Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fifth Answer from Negative

JCT had asked:

"Hypothetically speaking, if God did allow one who was born again and had his sins atoned for by the blood of Christ to sin by violating the scriptural warnings given against apostasy, would the violator then no longer be born again or have his sins atoned for?"

I answer:

Hypothetical questions are dangerous, especially when they contradict reality. That said, let me do my best to give some kind of meaningful answer.

a) Being born again (regeneration of the heart) is an event. It takes place in history.

b) Christ's sacrifice on the cross (atonement for sins) was also an event. It also took place in history.

c) It would seem to be a fairly fundamental principle of history that what is done cannot be undone.

Thus (a) and (b) cannot cease to have happened. Nevertheless, if someone who had been born again and had received the benefit of the atonement in justification were to lose union with Christ and apostatize, there would be no hope for that person.

In other words, such apostasy would defeat the purpose of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart (regeneration) and the purpose of Christ on the cross (atonement). Indeed, this is a powerful argument for why such a hypothetical situation (as JCT's question describes) cannot occur. God cannot contradict himself.

If we were severed from Christ, we would perish, because our life derives from him. But we can have assurance that we will persevere, because of what connects to God is God's "great love" (πολλην αγαπην) (Ephesians 2:4).

If God divorced us for our sins, we would perish. But the Lord is the God who hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Instead, "The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

In short, the hypothetical situation will not arise, because if it did, it would violate the principle enunciated in Isaiah 55:11, "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

God accomplishes what he wants to accomplish. What is that? "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." John 6:39 And again, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)


Fifth Question from Affirmative

J.C. Thibodaux asks:

Hypothetically speaking, if God did allow one who was born again and had his sins atoned for by the blood of Christ to sin by violating the scriptural warnings given against apostasy, would the violator then no longer be born again or have his sins atoned for?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fourth Answer From Negative

JCT had asked:

"If both the warnings against final apostasy and their consequences are given to motivate believers to persevere/avoid chastisement/obey/love/etc (as your responses indicate), yet the consequences are not even to be considered real-world possibilities, then how are the given consequences specifically meant to spur believers to perseverance?"

I answer:

The concept of "real-world possibilities" is inherently self-contradictory (i.e. an oxymoron) in the context of this debate.

To distinguish, the science of statistics is not meaningless. The concept of "possibility" exists. It relates to the orderly way in which many "random" events occur. Thus, for example, a meteorologist will predict the chance, possibility, or probability of rain tomorrow. Such discussion has meaning, and we speak reasonably when speak of a "fair coin" in statistical calculations.

Nevertheless, from God's perspective, there is no such thing as "chance," "possibility," or "probability" (see also Ecclesiastes 9:10 and Proverbs 16:33). This is simply a logical consequences of God having omniscience: given omniscience, there is nothing left undetermined by His mind, and consequently, there is no real-world "possibility" from God's perspective: only what will be and what will not be.

When God promises us, he communicates what will be. Thus, for example, Abraham knew that the Messiah would come, because God had promised it (though if Isaac had stayed died childless and stayed dead, God's promise would have failed). It was not a mere possibility, but a certainty.

Because of the promise-certainty link, we can echo Paul:

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

One might object that if no one actually apostatizes (i.e. the consequences are only in hypothesis: never actualized) then the warning lacks meaning (that seems to be the question's unspoken premise). Two main responses come to mind:

(1) It seems absurd to suppose that a woman must sometimes let her children burn in order to give her warning meaning (all the more so, as to God's warning to his children); and

(2) The truth value for the meaning is determined by the reality of the logical connection between the hypothetical premise (apostasy) and the hypothetical conclusion (hell).

Thus, rather than simply spurring us to obey (as already discussed in the previous answer), the consequences may promote gratitude in us for God's grace. Just as the world's continued existence day by day is only by God's mercy, God does not have to prematurely end the world to make that proposition true. Likewise, God does not have to let any of his sheep perish to prove the truth of the premise consequence relationship.

Thus, the consequences specifically motivate by logical connection with their premise, as already noted in the previous answer, not by occasionally being actualized. In fact, such consequences could only be helpful to us if they are not actualized for us (just as the truth that long falls kill is helpful only to those who don't fall).


Fourth Question from Affirmative

J.C. Thibodaux asks:

If both the warnings against final apostasy and their consequences are given to motivate believers to persevere/avoid chastisement/obey/love/etc (as your responses indicate), yet the consequences are not even to be considered real-world possibilities, then how are the given consequences specifically meant to spur believers to perseverance?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Third Answer from the Negative

JCT had asked: "If God unequivocally promises that the consequences of His warnings against apostasy given to the saints will never come to pass, then why should anyone pay any heed or caution to avoid them?"

I answer:

First: Because our paying heed and our giving caution to avoid them, is a means God has ordained to the end of our perseverance. In other words, as already explained, the cautions help us to steer clear of the danger.

Second: Because failure to heed these warnings may give rise to God taking further measures. In other words, if we do not heed these warnings, God may chastise us as sons (with a rod of correction) or as sheep (with a rod and staff), which will not be pleasant for us. Ben Franklin sagely said that experience is a dear [expensive] school, but a fool will learn in no other.

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.

Third: Because God commands obedience to his warnings. It is a thoroughly sufficient reason to simply answer that God commands us to heed the warnings. That is a perfectly good reason to do something. Even when Abraham did not understand the reason why God wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac, he obeyed, and that became a demonstration and witness of faith.

Fourth: Because we love God. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." This is connected with the previous item. Nevertheless, this is an answer to one's naughty side that says, "Yes, it's bad: but it's not like God's going to punish me eternally, right?" Love should and will constrain us from acting that way. If we love God, we will keep his commandments.

1 John 3:9-11
9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 5:1-3
1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.


