Well, I figured this particular story was over, and we’d be spending our time talking about the amazing actions of Mr. Sungenis during our debate on Long Island. But, a few weeks after that debate (and a number of more e-mails from Sungenis, Sippo, et. al. on that subject, all unsolicited, all unresponded to) I received a two-part message (unsolicited) from Mr. Sungenis. The first thing that struck me was that here was a private message written by a Christian to Mr. Sungenis that he is now responding to by cc’ing others! Yet, in the same message, he continues to complain that his message to me, sent to more than a dozen people, was “PRIVATE”! The term “hypocrisy” is not an insult, but a term describing inconsistent behavior based upon double standards. Here is another glowing example of this. But what is more, I include the entirety of Sungenis’ last response to me: his main argument to people has been that I, for some reason, did not want them to read what he said. To be honest, I didn’t include it because I felt it would be over-kill (i.e., it would look like I was going over board to make him look bad), and, even more so, I don’t believe that Mr. Sungenis, or anyone else, has control over the content of our website. If he feels he must have the last word at all times, fine. Here is the last word. But all one will see in reading his final reply is more of the same of what was seen before: no meaningful argumentation, but more ad-hominem, straw-man style rhetoric. But, since he seems to wish to have it posted, here it is….
Date Fri, 4 Jun 1999 115637 EDT
Subject Re Former Catholic (1)
I am a former Catholic who became a Christian 19 years ago (I am now 44 years old). I have learned a little bit about apologetics since I became a Christian, but was surprised to recently learn that there were Roman Catholic apologists (ahh, the wonders of the Internet). Recently I have been reading about various interactions between Roman Catholics and James White on James White’s website. I also have read much information on more than a dozen websites that are Roman Catholic, e.g., 100% Catholic, Catholic Answers, Gospa Missions. I am reading several books put out by Roman Catholics such as Surprised by Truth and Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic. I am also viewing Scott Hahn’s video series from St. Joseph’s Communications. It has been very interesting to review the above material.
At one time I wondered if Roman Catholics were Christians. I believe that some are. But it saddens me to hear of the tactics and the methods that some apologists use to present their position. It would seem to me that one would try to use the best arguments and evidence to presents one’s case and then let the hearer decide. It should be the merits of the case that determine whose position is right or more right. I would hope that Christian apologists would try to behave like Christians in all arenas, including the arena of apologetics. But as I listen to Roman Catholic apologists debating, I am saddened by how some of them resort to ridiculing and putting down their opponent rather than focusing on the subject of the debate.
I read your correspondence that James White put on his website and I am disappointed in you. I have read many debates on other issues and I find that your methods are the result of someone whose position is weak or the result of someone whose character is weak. I will be passing on the information to other Roman Catholics that I am currently dialoging with to show the unchristian method of defending one’s position.
Have you forgotten who Jesus Christ is? Have you left your first love? Be honest in all that you do. Winning is only of value if done honestly.
Richard Varner, no one of importance.
No, I haven’t forgotten who Jesus Christ is. He was certainly more fair with his opponents than you are being with me. You don’t know me at all, so how can you be “disappointed” in me? You judge me by one piece of PRIVATE correspondence Mr. White and I have shared, and then you think you can judge my heart, accuse me of “forgetting Jesus,” “leaving my first love,” “dishonesty,” and that I am only interested in “winning.” That’s a tall order for someone you’ve never met, don’t you think Richard? What has really happened, Richard, is that you have neglected the rule in Proverbs 1817 and fallen victim to the propaganda Mr. White has been throwing out about Catholics for years. By the way, I have dealt with Mr. White for the past seven years and I have seen nothing but contempt, slander, gossip, hatred and disrespect come from both his mouth and his writings against Catholics. Unfortunately, you know nothing of these things because you just came on the scene, yet you consider yourself an impartial judge of the situation. As for bad tactics in debating, this is exactly what we have complaining about concerning Mr. White for years. If there is anyone who does not play fair in a debate, it is Mr. White. I suggest you go to some Catholic websites and have some e-mail exchanges with some Catholics who have dealt with Mr. White before you jump to any conclusions. If you want the names of them I will be glad to give them to you. Otherwise, your opinion is surely biased.
