Tuesday, November 21, 2006

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

Part Two
Go to Part One

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

Dave G. Armstrong
Mon Jul-28-03 04:06 PM
#88, "Response to Jason's "Introduction" (Finally! YES!)"

Much of what Dave wrote in response to me was irrelevant to what I was arguing, such as his comments about John Chrysostom's view of the sufficiency of scripture. That segment in my series was about the interpretation of scripture, not its sufficiency.

As I noted. But in that segment you also wrote:

John Chrysostom said that each individual should read scripture and interpret it for himself.
This is clearly related to sola Scriptura since one of the components of that view is the ability of the individual to self-interpret without any necessary aid of Church or Tradition (also closely-related are the concepts of self-authentication of Scripture and the perspicuity, or clearness of Scripture). Thus, it is relevant to discuss his views in this regard, and I have refuted your presentation and demonstrated that John Chrysostom rejected sola Scriptura.

Similarly, Dave's comments about how Martin Luther viewed the book of Revelation and its canonicity were irrelevant to what I was arguing. (Dave knows that I don't agree with Martin Luther's view of the canon, since I explained my view of the canon at length in our previous discussions about development of doctrine.)

It was an analogy. I don't care whether you agreed with every jot and tittle it or not. That's irrelevant. Analogies are part of rational argument and don't always necessarily imply that one's opponent agrees with all the particulars in it.

We have to sift through a lot of dross in Dave's posts before we find material that's of much significance. There are misrepresentations and irrelevancies throughout Dave's posts, such as passages from John Chrysostom and Hippolytus in which they refer to the fact that some of the apostles' teachings were unwritten . . .

I don't deny that the oral teaching of the apostles was as authoritative as their written teaching. I don't know of any Protestant who says that he knows of an oral teaching of the apostles not recorded in scripture, but rejects it, since it's unwritten. Rather, the usual Protestant argument I've seen, and the position I hold, is that scripture is the only apostolic teaching extant today.

But this has no bearing on whether a Father rejected the principle of sola Scriptura or not.

. . . . What does it tell us about Dave Armstrong's apologetics when he argues this way, and does so with such frequency?

What does this tell us about your frequent inability to understand what I am arguing, since you are so soaked and immersed in your Protestant outlook that you can scarcely comprehend mine, as shown in the constant (rather aggravating) reiteration I must make for you to even grasp my argument, before you start disagreeing with it and giving your reasons why.

I, on the other hand, having been a fervent evangelical Protestant for 13 years (even longer than I have been a Catholic, which is 12 years), and cult-researcher and campus evangelist during that time, understand very well how Protestants think, since I used to think in the same way, and held and defended many of the exact same positions that you currently hold (though I was never anti-Catholic). So -- all other things being equal -- it is more likely on this score that you will misunderstand my reasoning and argumentation than vice versa.

In light of Dave's misrepresentations and the misunderstandings of so many Roman Catholics, I want to further clarify my view of the church fathers and sola scriptura. It has been my position, and I say so in my series, that the fathers were inconsistent. They were fallible. A father would sometimes not be consistent not only with the beliefs of other fathers, but also with his own writings. 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.

I understand all this. Nevertheless, you described the views of the 13 I found in your index as "sola Scriptura." I have added Basil to the list now, because you claim that he advocated sola Scriptura also (since you classified him under "tradition" in the index I missed that). Subsequently, under pressure, you have stated that sola Scriptura was held consistently by Dionysius of Alexandria and Theonas (an obscure Alexandrian bishop who has one letter published in the 38-volume collection of the Fathers -- which states that very little is known about him). This makes for the perfect source for your purpose: he mentions nothing about either Church or Tradition in the epistle, and no other work of his is readily available. So you can pretend that it is certain that he held to sola Scriptura, when the proof of that is inadequate. Maybe he did, for all we know. But what you provide is no proof at all.

I give some examples of such inconsistency among the fathers, on a variety of subjects, in the series.

I'm not dealing with "a variety of subjects," but with alleged espousal of sola Scriptura only. I'm not trying to refute your whole series, but only one small part of it. You have enough errors, falsehoods, and fallacies in this one section to keep me busy for weeks on end, refuting all of them. I would be typing till the Second Coming if I tried to refute all your hundreds of errors and almost incessant logical shortcomings.

With regard to scripture and tradition, many of the segments in my series address the large variety of definitions of tradition that existed among the fathers,

That has no effect whatsoever on my argument, as explained above in excruciating detail.

as well as passages in which they contradict sola scriptura. 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.

I understand that. I am attempting to show that they did not hold it at all, and that you have not yet proven that anyone does hold it, even if only temporarily or inconsistently.

Thus, while the broader context of a father's writings is significant, and should be taken into account, the text itself and the more immediate context are of more significance. In other words, if the text and context of document A suggest that a passage in that document is referring to sola scriptura, we can't assume that a reference to tradition in document B proves that document A couldn't have been referring to sola scriptura.

It can if it clarifies necessary elements in the determination which are not mentioned in document A. You are quick to conclude that Fathers were logical pretzels and massively inconsistent. I am much more likely to conclude that you are the one with the logical difficulties, not these brilliant men (though they made mistakes like everyone else). I prefer to err on the side of caution and the side of the Fathers, if explicit information is not to be had.

The possibility of contradiction can't be ignored. We should seek harmonization where it's plausible, but I believe that Dave has sometimes used document B as an excuse to ignore document A, not to harmonize it.

You can believe what you will. The burden remains on you to refute my counter-replies. If you don't want to, on muddleheaded, oft-repeated grounds that I didn't deal with the subject at hand, fine. Others will see clearly what and how I was arguing, and that is what I hope to achieve. I don't have any illusions about persuading you of anything. But thanks to the Internet, others can read both sides and make up their own mind who is (at worst) special pleading and straining at gnats, or (at best) vigorously arguing for a lost cause and an erroneous position, and who is presenting a cogent, coherent, plausible case for their viewpoint.

[ . . . ]

We would expect there to be differences and discussions and developments of the concept of tradition and authority just as there were with everything else. This is the endeavor of theology and the working-out of the Christian life and teaching.

Even when a father refers to oral traditions of the apostles, we have to examine the nature of those traditions. Are they referring to doctrines, such as the Assumption of Mary and Purgatory? Or are they referring to practices like facing the East in prayer and fasting before baptism? The significance of a father's reference to oral apostolic tradition will vary depending on the nature of that tradition.

As explained, holding to various notions of tradition doesn't affect my argument, because it hinges upon the Father placing Tradition in an authoritative position that Protestants (following the model of Luther at the Diet of Worms) reject.

There were a lot of different views of authority among the church fathers, including many different and contradictory definitions of tradition. This variety of views is understandable, given the historical context. I think it unwise, then, to act as if document A can't be referring to sola scriptura because of a reference to oral apostolic tradition in document B.

Your task is to produce positive statements of sola Scriptura which are such that another document isn't even needed for clarification purposes. This you have not done, and I say that you can't do it. If you do do it and prove me wrong, I'll be the first to congratulate you, rejoice at your success, and concede the point for that Father. Neither has anyone done this from Scripture itself (at least in my long experience in dialogues -- this being the topic I have discussed more than anything else).

All you can find in the Bible are statements of material sufficiency and inspiration of Scripture. But you can't prove sola Scriptura and formal sufficiency of Scripture because the Bible speaks too much about the authoritative Church and apostolic tradition (as I have also shown).

If the text and immediate context of document A cannot plausibly be interpreted as anything other than sola scriptura, as I believe is sometimes the case, document B can't change what document A says. Assuming that document B is contradicting sola scriptura, we have to conclude that the church father in question was inconsistent.

Or we could conclude that he didn't hold to sola Scriptura at all, as the reputable Protestant Church historians I cite believe. I accept their word as experts, and have not yet seen anything to contradict their appraisal. If you think you can come up with something that isn't an argument from silence or special pleading or begging the question, by all means, produce it. We all wait with baited breath.

Dave's approach has repeatedly been to ignore or misrepresent the text and immediate context of document A while interpreting that document in light of the broader context of document B.

I'm happy to let readers judge whether I have done that or not.

Sometimes the two documents may be consistent, but you don't prove it by taking Dave's approach. You have to be able to explain the text and immediate context of document A, which Dave has repeatedly failed to do. Simply referring to the concept of the material sufficiency of scripture doesn't explain these passages.

Each argument has to be considered on its own. I see little purpose in these grand cynical generalizations.

[ . . . ]

What Catholics think about material sufficiency isn't even relevant to our topic. Your goal (in counter-responding to my paper) is to prove that these Fathers held to sola Scriptura. I understand that you love to shoot down the Catholic Church at every turn. I'm simply trying to get beyond the divisive rhetoric and polemics and learn about these Fathers and their teachings on the Rule of Faith. We can keep doing mutual monologue if you like. I would hope that we could attain to dialogue once in a while, since I have agreed with your definition of sola Scriptura, and all we need to do now is give our reasons why we think Fathers, A, B, and C accepted or rejected it. Simple enough, one would think . . . .

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

IV. Dionysius of Alexandria

Dave G. Armstrong
Mon Jul-28-03 10:58 PM
#92, "Dionysius of Alexandria"

I cited the following from Dionysius of Alexandria:

Nor did we evade objections, but we endeavored as far as possible to hold to and confirm the things which lay before us, and if the reason given satisfied us, we were not ashamed to change our opinions and agree with others; but on the contrary, conscientiously and sincerely, and with hearts laid open before God, we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

(cited in Eusebius' Church History, 7:24)

If he meant to refer to scripture and an infallible interpretation of it from the church, why would he only mention scripture?

For the same reason that the Apostle Paul only mentions tradition in several passages, and not Scripture (e.g., 1 Cor 11:2, 1 Thess 2:13, 2 Thess 3:6, 1 Tim 3:15, 2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2). Does that mean that he doesn't accept Scripture as an authority? By the same token, mere mention of Scripture without tradition or the Church does not entail a conclusion that a writer rejects those necessary elements. How many times must I say this?

The dispute in question was over eschatology. If the dispute was settled by means of an infallible church's interpretation of scripture, would Dave tell us what infallible pronouncements on eschatology existed at this time in church history, namely the middle of the third century? Dionysius thought scripture itself sufficient for "accepting" beliefs that were "established" by it.

It is materially sufficient.

He says nothing of a Roman Catholic magisterium interpreting scripture for us, nor does he even say that the dispute was settled by means of consulting fallible oral traditions.

Just as St. Paul often does not mention Scripture in one place or tradition in another. Who cares? It is a non-issue.

[passed over off-topic comments about the precise content of the tradition]

Dave quotes Dionysius of Alexandria saying that he doesn't understand some parts of the book of Revelation. But how does that refute what I argued with regard to his view of sola scriptura?