Third Question from the Affirmative

J.C. Thibodaux asks:

If God unequivocally promises that the consequences of His warnings against apostasy given to the saints will never come to pass, then why should anyone pay any heed or caution to avoid them?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Negative Rebuttal Essay

Sola Scriptura
Negative Rebuttal Essay
By:Matthew James Bellisario 2008
Sacred Tradition as taught by Pope Benedict XVI

I find it quite odd the Turretin Fan says in his rebuttal, that I am at odds with the Catechism, the Church and the Pope's in my exposition of Tradition in my first opening essay. I wonder if my opponent knows that the source I quoted from in my opening essay, that of Pope Benedict XVI, is the same man who also helped put together, and ultimately approve the Catechism, and is also the Pope of the Church, which Turretine says I am opposed to. The Catechism is an introductory overview of the Catholic and faith and does not address each topic in depth. It is a fallacy of selective emphasis to make the accusation that my elaboration on the subject opposes that of the Catechism passages my opponent quotes. If you read the text in the Catechism you will find nothing that opposes what I have written on Tradition in my opening essay, and I in fact explain it in much more detail, in line with what the Pope himself teaches. Turretin says that “Thus, while MB may have an opinion about the relation between Scripture and Tradition, the official teachings of the papists are somewhat at variance with at least some of MB’s comments.” I guess Turrretin did not see that almost all of my quotes were from the Pope himself on the subject, and were not my opinion, but the teaching of the Church.

Turretin said in his rebuttal, “such that the papists do not derive their certainty about all revealed truths from the Scriptures alone but from Scriptures Plus.'” Turretin has not given any reason for us to believe his statement. I have proven from the Pope himself that Tradition is not something plus Scripture, but it is one in the same gospel in two different forms which is what the passages of the Catechism he quotes says. TF tries to tell me what the Catholic Church teaches, but fails to prove it. I have provided plenty of sources to prove the the Catholic Church teaches that Tradition and Scripture are the same deposit of the Word of God, not two separate sources of Revelation. These books and documents prove my point, (Ratzinger, God's Word, pg27), (James Monti The Writings of Saint Thomas More pgs 165-170) , (Dei Verbum 10), So much for TF's argument that I am going against the Popes and the Church in the definition I presented in my opening statement. It is obviously not true. Dei Verbum 10 from the Second Vatican Council says,
“10. Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church.”

So much for this smokescreen of trying to put up an apparent contradiction that is not there. A blatant case of selective emphasis indeed.

The Unanimous,
Clear Witness of Every Ancient Church before the “Reformation”

I would also like to point out that every apostolic Church that can be traced back before the “Reformation” holds that. Sacred Scripture cannot be separated from Sacred Tradition. They all hold that Sola Scriptura has never been, nor ever will be a Christian belief. The Gospel understood by all of the ancient apostolic Churches includes the use of Sacred Tradition, both in the interpretive aspect and the Revelation aspect.

Here Orthodox scholar Fr Florovsky writes

“We cannot
assert that Scripture is self-sufficient; and this is not because it is incomplete, or inexact, or has any defects, but because Scripture in its very essence does not lay claim to self-sufficiency. . . . If we declare Scripture to be self-sufficient, we only expose it to subjective, arbitrary interpretation, thus cutting it away from its sacred source. Scripture is given to us in tradition. It is the vital, crystallising centre. The Church, as the Body of Christ, stands mystically first and is fuller than Scripture. This does not limit Scripture, or cast shadows on it. But truth is revealed to us not only historically. Christ appeared and still appears before us not only in the Scriptures; He unchangeably and unceasingly reveals Himself in the Church, in His own Body. In the times of the early Christians the Gospels were not yet written and could not be the sole source of knowledge. The Church acted according to the spirit of the Gospel, and, what is more, the Gospel came to life in the Church, in the Holy Eucharist. In the Christ of the Holy Eucharist Christians learned to know the Christ of the Gospels, and so His image became vivid to them.” Fr. George Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View, pp. 48-49

The Coptic Orthodox profess, “The Holy Scriptures in fact are a part of the Church tradition. The tradition in its essence is declaring the word of God by various methods. For tradition concentrated on the apostolic teaching. The appearance of the books of the New Testament did not cancel the tradition, but these books command us to preserve the tradition (2 John 12; 3 John 13:14; 1 Cor. 11:34; Titus 1:5; 2 Thes. 3:16; John 21:25; 2 Cor. 11:23).” (

The fact is no matter what apostolic Church we find, they all profess to Sacred Tradition. All of the Orthodox including The Syrians, the Malankara, the Coptic, Eritrean, Ethiopian, including those Churches also that separated away during the 4th Ecumenical Council still hold to this profession. We also must concede that all of the Eastern Catholic churches also hold to this. I wonder if anyone reading this is beginning to observe something here? All of this doctrine was challenged and changed when the “Reformers” came along. There is not one profession of faith from any ancient, apostolic Church that resembles the proclamations made by Turretin or the Westminster Confession that he cites in regards to Scripture Alone. Unless every Church on the face of the earth was in error for the better part of 1500 years, including those that separated in the 4th century, the “Reformed” position of Sola Scriptura is not even worth a serious consideration of belief. There is simply no reason to believe that it was a teaching of any ancient Church. All of these Church's were reading the same Scriptures for almost 1400 years, and none of them deduced a Sola Scriptura doctrine. I guess they were all wrong until the “Reformation” came along. I would love to see anyone challenge the historical existence of all of these Churches in which none of them hold to this false doctrine.

The Fallacy of “Hand Me Down Tradition” Argument

Tf would also like you to believe that none of the Church Fathers were speaking of Tradition in the way that I prescribed in my opening essay. He claims that they were just referring to “hand me down traditions” and not that of the interpretive aspect. Tradition is not just interpretive of that of the Sacred Scriptures as I explained in my opening essay. It also that which is not found in Sacred Scripture, because the Gospel is not presented in one form, but two, written and unwritten. Yet they are not separate sources different from each other. For example, just because there are 3 persons in the Holy Trinity does not mean that they are not one in substance; the same is said for Scripture and Tradition. TF said “That’s not what MB is claiming, though – as demonstrated by his comment that “Tradition is not just quoting Church Fathers” It is what I have claimed since I made the case of what comprises Sacred Tradition. That which I quoted St Basil affirms my position that not everything God has revealed to us is contained in the written form of the Gospel, but both oral and written. St Basil indeed proves that not every dogma is revealed by Scripture alone, but by oral Tradition accompanied by apostolic succession. There is no rule that one quote has to address both aspects of Tradition. Saint Basil proves that we have both a written and an unwritten aspect to the Gospel proclamation. Origin as well proves that believers in the Church at his time believed the same.

