Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Affirmative Rebuttal

by J.C. Thibodaux

TF hurls a few elephants in claiming that I contradict scriptural principles, yet can cite no clear evidence as to how specifically. Apostasy wouldn't require that God be less-than-omnipotent, merely that He allow its occurrence. His 'reasonable explanations' of the passages cited collide with problems I've already presented:

  • His interpetation of Matthew 5 explains nothing of how avoiding sin helps one enter into life (Matthew 18, Mark 9).

  • His suggestion that I'm confused concerning Hebrews 4 is confuted by his admission that conditions for Christian and heavenly life aren't mutually exclusive (second response). He also grossly misrepresents my view as, '[by] works,' which was nowhere suggested.

  • His view of Revelation 22 is self-contradictory: The unsaved aren't being told what awaits them, since he denies that anyone's part in New Jerusalem will ever really be taken.
His calls them 'pastoral warnings,' given to move believers to perseverance; but his case upon examination falls apart, answering nothing as to why God threatens consequences of damnation to those who can supposedly never suffer them. When finally asked how the consequences specifically would spur one on if they are not real-world possibilities, he appeals to a 'logical connection' between warnings and consequences, with no explanation as to how such a connection with what (in his view) amounts to an absurdity could spur on anyone.

His answer to the last question (which follows through with his 'hypothetical' interpretation), destroys his argument's credibility entirely when he states, Hypothetical questions are dangerous, especially when they contradict reality. A 'logical connection' to a consequence that 'contradicts reality' won't spur anyone on to anything. People aren't motivated by what they're told are hypothetical bluffs, they don't strive to serve God for the sake of what they think is a hollow myth, and they aren't driven to persevere by 'logical connections' to fairy-tales with no connection to reality --which is exactly what Calvinism makes the consequences of the warnings out to be.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Negative Answer to Question 5

by Matthew Bellisario

Fist of all Tradition does not produce any new content in regards to the Word of God. So there is no need to even entertain that part of your question. I don't know how you have determined that from my writings up to this point. The Church faithfully gives us the complete Word of God in the means and methods that God chose to use, which includes Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Church. As far as the Council of Trent goes, it merely represented the universal teaching of the Church on the Biblical Canon up to that point, but declaring it infallibly. You bring up the Latin translation which has nothing to do with Biblical Canon, so I do not understand your attempt to besmirch it here in your argument. Trent infallibly defined the Canon and agreed with the Church, her writings and her councils up to that point. The Councils of Hippo 393, and Carthage 397 and 419 for example justified and authorized the Deuterocanonicals for use as Sacred Scripture. Even the Protestant scholar Bruce Metzger admits that the early Christians regarded the Deuterocanonicals as being Scripture.

Metzger (2001) points out in his notes from the RSV the following:

“By the end of the first century of the Christian era, more and more Jews ceased using the Septuagint because the early Christians had adopted it as their own translation.”

"During the early Christian centuries most Greek and Latin Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus, Tertulian, Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria, and Cyprian (none of whom knew any Hebrew), quoted passages from the Apocrypha as "Scripture," "divine Scripture," "inspired," and the like. In this period only an occasional Father made an effort to learn the limits of the Palestinian Jewish canon (as Melito of Sardis), or to distinguish between the Hebrew text of Daniel and the addition of the story of Susanna in the Greek version (as Africanus)."

As far as the “Reformers” being consistent in their view of how they determine Sacred Scripture, I find that statement amusing. I find it amusing because you are in opposition to every Church in existence before the “Reformation.” In fact none of them agree with your faulty position. The churches from Egypt, Syria, Greece, Rome, Armenia, and the list goes on, all disagree with you. None of them have the same Biblical Canon as you do. All of these churches can prove they existed 1500 years before yours, and they all reject your position. In fact all of the ancient churches are unanimous with the acceptance of the Deuterocanonical books, which you haphazardly reject.

Metzger, Bruce M., and May, Herbert G., New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha Expanded Edition RSV. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.

Negative Answer to Question 4

by Matthew J Bellisario

You said in this question regarding 1 John 4:1, “But what is inescapable is that the verse is commanding believers to pass judgments on teachers. And, in fact, this particular epistle is commanding them (implicitly) to use Scripture (since this epistle is Scripture) in the process.” How can you deduce that this is implicitly speaking of Sacred Scripture alone? Just because the epistle is Scripture in the process? This is the most absurd assumption I have ever heard of. What is important is what this passage of Sacred Scripture says. It says to test the spirits whether they are of God. It says no place in Sacred Scripture, let alone this passage that Sacred Scripture is the only authority we have to go by. In fact the whole point here is that at this point and time when this passage was written, the Christians then would have thought no such thing. In fact the only “Scriptures” the people who were referring to was the Old Testament. What is inescapable for anyone reading this is that it never tells us the means to determine how to test the spirits, let alone telling us that it is Sacred Scripture alone.

