December 14, 2017

ChurchSignAnti-Catholics

“Many historians on both sides have said Rome killed as many as 35 million, others say 1/10th of a billion.”

This pathetic exchange took place in the public chat room of the website (Alpha and Omega Ministries) of the prominent anti-Catholic polemicist James White, on 29 June 2000. I think it splendidly illustrates the sad, deluded, bigoted tendencies of many anti-Catholics. When I simply asked for references for the ridiculous historical numerical claims, I was promptly kicked out of the forum (as you will see at the end).

The words of Pastor David T. King (“skyman” in the chat): a vocal anti-Catholic Presbyterian pastor and co-author of a self-published three-volume set in favor of sola Scriptura, will be in blue. Statements of various other Protestant commenters will be in green. One chatter appears to have been a Catholic. His words will be in brown. He, too, was kicked out for ostensibly exceedingly minor “transgressions.” My own words (I went by “Bo”; because I would have been immediately banned if I gave my name) will be in plain black. Some extraneous material has been deleted; whenever a comment appears, it is unedited.

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Bo (~Bo@p13.205.ic.net) has joined channel #ProsApologian Users on #ProsApologian: Bo solomondo spinster amylu crstofr Brando skyman` @Logos @NAaway @RightWing @X _Aram StevenD The-Ox RTSstudnt tefedur RefDoc -NAaway- (~NA27@hybrid-024-221-118-154.phoenix.speedchoice.c om) Welcome to ProsApologian. This channel is for the respectful discussion of Christian apologetics. Please review the guidelines for thispage at: www.aomin.org/proschat.html [. . . ]

You guys ever visit Steve Ray’s bulletin board?
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[a prominent Catholic apologist and author of two books and good friend of mine, who had recently been slandered and accused of deliberate deceit by the chat room manager James White]
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I have once. Why would we waste our time with Steve Ray’s garbage. :) I got in trouble too.
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To refute it, if you disagree with it, of course.
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Bo: Unfortunately, error is too wide for universal refutation from me.
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No need to refute the nonsense they put forward there.
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Someone said he had just converted to the RCC, I sent him a reply asking why he would do such a stupid thing like that for. I have better things to do.
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Romanists always talk about converting to the Church…never to Christ.
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Yep. 
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You’d think there is no other name under heaven whereby men must be saved but Rome. 
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KJV Acts 4:12 Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
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No, saying one is converting to a particular Christian church presupposes that one is converting to Christ . . . Not either/or, is it?
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I was expecting that from you, Bo. :-)
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Yeah right.
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Cut out the middle man.
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I thought the Reformed were big on ecclesiology, no? More so than your average evangelical today…… Calvin certainly liked the idea of “church.”
I bet “bishop” likes ecclesiology. [big grin]
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Ecclesiology????
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Yeah, they were running down the church as the “middle man” above….. Well, RefDoc was, anyway.
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RefDoc is not paying attention 
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I thought James [White] was gonna stop using “Romanism”?
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Well I don’t know what else to call Romanism but Romanism. 
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James White stated somewhere that he was gonna stop using the term, because it is considered pejorative….then I saw it on the front page today.
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Why, because Romanists say so? 
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Whatever the reason; he said that, so I was surprised. It is a silly term in the first place…..in my opinion.
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What’s better? catlickers? 
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I think it’s very descriptive.
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Well, if Romanist is one who follows Rome over against the Bible, then Calvinist must be one who follows Calvin over against the Bible
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My folks were Dutch immigrants, their term was similar to ‘romanist.’ 
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I mean Rome Sweet Home sounds pretty Romanist to me. That’s what [Catholic apologist Dr. Scott] Hahn titled his book. 
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Fee Fei Fo Fine, I smell the slaves of Rome on-line!
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The pope lives there.
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The entire Church says “Rome says so.” 
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I don’t see how it’s pejorative. 
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Naw, he lives in Vatican City……separate municipality
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Give me a break. 
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Why call him pope? It means papa right? He ain’t my papa. 
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Then why would James stop using it?
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Maybe you opt for papist
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Ask him Bo.
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[I did, in a personal letter later that night, but James White refused to answer the question, stating that we should keep our interaction at a minimum]
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I don’t give a rip why James did or did not quit using it. 
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Why not call his book The Romanist Controversy? [The actual title is The Roman Catholic Controversy]
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I didn’t title it; ask him. 
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Roman Catholic has a far better ring to it.
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Roman Catholic is very contradictory.
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indeed. 
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“Roman Catholic” was first developed by the Anglican polemicists in the 16th century. Before that it was simply “the Catholic Church” (as far as I know, anyway).
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Agreed, I like the term “Romanist” better…It’s far more descriptive. 
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As do I. 
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So you guys disagree with James on that point?
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Beats me. I don’t know what he thinks about it. Don’t really care.
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I see.
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Well what does the Bible say about which term ought to be used?
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Call em what Gov. Bradford called em…. “papist trash.” That title can be found in the first history book of the Mayflower settlement, by the way. 
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Christian charity at its finest. 
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The Bible speaks of one body, one faith, etc. “Catholic” meaning “universal” – I find that rather biblical myself, saying that there is one universal church.
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you want to talk about Christian charity you hypocrite? Your Church is responsible for the murder of thousands. Some charity! 
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Go read What Gov. Bradford said… They settled here to get away from ROME. 
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No, most of the Pilgrims were escaping Anglican or other Protestant persecution in England; Catholics had no power there at that time.
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Certainly an example of grave sinfulness, as I have said to you on numerous occasions. 
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then shut up about charity. 
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And, correction skyman, far more than thousands, we are talking millions.
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Well, uh, I didn’t murder anyone. 
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you put your money in the coffers of a Church that does.
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no but you love and support the church that did. 
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Bo: please refer to what he said in the book. 
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skyman said it right: “did.” 
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You can have your murdering hypocritical church. 
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All Christians are complicit in past Christian crimes.
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You are just as hypocritical if you think your church is without sin. 
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I strongly question the past tense. 
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Then take it up with skyman. 
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The Protestant witch hunts were far worse than the Inquisition.
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The-Ox [the other Catholic; in brown] has been kicked off #ProsApologian by X ((skyman`) bye hypocrite). You beat me to it. Bo, hardly. “Protestant witch hunts”? 
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Yes, the witch mania was far more a Protestant phenomenon (Salem was at the tail end of it…was far worse in Europe).
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You mean that thingy in Salem where all of 5 or 6 people were burned and the Puritans attempted to stop it? Bo: many historians on both sides has said Rome killed as many as 35 million, others say 1/10th of a billion. [i.e., 100 million]
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Name one [historian], and give me a source.
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Bo, one Church has been responsible for wholesale murder, guess which one? 
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Wow…35 million! 
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[ever] hear of St. Bartholemew’s massacre? 
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Hmmm, Schaff, Dollinger. Dollinger taught RC history for 47 years and he was Roman Catholic.
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[Dollinger was excommunicated after refusing to accept the dogma of papal infallibility, defined at the First Vatican Council in 1870].
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Name of work and pages please, so I can check it out?
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Bo: I am not a human library here.
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These guys are saying 35-100 million huh?
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Voice of the Martyrs also has the same information. Wow, that is incredible. 
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Then don’t make the claim, with numbers. I say it is nonsense; you disagree, then give me reputable historians and exact references.
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You [that’s me!] have been kicked off #ProsApologian by RightWing (You give me evidence of your first) [sic]
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Boy, what a show of confidence! I ask for references for such an extraordinary claim, and I get kicked off by the very person I was asking to back up his ridiculous historical assertions.
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Respected non-Catholic historian Edward Peters, in his work, Inquisition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989, p. 87), states:
The Spanish Inquisition, in spite of wildly inflated estimates of the numbers of its victims, acted with considerable restraint in inflicting the death penalty, far more restraint than was demonstrated in secular tribunals elsewhere in Europe that dealt with the same kinds of offenses. The best estimate is that around 3000 death sentences were carried out in Spain by Inquisitorial verdict between 1550 and 1800, a far smaller number than that in comparable secular courts.
Utilizing these ballpark figures, the claims above are exaggerated by a ratio of either 11,667 to 1 or 33,333 to 1, depending on which grotesque, ludicrous numerical figure is believed. See the link from Van Hove below, and the Catholic Encyclopedia link: section: The Number of Victims. Edward O’Brien (“A New Look at the Spanish Inquisition”) writes:
Fray Tomas de Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor whose very name is now a symbol of ruthless cruelty, actually checked the excessive zeal of the earlier inquisitors in many ways, including the limiting and mitigating of torture. Walsh thinks that torture under Torquemada was no worse than that used by American police in the 1930s. Also, under Torquemada’s entire tenure as Grand Inquisitor (1483-1498), 100,000 prisoners passed before his various tribunals throughout Spain. Of this number, less than 2% were executed. In Barcelona, from 1488 to 1498, “one prisoner out of 20 was put to death” (23 executions). Torquemada is not the monster of the Black Legend; still, he was responsible for, as an estimation, between 1,000 and 1,500 deaths. And by burning, the common method for those times.
True, we may not be dealing with Boy Scout leaders here, but these men were far closer to that than they were to Hitler, Mao, and Stalin!
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Likewise, Ellen Rice (“The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition”) comments:
The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition, a 1994 BBC/A and E production . . . is a definite must-see for anyone who wishes to know how historians now evaluate the Spanish Inquisition since the opening of an investigation into the Inquisition’s archives. The special includes commentary from historians whose studies verify that the tale of the darkest hour of the Church was greatly fabricated.
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In its brief sixty-minute presentation, The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition provides only an overview of the origins and debunking of the myths of torture and genocide. The documentary definitely succeeds in leaving the viewer hungry to know more. The long-held beliefs of the audience are sufficiently weakened by the testimony of experts and the expose of the making of the myth.
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. . . In 1567 a fierce propaganda campaign began with the publication of a Protestant leaflet penned by a supposed Inquisition victim named Montanus. This character (Protestant of course) painted Spaniards as barbarians who ravished women and sodomized young boys. The propagandists soon created “hooded fiends” who tortured their victims in horrible devices like the knife-filled Iron Maiden (which never was used in Spain). The BBC/A and E special plainly states a reason for the war of words: the Protestants fought with words because they could not win on the battlefield.
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The Inquisition had a secular character, although the crime was heresy. Inquisitors did not have to be clerics, but they did have to be lawyers. The investigation was rule-based and carefully kept in check. And most significantly, historians have declared fraudulent a supposed Inquisition document claiming the genocide of millions of heretics.
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What is documented is that 3000 to 5000 people died during the Inquisition’s 350 year history . . . As the program documents, the 3,000 to 5,000 documented executions of the Inquisition pale in comparison to the 150,000 documented witch burnings elsewhere in Europe over the same centuries.
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. . . Discrediting the Black Legend brings up the sticky subject of revisionism. Re-investigating history is only invalid if it puts an agenda ahead of reality. The experts – once true believers in the Inquisition myth – were not out to do a feminist canonization of Isabella or claim that Tomas de Torquemada was a Marxist. Henry Kamen of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona said on camera that researching the Inquisition’s archives “demolished the previous image all of us (historians) had.”
Even Henry Charles Lea, the first major American Inquisition historian and no fan of the Catholic Church, says of the calculations of victims:
There is no question that the number of these has been greatly exaggerated in popular belief, an exaggeration to which Llorente has largely contributed by his absurd method of computation…. (A History of the Inquisition of Spain, volume 4, p. 517)
Lea calls Llorente’s guess-work “reckless” and “entirely fallacious.”
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Related reading:

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Were “50-68 Million” People Killed in the Inquisition? [8-21-15; abridged, general version of Shamoun discussion above]

Sam Shamoun: Catholic Inquisition Murdered “50-68 Million” (see also the vigorous related Facebook discussion) [April 2014]

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Protestant Inquisitions: “Reformation” Intolerance & Persecution [June 1991; rev. 10-31-03, 3-7-07. Greatly abridged and re-typeset on 9-14-17]

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(originally posted on 6-29-00)

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November 13, 2017

Including a Lengthy Analysis of 2 Peter 1:20: “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.”

DonQuixote4

Anti-Catholic polemicists David T. King and William Webster produced a self-published three-volume series entitled Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith (2001). Volume 1 from David T. King is entitled A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura.

I have the set in my library (they were given to me; I’d never buy ’em). I was looking through them as a result of some recent discussions, and noticed that Vol. I had an “Index of Scriptural References.” I was curious as to whether King included some of the better-known Catholic biblical arguments against sola Scriptura. I was amused but not shocked by what I found.

Sola Scriptura, by definition (including King and Webster’s own definition, which is standard), asserts that no authority is infallible and binding on Christian believers except the Bible. Therefore, if either the Church or sacred tradition are described as infallible in the Bible, this is a disproof of sola Scriptura.  Likewise, if any given Church father asserts one or both of those propositions, then he shows that he rejects sola Scriptura.

The Jerusalem Council is, in my opinion, the best biblical argument in favor of the infallible authority of the Church (especially the part where St. Paul proclaims its decisions as binding upon Christian believers in many areas: Acts 16:4). I’ve written about it many times (search “Jerusalem Council” on my Bible and Tradition web page to find those papers). Therefore, any work defending sola Scriptura from Scripture (I wrote a book refuting it from Scripture), would obviously have to include a treatment of it, right?

Wrong! King thought it was irrelevant enough to completely ignore it. He referred to passages from twelve different chapters of the book of Acts, but completely ignores chapter 15, which describes the Jerusalem Council. Thus, it’s an instance of the time-honored anti-Catholic methodology: “if you have no argument against a good Catholic argument, simply pretend that it doesn’t exist.”

