Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reply to Anti-Catholic Baptist Pastor Chris Bayack's Critique of Catholic Apologist Steve Ray (Part I)

Chris Bayack (12 days older than I am) was pastor of the independent Copperfield Bible Church in Houston from 1994 to 2002. He graduated with an M. Div. from The Master’s Seminary. Pastor Bayack was raised as a Catholic and left the Church at age 17.

By Dave Armstrong. Originally uploaded on 22 August 2000.

Pastor Chris Bayack's posted response is called "Book Review: Crossing the Tiber, Pt. II" and is still available online at the Proclaiming the Gospel website. See also Part I. His Resume, Facebook page, Pipl page, and collection of audio sermons are online as well.

[original introduction] Steve has asked me if I could assist him with his reply to this third section. Pastor Bayack seems to me a worthy and able opponent, so I am happy to do so. Steve Ray is a good friend of mine (we go back to 1983, long before we both converted), and also a very busy man, with a prosperous business and an extraordinary dedication to his apologetics ministry, for which he receives relatively little remuneration (I can attest to that; being in the same line of largely "volunteer" work!). I have worked with Steve in such projects before, most notably with regard to my paper: "
Refutation of William Webster's Fundamental Misunderstanding of Development of Doctrine." Pastor Bayack's words will be in blue.

* * * * * 


I. Opening Shots From Pastor Bayack

II. Church (and) Tradition and Sola Scriptura

III. Weak and Insubstantial Alleged Biblical "Proofs" for Sola Scriptura

IV. Tradition II

V. Recurring Ad Hominem Attacks and Charges of Special Pleading

* * * * *

I. Opening Shots from Pastor Bayack

Crossing the Tiber is Stephen Ray’s experience into Roman Catholicism and it is largely an experience in search of a text.

I think this is a silly, groundless comment, which implies that Steve Ray puts experience above biblical text and reason. He most certainly does not (though I have personally known many Protestants who do just that), as anyone who reads his thoroughly-footnoted books or articles can readily observe. This is the familiar charge of special pleading, as if Catholics (and particularly converts - thus I am well-acquainted with it as well) couldn't possibly have adequate reasons for their change of heart and mind; therefore they go out and find biblical texts which they think prove what they already espouse on irrational, experiential grounds.

But this is itself a circular argument. Pastor Bayack simply assumes that the Bible couldn't possibly support Catholicism, so he conveniently concludes that anyone who believes it does must be special pleading and rationalizing; engaging in eisegesis (i.e., reading into the Bible one's own prior assumptions or theological systems).

Furthermore, this charge could just as easily be levied against any number of Protestant sects, since they can't manage to agree with each other (strange, if Scripture is so self-evidently clear, as they all claim). That might be due to poor scholarship or special pleading on their part as well (or any number of possible additional reasons). So in the end, charges like these become meaningless; both sides must present their biblical and historical arguments in favor of their own positions, which is precisely what both Steve and Pastor Chris have done. It isn't necessary to second-guess motives and to charge that a person is in effect dishonest (as professional anti-Catholic Dr. James White has in fact asserted about Steve Ray recently - without grounds, of course; I have received the same unethical treatment from the man).

Thus, Pastor Bayack, fresh from two sections detailing what he feels to be Steve's ad hominem attacks, lobs one of his own in his very first sentence. Sure it may have been subtle, but Steve and I know full well what he is referring to, as experience vs. biblical grounding is a longstanding discussion within the evangelical community itself (particularly concerning charismatics). Steve (like myself) has always chosen the Bible as the standard of experience (not vice versa), both as an evangelical and as a Catholic. This is a non-issue.

He must justify Catholic doctrine if he is to justify his conversion as evidenced by his own words, "Roman Catholic tradition does not contradict Scripture or frankly, I wouldn’t be a Roman Catholic" (7, italics in original),

All adherents of a Christian view who attempt to defend it utilize Scripture in that regard. I don't find that this is some sort of novel or objectionable practice. Such assertions don't move the discussion along at all. They are merely showy rhetoric, and thus, unworthy of true dialogue. For someone might object in turn: "okay, then, for what reason do you think Steve Ray is eisegeting Scripture?" And then we get right back to the biblical arguments, which should have been the starting-point of discussion in the first place, as both parties reverence Holy Scripture and accept its inspiration and unquestioned authority.

The Catholic can't win, no matter what he says or does, in the eyes of an anti-Catholic. I have long experience of this myself. If he doesn't cite Scripture to support his opinions (or change of heart, in the case of a convert), then it is said that Catholics hate the Scripture to such an extent (or are so ignorant of it) that they don't even cite it as evidence for their side, etc., and that the person is obviously a pawn and slave of this hideous, anti-biblical and tyrannical system; the Beast, the Whore of Babylon, blah blah blah. Then it is maintained that the Catholic Church has always suppressed the Bible and vernacular translations, etc. (false charges also, as I document on my Scripture and Tradition page).

But if a Catholic holds to the infallibility of Scripture (as they should, since their Church teaches this), and believes that the Bible is entirely consistent with Catholic doctrine (as all Christians who value Scripture believe about their own views), then we hear this gratuitous and vapid charge of eisegesis and special pleading, because (when it comes right down to it), the anti-Catholic knows (and assumes that everyone else "knows") that Scripture doesn't support Catholicism!

But what does that prove, anyway? Exactly nothing. It is a form of the "your dad's uglier than mine" tactic of schoolchildren. It is obvious that the discussion boils down to competing interpretations of Scripture. Protestants ought to respect such a biblical and hermeneutic discussion, given that they are perpetually arguing amongst themselves over that very thing (and sinfully splitting into further factions when they can't agree). So why pick on Catholics who hold to a different interpretation of various biblical passages, as if they are especially prone to eisegesis and an alleged "tortured hermeneutic"?

