Monday, December 1, 2008

Affirmative Concluding Essay

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

This is the Scriptural mandate of Sola Scriptura. The prophet Isaiah explained:

Isaiah 8:16-20
16Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion. 19And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

And the Psalmist declares:

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
As mentioned in my opening essay, there are two main questions to be considered. The first question is whether the Scriptures are an authority – a source to which Christians can turn to settle disputes. The second question is whether there is any other authority of equal or greater dignity in our possession.
We have seen in this debate that it is undisputed that the Bible is God’s Word and that the Bible is a rule of faith. That is to say, the first question has been answered in the affirmative. The only real question that is raised is whether the negative, MB, has identified any other rule of faith besides the Bible. It would be unreasonable to ask the affirmative to prove a universal negative. MB seems, at least implicitly, to have acknowledged this burden to identify at least one additional rule of faith, and has attempted to provide such an alternative rule: the teachings of his church. In other words, the only question left to be decided is whether there is any other authority of equal or greater dignity in our possession.

In the Bible, only the Bible is described as being inspired. Even if MB had claimed inspiration for his church, the Bible only describes Scripture as inspired. That is why Jerome, in his comments on Haggai, wrote: “The sword of God smites whatever they draw and forge from a pretended (quasi) apostolic tradition, without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures.” The sword of God, is (of course) as described by Augustine, in the City of God, “And Scripture says that the word of God is a doubly sharp sword, on account of the two edges, the two Testaments.”

Although MB makes a claim that the extra-Scriptural Traditions of his church (both Hand-Me-Down-Tradition HMDT and Interpretative-Authority-Tradition IAT) are the Word of God, on this point he disagrees with his own pope, who stated (in “The Transmission of Divine Revelation,” written before Ratzinger had been made pope): “It is important to note that only Scripture is defined in terms of what it is: it is stated that Scripture is the Word of God consigned to writing. Tradition, however, is described only functionally, in terms of what it does: it hands on the word of God, but is not the Word of God.”

And in this matter Ambrose (in Cain and Abel) agrees, identifying Scripture and the Word of God: “What is the mark of a Christian? Faith working by charity. What is the mark of faith? A sure conviction of the truth of the inspired words, not to be shaken by any process of reasoning, nor by the alleging of natural requirements, nor by the pretences of false piety. What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full acceptance on the authority of the words [of the Scripture], not venturing to reject anything - nor making additions. For, if 'all that is not of faith is sin’ as the Apostle says, and 'faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin.” And recall that Augustine made the same identification in the quotation provided above. But MB boldly but wrongly claims “Sacred Tradition is not an addition to Sacred Scripture in as much [sic] as they are both the Word of God.” (Negative Answer to Question 2)

There were ten sections of the Westminster Confession of Father, chapter 1, that were under consideration, as laid out in my opening essay. Section 1 related to the fact that revelation today comes to us through Scripture.

It is similar to what John of Damascus declared when he wrote (in An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith): “Nevertheless, God has not gone so far as to leave us in complete ignorance, for through nature the knowledge of the existence of God has been revealed by Him to all men. The very creation of its harmony and ordering proclaims the majesty of the divine nature. Indeed, He has given us knowledge of Himself in accordance with our capacity, at first through the Law and the Prophets and then afterwards through His only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we accept all those things that have been handed down by the Law and the Prophets and the Apostles and the Evangelists, and we know and revere them, and over and above these things we seek nothing else.” Notice that he ends by stating that over and above the Apostles, Evangelists, Law, and the Prophets he states that he seeks nothing else.

Sections 2 and 3 related to the 66 book canon and the rejection of the apocryphal so-called “deuterocanonical” books. MB cannot reasonably dispute the NT portion of that canon, and Jesus’ own testimony in the NT establishes the shorter Jewish canon over the expanded canons held by various churches. It is interesting to note that the “ancient churches” that MB refers to hold to various expanded canons, but the Greek Orthodox have a different canon from the Ethiopian Orthodox who have a different canon from the papists themselves. Furthermore, of course, MB is well aware that notable early Christian writers such as Jerome rejected the deuterocanonicals, and that even up to the council of Trent, there was division at the highest levels of the church of Rome over whether the deuterocanonicals should be considered of binding authority or merely as useful ancient writings, with Cardinal Cajetan taking the latter position.

