Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dialogue on Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers (vs. Jason Engwer)

Part One
Go to Part Two

This is an exchange on the paper, Reply to Jason Engwer's Catholic But Not Roman Catholic Series on the Church Fathers: Sola Scriptura (+ Part Two). Jason's words will be in blue; those of other Protestants in other colors. Because of the extreme length of the dialogue, I have had to edit, especially the earlier portions and material outside the subject proper. Originally, I provided the URL for the posts on Internet boards, so that readers could check context and read absolutely everything if they so chose. But all those (discussion board) URLs have expired, so I've removed them.


I. Potshots, Personal Remarks, and Poisoning the Well

II. Preliminary Discussion

III. Jason's Introductory Counter-Reply and My Response

IV. Dionysius of Alexandria

V. Theodoret

VI. Hippolytus

VII. Cyril of Jerusalem

VIII. Conclusion

I. Potshots, Personal Remarks, and Poisoning the Well

Re: VIII. Justin Martyr: sola Scripturist??
7/25/03 4:27 am

Before you continue to misunderstand and misrepresent my series, you ought to read my response to the first few segments of your critique. And you might want to consult the King/Webster series on sola scriptura instead of just acting as if you've consulted it. It refutes so much of what you're arguing. We might all be saved some time if you would read it and learn. For that matter, since you're citing men such as Kelly and Schaff, why don't you think about the implications of what those scholars have documented? As they demonstrate, the tradition the church fathers believed in wasn't Roman Catholic tradition. If you want to argue that they all held to a material sufficiency view of scripture, don't you see a problem in the fact that it wasn't Roman Catholic material sufficiency? You don't seem to even understand the issues in dispute. You refer to scholarship, all the while ignoring the scholarship that's opposed to your view of church history.

Jason Engwer
New Testament Research Ministries

(Greg Krehbiel Board: Theological Discussion)

The Usual Disputes (sadly)
Dave G Armstrong
7/26/03 2:12 am

Why does it always have to be like this? Here we go:

And you might want to consult the King/Webster series on sola scriptura instead of just acting as if you've consulted it.
When did I act like that? To my knowledge I have not stated that I consulted that series (since I haven't, and don't possess it, and don't wish to, from what I know of the past reasonings and ruminations of the authors). If you want to donate copies to me, however, I would be most appreciative. I like to keep up on the latest revisionist historical theories.
It refutes so much of what you're arguing.
I'm not refuting that series but your series. You need to defend your own arguments against criticisms, not hide behind someone else.
We might all be saved some time if you would read it and learn.
I'm not in the habit of learning from amateur historians with a polemical axe to grind, and an anti-Catholic agenda, but from professional ones.

[ . . . ]

You don't seem to even understand the issues in dispute.
Of course not. As everyone knows, I am an ignoramus (and imbecile and idiot), and this will be your reason for fleeing to the hills, as you are rapidly setting the stage to do. It is a very familiar routine.
You refer to scholarship, all the while ignoring the scholarship that's opposed to your view of church history.
You keep making the silly charges; I will make substantive arguments and let readers decide for themselves. I have cited almost all Protestant historians, so apparently you are saying that Schaff, Kelly, and Pelikan agree with my view of church history, since I have agreed with their assessments in every case of the Fathers they wrote about in this regard. That's some concession, Jason!

Meanwhile, you fall back on amateur historians like King and Webster; obviously because they support your view of Church history. Give me a break, huh? Are you so threatened that you have to immediately stoop to this level, poisoning the well with a ton of arsenic before we are even out of the starting-gate in our little discussion?

My paper was not personal at all. Not one bit . . . The fact that you started the personal attacks so quickly and hint at not continuing discussion speaks volumes. I'm not fooled, and I don't think very many others are, either.

(Greg Krehbiel Board: Theological Discussion)

Re: Material Sufficiency
7/25/03 12:02 pm

. . . he acts as if he has such a high degree of concern for the scholarship of men like J.N.D. Kelly and Philip Schaff, . . .

[Jason is derisively, cynically referring to my frequent citation of these men]

(Greg Krehbiel Board: Theological Discussion)

Re: Rumor has it that Jason might show up to reply
7/26/03 1:44 am

. . . Anybody who thinks that Evangelicals knowingly reject oral apostolic teaching, because it isn't written, and that the canon of scripture was finalized in 397, is significantly ignorant. Dave's critique of my series is filled with logical and factual errors. How many times so far has Dave quoted passages from the fathers that aren't even relevant to the issue at hand? He didn't even get the purpose of my series right, and he misrepresented the Evangelical view of authority. He isn't owed a debate just because he demands one. He needs to prove that it's worth my time and effort, and so far he's failed.

(Greg Krehbiel Board: Theological Discussion)

Dave G. Armstrong
Fri Jul-25-03 11:20 PM
#67431, "Response to Jason (arrangements)"

. . . I'm refuting Jason, and will respond to every single word that he writes in response to me. I respond to anyone who comprehensively critiques my papers. It looks like (at first glance; I haven't read the stuff yet) Jason is not being comprehensive (he's picking and choosing what he wants to talk about), but he's being pretty detailed, and making arguments, so that is good enough to warrant time for a reply. We're talking past each other, as usual, too. This will all be detailed as I reply. Jason claims I don't understand his arguments. He certainly doesn't understand mine. So I guess that is a wash . . .

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Sat Jul-26-03 12:21 AM
#67450, "RE: Response to Jason (arrangements)"

. . . So, you haven't read my material yet, but you know that you'll refute everything I write, and you know that you'll have an article up within a week? It seems that you're convinced of the outcome, even to the point of setting a timetable, despite your ignorance of what I've written and the many errors of yours that I've documented. And you wonder why some people don't have much interest in dialoguing with you?

I'm refuting Jason, and will respond to every single word that he writes in response to me.
That would be a change. The first time you wrote an article in response to me, on the subject of doctrinal development, you didn't respond to everything I wrote. And you never wrote a reply to my second article on the 51 proofs of a Pauline papacy.

As far as a debate in this forum is concerned, you need to prove to me that it's worth my time. Your first responses to my series contained many logical and factual errors. As I said near the end of my response, I don't have much interest in continuing to respond to people who so badly misrepresent the series. I've been responding to such critiques for over a year now. For you to post such a low quality critique of my series, then claim before you've read my responses that you're going to refute all of those responses, doesn't suggest to me that a debate would be of much value. I have other responsibilities to tend to, and debating you isn't high on my list of priorities.

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sat Jul-26-03 12:49 AM
#67455, "Run for the hills if you wish. Nothing new"

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Sat Jul-26-03 01:01 AM
#67456, "RE: Run for the hills if you wish. Nothing new"

I didn't say that I'm running. If I was running, this thread wouldn't exist. Nor would my previous replies to you exist. I've been responding to your material for years. I'm not running from you.

However, before I would commit to a debate with anybody, I would want evidence that it's worth my time and effort . . . when you so badly misrepresent the purpose of my series, my view of authority, the history of the canon of scripture, what the church fathers believed about authority, etc., I'm skeptical of the value of committing to a debate with you. The fact that you're claiming that you'll refute everything I write, before you've read my responses, makes me even more skeptical. And when you go ahead and post your material at your web site before reading my responses that are already posted, I'm even more skeptical yet.

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sat Jul-26-03 01:20 AM
#67459, "Running and Rationalizing"

One could not be blamed for thinking that you are setting the stage for your potential departure from this discussion. If you do run, the reason has already been given: I am an ignoramus, in over my head, and "everyone knows this" and this is why no one wants to dialogue with me, my paper has little of worth for you to spend your precious time, etc., etc. This is standard methodology people use for avoiding defending their propositions (and well known in political campaigning and rhetoric): immediately attack the person as ignorant, incompetent, not worth the time, and so forth. So if you leave, that is the reason (so you say), not, of course, because you are unable (and hence unwilling) to answer the substantive charges.

On the other hand, if you intend on following through and answering the hard questions I have given you and will give you, and engaging in substantive discussion, then all these potshots are unnecessary, unbecoming, and a clear instance of poisoning the well before we ever get off the ground. But do what you wish. I have said I will answer, as I always do when challenged. You are publicly waffling on whether you even want to continue. People can see through these unworthy tactics. People can see who is confident of their position and who may not be (if he runs, as he now hints in no uncertain or subtle terms). Meanwhile, I have copied your responses thus far to my computer, in case you decide to start editing them as you depart the discussion. I will respond, whether you decide to take leave or not . . . If this is how you wish to appear to readers of our exchange, so be it. Feel free . . .

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Sat Jul-26-03 01:50 AM
#67461, "RE: Running and Rationalizing"

. . . I'm not preparing for a departure. You can post responses to me here, and I can further respond to you if I see fit. I don't want to make a commitment to a debate, since your material so far is of such a low quality. I don't think a commitment to debate is warranted. You didn't even get the purpose of my series right, and you misrepresented the Evangelical view of authority. You repeatedly cited patristic passages that aren't even relevant to the issues under discussion. You aren't owed a debate just because you demand one. You need to prove that it's worth my time and effort, and so far you've failed.

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Sat Jul-26-03 07:42 PM
#62, "more examples of Dave's errors"

I could give so many other examples, but these are more than sufficient to make my point. Dave has repeatedly misrepresented the issues under discussion and has repeatedly cited passages from the fathers that aren't even relevant. He expects me to keep dialoguing with him, but why should I keep making such commitments of time and effort when Dave has shown such a misunderstanding of the issues and has argued so poorly?

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sat Jul-26-03 12:44 AM
#67454, "Addendum: Reply on Internet NOW"

. . . If a person reads the introduction to my paper online (all of which I didn't post on the two boards, because I shortened it for "mass consumption"), they will see how Jason is already giving me a bum rap for not having a clue what I am doing, with regard to his purpose and methodology . . . As a good friend of mine likes to say, "you can have the most brilliant mind and argumentative skills in the world, but if you have no case . . ." Nowhere is this more true than with the issue of sola Scriptura, where both the biblical and patristic "cases" are nonexistent. So Jason definitely has his work cut out for him. He says I am fighting a straw man of my own making. I say he is fighting for an invisible man. Sola Scriptura simply cannot be found in the Fathers, as the many historians I cite (mostly Protestant) repeatedly affirm.

All my research thus far has convinced me all the more that these scholars are absolutely correct. To state otherwise is (in my opinion) historical revisionism and anachronism. I don't claim Jason and others like David King and Webster who utilize the same methodology are dishonest (as King and his friend Eric Svendsen have claimed publicly about all or almost all Catholic apologists), but I assert that they are special pleaders, and so severely biased that their research is quite shoddy. We all have bias, but there is undue bias which adversely affects research.

I've refuted King and Webster before, with little or no reply. I don't think much of their historical research. I don't think much of Jason's either (I say this only because he has already now publicly questioned my "fundamental" abilities to understand the issues and stay on topic), so we're even, as to estimates of each other's work. Maybe now we can simply talk about the specific topics at hand, having aired our grievances about each others' methodology and scholarly and apologetic abilities or lack thereof . . . I urge anyone who is following this discussion to read the first section, entitled, "Jason's Definition of Sola Scriptura and My Methodology," since that issue has now been brought up by Jason. It will prove most enlightening and educational, I think. And it was all written before I saw a word of reply from Jason, at the beginning of my paper, a week ago or so.

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Engwer / Armstrong Debate Henceforth at CARM
Dave G Armstrong
7/26/03 10:18 am

. . . If you don't care for personal nonsense, insults, or response to same (I utterly detest them, and am equally disgusted with this as many of you are, believe me), I would advise you to ignore the clearly-marked portions of the latter paper where this occurs, and go right to the discussion proper (my original paper has nothing "personal" at all in it. It sticks to the subject).