I suppose Pastor Bayack could reply that he does in fact try to show the faults of Steve's exegesis subsequently in his paper. Fair enough. But it is still unnecessary to take the pot shot right at the beginning of his arguments. It cheapens the debate and takes away much of the enjoyment and chance to learn and understand (for both parties).

and to do so he is often forced to employ a tortured hermeneutic. He must also depend on the other leg of authority—Church Tradition—for the same reason, regardless of how much it may contradict Scripture. I will deal briefly with each.

Whether it is "tortured" will be determined as the discussion proceeds below. I would submit that the standard Protestant views involve much more biblical difficulty and contradiction, and I will support that in no uncertain terms as we go along. As for Catholics depending on Church Tradition; well, of course we do; it is part of our system (and the Bible's outlook - so we would argue - far from contradicting it). But we are consistent in our own views, whereas Protestants supposedly eschew all "tradition" and stick to the Bible Alone, all the while accepting (consciously or not) all sorts of strictly man-made traditions handed down to them by their fathers Luther or Calvin or the Anabaptist Founders.

Scripture Alone and Faith Alone themselves fall into this category. There is nothing more "merely traditional" or arbitrary or less apostolic than beliefs which spring into existence 1500 years after Christ, whose exponents have the chutzpah to describe as "apostolic" and "biblical" viewpoints and doctrines, even though it can't be documented that anyone of note believed them for those intervening 1500 years. This forces many Protestants to assert the quasi-Mormon notion of a very early and widespread - almost completely victorious - apostasy or "falling away" or "radical corruption" of Christendom, until such time as Herr Luther broke through the darkness and brought the glorious gospel back again.

II. Church (and) Tradition and Sola Scriptura

i. Church Tradition

Stephen Ray appears to be as infallible as his Church as he hardly concedes even the least point to those who challenge him.

Oh, so Pastor Bayack does concede points - minor or no - to the Catholic (or to Steve's) position? I will be watching closely to see whether he does or not. If not, then this is a clear example of what I call "log-in-the-eye disease." If he does, I will come back and concede this point myself, and change this particular answer. So if this section doesn't read as it does now, the reader will know that I stand corrected, and that Pastor Bayack's charge was not immediately hypocritical.

It is amazing how everyone (e.g. William Webster, James White, myself, etc.) who crosses him is an arrogant mental midget, his spiritual inferior and intellectual doormat.

I think this is a grossly unfair and inaccurate characterization of Steve's remarks. Perhaps he "crossed the line" of ad hominem-type comments a time or two (as virtually all of us do in the heat of substantive discussion, Pastor Bayack included). But to this extent? I think not. This is a sweeping judgment of Steve's inner attitudes and opinions which is absolutely unwarranted. Pastor Bayack greatly minimizes the rhetorical effect of his own criticism against personal attacks by making statements such as these.

Dr. James White (since he was mentioned) has recently accused Steve Ray of deliberate misrepresentation (not merely inaccuracy or botched facts), with regard to a certain famous statement of St. Augustine's. That is a personal attack if there ever was one - getting right to motives and honesty and overall character. I haven't seen Steve doing that at all (and if he did I myself would rebuke him for it). At worst he is perhaps excessively sarcastic and harsh at times. That, too, can be a fine line for all of us. There is a biblical form of ethical sarcasm, which both Jesus and Paul utilized. I think William Webster is much more diplomatic and cordial (he was with me, though he never answered my paper against his, cited above), but in any event, I vigorously object to this portrayal.

Mr. Ray deals with them only as one is forced to deal with a pesky gnat since he considers them to be about as potent and intelligent. Quite naturally he makes no concessions to me, simpleton that I am.

This is a clear example of the sort of unconstructive, unethical sarcasm and judgment which Pastor Bayack purports to be rebuking Steve Ray for. As such, it requires no further comment. But I am still looking for our pastor friend's own "concessions," since he makes such an issue of this. Or is there some sort of double standard from the get-go, which Steve is subjected to, but not Pastor Bayack?

Nevertheless, I seek to contend for the truth which God has revealed exclusively in His Word for everyone who has ears to hear. How liberating for me to hear the clear voice of God through His Word alone! How blessed I am to understand and embrace the precious doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Mr. Ray, of course, has no choice but to reject this. According to him, "Sola Scriptura is never taught or even alluded to in the Bible itself; in fact, it itself is unbiblical" (5, italics in original).

Again, this remains to be proven. We deny it. I understand the propriety of summary statements, but if they are found wanting due to the dearth of evidences justifying them, they ought to be removed. As for "Mr. Ray's . . . choice," well, it is a very biblical choice, since the Bible in fact does not teach sola Scriptura. Pastor Bayack claims that it does indirectly, as indeed is the case with the Holy Trinity, but I think his case is exceedingly weak, as I will attempt to demonstrate in due course.