Believe me, our Catholic position is not weak. Its stronger now than it has been in a long time. We can tell because our opponents have little defense against our critiques, and thus they resort to saying that we are attacking them personally. They do this, of course, without acknowledging that they have attacked us personally.
But I’ll let my correspondence with Mr. White speak for itself. Attached is the final letter I wrote to Mr. White during the recent correspondence we had – – the one to which you referred in your letter. Read it and ask yourself “who is being fair and who is not being fair?” Mind you, Mr. White never responded to this letter, rather, he decided to post my previous correspondence (and did so without asking my permission, which Internet rules require for personal e-mail), and chose to ignore my conciliatory efforts in my last response. You will also notice that in addition to my conciliatory remarks, you will find very substantial arguments for the Catholic position on the Fathers, which to this day, this letter remains unanswered from Mr. White. I would suggest that if you talk to Mr. White, tell him he should spend less time reveling in personal exchanges and stick more to the substance of what his opponent is saying.
Here is the last letter I wrote to him that he never responded to or put on his website. Let’s see if Mr. White has the courage either to answer it and/or put it on his website
My present responses to Mr. White are preceded by ###. My previous responses in the next-to- the-last letter are preceded by ***
Mr. White writes
I spent far too much time on this, especially given the attitude you have shown, Mr. Sungenis. Your comments fall far below the standard of civil behavior (especially your final comments). Aside from your explanation of= the passage you quoted from Mr. Gallegos without knowing the context, I don’t believe further arguing with you on these passages would be fruitful. We’ve said all we need to say. I think the interchange speaks for itself.
### In the interest of time, Mr. White, I have distilled our dialogue down to a few basic points which I feel are the most crucial. If I have missed something you think is important please let me know and I will respond further. I have also tried to be as sensitive to your feelings as I possibly could, at the same time I tried to maintain my option to drive home a particular point. I hope you understand.
***If its your own translation, then surely you saw the context in which Gregory was writing. By your own admission, then, you decided not to translate any of the context of the passage. You thought that just by throwing a bone to your constituents that all of them would think Gregory was supporting sola scriptura, knowing they would probably never look up the quote themselves.***
Sorry, missed it again. I demonstrated the context does not vitiate the quote; I “admitted” nothing, since I reject the charge you have made as ludicrous and disproven.
### No, I think what’s really happening here James is that someone has challenged you on your use of the quote without taking into account the context and, having exposed your error, you now claim that the context has no effect on what you propose the quote to be teaching. For everyone observing this exchange between Mr. White and myself, this is really the crux of the whole issue. I pointed out to James that the context in which Gregory places his description of Scripture as the rule of every dogma is not one that shows a contest or contrast between Scripture and the Church or Scripture and Tradition, rather, it is a context in which Gregory is showing the superiority of Scripture over human philosophy.
Mr. White’s present argument is that this context doesn’t matter, Gregory’s comment holds on its own, meaning that for Mr. White, Gregory believed that Scripture was the only infallible authority for faith and morals. My previous challenge to Mr. White was that we can’t know that this was Gregory’s intent because Mr. White’s understanding of sola scripture includes a statement of contrast, that is, that Scripture is “the rule of every dogma” in contrast to the Church or Tradition that are not the rule of every dogma.
Now here is the kicker. Mr. White, both in this post and the previous post, indicated that he knows such a contrast is needed, since in an effort to trap me, his last post asked me where Gregory says that “Tradition is the rule of every dogma.” Similarly, in this present post, he later says, “I again challenge you to find a single place where he uses such terminology of “Tradition” or the Papacy or anything else you’d like to add into the mixture.” By asking me that very question, Mr. White KNOWS Tradition or the Church have to be mentioned in the context as things that Gregory is opposed to as being authorities on par with Scripture in order for us to conclude that Gregory is teaching sola scriptura. Otherwise, Gregory is teaching the same thing Catholicism has taught for 2000 years, that is, that Scripture is God’s inspired word and is profitable for reproof, correction, training in righteousness, etc, but not that it does so as the only infallible source from God.