Origin writes in his Preface #2 to the Fundamental Doctrines the following,
“2. Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz., the powers and the holy virtues; it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points. For as we ceased to seek for truth (notwithstanding the professions of many among Greeks and Barbarians to make it known) among all who claimed it for erroneous opinions, after we had come to believe that Christ was the Son of God, and were persuaded that we must learn it from Himself; so, seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church,
transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolical tradition.

Tf has yet to really address this issue.

The Westminster Confession, To Be Or Not To Be

We can see that TF gives us no reason to believe the authority of the Westminster Confession. In fact he says it holds no real authority. He then tries to shift the tables on me concerning authority which completely falls on its face. He says I have no authority to challenge the Westminster Confession. First I do not make this claim on my own authority, but that of Christ's Church which is the bulwark of Truth. Secondly TF uses I John 4:1 to justify the “Reformed” authority to quote and use the “Confession”, yet no place in this passage of John does it name TF nor the Confession as being given any authority. Here we see TF taking I John 4:1 out of context and he quotes it in a butchered incomplete manner. He quotes the passage as such to give you a vague incomplete understanding of the text. He quotes, (“…believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”) Lets read the full text of it so we can all see how misconstrued his use of this passage is.

I John 4:1-3
“1 Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 By this is the spirit of God known. Every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: 3 And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh, and he is now already in the world.”

The real aspect
Tf falls into concerning this passage is one of division as I will conclude in this essay, which for one, puts him at the wrong end of this passage of Scripture. “
And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist.” Secondly it tells us to not to believe every spirit. How does this fit into TF's argument that he has the ultimate authority to define Sacred Scripture, and define a “confession” to go by? It is nothing more than self proclaimed authority, one which Scripture never justifies. Another case of selective emphasis on Tf's part to shoehorn a Scriptural verse into something that it never addresses. Authority must be substantial, not self proclaimed. TF wallows back and forth claiming the “Confession” carries no intrinsic authority, yet then goes on to quote Scripture trying to justify it , and himself as speaking in an authoritative manner. Which is it? I John is telling us to compare the spirits with what has been given to us by Jesus Christ through His Church. It doesn't justify us to create our own churches, or that we all are able to define our doctrines, dogmas and confessions, and decide for ourselves guided by the Holy Spirit of what the Scriptures are and how we are to interpret them. Turretin takes a half quoted fragment of a sentence of Scripture and tries to justify all of this.

I already presented the passages to you from Scripture proving that authority is something handed down by succession, from that of the apostles themselves. TF defeats his own argument by proclaiming “' Second, it is not the confession speaking for itself, the confession is the testimony of the Reformed churches in the Scottish tradition. It is a summary of shared beliefs, not a document carrying or asserting intrinsic authority.” Once again who cares what the summary of the “Reformed” churches teach? Once again we see a stark contrast in the gospel of men versus the gospel of Jesus Christ. TF doesn't even consider that he is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor that of the apostles, but his own Scottish tradition. All of his attack on “Church Tradition” and yet he gives us his own version of tradition, the beliefs of the Scottish Reformed testimony. I don't know why anyone would care what the Scottish tradition was. I would think they would want to know what the universal tradition of the Church was. Most people would want a gospel proclamation that can be substantially and historically traced back to Jesus and his apostles rather than some Scots who came up with their own confession in 1646. Also it seems that TF is not even familiar with his own confession, because it was largely the Church of England that drew it up. So now we have the Scottish and English traditions in this so called “Confession.” Finally TF then goes on to say that he has the Holy Spirit, but I the papist does not. Once again he gives us not one reason to believe what he says, and provides no substance to why we should believe him.

The Westminster Confession, Manmade Tradition.

Tf said in his opening statement, “Thus, at least on its face (and until someone has given us reason to doubt their proofs), we might conclude that the WCF’s chapter I, on the doctrine of Scripture were properly derived from Scripture.” We can see that taking up this challenge is like taking candy from a 2 year old. Few things the “Confession” proclaims can be found in Sacred Scripture. It claims the Church is not needed to give us the canon of the Scriptures. It gives us a Biblical Canon which is not given to us by the Scriptures themselves. Mere men put the “Confession” together trying to promulgate what they determined to be the Canon, not God. As far as I know God has not given TF a list of the Canon. Unless he or those who wrote this highly esteemed “Confession” can prove that God told them what the Canon is, then I nor anyone else has any reason to believe them. The universal Church guided by the Holy Spirit has determined the Canon as well as the full Revelation of God. This authority is given by Jesus through His apostles as I have already proven from Scripture itself. The Westminster Confession falls into the same unsubstantiated argument that TF does. It assumes a whole unproven foundation from which to promulgate its manmade traditions from.

The “confession” goes against the Scripture when it tells us in article IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” However this novelty is not the sole rule to be used for the interpretation of Sacred Scripture. How do we know that this is so? Because Sacred Scripture tells us so, thats why. In Acts 8 29-30 we see Scripture giving us an example of a method contrary to the only infallible method given to us by the manmade “confession”. It reads,
“29 And the Spirit said to Philip: Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest? 31 Who said: And how can I, unless some man show me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.” We can see here that Scripture cannot always be understood from Sacred Scripture itself, but from someone with authority who can explain it.

Contraception Argument Avoided

I found it interesting how only two short paragraphs were used to address the contraception topic. In fact no rational argument was given on why the Scripture verse in Genesis did not address the issue implicitly. My premise holds that unless we can properly interpret the Sacred Scriptures then crucial moral questions such as this one will be avoided. TF says, “The problem with this argument is that one has to first assume that the papist position (contraception is evil) in order to see acceptance of contraception by non-Catholics as a problem.” This of course is incorrect for we can this issue being addressed in the Sacred Scriptures. Using his arguments about statistics in Catholic countries has nothing to do with the argument and can be chalked up to a red herring. TF is leading you away from the real argument to get you to focus on statistics which have no bearing on the teaching of the use of contraception. The use of contraceptives in Catholic countries has no bearing on the Church's teaching. The Church can teach, but people must give their assent to the Church.