Sola Scriptura is unbiblical? Sola Scriptura is no more unbiblical
than the Trinity. Where does the Bible teach that God is a triune

Well, we agree that the biblical argument for the Trinity is largely an indirect, deductive one. That is clear in the very structure of my extensive paper on the subject (largely written in 1982, as an evangelical): "The Holy Trinity: Biblical Proofs." At least it is stated in a cursory way in Matthew 28:19 (not a disputed passage in terms of manuscripts, as far as I know):
    Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (NRSV)
But when it comes to sola Scriptura, no similarly descriptive verse can be found - not even anywhere close. I think the equivalent (if it in fact existed) would read something like:
    Do not take heed of any written or oral traditions, as sufficient for the purposes of doctrine or action, since the written word of God in Holy Scripture is your ultimate and final authority, above any church or tradition.
No such verse even remotely approaching this can be found (and many directly contradicting it, can be cited). Why would such a direct statement not be in the Bible, if this principle is so supremely important? Verses simply reiterating the trustworthiness and goodness of Scripture are not enough to prove this case. They are only compelling in a logically circular way: they harmonize with a sola Scriptura outlook, but they do not establish it or provide any evidence in favor of it, for they are just as harmonious with the Catholic view also.
Instead, Scripture informs us (RSV; emphases added):
    1 Corinthians 11:2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.
    2 Thessalonians 2:15 . . . stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth, or by letter.2 Thessalonians 3:6 . . . keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
Tradition in the Bible may be either written or oral. It implies that the writer (in the above instances St. Paul) is not expressing his own peculiar viewpoints, but is delivering a message received from someone else (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 11:23). The importance of the tradition does not rest in its form but in its content.
    1 Thessalonians 2:13 . . . when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God . . .1 Timothy 3:15 . . . the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.
Other Bible translations render bulwark alternately as ground, foundation, or support.
In his two letters to Timothy, St. Paul makes some fascinating remarks about the importance of oral tradition:
    2 Timothy 1:13-14 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me . . . guard the truth which has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.2 Timothy 2:2 And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
St. Paul says that Timothy is not only to receive and follow the pattern of his oral teaching, in addition to his written instruction, but to teach others the same. The Catholic Church seeks to do this with regard to the entire "Deposit of faith" (or, the apostles' teaching - Acts 2:42), in accordance with St. Paul.

Furthermore, the concepts of tradition, gospel, and word of God (as well as other terms) are essentially synonymous. All are predominantly oral, and all are referred to as being delivered and received:
    1 Corinthians 11:2 . . . maintain the traditions . . . even as I have delivered them to you.

    2 Thessalonians 2:15
    . . . hold to the traditions . . . taught . . . by word of mouth or by letter.

    2 Thessalonians 3:6
    . . . the tradition that you received from us.

    1 Corinthians 15:1
    . . . the gospel, which you received . . .

    Galatians 1:9
    . . . the gospel . . . which you received.

    1 Thessalonians 2:9
    . . . we preached to you the gospel of God.

    Acts 8:14
    . . . Samaria had received the word of God . . .

    1 Thessalonians 2:13
    . . . you received the word of God, which you heard from us, . . .

    2 Peter 2:21
    . . . the holy commandment delivered to them.

    Jude 3
    . . . the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
In St. Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians alone we see that three of the above terms are used interchangeably. Clearly then, tradition is not a dirty word in the Bible, particularly for St. Paul. If, on the other hand, one wants to maintain that it is, then gospel and word of God are also bad words! Thus, the commonly-asserted dichotomy between the gospel and tradition, or between the Bible and tradition is unbiblical itself and must be discarded by the truly biblically minded person as (quite ironically) a corrupt tradition of men.

All of this seems to be very difficult to get across to our esteemed Protestant brethren (I've engaged in many online debates about these alleged proof texts, and they never go more than one round). Protestants are so entrenched in their sola Scriptura presupposition (like a fish in water) that they oftentimes cannot - literally - grasp any critique of it. Yet it is logically elementary. The Bible simply does not pit itself against either Church or Apostolic Tradition. All are clearly of a piece, as unarguably seen above. Everyone must try to step outside their own premises momentarily, if they are to hope to understand an opposition viewpoint. That is just as true of Catholics as it is of Protestants or any other view, religious or otherwise. It may be painful and difficult, but this is the necessary requirement of logical, constructive discourse, including biblical discussion.

(Even the Catholic Jerusalem Bible is forced to admit that
the expanded version of 1 John 5:7 is "not in any of the early
Greek MSS, or any of the early translations, or in the best MSS of
the [Latin] Vulg. itself" and is "probably a gloss that has crept
into the text" [The Jerusalem Bible, s.v. 1 John 5:7 notes].) It is
taught all throughout the Bible even though we don’t find the
Trinitarian definition in one isolated verse. We understand the
doctrine of the Trinity based on the deductive teaching of
Scripture as a whole.

I agree with this (and Catholic Church authority in the Councils was what finalized the Trinity for all Christians henceforth, just as was the case with the canon of Scripture), but Matthew 28:19 is at least as explicit in a trinitarian sense as 1 John 5:7, so the textual argument is neither here nor there, for the purposes of this discussion. We deny that sola Scriptura is taught even indirectly, analogously to the Trinity, as I will demonstrate (and as I already have in about 25 papers and dialogues on this topic on my Scripture and Tradition page).

III. Weak and Insubstantial Alleged Biblical "Proofs" for Sola Scriptura

So it is with Sola Scriptura. God has promised, "The grass withers,
the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah

Indeed it does, but this passage does not say that it stands alone, in alleged dichotomy against Church and Apostolic Tradition. That is the hidden assumption which makes Protestants think such verses are compelling for their viewpoint. They are not. I could state that "the Washington Monument stands forever." Would that mean that there are no other monuments or edifices? I could say that "the [United States] Constitution stands forever [as an American legal document]." Would that therefore mean that there would be no Congress to enact new laws in accordance with it, or President to preside over the executive branch of government, or a Supreme Court to interpret whether such laws are harmonious with the Constitution? Of course not.