I do feel, though, that it is important to document the charges made, so that people can observe the sort of tactics that are regularly used in Internet discussions between Catholics and Protestants.

And to the extent that I am at fault, people can see that, too. I'm willing to post everything. Debates and attempted dialogues with anti-Catholics often get very ugly. It's quite difficult to respond in a completely Christian, charitable way. I lose patience rapidly with certain tactics of personal attack and demonization of opponents, and I fall short sometimes in my replies, in terms of Christian and gentlemanly conduct. Pray for me. I'm trying my best. I ask everyone to consider how they would respond to such ludicrous charges as are thrown my way, as a fairly well-known Catholic Internet apologist. How would you react to it?

Thanks for reading and God bless!

(Greg Krehbiel Board: Theological Discussion)

I agree wholeheartedly with this Protestant. He could see it all coming, because it happens so annoyingly often:

I'm grateful to Dave for taking the time and effort to respond in some detail to Jason, rather than just giving the old standard paragraph about how everything that Protestants do is "laughable", calling it "Fringe" and "hack work", and other meta-commentary about how universally foolish certain people are for not being Catholic

. . . to many of the rest of us, these competing truth claims are difficult to mediate. I don't think that Dave is right about everything he's ever written, obviously, but neither do I think the same of Jason or anyone else. We all have defects in our thinking that could stand to be exposed by sharper argumentation. I would hope that Jason would respond to Dave at some point.

I would also hope that both Jason and Dave would allow the rest of us the courtesy of not being forced to choose between saying that one of them is an idiot spouting nonsense, and the other is perfectly blessed with divine wisdom. My impatience with apologetics is that it so often works on that level; there's little tolerance for taking questions one at a time, or recognizing that some arguments are more reliable than others.

(EH Hamilton: Krehbiel Discussion Board, "Out of courtesy if nothing else," 7/21/03 4:37 pm)

(CARM Debate Board 4)

II. Preliminary Discussion

Dave G. Armstrong
Sun Jul-20-03 10:26 PM
#65868, "RE: Questions."

[a Protestant who goes by the nickmame "InquisitorKind" asked]:

Where did Engwer say in that link he was trying to demonstrate "that the Church Fathers were closer in thought and theology to Protestants than to Catholics"? I thought the point of the series was to compare Roman Catholicism to the ECFs. When did Protestantism become subject material? Would you point to a few posts in his series that proves his purpose is such?

I don't see much difference between the two scenarios you posit. If one repeatedly "proves" that the Fathers are not as Catholics view them or similar in outlook to Catholic theology, then it stands to reason that they think they are closer in spirit to Protestantism (while not being Protestants, as that would be historically anachronistic).

Sola Scriptura is a perfect example. Jason Engwer claims that the thirteen Fathers he presents accepted sola Scriptura in some appreciable, significant way (he does qualify it a bit, saying they sometimes are mixed-up). Sola Scriptura is the Protestant Rule of Faith, and Catholics reject it. So, clearly, if indeed he can prove that these Fathers held to this, then in that respect they are closer to Protestantism. And he tries to do this with many different issues, so the cumulative effect would lead to the same conclusion. Therefore, I say you are trying to draw a distinction without a difference.

(CARM Catholic Board)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sun Jul-20-03 11:03 PM
#65879, "I'll let Jason say it"

If only some of the fathers were Roman Catholic, then which ones? Will we ever be given a list? If some of the fathers weren't Roman Catholic, then what is the universal church to which those fathers claimed to belong? If it wasn't the Roman Catholic denomination, then what was it?

I've given a few hundred examples of the fathers contradicting Roman Catholicism, and surely thousands more could be given. Development of doctrine is no explanation. Oak trees don't grow from apple seeds. A patristic belief in the limited jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome doesn't inevitably grow into a belief in the universal jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome. The patristic belief that Mary was a sinner doesn't inevitably grow into the belief that she was sinless. A patristic rejection of the veneration of images doesn't inevitably grow into an acceptance of the veneration of images. If logically unconnected and contradictory ideas are to be associated with one another under the banner of doctrinal development, then anything can be said to have developed from anything else. And anything that can prove everything proves nothing. If our beliefs can be logically unconnected to those of the fathers, even contradicting the beliefs of the fathers, yet still be considered patristic, then any and every professing Christian group in existence can claim to be patristic.

The claim is often made that to be deep into history is to cease being Protestant, as if Roman Catholicism is the alternative. But Roman Catholics aren't deep into history. They're deep into philosophical speculations based on personal preferences. Wishing for a Divine institution with the attributes the Roman Catholic Church claims for itself isn't equivalent to proving its existence. A
wish isn't a proof. If the church fathers rejected Roman Catholicism's view of church history, its system of authority, its view of salvation, its view of the afterlife, its worship, its view of prayer, its morality, its eschatology, its view of Mary, its penitential system, its disciplinary standards, its ecumenism, and so many of its scripture interpretations, even in the city of Rome itself, what are we to think of the claim that the fathers were Roman Catholic? It's an attempt to derive an oak tree from an apple seed. The Roman Catholic Church isn't the church of the fathers. The change isn't a development. It's a long series of contradictions.

(Conclusion to the series) (Link)

(CARM Catholic Board)

Dave G. Armstrong
Mon Jul-21-03 10:27 AM
#65943, "More reluctant replies to rabbit trails"

[responding to "InquisitorKind" again]

[ . . . ]

Thus far no one has actually provided any counter-evidence to my post, or has shown interest in actually discussing it.

If we can expect the same reactions as the other thread, why should people put the effort in?

Sola Scriptura is far different from Mariology, because it is on Protestant "turf" and Protestants understand their own beliefs and outlooks. So it is able to be discussed constructively (i.e., if Protestants here are willing to interact with critiques of their views and stay on subject). I want to talk about the subject . . .

I have high standards for you, Mr. Armstrong.

I have high standards for you, Mr. Inquisitor.

This is because you are an epologist.

That is because you are trying to do dialogue, and to do that one must actually interact with the subject, not nitpick around the edges of it while avoiding the central issue. Please talk about the subject! Argue the point. If I am mistaken, refute my argument.

The other reason I am "nitpicking" is because I have no interest in reading you "refute" the CBNRC series if you are reading too much into the purpose of it. If your fundamental understanding of the series is flawed, it comes to reason that your response to such a series will be flawed as well. (i.e. You will be burning one massive strawman.)

Do you deny that Jason asserts that Theodoret believed in sola Scriptura (or at the very least, something akin to it and distinct from the Catholic approach to authority)? If not, then I am right on-topic. If you do deny it, then I would like to hear you explain that.

[he never did]

(CARM Catholic Board)

Re: VIII. Justin Martyr: sola Scripturist??

7/25/03 11:37 am

For those who are interested, I never denied that Clement of Alexandria sometimes contradicted sola scriptura. The October 28 segment in my series gives some examples of non-Biblical traditions he held. And I've never denied that Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine, etc. believed in concepts such as an authoritative church and apostolic succession. I have many segments in my series on subjects like these, such as the May 19 and July 10 segments on Augustine. I've said before, on the NTRM board, that I think some of Augustine's comments can reasonably be interpreted as a contradiction of sola scriptura, such as his comments about unwritten tradition in section 5:23:31 of his treatise On Baptism, Against the Donatists. So much of what Dave is writing in response to me is the burning of a straw man. Maybe he should stop cutting and pasting so much material from his previous articles and previous research and be more careful to interact with the beliefs of the person he's currently addressing.

(Greg Krehbiel Board: Theological Discussion)

Jason & Patristic Sola Scriptura. Hard questions.....
Dave G Armstrong
7/26/03 3:09 am

The fact remains that you have classified 13 Fathers as expressing a view which you described as sola Scriptura. That was your description. I understand that you have noted various qualifications and stated that Fathers err all the time, etc. But you still described them that way.

Now, sola Scriptura has a meaning. I went and found your own definitions of it, precisely because it is inevitable that this charge of ignorance and misrepresentation will come up. You are currently squawking at all my distortions of what you believe, and complaining that I am asserting that you think the Fathers are all good Protestants in every particular.

Of course I am not. But I am responding to your implication that some or all of them believe in sola Scriptura, which is a Protestant distinctive through-and-through. You want to play games with your assertions in that regard and act as if you are not claiming what you claim about the Fathers and sola Scriptura? Very well, then, let me cite your own words:

But Justin criticizes those who would "leave" scripture, who wouldn't "constantly" look to it in their arguments. If we can't leave scripture, and we're to look to it constantly, what is that if not sola scriptura?

(Justin Martyr, "sola Scriptura" from your CBNRC series, 3-2-03)

What is this if not claiming that Justin held to sola Scriptura, at least to some extent???!!!

Elsewhere, in the beginnings of your response to my posts you wrote:

With regard to scripture and tradition, my position isn't that there's one rule of faith held by all of the fathers in unbroken consistency. Rather, my position is that the fathers advocated a variety of views, sometimes contradicting not only each other, but even themselves . . . It is not my view that all of the fathers held to sola scriptura or that those who did sometimes advocate it always did so consistently.
Okay; I'll take this at face value. Why, then, describe utterances of 13 Fathers as "sola Scriptura" if you are not claiming that they were of that position? . . . Now, let's do a bit of clarifying logic here: You say that "many of the church fathers taught sola scriptura, although some contradicted themselves on the issue, and some were more consistent than others."

Based on how the English language and logic work, "many" often (but not always) implies a majority. In any event, "many" is a significant number. So just how many were these Fathers? And who were they? Are any of the 13 you mention in this vein in your series of this number; among the "many"?

Secondly, you say "some contradicted themselves." You didn't say that most of the many did so, or that all did so. The clear implication, then, is that probably the majority did not. In any event, some did and some didn't contradict themselves. So why don't you end the suspense here and now and inform us of who held to sola Scriptura consistently, and who were the ones who contradicted themselves? And since you grade on a scale of consistency, that would be an interesting tidbit to throw in, too. Please don't keep us waiting. If you can't do so, you are simply talking about nothing, as you can't provide content and substance for your claims. If not, then you shouldn't make the claims in the first place, because you end up looking foolish.

. . . It's up to you to show that they advocated it; who did, how often, how consistently, etc. Usually you provided one quote and called this "sola Scriptura." I have shown how it was not so, considered in context and against the overall backdrop of the Fathers' work. I have had no difficulty whatsoever in doing so, and the historians have backed me up in every case.

. . . By all means, tell us who got it right and consistently, and who mixed concepts and were inconsistent. You cite William Webster as a luminary concerning the Fathers vis-a-vis sola Scriptura, and obviously think (like your friend Tim Enloe) that his research and David King's are the cat's meow, and that I should read their stuff to get up to speed and learn lots and lots about the Fathers and sola Scriptura. So presumably you would agree with what he states about the Fathers and sola Scriptura, no? Instead, you are waffling all over the place and trying to backtrack when someone calls you on your inaccurate analyses and conclusions. Here is what William Webster states on his website:

There were two fundamental patristic principles which governed the early Church's approach to dogma. The first was sola Scriptura in which the fathers viewed Scripture as both materially and formally sufficient. It was materially sufficient in that it was the only source of doctrine and truth and the ultimate authority in all doctrinal controversies. It was necessary that every teaching of the Church as it related to doctrine be proven from Scripture.

. . . This assertion is a complete repudiation of the patristic principle of proving every doctrine by the criterion of Scripture.

. . . Instead of sola Scriptura, the unanimous principle of authority enunciated by both Scripture and the Church fathers, we now have sola Ecclesia, blind submission to an institution which is unaccountable to either Scripture or history.