If I am missing something here, please, someone enlighten me. But it is clear to me that Mr. White is saying that the context does not matter, that is, there is no difference if Gregory says “Scripture is the rule for every dogma” in a context that is speaking of human philosophy as opposed to a context that is speaking about the Church and Tradition. My feeling is that Mr. White knows he’s trapped, but he simply has no other way of answering the challenge, except to say that the context doesn’t matter. Remember that the next time Mr. White bring up an issue of biblical exegesis. Just tell him, “The context doesn’t matter” and watch how loud he screams at you that you don’t know how to exegete Scripture. It is also clear to me that Mr. White knows he’s trapped, since when I asked him for a quote from Gregory, or any Father, which explicitly states the superiority of Scripture in a context in which he also demotes the Church and Tradition as equal authorities, Mr. White did not produce any. ###
I am throwing bones to no one (though, I confess, I might be casting a few pearls here, given your constant attitude), and as for folks looking things up, I’m the one constantly encouraging folks to do that. That’s why I encouraged you to look up your own quotes. -)
### When you stop attacking the Catholic Church, James, then my attitude will change. If you leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone. But I don’t think you can do that, can you James? We accept you as a Christian, but you can’t accept us, and that is the main difference. Until you get off your high-horse, you’re probably going to get a lot more of the same from us.###
You insinuated much that you now duck, Bob, and we all saw it. But, let’s get to the passage and its context….
### My point is that to call your isolation of Gregory’s quote from the context a “sleight-of-hand” methodology is not an ad hominem attack, especially considering my lengthy paragraph above in which I explain that the context is the most crucial factor in understanding Gregory’s mindset. But perhaps I was too hasty in accusing you of “sleight-of-hand” methodology, since if you believe the context IS NOT CRUCIAL to understanding Gregory’s intent, then perhaps you weren’t being deceptive. I guess you were just being honest. But that, in itself, raises an even more serious problem. It is now a problem of ignorance. For if you claim that the context of Gregory’s quote simply has no bearing on how we interpret Gregory’s quote, then yes, we do not have a problem of sleight-of-hand, but a problem of your inadequacy to interpret the Fathers. And thus we have hit on the real problem that has been taking place all these years. We are talking past each other because to you the context of the Father’s passage is not an issue. You can simply extract a quote that seems to support your belief in a particular doctrine and then you make claim that the Father supports your belief.
It is no surprise that I see the same methodology among many of your colleagues as well, e.g., Jason Engwer’s recent attempt to say that Clement of Rome taught justification by faith alone, without, of course, looking at the context in which Clement wrote his oft quoted statement by Protestants. If you haven’t seen Jason’s claim and my rebuttal to him, I will be happy to reproduce it for you. Be that as it may, all I can say, James, is if that is the way you are going to read the Fathers, then we have certainly reached an impasse.
Be that as it may, what I find intriguing is that in the much of the remainder of your present post, you make a continual appeal to the context of Against Eunomias in order to support your contention that Gregory is teaching sola scriptura. Yet when I ask you to consider the context of On the Soul and Resurrection, you claim that the quote from Gregory can stand on its own and it doesn’t matter whether Gregory is only opposing human philosophy in the context. That is contradictory, Mr. White.###
***Because the definition of sola scriptura demands a recognition that Church and Tradition are not infallible on par with Scripture. And once one sees this, then it becomes obvious why Gregory does not include Church and Tradition in opposition to Scripture in this present text BECAUSE HES NOT TRYING TO DEFEND SOLA SCRIPTURA!!***
Again, let’s try to let the Fathers speak for themselves, OK? Do you think you could try to do that? He didn’t speak of “Tradition” in this passage. I didn’t say “Here Gregory pits Scripture against the Church and Tradition.” The very term “Tradition” with a capital T, whatever that means to you (and that would be different than what it means to other RC’s), is anachronistic to the extreme.
