Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Tradition Glasses, Again! (Brief Update Added)
12/29/2007 - James WhiteI was catching up, as best I can before heading back out on the road soon, with my RSS feeds, and I couldn't help but notice Dave Armstrong, who has decided recently to try his hand at church history, taking a shot at the Athanasius Problem. You see, the great bishop of Alexandria is a constant problem for Roman Catholics who wish to portray the early church as if it thought, spoke, and believed, as modern Rome. There is this really big problem about Athanasius' decades long rejection of council after council, bishop after bishop, in standing for the full and uncompromised deity of Christ. The thinking person realizes that this mindset just does not fit well with modern Roman Catholic theories of papal primacy and the like. In any case, Mr. Armstrong recently published yet another book, this time addressing the subject of church history. I had obtained the e-text version of the work, looked through it, and realized that with my current studies and challenges, going back over all the egregious abuses of the early writers represented by Armstrong was surely not worth my while. Someone else with much more time and interest would find an inexhaustible source of classic Roman Catholic anachronism in this work. But as I noted, I happened upon just one quote in this blog entry while clearing my RSS feed lists. It reads:
They pretend that he taught sola Scriptura, or at any rate, something more closely akin to it than the Catholic "three-legged stool" rule of faith (Bible-Tradition-Church). But Athanasius was a good Catholic. I shall now list ten different areas where St. Athanasius thought very much like a Catholic and very unlike how Protestants approach things. The excerpts are from my book, The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism (excepting the Deuterocanonical section):So I popped open my edition of Athanasius and read the context, and could not help but chuckle. Here, read it for yourself, and remember, let Athanasius define terms rather than Dave Armstrong, or the conflicts of our century:
. . . 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 2:6)
4. Now those who do not observe the feast, continue such as these even to the present day, feigning indeed and devising names of feasts, but rather introducing days of mourning than of gladness; `For there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord.' And as Wisdom saith, `Gladness and joy are taken from their mouth.' Such are the feasts of the wicked. But the wise servants of the Lord, who have truly put on the man which is created in God, have received gospel words, and reckon as a general commandment that given to Timothy, which saith, `Be thou an example to the believers in word, in conversation, in love, in faith, in purity.' So well do they keep the Feast, that even the unbelievers, seeing their order, may say, `God is with them of a truth.' For as he who receives an apostle receives Him who sent him, so he who is a follower of the saints, makes the Lord in every respect his end and aim, even as Paul, being a follower of Him, goes on to say, `As I also of Christ.' For there were first our Saviour's own words, who from the height of His divinity, when conversing with His disciples, said, `Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.' Then too when He poured water into a basin, and girded Himself with a towel, and washed His disciples' feet, He said to them, `Know what I have done. Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. If therefore I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet: for I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, ye also should do.'...
5. Oh! my brethren, how shall we admire the loving-kindness of the Saviour? With what power, and with what a trumpet should a man cry out, exalting these His benefits! That not only should we bear His image, but should receive from Him an example and pattern of heavenly conversation; that as He hath begun, we should go on, that suffering, we should not threaten, being reviled, we should not revile again, but should bless them that curse, and in everything commit ourselves to God who judgeth righteously. For those who are thus disposed, and fashion themselves according to the Gospel, will be partakers of Christ, and imitators of apostolic conversation, on account of which they shall be deemed worthy of that praise from him, with which he praised the Corinthians, when he said, `I praise you that in everything ye are mindful of me.' Afterwards, because there were men who used his words, but chose to hear them as suited their lusts, and dare to pervert them, as the followers of Hymenaeus and Alexander, and before them the Sadducees, who as he said, `having made shipwreck of faith,' scoffed at the mystery of the resurrection, he immediately proceeded to say, `And as I have delivered to you traditions, hold them fast.' That means, indeed, that we should think not otherwise than as the teacher has delivered.
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Who Was One Of The Best Scholars at Trent, And What Did He Think Of The Apocrypha?
12/28/2007 - James SwanFor Roman Catholics, the Council of Trent made the official pronouncement on the canon of Scripture, and in that pronouncement determined the apocrypha was sacred Scripture. What criteria did Trent use to determine which books of the Bible were canonical? Some of the answers I’ve been given are, "Trent did not determine the canon, they simply reaffirmed the canon," and "The Holy Spirit determined the outcome of Trent by His presence among this infallible council."