. . . This is where we ultimately arrive when the patristic and Reformation principle of sola Scriptura is repudiated for the concept of living tradition and an infallible magisterium.

("Rome's New and Novel Concept of Tradition")

I refuted this paper in my work: "Refutation of Protestant Polemicist William Webster's Critique of Catholic Tradition and Newmanian Development of Doctrine."

So which is it, Jason? You want to send me to Webster to learn all about the Fathers, and this is the black-and-white position he takes, as opposed to your nuanced, 1001 qualifications view. Who is correct? Who do we poor ignorant Catholics follow as a reputable authority on such matters? If you disagree "fundamentally" with Webster, why do you not say so? Why do you send me to him as a refutation, when you two cannot even agree on the basic facts of the matter?

Webster is even more explicit and single-minded (and dead-wrong) in his paper, "Sola Scriptura and the Early Church," as we would fully expect. What does he say there about the Fathers' beliefs? Are you defending this same thesis or a different one? If the former, why do you claim I am ignorant for merely replying with Webster's basic claims in the back of my mind, assuming that you two agree, since you extoll his work to the heavens? If the latter, then why do you send me to him to learn about the topic, when you yourself disagree with his assessment, rather strikingly? Here is what Webster says:

The Reformation was responsible for restoring to the Church the principle of sola Scriptura, a principle which had been operative within the Church from the very beginning of the post apostolic age.

. . . The early Church held to the principle of sola Scriptura in that it believed that all doctrine must be proven from Scripture and if such proof could not be produced the doctrine was to be rejected.

. . . And there is no appeal in the writings of these fathers to a Tradition that is oral in nature for a defense of what they call Apostolic Tradition. The Apostolic Tradition for Irenaeus and Tertullian is simply Scripture.

. . . That the fathers were firm believers in the principle of sola Scriptura is clearly seen from the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, the bishop of Jerusalem in the mid fourth century.

. . . Cyprian, Origen, Hippolytus, Athanasius, Firmilian, Augustine are just a few of the fathers that could be cited as proponents of the principle of sola Scriptura, in addition to Tertullian, Irenaeus, Cyril and Gregory of Nyssa. The early Church operated on the basis of the principle of sola scriptura and it was this historical principle that the Reformers sought to restore to the Church.

I was responding to these claims and trying to show that the Fathers did not believe in sola Scriptura. Now you want to qualify your argument and make out that I am a fool, fighting straw men. Very interesting. I hope you will, then, clarify your position and tell us how it differs from Mr. Webster's position.

(Greg Krehbiel Board: Theological Discussion)

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Sat Jul-26-03 11:05 AM
#52, "RE: Hard Questions 4 Jason on patristic SS"

Why, then, describe utterances of 13 Fathers as 'sola Scriptura' if you are not claiming that they were of that position?
I've addressed this issue in my response to you at the beginning of this thread . . . I also addressed this issue in my series, over a year ago. And I addressed it in articles at my web site written years ago. You quoted some of them. I don't know why you're asking questions that have repeatedly been answered.
Based on how the English language and logic work, 'many' often (but not always) implies a majority. In any event, 'many' is a significant number. So just how many were these Fathers?
I wouldn't set a number, since I haven't read all of the writings of all of the fathers, nor do I have a high amount of familiarity with all of them. I've given some examples of sola scriptura in the fathers in some of the segments of my series and elsewhere. I don't need to set a number in order for the assertion to be reasonable.

. . . First of all, your chronology is wrong. I made my comment about the King/Webster series after you had written your first replies to my series. You can't use my comment about the King/Webster series as an excuse for misrepresenting what I repeatedly said about my own views in the series and outside of it.

Secondly, in the same post in which I recommended the King/Webster series, I also recommended that you consider what men like J.N.D. Kelly and Philip Schaff have documented about the non-Roman-Catholic nature of patristic tradition. Do you therefore conclude that I "extoll to the heavens" Kelly and Schaff and agree with them on every issue of patristic tradition?

You've been shown to have badly misrepresented my views, including the purpose of my series. Your response is to say that I recommended the King/Webster series on sola scriptura, which you haven't read, and therefore I must agree with everything William Webster said in an article he wrote on sola scriptura, which you have read. This is another example of your irrationality. You use a recommendation of a book series, a recommendation I made after you began your reply to my series, as a justification for misrepresenting what I myself said in the series itself.

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sat Jul-26-03 04:02 PM
#58, "I'll answer these charges first"

I wouldn't set a number, since I haven't read all of the writings of all of the fathers, nor do I have a high amount of familiarity with all of them.
So you have no particular opinion as to the substance of that claim of yours; okay, thanks. I would submit that if the substantive content to a sweeping remark like thatis so vague and ethereal, that maybe you should perhaps consider not making such a summary in the first place? Just a thought.
I've given some examples of sola scriptura in the fathers in some of the segments of my series and elsewhere. I don't need to set a number in order for the assertion to be reasonable.
That's not the point. The point is that you are claiming that there is a significant, noteworthy "motif" (shall we say) of sola Scriptura in the Fathers. I assumed that the examples you gave where instances of those, and that you thought that these Fathers themselves accepted "sola Scriptura" (as some of the "many" whom you claim do so). That was an altogether reasonable assumption on my part. Now you don't want to commit yourself to saying which Father believed what. That's understandable, given the extreme weakness of your case, and is itself, a strong indication of that very weakness, in my opinion. You're not even willing to take a stand with regard to individual Fathers. Instead you opt for summary statements with little or no content (since you haven't clarified the particular content and seem reluctant to do so). This is not impressive.
First of all, your chronology is wrong. I made my comment about the King/Webster series after you had written your first replies to my series. You can't use my comment about the King/Webster series as an excuse for misrepresenting what I repeatedly said about my own views in the series and outside of it.
Chronology is irrelevant. You told me that their series would inform me and answer many of my arguments. The only purpose I am here dealing with is whether the ten Fathers in question believed in sola Scriptura or not. Your choice is to assert that they did, or that they did not, or that their views were a mixture (which is already a half-concession of the discussion at hand, in my opinion). So far, you are unwilling to do so.

After you praised Webster and King, I thought it was worthwhile to go see what Webster says about the Fathers and sola Scriptura. As I demonstrated, he seems to take a fairly black-and-white position: the Fathers accepted sola Scriptura en masse. You disagree with that, I guess, but won't tell me particulars? Curious . . . Meanwhile, you are not answering my questions. Here they are again (perhaps you will answer them next time):

1. What does he {Webster} say there about the Fathers' beliefs?
2. Are you defending this same thesis or a different one?
3. If the former, why do you claim I am ignorant for merely replying with Webster's basic claims in the back of my mind, assuming that you two agree, since you extoll his work to the heavens?"
4. (this one wasn't even posted by you here, let alone not answered)
If the latter, then why do you send me to him to learn about the topic, when you yourself disagree with his assessment, rather strikingly?
Of course, there are many more questions in that post of mine that you don't even attempt to answer. I won't belabor them all. Readers can go back and observe all that you have ignored. And readers can also note how I am answering everything you write, not selecting what I please and discarding what might be difficult or uncomfortable to answer. This is dialogue; this is respect for one's opponent: dealing with his objections rather than cavalierly dismissing them as of no import.
Secondly, in the same post in which I recommended the King/Webster series, I also recommended that you consider what men like J.N.D. Kelly and Philip Schaff have documented about the non-Roman-Catholic nature of patristic tradition. Do you therefore conclude that I "extoll to the heavens" Kelly and Schaff and agree with them on every issue of patristic tradition?
The topic is Bible, Tradition, and the Rule of Faith for the Fathers. I have cited them in that regard, and I find very little that is in disagreement with the Catholic position, both then and now. I have even shown how these historians note the distinction between material and formal sufficiency in various Fathers' views. As for the particulars of this tradition being referred to, there is plenty throughout my reply (often in quotes from Kelly, Pelikan, and Schaff) which describes it. And again, I see little or no conflict with Catholic beliefs, and much conflict with classic Protestant, present-day evangelical belief in sola Scriptura.

. . . I am not impressed by non-answers and I don't think others following this will be either. They'll probably assume that you're either trying to hide a weakness in your position, or that you are so unsure of it that you have to avoid difficult (and rather basic) questions.

. . . it is also relevant (since you brought up Webster and King) to look for a moment at the severe anti-Catholic bias of David T. King (unlike the professional historians I cited above). You write:

Before you continue to misunderstand and misrepresent my series, you . . . might want to consult the King/Webster series on sola scriptura instead of just acting as if you've consulted it. It refutes so much of what you're arguing. We might all be saved some time if you would read it and learn . . . You don't seem to even understand the issues in dispute. You refer to scholarship, all the while ignoring the scholarship that's opposed to your view of church history.
Now, you make a big deal out of me using Webster/King to supposedly avoid and misrepresent your arguments. But I note for our readers that you are the one who brought them up here. Here is your logic above:
1. "You continue to misunderstand and misrepresent my series."
2. In order to not do so, you might wanna "consult" Webster / King.
3. And that is because it refutes your present arguments (sort of a pre-emptive strike).
4. If you would read that and learn, you wouldn't make such dumb, off-topic arguments.
5. You quote scholars but you ignore our (i.e., anti-Catholic) "scholars."
So I, in effect, say, "okay, very well, I've looked to see what Webster says about sola Scriptura and the Fathers, but he seems to disagree with your take. Where, then, do you agree and disagree with his position?" This is altogether reasonable and sensible since you had just referred me to their work in lieu of your own answers to my hard questions. But now you don't want to answer my questions -- since you disagree on some issues -- and get upset that I mention them and ask you simple questions. Strange, odd, weird . . .

I make no bones about the fact that I have a very low regard for the research of both Webster and King; what I have seen of it. I refuted King when he made ludicrous claims about Cardinal Newman's views and the Church's and popes' views about him. I have refuted Webster twice now when he made equally absurd charges about development, Vatican I, the Catholic notion of Tradition and so forth. If they were so unanswerable they could have easily refuted my replies. But they did not.

Secondly, neither is a professional historian that I am aware of. If I am wrong I'm sure you will correct me. yet you act as if they can be placed alongside giants in the field like Schaff, Kelly, and Pelikan and that they are representative of "scholarship" that bolsters a polemical anti-Catholic viewpoint of Church history and the Fathers? Again, I find that quite odd.

Thirdly, since all historians have bias (but most manage to not let it overtly affect their presentation of known historical facts), it is relevant to discover that David King makes highly-objectionable statements like the following:

I already have a very low view of the integrity of non-Protestants in general . . .

(The NTRMin Areopagus Discussion Board, where you hang out 4-15-03)

Eric Svendsen, the moderator of that board and key figure in the ministry which sponsors it (where you are listed as a research associate), writes similarly:
RC apologists will do or say just about anything--true or not--to advance their cause. They engage in the strategy of deception regularly.

(NTRMin Areopagus Discussion Board, 4-27-03)

But that's just an aside. I wanted people to see the sort of ideas held by the men you hang around with and work for (note Jason's sig), for the purpose of evangelizing Catholics. Does anyone seriously think that holding to such a position would not make the "scholarly" work of David King a bit suspect, in that he might have an eentsie-weentsie bit of bias? But this is the sort of work you especially recommend to me. I say it is lousy scholarship and biased. If David King disagrees and wants to show me why, I would be delighted to interact with him and talk about historical facts, if only he were willing. Pastor King makes other statements directly relevant to our topic at hand:
. . . all these claims to knowledge and Church history, and an understanding of both, on the part of these converts and wanna-be apologists, all I've witnessed time and time again is rank ignorance, and the need for one spin job after another . . . all of you folks posting here without exception are grossly ignorant of the writings of the Church fathers, the very people you claim to revere . . .