Section 4 states that the authority of Scripture comes solely from its divine authorship, and not from the testimony of the church. This view is reflected in Augustine’s comment in Of the Unity of the Church, “Let us not hear, You say this, I say that; but let us hear Thus saith the Lord. There are the Dominical books, whose authority we both acknowledge, we both yield to, we both obey; there let us seek the Church, there let us discuss the question between us.” The church gets its authority by following Scripture, not the other way around.

Section 5 relates to the fact that although the Church testifies to the inspiration of Scripture, the final authority and basis for our acceptance of their testimony is not their own word for it, or the inherent beauty of Scripture, but the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit. Augustine’s letter to Paulina reflects this same concept when it declares, “I do not want you to depend on my authority, so as to think that you must believe something because it is said by me; you should rest your belief either on the canonical Scriptures, if you do not yet see how true something is, or on the truth made manifest to you interiorly, so that you may see clearly.”

Section 6 relates to the sufficiency of Scripture. As Athanasius expressed it, “the holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the proclamation of saving truth.” Indeed, as pointed out in my opening essay, this is the same point that the earliest fathers had to raise against the heretics who tried to claim apostolic unwritten tradition in order to substantiate their views, accusing the Scriptures of deficiency rather than sufficiency. From what I gather, MB has only attacked this point implicitly, hinting that without HMDT and IAT the Reformed believer has an incomplete picture of the Word of God. In contrast, however, Scripture itself declares that the Scriptures are able to thoroughly furnish the man of God.

Section 7 relates to the perspicuity of Scripture. As William Whitaker in the 16th century noted, even the papists recognize the truth of this principle: “Indeed all the papists in their books, when they seek to prove any thing, boast everywhere that they can bring arguments against us from the most luminous, plain, clear and manifest testimonies of Scripture . . . For in every dispute their common phrases are,—This is clear,—This is plain,—This is manifest in the scriptures, and such like. Surely when they speak thus, they ignorantly and unawares confess the perspicuity of the scriptures even in the greatest questions and controversies.”

Section 8 relates to the fact that the authentic version of Scriptures are the Hebrew and Greek originals. Jerome, Origen, and other church fathers likewise agree to this fact, and MB has not challenged this truth, despite Trent’s seeming view that the authentic version of the Scripture is the “Old Latin Vulgate” version. Possibly this is simply a reflection of the de-latinization of Post-Vatican-2 popery.

Section 9 relates to the fact that Scripture is Scripture’s interpreter. Contrary to the claims of IAT proposed by MB, a consequence of Scripture’s sufficiency is that Scripture is not in need of the interpretation of the church in order to be understood properly. Thus, Jerome could write in a homily on the Psalms, “Some may say: ‘You are forcing the Scripture, that is not what it means.’ Let Holy Writ be its own interpreter … .”

Section 10 relates to the fact that the supreme arbiter among men is not the church but the Word of God in Scripture. Gregory of Nyssa recognized the need for this doctrine, when he wrote, “We do not think that it is right to make their prevailing custom the law and rule of sound doctrine. For if custom is to avail for proof of soundness, we too, surely, may advance our prevailing custom; and if they reject this, we are surely not bound to follow theirs. Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words.”

This summary of doctrines was defended not only on the basis of its footnoted prooftexts from Scripture, but also from the testimony of the writers of the early church. In addition, a positive presentation from Holy Scripture itself was presented, and was addressed by MB not with a contrary exegesis, but simply with handwaving, asserting that “TF then quotes the Scriptures out of context …” without substantiating this claim.