### If you’re trying to succeed by casually making an ambiguity out of Tradition, you’re not being very successful. Once again, here is what Gregory said about tradition “for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from the Fathers, handed on, like some inheritance, by the succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them.” That is precisely what Trent understood Tradition to be, and that’s really all that matters.###
You ASSUME its meaning, but assumptions are dangerous things. Gregory explains that we Christians make the Scriptures the “canon” and “law” of EVERY DOGMA. His is a positive statement. He doesn’t mention capital-T tradition. I again challenge you to find a single place where he uses such terminology of “Tradition” or the Papacy or anything else you’d like to add into the mixture. And he says that those things ALONE (monos) are to be RECEIVED that are commensurate with the SCRIPTURAL standard. His words are quite reminiscent of these from Basil
### Let me try to make it clearer and more to the point. Here is Gregory’s quote in NPNF “we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.”
Fact #1 Gregory says “which may be made to HARMONIZE with the INTENTIONS of those writings.” He does not say that every dogma has to be found EXPLICITLY in those writings. Explicitness is something you assume when you read the passage because of your Protestant mind set. Accordingly, it is a simple task to say that the Assumption of Mary can be “made to harmonize with the intentions of those writings,” for there is nothing in “those writings” which would deny the existence of the Assumption, and plenty in “those writings” which would allow and support such a belief, e.g., the fact that Scripture allows for assumption into heaven since Enoch and Elijah were assumed into heaven.
Fact #2) Gregory says “WE…approve.” Who is the WE here? Well, Gregory is the Bishop of Nyssa, and a bishop in the only Church that existed, the Catholic Church. That’s why Gregory said, “the doctrine; whose traditions are constantly preserved in writing in the CHURCHES.” (AG, 1,13). That’s why Gregory says, “Let Eunomias first show, then, that the CHURCH has believed in vain that the Only-begotten Son truly exists…” You don’t have such a luxury, Mr. White, because your church is merely some spiritual entity composed of believers in each denomination [correction each denomination that you approve of]. In fact, you even make your own translation of Gregory’s quote, since you deem yourself with great authority in such matters, don’t you?
Fact #3) There is no dogma in the Catholic Church, now or ever, which disagrees with Gregory’s quote. All our doctrines “harmonize with the intentions of those writings.” If you don’t believe so, show me one that doesn’t. All this is in addition to the fact that Gregory has said nothing here or elsewhere that Scripture is the supreme authority over the Church and its Tradition. ###
Basil of Caesarea (Ad 329-379) We ought carefully to examine whether the doctrine offered us is conformable to Scripture, and if not, to reject it. Nothing must be added to the inspired words of God; all that is outside Scripture is not of faith, but is sin. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series Prolegomena, 2. Work, 3. Ascetic (iii).
Now, Bob, I quote this because I agree with it. He is saying what I would say. YOU would never utter those words in ANY context, since they would not be TRUE for you (assuming that which you do not assume for me).
### This just shows me that you just don’t comprehend the issues here, James. You are wrong. I would utter the same words as Basil, since they don’t support sola scriptura. I’ll show you how. If you read the preceding two paragraphs of Ascetic iii we find that Basil believed in “bishops, priest and deacons.” Do you have those in your church, James? If not, then according to Basil, you are “outside Scripture” and in “sin.” We also find that Basil believed in “Penitence consists not only in ceasing to sin, but in expiating sin by tears and mortification. Sins of ignorance are not free from peril of judgment.” Do you believe in “expiating” sin and doing “mortification,” and do you believe that some of your sins are still subject to judgement? If not, then according to Basil, you are “outside Scripture” and in “sin.” Get the point? [By the way, thank you for leading me to this wonderful information on Basil for our upcoming debate. I’ll make sure I cite him when I am giving patristic witness to the Catholic doctrine of propitiation].
But if you haven’t gotten the point yet, let me tell you what else Basil says in this section. In Exegetic (the section right before Ascetic) on page xlix of NPNF, Basil believes that it is wrong for someone to “leave the church before the celebration of the mysteries.” I’m sure you know that Basil is referring to the Eucharistic mystery, James, for he shows his belief in the Real Presence in other places. In addition, Basil believes that “without penitence the best conduct is unavailing for salvation.” Doesn’t sound like a sola fide man to me, James. Basil believes that “God requires of the sinner not merely the abandonment of the sinful part, but also the amends of penance, and warns men that they must not dream that the grace of baptism will free them from the obligation to live a godly life.” According to Basil “the value of tradition is insisted upon.” The last thing in this paragraph is that Basil believes that “every nation, as well as every church, have its own guardian angel.”
