the anti-Arians would reject Arian councils, but neither side would reject the gospel of Matthew or Paul's epistle to the Romans when such a document was cited against that side's position.

Oh, this is brilliant. So because people whom we all agree agree were heretics rejected orthodox councils, and because orthodox Catholicism rejected heretical councils, this supposedly proves something because both sides accepted Matthew's authenticity as inspired Scripture? But in the same period we see all kinds of anomalies in views of the canon that I noted last time: even the NT canon. It's another rhetorical dead-end for Jason.

It seems that Christians,

Catholics are now Christians??!! Progress!

heretics, and those who didn't even profess to be Christians accepted the foundational role of scripture in Christianity while widespread disputes over church authority went on for centuries and continue to this day.

One reason for that, I submit, is that a book can be molded in many different ways: often according to the whims of the molder, whereas live, institutional authority of human beings entails a direct accountability that will always be rejected by significant numbers. This proves nothing, however, as to the truth or falsity of either thing. It's quite amusing for a Protestant to even quibble about real or alleged differences in the early Church on ecclesiology, when one looks at what Protestantism did to same:

1) There was little disagreement among the fathers and early Church on apostolic succession, but Protestantism either ditched that or completely redefined it.

2) There was little disagreement among the fathers and early Church on binding apostolic tradition, but Protestantism ditched that and opted for sola Scriptura, which excludes it.

3) There was little disagreement among the fathers and early Church on priests, who presided over the Eucharist, where Jesus was truly, substantially present, but Protestantism ditched all that.

4) There was little disagreement among the fathers and early Church on bishops, who presided over regions, but Protestantism (save Anglicanism and a minority faction of Lutheranism and a few other redefined instances) ditched all that.

5) There was little disagreement among the fathers and early Church on the necessity of both local and ecumenical councils, but Protestantism ditched all that.

Etc., etc. In other words, the massive, revolutionary changes entailed in Protestantism are many times more momentous than any disagreements that can be found among the fathers or between Orthodox and Catholics. Even the Orthodox will give the historic papacy a preeminence in honor, and the evidence for the office and its importance overall is massive, whereas many Protestants (even still in their creeds to this day) dismiss him as the antichrist. That being the case, the significance of the supposed massive confusion Jason sees in the patristic period is put in its proper perspective. Jason sees a lot of problems there but he is blind to the far greater difficulties along the same lines in Protestantism. Nick on my blog again hit the nail on the head:

What's unfortunate about Engwer's approach to the Fathers is that it's self-destructive, burning down the very edifice which supports him today. Tearing apart the fathers, making them look silly and untrustworthy, only can harm the one claiming to be Christian. Engwer's approach is much like the Joker's on The Dark Knight. . . .

The laughable thing was that Jason proceeded throughout as if there weren't variations in the canon among Fathers (even though giving lip service to the fact). . . . he is at his 'worst' when he does this to the Fathers, making them come off as a bunch of individualists promoting all sorts of contradictory doctrines and thus as a whole untrustworthy and childish. Of course, using the typical Protestant stealth tactics, he can call them "Christian" on one hand while affirming they weren't promoting a true Gospel on the other. . . .

It's the standard operating procedures of the Reformers: toss out as many accusations as possible, hope some of them draw blood, and leave the Catholic to pick up the smear mess.

A Celsus, an Arius, or an Athanasius will be more concerned with scripture than with any other authority when discussing Christianity.

That was Arius' method, because it was precisely the heretics who adopted sola Scriptura. Arius agreed with the Protestant rule of faith, and he did so for the same exact reason: if one can't trace his beliefs back through an unbroken chain of apostolic succession and tradition (Arius, being a denier of the Trinity clearly couldn't do that), then one must become a-historical and pretend to arrive at one's heresies by Scripture Alone. Arius did that and his followers today: Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians and The Way International, continue to do it. Church history is their enemy. JWs only utilize history in order to engage in wholesale lies about it, such as that Arius' position was the original one, and trinitarianism was the corrupting innovation.

But Jason misleads his readers yet again by giving false information about St. Athanasius' position on the rule of faith. He doesn't accept sola Scriptura or even prima Scriptura, anymore than any other father does. They all reject that, and believe in the three-legged stool of Scripture-Church-Tradition. In my last installment I cited a paper about this very topic, from Dom John Chapman. The evidence is overwhelming once again. I provide a great deal of it in my paper, St. Athanasius Was a CATHOLIC, Not a Proto-Protestant. I've written about St. Athanasius several times in this regard:

Did St. Athanasius Believe in Sola Scriptura? (vs. Ken Temple)

The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers (Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity) (vs. E. L. Hamilton and "Cranmer")

Reply to James White on the Council of Nicaea and Its Relationship to Pope Sylvester, Athanasius' Views, and the Unique Preeminence of Catholic Authority

See also a great paper by a friend:

A Discourse on The Discourse on the Holy Theotokos (Anti-Catholic Distortion of St. Athanasius) (Paul Hoffer)

Jason asserts falsehoods with no evidence. We assert truth with great amounts of factual supporting evidence. To the extent that Athanasius supposedly believed in sola Scriptura, just like Protestants do (or closer to them than to Catholics), I myself believe it in exactly the same way. In fact, I got so sick and tired of Protestants playing this game with fathers (even in direct opposition to the consensus of their own historians), that I proved that I believe it too (!): with many "prooftexts" from my own words through the years.

That doesn't rule out the existence of some other infallible authority, but it does say something about the level of evidence for one type of authority as compared to another. . . .

All it says is that Jason's methodology leaves much to be desired.

12. Patristic scholars, as well as other scholars, often refer to inconsistencies between church fathers and within the writings of a single father.

Back to the extreme overemphasis on difference and ignoring of the massive common ground, which is what patristic scholars do. No one is saying these men were a bunch of clones; only in consensus about most Christian doctrines.

A given church father might have held multiple views of what the Christian rule of faith ought to be. Such inconsistency is understandable when we consider the sort of transitional phases of history an individual might live through.

People change their minds. For example, I changed from a nominally religious secularist to evangelical Protestant, and then changed my mind later on to become a Catholic.

Somebody might live part of his life during the apostolic era and part of his life after that era ends. A Christian might see the Council of Nicaea widely rejected at one point in his life, then see it widely accepted later. Etc. People often change their mind on an issue over time, upon further reflection. Augustine, for example, repeatedly acknowledges his own inconsistencies on some issues. Not only should we not assume that there was one rule of faith held by every father, but we also shouldn't assume that each father held to only one rule of faith throughout his life.