MB’s own positive presentation is rather lacking. Although MB attempts to set forth his church’s position on the issue of Scripture, we discovered that MB has made some errors in his presentation, not following the teachings of his church fully. Part of the problem is that even now, MB’s church is internally divided over the issue of whether the correct view is “partim partim” or rather a view of material sufficiency should be adopted. While MB wants to claim that his position is the correct one, we have seen his position contradicted by the statements of his own popes. Either way, however, we have seen MB try to claim that the rule of faith is not Scriptures alone but Scriptures Plus, despite his attempted denial of this logical consequence of asserting that HMDT and IAT are also a rule of faith, in addition to Scripture.

MB makes an argument from what he thinks are the teachings of “the Church,” but as Augustine put it, in his essay on Church Unity: “Whoever dissents from the sacred Scriptures, even if they are found in all places in which the church is designated, are not the church.”

MB’s attempt to appeal to the Jews fell short. As MB himself admitted in his opening statement, the Rabbis did not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit that MB believes that “Jesus guaranteed we would have” (MB has failed to recognize that this guarantee is met in Scripture).

Likewise, MB’s attempt to attack the authority of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) was lacking. The WCF does not claim to be self-authoritative, but derives its authority from its agreement with Scripture. Unfortunately, MB seems to have interpreted the WCF through the lenses of his own church’s method of asserting authority for itself. MB fails to recognize that the WCF is more like Augustine who wrote, in his treatise on the Trinity: “So to the latter I say, Do not correct my writings according to the standard of your own opinion or argument, but according to that of the divine Scriptures or irrefutable reason, But if you find anything in them that is true, this is not mine by the mere fact that it is there, and by understanding and loving it, it will become yours as well as mine; but if you find anything false, then the error was mine, but if we avoid it, it will be neither yours nor mine.”

Or, as Jerome put it, “For all questions, let us seek for suitable beams from the testimonies of the Scriptures, and cut them down, and build the house of wisdom within us,” in his comments on Haggai. And again, in his commentary on Matthew, “That which does not have authority from the Scriptures, we may as readily despise (contemn), as well approve.” Jerome clearly saw the unique position of Scripture in establishing doctrines.

MB claims that “we can find ample evidence proving that the Deuterocanonical books were considered Scripture by most Christians for the first 300-400 years,” but MB’s claim is based on focusing on those Christians unfamiliar with the difference between the Jewish canon and the canon of the so-called Septuagint. MB argues from the most ignorant against the most educated of the early church fathers.

MB also presents the issue of contraception. However, as already noted, MB does not and cannot provide a Scriptural case for his position in this regard, leaning instead on the traditions of the men of his church. Meanwhile, during the debate MB complains about the cursory treatment I give to contraception while he provides no treatment at all of the much more relevant innovation of papal infallibility. MB is simply either unwilling or (as seems more probably) unable to provide any defense for this innovation of his church in creating a new rule of faith unknown to even the medieval period.

Throughout the debate, MB is unable to substantiate either HMDT or IAT. IAT is particularly troubling for MB, because not only Scripture but also the early Christian writers are completely silent on this category. HMDT is not so bad, but MB overlooks that all the patristic references to HMDT are either to Scripture (which was handed down from the apostles. For example, in Basil’s Morals, he states: “What is the mark of a Christian? That his justice abound in all things more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, according to the rule of the doctrine which has been handed down in the Lord's Gospel.”) or to customs, such as infant baptism, the celebration of Easter, and the like.

MB seems to fail to appreciate that the only doctrines we can definitively say were handed by the Apostles are those found in Scripture. If one could establish that, for example, that the blanket prohibition on contraception or the view of papal infallibility were the teachings of the apostles, who would refuse to accept them? However, one cannot establish those things as a matter of historical fact. In fact, history does not support such claims, with history only evidencing (and powerfully evidencing) the apostolicity of the New Testament.