Likewise, Scripture does not rule out a Church and Tradition, by which it is interpreted as well. That's why the Church Fathers always appealed not solely to Holy Scripture, but to the history of doctrine and apostolic succession, which for them was the clincher and coup de grace, in arguments against the heretics. Groups such as the Arians, on the other hand, believed in Scripture Alone, precisely because they couldn't trace their late-arriving doctrines back past Arius (d.c. 336). So if there is an analogy here it is as follows:
    Fathers------- Catholic Church
Reasoning such as this (his own, in fact, having previously written a book about the Arians) was what led John Henry Cardinal Newman to accept the Catholic Church as the Church established by Christ, because its formal, authoritative principle had never changed, whereas Protestantism involved a radical, a-historical change of principle, which he deemed a "corruption" rather than a legitimate development. And reading his book Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine was what led me (and many, many others) to the Catholic Church as well.

Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35).

This is clearly fallacious in terms of sola Scriptura, because Jesus' words are not confined to Scripture, according to that same Scripture, and - I would say - common sense itself. Jesus was not a "talking Bible machine" (verses: RSV):
    John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.John 21:25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
    Acts 1:2-3 . . . the apostles . . . To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. {see also Luke 24:15-16,25-27}
Paul writes to Timothy, "All Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16).

Again, there is no disagreement from us that Scripture is inspired. That is a non sequitur in Catholic-Protestant discussions (except where theologically liberal parties are concerned, on both sides). The official Catholic record in upholding that truth is far better than the Protestant one, I dare say. It was liberal Protestantism which gave us the legacy of Higher Criticism and scholars mercilessly tearing down the Bible (now even to the extent of asserting that it sanctions sodomy, abortion, etc.). This verse proves nothing whatsoever in terms of sola Scriptura, as I have noted elsewhere (verses: RSV here and throughout in my response unless noted otherwise):
      2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

    This is the most often-used supposed proof text for sola Scriptura - yet a strong argument can be put forth that it teaches no such thing. John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), the brilliant English convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, shows the fallacy of such reasoning:

      It is quite evident that this passage furnishes no argument whatever that the sacred Scripture, without Tradition, is the sole rule of faith; for although Sacred Scripture is profitable for these ends, still it is not said to be sufficient. The Apostle requires the aid of Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Moreover, the Apostle here refers to the Scriptures which Timothy was taught in his infancy. Now, a good part of the New Testament was not written in his boyhood: some of the Catholic Epistles were not written even when St. Paul wrote this, and none of the books of the New Testament were then placed on the canon of the Scripture books. He refers, then, to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and if the argument from this passage proved anything, it would prove too much, viz., that the Scriptures of the New Testament were not necessary for a rule of faith. It is hardy necessary to remark that this passage furnishes no proof of the inspiration of the several books of Sacred Scripture, even of those admitted to be such . . . For we are not told . . . what the Books or portions of inspired Scripture are.

    {"Essay on Inspiration in its Relation to Revelation," London: 1884, Essay 1, section 29. Emphasis in original. In Newman, On the Inspiration of Scripture, ed. J. Derek Holmes and Robert Murray, Washington, D.C., Corpus Books, 1967, p.131} In addition to these logical and historical arguments, one can also differ with the Protestant interpretation of this passage on contextual, analogical, and exegetical grounds. In 2 Timothy alone (context), St. Paul makes reference to oral Tradition three times (1:13-14, 2:2, 3:14). In the latter instance, St. Paul says of the tradition, knowing from whom you learned it. The personal reference proves he is not talking about Scripture, but himself as the Tradition-bearer, so to speak. Elsewhere (exegesis), St. Paul frequently espouses oral Tradition (Romans 6:17, 1 Corinthians 11:2,23, 15:1-3, Galatians 1:9,12, Colossians 2:8, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6). The "exclusivist" or "dichotomous" form of reasoning employed by Protestant apologists here is fundamentally flawed. For example, to reason by analogy, let's examine a very similar passage, Ephesians 4:11-15:

      Ephesians 4:11-15 And his gifts were that some should be apostle, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are able to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

    If the Greek artios (RSV, complete / KJV, perfect) proves the sole sufficiency of Scripture in 2 Timothy, then teleios (RSV, mature manhood / KJV, perfect) in Ephesians would likewise prove the sufficiency of pastors, teachers and so forth for the attainment of Christian perfection. Note that in Ephesians 4:11-15 the Christian believer is equipped, built up, brought into unity and mature manhood, knowledge of Jesus, the fulness of Christ, and even preserved from doctrinal confusion by means of the teaching function of the Church. This is a far stronger statement of the perfecting of the saints than 2 Timothy 3:16-17, yet it doesn't even mention Scripture.Therefore, the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves too much, since if all non-scriptural elements are excluded in 2 Timothy, then, by analogy, Scripture would logically have to be excluded in Ephesians. It is far more reasonable to synthesize the two passages in an inclusive, complementary fashion, by recognizing that the mere absence of one or more elements in one passage does not mean that they are nonexistent. Thus, the Church and Scripture are both equally necessary and important for teaching. This is precisely the Catholic view. Neither passage is intended in a exclusive sense.

{From A Biblical Defense of Catholicism}

These are but the tip of countless verses that support the unique nature of Scripture as God’s enduring and only authoritative revelation.

These "countless" verses are of the sort that prove absolutely nothing with regard to sola Scriptura, as seen from the examples Pastor Bayack thought so compelling above. The reader may or may not be familiar with these "countless" verses, but I have seen a great many brought forth myself, and refuted them (with little difficulty, as they almost always involved the same elementary logical fallacy) when they were used to allegedly "bolster" the self-contradictory position of sola Scriptura.The Bible certainly is a unique revelation - again, no argument from us there - but it is not the only authority for the Christian. It guides the Church and Tradition, which in turn preserve it, but they are all harmonious, and do not contradict each other (as is plainly evident in reading Fathers such as St. Augustine or St. Irenaeus). Christian truth and authority is a three-legged stool; take any one leg away and it falls over. Apostolic Tradition is true and biblical precisely because it is protected from error by God just as Holy Scripture itself is. The Protestant believes, in faith (and quite rightly) that Scripture is inspired; God-breathed, and therefore preserved from error by God, even though he used fallible, sinful men to write it.