I’d like to take a look at the second answer. Now, is the Holy Spirit another way of saying “the majority vote”? If so, where does this precedent come from? Does “the majority vote” go against the opinions of the best scholars at the Council of Trent? What if those who were considered some of the best scholars on the canon at the Council of Trent thought the apocryphal books were not Scripture?
There was a group of scholars at the Council of Trent that were considered fairly knowledgeable on this issue. One particular was Cardinal Seripando. The Roman Catholic historian (and expert on Trent) Hubert Jedin explained “he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship” at the Council of Trent.
Jedin is worth quoting at length:
“[Seripando was] Impressed by the doubts of St. Jerome, Rufinus, and St. John Damascene about the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, Seripando favored a distinction in the degrees of authority of the books of the Florentine canon. The highest authority among all the books of the Old Testament must be accorded those which Christ Himself and the apostles quoted in the New Testament, especially the Psalms. But the rule of citation in the New Testament does not indicate the difference of degree in the strict sense of the word, because certain Old Testament books not quoted in the New Testament are equal in authority to those quoted. St. Jerome gives an actual difference in degree of authority when he gives a higher place to those books which are adequate to prove a dogma than to those which are read merely for edification. The former, the protocanonical books, are "libri canonici et authentici"; Tobias, Judith, the Book of Wisdom, the books of Esdras, Ecclesiasticus, the books of the Maccabees, and Baruch are only "canonici et ecclesiastici" and make up the canon morum in contrast to the canon fidei. These, Seripando says in the words of St. Jerome, are suited for the edification of the people, but they are not authentic, that is, not sufficient to prove a dogma. Seripando emphasized that in spite of the Florentine canon the question of a twofold canon was still open and was treated as such by learned men in the Church. Without doubt he was thinking of Cardinal Cajetan, who in his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews accepted St. Jerome's view which had had supporters throughout the Middle Ages.”
Source: Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), pp. 270-271.
“For the last time [Seripando] expressed his doubts [to the Council of Trent] about accepting the deuterocanonical books into the canon of faith. Together with the apostolic traditions the so-called apostolic canons were being accepted, and the eighty-fifth canon listed the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) as non-canonical. Now, he said, it would be contradictory to accept, on the one hand, the apostolic traditions as the foundation of faith and, on the other, to directly reject one of them.”
Source: Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), p. 278.
Jedin also documents a group of excellent scholars that stood against “tradition” as being on the same level of authority as scripture:
“In his opposition to accepting the Florentine canon and the equalization of traditions with Holy Scripture, Seripando did not stand alone. In the particular congregation of March 23, the learned Dominican Bishop Bertano of Fano had already expressed the view that Holy Scripture possessed greater authority than the traditions because the Scriptures were unchangeable; that only offenders against the biblical canon should come under the anathema, not those who deny the principle of tradition; that it would be unfortunate if the Council limited itself to the apostolic canons, because the Protestants would say that the abrogation of some of these traditions was arbitrary and represented an abuse… Another determined opponent of putting traditions on a par with Holy Scripture, as well as the anathema, was the Dominican Nacchianti. The Servite general defended the view that all the evangelical truths were contained in the Bible, and he subscribed to the canon of St. Jerome, as did also Madruzzo and Fonseca on April 1. While Seripando abandoned his view as a lost cause, Madruzzo, the Carmelite general, and the Bishop of Agde stood for the limited canon, and the bishops of Castellamare and Caorle urged the related motion to place the books of Judith, Baruch, and Machabees in the "canon ecclesiae." From all this it is evident that Seripando was by no means alone in his views. In his battle for the canon of St. Jerome and against the anathema and the parity of traditions with Holy Scripture, he was aligned with the leaders of a minority that was outstanding for its theological scholarship.”
Source: Hubert Jedin, Papal Legate At The Council Of Trent (St Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1947), pp. 281-282.
Tradition Glasses Documented Again
12/27/2007 - James WhiteI have been teaching through the Gospels at PRBC for a number of years now, mainly focusing on the Synoptics. But I covered John 5 recently, so I felt it appropriate to cover chapter six as well. In the process of teaching exegetically through the text, I happened to notice that Stephen K. Ray has a book out titled, St. John's Gospel: a Bible Study Guide and Commentary from Ignatius Press. My curiosity was overwhelming. It arrived on Christmas Eve, along with Ben Witherington's commentary on Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians.