What we assume is what scholars of these issues tell us was the case. We can cite them a million times, but Protestants like Jason will ignore what they say, and the evidence they set forth. The general consensus was to a rule of faith very much like the Catholic rule of faith today, but less developed, as we expect. What we don't find is proto-Protestantism. Jason seems to think that every time a father mentions Scripture, this proves he is quasi-Protestant or a "real Christian" because he assumes that Protestants are the only ones who truly love and utilize Scripture. So it's another false premise. I use Scripture in my apologetics as much or more than anyone I know. It's the overriding theme of my approach. Does that make me a Protestant?

13. We have precedent for trusting a canonical consensus: Jesus and the apostles' apparent acceptance of the Jewish consensus on the Old Testament canon. That precedent doesn't rule out extra-Biblical authorities in the New Testament era, but it does add weight to the New Testament canonical consensus, weight that doesn't exist for an alleged consensus on church infallibility.

He merely repeats the same falsehoods that I have dealt with. What Jesus and the apostles accepted, included the Deuterocanon. Yet Protestants reject that. So much for their "consensus" and accord with the early Church on that issue. The emperor is naked, and I am the one who has to tell him that he is. The Deuterocanon is the elephant in the room or the dark family secret. No one is fooled by this game.

14. We already have good reason to accept the Biblical documents.

Yes; because the Catholic Church gave them her stamp of approval and orthodoxy.

If we continue to have doubts about our rejection of church infallibility, we can continue to think about that issue while continuing to follow scripture at the same time.

We can do all kinds of things; doesn't make them cogent or true.

We shouldn't think of these things in an all-or-nothing manner. Life goes on. It's not as though we have to suspend our more confident conclusions because of some other conclusions we aren't so confident about.

In other words, no big deal. Minimalism and relativism made necessary by the incessant fragmentation of Protestantism means that we have to care little about many matters of factuality and truth. So let's resolve to care less about theology and truth, so that we have less conflict in our own minds . . .

There's good reason why Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, and others agree about the New Testament canon, yet continue to widely disagree about other issues of authority, like church infallibility.

And about the canon of the Old Testament . . .

15. The article by A.N.S. Lane that you referenced addresses some of the issues I've discussed, but doesn't address others. He doesn't demonstrate that the view of authority that he attributes to Irenaeus and Tertullian (and others) was as widely accepted as the Protestant New Testament canon.

He doesn't have to. Many historians attest to that. And none can be found who claim that the view was akin to sola Scriptura (except pseudo-scholars William Webster and David King, who publish with a rinky-dink operation and can't even tell us what their full credentials are: yet are lauded by many anti-Catholics as the last word in patristics, regarding sola Scriptura).

He doesn't discuss my point about the necessity of limiting Irenaeus' comments to only some teachings, not all teachings. (The churches of Irenaeus' day agreed about many things, but not everything.) He repeatedly, in the two notes you cited (notes 29 and 30), refers to Irenaeus' comments in Against Heresies 4:26:2,

Why not let our readers see what St. Irenaeus states there?:

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.

(IV, 26, 2)

Sounds like a big disproof of infallibility and Catholicism, doesn't it? In one sentence, we see binding authority in the Church, apostolic succession, the episcopate (bishops), and infallibility ("certain gift of truth") -- and Scripture isn't mentioned along with the four other varieties of authority. But everyone knows that Irenaeus was closer in spirit to Jason than he is to myself and Catholics. Who could doubt it?

but he doesn't discuss Irenaeus' comments in the sections that follow (4:26:3-5),

Just as Jason didn't cite or discuss the passage above . . . but I'm here discussing all of the passages together, to give the whole picture.

where he says that Christians are to separate from bishops who don't meet moral and doctrinal standards.

So Lane has learned the fine art of highly selective presentation and citation? Must have had contact with Jason: one of the masters of that . . .

All humor aside, Jason has, as usual, distorted what St. Irenaeus actually taught here. First of all, he is talking about priests ("presbyters"), not bishops. In the quotation above that I brought out, he contrasts them with the episcopate, which is the bishops. The Roberts-Rambaut Protestant translation (the standard 38-volume Schaff set) even proves this (for strictly English readers) in section 4: "order of priesthood (presbyterii ordine)". St. Irenaeus says to obey the priests who "possess the succession from the apostles" (in other words, who are orthodox Catholics). He says to separate from heretics or schismatics, who by definition are not Catholics:

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 schismatics 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. And the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of God— namely, strange doctrines— shall be burned up by the fire from heaven,

(IV, 26, 2)

Worship at a Catholic Church: this is some novelty for a Church father to say? In other words, if he were here today, he would tell me to separate from a Protestant pastor if he doesn't adhere to the succession of unbroken doctrine, and teaches heresy. He would recognize Jason as a heretic insofar as he espouses false doctrine. But he would recognize me as one of his own party: a Catholic.

In IV, 26, 3 he continues to berate these heretics and schismatics who are no Catholics, by referring to them as "Those, however, who are [falsely] believed to be presbyters by many, . . ." (my bracketed comment and italics). He's not talking about Catholic priests at all, let alone bishops, as Jason claimed. He continues on in IV, 26, 4:

From all such persons, therefore, it behooves us to keep aloof, but to adhere to those who, as I have already observed, do hold the doctrine of the apostles, and who, together with the order of priesthood (presbyterii ordine), display sound speech and blameless conduct for the confirmation and correction of others.

Those who are in the line of apostolic succession are the good, orthodox guys; those who don't are outside the fold. He writes similarly in III, 3, 2: "those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings". This is standard patristic ecclesiology and rule of faith, and classic Irenaeus. He reiterates that he is talking about (good, faithful) priests in IV, 26, 5: "Such presbyters does the Church nourish, . . ." He concludes that section:

Where, therefore, the gifts of the Lord have been placed, there it behooves us to learn the truth, [namely,] from those who possess that succession of the Church which is from the apostles, and among whom exists that which is sound and blameless in conduct, as well as that which is unadulterated and incorrupt in speech. For these also preserve this faith of ours in one God who created all things; and they increase that love [which we have] for the Son of God, who accomplished such marvellous dispensations for our sake: and they expound the Scriptures to us without danger, neither blaspheming God, nor dishonouring the patriarchs, nor despising the prophets.