How about the Ethiopian eunuch? This clearly has relevance to the sola Scriptura debate, and especially concerning the perspicuity (clearness) of Scripture:

Acts 8:30-31 (RSV)  So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” [31] And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

We would want to know how a defender of sola Scriptura from the Bible addresses this. We won’t learn from King, because he utterly ignores it. Another classic and important passage in this all-important debate is the following:

2 Peter 3:15-16 . . . So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

How does King interpret / deal with this? Again, we don’t know, because it never appears in his book. How about the following passage, which clearly bears upon the debate?:

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 7-8 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. [2] And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. [3] And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. . . . [7] Also Jesh’ua, Bani, Sherebi’ah, Jamin, Akkub, Shab’bethai, Hodi’ah, Ma-asei’ah, Keli’ta, Azari’ah, Jo’zabad, Hanan, Pelai’ah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. [8] And they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly; and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. 

Again, we get crickets. Nehemiah 8:3, 8 are referenced, along with many other passages: described by King’s words: “The Bible cries out to be read” (p. 99). But he doesn’t address the fact that it also needs to be authoritatively interpreted, as it was in this passage, and in the two others above.

He does manage to fire off two perfunctory sentences about another very important prooftext against sola Scriptura:

1 Timothy 3:15 . . . the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

King opines: “The Church’s role is to be a support to the truth by faithfully holding forth the message and authority of the written Scriptures. It is not independent of, or above Scripture, but beneath it” (p. 82). That may sound all well and good, as preaching to the anti-Catholic choir, but it has a huge problem: the text doesn’t say that at all! It’s a classic instance of eisegesis: reading into Scripture one’s preconceived notions. The Church is here described as a pillar of “the truth“: not Scripture.

Yes, of course all Christians agree that Scripture is true, inspired revelation. But it is not the sum total of all truth. “Truth” in Scripture is a very broad  concept, and when it is mentioned, it’s usually not in conjunction with Holy Scripture. We might note a passage like Psalm 119:160: “The sum of thy word is truth.” But “word” / “word of the Lord” is also a very broad notion in Scripture, encompassing  God’s Word as spoken through prophets, or orally, as at Mt. Sinai, or through gospel preaching.

“Word” and “truth” in Scripture both extend far beyond Scripture. Therefore, King can’t possibly maintain that “truth” in 1 Timothy 3:15 only refers to Scripture. He simply reads that notion into the passage, and in so doing, doesn’t honestly address its implications for sublime, binding, infallible Church authority.

Alas, I have found one passage that Catholics bring up in this debate, that King not only took note of, but seriously grappled with:

2 Peter 1:20-21 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, [21] because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

On pages 94-97, King makes an extended argument, to the effect that “interpretation” in 1:20 is not to be understood in the common sense (seeking to understand, study, apply the passage; a warning against merely private interpretation, etc.), but rather, as simply reiterating what the next verse says: “the divine origin of Scripture, not . . . its proper interpretation” (citing Cleon L. Rogers, Jr.). King (pp. 96-97) even musters up four Church fathers (three of them rather minor and obscure ones) to bolster his “non-interpretation” interpretation of 2 Peter 1:20.

Now, if King wants to get into “comparative citations of commentators / Church fathers,” I can play that game with him, too (even by citing all Protestant commentators). And so, for example, we have Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

There can be little doubt that “interpretation,” or “solution,” is the right rendering here, although others have been suggested. The main question however, is the meaning of the word rendered “private,” which may also mean “its own.” . . . The term may refer (1) to the recipients of the prophecies—that we may not expound prophecy according to our own fancy; or (2) to the utterers of the prophecies—that the prophets had not the power of expounding their own prophecies; . . . Either of the other two explanations may be right. (1) If prophecy came “by the will of man,” then it might be interpreted according to man’s fancy. But it did not so come; consequently the interpretation must be sought elsewhere—viz., at the same source from which the prophecy itself proceeded. (2) If the prophets spoke just as they pleased, they would be the best exponents of what they meant. But they spoke under divine influence, and therefore need not know the import of their own words. Prophecy must be explained by prophecy and by history, not by the individual prophet. The whole body of prophecy, “the prophetic word” (2Peter 1:19), is our lamp in the wilderness, not the private dicta of any one seer. In modern phraseology, interpretation must be comparative and scientific. This view is strengthened by comparing 1Peter 1:10-12, where it is stated that the prophets did not know how or when their own predictions would be fulfilled. Possibly this passage is meant to refer to 1Peter 1:10-12, . . .

King mocks Catholic interpretations of the passage as self-evidently false and a result of dishonest special pleading and upholding of Catholic dogmas. He acts as if our take on the passage “defies all rules of grammatical and contextual consideration” (p. 97). This is typical extreme anti-Catholic polemics and deluded supposed “certainty.” In fact, intelligent and respected Protestant commentators think that the passage is not all that clear-cut and obvious as King thinks. For example, Presbyterian Albert Barnes, in his famous Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

Is of any private interpretation – The expression here used (ἰδίας ἐπιλύσεως idias epiluseōs) has given rise to as great a diversity of interpretation, and to as much discussion, as perhaps any phrase in the New Testament; and to the present time there is no general agreement among expositors as to its meaning.

I think, given all of this remarkable “diversity” of opinion and “no general agreement”, that the usual Catholic interpretation may be admitted into consideration without being immediately dismissed as fundamentally dishonest. But that’s what anti-Catholics always must do. More fair-minded apologists and Bible students simply enter into the interesting discussion of what the text means, and how it should be applied to our day-to-day Christian lives. They grant good faith and sincerity to those who disagree with them. Not so, David T. King and his anti-Catholic minions and armies of the night.

Meyer’s NT Commentary notes that at least some commentators feel that “the interpretation is then not an easy, but a difficult matter.” Expositor’s Greek Testament also notes that this is a complex matter; not a simple one:

It seems most satisfactory to understand ἰδἐπιλ. as the meaning of the prophet himself, or what was in the prophet’s mind when he wrote; the fulfilment in any particular generation or epoch. “The special work of the prophet is to interpret the working of God to his own generation. But in doing this, he is laying down the principles of God’s action generally. Hence there may be many fulfilments of one prophecy, or to speak more exactly, many historical illustrations of some one principle of Providential Government” (Mayor, p. 196). The genitive ἐπιλύσεως is gen. of definition and not of origin. “No prophecy is of such a nature as to be capable of a particular interpretation.”

The Catholic Navarre Commentary  opines:

Prophecy and Sacred Scripture in general are not man-made; they are the word of God: there is nothing in the Bible that is/not inspired by the Holy Spirit (v. 21). Therefore, against the false teachers of his time and of all eras, the sacred writer rejects any interpretation of Scripture based exclusively on human ingenuity; . . .

Scott Hahn, in his Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, gives a full Catholic reading of the passage:

The Spirit who inspired the prophecies of the OT is alone capable of interpreting them. By contrast, merely human intelligence can never ascertain their proper meaning without the divine assistance of the Spirit. The ramifications of this teaching are implied rather than stated, for Peter does not identify those who are authorized to give a correct interpretation of Scripture. Some contend that every believer who possesses the Spirit is automatically qualified for the task, but no such teaching can be found in the NT. On the contrary, we learn from other passages that the Spirit guides the Church into all truth through her apostolic leaders and their successors (Jn 14:26; 16:13), who serve as teachers and guardians of the Christian faith (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14; 2:2). This explains why Peter, being an apostle, expects readers to accept his teaching on Scripture as authoritative and reliable, whereas the false teachers among them are denounced for twisting its meaning (2 Pet 3:15-16).

Scott sends his readers to his related commentary on John 14:26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”:

The terms “you” and “your” in this verse are plural. It is thus a promise to guide and instruct the ordained leaders of the Church, here represented by the eleven apostles. It is not a promise that the Spirit will grant every individual Christian supernatural insight into the full meaning of the gospel or the Scriptures (2 Pet 1:20-21).

All in all, it’s a rather poor showing for David T. King. He expounds upon only one of the major Catholic biblical counter-arguments against sola Scriptura, and the one he chooses to write about has, according to Albert Barnes, “given rise to as great a diversity of interpretation, and to as much discussion, as perhaps any phrase in the New Testament” leading to “no general agreement among expositors as to its meaning.”

Very pathetic indeed. James White: the most influential anti-Catholic polemicist today, is always carping on and on about how Catholic apologists supposedly routinely ignore the best arguments for the opposing positions. Well, here is an example of his buddy David T. King falling into precisely the same shortcoming.  The illustrious Pastor King seems to care little for taking into consideration all of the relevant scriptural passages in the sola Scriptura debate. He prefers to ignore those that might give his position trouble, and only use carefully selected Bible passages. This is standard anti-Catholic methodology and it stinks to high heaven.

In my book against sola Scriptura, on the other hand, the final 10%, or 13 pages, was devoted to 14 alleged prooftexts from the Bible in favor of sola Scriptura. I didn’t ignore my opponents’ arguments. I tackled them head on. In fact, I also wrote an entire book in reply to the two men widely considered to be the best historic defenders of sola Scriptura: William Whitaker (1548-1595) and William Goode (1801-1868). King wrote in his book: “of all the treatments dealing with sola Scriptura, the work of William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, has never been surpassed” (p. 17).

That’s my confident methodology. King’s is quite different.

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Photo credit: Don Quixote fighting a windmill. Illustration 6 (1863) for Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote by Gustave Doré, (1832-1883). [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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November 11, 2013

DavidKingSpoof

(11-11-13)

See also Part I and the Introduction.

 

In Vol. III, King and Webster provide us with a litany of Scripture-praising proclamations from St. Basil (329-379): none of which differ in the slightest from Catholic belief. In their section on material sufficiency (pp. 70-72), the following statements are found:

. . . we have determined . . . to avoid now and always every utterance and sentiment not found in the Lord’s teaching . . . our thoughts derive from the Scriptures . . . (Fathers of the Church, Vol. IX, Concerning Faith)

. . . what is in harmony with the Scriptures, what is not in opposition to the Fathers. (Homily 24, NPNF2)


Here even Webster and King include a passage that shows two legs of the Catholic “three-legged stool”: Scripture and the fathers (i.e., tradition). Good for them: they actually included (almost despite themselves) a passage about apostolic tradition (!!!).

. . . each one should learn that which is useful from the inspired Scripture . . . that he may not be accustomed to human traditions. (Regulae Brevius Tractate, Interrogatio et Responsio XCV; translation by William Goode, Vol. III, p. 132)

. . . fearing lest he should either speak or order anything beyond the will of God as declared in the Scriptures . . . (Ibid., XCVIII; Vol. III, p. 132)


. . . every word and deed should be ratified by the testimony of the Holy Scripture . . . (Fathers of the Church, Vol. IX, The Morals, Rule 26; cited again in Vol. III, 143-144)


. . . in conformity with the Scriptures and rejecting what is opposed to them . . . (Fathers of the Church, Vol. IX, The Morals, Rule 72, pp. 185-186; cited again in Vol. III, 144)


. . . everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith, is sin. (Fathers of the Church, Vol. IX, The Morals, Rule 80, Cap. 22, pp. 203-204)


. . . let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favour of that side will be cast the vote of truth. (Letter 189, NPNF2, Vol. VIII)


We have no beef with all this, so there is no need for further comment. We simply add that the fathers, including St. Basil, do not oppose Scripture to the binding authority of the Church and apostolic tradition: all are regarded as perfectly harmonious and complementary. Since Webster and King exclude the many references to such authority other than the Bible, it’s left to me to fill that gap and give the whole picture.


In their chapter three: “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” Webster and King provide some of St. Basil’s statements along those lines (pp. 185-186):

Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right. (Letter 283; NPNF2, Vol. VIII)


It is this which those seem to me not to have understood, who, giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture. It is to believe themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and to bring forth their own ideas under a pretext of exegesis. Let us hear Scripture as it has been written. (Hexaemeron, Homily 9: The Creation of Terrestrial Animals 1; NPNF2, Vol. VIII)  


Note that allegory as a method of hermeneutics is not rejected (as many Protestants do, or largely do), but rather, “the distorted meaning of allegory.”

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful, composed by the Spirit for this reason, namely, that we men, each and all of us, as if in a general hospital for souls, may select the remedy for his own condition. (Fathers of the Church, Vol. 46: Homily 17 on Psalm 44; p. 283)


More is offered in chapter four: “The Self-Interpreting Nature of Scripture” (p. 245 for Basil):

. . . let us obey the Lord who says: ‘Search the Scriptures.’ Let us follow the example of the Apostles who questioned the Lord Himself as top the interpretation of His words, and learn the true and salutary course from His words in another place. (Fathers of the Church, Vol. IX, Concerning Baptism, Book II, Q&R; 4, p. 399)

Whatsoever seems to be spoken ambiguously or obscurely in some places of holy Scripture, is cleared up by what is plain and evident in other places. (Regulae Brevius Tractate, Interrogatio 267; translation by William Whitaker, in his Disputation on Holy Scripture [Cambridge University Press: 1849, p. 491] )


And again in chapter six: “The Necessity for Diligent Personal Study of Scripture” (p. 287 for Basil) they cite the following:


The study of inspired Scripture is the chief way of finding our duty . . . (Letter 2 [3]; NPNF2, Vol. VIII)


Read your Bible carefully, and you will find the answer to your question there. (Letter 188; NPNF2, Vol. VIII; repeated on Webster and King’s p. 302)


. . . one who examines each word minutely can gain a very accurate knowledge of the meaning of the Holy Scripture, so that there is no excuse of any of us being led astray . . . (Fathers of the Church, Vol. IX, Preface on the Judgment of God, p. 48)


That gives us a thorough survey of St. Basil’s view of Scripture. No problem for Catholics here at all. But there is a huge problem for sola Scriptura Protestants, when we also look at what Basil wrote about tradition, including oral tradition, and the Church. So why don’t we take a few minutes to examine the whole picture now, rather than a slanted, one-sided presentation for polemical purposes, that deliberately ignores all of this other relevant data (which amounts — I would argue — to sophistry and half-truth).


Much of the following was documented in August 2003 during a debate on the same topic with ant-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer, (originally promoted and held in the anti-Catholic CARM forum: Jason split — with the obligatory insults — long before it was over: a rather common occurrence for anti-Catholics) and has been available on my website or blog ever since. Additional material comes from my recent book: The Quotable Eastern Church Fathers. None of this is “new stuff” for me; it’s “old ground.”