Dionysius wrote: "we accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures." But if he himself cannot understand Revelation, then he needs an interpreter. True, he doesn't say that this is authoritative Church interpretation or Tradition (as opposed to a good trained exegete or theologian), but that conclusion is as likely and plausible as your conclusion that he rejects Church and Tradition in the Catholic sense simply because he doesn't mention them in one passage. This was my weakest case because not much material was available. In any event, your prooftext is not sufficient to prove that he held to sola Scriptura.

There are many parts of Revelation that I don't understand. The sufficiency and the perspicuity of scripture are related, but different, issues. You don't have to believe that every part of scripture is fully comprehended in order to believe in sola scriptura. John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and many other Protestant leaders through the centuries have acknowledged that there are passages of scripture they don't fully comprehend, and that some parts of scripture are clearer than others.

I agree. This is also the Catholic view: that Scripture is largely clear, but not always.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Tue Jul-29-03 03:07 PM
#103, "RE: Dionysius of Alexandria"

Regarding the passages you cited from Paul, why should we expect him to mention scripture in a passage like 2 Thessalonians 3:6?

Indeed. Now you're starting to get it. It is only necessary to mention everything to do with authority every time one discusses it in your mentality, whereby absence of reference to tradition and/or the Church and/or apostolic succession and a mention of Scripture in one passage proves (almost conclusively, so you would have us believe) that the writer does not hold to any non-scriptural authority.

The whole point of the Pauline passages was to show that Paul certainly accepts the authority of Scripture, yet he often writes about tradition without mentioning it. Likewise, Fathers can write about Scripture in one place and this doesn't prove that they do not hold to notions of tradition inconsistent with sola Scriptura, simply because they don't mention it every time (as if that is necessary).

The term "tradition" would include all teachings, whether written or unwritten. I see no reason to
conclude that scripture isn't included in the passage.

Very good. And I see no reason to conclude that tradition isn't included in your passages supposedly proving espousal of sola Scriptura, since, according to J.N.D. Kelly, the Fathers viewed the "content" of Scripture and the apostolic testimony (or tradition) as "virtually coincident" and "complementary authorities, media different in form but coincident in content." Protestant historian Heiko Oberman speaks of "the early Church principle of the coinherence of Scripture and Tradition." Etc., etc.

And there's no reason to expect Paul to be exhaustive in a passage like 1 Corinthians 11:2 or 1 Thessalonians 2:13, where he's referring to how the word of God historically came to these
groups of Christians.

I agree. That's not a problem in my positon; only for your inconsistent application of your own peculiar brand of "logic."

Dionysius, on the other hand, is discussing how a doctrinal dispute was settled. We wouldn't
expect him to only mention scripture if the dispute was settled by having an oral tradition or an infallible magisterium interpret scripture for them. The context of Paul's comments and the context of Dionysius' comments are different, so your comparison is absurd.

What is absurd is your reasoning here and seeming inability to understand the logical force of analogical arguments. My position is that the early Church held to a Rule of Faith quite unlike the later Protestant sola Scriptura position and essentially the same as the Catholic rule of Faith today (as explained now countless times). This is established from abundant testimony and opinions of the expert (non-Catholic) historians in the field. Thus, a Father does not have to mention tradition every time he mentions Scripture (or vice versa) precisely because all of this is assumed to work together. One doesn't often mention what is an axiom or premise.

So Dionysius doesn't have to (i.e., it is not absolutely necessary for him to) talk about tradition in order to be perceived as accepting its authority. Likewise (here was where my analogy came in), the Apostle Paul doesn't have to talk about Scripture every time he mentions tradition (as you agree). You accept that state of affairs for Paul but not for the Fathers. This is your inconsistency.

And to illustrate your inconsistency further, we shall make further biblical analogy, following up on your present immediate argument. You write:

We wouldn't expect him to only mention scripture if the dispute was settled by having an oral tradition or an infallible magisterium interpret scripture for them.
Yet in a doctrinal dispute recorded in Holy Scripture itself, we find assembled bishops (James is considered by historians to have been the bishop of Jerusalem) and "apostles and elders," in Jerusalem, in council (Acts 15:6), settling disputes, without mentioning Scripture. It is true that James does quote the Old Testament concerning the Gentiles coming into the fold of God's People (15:16-18) and hence indirectly, with regard to the question of circumcision, but the main decision of the council (often called an "apostolic decree") was given without any biblical rationale whatever:
. . . it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity . . .

(15:29; cf. 15:20 -- RSV)

Prior to the decision, Peter had also spoken about the Gentiles, but gave no Scriptural support (15:7-11). Obviously, then, this authoritative council (including Paul, Peter, and James) was radically unbiblical (excepting one mention of the Gentiles' spiritual destiny, too broad to determine the specific questions at hand). When the time came to make its decision, the Bible wasn't mentioned.

So, let's paraphrase your words in order to illustrate the force of the analogy, and to turn your "logic" back onto you:

. . . the Jerusalem Council (including Paul, Peter, and James), on the other hand, is discussing how a doctrinal dispute was settled. We wouldn't expect it to not mention scripture if the dispute was settled by having an oral tradition or an infallible magisterium interpret scripture.
Yet this is precisely what happened. There are plenty of passages about circumcision in the OT, but none of them were mentioned (at least not in the record we have of the proceedings). The council was precisely an "infallible magisterium." It made a binding decision. "Binding and loosing" are biblical concepts as well, which had to do with the authority of ecclesiastical leaders (see: Mt 16:19, 18:17-18, Jn 20:23).

We see, e.g., Peter offering a fully authoritative interpretation of Scripture, a doctrinal decision and a disciplinary decree concerning members of the "House of Israel" (Acts 2:36) in his sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). He does cite Scripture there, but of course this is no problem for my position, because I am taking the view that Scripture and Tradition don't always have to be mentioned in every instance in order to be believed in, in the Catholic sense of binding authority, as (to borrow Kelly's phrase) "complementary authorities, media different in form but coincident in content."

I dealt with your present mindset in this discussion, in my first book, citing a similar passage from St. Paul:

Ephesians 4:11-15 And his gifts were that some should be apostle, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are able to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
If the Greek artios (RSV, complete / KJV, perfect) proves the sole sufficiency of Scripture in 2 Timothy, then teleios (RSV, mature manhood / KJV, perfect) in Ephesians would likewise prove the sufficiency of pastors, teachers and so forth for the attainment of Christian perfection. Note that in Ephesians 4:11-15 the Christian believer is equipped, built up, brought into unity and mature manhood, knowledge of Jesus, the fulness of Christ, and even preserved from doctrinal confusion by means of the teaching function of the Church. This is a far stronger statement of the perfecting of the saints than 2 Timothy 3:16-17, yet it doesn't even mention Scripture.

Therefore, the Protestant interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves too much, since if all non-scriptural elements are excluded in 2 Timothy, then, by analogy, Scripture would logically have to be excluded in Ephesians. It is far more reasonable to synthesize the two passages in an inclusive, complementary fashion, by recognizing that the mere absence of one or more elements in one passage does not mean that they are nonexistent. Thus, the Church and Scripture are both equally necessary and important for teaching. This is precisely the Catholic view. Neither passage is intended in an exclusive sense.

(A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, Chapter One, pp. 10-11 in the 1stBooks Library edition of 2001 -- the manuscript was completed in 1996)

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

V. Theodoret

See Jason's entire reply on Theodoret at:

Dave G. Armstrong
Mon Jul-28-03 11:57 PM
#93, "Theodoret"

Regarding Theodoret, I cited the following:

I shall yield to scripture alone. (Dialogues, 1)
Note that Theodoret refers to "scripture alone", the same words used by Evangelicals, not "the scripture interpretations of the church". The most natural interpretation of Theodoret's words is that he's referring to sola scriptura, which means, after all, "scripture alone". The text of Theodoret favors my view.

If he didn't talk like a Catholic and not like a Protestant elsewhere, you might have a halfway decent case, but since he does, he shows that he accepts the Catholic Rule of Faith.

So does the immediate context. If you read what Theodoret was discussing with his opponent just before and just after the comment quoted above, you see that they're discussing scripture itself, not an infallible hierarchy's interpretation of scripture.

I do that all the time, and I am a good Catholic. I could refer you to dozens of my papers and dialogues where I argue by using "Scripture Alone" and never mention popes or councils. Imagine what you would conclude from my first (and now-published) book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (Sophia Institute Press, 2003), if you found fragments of it a thousand years from now and knew little or nothing about me. If I didn't say I was a Catholic in the book, you would have me pegged as a good evangelical because all I do is mention and cite Scripture over and over in the book. In fact, a comment I made in the Introduction is appropriate here:

The widespread existence of evangelical Protestant Commentaries and various Lexicons, Bible Dictionaries, Concordances and so forth, for the use of laypeople, is based on a presupposition that individuals without formal theological education can arrive at conclusions on their own. This is largely what I am attempting presently. The only difference is that I am willing to modify or relinquish any conclusions of mine which turn out to be contrary to the clear teachings and dogmas of the Catholic Church, whereas the quintessential Protestant ultimately can stand on his own (like Luther), "on the Bible," against, if need be, the whole Tradition of the Christian Church. I formulate my conclusions based on the work of Church Councils, great Catholic scholars, Fathers, Doctors, and saints, just as the conscientious Protestant would consult the scholars and great pastors and theologians of his own persuasion.
Theodoret's opponent, without objection from Theodoret, summarizes what Theodoret said as follows:
You shall receive no argument unconfirmed by Holy Scripture, and if you bring me any solution of the question deduced from Holy Scripture I will receive it, and will in no wise gainsay it. (Dialogues, 1)
Of course. The Fathers constantly used Scripture for prooftexts. But they also appealed to tradition if a heretic would not accept biblical arguments. This doesn't prove what you think it proves.

Note that we see, repeatedly, from Theodoret and from his opponent, references to scripture itself without any mention of an infallible interpreter. In the immediate context of what I've quoted, Theodoret quotes scripture itself to make his argument. In the immediate context, Theodoret and his opponent refer to "the words of the Holy Ghost", "the word of the evangelist", "the words both of apostles and of prophets", etc. Just after Theodoret refers to "scripture alone", he makes the following comment:

You know how a moment ago we made the word of the evangelist clear by means of the testimony of the apostle; and that the divine apostle showed us how the Word became Flesh, saying plainly 'for verily He took not on Him the nature of angels but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.' The same teacher will teach us how the divine Word was seen upon the earth and dwelt among men.
Theodoret tells us that the word of one Biblical author is made clear by the word of another Biblical author.

Well, of course. Do you think Catholics disagree with this? Believing that doesn't necessarily entail a sola Scriptura position.

There's no suggestion in the text or immediate context that Theodoret is referring to a Roman Catholic concept of material sufficiency. Both the text and the immediate context support my view, not Dave's.