Shifting the Burden of Proof

When this debate was proposed, it was accepted that TF was in the affirmative position, not I. Yet we can see him constantly trying to shift the burden of proof to me to take the heat off of his very weak arguments. It is his task to prove Sola Scriptura, which he has obviously not even come close to doing.

Has Scripture Alone Been Proven?

Turretin has not yet proven the Scriptures alone are the sole rule and proclamation of the Gospel. In fact he agreed in his rebuttal that St. Basil was talking about what he calls a hand me down Tradition, in which St. Basil makes clear that not all doctrines or dogmas are written down. This would defeat his own argument. Most of his opening statement he uses his “Search the Scriptures” argument, which no one is even questioning, nor debating. Then he tries to give us the Westminster Confession to summarize what he believes, yet he says it is not proclaiming any authority in his opening rebuttal. Once again. which is it? I have already demonstrated why I, nor anyone else using deductive logic would believe a manmade confession. I also have demonstrated a far more reasonable premise, one in which the Gospel is handed down from Jesus, to his apostles, through the Church which can prove an apostolic succession. Even if neither of us could prove our premise, which makes more sense, and is more in line with the testimony of Sacred Scripture? Someone quoting a “Confession” from the Scottish-English tradition, or someone proclaiming the gospel from a Church that can prove its existence back to the apostles themselves?

Objection to Scriptural Authority Not Deriving from the Church

In his opening statement TF tries to prove that Scripture is authoritative because it is inspired. Yet he never proves that it is Scripture alone that we must hold to. The verse he quoted from St Paul doesn't even address the topic. It speaks of the Word of God, but never says that the Word is Scripture Alone. This is clearly taking St Paul out of context in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, and tries to bend St Paul's meaning of the term Word. As I will explain, the term Word does not mean written in the context of the Scripture quotes. Tf avoids the problem of recognizing what books are inspired and which are not by claiming that the Holy Spirit tells us. This of course once again derives from the Church's universal testimony to them in the several ways I presented in my opening statement, not each individual guided by the Holy Spirit.

TF then quotes the Scriptures out of context just I like I told he would do in my opening essay. I addressed II Timothy in my opening essay, which never says anything about Scripture Alone. He tries to use Mark 7:1-23 to prove that Jesus was condemning all extra-Scriptural tradition, which is completely absurd. He was condemning traditions of men, which in no way shape or form equates to all Tradition. Jesus would in fact be talking about TF's Westminster manmade confession in this passage as being a tradition of men, not the Gospel Tradition of the Church. The versus he quotes on Proverbs, Deuteronomy, And Revelation never address Scripture Alone. Deut 4:2 addressed commandments, never the means that they were given in a Scripture Alone context. Rev 22:18 is talking about the book of Revelation, which says no man should add or take away from it. Where does this imply a Scripture Alone argument in favor of TF's task to prove that Scripture Alone is the sole revelation of God? In fact none of the passages that he quoted gives any substance to his Scripture Alone argument. He uses Galatians 1:6-9 as another proof text, but it once again assumes that the Gospel it is addressing is Scripture Alone, which it never once claims. I have shown that the Gospel, according to the Church Fathers, and the Church herself is not written alone. Therefore Galatians is telling us that we should not follow a perversion of the Gospel, which is not just a written one. Tf once again has used these Scripture quotes based on a false, unproven premise.

The “Word”

TF goes on quoting Scripture once again defining his own definition of “Word”. He defines the term Word in the same context no matter what verse he cites. In fact the term “Word” in Scripture does not just refer to a written definition. In fact it is most often used in the NT as the Gospel of John defines it. John Chapter 1 tells us what the Word is. The Word is God Himself, not just Holy Writ. The Word is living, it is God, and it is presented in written and oral substance infused with the Holy Spirit. It is the living Trinity being proclaimed by the Church that Christ Himself gave us. I Tim 3:15 proclaims the Church as the pillar of truth. II Thess 3:6 also gives us an aspect to the authority given to Saint Paul through the Church in reference to tradition, and the preaching of the Gospel.

Begging the Question

Turretin's whole opening essay is a prime example of the logical fallacy of Petitio Principii. Turretin assumes his conclusion for Sola Scriptura is true, but in fact never proves it. He assumes that every time the term gospel or Word is used in Sacred Scripture, or by a Church Father it is referring to Scripture Alone. He wants us to believe that every reference to the profitability and the importance of Sacred Scripture means that it proves his position of Scripture Alone, when in fact none of the passages do so. Just because the term word or gospel is used does not mean it is referring to Scripture alone. You must prove that premise before you can even begin to think about using any of these Scripture quotes. Just because the Scriptures are spoken of as being profitable, and should be held in high regard does not mean it is the sole substance of the Gospel separated from Sacred Tradition. TF has never proven this and so far his whole argument to prove the validity of Sola Scriptura using these passages of Sacred Scripture has been based on an unproven premise. It is Turretin that has the burden of proving his affirmative position. So far he has not even come close to doing so.

A False Conclusion, an Attack on the Church

TF closes his opening statement with,
“The conclusion of all the above is that Scripture is authoritative. It is to be believed. It is a reliable standard by which we may judge other things. There is no other such standard. What we will turn to? Our church? But churches have erred.” Must we consider Christ's Church to have erred? TF would have us believe that Christ's Church promulgates heresy. I beg to differ, and so do the Sacred Scriptures.

The Sacred Scriptures tell us in I Tim 3:15,

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is

the church
of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Ephesians 3:10-13 tells us, “10 That the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places

through the church
,11 According to the eternal purpose, which he made, in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 13 Wherefore I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” Ephesians 5:23-24 gives us an example of the Church and its relation to Christ, “23 Because the husband is the head of the wife, as

Christ is the head of the church
. He is the saviour of his body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things.