The new thing in this paper is to demonstrate how Webster and King are so absurdly hyper-selective in their presentation. It’s the game they play throughout their three-volume work, which is unworthy of any Christian who seeks to be honest about what the Church fathers taught, regardless of how consistent the results are with their own belief-system (while they accuse Catholics many times in the set of this same sort of historical dishonesty). Many Protestant scholars and historians routinely present the true facts (one need not be Catholic or Orthodox to be honest and truthful about patristic beliefs); but, sadly, anti-Catholic polemicists like Webster and King — who have a distinct agenda — do not.

To give just one example of an honest Protestant scholar, writing on our topic, J. N. D. Kelly — someone cited by Webster and King –, stated about St. Basil and tradition:

. . . Basil made the liturgical custom of baptizing in the threefold name a pivot in his argument for the coequality of the Spirit with Father and Son, pleading that the apostolic witness was conveyed to the Church in the mysteries as well as in Scripture, and that it was apostolic to abide by this unwritten tradition.

(Early Christian Doctrines, HarperSanFrancisco: revised edition of 1978, 45; footnotes to the primary work: The Holy Spirit, 26; 28; 66-67; 71)


Now, wouldn’t those passages in St. Basil the Great be relevant to the question of his views on authority and (supposedly his acceptance of) sola Scriptura? Certainly so; yet Webster and King deemed them not relevant enough to include in their “survey.” They wouldn’t fit with the plan, you see . . . The real Basil is so much a proponent of apostolic tradition that he says the enemies of the faith are those who want to destroy it:

The one aim of the whole band of opponents and enemies of “sound doctrine” is to shake down the foundation of the faith of Christ by levelling apostolic tradition with the ground, and utterly destroying it. (The Holy Spirit, 25; NPNF2-8)


He doesn’t pit Scripture and tradition  and Church against each other at all, but rather, appeals to them all interchangeably (the Catholic “three-legged stool” of authority): 

What our fathers said, the same say we, that the glory of the Father and of the Son is common; wherefore we offer the doxology to the Father with the Son. But we do not rest only on the fact that such is the tradition of the Fathers; for they too followed the sense of Scripture, and started from the evidence which, a few sentences back, I deduced from Scripture and laid before you. (The Holy Spirit, 16; NPNF2-8)

I was distressed to hear that over anti above the disturbance brought on the Churches by the Arians, and the confusion caused by them in the definition of the faith, there has appeared among you yet another innovation, throwing the brotherhood into great dejection, because, as you have informed me, certain persons are uttering, in the hearing of the faithful, novel and unfamiliar doctrines which they allege to be deduced from the teaching of Scripture . . . who has the hardihood now once again to renew by the help of sophistical arguments and, of course, by scriptural evidence, that old dogma of Valentinus, now long ago silenced? . . . These, brethren, are the mysteries of the Church; these are the traditions of the Fathers. Every man who fears the Lord, and is awaiting God’s judgment, I charge not to be carried away by various doctrines. If any one teaches a different doctrine, and refuses to accede to the sound words of the faith, rejecting the oracles of the Spirit, and making his own teaching of more authority than the lessons of the Gospels, of such an one beware . . . (Letter #261; NPNF2-8)


Basil was a strong advocate of even oral, or unwritten tradition (one would never know that, merely reading Webster and King, would they?):


Let us now investigate what are our common conceptions concerning the Spirit, as well those which have been gathered by us from Holy Scripture concerning It as those which we have received from the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. (The Holy Spirit, 22; NPNF2-8)
 
. . . they clamour for written proof, and reject as worthless the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. But we will not slacken in our defence of the truth. We will not cowardly abandon the cause. The Lord has delivered to us as a necessary and saving doctrine that the Holy Spirit is to be ranked with the Father. (The Holy Spirit, 25; NPNF2-8)
 
Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents. . . . the Apostles and Fathers who laid down laws for the Church from the beginning thus guarded the awful dignity of the mysteries in secrecy and silence, for what is bruited abroad random among the common folk is no mystery at all. This is the reason for our tradition of unwritten precepts and practices, that the knowledge of our dogmas may not become neglected and contemned by the multitude through familiarity. . . . Time will fail me if I attempt to recount the unwritten mysteries of the Church. Of the rest I say nothing; but of the very confession of our faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what is the written source? If it be granted that, as we are baptized, so also under the obligation to believe, we make our confession in like terms as our baptism, in accordance with the tradition of our baptism and in conformity with the principles of true religion, let our opponents grant us too the right to be as consistent in our ascription of glory as in our confession of faith. If they deprecate our doxology on the ground that it lacks written authority, let them give us the written evidence for the confession of our faith and the other matters which we have enumerated. While the unwritten traditions are so many, and their bearing on “the mystery of godliness” is so important, can they refuse to allow us a single word which has come down to us from the Fathers;—which we found, derived from untutored custom, abiding in unperverted churches;—a word for which the arguments are strong, and which contributes in no small degree to the completeness of the force of the mystery? (The Holy Spirit, 66-67; NPNF2-8)
 
In answer to the objection that the doxology in the form “with the Spirit” has no written authority, we maintain that if there is no other instance of that which is unwritten, then this must not be received. But if the greater number of our mysteries are admitted into our constitution without written authority, then, in company with the many others, let us receive this one. For I hold it apostolic to abide also by the unwritten traditions. “I praise you,” it is said, “that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you;” and “Hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word, or our Epistle.” One of these traditions is the practice which is now before us, which they who ordained from the beginning, rooted firmly in the churches, delivering it to their successors, and its use through long custom advances pace by pace with time. If, as in a Court of Law, we were at a loss for documentary evidence, but were able to bring before you a large number of witnesses, would you not give your vote for our acquittal? I think so; for “at the mouth of two or three witnesses shall the matter be established.” And if we could prove clearly to you that a long period of time was in our favour, should we not have seemed to you to urge with reason that this suit ought not to be brought into court against us? For ancient dogmas inspire a certain sense of awe, venerable as they are with a hoary antiquity. I will therefore give you a list of the supporters of the word (and the time too must be taken into account in relation to what passes unquestioned). For it did not originate with us. How could it? We, in comparison with the time during which this word has been in vogue, are, to use the words of Job, “but of yesterday.” I myself, if I must speak of what concerns me individually, cherish this phrase as a legacy left me by my fathers. It was delivered to me by one who spent a long life in the service of God, and by him I was both baptized, and admitted to the ministry of the church. (The Holy Spirit, 71; NPNF2-8) 
 
These are very clear, unambiguous statements indeed. They leave little room for doubt or any argument against the view that he holds to the authority tradition. Yet Webster and King argue that he believed in sola Scriptura, just like a good Protestant would. After all, this is presupposed in the very subtitle of their Volume III: “The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura“. Even the citations they provide, in hyper-selectivity don’t prove this claim, and the citations I am providing flat-out disprove and discredit it as dishonest and foolish posing.
 
St. Basil teaches the related Catholic notion of apostolic succession:
 
. . . we too are undismayed at the cloud of our enemies, and, resting our hope on the aid of the Spirit, have, with all boldness, proclaimed the truth. Had I not so done, it would truly have been terrible that the blasphemers of the Spirit should so easily be emboldened in their attack upon true religion, and that we, with so mighty an ally and supporter at our side, should shrink from the service of that doctrine, which by the tradition of the Fathers has been preserved by an unbroken sequence of memory to our own day. (The Holy Spirit, 79; NPNF2-8)
In our case, too, in addition to the open attack of the heretics, the Churches are reduced to utter helplessness by the war raging among those who are supposed to be orthodox. For all these reasons we do indeed desire your help, that, for the future all who confess the apostolic faith may put an end to the schisms which they have unhappily devised, and be reduced for the future to the authority of the Church; that so, once more, the body of Christ may be complete, restored to integrity with all its members. Thus we shall not only praise the blessings of others, which is all we can do now, but see our own Churches once more restored to their pristine boast of orthodoxy. For, truly, the boon given you by the Lord is fit subject for the highest congratulation, your power of discernment between the spurious and the genuine and pure, and your preaching the faith of the Fathers without any dissimulation. That faith we have received; that faith we know is stamped with the marks of the Apostles; to that faith we assent, as well as to all that was canonically and lawfully promulgated in the Synodical Letter. (Letter #92 to the Italians and Gauls, 3; NPNF2-8)
 
For Basil, the Catholic Church, following apostolic and patristic tradition, was the standard of orthodoxy:
 
Did it not at one time appear that the Arian schism, after its separation into a sect opposed to the Church of God, stood itself alone in hostile array? But when the attitude of our foes against us was changed from one of long standing and bitter strife to one of open warfare, then, as is well known, the war was split up in more ways than I can tell into many subdivisions, so that all men were stirred to a state of inveterate hatred alike by common party spirit and individual suspicion. But what storm at sea was ever so fierce and wild as this tempest of the Churches? In it every landmark of the Fathers has been moved; every foundation, every bulwark of opinion has been shaken: everything buoyed up on the unsound is dashed about and shaken down. (The Holy Spirit, 77; NPNF2-8)
. . . maintain for the true Church its famous orthodoxy . . . (Letter #47 to Gregory; NPNF2-8)
He held to the binding authority of ecumenical councils, which he regarded almost as inspired by God:
 
. . . the same Fathers who once at Nicæa promulgated their great decree concerning the faith. Of this, some portions are universally accepted without cavil, but the homoousion, ill received in certain quarters, is still rejected by some. . . . To refuse to follow the Fathers, not holding their declaration of more authority than one’s own opinion, is conduct worthy of blame, as being brimful of self-sufficiency. (Letter #52 to the Canonicae; NPNF2-8)
 
. . . you should confess the faith put forth by our Fathers once assembled at Nicæa, that you should not omit any one of its propositions, but bear in mind that the three hundred and eighteen who met together without strife did not speak without the operation of the Holy Ghost, . . . (Letter #114 to Cyriacus, at Tarsus; NPNF2-8)
 
St. Basil taught papal primacy and overarching authority:
 
It has seemed to me to be desirable to send a letter to the bishop of Rome, begging him to examine our condition, and since there are difficulties in the way of representatives being sent from the West by a general synodical decree, to advise him to exercise his own personal authority in the matter by choosing suitable persons to sustain the labours of a journey,—suitable, too, by gentleness and firmness of character, to correct the unruly among us here; . . .  ( Letter #69 to St. Athanasius, 1-2; NPNF2-8)
 
To renew laws of ancient love, and once again to restore to vigorous life that heavenly and saving gift of Christ which in course of time has withered away, the peace, I mean, of the Fathers, is a labour necessary indeed and profitable to me, but pleasant too, as I am sure it will seem to your Christ-loving disposition. For what could be more delightful than to behold all, who are separated by distances so vast, bound together by the union effected by love into one harmony of members in Christ’s body? Nearly all the East (I include under this name all the regions from Illyricum to Egypt) is being agitated, right honourable father, by a terrible storm and tempest. The old heresy, sown by Arius the enemy of the truth, has now boldly and unblushingly reappeared. Like some sour root, it is producing its deadly fruit and is prevailing. The reason of this is, that in every district the champions of right doctrine have been exiled from their Churches by calumny and outrage, and the control of affairs has been handed over to men who are leading captive the souls of the simpler brethren. I have looked upon the visit of your mercifulness as the only possible solution of our difficulties. Ever in the past I have been consoled by your extraordinary affection; and for a short time my heart was cheered by the gratifying report that we shall be visited by you. But, as I was disappointed, I have been constrained to beseech you by letter to be moved to help us, and to send some of those, who are like minded with us, either to conciliate the dissentient and bring back the Churches of God into friendly union, or at all events to make you see more plainly who are responsible for the unsettled state in which we are, that it may be obvious to you for the future with whom it befits you to be in communion. In this I am by no means making any novel request, but am only asking what has been customary in the case of men who, before our own day, were blessed and dear to God, and conspicuously in your own case. For I well remember learning from the answers made by our fathers when asked, and from documents still preserved among us, that the illustrious and blessed bishop Dionysius, conspicuous in your see as well for soundness of faith as for all other virtues, visited by letter my Church of Cæsarea, and by letter exhorted our fathers, and sent men to ransom our brethren from captivity. But now our condition is yet more painful and gloomy and needs more careful treatment. We are lamenting no mere overthrow of earthly buildings, but the capture of Churches; what we see before us is no mere bodily slavery, but a carrying away of souls into captivity, perpetrated day by day by the champions of heresy. Should you not, even now, be moved to succour us, ere long all will have fallen under the dominion of the heresy, and you will find none left to whom you may hold out your hand. (Letter #70 to Pope Damasus [complete]; NPNF2-8)
 
St. Basil the Great, then, is seen to hold the same opinion concerning authority and the rule of faith as all the other Church fathers, and it is not sola Scriptura. Webster and King are dead-wrong to claim otherwise.
 
 
* * * * *
 
 
November 9, 2013

DavidKingSpoof
(11-9-13)

In Vol. III, Ch. 2 (“The Ultimate Authority of Scripture”). Webster and King cite the following passages from St. Cyril:

Have thou ever in your mind this seal , which for the present has been lightly touched in my discourse, by way of summary, but shall be stated, should the Lord permit, to the best of my power with the proof from the Scriptures. For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning , but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.

[Catechetical Lectures, IV: 17]

And first let us inquire for what cause Jesus came down. Now mind not my argumentations, for perhaps you may be misled but unless thou receive testimony of the Prophets on each matter, believe not what I say: unless thou learn from the Holy Scriptures concerning the Virgin, and the place, the time, and the manner, receive not testimony from man. For one who at present thus teaches may possibly be suspected: but what man of sense will suspect one that prophesied a thousand and more years beforehand? If then you seek the cause of Christ’s coming, go back to the first book of the Scriptures.