Not at all, because you don't have enough information. But with the further quotes I provided, there is plenty of proof of how Theodoret regarded tradition as authoritative, especially in the following words:

I follow the laws and rules of the apostles. I test my teaching by applying to it, like a rule and a measure, the faith laid down by the holy and blessed Fathers at Nicaea.
Protestants are not required to do this. If they don't like something in Nicaea, they casually charge that it is "unbiblical" and reject it. Therefore, the council is not their "rule," but sola Scriptura and individualistic private judgment is. The individual is the final arbiter. But Theodoret doesn't speak in those terms because he does not espouse sola Scriptura, as far as I can see.

In the same document, we find many other similar comments from Theodoret:

You ought to have been persuaded by the apostolic and prophetic proofs; but since you require further the interpretations of the holy Fathers I will also furnish you, God helping me, this medicine.
This supports my position rather than yours, because he is saying that some people require further authoritative interpretations from Church officials. So Theodoret provided it. The guy didn't accept what he "ought" to have accepted. This is precisely the Catholic point: the Scripture is usually clear, but some will not accept it. This causes divisions; therefore, an authoritative standard of orthodoxy must exist to prevent doctrinal relativism and institutional division.

Why does Theodoret say that his opponent should have been satisfied with scripture if, in fact, he should have been unsatisfied with scripture, knowing that scripture must be read along with the interpretations of an infallible church hierarchy?

Because you don't understand how Catholic authority works, which is why you keep caricaturing it. The correct interpretation of how the authority works was just explained.

Similarly, Theodoret comments:

You stand in need of no interpretation from without. The evangelist himself interprets himself.
Oftentimes this is true. But not always. You said yourself that many parts of Scripture are not clear and that you (like Dionysius) do not understand the book of Revelation.

Theodoret, this time in Dialogue 2, continues:

I am not so rash as to say anything concerning which divine Scripture is silent.
After making this comment, Theodoret goes on to quote scripture itself . . .

Wonderful. A man after my own heart! I love Scripture. I quote it quite a bit too!

We find comments like the ones quoted above from Theodoret over and over again in his writings, not only in the Dialogues, but also in his letters and elsewhere.

And if you wander aound my website you'll see me cite Scripture constantly as well. I have cited it far more than you do in this very discussion, as a matter of fact. According to your stunted logic in this regard, I must adhere to sola Scriptura and you would adhere to some semblance of solo traditio, since you have cited hardly any Scripture.

Dave has quoted some other passages from the broader context of Theodoret to argue that he wouldn't have been referring to sola scriptura in the passage I originally cited. Yet, most of the passages Dave cites aren't even relevant.

Of course; a convenient way to ignore them, so you don't have to do any work.

(I'll be discussing one exception below.) Dave mentions that Theodoret believed in things like tradition and apostolic succession. I never argued otherwise. To the contrary, if Dave had consulted my other segments on Theodoret, he would have seen that not only do I not argue that Theodoret rejected such concepts, but I even document how his views on such subjects were different from or contrary to the Roman Catholic perspective. I cited some of the same passages Dave cited . ..

Do such comments prove that Theodoret was a Roman Catholic who rejected sola scriptura? No, and Roman Catholic apologists would realize the irrelevance of this passage from Theodoret if they paid more attention to details.

Do such comments as he makes about Scripture prove that he accepted sola Scriptura? No, and anti-Catholic apologists such as yourself would realize the irrelevance of your arguments from such passages from Theodoret if they paid more attention to context (historical and literary) and logic.

Theodoret refers to the scripture interpretations of people like Ignatius, Athanasius, and Basil. But, as I've documented in earlier segments of this series, those church fathers disagreed with some of the doctrines of Roman Catholicism.

So what? That doesn't prove that Theodoret is not accepting them as authorities as to the Christian tradition.

[ . . . ]

When Theodoret refers to the scripture interpretations of his predecessors and the teachings of Nicaea, he's referring to subordinate authorities, not the Roman Catholic concept of an unbiblical tradition that's just as authoritative as scripture.

You haven't proven that. But I cited a passage where he said that he made the Council of Nicaea his "rule." Luther didn't do that. He made his own judgment his rule. So did Calvin. He simply assumes he is right where he differs from the Catholic Church and proceeds blithely on.

Dave, if an Evangelical tells you that he follows the Apostles' Creed, and he tells you that he's keeping the faith of men such as Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, do you conclude that he rejects sola scriptura, since the Apostles' Creed and men such as Edwards and Spurgeon are not scripture?

No, since my own discussion list used to use acceptance of the Nicene Creed as the criteria of who was a Christian. That's beside the point. Keep assuming I am ignorant about how Protestants think. That will work in my favor.

Dave did cite a passage that can reasonably be interpreted as a contradiction of sola scriptura:

I follow the laws and rules of the apostles. I test my teaching by applying to it, like a rule and measure, the faith laid down by the holy and blessed Fathers at Nicaea. (Letter 90)
Dave might be correct. Theodoret may be contradicting sola scriptura in this passage. Or he could be saying that he follows Nicaea as an accurate reflection of Biblical teaching, much as the Reformed often evaluate each other's orthodoxy and their own orthodoxy by means of the Westminster Confession.

Excellent. I'm answering as I read, so the passage I picked out as my best is the one you think is the best. We actually agree on something . . . Following your logic, however, since he doesn't mention Scripture as his Rule of Faith here, we can assume that he doesn't incorporate Scripture in his faith at all. He only mentions the apostles and a council, so that proves he is "apostles-only" and "councils-only."

If Theodoret did contradict sola scriptura in some passages, though the passages Dave cited don't show it, I don't know how that would prove that Theodoret wasn't referring to sola scriptura in the passage I cited.

This is what I find somewhat humorous. Rather than giving a great Christian mind the benefit of the doubt, that he was self-consistent, you immediately judge him as inconsistent, so that you can continue to maintain that he accepted sola Scriptura in one place, while rejecting it in another. This belittles the Fathers and I find it condescending. It makes much more sense to try to incorporate both utterances into a harmonious whole if it is at all plausible to do so. My viewpoint does that.

Appealing to material sufficiency doesn't explain the passage I cited, and none of the passages Dave has cited prove that Theodoret held such a view. And if he was to prove that Theodoret believed in material sufficiency, I don't know how he would prove that it was Roman Catholic material sufficiency.

Back to that again. That is not my task. My goals in this dispute are not yours, which is precisely why I chose to narrow down the subject matter to sola Scriptura. All I'm trying to prove is that these Fathers did not accept sola Scriptura, and that your "proofs" claiming that they did are inadequate and inconclusive.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Tue Jul-29-03 03:52 PM
#104, "RE: Theodoret"

Theodoret and his opponent refer to scripture itself just before and just after Theodoret
says that he'll yield to scripture alone. If "scripture alone" means "scripture and the interpretations of the church", why do Theodoret and his opponent repeatedly refer to the text of scripture itself and say that the text itself is sufficient? That's not material sufficiency. That's formal sufficiency.

He refers to it in the sense that Vincent of Lerins referred to it:

. . . 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. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

(Commonitory 2:5).

Theodoret doesn't refer to Nicaea itself as the rule. He refers to the faith laid down at Nicaea as the rule. That could be a reference to the authority of Nicaea itself, or it could be a reference to the authority of the faith, regardless of whether that faith is expressed at Nicaea, in an
individual church father, or in some other source.

Secondly, Theodoret doesn't say that he has to follow this rule. That could be what he means, but that isn't what he says. He could mean no more than what the Reformed mean when they examine themselves and examine other people by the standard of the Westminster Confession.

He "could," but does he? That is your task. If all you can do is play with words and speculate, rather than assert from definite statements, then this shows (again) how very weak your case is. The fact remains that you can't produce definite proofs. No Father talks like, e.g., the well-known 19th-century Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge:

5. Perspicuity of the Scriptures. The Right of Private Judgment

The Bible is a plain book. It is intelligible by the people. And they have the right and are bound to read and interpret it for themselves, so that their faith may rest on the testimony of the Scriptures and not on that of the Church. Such is the doctrine of Protestants on this subject.

It is not denied that the Scriptures contain many things hard to understand, that they require diligent study, that all men need the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to come to right knowledge and true faith. But it is maintained that in all things necessary to salvation they are sufficiently plain to be understood even by the unlearned . . .

If the Scriptures be a plain book, and the Spirit performs the function of a teacher to all the children of God, it follows inevitably that they must agree in all essential matters in their interpretation of the Bible. And from that fact it follows that for an individual Christian to dissent from the faith of the universal Church (i.e., the body of true believers) is tantamount to dissenting from the Scriptures themselves.

What Protestants deny on this subject is that Christ has appointed any officer, or class of officers, in His Church to whose interpretations of the Scriptures the people are bound to submit as of final authority. What they affirm is that He has made it obligatory upon every man to search the Scriptures for himself and determine on his own discretion what they require him to believe and to do . . .

The most obvious reasons in support of the right of private judgment are:

(1) The obligations to faith and obedience are personal. Every man is responsible for his religious faith and moral conduct. He cannot transfer that responsibility to others, nor can others assume it in his stead. He must answer for himself; and if he must answer for himself, he must judge for himself . . .

(2) The Scriptures are everywhere addressed to the people and not to the officers of the Church either exclusively or specially . . . To forbid the people to read and interpret the Scriptures for themselves is, therefore, not only to deprive the people of a divine right, but to interpose between them and God, and to prevent their hearing His voice, that they may listen to the words of men.

(3) [cites John 5:39, 2 Tim 3:15, Gal 1:8-9, and Deut 13:1-3] . . . This again assumes that the people had the ability and the right to judge, and that they had an infallible rule of judgment. It implies, moreover, that their salvation depended on their judging rightly . . .

(4) It need hardly be remarked that this right of private judgment is the great safeguard of civil and religious liberty . . . [break in original]

6. Rules of Interpretation

If every man has the right and is bound to read the Scriptures and to judge for himself what they teach, he must have certain rules to guide him in the exercise of this privilege and duty. These rules are not arbitrary. They are not imposed by human authority. They have no binding force which does not flow from their own intrinsic truth and propriety. They are few and simple . . . .

[his rules are: a) plain historical sense; b) self-consistency and Scripture interprets Scripture; c) guidance by the Holy Spirit and necessity of being "spiritually minded" to properly interpret]

The fact that all the true people of God in every age and in every part of the Church, in the exercise of their private judgment, in accordance with the simple rules stated above, agree as to the meaning of Scripture in all things necessary either in faith or in practice, is a decisive proof of the perspicuity of the Bible and of the safety of allowing the people the enjoyment of the divine right of private judgment.

. . . the right of private judgment. This, as understood by the Reformers, is the right of every man to decide what a revelation made by God to him requires him to believe. It was a protest against the authority assumed by the Church (i.e., the bishops) of deciding for the people what they were to believe. It was very natural that the fanatical, in rejecting the authority of the Church, should reject all external authority in matters of religion. They understood by the right of private judgment the right of every man to determine what he should believe from the operations of his own mind and from his own inward experience, independently of the Scriptures .