Secondly the Bereans that you made reference to once again do not prove anything regarding Sola Scriptura. You have made yourself a hole here that you cant climb out of. You cannot assume that just because the Bereans searched the Scriptures, that they regarded this to be the only source of Divine Revelation. Thats like me writing and telling everyone that I searched the Webster dictionary today, and someone reading that and assuming that I never used any other source other than that in my life. The fact is you cannot prove that position from that statement. The same goes for your Berean argument. You are asking something from the text that just isn't there. The Catholic Church and her theologians today search the Scriptures as well, yet we all know very well that the Catholic Church and her theologians do not deny the full Divine Revelation of Tradition as well.

Yes Scripture tells us to test teachers to see whether they are false prophets. Unfortunately for you and your position, which you have thus far been unable to prove, this passage does not tell us that Sacred Scriptures are the only rule of faith to be used in doing this as you keep falsely suggesting.

As far as you citing St. Augustine and St Ambrose we can see once again how you cannot quote them in context as I have already indicated several times so far in this debate. Saint Ambrose never tells us that Sacred Scripture alone must be used. Once again you have to tell us that it is implicit, which is not true. The fact is Saint Ambrose never said that. Saint Augustine also never said in your quote that the Sacred Scriptures were the only source, he merely said, as the Catholic Church does, that no one is to contradict them. So what? How does this prove anything in regards to your argument for Scripture alone? The fact is it doesn't. 1 John, as I pointed out earlier in my debate does not give us any support for the false doctrine of Sola Scriptura either, because it also never even mentions once in its text anything of the sort. So far none of these arguments has even come close to being convincing.

Negative Answer to Question 3

by Matthew Bellisario

There are several early writings that refer to the interpretive aspect of Sacred Tradition such as Tertullion writing around the year 200 as well as Origin and St. Athanasius for starters.

Tertullian, Demurrer Against the Heretics (200 A.D.):"Wherever it shall be clear that the truth of the Christian discipline and faith are present, there also will be found the truth of the Scriptures and of their explanation, and of all the Christian traditions."

But what is more important is we see the early Fathers and writers of the Church appealing to Tradition in their interpretation of Sacred Scripture all of the time in their writings. For instance how does Origin arrive at his interpretation of Baptism in his writings? He does it by appealing to the Tradition of the Church. Of course if he does so it must mean he is doing so under a pretext that it is infallible in its meaning.

"Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).

"The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Does Origin here have to expound any further on how he is coming up with his interpretation? He does it through the Church as so many Church Fathers do. For instance St. Athanasius in the 4th century constantly admonishes the Arians by their misinterpretation of Sacred Scripture. He appeals to the Tradition of the Church as being an infallible teacher. Although many times he uses the Sacred Scriptures in a "sufficient" context, it is quite clear that he does so under the pretext that it is done within the interpretive construct of the Church, and not solely his own interpretation. If he admonishes the Arians and their heresy it must done in understanding that the Church's interpretation is the infallible one in Tradition handed down, since the Arian interpretation is obviously heretical.

St. Athanasius says,

“However here too they (Arians) introduce their private fictions, and contend that the Son and the Father are not in such wise 'one,' or 'like,' as the Church preaches, but as they themselves would have it" Orat 3,10”

He clearly demonstrates that indeed those who refer to the Sacred Scriptures alone without what has been handed down is in error,

"But after him (the devil) and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power" Festal Letter 2

We must once again read these writings in their proper and full context when dealing with these subjects. These are very early sources as St Athansaius wrote these in the 4th century, and clearly refers to an interpretive aspect of the Sacred Scriptures in Sacred Tradition when he emphasizes, “who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down.” We must not look to the Fathers or writings of the early Church as specific proof-texts explicitly spelled out for each doctrine proclaimed by the Church. We can however see many times plainly how the Church Fathers or other early writers derive at their interpretations of Sacred Scripture. For as Adrian Fortescue (2008) rightly spoke, “We must not forget that the Fathers did not write their letters or preach their sermons with a view to supplying evidences of the faith of their time for future controversialists.” Therefore I urge you to read the Fathers in their full context and not use the fallacy of selective emphasis once again to substantiate your errors. It is quite clear that we have here a very early example of a Saint appealing to the Tradition of the Church to arrive at a correct and infallible understanding of the Sacred Scriptures when refuting the heretical Arian position demonstrated here. He does not appeal to Sacred Scripture outside of this understanding.

Fortescue, Adrian. The Greek Fathers. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2008. (Original Publication 1908 London, Catholic Truth Society)

Negative Answer to Question 2

by Matthew Bellisario

I think you have gone off track here in trying to justify that Tradition is something that is “added” to Sacred Scripture. Although the above quotes you have posted imply that there are two “sources”, we must understand this in the context that we are looking at two forms of Divine Revelation. As I have already pointed out, it refers to two in as much as we adhere to the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity. Certainly no one would say that Jesus is an “addition” to the Father or the Holy Spirit, yet when someone prays in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, it appears that the “and” is one addition of another person. Yet we know that God is one being with 3 persons to which all the persons of the Holy Trinity are eternal and coexisting. Like this mystery we also must conclude that these documents are writing in a descriptive analogy so that the faithful will understand that Sacred Scripture is not the complete deposit of Divine Revelation, and the above quotes do not in any way contradict that the ultimate source of Divine Revelation is God and that the Gospel is not something divided into two separate “sources” but one source in two forms.