[Catechetical Lectures, XII:5]

Catholics have no problem with these statements. We only would if Cyril intended them to be in opposition to or in exclusion of the authority of the Church and tradition; but of course he doesn’t do that. In other passages that Webster and King conveniently omit, he acknowledges these.

In the same Lecture 4 (first quote above), St. Cyril writes at length about Holy Scripture (sections 33-36). How does he instruct a believer to determine which books are in the Bible? He does so by an extrabiblical authority: the Church:

Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. (IV:33)

Right off the bat, this is contrary to several of the tenets that the authors laid out in the Introduction to Vol. III:

3.) All doctrines must be proven from Scripture.
4.) What the Apostles taught orally has been handed down in Scripture.
5.) Scripture is the ultimate judge in all controversies.
6.) Scripture is the ultimate and supreme authority for the Church.
7.) If Scripture is silent on an issue it cannot be known.

The canon of Scripture is never listed in Scripture, which contradicts all five tenets above. Scripture is silent on that issue, and Webster and King say, therefore, that it can’t be known (#7). But the canon is known through the authority of the Catholic Church. The Church delivers Holy Scripture to the Christian believer. Protestantism has never been able to rationalize away this clear contradiction of sola Scriptura. Hence, Cyril states:

Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than yourself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench thou not upon its statutes. (IV:35)

Moreover, when Cyril lists the books of the Old Testament, delivered authoritatively by the Church, he includes “Jeremiah . . . including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle” (IV:35). Baruch was thrown out of Protestant Bibles, but accepted by the Church fathers and Catholics. The “Epistle of Jeremiah” is the last chapter of Baruch in Catholic Bibles, but excluded by Protestant ones. In the next section (IV:36), he lists all New Testament books except for Revelation, and states: “. . . whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by yourself,. . .”

Thus — so Cyril would say — , not only is Revelation not Scripture, but not to be read at all by an individual. This is because the canon of the Bible was itself a developing doctrine of the Church. Revelation was one of the last books accepted. Cyril died in the decade before the Church finalized the canon at the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). These included the deuterocanonical books (what Protestants call the “Apocrypha”: those that they arbitrarily reject).

This is an example of why Catholics don’t grant individual Church fathers binding authority: only the Church in its authoritative pronouncements (through councils and popes) has that. The fathers are guides when they agree en masse. The canon was still developed, and reached its final development shortly after Cyril. But neither what he said about the biblical canon, nor what the Church declared shortly afterwards, comports totally with what Protestants think, nor with sola Scriptura.

We know that St. Cyril cited deuterocanonical books in these same Catechetical Instructions; e.g., Wisdom of Solomon (9:2; 9:16; 12:5), Sirach (6:4; 11:19; 13:8), and the chapters of Daniel that Protestants discarded (14:25; 16:31).

Commenting on the Creed, Cyril again upholds a strong notion of the authority of the Catholic Church:

Now then let me finish what still remains to be said for the Article, In one Holy Catholic Church, on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly.

It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly . . . (XVIII:22-23)

Now, imagine if Cyril had said this about Scripture, that it “teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men’s knowledge.” Webster and King would be all over that as proof that he was teaching material sufficiency of Scripture and also formal sufficiency (“complete”). But here he is stating these attributes with regard to the Church, not Scripture (the Church teaches with completeness, just as Scripture does); and so for that reason, Webster and King decided that this passage was not commensurate with their sophistical plan of “proving” that the Scripture alone provides this sort of sufficiency or “completeness” — and they deliberately omitted it.

This is their standard practice with all the Church fathers, and it’s intellectually dishonest, on the grounds that a half-truth or a partial truth is almost as bad as a lie. They habitually present one strain of patristic teaching that agrees with Catholicism: glowing remarks about Holy Scripture, while ignoring all that is said of the Church, tradition, apostolic succession, bishops, councils, popes, etc.

Even this would be acceptable if their stated intent was simply to show what the fathers believed about Scripture. We would have no beef with that. But this isn’t what they are doing. They claim that the fathers taught sola Scriptura: the notion that nothing is infallible or finally binding except scriptural teaching. That’s not true (as a matter of demonstrable fact), and it’s shown to not be true precisely by noting what these fathers thought about these other elements of authority (the Church, tradition, apostolic succession, bishops, councils, popes). St. Cyril rejects all sectarianism and denominationalism:

Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, That you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth [1 Tim 3:15].

But since the word Ecclesia is applied to different things (as also it is written of the multitude in the theatre of the Ephesians, And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the Assembly [Acts 19:14], and since one might properly and truly say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to you now the Article, And in one Holy Catholic Church; that you may avoid their wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which you were regenerated. And if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord’s House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . (XVIII:25-26)

He teaches that salvation comes through the Catholic Church:

In this Holy Catholic Church receiving instruction and behaving ourselves virtuously, we shall attain the kingdom of heaven, and inherit eternal life; . . . (XVIII:28)

He refers to the passing-on of apostolic tradition:

And now, brethren beloved, the word of instruction exhorts you all, to prepare your souls for the reception of the heavenly gifts. As regards the Holy and Apostolic Faith delivered to you to profess, we have spoken through the grace of the Lord as many Lectures, as was possible,. . . (XVIII:32)

Make thou your fold with the sheep: flee from the wolves: depart not from the Church. . . . The truth of the Unity of God has been delivered to you: learn to distinguish the pastures of doctrine. (VI:36)

He refers to “the divine Scriptures used in the Church” and “the tradition of the Church’s interpreters” (XV:13). This goes against Webster and King’s typically Protestant notion that “Scripture interprets Scripture, i.e., it is self-interpreting.”

He regards the Church as the determinant of orthodoxy, insofar as what it holds, is apostolic Christianity:

And to be brief, let us neither separate them, nor make a confusion : neither say thou ever that the Son is foreign to the Father, nor admit those who say that the Father is at one time Father, and at another Son: for these are strange and impious statements, and not the doctrines of the Church. (XI:18)

And formerly the heretics were manifest; but now the Church is filled with heretics in disguise. For men have fallen away from the truth, and have itching ears. [2 Tim 4:3] Is it a plausible discourse? All listen to it gladly. Is it a word of correction? All turn away from it. Most have departed from right words, and rather choose the evil, than desire the good. This therefore is the falling away, and the enemy is soon to be looked for: and meanwhile he has in part begun to send forth his own forerunners , that he may then come prepared upon the prey. Look therefore to yourself, O man, and make safe your soul. The Church now charges you before the Living God; she declares to you the things concerning Antichrist before they arrive. Whether they will happen in your time we know not, or whether they will happen after you we know not; but it is well that, knowing these things, you should make yourself secure beforehand. (XV:9)

. . . the Catholic Church guarding you beforehand has delivered to you in the profession of the faith,  . . . (XVII:3)

He speaks in terms of the Catholic “three-legged stool” rule of faith: tradition, Church, and Scripture: all harmonious:

But in learning the Faith and in professing it, acquire and keep that only, which is now delivered to you by the Church, and which has been built up strongly out of all the Scriptures. For since all cannot read the Scriptures, some being hindered as to the knowledge of them by want of learning, and others by a want of leisure, in order that the soul may not perish from ignorance, we comprise the whole doctrine of the Faith in a few lines. This summary I wish you both to commit to memory when I recite it , and to rehearse it with all diligence among yourselves, not writing it out on paper , but engraving it by the memory upon your heart , taking care while you rehearse it that no Catechumen chance to overhear the things which have been delivered to you. . . . for the present listen while I simply say the Creed , and commit it to memory; but at the proper season expect the confirmation out of Holy Scripture of each part of the contents. For the articles of the Faith were not composed as seemed good to men; but the most important points collected out of all the Scripture make up one complete teaching of the Faith. And just as the mustard seed in one small grain contains many branches, so also this Faith has embraced in few words all the knowledge of godliness in the Old and New Testaments. Take heed then, brethren, and hold fast the traditions which you now receive, and write them on the table of your heart.

Guard them with reverence, lest per chance the enemy despoil any who have grown slack; or lest some heretic pervert any of the truths delivered to you. For faith is like putting money into the bank , even as we have now done; but from you God requires the accounts of the deposit. I charge you, as the Apostle says, before God, who quickens all things, and Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession, that you keep this faith which is committed to you, without spot, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (V: 12-13)

At every turn, then, we see that St. Cyril is thoroughly Catholic, and does not teach sola Scriptura. Webster and King have misled their readers in claiming the contrary, by trotting out just two passages, while ignoring the many other relevant ones that I have highlighted above.

* * * * *
November 8, 2013

DavidKingSpoof

(11-8-13)See Part I and Part II.

David T. King and William Webster are anti-Catholic Protestant polemicists who have been very active in opposing the Catholic Church. I have written in the past, twice about William Webster’s gross ignorance regarding the concept and definition of development of doctrine, and twice about his solely self-published books (including the present three-volume work under consideration).

David T. King, likewise, was exceedingly ignorant about Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman: claiming that he was a modernist who believed in evolution (heretical notion) rather than development (orthodox notion) of doctrines. I quickly disabused him of that fairy tale. I’ve also refuted his claim that St. John Chrysostom and St. Irenaeus were proponents of sola Scriptura and have three other papers about his foolishness and antics on my Anti-Catholicism web page. None of these have ever been replied to by King, Webster, or any other anti-Catholic.

I’ll be devoting a series to the three-volume set of King and Webster, entitled, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith; in particular, their historical arguments, in Volume II (subtitled, “An Historical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura” — William Webster), and Volume III (subtitled, “The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura” — Webster and King).

The set was self-published (Battle Ground, Washington: Christian Resources Inc.) in 2001. For a withering critique of it, see Phil Porvaznik’s delightful article, Holy Scripture Volume IV: The Ground and Pillar of Whose Faith? (or what William Webster and David King don’t tell you)”.

This series will be devoted to exposing the unsavory tactics of (I must say) ultimately intellectually dishonest, sophistical citations of the Church fathers: a thing — sadly — very common in less scholarly Protestant circles from the very beginning. I’ve written many times about this (see examples on my Church Fathers page), including several examinations of John Calvin’s “patristic distortions” in my first book devoted to him. King and Webster engage in the same timeworn, cynical, many-times-refuted tactics.

To start, let’s be sure to present exactly what it is the authors / editors are contending for. All effective critiques must always nail down matters of definition and goals in the work being scrutinized. A Foreword by the King of the anti-Catholics, James White (to whom I have just devoted a book-length refutation), appears in the first two volumes. Mr. White writes:

The doctrine of sola Scriptura is a divinely given bulwark against error and the traditions of men. It teaches us that Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. . . .

Responding directly and forcefully to those of the Roman Church who press flawed, illogical, un-scriptural, and a-historical arguments upon a gullible audience, Webster and King demonstrate the truth of sola Scriptura through sound and knowledgeable exegesis of the text of Scripture and the writings of the early Christians. (Vol. I, 11-12)

King gets in his shots, too, in his Introduction to Vol. I:

In this work, we intend to prove that Roman apologists have misrepresented and manipulated the truth of Scripture, the facts of history, the writings of the Church Fathers and what the Reformers believed and taught regarding sola Scriptura. (Vol. I, 20)

In his Introduction to Vol. II, Webster pontifi—, er, opined:

. . . Scripture is both materially and formally sufficient. The reformers argued that the Church is not infallible but that all tradition and teaching must be subject to the final authority of Scripture. Scripture is the sole and final arbiter of truth, infallible and the ultimate authority. (Vol. II, 17)

. . . we will examine what the Church fathers taught about Scripture and tradition. We will find that the Reformers were correct in claiming patristic support for the principle of sola Scriptura . . . It is the Roman Catholic teaching on tradition and authority which is unbiblical and unhistorical. (Vol. II, 18)

The Introduction of Vol. III (no author given: both men edited this volume) focuses in on the Church fathers:

The Reformers insisted that Scripture was the ultimate authority for the Church and . . . that Scripture alone was . . . the only infallible rule of faith. . . .

When they [the Church fathers] are allowed to speak for themselves it becomes clear that they universally taught sola Scriptura in the fullest sense of the term embracing both the material and formal sufficiency of Scripture. This is clearly revealed by statements, such as the following, which are found repeatedly in their writings:

1) Scripture is the sole source of doctrine for the faith of the Church.
2) All doctrines necessary for salvation and moral living for the Christian are contained in Scripture.
3.) All doctrines must be proven from Scripture.
4.) What the Apostles taught orally has been handed down in Scripture.
5.) Scripture is the ultimate judge in all controversies.
6.) Scripture is the ultimate and supreme authority for the Church.
7.) If Scripture is silent on an issue it cannot be known.
8.) All teachers and councils are subject to the authority of Scripture.
9.) Any bishop or teacher who teaches doctrines that are not contained in Scripture or are contradictory to Scripture is to be rejected.
10.) Scripture reveals clearly and plainly all truths necessary for salvation and moral living.
11.) Scripture interprets Scripture, i.e., it is self-interpreting.
12.) The Holy Spirit reveals truth and gives understanding of Scripture directly to those who pray and walk in obedience.

. . . it is the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura which [is] true to the ancient faith and practice of the Church and that it is, in fact, the Roman Catholic Church which has misrepresented the Church fathers . . . (Vol. III, 9-10)

I submit that when readers see how Webster and King systematically, selectively prooftext the fathers and ignore hundreds of other statements of theirs that don’t fit into their preconceived Protestant notions of authority (superimposed anachronistically back onto the fathers), that a very different picture will emerge, and that the fathers will be shown to be — as always — quite profoundly consistent with Catholic teaching with regard to the question of authority, tradition, Church, and Scripture (i.e., the rule of faith) that is the focus of the three-volume set.

I’ve already demonstrated this in a trilogy of books devoted to Catholic distinctives in the Church fathers, and in, e.g., a very in-depth debate on the fathers and sola Scriptura with anti-Catholic apologist Jason Engwer.  Now I will demonstrate how the attempt to establish the exact opposite (i.e., supposed Protestant distinctives in the fathers specifically in relation to the all-important question of authority and the rule of faith) fails miserably and is based on intellectually dishonest, highly selective use of quotations, to the exclusion of other highly relevant ones that don’t fit into the preconceived (anti-Catholic / absurdly tendentious) “talking points.”