As noted above, MB appeals to the “unanimous clear witness of every ancient church before the Reformation” as allegedly denying Sola Scriptura. Unfortunately for MB’s claim, however, MB is not referring to the ancient statements of these “ancient churches” but modern statements of these churches. Furthermore, even if these “ancient churches” are united against Sola Scriptura, they are also (excepting MB’s own church) united against the unscriptural and unhistorical claim of papal infallibility. MB does not listen to them on the latter issue, so why does he expect us to listen to them on the former issue?

We see this same inconsistency in MB’s presentation over and over again. No source that MB relies upon fully agrees with him – even his own pope (in writings from his pre-papal days) denies that Tradition is the Word of God, contrary to MB’s dogmatic assertions. MB appeals to the Jews for the concept of an “Oral Torah” (the very “traditions of men” rejected by Jesus) but then refuses to accept their canon of the Old Testament. Most of all, though history and the fathers are referenced by MB, it is history and the fathers that demonstrate the fact that the general consensus among the educated church fathers was Sola Scriptura.

MB asks whether “we [are] to assume that the Church that Jesus Christ is the head of gives us false doctrine?” Let us simply ask him who gave the church fathers their doctrine? Was it from “the Church” or from Scripture or from where? Since their agreement with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura has been shown, let MB blush to call them all heretics for asserting the same doctrines as we do.

In this debate, MB’s five answers to the five questions really demonstrate why Sola Scriptura has prevailed.

To the many quotations demonstrating that it was common for the ECFs to define the church in terms of believers (rather than defining the church in terms of communion with Rome), Mr. Bellisario asserted “selected emphasis” on my part and claimed he reads the fathers “in their complete context” but couldn’t even produce a single quotation to suggest that anyone defined the church in terms of communion with Rome. Instead, MB provides a quotation from Irenaeus allegedly demonstrating apostolic succession through bishops and the idea that people can appeal to the ancient churches, a questionable quotation from Cyprian of Carthage that Cyprian that he either did not write or later repudiated on the primacy of Peter, and a quotation from Ephraim of Syria on the primacy of Peter.

To the demonstration of the “two sources” position in official Catholicism demonstrating that “Scripture Plus” is an accurate characterization, MB appealed to mystery to solve the contradiction between his explanation and the explanation in the official sources. Furthermore, he went on to insist that Tradition (specifically IAT, if he was answering the question asked) is a form of Divine Revelation, despite the fact that Catholicism teaches that public revelation ceased with the death of the last apostle. “. The term “public Revelation” refers to the revealing action of God directed to humanity as a whole and which finds its literary expression in the two parts of the Bible: the Old and New Testaments.” (theological commentary on Fatima by Ratzinger) Furthermore, MB claimed that Tradition like Scripture is “the Word of God,” contrary to the teachings of Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) (quotation provided earlier in this essay). He provided some quotations regarding how in Catholicism it is believed that Tradition and Scripture cannot stand without each other, but this – of course – in no way denies that Catholicism teaches that Tradition is an authority that is additional to Scripture.

To the request that MB identify patristic teachings of infallible IAT, MB provided five quotations from three early Christian writers, but none of them made mention of infallible IAT. Instead, the first mentioned the idea that Orthopraxy accompanies Scripture, its orthodox interpretation, and “the truth … of all the Christian traditions,” the second and third identify the practice (i.e. custom) of infant baptism as allegedly an apostolic tradition (its unclear whether MB acknowledges that infant baptism is taught in Scripture or whether this is supposed to be HMDT), the fourth and fifth were presented to allegedly show that Athanasius thought that the Church’s interpretation was an infallible one. Athanasius, of course, explicitly affirmed Sola Scripture even in the face of a corrupt church that was promulgating heresy (“For if ever God shall give back the churches (for we think He will) yet without such restoration of the churches the Faith is sufficient for us. And lest, speaking without the Scriptures, I should [seem to] speak too strongly, it is well to bring you to the testimony of Scriptures, for recollect that the Temple indeed was at Jerusalem; the Temple was not deserted, aliens had invaded it, whence also the Temple being at Jerusalem, those exiles went down to Babylon by the judgment of God, who was proving, or rather correcting them; while manifesting to them in their ignorance punishment [by means] of blood-thirsty enemies. And aliens indeed had held the Place, but knew not the Lord of the Place, while in that He neither gave answer nor spoke, they were deserted by the truth.”)

