Monday, October 6, 2008

Question 5 from Negative

Question 5 Fallible and Infallible Interpretations

by Matthew Bellisario

God has always put forth His authority in a living entity. In the Old Covenant He gave the Jews the living Levitical priesthood to interpret the Living Tradition and the Sacred Scriptures put forth by God as Divine Revelation. There was a visible authority for the Jews to follow. Judaism was never a Scripture alone faith. (1995 Ariel)

We see a continuation of this with Jesus, the Word of God coming in the flesh to become the high priest who gave us a Church as "the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). He also gave us a living Sacred Tradition and the Sacred Scriptures within this structure (2 Thess. 2:15, 1 Cor. 11:2). The Church structure is visible ("I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" Matt. 16:18), it is passed down through apostolic succession. Christ told the disciples: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16), , and the Church maintains a character of authority (Matt. 18:18), just as the Nicene Creed also professes. By this Church entity given to us by Christ we can know the correct interpretations of Sacred Scripture and what the full deposit of Divine Revelation is. The chair of Saint Peter (John 21:15–17 "Feed my sheep . . . ", Luke 22:32 "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail", and Matthew 16:18 "You are Peter . . . ") was given to us just as the Jews had the chair of Moses (Matt. 23:2) as the uniting visible head of the Church, although Jesus Christ remains the true head of the Church (Hebrews 2:17) , he also gave us the Holy Spirit to guide it infallibly as well (John 16:13).

Saint Ambrose of Milan rightly wrote, "[Christ] made answer: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church. . . .’ Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?" (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).

Saint Augustine also correctly wrote, "Some things are said which seem to relate especially to the apostle Peter, and yet are not clear in their meaning unless referred to the Church, which he is acknowledged to have represented in a figure on account of the primacy which he bore among the disciples. Such is ‘I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ and other similar passages. In the same way, Judas represents those Jews who were Christ’s enemies" (Commentary on Psalm 108 1 [A.D. 415]).

Finally the Council of Ephesus in 431 stated, "Philip, the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See [Rome] said: ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors’" (ibid., session 3).

You said in your rebuttal, “Our interpretations are fallible, but Scripture is infallible.” If all interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures are fallible as you claim, then how can anyone know for sure what the correct interpretation is without an authority higher than the Scriptures themselves? Should we believe you just because you say so, or some confession says so? Of course one would answer with “the Holy Spirit tells us”, but every one of the 9000 denominations all tell us this as well. My question is, who can interpret the Sacred Scriptures infallibly, and how can we know for sure without a visible God breathed Church entity as the one I have pointed out above?

Ariel, David S. What Do Jews Believe. New York: Schocken Books, 1995

Question 4 from Negative

Question 4 The Nicene Creed Omission.

by Matthew Bellisario

The Nicene Creed is professed by every ancient Christian church in existence as containing a sound foundation to Christianity. It was composed in the 4th century (381) and is generally referred to as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Why does this Creed not profess Scripture Alone, and instead focuses on the Church? The Creed specifically says , “I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church” and never refers to Scripture alone. In fact it refers only once to Sacred Scripture regarding the resurrection and never implies a Scripture alone position. The reason to me is obvious in that if one rested on the foundation of the Church, then they would be taught correct doctrine, and would also have the fullness of Divine revelation which includes Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Notice the Creed also does not mention Tradition either, since it is obvious that it resides in the structure of the Church. The Creed also professes the Catholic doctrine on Baptism as well, but that is for another time and place. My question is, why when this Creed was written was the emphasis put on believing in the Catholic Church, rather than a profession of following the Sacred Scriptures alone? After all, if this (Sola Scriptura) is the bedrock of Christianity as you have been trying to prove, then why did this ancient council in the midst of heavy controversy neglect to include this in its Creed? An inadvertent omission or error perhaps?

Question 3 from Negative

Question 3 Where is your church and its confession in the world before the 16th century?

by Matthew Bellisario

There is a glaring reality staring you in the face which you fail to acknowledge. Your beliefs and opinions regarding Sacred Scripture are found in no church in existence before the the 16th century. Let me be more specific. You made these claims among others in your opening statement,

“We have sixty-six books of Scripture.

We reject as authoritative the Apocrypha – those additional books and parts that are not inspired, but which have sometimes been called Deuterocanonical. They are of historical interest – and they are of grammatical interest, since they are ancient books written in Greek. Nevertheless, since they are not inspired, they do not have any more authority than any other human writings.

The Bible is a complete document. It is sufficient. It contains everything that we need to know for faith and life in general, in order to glorify God and in order to be saved. Nevertheless, the illumination of the Holy Spirit – who persuades us of the truth of inspiration of Scripture – is necessary for anyone to obtain a saving knowledge of God, even from Scripture. It is complete – but it is not exhaustive.

Not all of the teachings of Scripture are equally clear, but the things necessary to be known for salvation are clearly taught, so that even uneducated people can understand them.”

There are more teachings that I can list, but I will use these for my question. There is no church in existence before the 16th century that ever made these false claims. In fact whether the church be Syrian, Maronite, Syro-Malankara, Coptic, Ethiopic, Byzantine, Chaldean, Syro-Malabar or Armenian, they all reject your 66 book Canon and they all reject Sola Scriptura. Everyone of these different churches claim and can historically trace their existence back to the apostles themselves. They all attest to Sacred Scripture within Sacred Tradition. All of these Rites exist within the Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox, and hail from all over the world, established by different apostles, yet they all hold to the Catholic teaching of Sacred Tradition.