I will show repeatedly how the citations presented prove nothing of what is claimed for them (or that we already agree, so that a quotation is a moot point with regard to Protestant-Catholic disputes), and how others that are omitted directly contradict sola Scriptura itself, and various tenets that comprise or surround it: particularly the twelve points above.

April 23, 2021

Michael J. Alter is the author of the copiously researched, 913-page volume, The Resurrection: a Critical Inquiry (2015). I initially offered  59 “brief” replies to as many alleged New Testament contradictions (March 2021). We later engaged in amiable correspondence and decided to enter into a major ongoing dialogue about his book. He graciously sent me a PDF file of it, free of charge, for my review, and has committed himself to counter-response as well: a very rare trait these days. All of this is, I think, mightily impressive.

Mike describes himself as “of the Jewish faith” but is quick to point out that labels are often “misleading” and “divisive” (I agree to a large extent). He continues to be influenced by, for example, “Reformed, Conservative, Orthodox, and Chabad” variants of Judaism and learns “from those of other faiths, the secular, the non-theists, etc.” Fair enough. I have a great many influences, too, am very ecumenical, and am a great admirer of Judaism, as I told Michael in a combox comment on my blog.

He says his book “can be described as Jewish apologetics” and one that provides reasons for “why members of the Jewish community should not convert to Christianity.” I will be writing many critiques of the book and we’ll be engaging in ongoing discussion for likely a long time. I’m quite excited about it and eagerly enjoy the dialogue and debate. This is a rare opportunity these days and I am most grateful for Mike’s willingness to interact, minus any personal hostility.

I use RSV for all Bible verses that I cite. His words will be in blue.

*****

Alter wrote:

CONTRADICTION #20 The Forsaking of the Disciples

The synoptic narratives reports differing details of those present at Jesus’s crucifixion and the actions they took. In Mark 14:50, none of the apostles are described as being present during Jesus’s crucifixion: “And they all forsook him, and fled.” (p. 166)

That passage has nothing to do with the crucifixion, but rather with the arrest of Jesus (14:41-50). It refers to their forsaking of him at that particular moment. But what could they have done, anyway? They were supposed to engage in a brawl with “a crowd with swords and clubs” (14:43)? They simply didn’t want to be arrested. It was a perfectly human and understandable reaction. They couldn’t prevent Jesus from being arrested, but (whether rightly or wrongly) they could prevent it happening to themselves. But to repeat: this tells us nothing whatsoever about whether any of them were at the crucifixion. So it’s an irrelevant and wrongheaded use of a Bible passage.

Matthew 26:56 also reports that all the disciples had deserted their Master at the time of Jesus’s arrest. (p. 166)

Yes, precisely as in Mark 14:50; neither passage has anything to do with witnessing firsthand the crucifixion of Jesus.

Luke 23:48 reports: “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” Then, in verse 48 [should be 49], he adds: “And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.” Significantly, Luke fails to identify these acquaintances. Consequently, it is impossible to determine if any of these acquaintances were his disciples. (p. 166)

That’s correct.

A contradiction exists, given that Luke’s acquaintances include any of the disciples. (p. 166)

It does not. “All” is often not used literally in Scripture (the same happens in English; e.g., “all of Detroit came out to greet the world champion Detroit Pistons”). “All his acquaintance” in this context simply means, “lots of his acquaintances.” The non-literality is clear in verse 48 as well. Are we to believe that every single person without exception went away, beating their breasts? Of course not. Luke 23:48 is a general, proverbial statement, to the effect of saying: “the general consensus is that the witnesses who were there went away grieving.” Because “smoting one’s breast” was one Hebrew expression of grief (see, e.g., Nah 2:7), that visual depiction was used.

If someone doesn’t want to take my word (often my critics don’t!), I can provide several examples of such things in Scripture, and the authority of linguistic Bible sources. I did so, in one of my articles published at National Catholic Register:

The word for “all” . . . in Greek (pas) [the word in Lk 23:49 rendered “all”] can indeed have different meanings: as it does in English. It matters not if it means literally “every single one” in some places, if it can mean something less than “absolutely every” elsewhere in Scripture. . . .

In verse 1:29 [of Romans] the KJV has the phrase, “being filled with all unrighteousness,” whereas RSV adopts the more particular, specific meaning, “all manner of wickedness.” . . . in 15:14, Paul describes members of the Roman church as “filled with all knowledge” (cf. 1 Cor 1:5 in KJV), which clearly cannot be taken literally. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely, and are as accessible as the nearest Strong’s Concordance. . . . 

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Abridged Ed.) states:

Pas can have different meanings according to its different uses . . . in many verses, pas is used in the NT simply to denote a great number, e.g., “all Jerusalem” in Mt 2:3 and “all the sick” in 4:24. (pp. 796-797)

See also Matthew 3:5; 21:10; 27:25; Mark 2:13; 9:15; etc., especially in KJV.

Likewise, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament gives “of every kind” as a possible meaning in some contexts (p. 491, Strong’s word #3956). And Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words tells us it can mean “every kind or variety.” (vol. 1, p. 46, under “All”). . . .

We see Jewish idiom and hyperbole in passages of similar meaning. Jesus says: “No one is good but God alone” (Lk 18:19; cf. Mt 19:17). Yet He also said: “The good person brings good things out of a good treasure.” (Mt 12:35; cf. 5:45; 7:17-20; 22:10). Furthermore, in each instance in Matthew and Luke above of the English “good” the Greek word is the same: agatho.

Is this a contradiction? Of course not. Jesus is merely drawing a contrast between our righteousness and God’s, but He doesn’t deny that we can be “good” in a lesser sense. We observe the same dynamic in the Psalms:

Psalm 14:2-3 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. [3] They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, [Hebrew, tob] no not one. (cf. 53:1-3; Paul cites this in Rom 3:10-12)

Yet in the immediately preceding Psalm, David proclaims, “I have trusted in thy steadfast love” (13:5), which certainly is “seeking” after God! And in the very next he refers to “He who walk blamelessly, and does what is right” (15:2). Even two verses later (14:5) he writes that “God is with the generation of the righteous.” So obviously his lament in 14:2-3 is an indignant hyperbole and not intended as a literal utterance.

Such remarks are common to Hebrew poetic idiom. The anonymous psalmist in 112:5-6 refers to the “righteous” (Heb. tob), as does the book of Proverbs repeatedly: using the words “righteous” or “good” (11:23; 12:2; 13:22; 14:14, 19), using the same word, tob, which appears in Psalm 14:2-3. References to righteous men are innumerable (e.g., Job 17:9; 22:19; Ps 5:12; 32:11; 34:15; 37:16, 32; Mt 9:13; 13:17; 25:37, 46; Rom 5:19; Heb 11:4; Jas 5:16; 1 Pet 3:12; 4:18, etc.). . . .

The key in all this is to understand biblical language properly in context. It’s not always literal.

That is, Luke is known to have been highly dependent upon Mark and Matthew. Yet Luke seemingly rejects something reported by Mark and Matthew. Why then would Luke change such an important fact? (p. 166)

It’s a non-issue once the common non-literal use of “all” (pas in Greek in the NT) is understood. The problem with a lot of Bible critics is that they lack a basic understanding of different biblical genres (not to mention ancient Hebrew culture) and the over 200 non-literal figures of speech that are commonly used. I’ve seen this scores and scores of times among atheist biblical “exegetes” (whom I have refuted a few hundred times). They interpret the Bible in a woodenly literal manner that is very typical of relatively uneducated fundamentalist Protestants. In many cases, they actually were from that background, by their own report. So I have to get them up to speed in their biblical exegesis (a term very loosely applied in their case) and hermeneutics by informing them of the basic, elementary principles of those endeavors.

An even greater contradiction appears in John. (p. 166)

It’s not contradictory at all, as explained above. The Synoptics never claimed that no disciple was present at the cross. And the use of “all his acquaintance” was clearly non-literal in context.

Contrary to the synoptic Gospels, John had at least one disciple present during Jesus’s crucifixion, the disciple “whom he loved.”

Jn 19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

Jn 19:26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

Jn 19:27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

Not only is he the only disciple identified as being present during the Crucifixion, but Jesus also carried on a conversation with him and directed him to care for his mother! In effect, John’s narrative reads like a completely different story from the synoptic accounts. (p. 166)

As in all these alleged “contradictions,” what is happening is a consistent, non-contradictory complementarity of texts. The same occurs here. Almost all Christian commentators believe that John was the sole disciple at the cross. But there were also several “women who had followed him from Galilee” (Lk 23:49) and His mother. These included Mary Magdalene, who was His first follower (male or female) to see Him risen again. So He was not “forsaken” at the cross by all of His disciples, nor all of His larger group of “followers.” Nor does any text claim that He was. The women in His circle proved themselves more courageous than the men (which is so often the case in general life). I think that is one reason Jesus chose to first appear after His Resurrection to a woman: a little bit of pointed divine sense of humor . . .

But all the disciples save again for John, and Judas, died horrible deaths as martyrs; so in the long run they indeed proved themselves loyal, heroic, and obedient followers of Jesus, who went out and “turned the world upside down.”

In conclusion, given that Luke’s acquaintances included his disciples, Luke and John (John states that at least one disciple was at the cross during Jesus’s crucifixion) directly contradicts Mark and Matthew. However, if Luke’s “acquaintances” did not include the disciples, now there is a contradiction between John and all of the synoptic Gospels. (p. 167)

None of this is established at all, as just demonstrated.

***

Photo credit: Selva Rasalingam as Jesus in the The Gospel of Luke (2016, Netflix USA) [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication]

Summary: Michael Alter argues that the NT contradicts itself regarding “disciples forsaking Jesus” & those present at the cross. I refute his arguments by logic & explanation of Hebrew non-literal idiom.

Tags: alleged Bible contradictions, alleged Resurrection contradictions, Bible “contradictions”, Bible “difficulties”, Bible Only, biblical inspiration, biblical prooftexts, biblical skeptics, biblical theology, exegesis, hermeneutics, Holy Bible, inerrancy, infallibility, Jewish anti-Christian polemics, Jewish apologetics, Jewish critique of Christianity, Jewish-Christian discussion, Michael J. Alter, New Testament, New Testament critics, New Testament skepticism, Resurrection “Contradictions”, Resurrection of Jesus, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry, disciples forsaking Jesus

March 28, 2021

Chapter Ten of My Bestselling (and Probably Most Well-Known) Book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism

A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (my first book) was completed in May 1996 and “officially” published in June 2003 by Sophia Institute Press. The following is from pages 211-233, 238, minus the final section, Petrine panoply: fifty New Testament proofs for the pre-eminence of St. Peter: which I have long since linked as its own self-contained article. It was published in The Catholic Answer (Jan/Feb. 1997 issue).

I present below my slightly different original (i.e., pre-edited) 1996 manuscript version (all Bible passages: RSV). Readers may also be interested in additional related sections from the much longer initial 1994 version of this book: Primacy of St. Peter Verified by Protestant Scholars and Papacy & Papal Infallibility: Classic Catholic Reflections.

*****

Introduction, Definitions, and Explanation
*
The ecumenical First Vatican Council, in 1870, defined once and for all the dogma of papal infallibility as follows:

We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, is, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that, therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable. (1)

The charge is often made that the Catholic Church “invents” dogmas late in the game, which were not present in earlier centuries. The papacy, and papal infallibility, have indeed been in existence from the very earliest days of the Church, starting with the Apostle Peter, and what he and other Christians believed about his leadership and jurisdiction. (2) As is to be expected, however, both the office of the pope, and the notion of papal infallibility did undergo much development through the centuries.

In order to illustrate how the definition of 1870 drew on centuries of reflection and practice, we will cite St. Francis de Sales’ teaching from around 1596:

When he teaches the whole Church as shepherd, in general matters of faith and morals, then there is nothing but doctrine and truth. And in fact everything a king says is not a law or an edict, but that only which a king says as king and as a legislator. So everything the Pope says is not canon law or of legal obligation; he must mean to define and to lay down the law for the sheep, and he must keep the due order and form .

We must not think that in everything and everywhere his judgment is infallible, but then only when he gives judgment on a matter of faith in questions necessary to the whole Church; for in particular cases which depend on human fact he can err, there is no doubt, though it is not for us to control him in these cases save with all reverence, submission, and discretion. Theologians have said, in a word, that he can err in questions of fact, not in questions of right; that he can err extra cathedram, outside the chair of Peter. that is, as a private individual, by writings and bad example.

But he cannot err when he is in cathedra, that is, when he intends to make an instruction and decree for the guidance of the whole Church, when he means to confirm his brethren as supreme pastor, and to conduct them into the pastures of the faith. For then it is not so much man who determines, resolves, and defines as it is the Blessed Holy Spirit by man, which Spirit, according to the promise made by Our Lord to the Apostles, teaches all truth to the Church. (3)

Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914), a convert to Catholicism, whose father, Edward W. Benson (1829-1896), had been the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest office in Anglicanism, wrote concerning the development of the papacy:

It was not, then, until the head had been fully established as supreme over the body that men had eyes to see how it had been so ordained and indicated from the beginning. After it had come to pass it was seen to have been inevitable. All this is paralleled, of course, by the ordinary course of affairs. Laws of nature, as well as laws of grace, act quite apart from man’s perception or appreciation of them; and it is not until the law is recognized that its significance and inevitability, its illustrations and effects, are intelligibly recognized either. (4)

Likewise, [St.] John Henry Cardinal Newman, in his masterpiece Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), offers similar analysis:

Whether communion with the Pope was necessary for Catholicity would not and could not be debated till a suspension of that communion had actually occurred. It is not a greater difficulty that St. Ignatius does not write to the Asian Greeks about Popes, than that St. Paul does not write to the Corinthians about Bishops. And it is a less difficulty that the Papal supremacy was not formally acknowledged in the second century, than that there was no formal acknowledgment on the part of the Church of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity till the fourth. No doctrine is defined till it is violated . . . .

