Mike Frost Trashes Me Regarding St. Athanasius

Mike Frost Trashes Me Regarding St. Athanasius June 6, 2020

Mike Frost is Antiochian Orthodox and has earned an MBA degree.  I first learned of him when my Facebook friend Roger Gaw Ang posted my article for National Catholic Register14 Proofs That St. Athanasius Was 100% Catholic (6-4-20) in a Facebook group called “Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic Debate” (7,560 members). Mike’s words will be in blue.

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And such a simplistic silly piece by a mediocre hack RC apologist. Take just “councils”. He doesn’t appear to even be aware of the big Semi-Arian councils of the late 350s and early 360s. Nicea was only an “ecumenical council” as it was later received. By future councils. But its core holding was still being argued over in councils. And its creed would be replaced in toto by that of Constantinople in 381 AD, after his death.

Why would I waste my time with such polemical mediocrity, Roger Gaw Ang? All you get from him and his ilk are the same old ideological slants. Terrible exegetics. Bad history. I doubt he even realizes that the first “pope” by title is Heraclas of Alexandria in 248 AD. Which is why Athanasius is Pope & Patriarch of Alexandria. He knew of no supreme or infallible bishop of Rome. ;)

His little piece isn’t serious systematic theology or serious history, so STOP pretending that he is some heavyweight, Roger Gaw Ang. He is a RC who advances his RC polemic and ideology. YAWN. Show us some first-rate historical and theological scholarship!

This is childish rhetoric: juvenile potshots that don’t interact with the material; they merely insult.

The article was simply a 1000-word summary piece that didn’t even contain my own words, except for the section titles and one sentence as a footnote. One can’t do everything in every paper. I write on many different levels and styles, depending on the audience and my intentions. I write many short pieces like this one, and also very long, in-depth articles and dialogues and debates.

There is not enough space for exhaustive research in 1000 words (which is 3 1/2 pages). Mr. Frost certainly he knows that. It would be like expecting the listing of the Ten Commandments to be in-depth moral theology. Apples and oranges . . .

If he is serious about debate, he would have to be willing to take on my material point-by-point, which is what serious debate is. My blog (online for 23 years now) has almost 3000 articles, and I now have 50 published books (21 of them by “official” publishers). He is free to challenge any of them.

But again it has to be point-by-point. I don’t play “Bible hopscotch” or the “101 topics at once” games. I engage in serious debate and dialogue. I deal point-by-point with opposing views and I expect the same courtesy in return.

But there has to be at least minimal mutual respect for a true dialogue or debate to take place and accomplish anything. Oftentimes people tone down a bit after the original polemical / insulting flourish.

Mr. Frost challenged me (with insults) in a public venue; now I have returned the favor (minus the personal insults; I only negatively characterized the nature of his polemics sent my way).

Any discussion of Athanasius and Councils must discuss these historical events: Council of Seleucia [359], Council of Ariminum [359], and Council of Constantinople [360].

Mr. Frost then linked articles concerning the views of St. Gregory Nazianzus and St. Cyril of Jerusalem on the canon of the Bible: which have nothing to do with the subject at hand. Then he posted one (thanks!) about St. Athanasius and the canon., and described my reflections on the same topic as “intellectual dishonesty.”

Mr. Frost then found my Literary Resume and attacked my credentials:

Please see his UNIMPRESSIVE CV: “Bachelor of Arts, Sociology (cum laude) from Wayne State University, Detroit, 1982″. And this: “(no formal training in theology)”. He is NOT a recognized expert in systematic theology or the history of Christian doctrine. Compare to say a [Jaroslav] Pelikan.

In other words, I have precisely as much formal theological education as the two men who are considered the greatest Protestant and Catholic apologists of the 20th century: C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton (i.e., none whatsoever). Chesterton didn’t attain a college degree of any sort at all. He took a year or two of a smattering of courses, focusing on art classes. Lewis was a professor of literature. Peter Kreeft, arguably the greatest living Catholic apologist, also has no theological education that I’m aware of. He is a philosopher. The same was true of Malcolm Muggeridge (journalist like Chesterton) and Thomas Howard (English professor). There are many other examples: including the first historic Christian apologist, St. Justin Martyr, who had a philosophical background and was converted to Christianity by talking to an old man by the sea.

Mr. Frost has a degree in business. Looks like he has no more theological education than I do. He cites scholars and academics and experts in various fields; so do I. Same difference. I have never claimed to be a scholar (a quick search of “scholar” on my blog will quickly yield many examples of my explicitly denying that I am one). But it’s not required to do lay popular apologetics, which is an altogether different thing from academic work per se. This being the case, and seeing that Mr. Frost is as formally theologically educated as I am (informally, I would, no doubt, be far more educated than he), his attack is merely a subterfuge and variation of the genetic fallacy.

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Here is the portion of my NCR article about St. Athanasius and the deuterocanon:

7. Deuterocanon (So-Called “Apocrypha”) Athanasius cites both Baruch and Susanna along with Isaiah, Psalms, and other books, making no distinction between them (Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 1.12). He describes Wisdom 14:21 as “Scripture” (Against the Heathen, Part 1, sec. 11). He cites  Sirach along with several other protocanonical Scriptures (Life of Anthony, 28 and Apology Against the Arians, 66), and does the same with Tobit (Defense of Constantius, 17). He describes Judith as “Scripture” (Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35).