The Catholic agrees, but also asserts and believes that God can protect His Church from error as well, even though he uses fallible, sinful men for that purpose also. And if sinful men such as David and Peter could write inspired Scripture: the very words of God, then it is utterly plausible that God could grant the gift of infallibility (far lesser in degree and kind than inspiration) to men in certain well-defined situations. The second scenario is easier to believe than the first. Yet somehow Protestants have no problem adhering to the first, while vehemently denying the second proposition as "impossible," "implausible," "unbiblical," etc. But papal, conciliar, and ecclesiological infallibility is another discussion altogether. The reader can consult my Church and Papacy pages (or Steve Ray's book Upon This Rock) for discussion on those closely-related, yet distinct topics.

IV. Tradition II

If Church Tradition supposedly shares the same authoritative attribute as
Scripture then we should expect it to share other common
attributes. Yet where does God ever say that Tradition stands
forever or that it will not pass away or that it is God-breathed?
How is it that Tradition can presumably possess one unique
attribute with the Word of God and not the rest?

In effect, it is presented as immutable (in the sense that all truth is immutable) since it is spoken of as delivered "once and for all" to the saints (Jude 3). Likewise, 2 + 2 = 4 stands forever, does it not? Or a = a, or the theory of gravity (as long as this present universe exists)? Every created soul, for that matter, "stands forever," as they will never cease being. The preached gospel stood forever as truth before it was ever encapsulated in Scriptural form. As I have shown, "tradition," "word of God," and "gospel" are synonymous in Paul's mind. It is foolish and unbiblical to even try to separate them. Yes, we have the magnificent, extraordinary Bible and it is written down, and uniquely inspired, and has been maintained in its textual purity (so we know from evidences like the Dead Sea Scrolls), yet its interpretation in a doctrinal sense is obviously an ongoing process, as indicated by verses such as John 16:13a:
    When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth . . .
And Jesus has promised that His Church will always prevail, and will not defect from the truth (Matthew 16:18), and Paul has stated that it is the "pillar and bulwark of truth" (I Timothy 3:15). That ought to be sufficient to establish our contentions, but since Protestants can't even agree as to what the Church is, let alone which variant amongst themselves (if any) can lay claim to being the Church, they must - of necessity - downplay the notion of the (visible) Church, because it only condemns their own lack of unity and true ecclesiastical authority. Therefore, they adopt Scripture Alone (for what other choice do they have, given their internal chaos?), and the unbiblical notion of a merely invisible church of the elect and regenerate. That might be fine and dandy if these were scriptural concepts to begin with, but since they are not, then Protestants - ironically - have adopted unbiblical man-made traditions as their guiding principles. The pathetically weak and groundless nature of their "proof texts" for sola Scriptura bears this out more than a thousand essays like this ever could.

While God undoubtedly used oral tradition to initially disseminate truth, the nature of human frailty demanded that such truth inevitably be captured in a written, inspired form.

We did need the written form, but we also need the authoritative interpreter, just as all written documents require. The self-evident "clearness" of Scripture is a myth. Nothing illustrates this better than the 24,000 + Protestant sects. That same "frailty" Pastor Bayack refers to is what necessitates a real, binding teaching authority. Yet Protestants still insist on proving this claim that the self-evidently "clear" Scripture can serve as this supposedly sufficient "authority." I have engaged in many debates on this (important and crucial) sub-topic as well.

Errant men cannot be trusted to indefinitely pass on inerrant truth via word-of-mouth.

It was not strictly word-of-mouth because inspired, revelational Holy Scripture was there from the onset of Christianity (though its exact parameters were disputed for 350 years) as the Guide. All things worked together. The Fathers appealed to Scripture (just as all Protestants do) but also (and finally) to the apostolic Tradition (as Catholics do), since all the heretics appealed to Scripture too. The deciding factor was the history of Christian doctrine, since history and Tradition had always been a central element of both Judaism and Christianity (this was nothing new).

But on the other hand, "errant" and sinful men certainly could pass on inerrant truth, if indeed that was God's intention (He being all-powerful and Sovereign over His creation), just as sinful and errant men managed to write an inspired, inerrant Bible, as God's "agents," as it were. Protestants just don't have enough faith that God can preserve anything beyond His Bible. When it comes to a collective and ongoing body of men (the Church), the average Protestant balks and in effect accepts the absurd notion that God couldn't preserve and protect that, simply because sinful men are involved. Yet they accept that very premise (sinful men being involved) concerning the Bible. So the self-contradictions multiply . . .

Respected Old Testament scholar Gleason Archer states this very well:
"May not the inerrant truth of God be handed down from
mouth to mouth through successive generations? Yes,
indeed, it may be, and undoubtedly portions of the Bible
were preserved in this way for a good many years before
finding their authoritative, written form. But oral
tradition is necessarily fluid in character and in constant
danger of corruption because of the subjective
factor—the uncertain memory of the custodian of that
tradition. . . . While it was of course true that the words
which Moses, the prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, and the
apostles spoke were divinely authoritative from the
moment they were uttered, yet there was no other way
of accurately preserving them except by inscripturation
(i.e., recording them in writing under the guidance of the
Holy Spirit)." (Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old
Testament Introduction, [Chicago: Moody Press, second
edition, 1974], 21-22, parentheses in original)
God knew the obvious need to preserve His truth in a clear,
objective, and unchanging manner and thus He gave us His
written Word.