Moreover, an international bond and a common authority could not be consolidated . . . while persecutions lasted. If the Imperial Power checked the development of Councils, it availed also for keeping back the power of the Papacy. The Creed, the Canon, in like manner, both remained undefined . . . All began to form, as soon as the Empire relaxed its tyrannous oppression of the Church . . .

Supposing there be otherwise good reason for saying that the Papal Supremacy is part of Christianity, there is nothing in the early history of the Church to contradict it. . .

Doctrine cannot but develop as time proceeds and need arises, and . . . therefore it is lawful, or rather necessary, to interpret the words and deeds of the earlier Church by the determinate teaching of the later. (5)

James Cardinal Gibbons, in his best-selling book of Catholic apologetics, The Faith of Our Fathers (1917), eloquently defended papal infallibility against many of the common objections of Protestants and other non-Catholics:

You will tell me that infallibility is too great a prerogative to be conferred on man. I answer: Has not God, in former times, clothed His Apostles with powers far more exalted? They were endowed with the gifts of working miracles, of prophecy and inspiration; they were the mouthpiece communicating God’s revelation, of which the Popes are merely the custodians. If God could make man the organ of His revealed Word, is it impossible for Him to make man its infallible guardian and interpreter? For, surely, greater is the Apostle who gives us the inspired Word than the Pope who preserves it from error . . .

Let us see, sir, whether an infallible Bible is sufficient for you. Either you are infallibly certain that your interpretation of the Bible is correct or you are not.

If you are infallibly certain, then you assert for yourself, and of course for every reader of the Scripture, a personal infallibility which you deny to the Pope, and which we claim only for him. You make every man his own Pope.

If you are not infallibly certain that you understand the true meaning of the whole Bible . . . then, I ask, of what use to you is the objective infallibility of the Bible without an infallible interpreter? (6)

Although the pope is supreme Head of the Church and preeminent in authority, nevertheless, he acts in concert with both the college of bishops (especially when meeting in an ecumenical Council, such as Trent or Vatican II), (7) and the “sense of the faithful” (or, sensus fidelium). (8) It is this united jurisdiction of bishops and pope (distantly analogous to the U.S. Congress and President, with the Supreme Court similar to Catholic Canon Law), which is the distinctive mark of Catholic ecclesiology, (9) as opposed to Eastern Orthodoxy, which accepts bishops but acknowledges no pope, and Protestantism, which does not formally recognize the papacy, and many denominations of which (perhaps the majority) lack bishops. Catholics claim that this arrangement is mirrored in the biblical relationship of St. Peter and the other original disciples, and that it is required by the demands of apostolic succession, which is itself suggested in the Bible. (10)

Bishop Vincent Gasser, in his famous defense of papal infallibility (the Relatio) at the First Vatican Council, discussed the aspects of collegiality and community:

We do defend the infallibility of the person of the Roman Pontiff, not as an individual person but as the person of the Roman Pontiff or a public person, that is, as head of the Church in his relation to the Church Universal . . .

We do not exclude the cooperation of the Church because the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff does not come to him in the manner of inspiration or of revelation but through a divine assistance. Therefore, the Pope, by reason of his office and the gravity of the matter, is held to use the means suitable for properly discerning and aptly enunciating the truth. These means are councils, or the advice of the bishops, cardinals, theologians, etc. Indeed the means are diverse according to the diversity of situations, and we should piously believe that, in the divine assistance promised to Peter and his successors by Christ, there is simultaneously contained a promise about the means which are necessary and suitable to make an infallible pontifical judgment.

Finally we do not separate the Pope, even minimally, from the consent of the Church, as long as that consent is not laid down as a condition which is either antecedent or consequent. We are not able to separate the Pope from the consent of the Church because this consent is never able to be lacking to him. Indeed, since we believe that the Pope is infallible through the divine assistance, by that very fact we also believe that the assent of the Church will not be lacking to his definitions since it is not able to happen that the body of bishops be separated from its head, and since the Church universal is not able to fail. (11)

Nevertheless, the pope is ultimately supreme, even over ecumenical Councils, which he ratifies in all particulars (a power which might be compared in part to the veto of the American President). The famous English convert and apologist Ronald Knox (1888-1957) explains:

[It is a] quite unworkable idea that the authority of the Pope depends on the authority of the Council. There is no way of deciding which councils were ecumenical councils except by saying that those councils were ecumenical which had their decisions ratified by the Pope. Now, either that ratification is infallible of itself, or else you will immediately have to summon a fresh ecumenical council to find out whether the Pope’s ratification was infallible or not, and so on ad infinitum. You can’t keep on going round and round in a vicious circle; in the long run the last word of decision must lie with one man, and that man is obviously the Pope. In the last resort the Pope must be the umpire, must have the casting vote. If therefore there is to be any infallibility in the Church, that infallibility must reside in the Pope, even when he speaks in his own name, without summoning a council to fortify his decision. (12)

Contrary to common assumptions, the doctrine of the papacy is well-grounded in Scripture, and the institution is present in increasingly-developing stages throughout the history of the Church. Moreover, the constant, remarkable primacy of Rome in the history of Christianity is equally undeniable. Because the very existence of this historical institution (in the early Church) is so often denied (for example, many arbitrarily maintain that Pope Leo the Great in the fifth century was the first pope, and others claim the same for Gregory the Great in the sixth), more attention than usual will be paid to the actual history of the papacy and the theological justifications historically put forth in defense of it.

Scriptural Evidence for the Papacy and the Apostolic Primacy of St. Peter
*
St. Peter as the Rock (Matthew 16:18)
 

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.

Catholics contend that the “rock” is Peter himself, not his faith, or Jesus (although arguably his faith is assumed by Christ in naming Peter “rock” in the first place). This interpretation is found in the Church Fathers at least as early as Tertullian (d.c.230). The next verse (16:19) is in the singular, which supports this view, which is in fact the consensus of the majority of biblical commentators today, according to the article on Peter in the Encyclopedia Britannica (1985 edition). (13)

It has often been argued to the contrary that Jesus called Peter petros (literally, “stone”), not petra (the word for “rock” in the passage), so that the “rock” wasn’t Peter, but this is simply explained by the necessity for a proper male name in Greek to be in the masculine gender. In Aramaic, however (the language Jesus spoke), the name kepha would have been used for both “rock” and “Peter.” Matthew could just as easily have used another Greek word for “stone,” lithos, in contrast to “rock,” but this would have distorted the unmistakable word-play of the passage, which is the whole point!

Many prominent Protestant scholars and exegetes have agreed that Peter is the “rock” in Matthew 16:18, including Alford, Broadus, Keil, Kittel, Cullmann (14), Albright (15), Robert McAfee Brown (16), and more recently, respected evangelical commentators R.T. France (17) and D.A. Carson. (18) Also, popular one-volume Protestant Bible commentaries such as Peake’s Commentary (19)New Bible Commentary (20) and numerous others concur. (21) Both Carson and France surprisingly assert that only Protestant overreaction to Catholic Petrine and papal claims have brought about the denial that Peter himself is the “rock.”

The great Protestant Greek scholar Marvin Vincent was among those who took the traditional view, in his standard reference work Word Studies in the New Testament (1887):

The word refers neither to Christ as a rock, distinguished from Simon, a stone, nor to Peter’s confession, but to Peter himself, . . . The reference of petra to Christ is forced and unnatural. The obvious reference of the word is to Peter. The emphatic this naturally refers to the nearest antecedent; and besides, the metaphor is thus weakened, since Christ appears here, not as the foundation, but as the architect: “On this rock will I build.” Again, Christ is the great foundation, the chief cornerstone, but the New Testament writers recognize no impropriety in applying to the members of Christ’s church certain terms which are applied to him. For instance, Peter himself (1 Peter 2:4), calls Christ a living stone, and in ver. 5, addresses the church as living stones . . .

Equally untenable is the explanation which refers petra to Simon’s confession. Both the play upon the words and the natural reading of the passage are against it, and besides, it does not conform to the fact, since the church is built, not on confessions, but on confessors – living men . . . . . .

The reference to Simon himself is confirmed by the actual relation of Peter to the early church . . . See Acts 1:15; 2:14,37; 3:2; 4:8; 5:15,29; 9:34,40; 10:25-6; Galatians 1:18. (22)

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622), a leader of the Catholic Reformation, draws out the implications of this passage for the papacy:

Our Lord then, who is comparing his Church to a building, when he says that he will build it on St. Peter, shows that St. Peter will be its foundation-stone . . . When he makes St. Peter its foundation, he makes him head and superior of this family.

By these words Our Lord shows the perpetuity and immovableness of this foundation. The stone on which one raises the building is the first, the others rest on it. Other stones may be removed without overthrowing the edifice, but he who takes away the foundation, knocks down the house. If then the gates of hell can in no wise prevail against the Church, they can in no wise prevail against its foundation and head, which they cannot take away and overturn without entirely overturning the whole edifice . . .

The supreme charge which St. Peter had . . . as chief and governor, is not beside the authority of his Master, but is only a participation in this, so that he is not the foundation of this hierarchy besides Our Lord but rather in Our Lord: as we call him most holy Father in Our Lord, outside whom he would be nothing . . St. Peter is foundation, not founder, of the whole Church; foundation but founded on another foundation, which is Our Lord . . . in fine, administrator and not lord, and in no way the foundation of our faith, hope and charity, nor of the efficacy of the Sacraments . . . So, although he is the Good Shepherd, he gives us shepherds (Ephesians 4:11) under himself, between whom and his Majesty there is so great a difference that he declares himself to be the only shepherd (John 10:11; Ezekiel 34:23). (23)

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), the English literary giant, made a marvelously insightful comment concerning Christ’s selection of Peter as the “rock”:

When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, he chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock he has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link. (24)

The Keys of the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19)
 

Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . .

Isaiah 22:20-22 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, . . . and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

Revelation 3:7 [Christ describing Himself]:. . . the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.

The power of the “keys,” in the Hebrew mind, had to do with administrative authority and ecclesiastical discipline, and, in a broad sense, might be thought to encompass the use of excommunication, penitential decrees, a barring from the sacraments and lesser censures, and legislative and executive functions. Like the name “rock,” this privilege was bestowed only upon St. Peter and no other disciple or Apostle. He was to become God’s “vice-regent,” so to speak. (25) In the Old Testament, a steward was a man over a house (Genesis 43:19, 44:4, 1 Kings 4:6, 16:9, 18:3, 2 Kings 10:5 15:5 18:18, Isaiah 22:15). The steward was also called a “governor” in the Old Testament and has been described by commentators as a type of “prime minister.”

In the New Testament, the two words often translated as “steward” are oikonomos (Luke 16:2-3, 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Titus 1:7, 1 Peter 4:10), and epitropos (Matthew 20:8, Galatians 4:2). Several Protestant commentaries and dictionaries take the position that Christ is clearly hearkening back to Isaiah 22:15-22 when He makes this pronouncement, and that it has something to do with delegated authority in the Church He is establishing (in the same context). (26) He applies the same language to Himself in Revelation 3:7 (cf. Job 12:14), so that his commission to Peter may be interpreted as an assignment of powers to the recipient in His stead, as a sort of authoritative representative or ambassador.

The “opening” and “shutting” (in Isaiah 22:2) appear to refer to a jurisdictional power which no one but the king (in the ancient kingdom of Judah) could override. Literally, it refers to the prime minister’s prerogative to deny or allow entry to the palace, and access to the king. In Isaiah’s time, this office was over three hundred years old, and is thought to have been derived by Solomon from the Egyptian model of palace functionary, or the Pharaoh’s “vizier,” who was second in command after the Pharaoh. This was exactly the office granted to Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 41:40-44, 45:8). (27)

The symbol of keys always represented authority in the Middle East. This standpoint comes down to us in our own culture when we observe mayors giving an honored visitor the “key to the city.” The reputable Commentary on the Whole Bible (1864), by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, a Protestant work, expounds Isaiah 22:15,22 as follows:

[The steward is] the king’s friend, or principal officer of the court (1 Kings 4:5; 18:3; 1 Chronicles27:33, the king’s counsellor) . . .

Keys are carried sometimes in the East hanging from the kerchief on the shoulder. But the phrase is rather figurative for sustaining the government on one’s shoulders. Eliakim, as his name implies, is here plainly a type of the God-man Christ, the son of “David,” of whom Isaiah (ch. 9:6) uses the same language as the former clause of this verse [and the government will be upon his shoulder]. (28)

One can confidently conclude, therefore, that when Old Testament usage and the culture of the hearers is closely examined, the phrase keys of the kingdom of heaven must have great significance (for Peter and for the papacy) indeed, all the more so since Christ granted this honor only to St. Peter.

The Power to Bind and Loose (Matthew 16:19)
 

Matthew 16:19 . . . Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Binding and loosing were technical rabbinical terms meaning, respectively, to forbid and permit, with regard to interpretations of Jewish Law. In secondary usage, they also could mean condemn and acquit. This power is also given to the Apostles in Matthew 18:17-18, where it apparently refers particularly to discipline and excommunication in local jurisdictions (whereas Peter’s commission seems to apply to the universal Church). In John 20:23 it is also granted to the Apostles (in a different terminology, which suggests the power to impose penance and grant indulgences and absolution). Generally speaking, binding and loosing usually meant the prerogative to formulate Christian doctrine and to require allegiance to it, as well as to condemn heresies which were opposed to the true doctrine (Jude 3). (29) Marvin Vincent writes:

No other terms were in more constant use in Rabbinic canon-law than those of binding and loosing. They represented the legislative and judicial powers of the Rabbinic office. These powers Christ now transferred, . . . in their reality, to his apostles; the first, here, to Peter, as their representative, the second, after his resurrection, to the church (John 20:23) . . . (30)

St. Peter Commanded to “Feed My Sheep” (John 21:15-17)
 

John 21:15-17 . . . Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water.