Saint Irenaeus
(c202AD) also tells us in Against Heresies, the 3
rd book, 4th

Chapter that the Church gives us all things pertaining to the truth, “1. Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. 17.
For she is the entrance to life

all others are thieves and robbers
. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question Latin, “modica quæstione.” among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with

which the apostles held
constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?” Finally we know that Jesus gave us one Church that would not fail us because he tells so in the Gospel of Matthew 16:15-19.

we now to assume that the Church that Jesus Christ is the head of gives us false doctrine? Are we to assume that the pillar of truth that Sacred Scripture declares, is not really a pillar of truth at all, but a deceiving witness to the living Gospel? The real conclusion we can deduce from history is that anyone following the doctrines of the “Reformation” are dividing the body of Christ. How many more denominations do we need that believe they have the Holy Spirit and that they are the ones interpreting the Sacred Scriptures correctly? How many “Protestant” groups do we need telling us, that all of God's Revelation is found in Sacred Scriptures alone, yet add their own traditions anyways? The Protestant seminary Gordon-Conwell lists over 9000 "denominations" on their university website. (World Christian Database 2004) The doctrinal differences of these denominations range from but are not limited to liturgical beliefs, justification, the operations of baptism, the definition of Holy Communion, marriage and divorce, moral issues like abortion, and birth control and the list goes on . We look to the Scriptures and they proclaim a unity, Ut unum sint! Jesus prays for this unity of the Church in the Gospel of St John Chpt 17,
“20 And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me; 21 That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

A Final Thought

The question you have to ask yourself is what church body and authority are you going to follow. Are you going to follow a Church that is from Jesus, passed through His Apostles proclaiming the same Gospel for almost 2000 years, or a “confession”, built on individualism, that was put together in 1646 that cannot substantiate the claims it makes from the one source it says it gets all of its substance from, that being Sacred Scripture alone?
Is it the individual who decides for himself what Divine Revelation is, how it is to be interpreted and lived out in Sacred Worship? Or is it the Church that Christ gave us through his apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, which Sacred Scripture gives us testimony to that decides? It is you who must decide who you are going to follow.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Second Answer from the Negative

JCT had asked:

How is being diligent to enter into eternal rest so that we do not fall after Israel's example of unbelief (for which they did not enter that rest) a "condition of Christian life" that is mutually exclusive of being a "condition for Heavenly Life?"

Of course, being a condition of Christian life is not inherently exclusive of being a condition for Christian life. Instead, the conditions of Christian life are a superset. For example, grace from God is a condition both for and of Christian life.

In other words, we view perseverance as fitting within a logical scheme such that all believers will persevere, but not that people are believers because they persevere. Instead, people persevere because they are believers.

John’s epistle is instructive in this regard. John explains:

1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

1 John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

The apostle Peter explained the same thing, namely that we who are born again are born of incorruptible seed:

1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Thus, as a result those who are born again will persevere – but not contrariwise: in other words, they are not born again because they persevere: to suggest such a thing would be to put the cart before the horse.

To return to the question, it is not that I am claiming that the two ideas are mutually exclusive. In the case of being born again, the condition is both a condition of and a condition for Christian life. Instead, I’m trying to explain that continued faith, repentance, and perseverance to the end are qualities of the Christian life.

They can serve as evidences to us, justifying us (in the sense James speaks of) in the eyes of ourselves and our fellow men. They help us to distinguish the true faith that springs from being born again (1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.) from a dead faith that illustrates that we continue in a state of bondage to sin, not having been freed by the work of the Holy Spirit.


Second Question from the Affirmative

J.C. Thibodaux asks:

How is being diligent to enter into eternal rest so that we do not fall after Israel's example of unbelief (for which they did not enter that rest) a "condition of Christian life" that is mutually exclusive of being a "condition for Heavenly Life?"

Friday, July 11, 2008

First Answer from the Negative

JCT had asked:

How exactly would something like damnation being the consequence to violating a ‘pastoral warning’ “have use in the form of preventing the warned person from ever doing” what is warned against?

I answer:

To understand how this would work, I suggest making use of an analogy. We are sheep, God is the Shepherd. Suppose that we, the flock of sheep, are feeding at pasture that has, on one side, a sheer 200 foot cliff. Falling off the cliff is "something like damnation" for a sheep.

If the shepherd wanted to keep the sheep from falling off the cliff (i.e. preventing the warned person from ever doing what is warned about), one of the ways he could do so is by warning the sheep of the danger that would befall them if they walked over the cliff. This would spur a rational sheep not to try to walk over the cliff (i.e. not to violate the pastoral warning).

On the other hand, of course, it does not mean that if it looks to the shepherd like a sheep is going to try to ignore his warnings, that he is just going to let the sheep do this thing that would be bad. No, the warning is just one of the ways that the sheep are kept from falling.

This is, of course, an analogy: but it is founded on a Biblical analogy. The Good Shepherd not only warns, exhorts, and uses his rod and staff on the sheep, the Good Shepherd even goes so far as to die for the sheep.

If there is someone who is going to fall off the cliff, it is not going to be the sheep, but the good shepherd. He'll do everything in his power to save the sheep whom he loves. That's true, remarkable, self-sacrificing love.

I think it's fair to say that a genuinely loving Shepherd uses every possible tool to save the sheep he loves: from warnings of the consequences of apostasy, to discipline (in the form of various temporal chastisements), and to promises of reward as well. Thanks be to God that he does, for if he did not, we'd be as helpless as sheep without a shepherd.


First Question from the Affirmative

J.C. Thibodaux asks:

How exactly would something like damnation being the consequence to violating a ‘pastoral warning’ “have use in the form of preventing the warned person from ever doing” what is warned against?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

No Other Word of God than Scriptures (AR)


Now that MB’s constructive argument has been made, we are able to reduce the scope of the debate significantly. MB’s argument had two main parts. The first part was what we would call in debate terms a “counterplan” in which he presents what he feels is an alternative to the Reformed position, and the second part addresses a few objections to the Reformed position. Once you have read the response to the counterplan, I hope you will recognize that there has been no significant case made for any other Word of God than Scriptures. Thus, I trust that the reader will rightly conclude that the burden of proof and persuasion has not moved, but remains on the advocate of this alleged further source of authority.

MB’s Counterplan: Papist Tradition

MB’s counterplan is really the primary way that he attempts to refute the Reformed position, and occupies about 75% of his constructive essay. There are several fundamental problems with the counterplan.

