Phil Porvaznik, a humorous, if less than imposing, Roman Catholic apologist, of sorts (and collector of odd video clips), has continued posting on the thread noted below. He has posted some imaginary discussions, and I thought it would be useful, since he won’t actually risk calling my program to promote his viewpoints, to use his claims to illustrate the circularity of his position. It will also help to answer part of a rather common objection that is raised against me. At the end of his presentation, he writes,

PhilVaz then hangs up again because there is no reply other than the usual stuff about “bodily assumption of Mary”, “satispassio”, this or that indulgence or prayer to Mary that White does not like.

   Why do I speak of, for example, the Bodily Assumption of Mary? Simple. It is the most recent dogmatic declaration by Rome that illustrates how vitally important sola scriptura is. A doctrine that no one who called themselves a Christian ever even mentioned in five hundred years of Christian history today possesses the same level of dogmatic de fide standing as the resurrection of Jesus Christ (both have to be believed by faith). How can such a thing happen? Through a denial of sola scriptura, that’s how. Roman Catholic apologists know why I raise the issue, they are just attempting to avoid the subject like the plague, which I fully understand. The belief is indefensible biblically, historically, or logically. They can only defend it through a denial of sola scriptura and an assertion of the ultimacy of the authority of Rome. But even then it is embarrassing to them, since they want to attempt to speak of “tradition” in some sense that would at least look biblical, but, there is no possible way to stretch any biblical concept of tradition to cover such a dogma. It just isn’t possible. This is dogma created out of whole cloth without any compelling connection to either Scripture or tradition. It is Rome being Rome, nothing more. So it is easy to see why they want to stay as far away from that one as possible.
   So, let’s take Phil’s pretended conversation and flesh it out some, since, of course, Phil won’t call in to do it himself!

Phil’s Version:

PhilVaz: Did the people in Jesus’ day practice sola scriptura? The hearers of our Lord, Yes or No, Mr. White.
White: I have said over, and over, and over again, that sola scriptura —
P: It’s a Yes or No.
W: — is a doctrine that speaks to the normative condition of the church, not to times of enscripturation.
P: So your answer is No?
W: That is exactly what my answer is.
P: Thank you.
W: It is NO.
P: Did the apostles practice sola scriptura, Mr. White? Yes or No?
W: NO.
P: Thank you.

My Version:

PhilVaz: Did the people in Jesus’ day practice sola scriptura? The hearers of our Lord, Yes or No, Mr. White.
White: I would think you would have learned from Gerry’s mistakes in that debate, Phil, that hoping for sound-bite victories is empty at best, and deceptive at worst.
PhilVaz: It’s just a yes or no question.
White: No, it isn’t, and you know it. You are purposefully deceiving your audience by hoping they will not realize that the days of the Apostles and the day in which we live differ fundamentally and that, in reality, we all agree on that fact.
PhilVaz: Yes or no!
White: Since you don’t seem willing to even address the issue, I will continue. We both agree that revelation–special, scriptural revelation, was taking place through the ministry of the Spirit of God during the period of Christ’s ministry and in the decades that followed. And we both agree that such revelation is not taking place today. Will you at least answer that question?
PhilVaz: I am just asking a yes or no question!
White: I’ll take that as an agreement, since I know you know I am speaking the truth. So, since the very definition of sola scriptura assumes the existence of a definable scriptura, and during that time period the scriptura was being given by revelation, how could your question even be relevant, logical, or meaningful?
PhilVaz: Ha! You’ve admitted I’m right! I win!
White: I’ve admitted that sola scriptura speaks to the only meaningful question before us today: is there another infallible rule of faith alongside Scripture to which the church is accountable today, now, here? I say to you that only Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed, and therefore if you are going to allege another infallible rule of faith to which I am to be held accountable, you must demonstrate it to be theopneustos as well.

