Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Assumptions and Shallow Arguments: Steve Ray and the Poor State of Catholic Apologetics (#4)
09/24/2007 - James WhiteI continue working my way through Steve Ray's attempt to defend the bodily assumption of Mary and her queenly coronation as posted in a thirty-page pdf on his website. I note that for the first time since I began my response, Ray has taken note of it on his blog. And, as is usual for Steve Ray, his reply is bombastic, mean-spirited, insulting, condescending, and hypocritical---all at the same time! Here are his words:
Someone informed me that James White the Baptist was continuing his rant concerning my blog on the Assumption of Mary. The guy continues to take me far more seriously than I have ever taken him. He's really just a little man full of himself — an angry know-it-all who's really just a tempest in a teapot. The only reason I have ever responded to him in the past is for the sake of others reading the material. If I had nine lives I might waste some time refuting his latest rantings, but this time his preaching is not worth responding to. Let him prattle on. I have better things to do that to respond to every pontificating anti-Catholic that sets up a blog.Let's step back for a moment and ponder this example of Ray's behavior. When I initially responded to Ray, I did so in the space of a single paragraph. Just one. His response, after a certain amount of bluster, encompassed a thirty page PDF. Now, if I was just a "little man full of himself -- an angry know-it-all" back then, why did he invest the time to cobble together a thirty page long PDF, even asking for assistance from Gary Michuta? What has changed in only about a month? Well, nothing, of course. Instead, the reality of this situation is painfully clear to any honest and semi-impartial observer: no matter what I do, Ray has no intention of seriously interacting with a criticism of his assertions. When I documented his errors regarding his incessant use of the "33,000 Protestant denominations going back to the Reformation due to sola scriptura" error, his response was bluster and dissimulation. And when he realized I was going to actually invest the time, not for his sake, but for the sake of those who might be impacted by his presentation, to take his 30 page PDF apart, point by point, all of a sudden it is time to duck and run. When he puts out a 30 page PDF, it is sound scholarship. When I respond, it is the mere rantings of a rabid anti-Catholic.
But consider what would have happened had I not replied to his 30 page PDF. What would have happened? "See, White has been refuted!" You would have seen it on his blog, and others. So, if I reply, I'm a ranting anti-Catholic; if I don't, I'm a refuted anti-Catholic. If I replied to his 30 page PDF with something like "I don't have time to respond to every ranting Papist who puts up a blog," you know the response would have been "See, he's just an uncharitable anti-Catholic who can't reply!" Etc. and etc. Irrationality cannot be rationally refuted--by definition. If a man does not love the truth, he will be willing to behave in any fashion necessary to continue to love a lie. But I know fellow believers have benefited from seeing his errors documented, so I press forward with my replies, as time allows.
As noted in previous articles, Ray covers a wide variety of topics prior to actually getting to the subject, including attacking sola scriptura and making assertions of papal claims. I am working on getting through those materials before addressing his attempt to use a single event in the kingship of Solomon to provide an arbitrary and inconsistent foundation for the assumption and coronation of Mary. It has been, and remains, my assertion that the use of the Solomon and Bathsheba wherein Solomon shows great deference to his mother, and yet not only rejects her request, but kills the man who prompted it, is more of an example of the desperation of Rome than it is of sound biblical exegesis, let alone sound typology, and I add to this assertion the fact that evidently no one in the early church "saw" this connection, either (just as they did not "see" the Isaiah 22 text--in both instances, the obvious reason for this is that you don't "see" connections to beliefs that do not yet exist in the context of the Christian faith). I continue my response, though I believe I will have to put off many more replies until after the conference and debate in mid-October.
In Acts 16:4 we find that this council delivered a binding decision which was even called a dogma (Greek here for decrees or decisions is dogma). Thus, long before a book with 27 writings was ever collected and codified the Church exercised authoritative leadership with a mandate from Christ.The use of the Acts 15 council by Ray is illegitimate for many reasons. First, this meeting is not only attended by apostles (councils after the apostolic period could not, by definition, have apostles in attendance) but since it is part of Scripture itself, making it normative outside of Scripture would require much more than mere assertion. There is no question that when the apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, give a decision, that decision is binding. But what does this have to do with Rome? Nothing at all, of course. But notice especially the last sentence. Let me rewrite it in a more accurate form: "Long after the Scriptures had become fully authoritative for both Christians and Jews, the Apostles taught and preached in perfect harmony with those Scriptures and in light of the coming of Christ, and immediately their written words came to have the same kind of authority that the Old Testament Scriptures already possessed."