MB’s View of Tradition is seemingly not Fully Consistent with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

Critical planks upon which the counterplan is built are not well accepted, even among papists. For example, MB claims “Many seem to understand Tradition as being an addition to the Sacred Scriptures. This however is an incorrect, or incomplete way to view it.” In contrast, however, CCC 78 states: “This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it.” Likewise CCC 82 states: “As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."”

Thus, while MB may have an opinion about the relation between Scripture and Tradition, the official teachings of the papists are somewhat at variance with at least some of MB’s comments. That is to say, “Scripture” and “Tradition” are distinct and Tradition is additional to Scripture, such that the papists do not derive their certainty about all revealed truths from the Scriptures alone but from Scriptures Plus.

MB’s Tradition is Warrantless

Oral Torah Analogy

No good reason has been given for this distinct source of revelation. MB provides an analogy to the Rabbinical traditions, but acknowledges that the Rabbis were not inspired, but were fallible men. Thus, the Rabbinical traditions fail MB. If fallible traditions were ok for the Jews, the analogy would suggest that they would also be ok for the nations.

Patristic Citations

Further, MB cites Basil who makes mention of traditions handed from the Apostles via mysteries. While a more thorough discussion of what Basil meant by “mysteries” would be interesting, ultimately what Basil is referencing is not helpful to MB’s counterplan, because Basil is not speaking of an interpretative authority (the same problem arises when MB tries to rely on Chrysostom and Saint Epiphanius).

You see, we can divide tradition into at least two categories: IAT – Interpretative Authority Tradition (by which councils and popes are supposedly endued with authority to speak dogmas that are to be accepted by all Christians) and HMDT – Hand-Me-Down Tradition (by which unwritten traditional teachings of the apostles are carried down to us). HMDT is more easily testable historically. If someone claims there was an unwritten tradition of doctrine “X,” we can make an historical investigation to see if Christians or their critics throughout history ever mentioned holding such doctrines. We can test the HMDT of which Basil, Chrysostom, and Epihpanius seem to be speaking in the citations MB provided.

That’s not what MB is claiming, though – as demonstrated by his comment that “Tradition is not just quoting Church Fathers. Yes, they can provide evidence of what the Church believed throughout history, but we cannot rely on these writings, and Scripture alone either.” MB is claiming something for his position: something that gives exclusivity of interpretation to the Vatican: he’s claiming IAT.

In short, MB is claiming that his church has the ability to provide teachings in the form of IAT that are of the same authority as the Scriptures, because both are the “Word of God,” and the “Gospel.” There is, however, no reason to accept these claims. Unlike the prophets and apostles who had revelation from God, the popes and councils do not perform signs and wonders testifying to their gifts. When is the last time a pope raised a man from the dead? When is the last time the shadow of a council caused cripples to walk? God gave the prophets and apostles signs that confirmed their prophetic gifts. The church of Rome does not have such tokens.

New Testament Citation

There is an additional problem with MB’s contention, stemming from an attempt to bolster his position by appeal to the New Testament. MB claims that “In reading the NT we must understand [the] NT does not understand itself to be Scripture in its own text. In other words, when the term Scripture is used in the NT it is always referring to the OT….” In fact, 2 Peter 3:16 describes Paul’s epistles as Scripture, stating – after discussing Paul’s epistles – “as … also the other scriptures ….” Furthermore, the Revelation of John the Apostle is evidently self-aware as a book of prophecy (see, for example, Revelation 22:18-19). Likewise, Paul in I Corinthians 14:37 provides as a litmus test for anyone who claims to have the Holy Spirit that they recognize that his writings are the “commandment of the Lord.” Paul, Peter, and John were not awaiting recognition by a future council of their inspiration: they were writing divinely inspired Scripture by the authority of the Holy Spirit.

Dramatic Claims

Another problem stems from dramatic claims that MB is forced to make in order justify a second source of divine revelation. For example, MB claims, “As we see in Rom 10:14-15, the Word is heard, preached, and not read.” The cited passage, though, does not say “not read.” In fact, in the immediate context Paul himself (in the writing he is providing) cites to earlier writings: “as it is written” verse 15. He even cites to Isaiah’s writing using spoken terminology, “For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” Thus, we can see that Paul does not mean to distinguish between the Gospel message as being somehow spoken as distinct from written.

Indeed, such a distinction is absurd. Human communication is verbal: it’s made up of words. Words can be written down. While written words may not have the same emotional impact as the same words spoken dramatically, the same information is conveyed.

Another such extreme claim is the claim that “the Word is not a written Word, but a living one that cannot be contained in a written source.” To say that the Word of God cannot be contained in a written source is simply to limit God’s ability to communicate himself. While such a claim has a patina of piousness, it is at its core a denial of God’s omnipotence: a claim that Scriptures cannot possibly be sufficient. Yet Scriptures are sufficient, as they claim, and as already set forth in my constructive essay.


MB makes reference to the issue of contraception, something that is a hot topic in papist circles. The problem with this argument is that one has to first assume that the papist position (contraception is evil) in order to see acceptance of contraception by non-Catholics as a problem. Furthermore, the strength of the papist argument against contraception is very tenuous from Scripture. That’s why, perhaps, one does not see MB providing a Scriptural case. Instead, the prohibition is an unscriptural prohibition intended to bind men’s consciences, but lacking authority to do so.

Ultimately there is enormous irony in selection of that topic. Papist European nations, such as Spain and Italy have an enormous problem with non-reproduction. Their national birth rates are quite low, which is strong evidence that they are employing contraceptives and/or abortives. That’s not to say that the less-papist nations are better: simply that this supposed tradition actually provides no significant benefit to those associated with the church that claims it is from God.

Non-Acceptance of IAT by Church Fathers

An even greater problem for MB is history. Although there may be a handful of patristic quotations that suggest a belief by some church fathers in HMDT, there are at least an equal number that suggest a lack of belief by the church fathers (including some of the same ones) in IAT – the kind of tradition that MB needs, or who would simply not accept MB’s dramatic claims regarding the non-written nature of the Gospel, or the non-verbalizable characteristics thereof.

For example, Turtullian thought that the Lord’s Prayer could epitomize the entire Gospel: “… in the Prayer [i.e. the Lord’s Prayer] is comprised an epitome of the whole Gospel.” (The Writings of Quintus Sept. Flor. Tertullianus, Volume 1, Section VII, Chapter 1, p. 180, Roberts et al. ed.)