We have all of these ancient churches which attest to Sacred Tradition in their Liturgies, as well as in their church writings and councils. If your claim of Sola Scriptura is true, we should see these claims made somewhere among the ancient churches as well. My question is, where is your Westminster confession equivalent, proving Sola Scriptura among any ancient church group before the 16th century, and where is the your equivalent Liturgy of the Eucharist proving these beliefs in practice. Please do not quote Church Fathers individually, since all of the Church Fathers belonged to one of the above groups and all celebrated one of their ancient Liturgies. Show us where there is a whole church group professing your Westminster faith in some documented form in some ancient church before the 16th century.

Question 2 from Negative

Question 2 Sacred Scripture and the “necessary” teachings are clear?

by Matthew Bellisario

In your opening statement you posted the following, “(VII) Not all of the teachings of Scripture are equally clear, but the things necessary to be known for salvation are clearly taught, so that even uneducated people can understand them.

According to the Protestant seminary Gordon-Conwell , they list over 9000 "denominations" on their university website. (World Christian Database 2004) These many denominations differ in doctrines that range from but are not limited to, liturgical worship, the operations of baptism, Holy Communion, justification, salvation, marriage and divorce, moral issues like abortion, and birth control and the list goes on and on. Yet they all profess a belief that everything we need to know about salvation is clear in Sacred Scripture. They all use the same premise to arrive at their doctrines as you do. One of these 9000 denominations is referring to yours, which also attests to this. Why do so many “necessary” teachings regarding salvation differ from each other, when all of these “denominations” are using the same method that you are using, all claiming that these “necessary” doctrines are so easy to arrive at from Sacred Scripture? If they are so easy to understand then why isn't something such as salvation and justification agreed upon?

Something every Christian would consider necessary is how we are saved and whether or not we can lose our salvation. Yet there are several variations of this teaching in which some believe you are predestined, some believe that you choose God by God's grace but can never lose your salvation and another would say you can choose and then lose your salvation later, etc. All of these professions claim that they see the teaching clearly in Sacred Scripture, and they are all using the same Scriptures to arrive at their conclusion. They all have educated Scripture scholars who study Greek etc, and ordinary laymen who teach and study the Scriptures like the Bereans did, and all claim the Holy Spirit is guiding them, yet they all disagree with one another on something as simple and necessary as how we are saved. The same can be said for baptism and many other "necessary" teachings. In fact among these denominations that hold to Sola Scriptura, many disagree with each other as to what is and what is not, "necessary". My question is, why should anyone believe that your interpretation of Sacred Scripture or any other Protestant group's interpretation is the correct one, and why should anyone believe that you or they can determine what is necessary and what is not?

Question 1 from Negative

Question 1 The Oral Tradition of the Jews and the Old Covenant

by Matthew Bellisario

In my opening statement I demonstrated how the Jews did not hold the Scriptures to be their only authority in regards to Divine Revelation. You responded by one small paragraph questioning their infallible character. How then do you regard Jesus Christ Himself who makes use of an Oral tradition in regards to the Old Covenant when referring to an oral teaching of the Rabbis, which is found no place in the Old Testament Sacred Scriptures? Jesus Himself in Matthew 23: 1-3: refers to an Oral Tradition and teaching to be followed by His own command, yet the Old Testament Scriptures make no reference to this. Jesus is quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, "Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all the things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.’ " There are other New Testament Scripture passages as well that prove an oral teaching of the Jews. For example 1 Cor 10:4 which is found only in Jewish Oral Tradition.

The chair of Moses was the oral teaching authority of the Jews. Yet Sacred Scripture is silent on this. How do you explain away this clear contradiction to Scripture alone in reference to the Jewish Oral tradition? I presented evidence from two Jewish scholars in my opening statement, who readily admit that the Jewish faith was not a faith of Scripture alone, yet you never even made an attempt to refute them in your rebuttal.

In case you need refreshing these were my sources that I provided this in my opening essay.

“In reading many sources on Judaism one point is crystal clear. They did not hold to a Scripture alone position regarding God's Divine Revelation to them. In regards to the Torah, they believed that there was the written Torah and the Oral Torah (Torah she-be-al peh) that coincided with it. They believed that this oral tradition held the same weight and antiquity that the written text did. (1995 Ariel)

“It is understood by the Jewish people that every written law must be accompanied by an oral one to preserve proper interpretation of the written. (2006 Steinsaltz)”

You replied with, “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. “

Yet my two Jewish scholars say that the Oral Tradition held the same weight as the written. This means that they are Divine Revelation from God Himself. My question is, why do you reject the ancient Jewish position of Scripture and Tradition as one living source of Divine Revelation, when I have presented two scholars who attest to it? I have now provided an additional example presented from Sacred Scripture itself with Jesus Himself clearly referring to an oral Tradition of the Jews. Please explain.


Ariel, David S. What Do Jews Believe. New York: Schocken Books, 1995.

Steinsaltz, Adin. The Essential Talmud. New York: Basic Books, 2006.