Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#3)
09/19/2007 - James WhiteI continue my examination and refutation of Steve Ray's attempt to defend Rome's dogmatic teaching of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, and her doctrinal teaching of the queenly coronation of Mary. In our first installment we pointed out that since the Assumption is a dogmatic teaching, the highest standard of evidence is required to defend it, and we noted that the typological and probability arguments used by Rome are surely insufficient grounds for a dogmatic teaching. In our last installment we began responding to the attack Ray launches against sola scriptura, and we continue our response at that point. Ray writes,
First, when Jesus said Farewell and ascended into heaven, he did not leave us a book. In fact, there is no record of him instructing the disciples to ever write a book, nor was there an expectation that someday there would be a collection of writings attached to the Hebrew Scripture and considered equally inspired. Nor did Jesus leave a detailed manual or cataloged tradition.
Can you imagine the Psalmist who penned the 119thspeaking like this? I sure can't. When Jesus walked the earth as God incarnate, He often said, "It is written." The one who formed earth itself held in His incarnate hands the Scriptures and read from them as God's Word in the synagogue. As Jews stood before him with stones in their hands and hatred in their hearts He looked them in the eye and said "The Scriptures cannot be broken." Jesus identified the words of Scripture as the very speaking of God, so what could possibly possess someone to opine that when Jesus returned to the presence of the Father he "did not leave us a book." The book was a given. Anyone with a Greek New Testament that places Old Testament citations in bold or italics knows that the New Testament writers were a people of the book themselves. Roman Catholics constantly forget the centrality of the Scriptures to the primitive church because the Scriptures are not central for them, to be quite honest. But Augustine knew better, for he wrote,
All things that are read from the Holy Scriptures in order to our instruction and salvation, it behooves us to hear with earnest heed.... And yet even inregard of them, (a thing which ye ought especially to observe, and to commit to your memory, because that which shall make us strong against insidious errors, God has been pleased to put in the Scriptures, against which no man dares to speak, who in any sort wishes to seem a Christian), when He had given Himself to be handled by them, that did not suffice Him, but He would also confirm by means of the Scriptures the heart of them that believe: for He looked forward to us who should be afterwards; seeing that in Him we have nothing that we can handle, but have that which we may read. Augustine, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume VII, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 2, 1 John 2:12-17, section 1.It is also ironic in the extreme to find Ray saying Jesus did not leave a catalog of tradition. So? Rome, in his view, has had nearly two thousand years to sort through all of that and give us a clear, documented listing of apostolic tradition as they define it, and they have completely failed to do so. He continues,
What DID Jesus leave as an authority for the Church He was building? He left us Twelve Menone with the Keys of the Kingdom and all Twelve with the authority to bind and loose (Matt 16:18-19; 18:15-18). He promised them the Holy Spirit to lead and teach them (John 14:25-26; 15:26; 16:7). He also promised that the decisions and judgments they made regarding the Kingdom would be ratified by King Jesus in heaven.Ah, the poor Holy Spirit. Replaced by the infallible Roman magisterium again! All of those promises about the coming of the Spirit, lost in the rush to give to Peter alone the keys of the kingdom. It is not that Ray does not know the problems with his theory. He thinks he has mustered enough snippets of citations to establish the case for all time in his book, Upon This Rock (Ignatius Press, 1999). In fact, it may well be a worthwhile project to add to the long, long list of "blog articles that need to be written" a response to each citation he makes of my own work in that book. I would enjoy the opportunity to do so, though at the moment, none of my writing projects, teaching opportunities, debates, or schooling, would push me that direction in my studying. But I shall surely put it on the "list." In any case, Ray realizes that Peter did not receive the keys in Matthew 16. He realizes the verb used in the text is future, and he goes out of his way (providing an entire Appendix in the effort, pp. 263-297) to find a way to avoid seeing Peter as receiving the keys along with the other Apostles. His primary means of accomplishing this is through the use of the Isaiah 22/Matthew 16 argument. I cannot help but smile as I read his cobbled-together footnotes (which often take up the majority of his pages in his book) for once you know the subject you see how tremendously selective he is being. But what truly makes me chuckle at this point is that it is obvious he well knows he is presenting an argument (the Isaiah 22 argument) that hasn't the first scintilla of patristic support behind it. That is, if any of the early writers had ever dreamt that Isaiah 22 is somehow the very key to establishing Petrine primacy in Rome, they did not bother ever mentioning it, since I know of no such references in the early period. Since Ray loves to throw out patristic citations (even if he fails to give a full context that would make the citations relevant), he would surely be quoting any such resources in support of his thesis, but we find a strange lack of such citations in this portion of his work.