(Systematic Theology, abridged edition; edited by Edward N. Gross, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988 -- originally 1872 --, 92-95, 66)

No Father thinks or talks like this. This is the Protestant position. If you think otherwise, then prove it. You have not yet. Not by a mile . . .
Therefore, the council is not their 'rule,' but sola Scriptura and individualistic private judgment is. The individual is the final arbiter.
This is another example of how you don't understand even some of the most basic issues under discussion. If Protestants make themselves "the final arbiter" by interpreting scripture for
themselves, then it logically follows that you make yourself "the final arbiter" by interpreting Nicaea and other church documents for yourself. What you're doing is comparing the
Roman Catholic rule of faith (Nicaea, etc.) to the Protestant method of interpreting their rule of faith (personal judgment). That's a false comparison. It's a fundamental logical error.

Then Hodge is guilty of it as well, since he speaks of the layman's "infallible rule of judgment" and writes:

. . . the right of private judgment. This, as understood by the Reformers, is the right of every man to decide what a revelation made by God to him requires him to believe. It was a protest against the authority assumed by the Church (i.e., the bishops) of deciding for the people what they were to believe.
So you are again out of touch with the best exponents of your own system. First you dissent from the best Protestant historians; now you want to differ on basic definitions of sola Scriptura and their implications, with well-respected theologians. Yet you keep charging that I don't understand the basic issues.

No Roman Catholic can say that, since you must consult church teaching as well. You can't accept anything from the Biblical text, no matter how clear it seems to you, unless you know it's acceptable to the church.

This is a caricature of Catholic teaching, as I have stated three or four times already. Rather than deal with yet another of your falsehoods, I'll simply refer readers to a relevant paper: The Freedom of the Catholic Biblical Exegete.

See my earlier citations from the First and Second Vatican Councils regarding the necessity of following the church's interpretation of scripture. Scripture alone is never sufficient in Roman Catholicism.

Nor is it in any Christian tradition, as I noted in my above-cited paper. So, for example, if I read Scripture and conclude that a believer can fall away, and am a member of a Reformed church, and I inform them of this, I will be deemed a heretic and booted out, and I'll be told that I don't know how to interpret Scripture. If I do the same in a Baptist church and conclude from scripture that infants ought to be baptized, they won't take kindly to that and will claim that I don't know how to read the Bible. If I am a LCMS Lutheran and decide (based on the Bible) that baptismal regeneration is false or that the Eucharist is merely symbolic, I'll soon be an outcast in that community and it'll be said that I don't know how to read the Bible, etc. Yet if the Catholic Church dares to say that certain doctrines are true and others false, and to then (quite reasonably) disallow certain biblical interpretations as heterodox, this is a monstrous and terrible thing.

I used to be told in the Assemblies of God church that I attended, that we should correct our pastors from the Bible if we felt they were wrong. Our pastor was fond of passionately crying out during sermons, "keep your pastors honest." So I followed his advice. Result? I was virtually excommunicated and denounced from the pulpit in paranoid, hysterical, thinly-veiled sermons.

I didn't say that Theodoret was inconsistent. You haven't given any examples of him contradicting sola scriptura. What I said is that if he contradicted sola scriptura in one place, that wouldn't necessarily prove that he didn't ever advocate it.

Is he #3 on your illustrious list of quasi-Protestant Fathers? Is this the official pronouncment? Don't keep us in suspense!

You've argued that when Theodoret refers to "scripture alone", he means "scripture and the interpretations of the church". But the text doesn't support your argument. "Scripture alone"
doesn't mean "scripture and church teaching". The context doesn't support your argument either. Theodoret repeatedly appeals to the text of scripture itself, and he repeatedly says that the text itself is sufficient. That's formal sufficiency, not material sufficiency.

I appeal back to my earlier arguments.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Meanwhile, on the CARM Catholic board, the usual potshots were taken. One "Centurion," made his opinion known about my arguments and responses, regarding Theodoret, while also publicly complaining that I have chosen to not reply to his posts, for several reasons (I think one can see why):

centuri0n
Wed Jul-30-03 06:56 AM
#68473, "He's busy"

He can't possibly keep tapdancing over in D-4 and still have time to answer the actual body of Theodoret's work.

I really don't care; he's welcome to ignore me. Failure to answer is not a fair charge because we all get busy. The people to whom those citations actually matter -- that is, Catholics who are actually trying to get their questions answered -- are getting an eyeful.

I wonder if they will be willing to hear the actual Gospel if they decide that Rome and its advocates have to abuse the truth to answer simple questions?

(CARM Catholic Board)

VI. Hippolytus

Dave G. Armstrong
Tue Jul-29-03 08:37 PM
#107, "Hippolytus"

In response to my comments on Hippolytus, Dave suggested that I think scripture is "clear in all respects". That is not my position. Rather, I think some parts of scripture are clear, while others aren't.

So do Catholics.

Different passages are clear to differing degrees. I don't think scripture is as unclear as Roman Catholics often suggest,

I don't think Catholics view Scripture as unclear as you think they do.

nor do I think the RCC has been appointed by God as an infallible interpreter of scripture.

No. according to Charles Hodge, that is the individual, so best wishes in your hermeneutics.

If Dave wants to argue that Trinitarian doctrine is clear in scripture, without any infallible interpreter, then he can do so.

I think it is, yet the historical fact is that many heresies then and now thought the Bible was clearly non-trinitarian. And this is the point: the Church was needed to make trinitarianism binding Christian doctrine, and to prevent further disunity.

But other Catholics don't take that position. I gave some examples, in my series, of Roman Catholics denying the perspicuity of scripture on this issue, namely Robert Sungenis and Phil Porvaznik.

How exactly they do that is often misunderstood. I dealt with this question at length in my recent paper: "The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers (Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity)". In that paper, Catholic apologist (and friend) Gary Hoge was cited as a person who thought the Scripture was too unclear to prove the Trinity. Statements were made about him and some past words of his were cited; I wrote to him and asked him to clarify his position. Sure enough it was essentially the same as mine, and his critic graciously withdrew his charge.

Regarding Hippolytus' view of scripture, he doesn't refer merely to the material sufficiency of scripture in the passage I cited. He refers to how "the Scriptures themselves confute their senselessness". How can "the Scriptures themselves" mean "the Scripture interpretations of the church"?

This is not inconsistent with material sufficiency at all. If all Christian doctrines are in Scripture, then those doctrines can be demonstrated there without a necessary aid of Church and Tradition at every turn. This is merely more of your warped logic; reading into texts things that simply aren't there. You don't have enough information to make your conclusion, as so often in this frustrating discussion and mutual monologue that we are engaging in (since you refuse to engage so many of my points).

Hippolytus says to the heretic, "let him quote the passage as a whole, and he will discover the reason kept in view in writing it". Again, if Hippolytus is appealing to a church interpretation of scripture, why does he mention quoting the passage of scripture itself as a whole?

Because lousy exegesis can be refuted for what it is without referring to Tradition. In this instance, the opponent was doing exactly what you habitually do: quoting texts with insufficient consideration of context and overall thought of the writer (and historical milieu as well). Your rhetorical question, is, therefore, a non sequitur.

Again, he speaks of the heretics, "if they choose to maintain that their dogma is ratified by this passage , as if He owned Himself to be the Father, let them know that it is decidedly against them, and that they are confuted by this very word".

Indeed they are.

How are they confuted? By the scripture interpretations of the church? No, but by "this very word", referring to scripture itself.

Scripture can refute heretics on its own, of course. I was refuting Jehovah's Witnesses from Scripture 20 years ago, but they kept right on believing as they do. Why? Because they have abominable hermeneutics and accept a false tradition of men (Arianism).

How do you get "Scripture and an infallible interpreter" from "Holy Scriptures, and from no other source"?

Because elsewhere he writes: "if all who hear the apostolic tradition follow and keep it, no heretic will be able to introduce error, nor will any other person at all." This is not sola Scriptura, because tradition is not that authoritative in that view. Patristics scholar Johannes Quasten (author of a large, four-volume series called Patrology) wrote about Hipploytus' outlook:

Throughout his refutation of heresy, he purposes to prove the Church the bearer of truth and the apostolic succession of the bishops the guarantee of her teaching.
I agree with his scholarly judgment, not your amateur, polemical judgment. But you have shown that opinions of learned scholars will not sway you in the least when you are determined to believe something, come what may.

Dave can't justify material sufficiency with the text or immediate context of the passage I cited from Hippolytus,

I can easily do so, and did. What is impossible to do from that text alone, and from that text combined with the ones I set forth, is to arrive at the position of formal sufficiency of Scripture as a Rule of Faith.

so he appeals to other documents. He cites The Apostolic Tradition. But Dave doesn't tell us what traditions Hippolytus is referring to in that document. Hippolytus is referring to practices such as the procedures in ordaining church leaders (2, 7-9), what should be said when blessing oil that's offered (5), what should be said when people offer cheese and olives (6), how to appoint widows in the church (10), how to appoint readers (11), how to appoint virgins (12), keeping the demon-possessed from being taught the word of God (15), the procedures for giving the kiss of peace and women wearing veils (18), how to sing (25), etc. Dave, how often do you offer cheese and olives in your local Roman Catholic church? What are the procedures in your local Roman Catholic church for giving the kiss of peace and veiling women? Hippolytus gives us this command about how the bishop of the church is to bless food:

"These are the fruits which he shall bless: the grape, fig, pomegranate, olive, pear, apple, blackberry, peach, cherry, almond, and plum. But not the pumpkin, melon, cucumber, onion, garlic, or any other vegetable." (32)

Dave, is your local Roman Catholic bishop careful to bless figs, but not cucumbers?

He would be in a pickle if he did that, huh Jason? That this is relevant is a figment of your imagination. Nice try. This is great sophistry but terrible argumentation, because you have butchered immediate context again. I cited chapters 1 and 43, neither of which made it onto your laundry list. Chapter 1 is a very general statement, having nothing to do with figs or women wearing veils (you would have a field day with St. Paul's injunction to women, to be silent in Church). Or is it your view that Hippolytus in that section is talking about almonds and garlic, when he writes:

those who are well informed may keep the tradition which has lasted until now, according to the explanation we give of it, and so that others by taking note of it may be strengthened (against the fall or error which has recently occurred because of ignorance and ignorant people), with the Holy Spirit conferring perfect grace on those who have a correct faith, . . .
Do you really wish to argue that Hippolytus was thinking of melons and pumpkins in the context of writing about heresies and "correct faith"? You may be capable of that (from what I've seen of your literary interpretation, nothing much would surprise me anymore), but I don't think so.
Likewise, chapter 43 is a general statement:
For if all who hear the apostolic tradition follow and keep it, no heretic will be able to introduce error, nor will any other person at all. It is in this manner that the many heresies have grown, for those who were leaders did not wish to inform themselves of the opinion of the apostles, but did what they wanted according to their own pleasure, . . .
Heresies grew because the bishops blessed the wrong fruit? Naw; I doubt it, Jason. So sure, have fun with this if you have nothing better to do, or better to offer. I can also cite founders of Protestantism saying and believing ridiculous and idiotic things like:
People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon . . . This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy, but sacred Scripture tells us (Joshua l0:l3) that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.