Furthermore, MB’s misuse of the quotations is an example of the very “selected emphasis” error he attempts to assert against others. In the quotation from Athanasius, the “they do not rightly know them nor their power” is a reference to Scriptures (i.e. the opinions handed down) not to the “traditions of men” from which Athanasius distinguishes them. MB even goes so far as to falsely claim that Athanasius “does not appeal to Sacred Scripture outside of this understanding,” which we have already shown is false with explicit quotations affirming Sola Scriptura in Athanasius. Thus, Athanasius wrote to Alexander of Constantinople saying of the Arians, “They are not ashamed to oppose the godly clearness of the ancient scriptures.”

To the question of how believers can judge whether their teachers are false (as commanded in Scripture, such as in 1 John 4:1), MB was unable to answer. Instead, MB presented arguments that, just because believers must judge their teachers, doesn’t mean that they can only refer to Scripture. Furthermore, MB is unable to explain why he argues the opposite of Augustine. The reader can see that the reason is that unlike Augustine, MB must rely on the self-proclaimed authority of his church, rather than on the authority of Scriptures alone.

Where do you see the Sola Scriptura humility of Augustine in Catholicism? Augustine wrote, “I do not want you to depend on my authority, so as to think that you must believe something because it is said by me; you should rest your belief either on the canonical Scriptures, if you do not yet see how true something is, or on the truth made manifest to you interiorly, so that you may see clearly,” but one does not see MB’s church making that claim.

Chrysostom, commenting on John’s gospel, explained the answer that MB should have realized was true: “With good reason did He call Scripture a 'door.' For it leads us to God and opens to us the knowledge of God; it makes us His sheep; it guards us; and it does not permit the wolves to enter. Indeed, just as a door provides security, so Scripture prevents the entrance of heretics, places us in safety with regard to all our desires, and does not permit us to go astray. If we do not remove it, we shall not easily be overcome by our enemies. By means of it we shall be able to discriminate between all men: both the true shepherds and those who are not.”

MB was also unable to answer the question of the canon of IAT and HMDT. This naturally takes away all the force of his canon argument against Sola Scriptura since he is unable to provide a canon for his counter-plan of Scripture Plus. Amazingly, MB further concedes that “Tradition does not produce any new content in regards [sic] to the Word of God.” Of course, if that is true, then Scriptures, which are without doubt the Word of God, already have all the content of the Word of God including the canon of Scripture (if that is indeed a part of the Word of God). Of course, on this, MB disagrees with Cardinal Ratzinger as already quoted in Question 2.

In the second phase of cross-examination, MB provided several questions. His first question related to the alleged disuse of sola scriptura by the Jews. It was an odd question, since it was premised on facts that MB himself rejected as untrue in his opening statement. The Jewish traditions were fallible, not infallible. So, whether Jewish writers (“scholars”) today think otherwise is really a moot point.

Besides, there is a limit to what trust one must place in Jewish traditions. As Chrysostom wrote against Judaizing Christians, “Finally, if the ceremonies of the Jews move you to admiration, what do you have in common with us? If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies. But if ours are true, as they are true, theirs are filled with deceit. I am not speaking of the Scriptures. Heaven forbid! It was the Scriptures which took me by the hand and led me to Christ.”

MB’s second question related to the perspicuity of Scripture. Here MB (apparently for the first time) attempted to challenge the doctrine taught by the Early Church Fathers and the WCF that the necessary things for salvation are clearly taught in Scripture.

