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.

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