(Martin Luther on the Catholic canonist and main proponent of heliocentrism, Nicholas Copernicus; from Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, New York: Vintage Books, 1959, 191 / Luther quote from Table Talk, edition of William Hazlitt, London, 1884, 69 [June 4, 1539] )

Melanchthon changed the date of Luther's birth to give him a more propitious horoscope, and begged him not to travel under a new moon.

(Will Durant, The Reformation, volume 6 of 10, of The Story of Civilization, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957, 851)

Calvin answered Copernicus with a line from Psalm 93:1: 'The world also is stabilized, that it cannot be moved' -- and asked, 'who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?'

(Ibid., 858)

There is plenty of folly to go around. At least Hippolytus died around the year 236. Luther, Calvin, and Melanchthon lived 1300 years later. One might retort that this was early in the history of heliocentrism and that the Catholic Church, too, had its notorious incident with Galileo in the early 17th century. Yet later figures such as the prominent Calvinist thinker Francis Turretin ((1623-1687) and the Puritan John Owen (1616-1683) held to geocentrism. Even as late as 1873 a book published under the auspices of the Lutheran Church Missouri synod opted for geocentrism (the view that the sun goes around the earth and that the earth doesn't even rotate).

The point is that bringing up silly things like this (though good for a momentary chuckle) does not advance the discussion, and besides, Hippolytus could easily be wrong on particulars without being wrong about the important, serious theological aspects of the tradition. In any event, he accepts tradition (however he defines it) as authoritative in a way that no Protestant does. And that is our present issue, not whether he was correct about every jot and tittle of what he thought tradition was. I have already dealt with the reasons why differences in conceptions of tradition do not affect my particular argument in the least.

Hippolytus continues:

The faithful shall be careful to partake of the eucharist before eating anything else. For if they eat with faith, even though some deadly poison is given to them, after this it will not be able to harm them." (36)
Does Dave agree? Can Roman Catholics safely ingest poison after participating in the eucharist?

I don't, but at least this is (in all likelihood) based on something in Scripture (Mk 16:17-18 -- though it is now textually questionable as authentic Scripture; cf. Acts 28:3-6). What is the excuse of Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, Turretin, and Owen, with regard to their espousal of astrology and/or geocentrism?

Your other examples are of the same nature, and do not decide this issue in your favor. All they show is that Hippolytus held some erroneous views, which is what Catholics have believed all along: Fathers are not individually infallible.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

VII. Cyril of Jerusalem

See Jason's entire counter-reply:

Dave G. Armstrong
Tue Jul-29-03 11:50 PM
#108, "Cyril of Jerusalem"

Once again, we have to ask why Dave thinks such a passage can be explained by the concept of material sufficiency. Cyril says nothing of an infallible interpreter of scripture.

And once again, you are confused about the definition of material sufficiency, which has nothing to do with an infallible interpreter. The two concepts are distinct. All material sufficiency means is that all Christian doctrines are contained in Scripture in some form or other.

Though Cyril was a bishop, he tells his audience not to uncritically believe what he says about scripture, but rather to consult scripture itself.

I should hope so, or he would be a lousy bishop, if he tried to disconnect his thought and instruction from Holy Scripture.

What would Pope Pius XII have thought if we had told him that we see no evidence of an assumption of Mary in scripture?

What would you think if I told you that I see no evidence that you have stuck to the subject, once again? What would you think if I told you that I see no evidence of sola Scriptura in Scripture?

Would he have spoken as Cyril of Jerusalem?

In some ways, yes, in others, no, since he lived fifteen-and-a-half centuries later.

No, he probably would have said something like:

I accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers. (First Vatican Council, 2:3)
Again, I find it most remarkable that you are surprised that some development would take place in 1500 years' time.
But the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. (Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation", 2:10)
Pretty much as the Fathers taught, as shown . . .

If Dave wants to appeal to an unproven and unproveable process of doctrinal development to explain Cyril's disagreements with Roman Catholicism, Protestants could do the same regarding Cyril's disagreements with them.

Feel free. You have never understood development of doctrine properly, so that would be fascinating to see you write about.

Remember, Cyril cites tradition in support of his canon of scripture:

Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New....Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. (Catechetical Lectures, 4:33, 4:35)
Cyril tells us that he got his canon from the church, the bishops of the past, and tradition. Clearly, the church and the tradition Cyril is referring to aren't the Roman Catholic Church and Roman Catholic tradition.

There were many disagreements as to the canon of Scripture. That doesn't help your case any, since it is Protestants who think that Scripture is self-authenticating, and thus have to explain why no one till Athanasius in the first half of the 4th century figured out all the NT books.

Before I proceed with regard to Cyril's view of the sufficiency of scripture, I want to note something Dave said about the canon of scripture:

But Cyril, who died in 386 (only eleven years before the canon was finalized by the Church), did not believe that Revelation was part of the New Testament.
What happened in 397? A regional council was held in Africa. That council wasn't infallible by Roman Catholic standards.

It was later approved by the pope. The canon is off the subject, so I will desist from responding to that 153rd rabbit trail of yours, especially since you chose not to respond to our last exchange on that very topic (and so did Dr. Eric Svendsen, whose theories on the OT canon were subject to a severe critique also (with the help of such reputable scholars as F.F. Bruce). See: "Further Dialogue With an Evangelical Protestant on Various Aspects of Development of Doctrine (Particularly Concerning the Canon of Scripture)". The issue of Carthage and the canon was thoroughly dealt with there. I will simply cite Philip Schaff from that paper:

This canon remained undisturbed till the sixteenth century, and was sanctioned by the council of Trent at its fourth session.

(History of the Christian Church, vol. 3: Nicene and Post-Nicene
Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974 [orig. 1910], 609-610)

Dave continues:
the Church had to pronounce authoritatively the parameters of the canon, because men could not totally agree.
Men don't "totally agree" about the identity of the church Christ established. Men don't "totally agree" that there is a God. Men don't "totally agree" that Jesus is God. Why would the absence of "total agreement" result in the conclusion that the church "had" to pronounce something? We don't need "total agreement" among human beings in order to be confident that there is a God, that Jesus is God, that He rose from the dead, etc. Why would we need "total agreement" to be confident about a canon of scripture without an infallible church ruling? Jews and Christians were confident about the identity of scripture for thousands of years without the allegedly infallible ruling passed by the Council of Trent. Even if we were to fallaciously date the finalizing of the canon to the fourth century, as Dave does, we would still have Jews and Christians being confident about identifying a canon for centuries without the RCC passing an infallible ruling.

They were confident for centuries? This is delicious. What Christians were confident about the canon for centuries, pray tell? If no one till Athanasius listed the 27 NT books until 60 years before Carthage, who was it that knew what he knew for "centuries" before a council finally settled the issue? The absurdities keep piling on . . . . and of course, again this has nothing to do with whether Cyril adopted sola Scriptura or the Catholic Rule of Faith.

As he did with the other fathers under discussion, Dave quoted some passages from Cyril that aren't relevant to the issue at hand.

Oh, of course. We know now that this will always be your standard reply. You're like a Democrat looking over a Republican campaign speech.

In one of the passages Dave cited, Cyril comments:

But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to thee by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures. (Catechetical Lectures, 5:12)

Does the fact that the church is a means of delivering the faith derived from the scriptures prove that scripture is insufficient? No.

You are correct. It doesn't prove material insufficiency. It proves what it is dealing with: that Cyril believed the Church was the Guardian of true doctrine. Protestants don't believe that, because they hold that the Church of the early centuries fell into many serious errors, and that the Church had to be "restored" and "reformed" by Luther in the 16th century because it had virtually ceased to exist. Catholics have much more faith in God's ability to preserve His Church than that.

Likewise, the fact that Cyril goes on to refer to the faithfulness of the church doesn't prove its infallibility. Cyril acknowledges the possibility that the church's leaders will teach error:

I wish you also to keep this as a provision through the whole course of your life, and beside this to receive no other, neither if we ourselves should change and contradict our present teaching, nor if an adverse angel, transformed into an angel of light should wish to lead you astray. For though we or an angel from heaven preach to you any other gospel than that ye have received, let him be to you anathema. (Catechetical Lectures, 5:12)
Of course leaders sometimes teach error. But we believe that they cannot bind the entire Church to heresy, and that it has never happened.

In what sense does Dave think Cyril viewed the church as infallible?

As he says, the gospel and tradition, as preserved and passed down by the Church, are true.

Is the church infallible in the sense of maintaining a core of doctrine that will always be held throughout church history? Certainly, and no Protestant would disagree. The church wouldn't be the church if there wasn't a core of doctrine that consistently defined it. But believing in such an infallibility of the church doesn't involve all that the RCC claims for itself. Cyril says nothing of the Roman Catholic definition of infallibility, with all of its claims about how to determine the infallibility of a council, papal infallibility, etc.

That doesn't prove that he accepts sola Scriptura.

Dave quotes the following as alleged evidence that Cyril looked to the church as an infallible interpreter of scripture:

Now these things we teach, not of our own invention, but having learned them out of the divine Scriptures used in the Church, and chiefly from the prophecy of Daniel just now read; as Gabriel also the Archangel interpreted it, speaking thus: The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall surpass all kingdoms. And that this kingdom is that of the Romans, has been the tradition of the Church's interpreters. (Catechetical Lectures, 15:13)
Once again, we have to ask, how is this passage relevant? The fact that an interpretation has traditionally been held by interpreters within the church doesn't prove that scripture is only materially sufficient.

Correct, but it proves what it says: the Church played a crucial role in authoritative interpretation.

Cyril goes on to refer to how scripture itself clarifies the issue he's discussing:

Then Gabriel goes on to interpret, saying, His ten horns are ten kings that shall arise; and another king shall rise up after them, who shall surpass in wickedness all who were before him...Interpret to us, O Paul. (Catechetical Lectures, 15:13-14)
Of course Scripture helps to interpret itself. This is the art and science of exegesis and hermeneutics.

He appeals to the words of Gabriel and Paul in scripture to clarify the matter. Yes, Cyril thinks that the explanation given by the angel Gabriel and the apostle Paul in scripture is also the traditional interpretation found within the church, but that doesn't mean Cyril considers scripture insufficient. It doesn't prove that he looked to those church interpreters to infallibly settle the matter.

Why is it that you keep picking at all these small details but continue to be unable to find positive proof that any Father believed in sola Scriptura?