(NTRMin Areopagus Discussion Board, 4-15-03)

. . . It's only a mystery to those who wish to ignore the evidence of the fathers themselves, which I have repeatedly found to be typical of the average Roman apologist like yourself. Ignore the evidence and belittle it. I guess that's what works in the world of Roman apologetics.

(NTRMin Areopagus Discussion Board, 6-3-03)

Do you expect us to believe that a person who approaches a complex debate with this sort of hostile attitude towards dialogical opponents -- and a mere amateur historian at that -- can be trusted as an objective "scholar" on the Church Fathers? Sorry, I have to disagree. His severe bias is bound to affect his research, and I clearly saw that in my one short-lived "debate" with him. It is not "scholarship" to conclude that virtually all one's opponents are dishonest, rascally, dense boors. But it is classic anti-Catholicism.

I'll take Kelly, Schaff, and Pelikan over pseudo-scholars and historical revisionists Webster and King any day, thank you (despite your silly public remark about me: "he acts as if he has such a high degree of concern for the scholarship of men like J.N.D. Kelly and Philip Schaff"). Meanwhile, I am asking you some fundamental questions and you need to answer them.

(CARM Debate Board 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sun Jul-27-03 01:04 AM
#65, "RE: Only materially sufficient?"

Some of the material in my series that's relevant to Dave's arguments about material sufficiency isn't included in the article at Dave's web site. For example, in the February 19 segment, I quoted Theonas, who wrote:

Let no day pass by without reading some portion of the Sacred
Scriptures, at such convenient hour as offers, and giving some
space to meditation. And never cast off the habit of reading
in the Holy Scriptures; for nothing feeds the soul and
enriches the mind so well as those sacred studies do. But look
to this as the chief gain you are to make by them, that, in
all due patience, ye may discharge the duties of your office
religiously and piously - that is, in the love of Christ - and
despise all transitory objects for the sake of His eternal
promises, which in truth surpass all human comprehension and
understanding, and shall conduct you into everlasting

(The Epistle of Theonas, Bishop of Alexandria, to Lucianus, the Chief Chamberlain, 9)

Christians ought to read Scripture. Yes, of course. This is some revelation? No pun intended . . .

Theonas tells us that nothing, not even the infallible scripture interpretations of the Roman Catholic magisterium, is as beneficial to the soul as reading scripture for yourself.

I didn't see him mentioning Church or Tradition above. Perhaps I missed it.

He expects this personal study of scripture to lead to an understanding of God's promises and "everlasting felicity". He says that people gain these benefits by "them", the scriptures, not by "scripture and the interpretations of the church".

He didn't mention the Church. You logic here is as shortsighted as the following analogy:

1. I ought to kiss my wife.
2. I ought to tell my wife I love her.

Having now expressed my opinion, it is obvious that I don't think I should ever give my wife flowers, or take her out to dinner or to a movie, or to the lake or a concert, because I didn't mention those things.

Similarly, as I mention in my June 17 segment, Basil writes:

Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures,
you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of
anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the
all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead
you to what is right.

(Letter 283)

The "anybody else" Basil describes would include the bishop of Rome and any Roman Catholic magisterium.

This is the same situation as with all the Fathers I have dealt with. If elsewhere Basil states that the Church is necessary for interpretation and the standard of orthodoxy (as no doubt he does hold), and that Tradition is binding, then he does not believe in sola Scriptura. It's as simple as that. Throughout my reply I have shown over and over that one must take each Father's thought in the context of his overall thought. If you only quote their thoughts about Scripture, then your only information will be about their view of Scripture. Is this not obvious? You have to see what they say about Tradition and the Church as well, because sola Scriptura is a position which takes a particular stand concerning the relevant importance and authority of those two entities.

You have to wonder, when people follow this advice given by men like Theonas and Basil, how many of them see papal infallibility in Luke 22:32 or a bodily assumption of Mary in Revelation 12?

That gets back to development, and is off-topic.

You can understand why it would be helpful to have an infallible interpreter to tell you to see such doctrines in such passages. Otherwise, you probably won't see them there.

Christians didn't see many things. According to Protestant apologist Norman Geisler, "scarcely anyone taught imputed righteousness" between the time of St. Paul and the Reformation (about 1450 years, to save everyone the math). Odd thing, huh? A central plank of the so-called "gospel" (i.e., if one takes an arbitrary definition of "gospel" from the tradition of men and not Holy Scripture) is missing for more than 14 centuries. There is much more patristic evidence for purgatory than for original sin, which almost all Christians believe. It didn't even make it into the Nicene Creed. Not a single Father in the first three centuries after Christ, or anyone else we know of, could tell us what all 27 of the New Testament books were. It took over 400 years for even Christology and trinitarianism to fully develop (even more than 600 if one includes disputes over Monothelitism, which also had to do with the doctrine of Jesus Christ).

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sun Jul-27-03 04:07 PM
#72, "RE: Only materially sufficient?"

Once again, you haven't interacted with what I documented, but
have instead responded only to part of it. Theonas
doesn't just say that people should read scripture. As I
explained, he says that there's nothing more beneficial
than reading scripture yourself, and that we can understand
God's promises and have eternal felicity by means of reading
scripture ourselves. That is not material sufficiency. That's
formal sufficiency.

No it isn't. It might be harmonious with formal sufficiency as it stands, but whether Theonas actually holds one or the other position can only be determined by seeing what he also says about Tradition and the Church. It can't be done on the basis of this passage alone. What Protestant polemicists constantly do is to see a statement such as this which doesn't immediately contradict what is entailed in sola Scriptura, and they then illogically assume that the person has no viewpoint on the authority of Tradition and the Church, based on the one passage alone. Again, I have shown that in every case of Fathers I have dealt with in great depth, that this assumption was fallacious. It's a classic case of an isolated "proof text" thought to mean or assert what it does not assert. It's a logical error, brought on by extreme eagerness to anachronistically read into the Fathers a latter-day Protestant perspective on authority. In my section on Irenaeus, I cited Jaroslav Pelikan criticizing precisely this mindset:

Clearly it is an anachronism to superimpose upon the discussions of the second and third centuries categories derived from the controversies over the relation of Scripture and tradition in the 16th century, for 'in the ante-Nicene Church . . . there was no notion of sola Scriptura, but neither was there a doctrine of traditio sola.'
You do this constantly; almost in every case. It is not only bad, inaccurate history, but also rhetorically vacuous and logically atrocious.

Why would he have to mention alternatives when he says that
"nothing" is as beneficial as reading scripture yourself? That
"nothing" would exclude everything else, including having a
church hierarchy interpret scripture for you. And he goes on
to say that reading scripture yourself leads to understanding
God's promises and eternal felicity.

This is wooden, hyper-literalistic interpretation. He can say this in the same sense that I could say all the following, and not be understood as contradicting myself:

1. "There is nothing greater than fresh-baked bread."
2. "There is nothing greater than a fresh-baked apple pie, right out of the oven."
3. "There is nothing greater than one's wedding day."
4. "There is nothing greater than the birth of your first child."
5. "There is nothing greater than the feeling of getting right with God."
He can say it in the same way that the Apostle John wrote:
. . . you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything . . .

(1 John 3:27; RSV)

According to your mode of patristic interpretation, John is obviously excluding Christian teachers, right? After all, that is the logic of the sentence; it is inescapable: "no need" means there is no need for teaching to be provided! The "anointing" teaches the believer "about everything," therefore (quite obviously) there is nothing left to be taught; hence no need for teachers. Who could doubt it?

[ . . . ]

. . . The simplicity of your apologetics is what's causing the problem here. The fathers were sometimes inconsistent. That's a logically reasonable conclusion, and it's a historical fact. What a father said in one passage could explain what he said elsewhere, but contradiction is also a possibility that must be taken into account.

Very well, then, which ones were consistent about sola Scriptura? Were any Fathers consistent? Can you find a single one who advocated an unadulterated teaching of sola Scriptura and didn't fall prey to "Roman Catholic" ludicrosities and corruptions (and -- the hard part -- prove it with documentation)? William Webster thinks pretty much all Fathers held to sola Scriptura. But you want to qualify at every turn, whenever your own logic traps you and you get backed into a corner.

If you never (or rarely) make any positive assertion, then you have nothing to defend, and that would explain, I suppose, your perpetual shifting and waffling and refusal to take a definite stand. Your goal (it would seem, then) is not to understand the Fathers, but simply to use them as pawns in the cynical effort to show the usual alleged "1001 contradictions and absurdities" in Catholic thought. But that is not fair-minded historical research and inquiry: it is mere polemics and sophistry.

My goal is entirely different: I want to see what these Fathers believed about the Bible and its relationship to Tradition, the Church, and apostolic succession. If they viewed the relationship as classic Protestantism did, and present-day "orthodox" or "conservative" Protestantism (evangelicalism) does, then they advocated sola Scriptura. If they didn't do that, they did not hold to sola Scriptura. It's as simple as that.

If you demonstrate conclusively that 1, 2, or 10 Fathers believed in sola Scriptura, that still doesn't affect Catholic doctrine or our historical "case" in the least, as we agree with you that Fathers sometimes contradict each other (and Church dogma). Nor do we consider any one Father's opinion as infallible or binding (unless it is identical with a proclamation that the Church made in Council or by infallible papal proclamation, but then -- strictly speaking -- that doesn't prove that the Father possessed the gift of infallibility, only that he spoke truth in that instance).

Not even St. Augustine is held in that high of a regard, nor a later giant figure such as St. Thomas Aquinas. What we claim is that the broad consensus of the Fathers is strong historical evidence for the truthfulness of particular Catholic doctrines. If you showed that 50 Fathers accepted sola Scriptura (Webster's ridiculous position), then that would pose a problem for our claims. But you haven't even shown that one does so.

The fact remains that he [Augustine] was inconsistent. You can't rule out the possibility of inconsistency from the outset. You have to consider it as an option.

Of course. That being the case, please inform us which Fathers held to sola Scriptura consistently and which did not. I think that would be a fascinating and most informative bit of data, and I, for one (surely I speak for many other Catholics in this regard) would be eternally grateful to you.

This is a pattern in your responses. You don't interact with
the passage I cite. Instead, you quote what the father said
elsewhere, and many of those other passages you cite aren't
even relevant to the issue at hand. You then produce page
after page of such irrelevancies, then you tell us about how
lengthy your responses are, as if we're supposed to be
convinced by such muddying of the waters.