As Lactantius declared in the Divine Institutes, however, “For, being accustomed to sweet and polished speeches or poems, they despise the simple and common language of the sacred writings as mean. For they seek that which may soothe the senses. But whatever is pleasant to the ear effects persuasion, and while it delights fixes itself deeply within the breast. Is God, therefore, the contriver both of the mind, and of the voice, and of the tongue, unable to speak eloquently? Yea, rather, with the greatest foresight, He wished those things which are divine to be without adornment, that all might understand the things which He Himself spoke to all.”

MB’s third question demonstrated his apparent lack of historical knowledge of the church. Apparently imagining that Christendom 1000 years ago looked something like Christendom today, he asked for evidence of something like the Westminster Confession and some group of Christians before the 16th century who believed what we do. Then, he insisted that I not cite the Early Church Fathers in my defense. There’s an obvious reason why he asked for that: because all that the WCF has to say on Sola Scriptura can be found in the ECFs, and MB knows that. This is adequately evidenced above.

MB’s fourth question regarding the Nicene Creed has already been thoroughly addressed in the cross-examination portion. One might simply add to that discussion the testimony of Niceta of Remesiana, who wrote: “These things beings so, beloved, persevere in the tradition which you have learned. Be true to the pact you made with the Lord, to the profession of faith which you made in the presence of angels and of men. The words of the Creed are few—but all the mysteries are in them. Selected from the whole of Scripture and put together for the sake of brevity, they are like precious gems making a single crown. Thus, all the faithful have sufficient knowledge of salvation, even though many are unable, or too busy with their worldly affairs, to read the Scriptures.”

MB’s fifth question largely repeated earlier themes, and has been adequately and thoroughly rebutted in the answer portion of the cross-examination section.

Thankfully, MB did not appeal to the so-called “unanimous consent of the fathers.” As Fitzmyer explains: “No one can ever tell us where such a ‘unanimous consent of the Fathers’ is to be found, and Pius XII finally thought it pertinent to call attention to the fact that there are but few texts whose sense has been defined by the authority of the Church, ‘nor are those more numerous about which the teaching of the Holy Fathers is unanimous.’” (Scripture, the Soul of Theology, p. 70)

Has the burden been met? It has been demonstrated that Scripture speaks only of itself as inspired, that Scripture thoroughly (completely) furnishes the man of God, and that the bulk of the educated church fathers held to Scripture as the sole infallible rule of faith.

What is left? There is nothing but the sole rule of faith – even that commended by Jesus who commanded us to Search the Scriptures.

Basil, in his treatise on Baptism, wrote: “You could find many passages of this sort in the writings of the evangelists and the Apostle. Now, then, if a command be given and the manner of carrying it out is not added, let us obey the Lord, who says: 'Search the Scriptures.' Let us follow the example of the Apostles who questioned the Lord Himself as to the interpretation of His words, and learn the true and salutary course from His words in another place.”

Or to put it otherwise, as Basil of Caesarea declared (in Of Virtue and Life), “All the commands of the Savior are written.”


(written without the benefit of MB’s conclusion)

Negative Closing Essay

Sola Scriptura Closing Essay Negative
By Matthew James Bellisario 2008


I will close by summing up the failure of Turretin Fan to prove his position of Sola Scriptura beyond a reasonable doubt. Turretin Fan agreed to the task of proving the affirmative position of the doctrine Sola Scriptura. That means he must provide a solid case to prove his premise. I propose that not only did he not do this, he did not even come within a stones throw of doing so. It is clear that there is more clear evidence for Scripture in Tradition than for Scripture Alone.

Point 1. Scripture does not provide any substance for the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura

Turretin Fan started off by using passages of Scripture to try and prove his position. In my opening rebuttal I went through almost every Biblical verse he provided and proved that they did not address Scripture as being the only rule of faith. In fact every verse he cited never proposed such a teaching. Turretin fell into the logical fallacy of Petitio Principii. He wants us to believe that every Biblical reference to the profitability and importance of Sacred Scripture means that it proves his position of Scripture Alone, when in fact none of the passages do so. As I pointed out in my opening rebuttal, 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. He has to prove this first before he can use any of the Scripture verses he provided, for none of them say anything even close to substantiating Scripture alone.