Truth comes from apostolic succession, not Scripture Alone as the only infallible guide and authority. Note that the good priests "expound the Scriptures to us without danger": Scripture is understood within the framework of Church and orthodoxy, not by individuals on their own apart from the guidance of any Church: necessary especially when disagreements arise.

So what exactly does Jason think he has proven? What precisely in Against Heresies IV, 26, 3-5 supports his case over against the Catholic one? Once again (it gets tedious to keep having to point this out), context shows that Catholic doctrine is affirmed again and again, and Protestant doctrine opposed. Yet Jason comes away from the passage with the exact opposite opinion: how he thinks so is inexplicable, except if he uses his by-now trademark method of setting up straw men to quixotically smash down (which means, of course, that he has, at a minimum, understood little of the actual meaning of the passage).

He doesn't discuss the ambiguous nature of Irenaeus' view of the reliability of the church.

Probably because it wasn't there. It is because orthodoxy is so well known, that heterodox priests can easily be avoided, at least by one who is in tune to the Church and her teachings, and obedient to her.

If some bishops can depart from the apostolic faith and are to be avoided,

As I have shown, Irenaeus was not referring to bishops in the passage under consideration, but to priests. But if a bishop did become a heretic, then any Catholic would be within his rights to avoid him, too: of course. That's what Happened to St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom, after all: they were opposed (and/or deposed) by false bishops and had to take recourse with the authoritative popes of orthodox Rome.

then the location of the church led by the Spirit can change from time to time.

It's where it has always been, and we know where it is: both now and throughout history.

Even if there's to always be a church led by the Spirit, one that's always correct on the core teachings Irenaeus mentions,

As there was meant to be, and in fact was and is . . .

the location of that church can keep changing, and it isn't assured of always being correct in all of its beliefs.

That's not true. The Catholic Church was always led by the Roman See (Peter and Paul having died in Rome). Anyone in communion with that See was part of it. Assurance of correct belief came from Jesus Himself, in His promise of the Holy Spirit, to guide the Church into all truth, and promises to the first pope, St. Peter, and to general biblical teachings on indefectibility.

As I said earlier, there's a large gap between the sort of data we find in a source like Irenaeus and the systems of infallibility that are commonly advocated today by groups like Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

Right. Funny, how we can't find that whenever we go to these supposed passages of disproof that Jason suggests. We find it, however, in his bald assertions that have no basis in reality.

16. I wasn't able to find one of the passages Lane cites in note 29. He cites Against Heresies 1:1:6. The editions of Against Heresies that I've consulted have only three sections in chapter 1 of book 1. There is no section 6.

I've found that the subsections are sometimes divided up differently. St. Irenaeus in I, 1, 3 makes a terrific comment (perhaps what Lane was referring to) that describes anti-Catholic mistreatment of Scripture (and also of the fathers) -- like heretics of old he that was referring to -- to a tee:

. . . they proceed when they find anything in the multitude of things contained in the Scriptures which they can adopt and accommodate to their baseless speculations.

In other passages he cites, it's unclear to me just what portion of the citation he has in mind or just what he thinks it proves.

I know the feeling well.

For example, he may be referring to the phrase "the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us" in Against Heresies 3:5:1, but it's unclear to me what "permanent among us" means.

He is referring to permanent orthodoxy and/or the indefectibility of the Church. What else could it mean? The Church possesses the apostolic deposit and passes it down. Irenaeus explains that a hundred times all through his writing.

Does Irenaeus mean that there will always be people who will believe the doctrines he discusses?

Yes: Catholics: because the Catholic Church will preserve true orthodox doctrine.

Does he mean that the apostolic tradition, considered in itself, will always be available?

Yes (indefectibility). What is such a mystery? The truth is preserved in the Church permanently. I know it's tough for a Protestant to accept, but I think it can at least be understood in concept.

The sort of ambiguities I've discussed above remain. I don't fault A.N.S. Lane for outlining the history of Christian beliefs on issues of authority without addressing every detail that could be addressed and without agreeing with every source he cites or claiming to understand what every source meant in detail. But anybody who would cite a source like Lane's article to justify belief in some sort of infallible church, not just to address the history of Christian beliefs about authority, would have to go into much more detail than Lane does.

Hopefully I've provided some of that detail. Whether Jason will adequately address all that I have raised is by no means certain, and unlikely in light of his past behavior in such debates. There is no in-between with him. He either splits before the discussion is anywhere near over, or he tries to wear the opponent down by relentless attrition, obfuscation, non sequitur, and sophistry. This one could go either way.

17. Lane says that he's discussing Irenaeus and Tertullian for "The first clear attitude to emerge on the relation between Scripture, tradition and the church" (p. 39). But earlier sources don't have to be as clear in order to have some relevance. The points I've made about sources like Papias, Justin Martyr, Hegesippus, and Celsus have to be taken into account, even though such sources don't discuss these issues in the sort of depth we find in a source like Irenaeus or Tertullian.

I refuted (as far as I am concerned) Jason's erroneous assertions about St. Justin Martyr in our 2003 debate on the Fathers and sola Scriptura at the CARM discussion forum. It is the first section (IX) of Part II of the debate. It's no cursory treatment, either, but very in-depth. The entire section (including Jason's words) runs 4,953 words. He had long since departed from the debate by then, so there was no counter-reply from him. Perhaps he would be so kind to you the reader, to offer one now, after nearly seven years.

Jason will have to make his argument from Papias, whatever it is. J. N. D. Kelly says little about him, but what he does mention is no indication of sola Scriptura:

A practical expression of this attitude was the keen interest taken in the apostles' personal reminiscences of Christ. Papias, for example, did his best [Cf. Eusebius, hist. eccl. 3, 39, 3 f.] to discover His exact teaching by making inquiries of 'the elders'.

It was no longer possible to resort, as Papias and earlier writers had done, to personal reminiscences of the apostles.

(Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised edition of 1978, 33, 37)
When we go to Eusebius (III, 39) to see what exactly Papias stated, we find an explicit espousal of apostolic succession and authoritative tradition. He even contrasts oral tradition to written (as superior): "I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice" (III, 39, 4). Here is more from Papias or Eusebius describing him:

2. But Papias himself in the preface to his discourses by no means declares that he was himself a hearer and eye-witness of the holy apostles, but he shows by the words which he uses that he received the doctrines of the faith from those who were their friends.
3. He says: But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself.
4. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders . . .

7. And Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings. These things, we hope, have not been uselessly adduced by us.
8. But it is fitting to subjoin to the words of Papias which have been quoted, other passages from his works in which he relates some other wonderful events which he claims to have received from tradition.
9. That Philip the apostle dwelt at Hierapolis with his daughters has been already stated. But it must be noted here that Papias, their contemporary, says that he heard a wonderful tale from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that in his time one rose from the dead. And he tells another wonderful story of Justus, surnamed Barsabbas: that he drank a deadly poison, and yet, by the grace of the Lord, suffered no harm. . . .
11. The same writer gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other more mythical things.. . .
14. Papias gives also in his own work other accounts of the words of the Lord on the authority of Aristion who was mentioned above, and traditions as handed down by the presbyter John; to which we refer those who are fond of learning. But now we must add to the words of his which we have already quoted the tradition which he gives in regard to Mark, the author of the Gospel.
15. This also the presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord's discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely. These things are related by Papias concerning Mark.
16. But concerning Matthew he writes as follows: So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able. And the same writer uses testimonies from the first Epistle of John and from that of Peter likewise. And he relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. These things we have thought it necessary to observe in addition to what has been already stated.

How in the world does Jason think Papias helps his case? I'd love to see that. He can bring forth what he thinks is relevant from Hegesippus and Celsus. The former is cited several times by Eusebius, providing many interesting traditions, including about James and Jesus' family. So he obviously feels that he is passing on apostolic tradition in those respects: and his details are extra-scriptural. Celsus was a pagan Greek philosopher, so Jason must feel that he bears witness in an indirect way to something that he thinks is a disproof of Catholic arguments. I highly doubt it, based on the frequent great weakness or irrelevancy of Jason's arguments that I have interacted with.

18. Lane's assessment of Papias is misleading in some ways. Though I disagree with Richard Bauckham on some points regarding Papias, his recent assessment in Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006) is far more detailed, documented, and accurate than Lane's.

I'm not gonna go read all that. I've spent enough time on this as it is. Whatever Jason's argument is involving Papias, can be presented anew, if he thinks it is worthwhile to consider.

19. Lane frequently confirms my assessment of the variety of views of authority that existed among the fathers, as well as my comments about how a single source is sometimes inconsistent with himself. See, for example, pp. 39-42 and notes 29, 41, and 49.

I'll deal with individual arguments along these lines as they come up.

20. Lane alludes to another point I've made in note 29, when he comments that "But it must be remembered that Tertullian became a Montanist" and makes reference to how "the fathers could sit very loose to tradition when it suited them". In other words, as I noted in my e-mail yesterday, commitment to scripture in the patristic era was more deeply rooted and consistent than commitment to various concepts of the church and extra-Biblical tradition, as is the case in our day.

This is the same vague, general-type argument I've already dealt with, repeated yet again.

This concludes the reply to Jason's post proper. He also has a lot of additional material in the combox, that I will grapple with in Part IV, insofar as there are any new arguments brought forth.

END OF PART THREE

SEE PART FOUR

27 comments:

Carmelite said...

Protestants dont really care what the Fathers teach. You could have every single Church Father teaching the Assumption of Mary that was pass on by Apostolic Tradition and they still would not believe in the Assumption of Mary. Fathers are very important in the Catholic Faith and we take them very serious. How many Reformed Baptist churches are named after St.Augustine or St. Athanasius?
Is there any Reformed Baptist built on a Apostle tomb like the Catholic Church in Rome built on St.Peter's?

Dave Armstrong said...

Virtually every father believes in baptismal regeneration and real presence and Tradition and apostolic succession: doesn't faze those who pretend that the reality is different.

john said...

Dave as an ex-Catholic I find your arguments unimpressive. Not ALL "Protestants" reject Baptismal Regeneration and the "Real Presence" I am a CONSERVATIVE Anglican now (Anglican Church in North America) and ceratinly affirm both of those. As far as "Tradition" goes the view I hold to is easily summed up as follows and BTW this IS the consensus of the Early Church Fathers:


VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.


Another thing the Early Fathers emphasized is that if what a Presbyter or Bishop or Bishops EVEN IN COUNCIL taught contradicted Scripture then the faithful WERE NOT obligated to believe it, in other words "Succession" was only valid if those in in that succession did not teach anything contrary to Scripture.

By that Apostolic and Patristic standard Rome and what they teach is massive fail.

Spoils23m said...

John,

While I appreciate your contribution to this combox... I don't find your "argument" (read: assertions without proof) any more impressive than you seemed to have found Dave's.

You wrote:
"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: ***so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man***" (emphasis mine)

I am not sure I agree that the last bit "IS the consensus of the Early Church Fathers" on this subject. Plus words like "proved" are subject to interpretation... the issue is, I suppose, from whom?

And, of course, the Scriptures themselves didn't come to be nor do they exist in a vacuum, but I digress...

You wrote:
"Another thing the Early Fathers emphasized is that if what a Presbyter or Bishop or Bishops EVEN IN COUNCIL taught contradicted Scripture then the faithful WERE NOT obligated to believe it..."

Ok. Who determined what was contradictory to Scripture and what was not? Every man for himself? If not, why not? Who are you to decide? Why should I listen?

I would also appreciate your proof that that the things you posit were, indeed, "consensus of the Early Church Fathers." :)

I hope you are well.

IC XC
<')))><

Spoils23m said...

Dave,

I have been following this disussion from Mr. Waltz's blog to your's... It's been interesting thus far...

While I have trouble accepting Jason's postion/admission about how living in the early Church would have probably prevented him from accepting SS... I do think it's pretty much the party line... he just seemes to have extended the "during times of inscripturation" period a bit longer (extending past the disputes over what the canon should consist of?) than I have seen most Reformed folks admit.

I find his argument about there being people disagreeing over this or that teaching in the early Church interesting... when one makes that argument against SS we're always told that just because there is disagreement over what the Scriptures teach doesn't mean that the Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith... interesting double standard there... I am still reading, but I hope that, when I have had my morning coffee... I can actually contribute to the discussion and not just ramble.

IC XC
<')))><

Spoils23m said...

*doesn't mean that the Scriptures AREN'T

COFFEE!!

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi John,

Dave as an ex-Catholic I find your arguments unimpressive. Not ALL "Protestants" reject Baptismal Regeneration and the "Real Presence"

Where did I say that they did? I must have missed it.

What you describe about tradition is, of course, the position of material sufficiency, that I accept, as do most Catholics (and the fathers). But it is a vastly different position from sola Scriptura. I've discussed that particular distinction in probably 20 papers at least by now.