I think we can see that you are attempting to belittle Sacred Tradition by making it seem as if it is something that was arbitrarily added to the Scriptures which is clearly untrue. In fact I have written earlier in this debate where I demonstrated that the Sacred Scriptures and their interpretation actually resides within Tradition. Dei Verbum clearly illustrates my point and does not contradict my definition,

9. "The words of the holy fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church. Through the same tradition the Church's full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood and unceasingly made active in her; and thus God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16).”

10.Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church.

So we can see that Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are one deposit of the same Divine Revelation. Sacred Tradition is not an addition to Sacred Scripture in as much as they are both the Word of God. Any reference to Scripture plus Tradition is done in the context of showing that Sacred Scripture is not the only Word of God regarding Divine Revelation. You are looking for a contradiction here that simply is not there.The use of the above quotations you are using are for the purpose of refuting the heresy of Sola Scriptura, but once again we must read the entire documents to understand their complete context so as to understand the full definition of Sacred Tradition. Dei Verbum nicely sums up Divine Revelation regarding Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. They are all bound together which is the whole point I have been making. None are an addition to the other, but form one sacred deposit of the Word of God.

10. It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls. From Dei Verbum 10.

Negative Answer to Question 1

by Matthew Bellisario

The Catholic Church also would agree that the Church is made up of “believers” and the quotes above that you listed use the term in that relative context. It is however not the “only” definition that the Church Fathers use to refer to the Church. It is a fallacy of selective emphasis here that you have picked these quotes only to arrive at yours, or the WMCs definition of the Church. If we read other quotes from the same Church Fathers we see a clear hierarchal structure to it which you fail to accept.

Irenaeus clearly gives us a vision of the apostolic succession of the apostles through the bishops which you reject, which constitutes the real meaning of what the Church is,

“1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about.“

3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes.
Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 3)

Irenaeus also gives us a clear understanding of the structure of the Church being more than just believers when he calls those to refer back to the tradition of the most ancient churches, which once again you reject,

“Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question 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?”
Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 4)

We can also the see that St Cyprian of Carthage had an image of the primacy of the apostle St. Peter when he refers to the chair of unity that the Church is built on which is also in line with what I have presented with the full meaning of what the Church is, one once again which you reject,

“On him [Peter] He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigned a like power to all the Apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one Chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?"
(The Unity of the Catholic Church [first edition] 4, c. AD 251)”

We can also see that the chair of Peter was recognized in the early Church by St. Ephraim as well,

"[Jesus said:] Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on Earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in my institution so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures." St. Ephraim of Syria ("Homily 4," c. 351 A.D.)

The answer to your question, “Why now do you feel justified in defining “the Church” in the self-serving way you define it, contrary (at least) to the WCF and the early churchmen quoted and cited above?” Whose way is self serving? I read the Fathers in their complete context, unlike the method you are using which you are narrowly defining a definition of the Church which is incomplete. It is obviously not contrary to any of the above since I have just shown that they understood the Church to be much more than yours, or the WMCs definition of it.

Genuine Christian Apostasy Debate - Negative Rebuttal Essay

Perseverance of the Saints is consistent with the Scriptures. It is particularly consistent with the basic theme that God’s love is an unconditional love, that God is able to prevent apostasy, and that it is within Christ’s desire to save to the uttermost those he wishes to save. Furthermore, the concept of saved again / lost again / saved again is completely foreign to Scripture, as is the concept of Christ losing any that the Father gives to him.

In short, when we look at the specific passages that JCT has picked out, we realize that there are reasonable explanations of the verses that harmonize them with the rest of what we know about God. Furthermore, we find that the sense JCT has proposed for those verses actually forces the verses into more or less contradiction with other parts of Scripture.

Thus, not only has the “negative” side of this debate established that there are reasonable sense of the relevant verses consistent with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but in fact the “negative” side has established that the alternative sense proposed by JCT is not itself a reasonable interpretation of the verses.

At the heart of the matter, it seems as though JCT feels that the verses should only be there to describe a situation that is contrary both to the best interests of the person involved, and contrary to God’s own desires. Such an interpretation of the verse would require us, in essence, to discard our theology away from a theology including an omnipotent God, since it would in essence declare that God’s attempt to save genuine believers sometimes does not succeed to the uttermost.

Accordingly, we can conclude that contrary to the resolution, the doctrine that teaches that genuine Christians cannot end up in hell (whether due to unfaithfulness or any other reason) is and must be coordinate with the true sense of the largely unrelated passages of Matthew 5:27-30, Hebrews 4:9-11, and Revelation 22:18-19.