Point 2. Sacred Scripture and the early Church writings substantiate Scripture in Tradition as well as the authority of the Church.

The Sacred Scriptures do give testimony to both written and unwritten forms of Divine Revelation and testify to the authority of the Church. 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, “That the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church, According to the eternal purpose, which he made, in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. Wherefore I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”

I provided a source from Saint John Chrysostom which was never refuted which proves a Catholic interpretation of 2nd Thessalonians proving that not all Christian teaching was given to us in written form. Saint Chrysostom in his homily on the Second Letter to the Thessalonians speaks on the 2nd Chapter and 15th verse, “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours. ”Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther. Here he shows that there were many who were shaken.” We can see Saint John interpreted this verse as Catholics do, and not as Tf does. This is also a clear example of Tradition in action regarding proper interpretation of Scripture.

I quoted Saint Irenaeus proving that he also perceived the Church as being the primary authority. Saint Irenaeus (c202AD) also tells us in Against Heresies, the 3rd 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?”

I also quoted Saint Epiphanius of Salamis who wrote in his Panacea against all heresies, “It is needful also to make use of Tradition; for not everything can be gotten from Sacred Scripture. The holy Apostles handed down some things in the Scriptures, other things in Tradition.” Thus I provided a substantial argument for my position from both Sacred Scripture and early Church sources that Turretin Fan could provide not in his affirmative position.

Point 3. All Ancient churches profess Scripture in Tradition.

I provided several sources from other ancient churches other than the Catholic church regarding Sacred Tradition. I provided several sources including the Coptic Church. When I asked Turretin Fan to give me a profession of a “church” before the “Reformation” the best he could offer was the Waldensian confession, which was not from a “church” at all. In fact the Church's bishops rejected their errors. Secondly it appears that Turretin Fan did a quick search on the internet for his date of this “confession” because he provided an incorrect date of 1120. All real scholars and historian agree that the movement didn't even begin until 1170. I did a little research and found that only a couple of websites gives a date of 1120. They are questionable sources at best. It so happens that if you go to Google and type in Waldensian confession, the first website that comes up says the confession is from 1120. Upon real research however I discovered that real scholars from Cambridge, Oxford and the like put a date of 1170 for the earliest beginning of the movement. Secondly this tiny schismatic group is far from “reformed” since they too believed in doctrines such as Transubstantiation as well as most of the Catholic teachings. The fact is their first confession written in 1180 and was seeking the establishment and approval from the Catholic Church for his group called the Poor of Lyons, and it spoke nothing of Scripture Alone in it. It wasn't until much later that the group would start rejecting Church teachings. If this is the best Turretin has to offer for a church document proving Sola Scriptura then we have nothing to worry about. This group during the early period 1180-1200s) never established their own “church”. They were in fact excommunicated as schismatics in 1184 by the bishops of the Church, and were not formally anathematized until 1215. This is clearly a poor example given by TF in a desperate attempt to find a church profession like his existing before the “Reformation.” It obviously was not.

Point 4 Proper Interpretation of Scripture abandoned in favor fallible tools?

I asked TF why we should believe that his interpretation of Sacred Scripture is the correct one. He gave us a circular answer by stating, “ compare my interpretation to the infallible rule of faith (Scripture), pray to God for wisdom, use the fallible tools that you have (whether that be lexicons, church teachings, etc.), and see whether my interpretations are correct.” So now TF wants us to incorporate fallible rules of faith to establish what the real interpretation of Scripture is? I find this reasoning quite off balance, since we can obviously never obtain a proper interpretation with fallible tools . This is precisely why you need the Church which is infallible, and not fallible man made confessions to arrive at proper exegesis. Every single “Protestant” denomination uses this faulty method, and that is why they all believe something different.

Point 5 Necessary teaching, is not necessary to know?