Many other passages can be cited from Cyril regarding the sufficiency of scripture.

Material sufficiency; yes, absolutely.

Regardless of how consistent he was in maintaining these views, comments such as the following cannot reasonably be dismissed as references only to the material sufficiency of scripture:

Why then dost thou busy thyself about things which not even the Holy Ghost has written in the Scriptures? Thou that knowest not the things which are written, busiest thou thyself about the things which are not written? There are many questions in the Divine Scriptures; what is written we comprehend not, why do we busy ourselves about what is not written? (Catechetical Lectures, 11:12)

Now mind not my argumentations, for perhaps thou mayest be misled but unless thou receive testimony of the Prophets on each matter, believe not what I say: unless thou learn from the Holy Scriptures concerning the Virgin, and the place, the time, and the manner, receive not testimony from man. For one who at present thus teaches may possibly be suspected: but what man of sense will suspect one that prophesied a thousand and more years beforehand? (Catechetical Lectures, 12:5)

As usual, nothing is said about the superiority of Scripture, authority-wise, over against Church and Tradition, which alone would constitute proof for your contentions.

. . . . How can you test every man by scripture if the men leading the church must interpret scripture for you?

Because the two do not mutually exclude one another, as shown what must be 20 times now in the course of this "dialogue."

And elsewhere:

And it is enough for us to know these things; but inquire not curiously into His nature or substance: for had it been written, we would have spoken of it; what is not written, let us not venture on; it is sufficient for our salvation to know, that there is Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost. (Catechetical Lectures, 16:24)
When Cyril refers to "what is written", he repeatedly quotes scripture itself. It would be absurd to argue that what Cyril meant was that we must follow only that which is written as it's interpreted by unwritten tradition. Why limit yourself to that which is written if you believe that an unwritten tradition is necessary to understand it?

You have falsely assumed that the authority of the Church and tradition consists solely of unwritten tradition.

Cyril tells us:

from the frequent reading of the sacred Scriptures those of you who are diligent come to understand these things (Catechetical Lectures, 17:34)
Again, no infallible interpreter is mentioned. Rather, we go to the scriptures themselves.

More of the same fallacies, exposed many times. I grow very weary.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

VIII. Conclusion

Dave G. Armstrong
Wed Jul-30-03 01:13 PM
#109, "What Remains in This Exchange"

I will be doing a study of St. Basil the Great next, since he was repeatedly brought up. That will wrap up my original counter-reply to Jason's CBNRC series (the first paper, before we started this dialogue). I have decided not to cover the remaining five Fathers I had planned to do: Ambrose, Cyprian, Gregory of Nyssa, Hilary of Poitiers, and Jerome.

Ten is more than enough. When I study each Father I try to find all the relevant information relating to the Rule of Faith, what the historians say about the question, etc., and that is a lot of work indeed. This is not the only thing I am doing at the moment (as always). Ten Fathers are sufficient to illustrate the point.

I can't justify putting more time into this, seeing that the two papers I have compiled (taken together) are already by far the largest paper / dialogue that I have ever posted on my website: a whopping 534K thus far: as long or longer than several of my books.

Jason has counter-responded to four of the nine Fathers I have written about. If he wants to deal with the other six (including Basil, once I finish my study of his views), I will interact with that, I suppose, but I am through repeating myself (and posting any more repetitious material on my website). Readers can only stand so much repetition -- on both sides of the argument -- (I am an editor as well as a writer, and always have readers in mind).

Jason's future responses alone (even if I don't answer them) could bring my combined papers up to 800K or so! I see no good reason to expand that by adding five more Fathers and then dialoguing with Jason about those also. The subject has certainly been thoroughly covered.

So that's my plan. I don't know what Jason's is. We both don't have unlimited time, or (I assume) motivation to do one subject in such extreme depth; there is only so much that can be said about a subject by non-scholars, on both sides. In my opinion, we have pretty much exhausted this, but if Jason wants to counter-reply to the other six Fathers, I want to give him that opportunity and post at least some of his (non-repetitive) response on my website, in fairness and in the interest of a "complete" presentation of both sides of the dispute.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

Dave G. Armstrong
Thu Jul-31-03 05:33 PM
#111, "RE: concluding thoughts"

This is my last post. Dave comments that "In my opinion, we have pretty much exhausted this". I wouldn't say that the subject has been exhausted, but I do think that we've seen enough errors in Dave's reasoning to understand why he's reached the conclusions he's reached.

To cite a recent example, Dave said that Protestants make themselves the "final arbiter", since they rely on their own interpretation of scripture. I asked Dave why his reliance on his own interpretation of the church doesn't make him the final arbiter. His response to my question is an example of the sort of irrationality that characterizes his apologetics. Dave responded by quoting Charles Hodge discussing the responsibility of the individual to interpret scripture. Therefore, Dave argued, he wasn't misrepresenting Protestantism, since such a prominent Protestant as Charles Hodge refers to the individual interpreting scripture for himself.

But the issue isn't whether Protestants believe in personal interpretation. I never denied that they do. Rather, the issues are whether relying on personal interpretation is equivalent to considering yourself the final arbiter and whether Roman Catholics do the same thing. Obviously, Roman
Catholics do rely on their own interpretation of the church, so why would Dave criticize reliance on personal interpretation?

This is, of course, off-topic, but it is a fashionable anti-Catholic argument these days, and I shall answer it now (since you are prematurely departing), to show what a groundless objection it is. I have heard it from James White, Eric Svendsen, and (endlessly) from Tim Enloe; now you. It is easily answered, and I have done so at length, on several occasions. Presently I will paste a portion of Chapter 13 of my second book, More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism (pp. 96-101), where I dealt with this "argument." P = my Protestant dialogue partner. C = Catholic (me). I paraphrased the words of the Protestant from actual Internet dialogues, so I am presenting the Protestant position as Protestants themselves would present it:

P: Catholic apologists commonly assert that Catholics have a "certainty of faith" not present in Protestantism, by means of finding the "final" answer to serious questions in "the Church." The individual Catholic deludes himself into thinking that he has not, in fact, determined by himself a number of fallible "private judgments," none of which are any more "certain" than those which Protestants make in their own search after doctrinal (and biblical) orthodoxy. This is a double standard.

C: It is not simply a reliance upon the Church in blind faith; it is, rather, the combination of Church authority, patristic consensus, and the biblical material: Church, Tradition, and Bible: the "three-legged stool." We say that this was the methodology of the Fathers themselves, in their appeal to apostolic succession or Tradition (see, e.g., St. Irenaeus). It is essentially an historical, typically Jewish argument, not a philosophical one (philosophy deriving from the Greeks).

P: All of this examination of patristic consensus, past Church rulings, and the Bible is undertaken by fallible individuals, and thus, is equally as prone to error as Protestant beliefs.

C: One could say the same about the Fathers themselves, and the Councils. The whole point is that there is an identifiable apostolic deposit which is passed down, and Catholics accept that, as clarified by their Church. We don't reinvent Christianity in each generation; we accept what has been given to us, just as the apostles and Fathers before us did. This is not a philosophical matter; it is one of faith and legal-historical grounds of ascertainable fact.

P: The Protestant’s "certainty of faith" lies in the self-attesting Word of God, while the Catholic relies on the secondary testimony of the Church, a mere man-made entity, even if thought to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

C: No; everyone accepts the Scripture; that is not at issue. The alleged "self-attesting" nature of it is a real issue I have dealt with at great length. The "secondary testimony" here is that of the Luther and Calvin. If Scripture speaks of an infallible and indefectible Church, then that notion is relying on the Word of God. We rely on the apostolic Tradition passed down, verified and developed by the Fathers, Councils, great Doctors, and popes, and ultimately in the materially-sufficient Holy Scriptures.

You rely on the fallible, late-arriving distinctives of Luther and Calvin, and in effect grant them apostolic authority. They can flat-out invent doctrines and claim they are both historical and biblical. No pope would dare do that (on a few occasions when they came remotely close to that a mass uproar occurred). They are strictly dependent upon received precedent. Not so for Luther and Calvin, the “Super-Popes.”

P: Catholics don't really have "certainty of faith” and shouldn't pretend that they do. Protestants are more honest about their epistemology.

C: I have “certainty” in the sense that believing Christians and Jews have always possessed "certainty" (I recommend Cardinal Newman's Grammar of Assent in this regard). It is a rational faith, backed up by eyewitness testimony and historical evidences, and the history of doctrine. No one is saying (or should say) that there is an absolute certainty in a strict philosophical sense. But there is certainty in the sense of faith.

Like any acceptance of authority: it won't work if we are blinded by a closed mind and a prideful, self-centered will (compounded by the level of individual ignorance (or prior misinformation). That is true of any teaching system, including Catholicism. But that doesn't, of course, disprove the Catholic system. It is not private judgment per se which leads one to accept Catholicism; it is precisely the opposite: it is yielding up one's private judgment in the act of recognizing the Church for what it is: the spiritual authority ordained by God. One can do this reasonably by applying historical criteria, just as Christians have always done.

When I say "private judgment" I am talking about Christian authority and ecclesiology; not philosophical epistemology. I refer to the Protestant formal system of sola Scriptura, which places the individual in the position as the supreme and final arbiter of his own theology and destiny. This is a formal system of Christian authority, over against the Catholic three-legged stool of "Church, Tradition, and Scripture" -- all harmonious and not contradictory or competing.

So the Protestant -- by the exercise of this self-granted prerogative -- can stand there and judge all three legs of the stool (as Luther at Worms did), making his own conscience supreme (the corollary of private judgment). This we reject as unbiblical and against the entire previous history of the Church. And all Protestants do this -- by definition. Your variant may be more subtle, nuanced, and fine-tuned, and much less ahistorical, but all the versions boil down to a rejection of the apostolic authority of the Catholic Church.

Ultimately Protestants reserve the right to interpret Scripture against the Fathers, if their views do not correspond to the theological system they espouse (e.g., a rejection of the Real Presence in the Eucharist and baptismal regeneration: both virtually unanimous views of the Fathers). So in the end, Protestantism becomes a man-centered system (Calvin, Luther, Fox et al), rather than an apostolic, patristic, traditional-centered system, where the individual yields his judgment to the historic Christian consensus of the ages: the apostolic Tradition faithfully passed down and protected from error by the Holy Spirit.

P: God's Word is the ultimate, unquestionable authority.

C: Of course; but it has to be interpreted, so you can't avoid human authority. Why would you assume that God cannot protect His Church from error just as He protected His written revelation from error? On what basis do you assume that? After all (I make an analogical argument, of plausibility), the gift of infallibility is far lesser in order than the gift of inspiration, by which fallible, sinful men accurately and infallibly recorded the word of God in Sacred Scripture, without error. Both gifts are supernatural and divinely-granted. It seems to me that if God could and would do one thing, then He would certainly do the other, so as to maintain a unified truth and a consistent witness to the world.