Now, I truly was not expecting a serious exegetical commentary from Mr. Ray, so I was not disappointed on that score, anyway. But I was really interested in seeing if Ray at least tries to provide some kind of commentary on the actual flow of the argument in John 6, or if he would just "it's all about the Eucharist" the text and skip right past its actual meaning. True to form, the key transition statement, the entire concept of the sovereign election of God, etc., is passed over without even an acknowledgement of the issues raised. This is all we find:
9. According to verses 37-39, what did Jesus come to do? What is the will of God? How did John previously introduce his readers to the Resurrection (Jn. 2:18-22, Jn 11, and Jn 20; cf. notes on Jn 5, pp. 131-32)? Look ahead at verses 44, 54. How are "heavenly food" and resurrection related?That's it. Nothing more. The thick glasses of human tradition are firmly in place, and the words, and their meaning, filtered out.
I note in passing that I glanced at Witherington's comments on election in Ephesians 1 and found the very same kind of problem there (not surprising, given that Arminians and Roman Catholics, despite their differences, stand hand-in-hand with one another on the issues of grace and the will of man). The witness to individual election, found in the fact that it is we, not Christ, who are the direct objects of God's actions, are passed over through the facile explanation of "corporate election," despite there being not a wit of evidence in the text itself to support the contention. Possibly more on this in a later discussion.
Brown and Fitzmyer vs. Ray
12/22/2007 - James WhiteIn glancing through various sources relevant to the woman of Revelation 12 (historically taken as the people of God in the Old and New Testaments, but becoming Mary as Marian piety developed, especially in the middle ages) in response to Steve Ray's words in his pdf from a few months ago seeking to defend the idea of the idea of a "Queen Mother" assumed bodily into heaven:
Another passage in Scripture provides a window into heaven were we see a Queen Mother giving birth to a royal son. In Revelation 12 we see Mary revealed as Queen of Heaven. Fundamentalists dismiss this passage in various ways (which we will discuss later), but even if one wants to deny it is actually Mary, it is still obvious that the idea of a Queen Mother giving birth to a royal son was not abhorred or condemned in the first century of Christianity—even by the Apostles. This is, for heaven’s sake (no pun intended) part of the Bible. In fact, the book of Revelation was included in the canon of Scripture even though it graphically portrayed a Queen Mother in Heaven.Yeah, those wacky fundamentalists who just "dismiss" the passage! Fundamentalists like...Raymond Brown and J.A. Fitzmyer, editors of the Jerome Biblical Commentary (2:482):
a woman: Most of the ancient commentators identified her with the Church; in the Middle Ages it was widely held that she represented Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Modern exegetes have generally adopted the older interpretation, with certain modifications.
In recent years several Catholics have championed the Marian interpretation. Numerous contextual details, however, are ill-suited to such an explanation. For example, we are scarcely to think that Mary endured the worst of the pains of childbirth (v. 2), that she was pursued into the desert after the birth of her child (6, 13ff.), or, finally, that she was persecuted through her other children (v. 17). The emphasis on the persecution of the woman is really appropriate only if she represents the Church, which is presented throughout the book as oppressed by the forces of evil, yet protected by God. Furthermore, the image of a woman is common in ancient Oriental secular literature as well as in the Bible (e.g., Is 50:1; Jer 50:12) as a symbol for a people, a nation, or a city. It is fitting, then, to see in this woman the People of God, the true Israel of the OT and NT.
(For those not familiar with Roman Catholic scholarship, Brown and Fitzmyer are names at the very top of Rome's NT scholarship list over the past thirty years, both having worked and published at the direction of high level Papal commissions, etc. The Jerome Biblical Commentary is likewise Roman Catholic, so to find it contradicting Ray's surface-level comments on the text is a bit humorous.)
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#5)
12/17/2007 - James WhiteAs I have looked over my archives I see that almost three months have passed since my last installment in response to Steve Ray's attempt to defend the concept of the Bodily Assumption of Mary from Scripture. Of course, this 30 page pdf, cobbled together from various sources, is only partly on the subject of the Assumption. A large portion is but a shallow attack upon Ray's straw-man rendition of sola scriptura, another example of the very essence of the modern Roman Catholic apologetics movement. As I noted in my last installment, Ray has dismissed my replies, ignoring them completely, dismissing me as irrelevant and unimportant. Which explains, of course, why he wrote the original article! His evident inconsistencies aside, I still wish to finish the lengthy project of response, and in particular, to respond to the attempt to turn a simple incident in the narrative of the life of Solomon into a proof text for the Assumption. Simply presenting the Roman claims in their stark reality is normally enough to convince the thinking reader of the excesses of Roman "interpretation."