I explained my methodology at the beginning. After all, the first section of my paper is entitled, "Jason's Definition of Sola Scriptura and My Methodology." Obviously you missed it or did not comprehend it, so here it is again:

. . . Protestant apologist Jason Engwer describes the views expressed by each Father below as "sola Scriptura" (with the exception of St. John Chrysostom, whose statement below he categorizes as "interpretation of Scripture"). Thus, it is proper and sensible for us to determine the definition of sola Scriptura that Jason is using, and then proceed to determine whether these Fathers held to this notion as he conceptualizes it, or if he is making a false claim and conclusion.
I then proceeded to cite your own definitions of sola Scriptura, with which I agreed. That was setting up the elementary criterion of what exactly we were to discuss with each other. I then cited a statement from my recent paper on Athanasius, which summed up what my method in this dialogue is:
Entire books are written about the Fathers' supposed belief in sola Scriptura, when in fact they are merely expressing their belief in material sufficiency of Scripture, and its inspiration and sufficiency to refute heretics and false doctrine generally. It is easy to misleadingly present them as sola Scripturists if their statements elsewhere about apostolic Tradition or succession and the binding authority of the Church (especially in council) are ignored.
I then cite St. Vincent of Lerins, who seems almost to be answering your present questions and giving the same answers I have been offering, even distinguishing (conceptually) between material and formal sufficiency:
. . . someone one perhaps will ask, "Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation?" For this reason,—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters.
Then I summarize once again what my approach will be:
This will be my methodology below. Contexts of statements will be examined whenever possible and we'll look to see if the person thinks Scripture is formally sufficient for authority without the necessary aid of Tradition and the Church, or if he does not, as indicated in other statements. A thinker's statements must be evaluated in context of all of his thought, rather than having pieces taken out and then claiming that they "prove" something that they do not, in fact, prove at all.
This is why I often don't have to comment much about the citations you offer, because they are about the person's view of Scripture. Catholics completely agree with such statements, as I have shown repeatedly. But one also has to see what the same person wrote about Tradition and the Church in order to ascertain how they regarded the relationship of the three, which is what this whole discussion is about: each side relates the three to each other in a particular fashion, and this is the debate over proper Christian authority and the Rule of Faith. In most cases, your quotes are simply expressions of the material sufficiency of Scripture, about which there is no dispute between us. Again, more information from the Father is required. So all my quotes that you wish to ignore as "irrelevant" are in fact, exceedingly, extremely relevant, as they provide the missing pieces of the puzzle for each one, which you would rather hide in your selective and radically-incomplete presentation.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sun Jul-27-03 08:47 PM
#79, "Who is Theonas?????"

Theonas refers to a person studying scripture by reading it,
and he says that doing so is the best way to benefit the soul,
and that it produces understanding of what God has said and a
lifestyle that's pleasing to Him. How would reading scripture
be equivalent to having a magisterium interpret it for you?

It's not. I'm not the one saying that he is asserting formal sufficiency of the Catholic Rule of Faith here; only that, logically, what he writes does not deny a notion of authority as Catholics would conceive of it: incorporating Church and Tradition. Also, this business of your constantly harping about the "infallible magisterium" interpreting every single passage is mere sophistry and polemical overkill anyway. That was not what the magisterium was about.

The Church's and Tradition's role in interpreting Scripture was to provide the overall framework of orthodoxy. It was more of a "negative" control or check. The Church is, in effect, saying: "if you teach a hersy based on biblical passages a, b, c that contradicts sacred tradition as passed down through apostolic succession and uniquely preserved by the Holy Spirit in the one true Church, then you are interpreting wrongly, because Scripture and Tradition are harmonious." It was not about some churchman looking over everyone's shoulder so that they interpret each and every verse exactly as the Church says it ought to be interpreted. People could read the Bible and it was largely clear; just not always, and it was and is not self-interpreting enough to prevent heresy without the Church intervening on behalf of orthodoxy. This is the Catholic Rule of Faith.

The Protestant Rule of Faith, sola Scriptura, cannot pronounce on orthodoxy, except on a denominational level only. All it can do is appeal back to the individual and claim that Scripture is perspicuous and formally sufficient and that no Church council has binding authority if an individual sees otherwise in Holy Scripture. That can never bring about unity, and never has in fact, because there the system is insufficient to establish orthodoxy as applying to all Christians across the board.

Theonas doesn't have to mention an infallible interpreter in
order to exclude the concept. If I say that reading scripture
myself is the best way to arrive at Christian doctrine, I
don't think that there's an infallible interpreter that needs
to interpret scripture for me.

This is beside the point, as explained. All one has to do is to see what Theonas says about Tradition and the Church in relation to Scripture. Why? Because sola Scriptura has to do with all three concepts: it is a Rule of Faith which places Church and Tradition in a particular relation to Scripture in a way (I would argue) that the Fathers and the early Church never did.

Which of us is closer to "extreme eagerness"? I'm not the one who claims that the fathers were members of my denomination.

The one true Church is not a denomination, which is a Protestant concept: necessary given the inevitable and ubiquitous nature of sectarisnism within that system. It sounds much more impressive and noble than "sect" or "faction" or "division" so it is used. That doesn't make it biblical, though. The Bible knows nothing about sectarianism except in a sinful, schismatic sense. It speaks of one universal Church; one that is not merely invisible, but also visible and institutional (see, e.g., the Jerusalem Council). Catholics claim that their Church is the one established by Christ, and historically continuous since the time of the apostles.

. . . You're the one taking the logically extreme position that none of the fathers
advocated sola scriptura, and that the fathers in general were members of your denomination. You're far closer to "extreme eagerness" for anachronism than I am.

If this is an "extreme" position, then I hold it in common with the highly-regarded Protestant Church historians Jaroslav Pelikan, Philip Schaff, and J.N.D. Kelly. I'm proud to be in their company, and if it comes down to believing what they say, versus what the amateurs King, Webster, and Engwer claim, in matters of historical fact, you know who I will choose. And I can't be accused of Catholic bias in so doing, since it is the Protestant historians who agree with the position I am advocating and defending. But you can certainly be accused of the extreme position within Protestantism of anti-Catholic historical revisionism.

I don't own the work of Pelikan you're citing. However, William Goode, Thomas Oden, and other scholars have disagreed with the assertions you're attributing to people like Pelikan.

You're welcome to produce their citations (hopefully in context, unlike your patristic citations). I like Oden; what I have seen of his work. If you claim that he is saying certain Fathers believed in sola Scriptura, I would love to see his reasoning and proof for that.

Why don't you address the original texts? For example, when Theonas refers to reading scripture yourself, why don't you explain how reading scripture yourself is equivalent to having an infallible magisterium interpret scripture for you?

I just did. You have a wrongheaded, hyper-rationalistic mindset when you approach these texts, as I have shown, even giving a biblical example.

You compared Theonas' comments to somebody saying that there's
nothing better than fresh-baked bread, nothing better than
fresh-baked pie, nothing better than your wedding day, etc.
The first two statements would be contradictory, if
both statements were referring to the same person's favorite
food at the same time, unless he liked the two equally. But
the material sufficiency view you're advocating does
not maintain that reading scripture yourself is
equal to having the RCC interpret it for you. Rather,
in the material sufficiency view, having the RCC interpret
scripture for you is not only better, but also commanded.

This is a confused paragraph. Perhaps you made inadvertant mistakes in terminology. Material sufficiency of Scripture is the view that all Christian doctrines can be found in Scripture, explicitly or implicitly; fully-developed or in kernel form. Catholics hold to this. Formal sufficiency of Scripture is the adoption of the principle of sola Scriptura as the Rule of Faith. Catholics deny that, and I say that the Fathers (being Catholics from an earlier, less theologically- and ecclesiologically-developed period) do as well.

What does Theonas say the results are if we read scripture? He
goes on to refer to the feeding of the soul, knowing God's
promises, the attaining of eternal felicity, etc. In other
words, he's essentially referring to the whole Christian life.
If these things are attained by reading scripture, what do you
need the infallible interpreter for?

St. Vincent already explained it. You need it for the same reason that the Scripture itself gives us in 2 Timothy 3:16 (which is often fallaciously urged as a proof for sola Scriptura, when it is no such thing and merely a proof of material sufficiency), and also gives us 1 Timothy 3:15, the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 (authoritative and binding interpretation of Christian dogma), 2 Peter 3:15-17, and Paul's many admonitions to "maintain the tradition" passed down; received by him and delivered to his hearers. This is the biblical worldview and the Catholic and patristic worldview (all are one and the same; the only differences are developmental ones, not essential ones of substantive evolution).

[ . . . ]

I'm not aware of any contradictions of sola scriptura in Theonas or Dionysius of Alexandria, for example.

Alright; thank you! Are they the only consistent ones? If so, that is a pretty poor showing, seeing that your pal William Webster is prepared to assert that virtually all the Fathers accepted sola Scriptura. Besides, of what significance is Theonas in the first place? He is such a minor figure that I couldn't find his name in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, the indices of Schaff, Kelly, Latourette (2-volume History of Christianity), and Pelikan; not even in the Encyclopedia Britannica, for heaven's sake. Calling him a "Church Father" is stretching it, I suspect. And this is all you can come up with for Fathers who consistently adopted sola Scriptura? That is certainly a pitiful case indeed (which I already knew would be the case, so it comes as no surprise). Yet in your conclusion to your series you make the grandiose claim:

If the church fathers rejected Roman Catholicism's view of church history, its system of authority, its view of salvation, [11 more things mentioned] . . . what are we to think of the claim that the fathers were Roman Catholic?
The "system of authority" is what has to do with sola Scriptura. If "the church fathers" rejected the "Roman" system of authority, then presumably they accepted some alternate form. You describe the views of 13 Fathers (at least regarding the quotes given) as "sola Scriptura." Yet when pressed, you come up with two Fathers who supposedly consistently hold to sola Scriptura; one of whom is exceedingly obscure and scarcely even able to be referred to as a "Father" at all. This is supposed to be an impressive case? Sorry; I don't think so at all. I think it stinks and is laughable.

I have already refuted your claims for Dionysius (and more later, as I respond to your counter-reply). I'm almost positive that if I can find anything about obscure Theonas, he would believe the same as well. Even if he agreed with John Calvin (who doesn't cite him in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, either -- which cites dozens of Church Fathers), though, so what, if he is that minor of a figure?

And I don't consider the acceptance of unwritten tradition a
"Roman Catholic ludicrosity". Papias, for example, accepted
unwritten tradition, and he gives good reasons for it, and I
don't consider him a Roman Catholic or somebody making a Roman
Catholic error. The unwritten traditions these fathers
accepted weren't the same as Roman Catholic tradition. If I
was in Papias' position, I probably would have rejected sola
scriptura also.

What is a "Roman Catholic" by the way, since you insist on distinguishing such a person from a "Catholic"?

But you want to qualify at every turn, whenever your own logic traps you and you get backed into a corner.
I've been using these qualifications for years, before I began my series and before I began this discussion with you.

I'm not talking about that; I'm talking about what you are doing now, in these present discussions.

Are you going to criticize historians such as Jacques Le Goff for making so many qualifications about the patristic view of Purgatory, for example?

There are tons of qualifications to be found in history; why would anyone expect otherwise?

Why not consider the possibility that I make qualifications because I believe those qualifications are correct?

That is not in question; your facts are.

Dave, you ought to consider the possibility that church history isn't as simplistic as you make it out to be.

Nice try.

My goal is entirely different: I want to see what these Fathers believed about the Bible and its relationship to Tradition, the Church, and apostolic succession.
And when they contradict Roman Catholicism, you attribute the
contradictions to their fallibility, development of doctrine,
etc., and conclude that they were Roman Catholics anyway. I,
on the other hand, am willing to acknowledge a large variety
of patristic beliefs, including widespread disagreements with
my theology. I don't try to dismiss those disagreements
under the speculative, illogical guise of doctrinal
development, as if I somehow know that the fathers would agree
with my theology if they were alive today. I think it's clear
which of us is being more honest about church history.

I knew the charge of dishonesty was bound to come out eventually. Keep arguing and asserting. You are digging yourself in very deep.

If you demonstrate conclusively that 1, 2, or 10 Fathers believed in sola Scriptura, that still doesn't affect Catholic doctrine or our historical 'case' in the least, as we agree with you that Fathers sometimes contradict each other.
You're not willing to admit that it affects your case even in the least?

It wouldn't, as explained. Only showing a consensus for sola Scriptura would damage the Catholic claims in this regared. Until you do so (the obscure Theonas and Dionysius not being sufficiently overwhelming "consensus"), I hold to my present position as to the historical facts of the matter, as corroborated by reputable Protestant historians.