It was a condensed version of part of the much longer article of mine: “St. Athanasius Was a Catholic, Not a Proto-Protestant.” Here’s the similar section from that, which I posted to the discussion group:

Deuterocanon (So-Called “Apocrypha”)

St. Athanasius did seem to lower the status of the deuterocanonical books somewhat, but not to a sub-biblical level, as noted by my good friend Gary Michuta, in his excellent book, Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger (Port Huron, Michigan: Grotto Press, 2007, 110-112; bracketed footnote numbering my own):

Athanasius quotes both Baruch and Susanna right along passages from Isaiah, Psalms, Romans, and Hebrews; he makes no distinction or qualification between them [1]. Wisdom also is used as an authentic portion of sacred Scripture . . .:

But of these and such like inventions of idolatrous madness, Scripture taught us beforehand long ago, when it said, ‘The devising of idols, as the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them, the corruption of life . . .’ [Ws 14:12] [2]

And later in the same work:

For since they were endeavouring to invest with what Scripture calls the incommunicable name . . . [3]

This reference to the “incommunicable name” comes from Wisdom 14:21 . . .

Athanasius quotes another passage from Wisdom as constituting the teachings of Christ, the Word of God. He undoubtedly uses it to confirm doctrine. [4] In another argument against Arians, he calls both the Protocanonical Proverbs and the Deuterocanonical Wisdom “holy Scripture” . . . [5] . . .

Athanasius also quotes the book of Sirach without distinction or qualification, in the midst of several other scriptural quotations. [6] . . . Athanasius calls the Book of Judith Scripture. [7] Tobit is cited right along with several Protocanonical quotations [8] , and even introduced with the solemn formula “it is written.” [9]

[1] Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 1.12.
[2] Against the Heathen, 11.1. Emphasis added.
[3] Against the Heathen, 1, 17.3.
[4] On the Incarnate Word, 4.6; 5.2.
[5] Defense Against Arius, 1, 3.
[6] Life of Anthony, 28 and Apology Against the Arians, 66.
[7] Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35 . . .
[8] Defense of Constantius, 17. Tobit is cited after Matthew and Isaiah.
[9] Defense Against Arius, Part 1, 11.

The great Protestant Bible scholar F. F. Bruce confirms Michuta’s analysis:

As Athanasius includes Baruch and the ‘Letter of Jeremiah’ in one book with Jeremiah and Lamentations [in his list of the OT canon], so he probably includes the Greek additions to Daniel in the canonical book of that name, and the additions to Esther in the book of that name which he recommends for reading in church [but doesn’t list as a canonical book] . . .

In practice Athanasius appears to have paid little attention to the formal distinction between those books which he listed in the canon and those which were suitable for instruction of new Christians. He was familiar with the text of all, and quoted from them freely, often with the same introductory formula — ‘as it is written’, ‘as the scripture says’, etc. (The Canon of Scripture, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988, 79-80)

What is the claim that Mr. Frost is making as regards Athanasius and the councils of Ariminum, Seleucia, and Constantinople (360)? Is the claim that St. Athanasius espoused Arianism or Semi-Arianism, or that he placed any of these on the level of Nicaea: as ecumenical councils? If so, kindly document. Thanks! As it is, no one knows the point he is trying to make. Vagueness and obscurantism are the friends of empty polemics and special pleading.

David M. Gwynn, Lecturer in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, University of London, in his book, Athanasius of Alexandria: Bishop, Theologian, Ascetic, Father (Christian Theology in Context), 1st edition: Oxford University Press, U.S.A.; (April 7, 2012), p. 52, writes:
“Athanasius . . . upholds the supremacy of Nicaea against those who defend the Council of Ariminum . . . ”

See also, John R. Tyson, professor of church history and director of United Methodist Studies at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, New York. He wrote the book, The Great Athanasius: An Introduction to His Life and Work (Cascade Books: April 17, 2017). See p. 163 (link to a Google Books scan).

The Orthodox agree with Catholics about the first seven ecumenical councils, so I don’t know what he is talking about or what point he is trying to make. Time will tell, I guess, as he answers further (assuming he does). I will keep replying and posting his responses here. Eventually it’ll be seen (as always with anti-Catholics) that he isn’t dealing with my arguments (just as he really hasn’t so far), and I’ll tire of it. But I’ll play along long enough to drive home the point that he is simply firing blanks: against me as a person and honest thinker and qualified apologist, and against my arguments.

He is gonna come to regret the day that he chose to insult and challenge me. He picked the wrong person.  If he wants to insult and evade more, that’s his choice. Thousands will see it.  If he can’t argue his positions, then he will continue to be exposed as a fool and sophist on my blog and in that discussion group. His choice.

Pointing out what he said about his own lack of relevant education on the topic is hardly an “insult.”

Why would I waste my precious weekend arguing with a Sociology major about theology when he has no formal theological education? What’s the point? And IF he thinks anything I’ve said is in error, then he can make the counter argument with his own evidence.

. . . which, of course, I have already done, and he is ignoring it, as predicted. These anti-Catholic clowns always act the same.

And we both know that NOTHING will come from any such silly “debate” since this is NOT an actual “debate” forum [how odd, for a group called, “Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic Debate”]. So who cares?

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Photo credit: [Pikrepo / public domain]

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