Turning again to Ray's article:
Are these Marian dogmas explicitly spelled out in the Bible? No. But ask yourself this: are all Protestant dogmas clearly spelled out in the Bible? No. There is often a double standard thrown in our faces. You Catholics cannot prove your doctrines from the Bible alone! You made them up!This kind of argumentation works well amongst those who have a strong desire to continue to believe in Rome's teachings, but they are next to useless in the apologetic arena (which is why you don't see Steve Ray actually engaging that arena directly, i.e., putting himself in the place of actually debating these issues). Ray continues to assume that his own background, which he admits was itself shallow and filled with ignorance, is the standard "evangelical" viewpoint, and he seems incapable of breaking out of that mold to provide more meaningful responses. Of course, Ray thinks such things as eschatological speculations are actually "Protestant dogmas," and in the circles from which he arose, maybe they were! But such is hardly relevant to a meaningful apologetic.
But good grief, where do they find their favorite doctrine of sola Scriptura explicitly stated in Scripture? We certainly have more warrant for trusting the authority of the Church and the need for Tradition (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6, etc.), than they have to prove their unbiblical doctrine of sola Scriptura. Where do we find their intricate Rapture theologies clearly stated? It is obvious they are not clearly stated because there are as many permutations on that Fundamentalist doctrine as there are heads. Where is the word trinity in the Bible, or where do we see it explicitly stated and explained.Again we can only smile as Ray demonstrates his inability to show meaningful understanding of the positions he denies; what is more, allegedly he was responding to me in this article, so why would he even comment on such things as "intricate 'Rapture' theologies"? ...
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A Response To Steve Ray On "When Footnotes Attack!"
12/16/2007 - James Swan
"Swan struck me as a real lightweight, and the above seems to verify my suspicion. He is a 'wanna-be' and it seems like he tries to puff out his chest to look bigger than he actually is."These are recent comments directed towards me from Catholic apologist Steve Ray, simply because I dared question his methodology in a brief entry entitled, "When Footnotes Attack." This entry examined a Martin Luther quote typically used by Roman Catholics, particularly used by Mr. Ray. I've come across this quote at various times over the years, never documented in any helpful way:
"It seems he is a James White wanna-be, though he’s no where near as clever."
"If the world lasts for a long time, it will again be necessary, on account of the many interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of faith." Epis. ad. Zwingli (ap. Balmes, p. 423)" - Martin LutherSteve Ray cites this quote in an article entitled, Ankerberg Aweigh hosted by Catholic Answers, and also referred back to it in his book Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church on page 45. It is my contention that Steve Ray never actually read this Luther quote in context, and uses it out of context for polemical purposes. Here is not the place to rewrite my entire entry. You can read it for yourself, here.
Mr. Ray took time away from his pilgrimages and promotional work to respond with an eleven page PDF file entitled, "Is the Swan’s Song in Tune?" Now an eleven page response may seem a bit long, but for Mr. Ray, this is only "a few words": "I am not going to get in a spitting contest, don’t have the time nor the inclination to debate someone I’ve never heard of before, but I tend to defend my books so I thought a few words would be appropriate." If my brief entry was so trivial to Mr. Ray, put forth by a "lightweight" "wanna-be," I find it ironic that his eleven page response to me "...will remain permanently on [Ray's] Resources page along with other responses to critics of my works." He begins his response by referring to me as, "some guy named Swan" but then puts me in his list with others with whose critical work he considers on a higher plateau (like Dr. White's). If my concerns over his published works are so trivial, written by "some guy," one would expect him to simply ignore them. Obviously, Mr. Ray is bothered by the issues I raised, enough so that he was compelled to actually treat them with more seriousness than he is claiming.
Some Catholic apologists are capable of putting forth massive replies, clouding an issue with a lot of tedious detail. Indeed, this was the method employed by Steve Ray in his response: if you write enough, throw in a bunch of footnotes, well, that equals a complete refutation. Of course, a lengthy reply can indeed be a thorough refutation, or it can simply be a lot of words and obfuscation seeking to direct one away from the real issues. Mr. Ray's eleven page response falls in the category of the later. I had to sift through Mr. Ray's eleven pages of "a few words," looking for any type of meaningful response to the issues I raised.
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