My, my, James. We do seem to have a laundry list of Catholic beliefs here? But do you believe in the “celebration of the mysteries” as Basil did? Do you believe in penitence must be added to good conduct for salvation? Do you believe that baptism gives you grace? Do you believe that everyone has a guardian angel? If not, then according to Basil, your “outside Scripture” and in “sin.” But if you turn the tables and say that the doctrines of Basil I listed above are not found in Scripture, then you’re accusing Basil of contradicting his own statement that no one should be “adding to the inspired words of Scripture,” if indeed, as you say, Basil meant “sola scriptura” by those words. Perhaps you can explain this to us.###
***You keep reading sola scriptura into the text because your Protestant mind set forces you to do so.***
No, Bob, remember I don’t have a system that demands that I find in the Fathers the basis of my faith. That is your burden, not mine. On this issue, the bias is plainly and inarguably *yours.*
### Oh, I see, James. You can use the Fathers when you think its to your advantage, but then ignore them when their concensus doesn’t teach the same thing you teach. My, my, what a convenient religion. Here the applecart is literally turned upside down, since those who are 20 centuries removed from Christ and the Apostles [those = James and his colleagues] have now become the authorities and are the ones “in the know” as to the interpretation of Scripture, but those closest to Christ and the Apostles [like Basil, for example] really don’t know a heck of a lot, except when they can be called upon to support James’ 20 th century interpretation of Scripture. James would rather put that “burden” on me and the Catholics. Well, I’ll tell you something, James. Its a burden we GLADLY share, because we don’t want the burden of having to reinvent the wheel of biblical theology again. All we have to do is look at the thousands upon thousands of denominations your doctrine of sola scriptura has created and we can safely say, “That’s what happens when you try to reinvent biblical theology. No, we prefer just stick to what has been handed down to us, because that’s what we were commanded to do.” ###
***Now let me turn the tables. I gave you a quote from Against Enomius in which Gregory stated While the Church teaches that we must not divide our faith amongst a plurality of beings…. Now, if someone were to use your premise that you cant talk about one authority when you’re mentioning another, they might then conclude that from this quote it looks like Gregory must not believe that Scripture is an infallible authority since he doesn’t mention Scripture as teaching him anything about the Trinity. Of course, you would be the first one to bring this doubter to On the Soul and the Resurrection to show him that Gregory did believe in the infallibility of Scripture, wouldnt you James? Well, Im doing the same thing, only in reverse.***
Bob, that’s some of the worst argumentation I’ve ever read. Think about what you are saying “Well, sure, Gregory said Scripture is the canon and law of EVERY dogma, but hey, that’s just what he thought of Scripture. He must have thought just as highly of Tradition, even though I can’t say where he ever said that!
### Let me repeat again this quote from Basil “It suffices for the proof our statement that we have a tradition coming down to us from the Fathers, an inheritance as it were, by succession from the Apostles through the saints who came after them” (Jaeger Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, Vol. 2, pp. 84-85).
Notice again that Basil says that the “tradition” is the “proof.” The word “proof” sounds very similar to Scripture being the rule and law of every dogma.
By the way, James, notice that Basil also believed in “succession from the Apostles.” But didn’t you tell me in our Boston debate that “succession” couldn’t be found in Scripture? But you also told me that Basil taught sola scriptura when he said “We ought carefully to examine whether the doctrine offered us is conformable to Scripture, and if not, to reject it. Nothing must be added to the inspired words of God; all that is outside Scripture is not of faith, but is sin.” But if “succession” isn’t in Scripture shouldn’t Basil have rejected it? Perhaps you can explain this to us, James.###
[At this point Mr. Sungenis cut-and-pasted a section from his book.]
