Saturday, November 1, 2008

Answer 3 from Affirmative

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

Answer: My church is not defined by walls. Instead, my church is defined by faith in the Christ of the Scriptures (as the ECFs taught as already pointed out to you in my first question). As Jesus said:

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

The confession is simply a summary of Scriptural teachings. It does not replace or substitute the Scriptures.

MB claimed, “Your beliefs and opinions regarding Sacred Scripture are found in no church in existence before the … 16th century.” That assertion is not true. Even if it were true, however, it is irrelevant to this debate. That’s not a standard that MB’s counter-plan can stand up to. Trent’s position on Scripture – or better yet Vatican II’s position on Scripture – may find partial support in some early conciliar documents – but nothing that was written with the object of reflecting the views of an entire church.

MB then identified the statements from my opening post on the canon, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the perspicuity of Scripture. MB acknowledged that, “There are more teachings that I can list, but I will use these for my question.” Picking and choosing teachings is an interesting way to evaluate the matter. Nevertheless, these are what he picked.

MB continued, “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.”

It’s interesting that MB tries to use them as a guide. They cannot agree among themselves on the canon or on whether the pope’s ex cathedra statements are part of the rule of faith. They may all wish to add to the Bible in one way or another (as also others do), but their testimony is at odds, one with another. Even within Romanism, there are some who argue that the number of the books in the canon has not been definitively fixed by Trent, there are divisions on material sufficiency, and there seem to be disagreements over perspicuity.

MB acknowledged that, “Everyone of these different churches claim and can historically trace their existence back to the apostles themselves.” So can, in the same sense, every church (including the many Reformed churches). The Jews (whether Pharisee, Sadducee, or modern Kabbalist) historically trace themselves back to Moses. But unless MB wants to say that the apostles were divided over papal infallibility and the canon of Scripture, the ability to trace one’s genealogy is simply a Jewish genetic fallacy.

MB claimed, “They all attest to Sacred Scripture within Sacred Tradition.” They themselves cannot agree what the bounds of either Scripture or Tradition are. This actually undermines the counter-plan. One cannot use this genetic fallacy that because these churches can somehow trace themselves back to ancient times, consequently they are right – because they disagree with one another on the very issues that MB tries to make important. Likewise, the exact relationship between Scripture and Tradition is not defined outside of Romanism by the equivalent of Trent and Vatican II. And, of course, before the 16th century there was not even an equivalent to Trent in Romanism. Thus, the implication that because there was no pre-Tridentine Reformation council that produced a document like the Westminster Confession of Faith, is not an argument that can be made consistently by MB.

MB claimed, “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.” In fact, however, it’s hard enough for members only of Romanism (whether of the Latin or other rite) to agree on what the teaching of “Sacred Tradition” is. It is the height of naiveté to suppose that all of the listed churches hold to “the Catholic teaching” of the matter.

MB asserted, “If your claim of Sola Scriptura is true, we should see these claims made somewhere among the ancient churches as well.” MB anachronistically calls these modern churches ancient, and ignores the fact that in ancient times these churches did not resort to anything but Scripture as a rule of faith. We have shown that from the writings of the Early Church Fathers.

MB asked, “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 [sic] equivalent Liturgy of the Eucharist proving these beliefs in practice.”

That, again, is two questions (and the third of this round). The answer to the former would include, for example, the Waldensian Confession of 1120. The answer to the latter question may be answered by the simple liturgy of the Waldensians as well. Certainly there have been some questions raised about the historicity of these Waldensian documents, but even those who claim that the Waldensian materials are fake, admit that the Waldensians existed as a group before the 16th century. Ultimately, the problem with the question can be seen from MB’s own caveat:

MB insisted, “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.” It is interesting how quick MB is to try to silence the testimony of the Fathers, and to make unsupported assertions regarding their beliefs/worship. There is no reason for MB to ask that they not be quoted “individually,” except that MB already knows what their testimony would be. For example, MB surely knows that Cardinal Cajetan (writing before Trent’s decree) admitted that Jerome rejected the Apocrypha as being canonical scriptures in the strict sense. Furthermore, their individual testimonies demonstrate that the churches who claim to trace their lineage back to the apostles do not follow the teachings of the apostles.


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