I have always maintained that the Christian notion of truth and authority is historically-based, as opposed to philosophically-based. And it requires faith. So Catholic authority is not an airtight philosophical proposition as many non-Catholics seem to think it must be in order to be adhered to. But Protestantism is not, either, and contains within itself far more problematic elements. I contend that our view is biblical, consistent, apostolic, and patristic.

Apostolic and patristic Christianity was much more analogous to Old Testament Judaism, than to, say, Greek philosophy, with its abstract "epistemology" (and I say this as a Socratic myself; one who loves philosophy). Authority flowed always from commonly-acknowledged miraculous historical events and historical criteria: a sort of "Christian mythology" (i.e., a corporately-preserved story of origins) but what C.S. Lewis would describe as "true mythology."

P: I agree. But don’t you see that the selection and espousal of this "true mythology" was undertaken by fallible individuals, so that the end result could not be unquestioned? This is the Catholic difficulty of the “infallibility regress.”

C: Our claim is that the Church is infallible, and that the individual yields up his private judgment to the authority of the Church, based on apostolic succession. We have faith that God will guide His Church. It is a reasonable faith, which can be backed up by many sorts of reasonable evidences (primarily historical), though it ultimately transcends them all, as all matters of faith do.

That "true (verifiable) mythology" is the following: Jesus was the incarnate God, and was a real Person. We believe Scripture is materially sufficient, but not formally sufficient without the Church as a Guide. We believe that Scripture and Tradition are "twin fonts of the same divine wellspring," as the Second Vatican Council states.

Jesus performed miracles, and many people observed these. He rose from the dead, and proved the reality of that by appearing to more than 500 people, eating fish, showing that He possessed flesh and bones, etc. This is all historical, and a matter of eyewitness testimony (so one might say it is a historical-legal approach to theological truth).

Likewise with the Church. There was one, recognized deposit of faith, passed on from our Lord Jesus to the disciples and Apostles, which Paul repeatedly refers to. Jesus established a Church, with Peter as the head (Matthew 16:13-20). This Church has definite and discernible characteristics, described in the Bible. There were apostles, and their successors were and are bishops. There were popes as well, and they exercised authority over the Church Universal.

Now, how was this Church identifiable in the early days and in the patristic period? Again, it was the historical criteria of authenticity. The Fathers always appealed to apostolic succession (a demonstrable historical lineage of orthodoxy) and Scripture, not Scripture Alone. The heretics were the ones who adopted Scripture Alone as their principle, because they knew that they couldn't produce the historical lineage (hence an early manifestation of the unChristian and unbiblical a-historicism which has been a dominant flaw of Protestantism ever since its inception).

Protestants thus adopted the heretical principle of formal authority, whereas Catholics have consistently adopted apostolic succession as the criteria of Christian truth and legitimate, divinely-ordained authority. The Catholic Church traces itself back to the beginning in an unbroken line, centered in the Roman See and the papacy.

So when someone like me (a very low-church evangelical) becomes convinced of Catholicism, it is not merely another Protestant exercise of private judgment and de facto alleged self-infallibility. It is, to the contrary, the yielding up of private judgment and the acknowledgement of something far greater than oneself: an entity which is "out there;" which has always been there since Christ established it, preserving (only by God's enabling grace and will) apostolic Christian truth in its fullness and undiluted splendor.

One can reasonably accept Catholicism, based on the historical criteria, just as one would accept the historicity of the Resurrection or the Virgin Birth, or the authority of the Bible – itself grounded in historically-verifiable elements (e.g., fulfilled prophecy, the continuance of the Jews, the astounding transformation of the early Christians, etc.). It is on the basis of history (and, of course, faith as well), as opposed to some alleged prideful, illusory, self-infallibility. Popes and ecumenical councils are just as bound to the received deposit of faith, as I am. I wanted apostolic, biblical Christianity: the Christianity which Jesus taught the disciples; not man-made variants, each containing maybe a few noble emphases left over from historical, apostolic Christianity, but always in the final analysis grossly-deficient (though also quite beneficial and good insofar as they do contain many valid Christian truths).

All of these issues are complex in and of themselves, but that is the Catholic answer: we appeal to the patristic and apostolic (Pauline) methods of determining theological and apostolic truth. The Bible is central in all this as well (absolutely!); it is just not exclusive of Church authority. How can it be? Its very parameters were authoritatively declared by this self-same Church. Before then, various Fathers disagreed somewhat on the canon. Again, it is not a matter solely of sin. Authority was truly needed to settle that issue, just as it is needed to settle theological issues. Scripture Alone will not suffice.

Besides, Scripture itself points to the teaching authority of the Church, anyway, so it is a false dichotomy from the get-go, to pit the Church against the Bible, as if there is some inherent contradiction or "competition" between them. The apostles and Fathers saw no such dichotomy. I imitate Paul, just as he imitated Christ (as he commanded me to do).

It's interesting that the reason you give (your very first one) for ending this discussion is that I didn't want to pursue yet another off-topic digression that you have introduced (this Svendsenian "infallibility regress" nonsense), in a vain attempt to persuade readers into thinking that you are actually interacting with my critiques and offering some cogent defense of your positions. You have done this throughout the debate. And your fairly constant tactics remind me very much of a comment I made about another opponent.

Our topic was whether the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages held to a view on the vexed issue of "salvation outside the Church" that can be harmonized with present Catholic teaching. He, too, wanted to switch the topic constantly, just as you have been doing. I find almost an identical methodology in your posts in this exchange. It is a standard anti-Catholic approach, and I guess it must often "work" (i.e., fool the readers) or it wouldn't be tried so much. It doesn't work, however, when it is exposed for what it is. Finally, when I had had just about enough of this other person's tactics, I wrote (and virtually all of this describes your own method to a tee):

Now [name] is at a place well-familiar to lawyers who have no case, but who have to put up some sort of defense for their clients: when you don't have the facts on your side, you have to sling around as much nonsense as you can and hope that the jurors won't notice that it has nothing to do with the matter at hand. In debate, we call this obfuscation, sophistry, or obscurantism. And this is what [name] is doing. I will now proceed to demonstrate exactly how (in my opinion) he is doing this

[I gave details from his past posts] . . .

One doesn't progress to such knowledge by simply repeating the same old tired thing over and over, ignoring the numerous refutations of same . . . it would be nice if you would actually respond point-by-point to my arguments instead of endlessly repeating your own, like a scratch in a record. Are you able and willing to do that? If not, I won't be here much longer, because I have a strong aversion to sophism and ring-around-the-rosey, chasing minutiae . . .

Papal infallibility and when it applies is a separate issue, so I will pass. Why is it that you want to introduce all this new material . . ., all the while ignoring what has been presented to you? Thus, this is a classic example of more obscurantism, and a tactic long used by critics of the Catholic Church: one that I call the "slippery fish syndrome." If you try one argument and are shown to be in error, what you do is immediately switch to something else, and then another and another, as the need comes up to evade points and escape ever admitting that you blew it. Jehovah's Witnesses are absolute masters of this (I have a major paper on them on my site, and have witnessed to them many times).

One tries to set up an appearance of this ostensible, objectionable state of affairs that there are so many many contradictions and pieces of nonsense in Catholic thought that one hardly knows where to begin! I used to do this myself, so I know the mindset very well . . .

It reminds me of media coverage during the so-called "Iran-Contra scandal" of 1986. The media was so intensely excited at the prospect of creating another Watergate-style scandal and "getting Reagan" that they quickly put up these whole-page ads in newspapers with pictures of three dozen members of the administration supposedly involved in a vast nefarious conspiracy to undermine American democracy and our way of life. Never mind that none of the people were yet proven guilty (and many -- most -- were later found innocent or not implicated at all).

[Name] is now doing this, and it is very common. Rather than stick to one specific topic, he feels compelled to introduce many others and nitpick and (most importantly) to miss all the larger points and disproofs, in order to put up an appearance of invulnerability and triumphalism, when in fact, nothing at all of his "case" has been proven. It is only a massive exercise of circular reasoning. One assumes that a,b,c,d, . . . . to z are wrong with the Catholic Church, and states them baldly, thinking that the mere stating of a number of the garden-variety objections are compelling, because there are so MANY!!!!!

This is the sophist's method of argument. But it is not serious, open-minded Socratic dialogue, which is what I seek. And that is why I -- unlike [name] -- answer point-by-point (with the single exception below because it is so off-topic). When one fails or refuses to do that it is very easy to construct their own little "world" without reference to the other guy's argument.

In his latest post on Hippolytus, Dave says that Charles Hodge replaces the church as the infallible interpreter with the individual as the infallible interpreter of scripture. But Hodge didn't say that. You can believe that the individual interprets scripture without believing that the individual's interpretations are infallible. These sorts of logical errors are repeated over and over again, on subject after subject, in so much of Dave's apologetic material.

This is a falsehood and distortion of both Hodge and my position. Here is what Hodge wrote (after citing Jn 5:39, 2 Tim 3:15, Gal 1:8-9, and Deut 13:1-3). This was in one of my posts in our thread concerning Theodoret (emphasis added):

This again assumes that the people had the ability and the right to judge, and that they had an infallible rule of judgment. It implies, moreover, that their salvation depended on their judging rightly.
This quote is from p. 94 of the abridged edition of Hodge's Systematic Theology, that I cited. At most you could only quibble about his use of "the people" rather than "one individual person" and suchlike (and I'm sure you would, due to your manifest love of nitpicking and majoring on the minors). But the position remains essentially the same: it is the laypeople or layperson who interprets, over against any authoritative and binding Church authority. Hodge continues his statement above, contrasting the individual to the ecclesiastical institution:
For if they allowed these false teachers, robed in sacred vestments and surrounded by the insignia of authority, to lead them from the truth, they would inevitably perish.
Here was our exchange in the Hippolytus thread:
Jason: nor do I think the RCC has been appointed by God as an infallible interpreter of scripture.

Dave: No. according to Charles Hodge, that is the individual, so best wishes in your hermeneutics.

This does not distort anything of what Hodge wrote, because he was (precisely) stating the primacy of the individual over the Church, in matters of interpretation and judging of the Word. This is quintessential Protestant sola Scriptura and private judgment (reminiscent of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms: "Here I stand . . . "), and he states this over and over:
The Bible is a plain book. It is intelligible by the people. And they have the right and are bound to read and interpret it for themselves, so that their faith may rest on the testimony of the Scriptures and not on that of the Church. Such is the doctrine of
Protestants on this subject.

What Protestants deny on this subject is that Christ has appointed any officer, or class of officers, in His Church to whose interpretations of the Scriptures the people are bound to submit as of final authority. What they affirm is that He has made it obligatory upon every man to search the Scriptures for himself and determine on his own discretion what they require him to believe and to do . . .