That's unreasonable. Even as far as a single father is concerned, how would you defend considering that father a Roman Catholic if he advocated sola scriptura?

Fathers can be wrong on lots of things. Big deal. He is still a Catholic or a heretic, because those were the only choices back then. Even Orthodoxy wasn't around as a separate system yet.

And if ten did so, which is one of the numbers you dismiss as not affecting your case "in the least", how would you explain ten alleged fathers of your denomination rejecting your system of authority in favor of sola scriptura?

If you can show me that ten did so, I will answer you then. As it is, it is a non-issue because it isn't true in the first place, as the historians assert.

My series gives multiple examples of Roman Catholic doctrines that were absent or widely contradicted for hundreds of years.

We're arguing only about the Rule of Faith presently.

I'm sure Basil will be no different from all the rest.
That's similar to your claim that you know that you'll refute everything I argue against you, even before you see the arguments.

On this question, yes.

More of your wooden hyper-literalism, as critiqued above.
. . . one also has to see what the same person wrote about Tradition and the Church in order to ascertain how they regarded the relationship of the three.
Again, Basil says that the woman doesn't need "anybody". Would
you explain how the bishop of Rome and the Roman Catholic
magisterium can logically be excluded from the term "anybody"?
If reading the scriptures under the guidance of the Spirit is
"all-sufficient", as Basil says, would you explain how he
could have meant to say that such reading of the
scriptures is insufficient?

Others can surely see what I am arguing. I appeal to past statements, especially the one I made about biblical indications of the material sufficiency of Scripture, but not its formal sufficiency. I'm not gonna repeat things over and over for your benefit.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Mon Jul-28-03 12:25 PM
#83, "Why Discussion of Tradition is Necessary (Mambo #5)"

I was referring to your overall view of the fathers, not just one aspect of it. While Pelikan, Schaff, and Kelly do refer to the fathers contradicting sola scriptura, they also document at length that the fathers defined tradition in multiple ways and repeatedly contradicted the Roman Catholic definition.

That has no effect on my argument, because the exact nature of the tradition referred to by a Father is a distinct issue from the fact that he places it in a certain position vis-a-vis Scripture. You don't seem to comprehend this, so I will state it again:

Sola Scriptura is one view about the relationship of Scripture, Tradition, and the Church (or, the "rule of faith"). The Catholic view is another one. Sola Scriptura places Tradition in an inferior or subordinate position. You yourself noted this:

Scripture is the Christian's only infallible rule of faith (sola scriptura), to which all other authorities (government, parents, tradition, etc.) are subordinate.

("Why We Should Look to the Bible Rather than the Early Church Fathers")

In the same paper, you continue:
Opponents of sola scriptura often respond to such quotes by citing the church fathers referring to tradition. The issue, however, isn't whether they believed in tradition. The issue is what their rule of faith was.
This shows your muddleheadedness and confused understanding of the issues at hand, which, in turn, is why you think all my citations having to do with tradition, Church, and apostolic succession are off the topic, when they are precisely what are needed to determine what these Fathers believed. Sola Scriptura takes one particular stand on the relative place and value of Tradition and Church authority over against Holy Scripture. Quite obviously, then, we must see how any individual Church Father viewed the authority of Tradition and the Church in order to find out whether he takes a sola Scriptura view or a Catholic "three-legged stool" view of authority.

Thus, every citation I have produced in my lengthy original counter-reply is absolutely relevant and necessary to the discussion (the more the merrier, because that provides yet more evidence and data). As you say above, "the issue is what their rule of faith was." Yes, precisely! This rule of faith deals with the nature of Christian authority: the Bible, Tradition, and the Church and how they relate to each other. This is the last time I will reiterate this.

Protestant anti-Catholic apologists are always moaning about how Catholics don't understand sola Scriptura and don't realize (in their profound dishonesty and ignorance -- David T. King's view of all of us) that sola Scriptura does not rule out considerations of, and respect for (to an extent) the authority of Tradition and the Church. Yet when I assume this understanding in my methodology and gladly adopt it as a premise (because I have always agreed with it), you tell me everything I cite about Tradition and the Church are off the topic and irrelevant because we are talking about sola Scriptura.

So you appear to contradict yourself and the best exponents of the Protestant position. We are not debating the extreme, fringe, a-historical "Bible Only" view (or, on the other hand, perhaps we are after all, and you are taking that view, and I have misunderstood your definition of sola Scriptura).

Furthermore, differing conceptions of tradition among the Fathers also do not affect my goal of determining whether they believed in sola Scriptura or not. Your purpose in your entire series is to show how and where the Fathers differed from what you call "Roman Catholicism" (presumably post-Tridentine Catholicism, centred at Rome, which is how most anti-Catholics seem to define "Roman Catholicism"). I am not trying to refute your entire series. Repeat (I seem to have to state everything at least twice with you): I am not trying to refute your entire series. I am only refuting it insofar as it is claiming that the Fathers accepted sola Scriptura. To show that they did not is a rather easy task (though time-consuming).

Now, say that three Fathers held three somewhat-differing notions of what Tradition is. This poses no problem for my argument, because it is not about the precise definition of tradition held by each Father, but about how they view tradition (however they define it) in relationship to Scripture. Let me illustrate:

1. Church Father #1 believes that tradition is the oral unwritten record passed down of things that can always be found explicitly in Scripture.

2. Church Father #2 believes that tradition is the oral unwritten record passed down of things that can always be found either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.

3. Church Father #3 believes that tradition is the oral and written record passed down of things that can always be found explicitly in Scripture.

4. Church Father #4 believes that tradition is the oral and written record passed down of things that can always be found either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.

5. Church Father #5 believes that tradition is the oral and written record passed down of things that can always be found either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture, including what is recorded in Scripture itself, since the Bible is inspired and preeminent part of the larger apostolic tradition, and equates the "word of God" and the "gospel" with "tradition."

And so forth. There might be a number of differing conceptions, but they all accept authoritative apostolic tradition. The bottom line is that a Father could hold any one of these definitions of "tradition" and still be opposed to sola Scriptura, depending on how he views both relative to each other. So, if one's goal in argument is to show that a Father did not believe in sola Scriptura, whichever definition of Tradition that he holds will not affect the demonstration, if in fact he places tradition in an authoritative position in a manner contrary to the Protestant Rule of Faith, or sola Scriptura.

Thus, if Church Fathers #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 each applies his particular definition of "tradition" and believes that Church and Tradition have a practical authority and a necessary role in interpreting Scripture, and that it is meaningless to pit any of the three against another, and that they do not contradict, but are all of a piece, he denies sola Scriptura. Period. It doesn't matter what definition of "tradition" he utilizes because it is a relational proposition. It doesn't matter if his view isn't identical to my view today as a Catholic, in absolutely every particular, or what stage of theological development in the history of Christianity that he lives in, or what you think (correctly or incorrectly) "Roman Catholicism" is. All that has to be shown is that he doesn't subordinate Tradition and the Church to Scripture.

Believing in tradition as an authority subordinate to scripture, much as government and parents are authorities subordinate to the authority of God, is not a contradiction of sola scriptura.
Exactly. I agree, which is why I have demonstrated that these Fathers do not make it a subordinate authority. Therefore, they reject sola Scriptura, which does make tradition subordinate. Now maybe you are starting to understand my reasoning. I don't think it is that difficult. It only is for Protestants who can't seem to comprehend any view of Christian authority other than the usual Protestant sola Scriptura position. They're like a fish in water. They don't know that there are other worlds of thought other than their own, which are not immediately absurd and ridiculous; just different.

Theonas was a bishop of Alexandria for about 20 years near the end of the third century. The document I cited is included in the Roberts/Donaldson edition of the Ante-Nicene fathers.

He may be in there but that doesn't make him an important figure in Church history. Therefore, even if he did believe what you claim, it would be of exceedingly minor import.

I didn't say that the two fathers I mentioned were the only ones who were consistent in advocating sola scriptura. You keep asking for lists, and I've explained to you why I haven't given them. I haven't read all of the writings of every father. And the consistency of these fathers isn't essential to my argument.

Then why do you keep making claims about the Fathers if you don't know what you are talking about? You claim, "many of the church fathers taught sola scriptura." They are just empty claims if you can't back them up. You have only been willing to commit yourself to two people so far; one a very minor figure. But the "polemical soundbytes" sure sound nice to anti-Catholic ears, don't they? Images are conjured up of a quasi-Protestant, proto-Protestant early Church with all these wonderful bishops and Fathers who were not yet corrupted by "Roman Catholicism." It's great sophistry and rhetoric, but atrocious historiography.

My reference to systems of authority isn't limited to sola scriptura. The church fathers who contradicted the Roman Catholic definition of the church and the Roman Catholic method of determining tradition, for example, also contradicted the Roman Catholic system of authority.

Again, we're back to your vague generalities. Which Fathers? On what basis? Where is your documentation to back this up? I am dealing solely with the question of whether they accepted sola Scriptura. That is how you described their views. So I analyze each man and see what he actually believed, considering his overall beliefs, not one highly-selective "Protestant-sounding" paragraph or sentence that you come up with. Debating the exact nature of tradition is a separate issue, as is development, the papacy, and all the rest that you try to bring into the discussion, as if we don't have enough on our plate already.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sun Jul-27-03 02:54 PM
#71, "RE: More examples of Jason's wrongheadedness"

I'm not gonna go round and round with this sort of thing. I want to get to particulars in the Fathers and see you defend your point of view. Just a few comments on particularly outrageous false statements:

[ . . . ]

I conclude that tradition is being excluded if something in the text or context suggests such an exclusion.

If that were true, you might have a point (ar a partial one, at any rate). But I don't see exclusion in your citations. I see a lot of illogically reading into the passages on your part, and making conclusions from predispositions, which are not actually present in the words under consideration. This is a large part of your problem. And I will demonstrate this repeatedly as we proceed, because it is a fundamental methodological and epistemological flaw in your overall presentation.

[ . . . ]

There are many church fathers, Eastern Orthodox, etc. who
believe in a Roman primacy while rejecting the concept of a
papacy. Personally, I think some concepts of Roman primacy
make sense historically, but some of them have lost their
credibility with the passing of time. For example, I think
that if I had lived in the second century, I probably would
have agreed with Irenaeus that the Roman church is the
greatest church, and that all other churches must agree with
it. At the time Irenaeus wrote, the apostles hadn't been dead
so long, and the Roman church hadn't yet fallen into the many
errors it would later embrace (Modalism, Arianism,
Monothelitism, the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.).

Oh? This is news to me. Please show how the See of Rome officially fell into the heresies of Modalism, Arianism, and Monothelitism. I was not aware of this. I want official documents: conciliar statements, etc. If you're gonna trot out Honorius, don't bother. He made no official statement on the matter and did not bind the faithful to anything. The entire dispute is about private letters, and Catholics don't deny that a pope might personally be a heretic. We only deny that he could ever bind the Church as a whole to heresy. You speak so much about how ignorant I am, and how I supposedly don't understand the issues, yet you make a tremendous error of fact in asserting this, pertaining not only to one false charge of adoption of heresy, but three! If you can't prove it, then manfully retract it. If not, the ludicrous charge will remain in my paper for people to see the "any-absurd-charge-is-permissible-so-long-as-it-is-directed-towards-Catholicism historical accuracy" that you espouse.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Sun Jul-27-03 07:08 PM
#77, "Ludicrous charges of the Roman See's adoption of heresy"

I would argue that documents such as Pope Boniface VIII's Unam
Sanctam and Pope Sixtus V's Aeternus Ille do qaulify as
infallible by modern Roman Catholic standards, and that they
do contradict modern Roman Catholic teaching. But I wasn't
addressing teachings that would be infallible by modern Roman
Catholic standards. I was discussing what Irenaeus said in the
second century. Irenaeus refers to the doctrinal correctness
of the Roman church. He doesn't qualify those doctrines as
only ones that are infallible by modern Roman Catholic
standards. To the contrary, we don't have any allegedly
infallible papal decrees or council rulings that Irenaeus
would be referring to in the second century. He was referring
to the general teachings of the Roman church. And the general
teachings of the Roman church have often been false.