You're barking up the wrong tree here.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi spoilz,

Thanks for your comments. The real interesting thing will be when David Waltz and Jason start to enter the discussion: the author of the post and the one who thinks it was compelling or at least provocative.

I will be looking forward to counter-arguments to my counter-arguments. That is where it is really at in any debate: how to reply to the criticism. That shows how strong (and truthful) a position truly is.

Adomnan said...

Here's one of the tenets of the Anglican Church of North America, as stated in the church's constitution:

"Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided church, it affirms the teaching of the first four Ecumenical Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Bible."

The Christological clarifications of the last three councils (and the teaching of the first four?: it's unclear) are affirmed "in so far as they are agreeable to the Bible." This could be affirmed even of the Koran. They agree with the councils except in those unspecified instances where they disagree: not a very useful guide to faith.

TOm said...

Hello Dave A,
I have read all of Part I and II and about half of Part III. I suspect I will get to all of Part III eventually. I thought I would offer a couple of criticisms together with a couple of questions. I hope the criticism will not get in the way of you answering the questions as they truly are things that I have long thought about.

I will quote your blog with the addition of a (J) for Jason’s words and a (D) for your words.

#1
Your blog:
(J)But we aren't in his position. We're in a much different position. If sola scriptura had been widely or universally rejected early on, it wouldn't follow that it couldn't be appropriate later, under different circumstances.

(D) So now he "gets" it. Assuming that sola Scriptura was "widely or universally rejected early on" (as in fact it was), it doesn't matter, you see, because (hallelujah!) it can be "appropriate later, under different circumstances." Why are we having this discussion at all, then, if it doesn't matter a hill of beans what the fathers en masse thought? The rule of faith is as variable as the weather and President Obama's latest opinion on war policy.

TOm:
I think it quite valid to reframe your above words as follows:
(T) So now the Catholics “get” it. Assuming that Tradition was “widely or universally held early on” (as in fact it was), it doesn’t matter, you see, because (hallelujah!) in can be “appropriate later, under different circumstances” to preach DEVELOPMENT. Why are we having this discussion at all, then, if it doesn’t matter a hill of beans what the father en masse thought? The rule of faith is as variable as the weather and President Obama's latest opinion on war policy.

Just as your reductio ad absurdum of Jason’s argument is not quite valid, mine is not either. But, I would suggest that Jason’s departure from the reformers is no more radical than the post Newman departure from pre-Newman Traditionalism.
But it is my experience that few Catholic apologists (including Patrick Madrid in my personal experience) acknowledge just how much MUST rest on a development theory. In fact, the radical denial of development present in most Catholic apologetics IMO belies a bigger problem. From whence did we get development anyway?

So my sincere question here is:
How do we know that Newman’s theory should be part of Catholicism? Many quite sharp folks rejected Newman’s ideas as a Protestantism he brought with him to Catholicism (Orestes Brownson). My limited observation suggests that pre-Newman there was an almost universal rejection of the type of thought Newman offered (there is a German historian who has a similar development theory contemporary with Newman, but not pre-Newman. So, if a 18th century Catholic would reject Newman’s theory of development as un-Catholic and a repudiation of Tradition, why should I even consider Newman Catholicism at all?
There are of course many ways to answer the above one by denying that what I claim a 18th century Catholic would do, but if you do this I would be interested in seeing what pre 19th century evidence you have that would lead you to believe that this is the case.

Charity, TOm

TOm said...

#2
Your blog:
(J)Councils like Nicaea and First Constantinople helped in sorting through some controversial issues, and those councils were eventually widely accepted, but they were also widely rejected for a while.

(D)By whom? And how does that disprove that they were what they were, anyway, because some folks didn't accept them?

(J)While heretics and the many branches of what we call orthodoxy widely agreed about scripture, there was no comparable agreement about a system of church infallibility. The Arians would reject anti-Arian councils, and the anti-Arians would reject Arian councils, but neither side would reject the gospel of Matthew or Paul's epistle to the Romans when such a document was cited against that side's position.

(D)Oh, this is brilliant. So because people whom we all agree agree were heretics rejected orthodox councils, and because orthodox Catholicism rejected heretical councils, this supposedly proves something because both sides accepted Matthew's authenticity as inspired Scripture? But in the same period we see all kinds of anomalies in views of the canon that I noted last time: even the NT canon. It's another rhetorical dead-end for Jason.

TOm:
Hmmm! Do you believe that Nicea and other councils were not largely rejected by significant portions of Christians? The “By Whom?” appears to give this impression.
Do you believe folks who had problems with the councils were known as “heretics” by their contemporaries or only “heretics” in hind sight?
The above are not my questions of note, but rather my criticism of your statements. Surely you know that Nicea was a huge issue for many years after Nicea. Surely you do not believe that those who rejected the decisions of councils were clearly heretics in the eyes of their peers. In fact post Nicea, if orthodoxy was determined by the Maxim of St. Vincent de Lerins, then semi-arianism was orthodoxy!

Now, my sincere question (I do not care if you want to answer the above, but I really want an answer to this).
How would you propose a historical Christian would know if the council that just met (be it Nicea, Orange, or …) was either an ecumenical or local or robber or ??? council?

Charity, TOm

Peter J. Dawson said...

Hi, Dave.

I have long viewed the Roman Catholic Church as "infallible," but I have found it impossible to give the contention a quantifiable meaning.

For example, Pope Liberius is supposed to have condemned his own prior teaching on Arianism, which Jerome and Athanasius had themselves condemned.

Another example: Infallible Luke comments that when Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem after Jesus' birth to sacrifice two turtledoves or pigeons, that act was "in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord."

The "law of the Lord," Leviticus 12, states that the purpose of the two bird sacrifice is to make the mother "clean again after her flow of blood" at childbirth.

Thus, it appears to be infallibly true, in Scripture, that Mary bled in giving birth, otherwise her sacrifice was NOT "in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord."


Nonetheless, in 649 A.D. Pope Martin I signed-off on a decree to the effect that there was no breach of Mary's integrity -- no bleeding, in other words.

In the face of such instances of apparent fallibility in the teaching function, some apologists argue that only two documents in Church history are "expressly infallible," the Encyclicals bearing on the immaculate conception and on Mary's assumption.

However, I respond, "Okay, then why do most Catholics assert that Mary did not die, though Paragraph 20 of Munificentissimus Deus states clearly that Jesus 'died'"? I.e., the most devout Catholics ignore the expressly infallible encyclicals anyway if it suits them!