   Now, Phil provided some quick quotes. As normal for he and his clan, they are partial, and misleading. For example:

(A) For the early Church the divine Scriptures AND the oral tradition of the apostles or living apostolic Faith of the Catholic Church together formed the one infallible source and rule of faith for the Church; Church Tradition determined the canon of Scripture and furnished the key to the true interpretation of the Scriptures (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, volume 3, page 606);

This works great in the CA forums, where almost no one actually takes the time to look anything up. Across the page we read,

The old catholic doctrine of Scripture and tradition, therefore, nearly as it approaches the Roman, must not be entirely confounded with it. It makes the two identical as to substance, while the Roman church rests upon tradition for many doctrines and usages, like the doctrines of the seven sacraments, of the mass, of purgatory, of the papacy, and of the immaculate conception, which have no foundation in Scripture. Against this the evangelical church protests, and asserts the perfection and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures as the record of divine revelation; while it does not deny the value of tradition, or of the consciousness of the church, in the interpretation of Scripture, and regulates public teaching by symbolical books.

   I have addressed the issue of the claim made by Schaff regarding the canon from a theological perspective elsewhere. But note that Porvaznik, like all Roman apologists, must equivocate on the meaning of “tradition.” He quotes sources that use the term, but does he make sure there is a consistent definition applied to the term? Of course not. He can’t. The tradition to which Schaff or Kelly or anyone else would refer would not, and could not, fulfill the Roman requirements of the term. Any tradition to which Schaff would have made mention would not have contained any of the elements upon which Rome has defined her dogmas, the very dogmas she must defend by denying sola scriptura! We see here the deceptive nature of Catholic argumentation, for they force the early writers to stand as defenders of doctrines and dogmas utterly unknown to them. What is more, when early writers did err, and violate Scriptural teaching, the Catholic who believes their errors points to their teachings as evidence in their favor, and then attempts to piggy-back on his agreement with them on this one matter the entire mountain of modern dogma that has been defined by Rome but that has not a leg to stand on in the very same ancient writers. This is a gross misuse of their words, to be sure.
   What is more, when I cite early writers against the modern Roman definitions, what do I hear in response? “Well, you see, that writer was just a private theologian, and could err.” The specter of sola ecclesia rises yet again, for when the early writers support Rome, they are passing on “tradition”; when they don’t, they are just private theologians in error. And the deciding factor? Rome, of course. Rome decides what is and what is not tradition. This is very similar to the concept of IAE that I have been discussing on The Dividing Line: Islamic Anachronstic Eisegesis. What parts of the Bible are inspired? The parts that agree with the Qur’an. What parts of the writings of early fathers carry tradition? The parts that agree with modern Rome. Same idea, different tune. Bad argumentation in either Latin or Arabic.
   So here’s one final dialogue with Phil “I Write the Posts, I Don’t Make the Calls” Porvaznik:

White: So, Phil, you like Yves Congar on tradition. Big book, his work on tradition, isn’t it?
Porvaznik: Uh, yeah.
White: So, don’t you think it is rather odd that in all that verbiage, we can never find anyplace where Congar gives us the actual content of this wonderfully nebulous thing called “tradition”? I mean, let me ask you plainly: did your proposed “tradition” contain the doctrine of the Bodily Assumption of Mary in the year 490 AD?
Porvaznik: Well, umm…you see, you have material sufficiency, and formal sufficiency, and….
White: That isn’t what I asked you. When you ask me for my rule of faith, I point you to something that can be known, seen, and examined. When I ask for yours, you point me to Scripture and tradition. When I ask you what is contained in tradition, you simply don’t know. All you can say is, “Well, this is what the Church has said was contained in tradition.” But you don’t know what else might be lurking in that wonderfully nebulous box called tradition. So, I ask again…did that box called tradition contain something called the Bodily Assumption of Mary back in AD 490, and if so, why didn’t anyone on earth…except maybe some gnostic heretics…know it?

   If Phil would like to call in and answer that question, I’d be most interested. Of course, if he says yes, he will have to say, “But…we have no evidence of it being known to anyone.” That’s great. So, what might be in the great, grand tradition box today that future generations will have to believe by faith that no one today has a clue about? Who knows, but that’s what you get when you deny sola scriptura.

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