Monday, December 1, 2008

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

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