The bottom line is that I can't see infallibility in a specific way, though I acknowledge that the Church's theology is generally the most reliable.

john said...

In response to what Peter J. Dawson said:


These are just a very small samoling of more proof that "Papal Infallibility" is untrue.
The examples cited shows how far off the Biblical rails Rome's Popes have gone.

For example if Mary was a normal woman and Jesus was fully Human then Jesus was born like any other Human baby. Not to be rude but Jesus was born like all normal Human babies, through His mothers birth canal with all the gynecological details of Human birth.

As far as Mary's end, we have Epiphanus who was a Bishop in the Palestine area and this is what he wrote about that subject:

But if some think us mistaken, let them search the Scriptures. They will not find Mary’s death; they will not find whether she died or did not die; they will not find whether she was buried or was not buried. Scripture is absolutely silent on the end of Mary. For my
own part, I do not dare to speak, but I keep my own thoughts and I practice silence. The fact is, Scripture has outstripped the human mind and left this matter uncertain. Did she
die, we do not know. Either the holy Virgin died and was buried. Or she was killed or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and He can do whatever He desires; for her end no-one knows.


So Epiphanus, who lived in the area, and was well acquanted with events simply didn't know for certain what actually happened to Mary since no one knew, how can a Pope centuries later declare Her assumption with no shred of Biblical or Historical evidence?

If someone wants to believe that as a "pious belief" fine, but please don't make it a dogma that a Christian must believe or else be in heresy and sin.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Tom,

Generally speaking: hopefully, you and others will understand that since I am already working day and night on these replies, and due to the high importance of the matter, from a Catholic perspective (a person who has left Catholicism due to some argument that I think fails), that I can't promise answers to everyone: at least not in depth.

I have to put first priority on interacting with David Waltz (for whose primary sake I am doing this) and Jason Engwer (who will likely counter-reply).

That said, I like discussion and will try my best to interact, because that's good. But please keep that in mind.

You r first question was answered at length in my latest installment: Part IV. Development of doctrine does itself develop through history: notably in Augustine and St. Vincent of Lerins (where it is already explicitly stated). Philip Schaff, in fact, stated that Newman's theory was "substantially the same" as theirs. So that takes development back to the 4th century, and there are other patristic indications earlier than that (less explicit). Moreover, Scripture hints at it in many places.

So the objection that it sprung out of nowhere in the 19th century is historically naive and uninformed and must be discarded. It goes back to a period even before trinitarinaism or the canon were fully formulated.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Tom,

Hmmm! Do you believe that Nicea and other councils were not largely rejected by significant portions of Christians?

No. Arians (the primary ones who would have rejected it) were not Christians, because they denied that Jesus was God, and the Holy Trinity.

The “By Whom?” appears to give this impression.

It was intended to! Glad you noticed that. :-)

Do you believe folks who had problems with the councils were known as “heretics” by their contemporaries or only “heretics” in hind sight?

Both. But of course other contemporaries who were also Arian heretics wouldn't have seen it that way.

The above are not my questions of note, but rather my criticism of your statements. Surely you know that Nicea was a huge issue for many years after Nicea.

Of course. But that has no bearing on whether or not there was a true orthodoxy that could be identified and followed. The Church spoke. Scripture had already spoken clearly (for those who had eyes to see), and was reaffirmed.

Surely you do not believe that those who rejected the decisions of councils were clearly heretics in the eyes of their peers.

See the above.

In fact post Nicea, if orthodoxy was determined by the Maxim of St. Vincent de Lerins, then semi-arianism was orthodoxy!

Not at all, because Semi-Arianism cannot be traced back to the beginning. It was a heresy that came a few centuries later than the apostles. The Jehovah's Witnesses make the same unsubstantiated argument.

Now, my sincere question (I do not care if you want to answer the above, but I really want an answer to this).

Well, you got answers to both.

How would you propose a historical Christian would know if the council that just met (be it Nicea, Orange, or …) was either an ecumenical or local or robber or ??? council?

Easy: if the pope approved it, as head of the Church and leader of the Apostolic See, then it was orthodox. If not, it wasn't. That worked very well for the Robber Council of 449, didn't it?

Ecumenical councils were gatherings of bishops from all around. There are some fine lines in some of them, but that was determined by Rome, as a matter of canon law and unbroken tradition (the primacy of Rome).

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Peter,

I have long viewed the Roman Catholic Church as "infallible," but I have found it impossible to give the contention a quantifiable meaning.

For example, Pope Liberius is supposed to have condemned his own prior teaching on Arianism, which Jerome and Athanasius had themselves condemned.


Liberius never attempted to bind the whole Church to this heresy. Therefore, infallibility is not in play. The Church did not defect in its Christology. See The Catholic Encyclopedia article on him:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09217a.htm

Another example: Infallible Luke comments that when Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem after Jesus' birth to sacrifice two turtledoves or pigeons, that act was "in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord."

The "law of the Lord," Leviticus 12, states that the purpose of the two bird sacrifice is to make the mother "clean again after her flow of blood" at childbirth.

Thus, it appears to be infallibly true, in Scripture, that Mary bled in giving birth, otherwise her sacrifice was NOT "in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord."


All rules have exceptions, do they not? Jesus was baptized, too. Does that mean He had sin to be gotten rid of, or had to be regenerated? No. He (and Mary) performed ritual Temple purification ceremonies that presupposed sinfulness as well, and took up lambs to be sacrificed. He was an exception to the rule. So was Mary. The Virgin Birth was not like other births. We're dealing with GOD here. It's a bit different.

Nonetheless, in 649 A.D. Pope Martin I signed-off on a decree to the effect that there was no breach of Mary's integrity -- no bleeding, in other words.

Correct. The birth was a supernatural one.

In the face of such instances of apparent fallibility in the teaching function,

But it's not, because you apply a wooden application of a law, as if it is utterly absolute and can never have any exceptions ever. That would make Jesus Himself a sinner, when he ate the showbread that was reserved for priests, or when He said one could rescue a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath. The Law was made for man, not vice versa.

some apologists argue that only two documents in Church history are "expressly infallible," the Encyclicals bearing on the immaculate conception and on Mary's assumption.

They're confusing the highest level
of infallibiliy (de fide) with infallibility in general: there are several levels of it.

However, I respond, "Okay, then why do most Catholics assert that Mary did not die, though Paragraph 20 of Munificentissimus Deus states clearly that Jesus 'died'"?