But that is not at issue here; we agree with that. We simply deny that Scripture is exclusive of Church and Tradition, because it itself denies this, as shown above! The Bible needs to be interpreted. So the Catholic accepts in faith Catholic dogmatic pronouncements from popes and Councils. Now how is that essentially different from the role of Creeds and Confessions in Protestantism? The Calvinist, e.g., accepts the Westminster Confession as an extremely authoritative document, which possesses a practical infallibility, if not in a strict sense. Calvinists still refer to it (along with Calvin's Institutes) in a magisterial. almost reverential fashion, and I don't see them disputing it's authority. Likewise with the Lutherans and the Augsburg Confession and Book of Concord, etc.

Now, how is this intrinsically different in principle (or at least in practical outcome, at the very least, which is more what I am referring to) from the Catholic's adherence to Trent and Vatican I and II? All Christians have their authoritative traditions and a lens through which they view Scripture. It is foolish to deny this. We are up-front about our first principles. Many Protestants, however, seem to want to play epistemological and hermeneutical games, as if no one else can see the evident logical fallacies and lack of biblical support involved in their so doing.

As for oral tradition, and tradition generally, I must refer the reader to more of my papers. Each sub-topic here is a complete discussion in and of itself, and one can't deal with all subjects in any one essay. Hence the beauty and utility of websites and links. Catholic answers (whatever one may think of them) are there to be had, only the click of a mouse away.

However, this simple truth prompts another question altogether—if Roman Catholic Tradition is an infallible safeguard of God’s revelation, then why the need for the New Testament at all?

This is absolutely classic in what it reveals about Pastor Bayack's prior assumptions, since it presupposes in the first place a Protestant fallacious premise: viz., that Tradition and the Bible are inherently opposed to each other, so that if one exists, the other is unnecessary and disposable (one of many many Protestant false and unbiblical dichotomies). In other words, the Protestant axiomatically assumes the (false) premise that the Bible precludes Tradition. Therefore, they reason that in the opposite scenario of Tradition being present and authoritative, the Bible therefore necessarily becomes unnecessary. But that is no more true or biblical than its logical opposite. We crush this false dilemma by asserting that the Bible itself presupposes both Tradition and the written revelation (as well as the Church) as normative at all times, and not in any way, shape, or form opposed to each other at all. I believe that I have shown this above, in more than sufficient detail - allowing Holy Scripture to speak for itself. And it does so, in this instance, very loudly!

It is now the burden of Pastor Bayack to stop his proverbial and fallacious, timeworn, garden-variety Protestant rhetoric and deal with the very Scripture he places in an exclusive position. Let him show how we have misinterpreted the Scripture's teachings above. Let him render an alternative interpretation to every instance of the Bible mentioning "tradition." It's all biblical material, after all, and that is supposedly the "Protestant's territory." So I assume there is some answer (however insubstantial and insufficient in our eyes).

My Protestant dialogical opponents have never stuck around long enough to give me their counter-replies to my arguments in this regard (and many others) - so often they seem to have more important things to do -; therefore, I have no choice but to retain my present views, as any honest inquirer after truth is bound to do. I can hardly adopt an alternate view if my opponents fail to offer me any answer to my proof texts, let alone an ostensibly superior interpretation, can I? Steve Ray (or any Catholic) can do no differently, as a matter of principle and intellectual honesty or duty. So we both anxiously await Pastor Bayack's rebuttal of this argument.

Oral tradition existed before the New Testament and if the Catholic Church is the repository of God’s truth as she boasts per 1 Timothy 3:15, then her Tradition should be sufficient to protect and communicate all future divine revelation.

I'm not sure what this means, but at any rate, we believe that public revelation ceased with the apostolic age and the completion of the Bible. We claim that the Catholic Church is the Guardian and Custodian of the apostolic tradition, or apostle's teaching (Acts 2:42), passed down ever since, through apostolic succession. The Church has no power to change this Tradition, only to teach it and to "oversee" its development (not evolution).

Why not "Sola Traditio"?

Because that is not a biblical doctrine (any more than sola Scriptura is), and we desire to follow the biblical teaching, and its apostolic interpretation, as passed down faithfully for now 1900 years; preserved most fully in the Catholic Church (and incompletely to various degrees elsewhere).

The New Testament, therefore, would be redundant.

Only for one accepting Pastor Bayack's false premises, as just shown above. They are not our premises, so this is a non sequitur. His argument and attempt to trap us in the horns of a logical dilemma doesn't succeed because (as far as I can see; with all due respect) he comprehends neither our view nor its thoroughly biblical basis in the first place. The first prerequisite in order to refute an opposing view is to understand it. Don Quixote is considered a tragi-comic figure in literature, since he engaged in similarly futile and foolish endeavors.

But it was oral tradition that became redundant for the reasons Archer states above. Just as Jewish tradition could not sustain God’s initial revelation, neither could that of the early church sustain God’s later revelation.

Apart from the biblical arguments I have already presented, I must refer the readers to the papers and links above, concerning oral tradition, particularly in this regard one which deals with the Jewish perspective on authority: "The Old Testament, the Jews, and Sola Scriptura." St. Paul did not indicate anywhere that either oral or written tradition were to cease, and - again - it was a simple-enough matter to underline if he had wished to emphasize such a teaching, supposedly so central and crucial for every Christian to understand, so as to avoid the "pitfalls" or Rome and "Romanism," etc.

The problems with Tradition do not end here. If Tradition is
presumably of equal authority with Scripture, then whose do we
accept? The Eastern Orthodox can supposedly make the argument
for apostolic succession with the same credibility as Roman
Catholicism, however, each does not fully agree with the other’s
Tradition. Which is correct? Why must Catholic Tradition supplant
that of the Orthodox? How can both make an equally "legitimate"
claim to be authoritative and yet be contradictory?

