Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Question 3 from Affirmative

Question 3 – The Hand-Me-Down Tradition Fallacy

As we saw in Question 2, the position of pope Pius XII is that (as I had observed regarding Catholicism) there are three tradition categories, i.e.together with the sources [Scripture and Hand-Me-Down Tradition (HMDT)] … a living Teaching Authority [Interpretative Authority Tradition (IAT)].” In the section of your rebuttal entitled “The Fallacy of ‘Hand Me Down Tradition’ Argument” it is unclear whether you simply disagree with P12, are unaware of the differences between those two sources and the teaching authority, or possibly just were misunderstood by myself. I had previously pointed out that, at best, all of the quotations you had provided related to asserted HMDT-category traditions, none related to IAT-category traditions – and even now it does not appear that your newest quotation from Origen falls in a different category.

Furthermore, when we turn to noted early Christian writers we tend to see a theme among them of not attributing infallibility to ought but Scripture:

Augustine wrote: “God alone swears securely, because He alone is infallible.” Psalm 89, See In Psalmum LXXXVIII Enarratio, Sermo I, PL 37:1122.

Theophilus of Alexandria wrote: “It would be the instigation of a demonical spirit to follow the conceits of the human mind, and to think anything divine, beyond what has the authority of the Scriptures.” (Epistle 96)

Jerome wrote: “Some may say: ‘You are forcing the Scripture, that is not what it means.’ Let Holy Writ be its own interpreter …” On the Psalms, Homily 6.

Ambrose wrote: “Follow the Scriptures, so that ye cannot err.” Commentary on Luke, Book II, §12.

Augustine wrote: "Neither weigh we the writings of all men, be they never so worthy and catholic, as we weigh the canonical Scriptures; but that saving the reverence that is due unto them, we may mislike and refuse somewhat in their writings, if we find that they have thought otherwise, than the truth may bear. Such am I in the writings of others, and such would I wish others to be in mine." Epistle to Fortunatus, No. 111

And again Augustine wrote: “Take away from amongst us any of our own books; let the book of God come amongst us: hear what Christ saith: hearken what the truth speaketh.” Sermon on Psalm 57.

And finally Augustine wrote: “Especially as in writings of such authors I feel myself free to use my own judgment (owing unhesitating assent to nothing but the canonical Scriptures), whilst in fact there is not a passage which he has quoted from the works of this anonymous author that disturbs me.” On Nature and Grace, Chapter 71.
In view of such evidence, and leaving aside the undocumentable (no serious papist apologists claim to be able to identify specific sayings of Jesus or the Apostles that were passed down) category of HMDT, what is the earliest you can document the church fathers teaching that there exists an infallible teaching authority, to somehow document this category of IAT? The qualification that it be an infallible teaching authority is an important part of this question, because there is no doubt that the eldership serves as a living teaching authority (as WCF XXV:III states: “Unto this catholic and visible Church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.”). So, to be clear, what is being requested is the earliest clear testimony you can produce for infallible IAT (not infallible Scriptures, or even infallible HMDT) – clear testimony that is at least as clear as that of Augustine, Theophilus, Ambrose, and Jerome.

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