Likewise, Irenaeus essentially equates the Gospels and the Gospel in responding to Marcion (at the same time recognizing the true number of inspired gospels, before any “council” or “pope” had spoken on the matter):

9. These things being so, all who destroy the form of the Gospel are vain, unlearned, and also audacious; those, [I mean,] who represent the aspects of the Gospel as being either more in number than as aforesaid, or, on the other hand, fewer. The former class [do so], that they may seem to have discovered more than is of the truth; the latter, that they may set the dispensations of God aside. For Marcion, rejecting the entire Gospel, yea rather, cutting himself off from the Gospel, boasts that he has part in the [blessings of] the Gospel. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter XI, Section 9)

Moreover, Basil (cited by MB) has this to say about following tradition:

What our fathers said, the same say we, that the glory of the Father and of the Son is common; wherefore we offer the doxology to the Father with the Son. But we do not rest only on the fact that such is the tradition of the Fathers; for they too followed the sense of Scripture, and started from the evidence which, a few sentences back, I deduced from Scripture and laid before you. (Basil, Of the Spirit, Chapter VII)

Again, Basil claims that Scripture alone (i.e. without IAT) is sufficient for one who has the Holy Spirit:

Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you to comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right. (Letter 283 - To a Widow (Basil))

Likewise Ambrose sets up Scripture as the rule of faith and life:

102. Men of the world give many further rules about the way to speak, which I think we may pass over; as, for instance, the way jesting should be conducted. For though at times jests may be proper and pleasant, yet they are unsuited to the clerical life. For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures? (On the duties of the Clergy, Chapter 23)

And Ambrose equates the Gospel and the Scriptures:

131. But that very thing is excluded with us which philosophers think to be the office of justice. For they say that the first expression of justice is, to hurt no one, except when driven to it by wrongs received. This is put aside by the authority of the Gospel. For the Scripture wills that the Spirit of the Son of Man should be in us, Who came to give grace, not to bring harm. (On the duties of the Clergy, Chapter 28)

Consider also Clement of Alexandria’s words about the role of Scripture:

“But those who are ready to toil in the most excellent pursuits, will not desist from the search after truth, till they get the demonstration from the Scriptures themselves” (Mis. B. vii. c. 16).

Finally, consider the declaration of Cyril of Jerusalem (as reported by J.N.D. Kelly in “Early Christian Doctrines”): “with regard to the divine and saving mysteries of faith no doctrine, however trivial, may be taught without the backing of the divine Scriptures .. For our saving faith derives is force, not from capricious reasonings, but from what may be proved out of the Bible.” (Cat. 4, 17.)

Further Problems for “Tradition”

We frequently hear questions about canon problems with Sola Scriptura. Where is the canon of tradition? When a large council met several decades before what is referred to as the Seventh Ecumenical Council (SEC), it issued decrees that would seem to be the decrees of “the church.” Nevertheless, the SEC reversed the previous council’s decisions.

Likewise, there have been at many times disputes over who is the pope. While this was less significant before the doctrine of papal infallibility was invented, it is significant both then and now. If the teachings of the pope are part of the canon of Tradition, how is one to know what teachings are in and which are out, particularly when the papal throne is contested.

Let’s focus on the Bible itself. It’s seemingly claimed by MB that the only way to resolve the canon is by appeal to “tradition.” But can tradition provide us the canon? Tradition is mixed on the issue of the canon, if we mean by tradition the historical record. Even with respect to the issue of interpretative tradition, there is still dispute today over whether the Council of Trent closed the canon or passed over certain potentially authoritative works in silence.

But we can dig further. For you see, the traditions of Rome have been unable not only to maintain the correct canon: they have been unable to maintain the correct text of the books of the canon. We must grant, of course, that for the most part the text has been preserved. Nevertheless, it has been preserved fallibly. We see implicit acknowledgment of these defects in the recently promulgated Nova Vulgata, which differs at many places from Vulgate editions of the Bible promulgated by previous popes.

In short, there’s no reason to think that “tradition” is an infallible source of authority. On the other hand, Scripture is an infallible source of authority, something that even the papists must concede, as evidenced in MB’s essay with various quotations from popes and the CCC.

Response to Objections

Having addressed the counterplan, which is at variance with reason, Scripture, and many of the sayings of the fathers, (and which also has problems standing on its own) let us turn to the criticism MB provides of Sola Scriptura. A first criticism of the Sola Scriptura position that MB provides is to question the issue of whether they can be known to be the complete revelation of God.

Completeness of Scripture

MB admits that the Scriptures are revelation from God, but questions how we may know that they are, in essence, complete. The answer is already given, to a degree, in the constructive essay. The answer is process of elimination. We know that the Scriptures are God’s word, and we have no reason to believe that the papist’s traditions are God’s word.

Ad Hominem Question of Authority

Next, MB criticizes the confession with an ad hominem. He claims it holds no authority from God to make this factual claim. First of all, we must provide turnabout to demonstrate the absurdity of this criticism. One wonders whether MB himself has the authority to make that factual claim. Is MB one of the prophets? Certainly not – he doesn’t even claim to be. But if MB can make that factual claim without special authority, why cannot the confession make the claim without special authority? Thus, the ad hominem collapses. Second, it is not the confession speaking for itself, the confession is the testimony of the Reformed churches in the Scottish tradition. It is a summary of shared beliefs, not a document carrying or asserting intrinsic authority. Finally, we (the Reformed) do have the authority to make such a claim. Scripture gives us the authority in, for example, I John 4:1 (“…believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”).

MB claims that providing an interpretation of Scripture or an identification of Scripture is a usurpation of the authority of Scripture when the Reformed do it, but not when the papists do it. The double standard could not be plainer. MB attempts to escape from this obvious fallacy by claiming that he has authority given by Jesus “through His apostles guided by the Holy Spirit.” That is our claim as well, though. We have been given authority by Jesus to believe the Word of God to be such and not the word of men (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Furthermore, we have the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).