The Church has not made that an issue of dogma. Others, like myself, hold that she died, precisely to be more like her Son. But we have the liberty to take either view.

I.e., the most devout Catholics ignore the expressly infallible encyclicals anyway if it suits them!

That's incorrect here; they're not "ignoring" anything, because the encyclical says, I believe, "after the course of her earthly life" or some such words.

The bottom line is that I can't see infallibility in a specific way, though I acknowledge that the Church's theology is generally the most reliable.

It requires faith to believe. Perhaps some of what I write in this series will help you to have the faith to fully accept it. But that is ultimately a supernatural gift. At best, I can clear away roadblocks to it. That is one of the main purposes of apologetics.

No other Christian body has as remarkable a history and as consistently orthodox one as the Catholic Church.

Dave Armstrong said...

John,

You're allowed to be an ignoramus and a boor on this blog; even to preach. Feel free! Just don't expect me to answer your foolishness all the time.

john said...

Thank you for the compliments Dave. I am not "preaching" nor am I being a "boor", merely stating facts. Just because you don't like those facts because they disagree with Roman fairy tales isn't my problem. See Dave at one point I was a Roman Catholic and wanted to be a Roman Catholic apologist like you and so many others, so I read and studied, but I had an open mind and was open to the truth no matter where it led me. I saw that both the Historical facts and realities and the Biblical witness using proper and sound exigesis disproved Roman claims and showed them to be false.

Adomnan said...

john: So Epiphanus, who lived in the area, and was well acquanted with events simply didn't know for certain what actually happened to Mary since no one knew, how can a Pope centuries later declare Her assumption with no shred of Biblical or Historical evidence?

Adomnan: When Epiphanius says no one knows the "end" of Mary, he's saying that no one knows whether she died or not. The doctrine of the Assumption affirms that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven. It leaves open the question of her death, just as Epiphanius did.

We know that Mary was assumed into heaven because the Church (East and West) has marked this event liturgically since at least the sixth century, and apparently earlier in Jerusalem and other places. The Church, which is led by the Holy Spirit, would not universally celebrate an event that did not occur.

And your assertion that there is not a "shred" of historical evidence that the Assumption occurred is an overstatement. By comparing various narratives of the Assumption, Dr. Stephen Shoemaker, a professor at Duke University who is currently the leading scholar of the Assumption (at least in English), was able to trace the story back to the early third century. This of course does not mean belief in the Assumption originated in the third century, but that it was already present then. Prof. Shoemaker's book is entitled "The Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption."

Moreover, in a recent article in the "Journal of Early Christian Studies" entitled "Epiphanius of Salamis, The Kollyridians, and Veneration of Mary in the Fourth Century," Prof. Shoemaker maintains that Epiphanius basically affirmed his own belief in Mary's miraculous assumption (in his Panarion). As you wrote, john, "Epiphanius...lived in the area and was well acquainted with events." Apparently you're willing to accept his testimony on this matter, then.

The early existence of this belief (and its subsequent acceptance by the whole Church) is enough evidence to convince any Catholic/Orthodox believer of its truth, if he's looking for evidence.

Adomnan said...

I see that both historical facts and realities and the biblical witness using proper and sound exegesis -- and I can even spell it! -- disprove Protestant claims and show them to be false.

So there, john!

Dave Armstrong said...

There is also a biblical argument that can be made (as I have done). Mary's sinlessness can be established from the Bible (Lk 1:28 and cross-exegesis of what "grace" means and therefore what "full of grace" entails).

Once that is done, it follows from more cross-referencing that a sinless person would not see corruption.

And that is the Assumption of Mary. There are also analogies of others being taken to heaven bodily, such as Enoch, Elijah and Paul (so he thought), and the Two Witnesses of Revelation.

So now, if all this is true, we are back in the first century and inspired revelation.

Dave Armstrong said...

sound exigesis

Just fyi: the word is "exegesis." I wouldn't want your spelling to be as unsound as when you try to do the thing itself. :-)

john said...

Thanks Dave. EXEGESIS not EXIGESIS,got it. But at times I type rather fast, so, thats how it is sometimes. I assure you my EXEGESIS is quite sound, after all I study using all the lexical apparatus necessary plus good commentaries. Speaking of commentaries I rather like two Roman Catholic Biblical Scholars, Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer esp his commentary on Romans.

TOm said...

Dave A,
Thank you for your replies to my two questions (and even my surrounding questions). I have completed Part III and almost all of Part IV. I have no idea how you have so much time to write; I can scarcely read it all.
At this point, I am much moved through your linking of Newman and St. Vincent de Lerins. This is something I had never supposed and I wonder why Newman didn’t bolster his Essay on the Development of Doctrine by linking it to DEVELOPMENT ideas of St. Vincent. As I recall Newman talked about the Maxim of St. V … by saying that you couldn’t get to the Anglican confession without needing to pull in non-Anglican doctrines.
I have long felt that Newman’s theory was necessary to get off the ground. I have long felt that a strong development component was missing in most Catholic apologetics. It was my position that I would generally allow for Newman’s theory and judge Catholicism upon it while recognizing that I was still not convinced that Newman’s theory had any place in Catholicism. It was (and generally is) the necessity of a strong theory of development that leaves me unable to make a form of conservative Protestantism work well.
From reading what I have read of Part IV (which you call my response to the above), I must concede that Newman’s theory of development does not seem to be as radical of a break with the past as I once thought it to be. Instead, I would suggest that Newman’s development like the doctrine of deification has a MUCH NEGLECTED place in modern Catholicism, but this neglect is a product of de-emphasis and perhaps ignorance rather than appropriate absence.

I am less excited about your way to know a true council. I am not well versed enough in all of the events surrounding ECs and local councils and robber councils to forcibly dispute your assertion. That being said I think there are at least two problems (and could be more). First, were I an Antioch Christian in the 3rd or 4th century I think the idea of looking to the Bishop of Rome to determine which councils were ECs would be almost unthinkable (and if I were a Jerusalem Christian in the 1st century it would definitely be that). The transition from Jerusalem and Apostles to Rome and Bishops (who do not claim parity with Apostles ultimately) is perhaps the most difficult historical step I see. Second, post Nicea it was Athanasius who stood boldly. The Bishop of Rome can be defended, but he cannot be said to have stood for orthodoxy with the vigor of Athanasius.
In addition to this, your responses seem to suggest that Semi-Arianism is clearly not pre-Nicene orthodoxy. The position of Arius which as we see it today suggests that Jesus Christ was a man not God, is not IMO well represented pre-Nicea. But the position that Jesus was God but not “The One True God” IMO is generally the pre-Athanasian consensus. It is the necessity of a development to get to the orthodox Trinity (and orthodox other doctrines) that I find to be a radically strong pro-Catholic vs. Conservative Protestant argument.