The Greek word for “tend” in 21:16 is poimaino, which is applied to Jesus Christ in Revelation 7:17 above, and also in Matthew 2:6, and Revelation 2:27, 12:5, and 19:15. It is used of bishops in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2 (which seems to be a passage perhaps reminiscent in St. Peter’s mind of the Lord’s charge to him). Clearly, an awesome amount of spiritual authority is being given to Peter, which includes, according to the Protestant Greek scholar W.E. Vine, “discipline, authority, restoration, material assistance of individuals.” (31)

The commission of Christ to Peter, then, to tend my sheep, while not exclusive to Peter in the sense that no one else (besides Christ) exercises this function (St. Peter himself says as much in 1 Peter 5:2), nevertheless is supremely unique and important insofar as no other individual disciple is likewise instructed by our Lord – and in such momentous terms (considering all of the biblical data).

Peter’s ministry to the Church is always universal; his jurisdiction knows no bounds, and the language that Christ Himself applies to him is strikingly sublime and profound. For to no one else was it granted the keys of the kingdom of heaven. No one else was renamed “Rock,” and proclaimed by Jesus to be the foundation upon which He would build His Church. And although the power to bind and loose was given to the disciples as a whole in Matthew 18:18, nevertheless, Peter is the only individual to be given this power by Christ. In other words, St. Peter has extraordinary privileges unique to himself, and in cases where they are not exclusive they are obviously applied to him in a preeminent sense.

We find then, that the scriptural relation between Christ, Peter, and the disciples (by extension, bishops and priests), is precisely that found in the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church, where the pope, more than just the “foremost among equals,” as the Orthodox and some Lutherans and Anglicans hold, is the supreme shepherd and leader of the Church, yet not in such a fashion as to exclude Christ as the Head or the Cardinals and bishops (and even laymen) as fellow members of the Body in Christ acting in organic harmony. Always, it is the pope and the Cardinals, the pope and the Council, the pope acting with due consideration of the faithful lay members of the Church, but the pope is supreme.

It is simply not necessary to dichotomize the relationship between the pope and lesser clergy. With regard to the papacy, only Catholicism does justice to both the scriptural data and the course of the early Church in the formative years of its development. One need not fall into the trap of denying the pope’s existence (and thereby doing violence to the Petrine texts as well), nor of caricaturing the Catholic Church’s doctrine of the papacy as strictly a “top-down,” “autocratic,” “monarchical” conception of Church government. In any event, the abundant Petrine evidence in the Bible must be dealt with in an open and consistent manner, whatever position one holds.

St. Peter Charged to Strengthen His Brethren (Luke 22:31-32)
 

Luke 22:31-32 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.

The Jesuit apologist Nicholas Russo and St. Francis de Sales explain how this charge to St. Peter suggests the need for an ongoing, infallible papacy:

In this passage there is question of infallibility. For infallibility is nothing else but a supernatural gift by which the recipient is shielded from all error against faith. But – a) this is clearly expressed in the words, that thy faith fail not; b) it is implied in the command to confirm his brethren; c) it is supposed in the very failure of Satan’s attempts to destroy the Church, which is personified in the Apostles, and which depends essentially upon faith . . .

The temptation is common, but the prayer was offered for Peter alone; not because Our Lord was less solicitous for the rest of the Apostles, says Bossuet, but because by strengthening the head He wished to prevent the rest from staggering. Now this duty of confirming his brethren was to last as long as the Church; and Peter, accordingly, abides always in his successors . . . Strange, indeed, would it be to suppose that the doctrinal infallibility of the Head of the Church should cease just when the need becomes greater and more urgent. Christ would in this supposition have rendered His first vicar infallible . . . and denied this divine assistance to all the rest of His vicars on earth, when in their times the dangers were to be greater . . . If this consequence be absurd, our position is unassailable. (32)

He prays for St. Peter as for the confirmer and support of the others; and what is this but to declare him head of the others? Truly one could not give St. Peter the command to confirm the Apostles without charging him to have care of them . . . Is this not to again call him foundation of the Church? If he supports, secures, strengthens the very foundation-stones, how shall he not confirm all the rest? If he has the charge of supporting the columns of the Church, how shall he not support all the rest of the building? If he has the charge of feeding the pastors, must he not be sovereign pastor himself? . . . Our Lord . . ., having planted this holy assembly of the disciples, prayed for the head and the root, in order that the water of faith might not fail to him who was therewith to supply all the rest, and in order that through the head the faith might always be preserved in the Church. (33)

St. Paul’s Rebuke of St. Peter (Galatians 2:9,11-14)
 

Galatians 2:9, 11-14 And when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas [Peter] and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship . . . But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Bertrand Conway, author of the enormously popular The Question Box (second edition, 1929), a classic of Catholic apologetics, puts this incident in the proper perspective:

St. Paul’s rebuke of St. Peter, instead of implying a denial of his supremacy, implies just the opposite. He tells us that the example of St. Peter compelled the Gentiles to live as the Jews. St. Paul’s example had not the same compelling power.

The duty of fraternal correction (Matthew 18:15) may often require an inferior to rebuke a superior in defence of justice and truth. St. Bernard, St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Catherine of Siena have rebuked Popes, while fully acknowledging their supreme authority . . .

The rebuke, however, did not refer to the doctrine, but to the conduct of St. Peter . . . St. Peter had not changed the views he had himself set forth at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:10). But at Antioch he withdrew from the table of the Gentiles, because he feared giving offence to the Jewish converts. They at once mistook his kindliness for an approval of the false teaching of certain Judaizers, who wished to make the Mosaic law obligatory upon all Christians. His action was most imprudent, and calculated to do harm because of his great influence and authority. St. Paul, therefore, had a perfect right to uphold the Gospel liberty by a direct appeal to St. Peter’s own example and teaching. (34)

Leslie Rumble and Charles Carty, who co-wrote the three-volume Radio Replies (1940), another popular and bestselling defense of Catholicism, agree:

No doctrinal error was involved in this particular case . . . To cease from doing a lawful thing for fear lest others be scandalized is not a matter of doctrine. It is a question of prudence or imprudence. St. Paul did not act as if he were St. Peter’s superior. Nor did he boast. To show the urgency of the matter, he practically said, “I had to resist even Peter – to whom chief authority belongs.” And his words derive their full significance only from the fact that St. Peter was head of the Apostles. (35)

If St. Peter were guilty in this instance of hypocrisy (which appears to be the case), this is no disproof whatsoever of the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility, since that teaching does not extend to behavior and applies only to decrees on faith and morals which are intended to bind all the faithful to a certain doctrinal standpoint. Granted, hypocrisy and bad example are not conducive to the successful propagation of a viewpoint, yet one must critique an idea according to its actual content. Thus, the attempt to undermine papal infallibility by means of this scriptural passage fails due to misunderstanding of the Catholic claims for the pope’s divinely-appointed charism (in other words, it is a “straw man” argument). The New Bible Dictionary, an authoritative evangelical reference work, states that the disagreement here had nothing to do with any theological dispute between Paul and Peter, but rather, with the unfortunate inconsistency of belief and behavior on Peter’s part, and denies the “old theory” that there was some sort of “rivalry” between these two pillars of the early Church. (36)

St. Peter at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)
*
The apostolic supremacy of St. Peter is also often disputed by the counter-assertion that he did not preside over the Council of Jerusalem, the first record we have of a corporate Christian assembly, convened in order to settle doctrinal and practical matters. Conway and Rumble and Carty show how this, too, is an untenable position:

St. Peter, not St. James, presided at the Council of Jerusalem. The question at issue was whether the Gentiles were bound to obey the Mosaic law. Paul, Barnabas, James and the rest were present as teachers and judges, . . . but Peter was their head, and the supreme arbiter of the controversy . . .

St. Peter spoke first and decided the matter unhesitatingly [Acts 15:7-11], declaring that the Gentile converts were not bound by the Mosaic law. He claimed to exercise authority in the name of his special election by God to receive the Gentiles (Acts 15:7), and he severely rebuked those who held the opposite view (Acts 15:10). After he had spoken all the multitude held their peace (Acts 15:12) [immediately before Peter spoke, there had been much debate – 15:7]. Those who spoke after him merely confirmed his decision . . . James gave no special decision on the question . . . Moreover the decree is attributed to the Council of Apostles and Presbyters . . . (Acts 16:4), and not to James personally. (37)

St. James, as local Bishop of Jerusalem, would naturally have a prominent position at the meeting, since it took place in Jerusalem. But there can be no doubt about his deference to the ecumenical position of St. Peter as chief of the Apostles [for example, he starts by saying Symeon {Peter} has related. . .]. (38)

[ . . . ]

In conclusion, it strains credulity to hold that God would present St. Peter with such prominence in the Bible, without some meaning and import for later Church government. The papacy is the most plausible interpretation and actual institutional fulfillment of this biblical evidence. For why would God foreordain such a leadership function, only to cease after Peter’s death? Clearly, the office of the papacy is paramount, not individual popes, and this was to be perpetual (apostolic succession), just as are the offices of bishop, deacon, teacher, and evangelist.

FOOTNOTES
 
  • 1. In Dogmatic Canons and Decrees, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books, 1977 (originally New York: 1912), p. 256. [Documents of Councils of Trent and Vatican I, plus Decree on the Immaculate Conception and the Syllabus of Errors of Pope Pius IX]. See also Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1994, #891, 2035; John A. Hardon, The Catholic Catechism (CC), Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1975, pp. 224-233; John A. Hardon, Pocket Catholic Dictionary (PCD), New York: Doubleday Image, 1980, pp. 194-195. For conciliar infallibility, see CCC, #891-892, 2035.
  • 2. CCC, #552-553, 765, 862, 880-882, 936-937, 1444.
  • 3. St. Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, translated by Henry B. Mackey, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books, 1989 (originally 1596), pp. 306-307.
  • 4. Robert Hugh Benson, The Religion of the Plain Man, Long Prairie, Minnesota: Neumann Press, 1906, p. 109.
  • 5. St. John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), Part I, chapter 4, section 3, nos. 4-5, 7-8. Newman was received into the Catholic Church the same year this book was completed (essentially arguing himself into the Church).
  • 6. James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, revised edition, 1917, pp. 108-109.
  • 7. CCC, #877, 879, 887.
  • 8. CCC, #889.
  • 9. CCC, #765, 816, 880-881, 883-885, 895, 1444, 2034.
  • 10. CCC, #77, 551, 833, 860-862, 869, 875, 886, 888, 890, 892, 894-896, 935, 938.
  • 11. In Vincent Gasser, The Gift of Infallibility, translated with commentary, James T. O’Connor, Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1986 (Gasser’s Relatio from First Vatican Council, 1870), pp. 41-44.
  • 12. Ronald Knox, In Soft Garments, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1941, p. 130.
  • 13. Micropedia, pp. 330-333. D. W. O’Connor, the author of the article, is himself Protestant and author of Peter in Rome: The Literary, Liturgical & Archaeological Evidence (1969).
  • 14. Oscar Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, 2nd revised edition, 1962.
  • 15. Anchor Bible, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1971, vol. 26, pp. 195, 197-198.
  • 16. In Peter J.  McCord, editor, A Pope For All Christians?, New York: Paulist Press, 1976, Introduction, p. 7. This book is an ecumenical project offering views on the papacy from many perspectives. Brown is a Presbyterian and very prominent ecumenist.
  • 17. Leon Morris, general editor, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1985, vol. 1: Matthew, R. T. France, pp. 254, 256.
  • 18. Frank E. Gaebelein, general editor, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1984, vol. 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Matthew: D. A. Carson), p. 368.
  • 19. 2nd revised edition, London: Nelson, 1962, p. 787.
  • 20. D. Guthrie, and J. A. Motyer, editors, The New Bible Commentary (NBC), Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 3rd edition, 1970 [Reprinted, 1987, as The Eerdmans Bible Commentary], p. 837.
  • 21. According to Raymond E. Brown, Karl P. Donfried and John Reumann, editors, Peter in the New Testament, Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House / New York: Paulist Press, 1973, pp. 92-93, which also takes the same view. This is probably the most important ecumenical work on Peter, and is thus cited first in a long bibliography in the Encyclopedia Britannica. It is a common statement by a panel of eleven Catholic and Lutheran scholars.
  • 22. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1946 (originally 1887), 4 volumes, vol. 1, pp. 91-92; emphasis in original.
  • 23. St. Francis de Sales, ibid., pp. 242-243, 245-247.
  • 24. G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, London: The Bodley Head, 1950 (originally 1905), pp. 60-61. Chesterton was not yet formally Catholic at the time of this quote (1905). He would be received into the Catholic Church 17 years later, in 1922.
  • 25. J. D. Douglas, editor, The New Bible Dictionary (NBD), Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1962, p. 1018.
  • 26. Ibid., pp. 1018, 1216; Guthrie, NBC, pp. 603, 837; France, ibid., p. 256; Cullmann, ibid. (pp. 183-184 in 1952 French edition). Cullmann describes Peter as Jesus’ “superintendent.” The ecumenical work Peter in the New Testament (edited by Brown), also espouses the same view (pp. 96-97).
  • 27. See Stanley Jaki, The Keys of the Kingdom, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1986, pp. 27-28.
  • 28. Robert Jamieson, Andrew R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1961 (originally 1864) [Fausset and Brown were Anglicans, Brown Presbyterian], p. 536.
  • 29. See, for example, Protestant works: Allen C. Myers, editor, Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1987 [English revision of Bijbelse Encyclopedie, edited by W. H. Gispen, Kampen, Netherlands: J. H. Kok, revised edition, 1975], translated by Raymond C. Togtman and Ralph W. Vunderink, p. 158; Guthrie, NBC, p. 837; France, ibid., p. 256.
  • 30. Vincent, ibid., vol. 1, p. 96.
  • 31. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1940, four-volumes-in-one edition, vol. 2, p. 88.
  • 32. Nicholas Russo, The True Religion, New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1886, pp. 124-126.
  • 33. St. Francis de Sales, ibid., pp. 258-259.
  • 34. Bertrand L. Conway, The Question Box, New York: Paulist Press, 1929, pp. 152-153; emphasis added.
  • 35. Leslie Rumble and Charles M. Carty, Radio Replies, three volumes, St. Paul, Minnesota: Radio Replies Press, 1940, [4374 questions about Catholicism answered], vol. 1, pp. 82-83, question #357.
  • 36. Douglas, NBD, p. 973.
  • 37. Conway, ibid., p. 152.
  • 38. Rumble and Carty, ibid., vol. 2, p. 91, question #344.