In any case, Ray asserts that Peter receives the keys by the time of the ascension, but he does not, as far as I can see, delineate any biblical basis for assuming this. He surely avoids Matthew 18 as the point in which Peter alonereceives these keys, as he must, but he does not tell us upon what biblical basis he comes to the conclusion that by the time Jesus ascends, Peter alone holds these keys. One would think that if the universal faith of the early church was in agreementwith his views, he would make note of this. Ironically, he doesn't. Why? He knows better. As the great historian von Döllinger, in his work The Pope and the Council(Boston: Roberts, 1869), 74, asserted:
Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages in the Gospels (Matt 16:18, John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peters successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these texts, yet not one of them whose commentaries we possessOrigen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenashas dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter! Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church of the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peters confession of faith in Christ; often both together. Or else they thought Peter was the foundation equally with all the other Apostles, the twelve being together the foundation-stones of the church. The Fathers could the less recognize in the power of the keys, and the power of binding and loosing, any special prerogative or lordship of the Roman bishop, inasmuch as what is obvious to any one at first sight they did not regard the power first given to Peter, and afterwards conferred on all the Apostles, as any thing peculiar to him, or hereditary in the line of Roman bishops, and they held the symbol of the keys as meaning just the same as the figurative expression of binding and loosing.Join this with the fact that the "chair of Peter" in many of the early Fathers refers not to the bishop of Rome alone, but to all bishops, and you begin to see why so many of the citations Roman Catholic apologists offer really prove nothing at all. Then, consider the fact that the church at Rome itself did not even have a singular bishop until around the year 140 AD. Joseph F. Kelly, The Concise Dictionary of Early Christianity (The Liturgical Press, 1992) p. 2 says, It is likely that in the earliest Roman community a college of presbyters rather than a single bishop provided the leadership. This is echoed by Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, and the eminent church historian J.N.D. Kelly concurs, saying, with reference to an alleged early pope, His actual functions and responsibilities can only be surmised, for the monarchial, or one-man, episcopate had not yet emerged in Rome.This is in reference to a period all the way into the middle of the second century! Ask yourself this question: if Vatican I was right, and if Christians have always believed that Peter alone was given a primacy, and that Peter alone was given the keys, and that Peters successors are aloneto be found in fullness in the bishops of Rome, why would the church at Rome go for nearly a full century without a single bishop as leader, instead using the primitive and most biblical concept of a plurality of elders?
While much more could be added at this point, I would simply direct the interested reader/observer to the debates we have done on these very subjects, especially the one with Robert Sungenis and Scott Butler from Boston College (#464). Ray's work depends a good deal upon Jesus, Peter & the Keyswhich was written by Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, and David Hess (I wrote the review of this work for the CRI Journal). This is the same Scott Butler who engaged the debate at Boston College. Likewise, this is the same Scott Butler who continues to possess the video tapes of the first two debates I did with Mitch Pacwa in January of 1990, but who has never made them available for viewing. Since we have established a long history of videotaping, at our own cost, our debates with Roman Catholic apologists, and giving unedited masters to them for distribution, I believe it is only fair for Butler to reciprocate, and provide us with an unedited master of these debates for distribution. I believe the same is true of my very first debate, the debate with Gerry Matatics in August of 1990. I call upon Mr. Butler to make these video tapes available.
Here is the first of two clips I will post from that debate. You may note that when the camera pans back early in this clip you will find Scott Butler is missing. As has happened more than once, our Roman Catholic apologist opponents were not overly concerned about what we had to say during our presentation, so they don't mind leaving the room while we are speaking. Almost all of the presentation is relevant, but please note one interesting point that I had forgotten. Sungenis had asserted that Paul was simply "over-reacting" in Galatians 2:14. I will tack on the beginning of his rebuttal to the second clip so that you can actually watch him defend this assertion. I think it speaks volumes about Roman Catholic "exegesis" and "private interpretation" in light of Papal claims.