***Gregory shows us what this means in, for example, his remark to Eunomias. And if he [Eunomias] says that he has some of the saints who declared Him to be a slave, or created…..Let him, or some other on his behalf, produce to us one such phrase (and there could never be found in those inspired Scriptures which we believe any such thought as to support this impiety), what need is there to strive further upon points admitted with one who not only misrepresents the words of the saints, but even contends against his own definitions. (Against Eunomias, Book III, 1).
Notice that Gregory uses Scripture to back up what the saints have taught, and dare says that we should not expect Scripture to disagree.***
Excuse me, Mr. Sungenis, but your ability to turn *any* statement from its meaning to a support of your thesis is most disturbing. Do you really mean to suggest to us all that it was Gregory’s thought here to make Scripture merely “back up” the words of “saints”? Gregory is here challenging Eunomias to provide FROM SCRIPTURE a basis for his heretical teaching. Remember, he had already said But if the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures is freely placed within the reach of all, and nothing is forbidden to or hidden from any of those who choose to share in the divine instruction, how comes it that he endeavors to lead his hearers astray by his misrepresentation of the Scriptures. Again, the passage speaks of the Scriptures as the source of these truths, and he upbraid Eunomias for *misrepresenting* the Scriptures. I don’t know why you keep bringing up these passages, because they say the exact opposite of what you wish them to say!
### James, James, you just don’t want to admit that Gregory refers to the “saints”as an authoritative source. Remember, according to the previous quote I gave you from Gregory he believes that the saints are those who “have a tradition coming down to us from the Fathers, an inheritance as it were, by succession from the Apostles through the saints who came after them.” Of course Gregory wants Eunomias to prove his case from Scripture, so spare me the accusations of distorting the text. But he also wants Eunomias to see that Eunomias is disagreeing with what the saints have said about this issue. You keep playing in the either/or world, James, because your mind set forces you to go there.###
***Since Eunomias is disagreeing with traditional Church teaching on the subject of the Trinity, of course Gregory is going to push Scripture as much as he can, because that is the only thing Eunomias listens to.***
Excuse me, but where does Gregory speak as you speak? You almost make it sound like Scripture is Gregorys back up plan when the *real* authoritative teaching would be traditional Church teaching. Yet, it is obvious that Gregory believes that the Scriptures teach the eternality of Christ and that He is the creator of all things the Church likewise teaches this, not as some separate tradition but exactly *because* the Scriptures, which are inspired, teach this.
### I know this is Gregory’s intent because earlier sections tell me that Eunomias did not hold to the Church and its Tradition. Eunomias was an Arian. He was a “martyr to the Anomoean cause and had large congregations to the very end” (Preface of NPNF). Gregory is writing after the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed, the first creed to reject Arianism, and the precursor to Chalcedon and Ephesus. Thus, there is an established body of doctrine in the Church to which Eunomias has not tipped his hat. Therefore, Gregory cannot argue from Church teaching because Eunomias has already rejected the Church. ###
And, you missed a rather important passage right before the one you cited:
Though we have spoken hurriedly of these matters, let the careful man read the original text of the Holy Scripture, and fit its dark sayings to our reflections, testing whether it is not far better to consider that the meaning of these dark sayings has this reference, and not that which is attributed to it at first sight (Ad Eunomias III, 2).
It sure seems to me that here Gregory invites that horrid thing called private interpretation, i.e., he invites the careful man to read the original text of Scripture and make a decision! Why would he do that? Why not just say, The Pope has spoken, the case is decided, don’t ask further questions?
### Obviously, since he’s an Arian as I noted above, Eunomias has already rejected the Pope and the Church. And how you can possibly extract from this quote that Gregory believed in private interpretation is, sorry to say, beyond all credulity. Now I realize why you are having a problem. Asking someone to look at Scripture and consider its meaning is far different than saying to someone, “reject the Pope and the traditional teachings of the Church and decide Scripture’s meaning on your own.” By the way, I hate to keep bringing up this quote, but here is what Gregory says about private interpretation “It suffices for the proof of our statement that we have a tradition coming down to us from the Fathers, an inheritance as it were, by succession of the Apostles through the saints who came after them.”