A fair enough question. Briefly, we accept the sacraments and ordination of Orthodoxy because it followed the same line of apostolic succession as the Western Church for the first 1000 years, then separated ecclesiologically (yet retained far more of the previous doctrines than the Protestants did when they split off). Therefore it can trace itself back to the common early Church heritage, just as feuding cousins can trace themselves back to the same grandparents, or great-grandparents, as the case may be (i.e., common ancestry). Catholics have immense respect for our Orthodox brethren. Many of them reciprocate; some (so-called "traditionalists" and more exclusivistic jurisdictions) do not.

The difference is papal authority and the history in Rome of spotless orthodoxy through the centuries, over against all the heresies, which was not the case in the East, even before the split. Readers can peruse our arguments for the papacy if they so choose. But validity of apostolic succession through validly ordained priests and the presence of valid sacraments is a different question from who possesses the fullness of the apostolic deposit. Each side claims that they do, of course. I have plenty of dialogues with Orthodox and Catholic arguments on my Eastern Orthodoxy web page.

This is a brief support for Sola Scriptura and far more can be said in its defense and has been by those more capable than me.

Granted, it was a brief treatment, but in the course of my own apologetic endeavors I have dealt with all the biblical arguments that have been thrown my way - not ignoring a single one -, in many debates (see the links above), and I can testify that I have yet to see a single compelling biblical argument for sola Scriptura. Most were immediately and easily answerable, as they involved a simple logical fallacy or were part of a circular argument which was really no argument at all. Perhaps that is my Catholic bias (I sincerely acknowledge that possibility because I think all people have biases and presuppositions: both "good" and "bad" ones), but it is my heartfelt and firm opinion nonetheless. So I am not overly impressed by this so-called "abundance" of biblical support for this position. And - as stated previously - there are many biblical arguments against sola Scriptura which (in my humble opinion) are far more compelling than the "proofs" set forth in favor of this strange, peculiarly Protestant and a-historical idea.

V. Recurring Ad Hominem Attacks and Charges of Special Pleading

Yet no amount of truth will persuade Stephen Ray. An infallible Church cannot repent and he will dutifully follow even if it means marching behind the Pied Piper. For example, when I stated that he never addressed the problem of Catholic Tradition contradicting Scripture he patently replied, "The Catholic Church does not contradict the Bible so there was nothing I needed to address" (7).

Here we go again with this subtle ad hominem implication that Steve Ray is special pleading and ignoring contrary evidence: sticking his head in the sand, whereas (again, by implication), Pastor Bayack is not (I still look in vain for any hint that Pastor Bayack is persuaded by any of Steve's arguments). I was discussing with my wife as I took a break from writing this response how humorous it is for a Protestant to be lecturing a convert to Catholicism like Steve Ray or myself that we are so unwilling to change our minds! We are converts, for heaven's sake! By definition, that means that we changed our mind in the most profound ways, dealing with many of the most heartfelt beliefs a person can have. And it was not easy, I assure everyone, and I'm sure Steve would agree.

So the very charge of some sort of profound closed-mindedness and reactionary resistance to change in our cases (wholly apart from the subject matter involved) is absolutely ludicrous. And I have gone on record many times saying I am fully willing to convert again, to Orthodoxy, or back to Protestantism, if the facts of history and the biblical evidences warrant it (I think both intellectual honesty and open-mindedness demand this). Yet I have been convinced over and over of the strength of our case in so many ways, as I attempt to defend it against all comers. This is the blessing of being an apologist - provided one is defending the true belief. The mountainous rock of truth can easily withstand all the pebbles of untruth flung against it.

It is fundamentally silly to make this charge, as if it couldn't be asserted with equal vigor against the one making it (though I wouldn't do so), since we all naturally believe strongly in our own Christian views, and think them to be the most biblical. This is par for the course. Why then, must Pastor Bayack single Steve Ray out, as a Catholic, and imply that he is special pleading (insinuating, I think, an intellectual dishonesty and disregard for the Bible)?

Again, I speculate (not assert) that it arises out of his prior anti-Catholicism, whereby it is so revolting and offensive to him spiritually and intellectually for a former committed Protestant to actually espouse Catholicism as the more biblical view, that he must somehow explain it in terms of psychology, experience, and some ulterior motive ("smells and bells," a love of Gothic architecture, a mindless predisposition to submit oneself to arbitrary ecclesial authority in order to attain an ersatz, illusory "certainty," etc.) which causes such a one to embrace such a "ludicrous" concept (anything but Scripture and reason, which were Steve's real criteria). Otherwise, the double standard and hypocrisy of the charge is so obvious that I don't know how anyone could make it, but for their blinders and the "certainty" that they assume about their own position, thus making their charges ridiculous, as they espouse the same idea (a certainty of belief and unwillingness to change one's mind) that they supposedly see and despise in their opponent.

Mr. Ray must state this even if it requires turning the Bible inside out.

Sigh. Is there no end to this silliness, obviously borne of anti-Catholic intolerance of non-Catholic views? At least Pastor Bayack makes his case against Mary's perpetual virginity in some detail below, unlike his abridged, failed, and admittedly "brief" treatment of sola Scriptura. But we shall see that it, too, is profoundly flawed, even out of step with the very "Reformers" from whom all Protestants historically derive (whether they acknowledge this or not).


Dan Marcum said...

Great response. Here are a few thoughts of my own:

Pastor Chris said...
While God undoubtedly used oral tradition to initially disseminate truth, the nature of human frailty demanded that such truth inevitably be captured in a written, inspired form.