I am completely amazed by this statement to my question on defining what and what is not necessary regarding doctrine. This is the answer Tf gave me. “First, knowing what is necessary (or not) to salvation is not itself necessary to salvation.” Tf is completely lost at this point. He is using faulty logic and cryptic reasoning to give you the impression he has an argument. For example, “We are not claiming that Scripture clearly delineates each of the necessary from all the unnecessary, but that Scripture clearly teaches those things that are themselves necessary (such as, for example, theism).” Does any rational person use reasoning like this? We as Catholics know, what is necessary for salvation, and what is necessary as Church doctrine period. We don't have to dance around the issue like he does. It is clear that he must moves clam shells around to avoid answering the question.

Point 6 The Church: When you cant win, use selective emphasis.

I pointed out the characteristics of the true Church, and TF decided to selectively quote church fathers to back up his deficient definition of Church. I then took the same Church fathers he quoted and demonstrated how his view of the Church was an incomplete one by quoting other writings which gave us a more complete picture of what they believed. This is important because we can see that the Church itself is infallible, contrary to the statements of TF.

Point 7 The Jews and Scripture Alone

I pulled from two Jewish scholars and proved that the ancient Jewish faith did not believe in Scripture Alone. Tf never refuted with any substantial evidence from any source other than his own opinion. He thinks his own opinion and expertise on the Jewish religion is superior to the two scholars I provided. I find that amusing, and quite absurd. Secondly he confuses divine revelation before and after Christ by trying to pin me down to the Jewish Canon of Scripture. We all know that there was not a real Jewish canon until after Christ came. This is not even rational argumentation. We know the Church would decide what would be the final biblical canon, not the Jews, nor TF. This is just poor argumentation. He is not even equating apples to apples here. He then continued to show his ignorance by equating Jewish practices with Jewish oral Tradition, which are two different matters. He quoted Chrysostom out of context. Chrysostom was talking about incorporating Jewish practices into Christian worship and the like, which I never even addressed. I clearly compared oral Torah to written Torah. It is clear that the Jews did not hold to Scripture Alone. That is my point. I don't care about incorporating Jewish practices into Christianity. Why Tf feels the need to bring something into the argument that isn't even being addressed is obvious. He needs to deflect the obvious fact the the Jews never held to Scripture Alone. This is a fact. They believed that there was oral and written divine revelation, just as the Church now does. Sacred Tradition was never condemned by Christ as Tf declares. He rejected traditions of men.

Closing remarks.

Even though I have a 5000 word limit in this closing essay, I don't feel the need to use them. Turretin was defeated because he could not provide one Scripture passage that tells us that Scripture Alone is the sole rule of faith. He failed because the constant universal testimony of the Church testifies to Scripture in Tradition. This includes every ancient church in the world including those not in communion with Rome. Tf resorted to the fallacy of selective emphasis on many occasions rather than presenting the full story, whether it be from the Church Fathers or the Sacred Scriptures.

I demonstrated the fact that Sacred Tradition indeed is a testimony of the Church. The witness of the living Church in her Liturgies, her writings, and Scripture attest to this fact. In my essays I provided a detailed source list for further reading as well as providing a basis for my arguments. It is clear that Turretin Fan has not won the affirmative position of this debate.

Sources from all of my essays.

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

Ratzinger, Joseph. God's Word. San Francisco: Ignatius P, 2008.

Hahn, Scott. Letter and Spirit. New York: Doubleday, 2005

Fagerberg, David. The Liturgical Mystery and the Mystery of God (Letter and Spirit Journal Vol2) Steubenville, Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology 2006

Provan, Charles D. The Bible and Birth Control. Monongahela PA: Zimmer Printing 1989

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

Lossky, Vladimir. In the Image and Likeness of God. Crestwood NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2005

Fortescue, Adrain. The Early Papacy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 2008

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

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vatican 1997

Holy See, ed. "Catechism of the Catholic Church." Vatican.Va. Vatican/Holy See. .

Dei Verbum, Second Vatican Council

Fr. George Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View, pp. 48-49

Gordon-Conwell Seminary