More evasive, sophistical tactics . . . For the benefit of our readers and your own apparently faulty memory, here is what you wrote:

. . . the Roman church hadn't yet fallen into the many errors it would later embrace (Modalism, Arianism, Monothelitism, the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.).
As with your statements about the Fathers, presumably there is some substance there that you could point to, identify, and clarify. So please tell me (I'm all ears), when exactly did "the Roman church" "fall into" and "embrace" the error of Modalism? When exactly did "the Roman church" "fall into" and "embrace" the error of Arianism? When exactly did "the Roman church" "fall into" and "embrace" the error of Monothelitism?

You made the ridiculous, ludicrous charge. Now either defend it or retract it, or you will severely damage your credibility as an apologist once people get light of a charge like this -- all the more ironic since you continue to claim I am ignorant and have little idea what I am talking about, whereas people like you, David King, and William Webster (coincidentally all anti-Catholics in outlook) have uniquely mastered the facts of Church history.

Playing games about the development of infallibility and the papacy is not sufficient to avoid defending and substantiating your charge. The "Roman church" either adopted these heresies or it did not. If it did, there must be some proof in some conciliar or papal statement; otherwise your charge is absolutely groundless, since you can produce no proof whatever of it (i.e., if proof of such things is impossible to obtain, then the charge itself is meaningless, since it depends, by definition, on such proofs of what the "Roman church" believed in those times; it is unfalsifiable).

On the other hand, some stray individuals (even, theoretically, or actually, popes) adopting such heresies is not at all the same as "the Roman church" doing so. I say your charge is absolutely groundless because I happen to know (as a Catholic apologist and student of Church history) that these things never happened. You claim that they did? Fine; give us the proof, or you will look like a total fool, stating sheer nonsense like this.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Mon Jul-28-03 02:02 PM
#84, "RE: Rome's errors"

You haven't established your point in the least. This was your claim:

. . the Roman church hadn't yet fallen into the many errors it would later embrace (Modalism, Arianism, Monothelitism, the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.).
You haven't shown at all that the "Roman church" "embraced" these errors or promulgated them officially as binding dogma, for all the faithful to believe. At best, you have shown probable laxity of some popes in fighting the errors as vigorously as they could or should have. That affects no Catholic doctrine or argument, as we agree that popes can be lax and also personal heretics. But you didn't even narrow it down to popes. You argued that the "Roman church" had succumbed to heresy. It did not. You haven't shown it, so your assertion collapses. Of course there were problems, as with all Christian bodies, but there was no official "embrace" of these heresies, which is all we can really objectively talk about in terms of what a certain Christian body believes or disbelieves.

You start with Hippolytus' charges against Popes Zephyrinus and Callistus. What you conveniently overlook is that Hippolytus' Christology and pneumatology were heterodox, by Catholic and Protestant standards. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd edition, edited by F.L. Cross & E.A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1983, 652) states about his view of the Logos:

Whether this Logos is really a Divine Person remains vague; Hippolytus seems to regard Him rather as an instrument of creation whose personality is completed only in the Incarnation when He receives the title of Son. This teaching involves a development in the Word which involves a change in the relations between Him and the Father and must ultimately lead to Ditheism, for which he was rebuked by Zephyrinus and Callistus. This charge gains force from his defective teaching on the Holy Ghost, to whom he refuses the title of 'Person'.
The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) writes about Zephyrinus:
More, however, is certain concerning the internal disputes in the Roman Church over the doctrine of the Trinity. The adherents of the heretical teacher Theodotus the Tanner had been excommunicated with their leader by Pope Victor . . .

Hippolytus was the most important theologian among the Roman presbyters of this era. He was an avowed adherent of the doctrine of the Divine Logos. He taught that the Divine Logos became man in Christ, that the Logos differs in every thing from God, that he is the mediary between God and the world of creatures. This doctrine in the form in which it was set forth by Hippolytus and his school aroused many doubts, and another theological school appeared in opposition to it. This latter school was represented at Rome in this era by Cleomenes and particularly by Sabellius. These men were rigid opponents of the Theodotians, but were not willing to acknowledge the incarnation of the Logos, and emphasized above all the absolute unity (monarchia) of God. They explained the Incarnation of Christ in the sense that this was another manifestation (modus) of God in His union with human nature. Consequently they were called Modalists or Patripassians, as according to them it was not the Son of God but the Father Who had been crucified. The Christian common people held firmly, above all, to the Unity of God and at the same time to the true Godhead of Jesus Christ. Originally no distrust of this doctrine was felt among them. Pope Zephyrinus did not interpose authoritatively in the dispute between the two schools. The heresy of the Modalists was not at first clearly evident, and the doctrine of Hippolytus offered many difficulties as regards the tradition of the Church. Zephyrinus said simply that he acknowledged only one God, and this was the Lord Jesus Christ, but it was the Son, not the Father, Who had died. This was the doctrine of the tradition of the Church. Hippolytus urged that the pope should approve of a distinct dogma which represented the Person of Christ as actually different from that of the Father and condemned the opposing views of the Monarchians and Patripassians. However, Zephyrinus would not consent to this. The result was that Hippolytus grew constantly more irritated and angry against he pope and particularly against the deacon Callistus whom, as the councillor of the pope, he made responsible for the position of the latter. When after the death of Zephyrinus Callistus was elected Roman bishop, Hippolytus withdrew from the Church with his scholars, caused a schism, and made himself a rival bishop.

And here is the relevant information about Callistus, from the same work:
Hippolytus, however, regards Callistus as a heretic. Now Hippolytus's own Christology is most imperfect, and he tells us that Callistus accused him of Ditheism. It is not to be wondered at, then, if he calls Callistus the inventor of a kind of modified Sabellianism. In reality it is certain that Zephyrinus and Callistus condemned various Monarchians and Sabellius himself, as well as the opposite error of Hippolytus. This is enough to suggest that Callistus held the Catholic Faith. And in fact it cannot be denied that the Church of Rome must have held a Trinitarian doctrine not far from that taught by Callistus's elder contemporary Tertullian and by his much younger contemporary Novatian--a doctrine which was not so explicitly taught in the greater part of the East for a long period afterwards. The accusations of Hippolytus speak for the sure tradition of the Roman Church and for its perfect orthodoxy and moderation. If we knew more of St. Callistus from Catholic sources, he would probably appear as one of the greatest of the popes.
You have provided us with no evidence whatsoever that the Roman See officially adopted modalism. But I can provide documentation of its official condemnation of same (all derived from Protestant sources such as the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church):
Modalism (also known as Sabellianism) denied the full Personhood of all three Persons of the Trinity, and believed that God operated through mere "modes" or the transferral of power. Theodotus (2nd cent.) came from Byzantium to Rome, only to be excommunicated by Pope Victor (c. 189-98). His disciple, also named Theodotus (early 3rd century) was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (198-217). Artemon (3rd century) was teaching in Rome, c. 235, but was excommunicated. Sabellius (fl. 215) was excommunicated by Pope Callistus I.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states (p. 1511) concerning Zephyrinus and Modalism:
Hippolytus charged him with laxity in enforcing discipline and failure to assert his authority sufficiently in repressing the heresies (esp. Sabellianism) then prevalent in the Roman Church. Zephyrinus excommunicated, however, the two Theodoti who defended the cause of Dynamic Monarchianism.
Then you cite Tertullian accusing Rome of being corrupted by Montanism (this coming from a person who later adopted it lock, stock, and barrel, no less). The facts of opposition (according to Protestant historical reference sources) are these:
Montanism was an apocalyptic sect which denied the divinely-established nature of the Church. Montanus, who began prophesying in 172, came from central Turkey (which became the heresy's center of operations). Opposition to Montanism was spearheaded by Pope Eleutherus (175-89), and it was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (199-217).
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states about Montanism (p. 934):
It was formally condemned by Asiatic Synods before A.D. 200 and also, after some hesitation, by Pope Zephyrinus.
It's difficult to simultaneously claim that the Roman See "embraced" Montanism or Modalism when its bishops are formally condemning same and/or excommunicating the major proponents of it. It may have been "prevalent" among people in the Church, but how the Church itself decrees is the only relevant factor as to whether it remained orthodox or not (just as, today, there are many liberals in various Protestant denominations. Sometimes they succeed in changing the doctrines of the denomination; other times they do not). In the case of Rome and Catholicism, the heretics have always failed.

Pope Liberius is yet another fallacious garden-variety anti-Catholic charge (along with Honorius and Vigilius). I will simply provide a link to an article on this topic; and (for good measure): Pope Vigilius
and Pope Honorius.

Here are the facts of the official Roman condemnation of Arianism:

Arianism held that Jesus was created by the Father. In trinitarian Christianity, Christ and the Holy Spirit are both equal to, uncreated, and co-eternal with God the Father. Arius (c. 256-336), the heresiarch, was based in Alexandria and died in Constantinople. In a Council at Antioch in 341, the majority of 97 Eastern bishops subscribed to a form of semi-Arianism, whereas in a Council at Rome in the same year, under Pope Julius I, the trinitarian St. Athanasius was vindicated by over 50 Italian bishops. The western-dominated Council of Sardica (Sofia) in 343 again upheld Athanasius' orthodoxy, whereas the eastern Council of Sirmium in 351 espoused Arianism, which in turn was rejected by the western Councils of Arles (353) and Milan (355).
Meanwhile, in Eastern Christianity there were a host of openly Arian Patriarchs:
Antioch: Eulalius c. 322
Antioch: Euphronius c.327-c.329
Constantinople: Eusebius c.341-42
Constantinople: Macedonius c.342-60 (Semi-Arian)
Antioch: Leontius 344-58
Alexandria: George 357-61
Antioch: Eudoxius 358-60
Constantinople: Eudoxius 360
Antioch: Euzoius 361-78
Thus, the See of Antioch was under the control of an Arian from 344-378, and Constantinople from 341-360. Antioch had also suffered under the heretical patriarchate of Paul of Samosata, a Modalist, from 260 to 269 (see Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, pp. 1052-1053). Rome never officially succumbed to this heresy or any other.

Therefore, your charge remains ludicrous, and a piece of polemical nonsense that might look good before a Catholic replies to it, but which utterly collapses once all the relevant facts are in.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

JasonTE Tue
Jul-29-03 12:48 AM
#95, "RE: Rome's errors"

I was addressing Rome's support of false teachings in general, not the issuing of decrees that are official by modern Roman Catholic standards . . . I gave you multiple examples of the church fathers themselves referring to the Roman church and its bishops supporting error. The scriptures and the patristic literature are filled with condemnations of people and churches supporting error, even if the error isn't official by modern Roman Catholic standards . . . The church fathers I cited repeatedly refer to Rome supporting error, Rome teaching error, the faith of Rome being polluted, etc. They even refer to decrees that were issued by the Roman church and its bishops to support error.

. . . You then go on to produce a quote about the activities of the Roman church in the late second and early third centuries. How do you know that those actions of the Roman church were official? How can you claim that those excommunications and decrees of the Roman church were official, yet claim that Liberius' support of Arianism, Siricius' support of Origenism, etc. aren't?