Thus it is indeed Hodge's position, that you chide me for supposedly misrepresenting. But nice try. You have caricatured (or not understood at all) my opinions and arguments throughout this discussion (now even twisting words of citations that are there, plain to see), so it is appropriate that you continue the same unworthy tactics in your parting shot.

In his latest post on Hippolytus, Dave comments:

I have already dealt with the reasons why differences in conceptions of tradition do not affect my particular argument in the least.
So, if Papias, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Basil, and other fathers contradict the Roman Catholic definition of tradition, all such contradictions don't affect Dave's argument "in the least".

I explained exactly why I thought this was the case. I dealt with this question in great detail. You might have actually considered answering my reasoning (I know it's a novelty, but hey, you might like it; you never know) rather than ignoring it and now simply summarizing it in a cynical, mocking fashion. This was dealt with in the "Preliminary Discussion" section of my posted Dialogue, in the following post:

Mon Jul-28-03 12:25 PM
#83, "Why Discussion of Tradition is Necessary (Mambo #5)"
I urge readers to go read that again and note your usual non-response.

Dave also told us that if ten church fathers, for example, advocated sola scriptura, that wouldn't
be a problem for Roman Catholicism "even in the least". What are we to think of the mindset of somebody who tells us that such historical problems don't affect his views even in the smallest degree?

We are to think that he knows what he is talking about, as the Catholic apologist describing the position that he has devoted his life to defending, and that the anti-Catholic apologist is all wet and does not understand it. We do not regard the Fathers as infallible, and the "unanimous consent" of the Fathers is understood in a way that admits of exceptions. There were many errors in the Fathers. We saw, e.g. (in one of my posts), that Hippolytus had a heterodox view of Logos and refused to call the Holy Spirit a "person." This is much ado about nothing.

In his latest post on Cyril of Jerusalem, in response to my contrast between Cyril's view and what was taught by the First and Second Vatican Councils, Dave said:

Again, I find it most remarkable that you are surprised that some development would take place in 1500 years' time.
Cyril tells us to test what church leaders tell us by scripture. The RCC tells us that it must interpret scripture for us. Dave tells us that this contradiction between Cyril and the RCC can be explained by the concept of doctrinal development.

I've explained how we view the relation countless times. This is what this debate was about, after all (with regard to the Fathers' views in this respect). No need to repeat that here.

I asked Dave:

How can you test every man by scripture if the men leading the church must interpret scripture for you?
Dave replied, in his last post on Cyril of Jerusalem:
Because the two do not mutually exclude one another, as shown what must be 20 times now in the course of this 'dialogue.'
Dave is telling us that there's no conflict between testing the bishop of Rome by scripture and letting the bishop of Rome interpret scripture for you. How do we test by scripture the
person who interprets scripture for us? It can't be done.

You had your chance to make your point, and you have chosen to cut and run, having dealt with only four of the ten Fathers I wrote about at great length.

One of the most significant problems in this discussion has been Dave's illogical assertion that a patristic passage cannot be referring to the principle of sola scriptura if it only discusses scripture.

This is also a gross distortion of my point of view. I have stated more than once that such passages are consistent with sola Scriptura prima facie (and logically speaking), but that they do not prove that the person uttering the statement adopted sola Scriptura: that more information was needed. It is the difference between the following two propositions:

1. Statement A is consistent with a sola Scriptura position and does not contradict it.

2. Statement A proves without doubt that its writer adopts sola Scriptura as a formal principle of authority, over against the Catholic Rule of Faith: Bible, Tradition, the Church, and apostolic succession -- which the writer expressly denies in the same passage.

My position throughout has been #1 but not #2. I did not see that any of your patristic quotes came anywhere near meeting the logical requirements of #2, and, in fact, other statements by the same Fathers demonstrated or indicated strongly that they did not hold to sola Scriptura (which was shown by the position they placed Church, Tradition, and apostolic succession in relationship to Holy Scripture). Examples of statements which would fit the criterion of #1 would be the following:
A. Scripture is a wonderful, inspired body of writings; God's words, the greatest book in the world, Divine Revelation, infallible, spiritually profitable for all who read it.

B. All Christian doctrines are found in Scripture.

C. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17).

D. . . . the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything . . . (St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory 2:5)

E. We accepted whatever was established by the proofs and teachings of the Holy Scriptures. (Dionysius of Alexandria)

F.If a person had a Bible on a deserted island, and knew not the slightest thing about Christianity, the Church or Christian history, then surely they could attain eschatological salvation by means of the Bible alone.

(Dave Armstrong, More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, Chapter 11: "Insurmountable Practical Problems of Sola Scriptura," p. 73).

All of these statements are perfectly consistent with both a sola Scriptura position and a Catholic position. But there is not enough information in any of them to positively assert that they are teaching sola Scriptura and not another position. This is the distinction between "consistent with" or "not contradictory to" and "positive proof." If you would have simply understood this difference throughout our discussion, no doubt it could have been much more enjoyable and fruitful, but instead you are exasperated for the wrong (completely avoidable) reasons. Such is life . . .

I've repeatedly explained to Dave why such reasoning is fallacious.

It certainly is; I couldn't agree more. The fallacy here is your attribution of such a ridiculous view to me, when I do not hold it at all, and have explicitly said so, more than once. I even admitted that some of these Fathers may indeed have held to sola Scriptura (one must keep an open mind with regard to potentially-provable fact), but I contend you have not yet proven it in any individual case.

In the meantime, I continue to accept the general judgment of the historians I have cited: that the Fathers -- considered as a group - did not believe in sola Scriptura. Nothing you have come up with has caused me to move from that point of view. If that makes me a bullheaded simpleton and ignoramus, then I am proud to be so with Schaff, Kelly, and Pelikan. I'd much rather be "ignorant" in their (mainstream Protestant) company than learned and brilliant in yours (the anti-Catholic polemicist world), along with David King and William Webster.

I recently gave an illustration of his error by applying his logic to somebody who says that Tom was the only person he saw in his house when he came home. Would anybody conclude that we can't know whether he also saw Joe unless he discusses Joe specifically? In response to my illustration, and some other points I made, Dave posted a textless message with the title
"Thanx 4 the non sequiturs nt". He can't and won't justify his reasoning on this subject.

I just did. I only didn't before because I had stated it in many different ways and thought it was self-evident in the first place.

He continues to dismiss passages I've cited from the fathers under the guise that if the
passages only mention scripture, then they can't be referring to sola scriptura.

This is incorrect and a distortion. My position is that they cannot prove that the person held to sola Scriptura in and of themselves; that further information was needed in order to attain proof. I made this very clear in several places, e.g.:

This is again a statement of material sufficiency and does not prove that Cyril held to sola Scriptura. Theoretically, he might hold to it and write like this . . .
Writing about Justin Martyr, I stated (note the contextual meaning of "as usual"):
If it could be shown that he did not grant the Church and Tradition binding authority, and didn't include them in the Rule of Faith, then Jason might have a valid point (as usual, the statement --strictly considered, for the sake of argument, in isolation --, would not be inconsistent with how Protestants think), but we can't know this conclusively until such time as he specifically demonstrates that Justin holds to the Protestant Rule of Faith over against the Catholic one.
So sure, most (even perhaps all) of the statements of Fathers you come up with are not inconsistent with a sola Scriptura position (that has been my position all along, and is why Protestant polemicists mistakenly think they see so much "patristic proof" of sola Scriptura); they are simply utterly inadequate as proofs, and such inadequacy is systematic (just as with the alleged "proofs" of sola Scriptura in Scripture). I have yet to see a "prooftext" that can hold its own in either case.

Then, when I give examples of the fathers saying that the text of scripture itself is sufficient, and that we're to test what church leaders tell us by the scriptures, Dave either says
that Catholics believe the same thing or he appeals to development of doctrine to explain the difference. But how can the text of scripture itself be sufficient if the RCC must tell us what the text does and doesn't mean?

As expained before, the biblical text is materially sufficient but not formally sufficient, as explained by St. Vincent of Lerins very plainly in the mid-5th-century (see the beginning of my original reply.

And how can we test the RCC's leaders by scripture when the RCC's leaders are to interpret scripture for us? And how can these contradictions between patristic teaching and Roman Catholic teaching be attributed to doctrinal development? Are contradictions developments?

Note the straying from the topic again. I've dealt with development of doctrine with you before:

Reply to a Protestant Counter-Response on Development of Doctrine
(Particularly With Regard to the New Testament Canon and the Papacy)

Further Dialogue With an Evangelical Protestant on Various Aspects of Development of Doctrine (Particularly Concerning the Canon of Scripture)

You chose not to respond to the last dialogue, and so did Dr. Eric Svendsen, whose views on the canon received a thoroughoing (I think, devastating) critique. You didn't understand development then, and you still don't now, and you argued just as poorly then as you are doing now. That's what happens when one has no case and is defending a falsehood. It's much easier to defend historical truth.

I would encourage people to read the fathers themselves, to see if Dave is representing them accurately. Read J.N.D. Kelly. Read Thomas Oden. Read Philip Schaff. Read William Goode. Read Webster, King, Madrid, Pelikan, Hodge, and the others who have been quoted or cited here.

Absolutely; please do go read them, folks. You can't defeat my arguments, so you have to immediately resort to a charge that I have even distorted what these scholars assert. This is the fool's way out. I did my homework. I typed most of the citations (except the online ones that I could cut-and-paste). I don't have to make silly, unsubstantiated charges like this to rationalize why I was unable to provide reasonable, plausible, alternative answers to legitimate questions and arguments.

See if Dave is representing these sources accurately.

Yes; dishonest, bumbling, incompetent fool that I am, blinded by Rome . . .

When you read the fathers and read the critiques of modern historians, theologians, and apologists, I don't think what we find is an acorn that inevitably grows into the oak tree of Roman
Catholicism. I'll repeat what I said at the beginning of this discussion. It is an accurate summary of the apologetics of Dave Armstrong to say that contradictions are developments, and that oak trees can grow from apple seeds. I think that the rest of this discussion has been an illustration of what I said at the beginning.

I'm content to let you end your comments with yet another absurd, ridiculous statement. This ad hominem, "ignore-everything-you-can" approach may serve you well with other opponents, but it won't work with me.

What I predicted five days ago, has come true (not surprisingly in the least): you would split before finishing up in defending your position vis-a-vis the remaining six Fathers, and the rationale you would give would be my profound ignorance, idiocy, and stupidity. Here is my (now-fulfilled) prophecy:

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.
Thanks for your time.

Thanks to everyone for bearing along with what turned out to be a very tedious, boring discussion. It is always good to learn more history, though, and to have a chance to make up your own mind by seeing how two opposing positions are presented and defended.

(CARM Debate Forum 4)

End of Part Two
Go to Part One

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 1 August 2003, from online public discussions. Added to blog on 21 November 2006.

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