Wrong. If God used oral tradition to disseminate truth, then that is a perfectly acceptable vehicle to receive divine truth from. Human frailty nothing -- God is at work here, and human frailty won't stop Him.

Pastor Chris said, quoting Gleason Archer...
May not the inerrant truth of God be handed down from mouth to mouth through successive generations? Yes, indeed, it may be, and undoubtedly portions of the Bible were preserved in this way for a good many years before finding their authoritative, written form. But oral tradition is necessarily fluid in character and in constant danger of corruption because of the subjective factor—the uncertain memory of the custodian of that tradition.

If oral tradition is "necessarily" fluid, then it could not have transmitted the Old or New Testaments for any significant period at all. Even if it was only by a miracle that this method worked, then tradition is not "necessarily" fluid and mutating. Grant that significant time can pass without corruption slipping into Tradition, even if it worked only by divine intervention, then oral tradition cannot be objected to on those grounds, unless you can prove that God is no longer assisting the passing on of Tradition by His grace.

In reality, your argument proves that Tradition is an acceptable vehicle for God's Word: "portions of the Bible were preserved in this way for a good many years before finding their authoritative, written form." Well, then! That proves that a written form is not absolutely necessary for God's Word. If it was, it could not have endured without it even for a minute. But since a written form is not absolutely necessary, you cannot object to our Tradition on these grounds anymore.

Dan Marcum said...

Pastor Chris says...
However, this simple truth prompts another question altogether—if Roman Catholic Tradition is an infallible safeguard of God’s revelation, then why the need for the New Testament at all?

First, if the New Testament was "necessary," then the Church could never have existed without it. But it did exist without it, for there was a time when the New Testament was not yet written, and the Church existed there too. Therefore, you assume that we "need" the New Testament, without proof -- if the New Testament never was written, our teachings would not be changed in the least.

The reason why the New Testament was written was not because it was "necessary" -- it was because it was "profitable." Written statements have certain benefits over oral statements, while unwritten statements have their own benefits. That is why we need both. One of the benefits of a written statement is that it puts information in a settled form that cannot change. You can point to it and say, "Here it is, this is what we believe. Take it home, if you like, and study it." You can't do that with unwritten teachings. But with unwritten teachings, you can expound indefinitely on their content in a dialog with a man who needs instruction, and use it to clarify written statements; but as for you, your churches don't have the gift of infallibility, a gift necessary for preventing departure from unwritten teachings, and that is why you think Scripture alone is reliable.

Pastor Chris said...
"[In interpreting the Bible] he is often forced to employ a tortured hermeneutic. He must also depend on the other leg of authority—Church Tradition—for the same reason, regardless of how much it may contradict Scripture."

Whether our hermeneutics are "tortured" or our Tradition "contradicts" Scripture will have to be established. But we rightly depend on hermeneutics and Tradition, because the first is good and the second one infallible.

Dan Marcum said...

Pastor Chris said...
God has promised, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). ...
Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). ...
Paul writes to Timothy, "All Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16). ...
These are but the tip of countless verses that support the unique nature of Scripture as God’s enduring and only authoritative revelation.

Those passages do not attribute anything to Scripture alone. It does not say Scripture alone endures forever, or is alone inspired. That part is imported into this argument from Sola Scriptura itself -- an exercise in circular logic.

Moreover, Sacred Tradition also endures forever (see below) and is inspired by God (see that too, below) in precisely the same sense that Scripture is.

Pastor Chris says...
If Church Tradition supposedly shares the same authoritative attribute as Scripture then we should expect it to share other common attributes. Yet where does God ever say that Tradition stands forever or that it will not pass away or that it is God-breathed? How is it that Tradition can presumably possess one unique attribute with the Word of God and not the rest?

First, his argument here is, again, circular: Tradition can't be accepted as God's inspired, enduring Word, he says, because the Bible doesn't say it is; therefore, we only have to go by what the Bible says. Hey Pastor Chris, your conclusion is in your premise! How do you know God hasn't said Tradition is inspired, except by assuming Sola Scriptura at the outset, and not finding such a statement therein? Or would you have us provide you with statements from Tradition claiming to be inspired? Absurdities beget absurdities...

Secondly, God says Tradition is enduring and inspired, using equivalent terms, in Scripture itself, as well as in Tradition. The fact that Tradition is enduring, is proved by the fact that we are told to maintain it: "Maintain the Traditions which you were taught by us" (2 Thess. 2:15). Something inherently temporary cannot be maintained.

And the fact that Tradition is inspired by God is proved by the fact that it is called the Word of God: " received the word of God, which you heard from us...not the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God." (1 Thess. 2:13)

The teachings of the Apostles were the Word of God. And Tradition is the teachings of the Apostles ("traditions, which you were taught by us" -- 2 Thess. 2:15). Therefore, Tradition is the Word of God. And this is an equivalent term for being inspired by God.

So both of the things you objected to, are taught by Scripture. But even if they were not asserted for Tradition, it would not follow that Tradition was not those things, and Sola Scriptura would not follow; unless you assume Sola Scriptura at the outset, and say that unless Scripture says something else is inspired and infallible, we must conclude that only Scripture is. (I.e. conclude Sola Scriptura itself.) So you can see that your argument not only contradicts Scripture, but simple logic too. But join the Church, and you will never again need to resort to obfuscation and sophistry to uphold your opinions; do what Christ said, and "listen to the Church," (Matthew 18:17,) for her teachings are also produced by God, in accordance with the Scripture which says: "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:18)

Dave Armstrong said...

Superb thoughts, Dan. Thanks so much for sharing those with us. It really adds a lot to the whole exchange.