. . . The issue isn't papal infallibility. The issue is general support of false teaching.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

[I let Jason have the last word, since this topic was off-subject and far too complex to delve into, in the midst of a discussion on the Fathers and sola Scriptura]

Dave G. Armstrong
Tue Jul-29-03 12:25 PM
#101, "RE: Why Discussion of Tradition is Necessary (Mambo #5)"

I objected to your citations because nothing in them contradicts sola scriptura.

I disagree, but I will say that nothing in your "proofs" demonstrates sola Scriptura.

The fact that you can follow sola scriptura and believe in tradition and an authoritative church is the reason why your citations are irrelevant.

They can't believe in binding, infallible Church teachings and tradition and still hold to sola Scriptura (by definition), which is the point.

[ . . . ]

Sola scriptura is generally regarded as a distinctive
Protestant theme. But remember that the pattern of assuming
that the scriptures are the judge of the church is a fixed
guideline in patristic teaching....I will present texts of key
consensual witnesses of Christian writers of the earliest
Christian centuries to show clearly that they had a firm grasp
of justification teaching: sola gratia, sola fide, and sola
scriptura (grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone).

(Thomas Oden, The Justification Reader [Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Eerdmans, 2002], pp. 26, 28)

I don't agree with all of Oden's arguments. But I agree with him that some fathers did teach these things.

This is not far from a material sufficiency view. The Church is certainly "judged" by Scripture insofar as its teachings must always be in line with biblical teaching and not in contradiction of anything in Scripture. Catholics agree wholeheartedly with that. As for individual examples from the Fathers; well, they would have to be considered one-by-one, just as I am doing with your alleged "proofs." In the meantime, the historians I have cited do not agree with this general assessment:

Philip Schaff:

Augustine . . . in a certain sense, as against heretics, he made the authority of Holy Scripture dependent on the authority of the catholic church . . . The Protestant church makes the authority of the general councils, and of all ecclesiastical tradition, depend on the degree of its conformity to the Holy Scriptures; while the Greek and Roman churches make Scripture and tradition coordinate.

Nor is any distinction made here between a visible and an invisible church. All catholic antiquity thought of none but the actual, historical church . . . The fathers of our period all saw in the church, though with different degrees of clearness, . . . the possessor and interpreter of the Holy Scriptures, the mother of all the faithful . . . Equally inseparable from her is the predicate of apostolicity, that is, the historical continuity or unbroken succession . . . In the view of the fathers, every theoretical departure from this empirical, tangible, catholic church is heresy, . . . No heresy can reach the conception of the church . . . the church is divine and indestructible. This is without doubt the view of the ante-Nicene fathers, even of the speculative
and spiritualistic Alexandrians . . .

[which would include your "consistent" sola Scripturists Dionysius and Theonas, both from Alexandria]
Besides appealing to the Scriptures, the fathers, particularly Irenaeus and Tertullian, refer with equal confidence to the "rule of faith;" that is, the common faith of the church, as orally handed down in the unbroken succession of bishops from Christ and his apostles to their day.
Heiko Oberman:
Augustine . . . reflects the early Church principle of the coinherence of Scripture and Tradition. While repeatedly asserting the ultimate authority of Scripture, Augustine does not oppose this at all to the authority of the Church Catholic . . .
Jaroslav Pelikan:
Clearly it is an anachronism to superimpose upon the discussions of the second and third centuries categories derived from the controversies over the relation of Scripture and tradition in the 16th century . . . So palpable was this apostolic tradition that even if the apostles had not left behind the Scriptures to serve as normative evidence of their doctrine, the church would still be in a position to follow 'the structure of the tradition which they handed on to those to whom they committed the churches.' [Haer. 3, 4 ,1]
Here is a new citation from J.N.D. Kelly:
. . . there is . . . nothing to suggest, and general probability makes it unlikely, that Christian teachers had these books [the NT] specifically in mind on the majority of occasions when they referred to the apostolic testimony. It is much more plausible that they were thinking generally of the common body of facts and doctrines, definite enough in outline though with varying emphases, which found expression in the Church's day-to-day preaching, liturgical action and catechetical instruction, just as much as in its formal documents . . .

. . . while Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament) and the apostolic testimony were formally independent of each other, these fathers seem to have treated their contents as virtually coincident . . . Secondly, the apostolic testimony had not yet come to be known as 'tradition'.

(Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco, revised 1978 edition, 33-34; referring to "the primitive period")

Referring to the period of Irenaeus and Tertullian (2nd century), Kelly continues:
. . . the distinction between Scripture and the Church's living tradition as co-ordinate channels of this apostolic testimony became more clearly appreciated, and enhanced importance began to be attached to the latter.

(Ibid., 35-36)

Concerning the third and fourth centuries, he states:
. . . the basis of tradition became broader and more explicit. The supreme doctrinal authority remained, of course, the original revelation given by Christ and communicated to the Church by His apostles. This was the divine or apostolic 'tradition' (paradosis; traditio) in the strict sense of the word . . . That this was embodied, however, in the Holy Scripture, and found a parallel outlet in the Church's general unwritten teaching and liturgical life, was taken for granted, and the use of the term 'tradition', with or without such qualifications as 'ecclesiastical' or 'of the fathers', to describe this latter medium now becamme increasingly common.

(Ibid., 41-42)

Throughout the whole period Scripture and tradition ranked as complementary authorities, media different in form but coincident in content. To inquire which counted as superior or more ultimate is to pose the question in misleading and anachronistic terms. If Scripture was abundantly sufficient in principle, tradition was recognized as the surest clue to its interpretation, for in tradition the Church retained, as a legacy from the apostles which was embedded in all the organs of her institutional life, an unerring grasp of the real purport and meaning of the revelation to which Scripture and tradition alike bore witness.

(Ibid., 47-48)

Dave, you're the one who doesn't know what he's talking about. When I said that many fathers advocated sola scriptura, I wasn't limiting myself to fathers who advocated it consistently.

Yes, we now know that, since I have pressed you. You have gone from advocating the amateur-historian Webster/King books on sola Scriptura, where Webster takes a stand that practically all the Fathers believed in sola Scriptura (whereas professional and reputable historians Schaff, Kelly, and Pelikan believe that none do), to a position that Theonas and Dionysius held it consistently, and any others only inconsistently (though you now claim a few more consistent ones can be brought to light).

One can't fail to see the humor in the fact that you choose for your sterling examples of those who "got it right" an obscure bishop with one short epistle in the 38-volume patristic set, and another concerning whom few extant writings exist. I guess these are safe enough for you to apply your ludicrous historical claims to without fear of contradiction. You wouldn't dare make such ridiculous assertions with regard to later figures like Augustine or Irenaeus, where the data is abundant. What a "case"!

And the fact that I gave two examples doesn't mean that there are only two who advocated sola scriptura consistently.

I'm still waiting for more "examples." Perhaps another bishop who can't make it into any historical accounts of the Fathers or reference books?

I'm giving examples rather than an exhaustive list, because of time constraints,

If you're so concerned about time, then cut out the 501 rabbit trails and stick to the subject, and provide more "proofs" for your position.

because I'm not familiar with all of the writings of the fathers,

All the more reason to doubt your conclusions, seeing that the historians who are familiar with the Fathers; who specialize in patristics and Church history and history of theology or of doctrinal development of same, completely contradict you. What do you expect a person to do, faced with the following choice?:

Proposal: Who shall we trust as an authority for the views of the Church Fathers concerning the Rule of Faith, or the relationship between Bible, Tradition, apostolic succession, and the Church, when people making claims about these matters contradict each other, and given the fact that most of us do not have time (or desire) to read all the Fathers' writings?:
Choice Number One:

Jason Engwer, amateur anti-Catholic apologist who is no professional historian, with the aid of amateur historians and anti-Catholic polemicists (with a clear agenda against that Church): David King and William Webster (oh, and one fairly vague quote from Thomas Oden, who is indeed a respected scholar and not an anti-Catholic, but a theologian, not an historian).


Choice Number Two:

Some of the most respected professional (Protestant) Church historians: Philip Schaff, J.N.D. Kelly, Heiko Oberman, and Jaroslav Pelikan.

According to your reasoning, we should choose you because you have mustered up a few citations which appear (but do not prove) to support your position, even though you have claimed that only two people hold sola Scriptura consistently (contradicting Webster, who says all the Fathers do). I submit that this is an insult to any thinkers' intelligence.

I make claims as an amateur historian too, but the difference is that I back them up with scholars, and almost all Protestant ones, lest I be accused of Catholic bias. No one cares what I think because I am not a scholar. But they should care about the informed opinions of the experts in the field. The choice we face is clear, and I urge readers to ponder the manifest absurdity of the "case" you are making. You have practically conceded most of the issue at hand, yet you keep on fighting as if there is something left for you to defend.

and because an exhaustive list, or any list at all, isn't essential to my argument.

If you are to have the courage of your convictions, and show that your claims have some substance, it is imperative to produce such a list and give solid reasons why each person is on it. It doesn't have to be "exhaustive" (nice try at avoidance rhetoric) just something beyond two bishops from Alexandria; one quite obscure, and the other a relatively minor Father compared to many others.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Tue Jul-29-03 05:08 PM
#106, "Reply to Jason's Quite-Premature "Conclusion""

I've spent more than a year interacting with many Roman Catholics who not only have misrepresented my series, but didn't even comprehend some of the most basic elements of its purpose.

My sympathies. But what does that have to do with the present discussion?

I don't have much interest in continuing in such discussions. My series has an introduction, a conclusion, and many segments between that explain its purpose and address potential objections.

I can highly relate to your miseries, since I have had to re-state my goal and purpose some half a dozen times so that you will be able to grasp it, despite the fact that it was perfectly obvious and explained in detail at the beginning of my original counter-reply.

Perhaps the reason why some Catholics think the series is so unconvincing is because they don't understand the series and they don't have a mind that's likely to be convinced by the evidence.

Perhaps the reason why you find my refutations of your fallacies and falsehoods so unconvincing is because you don't understand my reasoning and you don't have a mind that's likely to be convinced by the evidence.

See how stupid this sounds if someone applies your words back to you?

The fact that Dave Armstrong has made such fundamental logical errors in evaluating my series and the views of these church fathers, even after he's been a Roman Catholic apologist of such prominence for several years, tells us something about his apologetics. I'm not saying that you have to be inerrant in order to be credible. All of us err. But Dave's errors are of a fundamental nature, and they suggest a significant misunderstanding about how to evaluate church history.

I'm glad to be in the company of Schaff, Kelly, Pelikan, and Oberman. How embarrassing it must be to them! Imagine having the scholarly reputation that they have, yet also being incessantly guilty of "fundamental logical errors in evaluating . . . the views of these church fathers." After all, I am merely an amateur historian, but they have all the credentials and expertise, only to regretfully succumb to "significant misunderstanding about how to evaluate church history." Surely this "tells us something about" their historiography. But of course, the illustrious luminary David T. King, recommended heartily by you, can make quite revealing, bigoted statements about the lack of "integrity" of non-Protestants in general, and that (clearly) has no bearing whatsoever on his credibility. It's a strange world we live in.

I think those of us familiar with Dave's apologetics know what to expect from him in response to these posts and the rest of my CBNRC series.

You think I would spend time on any other parts of your series, given your poor showing in this exchange? Not a chance. I freely confess, however, that my lack of patience with intellectual folly and almost perpetual evading of the topic and logical shortsightedness must be, no doubt, evident to readers once again. I ask their forgiveness.

To Dave Armstrong, doctrinal contradictions are doctrinal developments.

As I said, I'm trying to be patient with your modes of "reasoning" and argumentation. It's difficult at times . . .

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

End of Part One
Go to Part Two

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