Straw Man – Scriptures the “Only Authority”

MB’s assertion that “one cannot say that Scriptures are the only authority,” employs the straw man fallacy. It is not our position that Scriptures are the only authority: but that they are the rule of faith: that they are the Word of God. Our interpretations are fallible, but Scripture is infallible. That does not mean that the elders do not have authority (or even that individual believers do not have authority of some kind), it just means that they have subservient authority. In scholastic terms the other authorities are derivative authorities.


MB claims that canon is a problem negatively as to the Apocrypha. MB notes correctly that we can “find many different opinions throughout history” regarding the canonical status of the Apocrypha, then goes on to argue that there is evidence that “most Christians” accepted them for the first 300-400 years, and finally asks us to demonstrate that they were “all” wrong.

Of course, the answer to the question is that the WCF explains the matter. The Apocrypha are not part of Scripture, because they are not inspired. How we determine whether something is inspired is ultimately a matter of the Holy Spirit persuading us to accept His word by faith. Nevertheless, there are various reasons to reject the Apocrypha.

First, the Apocrypha were not written in Hebrew. From a textual critical standpoint, this helps to establish that they are not original, with respect – for example – to those portions of the Apocrypha that claim to be the work of ancient Jews or parts of other books (books that are otherwise in Hebrew/Chaldee).

Second, the Apocrypha were not part of the Hebrew canon. This is implicitly recognized even by the scholar MB cites in the portion that MB cites, where Bruce Metzger distinguishes the Greek and Latin fathers who did not know Hebrew from those who did. As Jerome testified when he was presented with the issue, the Apocrypha were no part of the Hebrew canon. We can also find confirmation elsewhere among the ancients.

Third, and connected with the second part, Jesus implicitly endorsed the Hebrew canon in his catch-all condemnation of the Pharisees, in which he stated: Matthew 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (Luke 11:51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.) By this Jesus begins with the first murder of a godly man in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures) and ends with the last murder of a godly man in the Tanakh (2 Chronicles 24:20-21 20And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. 21And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD.)

The interesting issue of why Zechariah is called both "the son of Jehoiada the priest" and "the son of Barachias" is an interesting discussion, upon which further presentation could be had, if there is any doubt that the two are not the same.

Concluding Thoughts

The bulk of MB’s essay is an exposition of his view of Rome’s view. An exhaustive explication of every point of error or difference would seem unnecessary. I have addressed the issue under several heads and simply summarize some of the important points below.

First, the issue of the Holy Spirit. There is a dominant theme in the essay that “the Church” is guided by the Holy Spirit, with the apparent argument being that because it is guided by the Holy Spirit its teachings are also part of the whole Word of God. There are a number of rebuttals that present themselves.

Believers have the Holy Spirit. Scripture clearly indicates this, and it does not seem likely that MB would deny it. Nevertheless, believers are not infallible by virtue of having the HS. Not everyone who has the Holy Spirit is consequently infallible in view of having the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, a church has the Holy Spirit not as church but by virtue of being composed (mostly) of believers who have the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the papist assembly is such a church. The papists’ refusal even to consider reforming their doctrines to the Word of God weighs against a conclusion that they have the Spirit that inspired the Scripture.

A second issue is Tradition – particularly tradition of the IAT sort. While tradition may be helpful (either in reality or in the abstract), that does not imply as a matter of logic that extra-Scriptural tradition, and especially infallible extra-Scriptural tradition, is necessary. MB’s appeal to Jewish tradition falls short because he admits that it was fallible. There’s no particular reason to think that Christian tradition would not be similarly fallible. Indeed, Christ not only corrected some of the traditions of the Jews, he heavily criticized them for the imposition of their traditions, which he said made void the word of God.

A third issue is papal infallibility. Is this tradition secret or not? There’s no real evidence for such a doctrine for over a thousand years – arguably there’s no significant evidence of such a doctrine until immediately preceding its dogmatic declaration at Vatican I. MB claims that the traditions of his church are not like those of the Gnostics, but for papal infallibility to be something handed down from the apostles, it would have had to have been handed down in secret for many of those years.

With all the foregoing, let us not be afraid to heed the words of Gregory of Nyssa who said:

They allege that while we confess three Persons we say that there is one goodness, and one power, and one Godhead. And in this assertion they do not go beyond the truth; for we do say so. But the ground of their complaint is that their custom does not admit this, and Scripture does not support it. What then is our reply? We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words. (On the Holy Trinity)

The Holy Scriptures are the sufficient, inspired, Word of God: let us heed them without adding to them the traditions of men.

As it is written:

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

And again:

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Let those be our guiding principles. Since the traditions of the papists are not and cannot be shown to be the Word of God, or the commandments of the LORD our God, let us not contradict Scripture by adding them to Scripture, as though they were also God’s word.

Post Script

Much to my chagrin, I seem to have conflated Wycliffe and Tyndale in my opening essay. I apologize to the readers for this mistake on my part, which demonstrates (inadvertently) the fallibility of men.

I wrote: "The first English Bible was not published until the time of Wycliffe in the 14th century. Wycliffe received martyrdom for his troubles, and the papist authorities sought to destroy the copies of the Bible that he printed."

The Wycliffe Bible was hunted by authorities, but while the papists dug up Wycliffe's bones and burnt them, it was technically Wycliffe's assistant Purvey (who completed the work) who ended up being martyred, Wycliffe himself dying apparently of natural causes (1384). Printed is also not be quite the right word. For, you see, the Wycliffe Bible had to be published by handwriting. Printed suggests mechanical reproduction.

Tyndale, on the other hand, provided the first truly printed English Bible. He was martyred in 1536 by strangling. His body was then, like that of Wycliffe his predecessor, burnt (in the case of Tyndale it was burnt at a stake).

The followers of Wycliffe, known as the Lollards, are a fascinating case study for those who vainly imagine that reformation of the Western church started in 1517 with a German monk complaining about abuse of indulgences.

Nevertheless, I somehow managed mentally to conflate Wycliffe and Tyndale in my opening post, much to my shame, and so I hereby publicly retract that erroneous passage in favor of:

"The first English Bible was not published until the time of Wycliffe/Purvey in the 14th century. WycliffePurvey received martyrdom for his troubles, and the papist authorities sought to destroy the copies of the Bible that he printedpublished."

Sola Deo Gloria,