Anyway, thank you for your responses. I have been educated on pre-Newman development quite a bit!

Charity, TOm

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your replies to my two questions (and even my surrounding questions). I have completed Part III and almost all of Part IV. I have no idea how you have so much time to write; I can scarcely read it all.

I do this full-time, and have been doing so since December 2001. Today I spent about seven-eight hours composing my latest counter-reply to Jason. I write fast, and a lot of stuff is pasted, too.

At this point, I am much moved through your linking of Newman and St. Vincent de Lerins. This is something I had never supposed and I wonder why Newman didn’t bolster his Essay on the Development of Doctrine by linking it to DEVELOPMENT ideas of St. Vincent.

He did actually mention that in the book. I cited it.

As I recall Newman talked about the Maxim of St. V … by saying that you couldn’t get to the Anglican confession without needing to pull in non-Anglican doctrines.

Yep. Both things are simultaneously true. This is what many people don't seem to realize: even scholars like A. N. S. Lane.

I have long felt that Newman’s theory was necessary to get off the ground. I have long felt that a strong development component was missing in most Catholic apologetics. It was my position that I would generally allow for Newman’s theory and judge Catholicism upon it while recognizing that I was still not convinced that Newman’s theory had any place in Catholicism. It was (and generally is) the necessity of a strong theory of development that leaves me unable to make a form of conservative Protestantism work well.

Development was the primary reason I became a Catholic, so it is a topic close to my heart, and I love talking and thinking about it.

From reading what I have read of Part IV (which you call my response to the above), I must concede that Newman’s theory of development does not seem to be as radical of a break with the past as I once thought it to be.

Cool! Glad to hear it. I hear that claim all the time and it frustrates me. So it's refreshing to have actually helped someone change their mind on this issue.

Instead, I would suggest that Newman’s development like the doctrine of deification has a MUCH NEGLECTED place in modern Catholicism, but this neglect is a product of de-emphasis and perhaps ignorance rather than appropriate absence.

There is an orthodox and unorthodox notion of theosis. I've written about theosis and don't neglect it at all. I have used it, e.g., in my defense of Catholic mariology.

Dave Armstrong said...

[cont.]

I am less excited about your way to know a true council. I am not well versed enough in all of the events surrounding ECs and local councils and robber councils to forcibly dispute your assertion. That being said I think there are at least two problems (and could be more). First, were I an Antioch Christian in the 3rd or 4th century I think the idea of looking to the Bishop of Rome to determine which councils were ECs would be almost unthinkable

Of course, because the East kept splitting off from Rome, because it went after all the heresies one after another. Some have argued that the Monophysitism and iconoclasm in the east directly led to Islam. Heresy never has good fruit.

(and if I were a Jerusalem Christian in the 1st century it would definitely be that). The transition from Jerusalem and Apostles to Rome and Bishops (who do not claim parity with Apostles ultimately) is perhaps the most difficult historical step I see.

It's really nothing complicated. Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome, and God intended to co-opt the Roman empire. That's why the leadership of the Church was to be from Rome. People naturally wanted their own area to be in the forefront, but there can be only one head. So the East kept going its own way, eventually separating altogether. They also loved to put the emperor over the Church, which is another serious problem.

Second, post Nicea it was Athanasius who stood boldly.

He was rejected in the east and fled to Rome for protection, because Rome had the power and was orthodox.

The Bishop of Rome can be defended, but he cannot be said to have stood for orthodoxy with the vigor of Athanasius.

Rome was always orthodox. A few popes waffled a bit personally, but never proclaimed a heresy to be believed by all.

In addition to this, your responses seem to suggest that Semi-Arianism is clearly not pre-Nicene orthodoxy.

Of course it isn't. It is heresy.

The position of Arius which as we see it today suggests that Jesus Christ was a man not God, is not IMO well represented pre-Nicea. But the position that Jesus was God but not “The One True God” IMO is generally the pre-Athanasian consensus. It is the necessity of a development to get to the orthodox Trinity (and orthodox other doctrines) that I find to be a radically strong pro-Catholic vs. Conservative Protestant argument.

Back to development. The Trinity is a classic case. It developed a lot, but it doesn't follow that semi-Arianism was never in the legitimate historical line of development as opposed to corruption or heresy.

Anyway, thank you for your responses. I have been educated on pre-Newman development quite a bit!

You're most welcome, and thank you for the cordial and stimulating dialogue.

Ken said...

Dave wrote:

Yes: no Protestants to disagree with everything under the sun

[except Tertullian and Cyprian to disagree with the Bishop of Rome on some points that protestants agree with. Mary had children after Jesus; Stephen was wrong.]

and to think in heretofore unknown (and often anti-biblical) categories, and viciously self-contradicting ways! But there were a lot of heretics running around. One had to cling to Rome in order to know for sure what was orthodox and what wasn't. That was the gold standard. Rome faithfully kept the faith of the Bible and the apostles.

Athanasius did not cling to Rome - he clung to the Scriptures in dealing with Arians. the bishop of Rome signed onto heresy of Arianism and excommunicated Athanasius.

"Vainly do they run about in wanting a counsel . . . divine Scripture is sufficient above all things." (de Syndosis, 6 - see below)

"the sacred and inspired Scriptures are sufficient to declare the truth" (Athanasius, Against the Heathen, part 1, 1, 3)

Athanasius states that in defending doctrine, the scriptures are all-sufficient! In the Arian theological wars, Athanasius uses scripture not tradition as a first line of attack!

"Now one might write at great length concerning these things, if one desired to go rate details respecting them; for the impiety and perverseness of heresies will appear to be manifold and various, and the craft of the deceivers to be very terrible. But since holy Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us, therefore recommending to those who desire to know more of these matters, to read the Divine word, I now hasten to set before you that which most claims attention, and for the sake of which principally I have written these things." (Athanasius, To the Bishops of Egypt, Ch 1, 4)

You will see a pattern with Athanasius, in that he states scripture as being all-sufficient to teach the truth. No appeal is made to tradition.

"Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ, announced in divine Scripture" (Athanasius, de Synodis, Part 1, 6)