Ray then turns, mistakenly, I think, to Irenaeus for support of his views at this point regarding tradition. Mistakenly, I say, for two reasons. First, a study of the actual content of Irenaeus' tradition does not assist the Roman Catholic cause. What is "apostolic tradition" for Irenaeus? Well, here is one of the best definitions I know of from his pen:
These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ, the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics (ANF 1:414-415).I have discussed the nature of this tradition in my chapter on the subject in the Soli Deo Gloria publication on sola scriptura. I will only note here that it is clearly sub-biblical. That is, the content of this tradition is not something that exists beyond or above Scripture in any fashion. Hence, since it can be derived fromScripture, it cannot fulfill the role forced upon it by Roman Catholic apologists. Further, Irenaeus, as I have noted before on this blog, likewise attributed to a form of "apostolic tradition" the idea that Jesus had in a sense "recapitulated" all the ages of man's life in himself, being more than fifty years of age when He died. This he used as an argument against the Gnostics, but he claimed he had received this teaching from those who had known the apostles. This is, to my knowledge, the earliest example of someone claiming to know something directly due to an extra-scriptural apostolic "tradition." Of course, no one takes this alleged tradition seriously today, but this only shows how quickly such "traditions" can be corrupted, or, made up. In any case, here is Ray's citation:
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. For she [the Church] 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 (Irenaeus, Heresies 3, 4 in ANF 1:416-417).It is important to keep in mind that for Irenaeus, the "church" here noted would not include Popes, Cardinals, celibate priests, transubstantiation, purgatory, or the entire corpus of Marian dogmas, and it surely was not centered by divine fiat in Rome. While Rome was an important Western see of the day, and could not be ignored, the idea that the bishop of that city was the sole possessor of the keys of the kingdom of heaven would never have crossed Irenaeus' mind. With this in mind, note what comes very shortly after this citation:
Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him. (V:1).Irenaeus proves his points from Scripture, and he does not say, "Well, I would go to Scripture to prove my points, but since the bishop of Rome has only gotten started on his job, I do not yet have any infallibly defined texts that I can turn to. And since I don't want to offer you just my private interpretation...how about this weather we are having?"
Second, it is also interesting that St. Paul refers to the Church as the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:14-15). Many wish that Paul had given this honor to the Bible, but no it is the Church! If this passage HAD declared that the Bible was the pillar and foundation of the truth, it would be splashed on the home page of every anti-Catholic website! The Bible never teaches or even implies sola Scriptura so if Paul had declared the Bible to be the pillar and foundation of the truth you better believe that the whole crew of anti-Catholics would parade the verse around on their shoulders chanting the mantra. But because it is the Church that fills that roll, you hear nary a word. Funny, eh? In fact, many live as though this verse had been cut out of their Bibles.Since we were just looking at Irenaeus, his own words might be interesting to note here:
We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed perfect knowledge, as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, Book 3:1:1.But we might wish to also note something that is often missed in the surface-level citation of the text from 1 Timothy 3:15. Read the context carefully:
1 Timothy 3:1-15 1 Timothy 3:1¶It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8¶ Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 14¶ I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.What church is being discussed here? Where do you have elders, and deacons? Where do you examine their lives and are so close you can tell if his children are under control? The words of 1 Timothy 3:15 are spoken of the local congregations of the church!It is the local church, with two God-ordained offices, the elders and the deacons, to which Paul addresses these words. Paul is not writing about Rome. He is writing about the local body of believers, organized around the worship of God through Jesus Christ. It is those local assemblies, not some gold-encrusted, marble-laden monstrosity in far away Rome, that is the pillar and foundation of the truth, for it is there that the truth is supported, upheld, preached, taught, and lived out. And despite Ray's cavalier citation of this text, while ignoring its context, the sad fact is, it is Ray who lives as if this verse, as it was originally written, has been cut out of his Bible, since he does not honor the local church as it was ordained by Christ, but completely obliterates its role by accepting the authority of a bishop of a city on the other side of the earth! So much for the local church, as ordained and organized by Christ, functioning as the pillar and foundation of the truth!
Steve Ray clearly has no concept of the high and biblical view of the church that is found in the confessions of faith of historic Protestant churches. And since he was specifically responding to this writer, he surely shows not the first bit of familiarity with the high view of the church found in the London Baptist Confession of 1689, my own confession of faith.