***

Summary: Chapter ten of my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism: presenting a wide array of biblical and linguistic arguments in defense of the Catholic viewpoint on St. Peter and the papacy.

***

March 26, 2021

Atheist author and polemicist John W. Loftus wrote an article entitled, “Dr. David Madison, Debunker Par Excellence!” (3-25-21). His words will be in blue.

*****

I’m a big fan of former Methodist minister and biblical scholar Dr. David Madison, who no longer believes. He understands how best to debunk Christianity.

Really? I never noticed that. I have refuted his attacks on the Bible and Christianity now 44 times (without a peep in reply) and, frankly, it was always very easy to refute his nonsense: so weak and poor was the argumentation.

Madison expertly presents a cumulative case against Christianity, which is the best way to compel childlike believers to abandon their make-believe fantasies.

And I systematically present a cumulative case against his anti-biblical and anti-Christian fantasies and relentless excursions into myth and illogic. Real thinkers will prefer to read both sides of an argument, rather than just one. Let the best man win! On my blog, I cite tons of the words of my dialogue opponents, so readers can get their views directly, rather than from an opponent biased against them.

Everyone interested in investigating and analyzing the complete undeniable palpable falseness of Christianity should be reading Madison– and everyone should be interested! However, as Madison acknowledges, Christians “assuredly have a long history of not paying attention.” (p. 29) “Even if they’re not oblivious, they are just not interested.” 

Ah, I see. So it’s us Christians who are massively guilty of not reading critical atheist commentary; indeed, running from it. It’s true that many act in this way. Only so many hours in a day . . . But this is absurdly ironic, coming from the guy who has not the slightest interest in any critique of his own work, and from Loftus, who acts in exactly the same way regarding his anti-Christian polemics, too. Loftus expressly challenged me to read his book, Why I Became an Atheist and offer critiques of it. I did so and responded with ten critiques: all utterly ignored by Loftus.

After I had completed 34 of my 44 critiques of David Madison’s polemics, Loftus felt compelled to chime in at his blog, and wrote:

The Rules of Engagement At DC

Some angry Catholic apologist has been tagging our posts with his angry long-winded responses. I know of no other blog, Christian or atheist, that allows for arguments by links, especially to plug one’s failing blog or site. I’ve allowed it for about a month with this guy but no more. He’s not banned. He can still come here to comment. It’s just that we don’t allow responses in the comments longer than the blog post itself, or near that. If any respectful person has a counter-argument or some counter-evidence then bring it. State your case in as few words as possible and then engage our commenters in a discussion. But arguments by links or long comments are disallowed. I talked with David Madison who has been the target of these links and he’s in agreement with this decision. He’s planning to write something about one or more of these links in the near future. [he never did: almost needless to say]

See my extensive reply to this. Recently, I was indeed banned from Debunking Christianity, for the supposed reason of being “obnoxious” (so I saw Loftus comment on another atheist blog). “Obnoxious” is cowardly atheist code for “anyone who dares to 1) confront atheist arguments, and actually 2) refute them. That’s “obnoxious”. That’s being an uppity Christian, and it will not be tolerated by the supremely confident, unvanquishable intellectual titans Loftus or Madison. Such atheists have no interest whatsoever in critique of their charges, because that goes against the illusion of invincibility, you see. They do all they can to ignore such counter-arguments and pretend that they don’t exist. It’s bad for business to not do that.

He notes there are probably no atheist books on a shelf labeled “Our Atheist Critics” in Christian bookstores. 

I have scores and scores of articles dealing with atheist criticism of Christianity on my Atheism web page. There are many books that address so-called “Bible contradictions” from a Christian perspective. These are largely brought up by either atheists or theologically liberal Christians who no longer believe in the inspiration of the Bible. The most famous one is Gleason Archer’s New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Recently, I compiled in one place my own many refutations of alleged biblical contradictions. So at least some of us deal with “our atheist critics”: who in turn, ignore these efforts.

Still it’s my hope to introduce Christians and others to Madison, an ordained Methodist minister who became an atheist. They should listen to those of us who have left the Christian fold and found the intellectual freedom to follow the evidence wherever it leads, rather than remaining zombies who just quote-mine from the Bible and the diverse theologies developed from it. What did we learn on the way to heaven that caused us to walk away from any hope of seeing our loved ones again after we die? Surely Christians should want to read one story or two, along with the arguments that convinced us to leave the fold of our upbringing. Surely!

Yes, we should definitely do so, alongside replies to this bilge, such as my own. It will strengthen the faith of any Christian to see how abysmally weak arguments like Madison’s and Loftus’ and those of many other anti-theist atheists are. I write replies to atheist deconversion stories, also, to demonstrate how their reasons for leaving Christianity don’t hold up under logical or factual scrutiny, either. When I did this with Loftus’ deconversion story (a shorter article about it), he blew a gasket and after a very short time could only reply with “you’re an idiot!” and suchlike.

You get the idea. Really intellectual and objective stuff . . . And the reactions to critiques of atheist deconversion stories are always basically the same (I know, having written 30 or so of them): how dare any Christian closely examine atheist reasons for apostasy (i.e., regarding atheists who were formerly Christians). Anger and fury almost immediately surface; and the “fangs” come out (Loftus being the absolute worst case I myself have observed; he had skin so thin even an electron microscope couldn’t detect it). But hey: it’s all fair game. They go after our beliefs and the Bible; we in turn scrutinize their supposedly compelling reasons for unbelief and apostasy.

[after noting Madison’s degrees and languages that he speaks] . . . don’t tell me he’s ignorant. That option isn’t available to you.

Nonsense. He’s certainly ignorant about 1) what the Bible actually teaches, and 2) how to properly interpret the Bible. He is also terrible at logic. I repeatedly demonstrate these things, and there is a good reason why he utterly ignores all that. It exposes him.

It’s David Madison against all the Christian apologetics in the world down through the centuries, and my bet is on him, hands down, no iffs [sic] ands or buts about it. 

Yeah, he’s so superior to all of our combined efforts that he can’t bring himself to tackle even one of my 44 critiques. That’s surely and undoubtedly pure superiority and supreme intellectual confidence. I’ve never seen a clearer example of it!

So it’s no surprise that some atheists are looking down on people who debunk religion when compared to others who are trying to build a better atheist, humanist or secular society. We’re told the latter are doing the harder work, the necessary work and the more important work. Madison disagrees, as I do.

Yeah, me too. I say: do this all you like. It shows again and again (when apologists and others refute them) how exceedingly weak, miserable, inadequate, illogical, and pathetic the atheist anti-biblical arguments are. So this provides a service to the Christian community, insofar as they manage to read the critiques such as my own: that anti-theists do all they can to obscure and make sure that atheists never know of their existence: lest their own lies be exposed for what they are.

I have argued for a test to help believers examine their own faith fairly and honestly, seen in my book The Outsider Test for Faith.

I refuted this argument of his in September 2007 and again in September 2019: to stony silence and crickets each time.

I think his book and writings are doing what needs to be done to disabuse Christians of their faith. We cannot have a piecemeal approach to debunking Christianity, debunking one belief or doctrine at a time. We must assault Christianity as a whole with a cumulative case. Nothing else will do, even if it means we cannot be experts in every area we write about.

And Christian apologists must defeat and demolish these efforts. I try my best to do just that.

He Doesn’t Care That Much If Christian Intellectuals Take Notice. No doubt Madison would like it if they did, but he doesn’t really care since he’s dealing with deluded people, all of them in some measure. So it doesn’t matter what university they graduated from or how many degrees they earned. He doesn’t need their validation as a credential to be proud about. They’re all deluded. Why should we care about their intellectuals (or better, obfucationists [sic] ) so long as we’re reaching people?

Ah, exactly! This at least explains (along with sheer cowardice) why he ignores me. It goes against the plan: as I noted above. As long as Madison can fool and hoodwink people, then it’s in his interest to make sure that his rabid followers never see any replies to his bilge. By contrast, a true thinker welcomes critiques of his or her work; relishes the challenge to either clarify or retract, as they case may be. That’s how actual intellectuals (true to the essence of the category) function. But I am thankful for this transparent (and rare) exposition of how atheist anti-theist polemicists like Madison, Loftus, and many others actually go about their business, minus intellectual integrity.

***
Photo credit: cover of John Loftus’ 2012 book from its Amazon page.
***
Summary: I critique the hypocrisy- & irony-filled analysis of atheist John Loftus regarding the work of his colleague David Madison. Both men ignore critiques & relentlessly display “atheist cowardice.”
***
December 23, 2020

How are we taught to act with regard to Jesus’ birth and Christmas, according to Scriptural models? We do definitely have those. An angel of the Lord told the shepherds in the field near Bethlehem: “I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11, RSV).
*
Then a “multitude” of angels were “praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest'” because of the birth of Jesus (Lk 2:13-14). The shepherds, after finding Jesus and worshiping Him, were “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Lk 2:20). Likewise, the wise men, along with their worship, “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Mt 2:10).
*

So we see how both angels and men reacted to the birth of Jesus, and it would seem to be a perfectly obvious response for Christians (we who follow and worship Jesus) to have. But an oh-so-pious extreme fringe of Calvinists wants to tell us that it’s wrong and unbiblical and immoral — against God’s will (and actually a form of idolatry!) — to celebrate the birth of Jesus our Lord and Savior and Redeemer. This is not only ridiculous in the highest degree, but wicked and blasphemous: to believe such a thing.

These are natural human emotions, and we can and should express them on holidays, with celebrations and happiness and joy and merriment. This is how King David acted before the ark of the covenant, which contained God’s special presence:
2 Samuel 6:5, 14-16, 21 (RSV) And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. . . . [14] And David danced before the LORD with all his might; . . . [15] So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the horn. [16] . . . King David leaping and dancing before the LORD . . . [21] And David said to Michal, “. . . I will make merry before the LORD.”
How much more do we and should we show joy and “make merry” and dance and play music to celebrate God becoming man? If we can’t be joyful and demonstrative about that (the Good News!), then we should about nothing at all.
***
Facebook friend Arjay Alejo helpfully suggested the following related biblical passages:
I was just thinking maybe we can also use some passages from the Book of Esther as one of the biblical models of Christmas celebration. It is written in Esther chapters 8 and 9 that the Feast of Purim was established to commemorate “…the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an Achaemenid Persian Empire official who was planning to kill all the Jews…” (Wikipedia). This feast was celebrated by the Jews in the way that we Christians celebrate Christmas or any holiday/ holy day as seen in the following passages:
Esther 8:15-17 And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating.
Esther 9:17-18 This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy. The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
Esther 9:19 That is why rural Jews—those living in villages—observe the fourteenth of the month of Adar as a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other.
Esther 9:20-22 Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
We can see that the Feast of Purim was not established by God but by a human being. Also, there are feasting, merrymaking, giving gifts to one another and other stuff people do during the Christmas season.

***

Photo credit: geralt  (10-22-15) [PixabayPixabay License]

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September 19, 2020

[SEE PART I]

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART II

VI. Back to New Testament Tradition (and a Rabbit Trail of “Absolute Assurance”)

VII. Zapping Church History and Bashing the Church Fathers


VIII. Paul, Pagans, Prophets, Plato, Patristics, and Protestant Pastors


IX. Pastor Bayack’s Word vs. the Word of God, Calvin, & Luther (Gospel and Baptism)


X. Parting Shots From Pastor Bayack


XI. Postscript: Why Pastor Bayack Decided to End This Debate

* * * * *
VI. Back to New Testament Tradition (and a Rabbit Trail of “Absolute Assurance”)
*
However, Stephen Ray remains undaunted. Catholic Tradition must survive and to prop it up he appeals to passages like 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6 where Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to keep the traditions that he gave them. It may seem as if he has found the support he needs. But are these verses part of the structure of Catholic Tradition or are they part of the explosion that brings it down? Let us look at each. In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul is writing to this church to let them know that the day of the Lord has not yet come and that Jesus Christ has not yet returned for His bride (verses 1-2).
*
He then goes on to explain in verses 3-12 what must first happen before the Lord returns which includes the frightful revelation of the “man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction” (verse 3) and all of the chilling activity that comes with his advent. And lest believers think that somehow they will be in peril because of these future events, Paul gives them a marvelous word of comfort in verses 13-14, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (italics added). Finally, in light of these word Paul gives his command in verse 15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”
*
What is the point? Simply this—Paul calls them to follow these traditions in light of their calling, election, and absolute certainty of their salvation, a teaching which is directly contradicted by Roman Catholic doctrine! This assurance is reinforced by what he said to them in his first letter, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). In other words, whatever these traditions were, they were in harmony with the doctrine of the believer’s assurance which Catholicism has long rejected. The traditions of this verse are in direct conflict with the Tradition of Rome.
*
First of all, this proves nothing at all with regard to the meaning of tradition because Pastor Bayack introduces a completely different subject matter. If he wishes to engage Catholics on the issues of soteriology, justification, assurance, etc., many of us Catholic apologists would be more than happy to oblige him, but to introduce that here is illogical and improper. Pastor Bayack’s burden is to show precisely what Paul means by his constant (not merely one-time) usage of tradition, and its being received and delivered.
*
I have shown, by much exegetical and linguistic biblical evidence, presented above (and directly below), that he and other New Testament writers mean by this the gospelthe word of God, the faith, etc. They are all the same entity. This can be clearly shown by a dozen of St. Paul’s statements to the Thessalonians alone:

1 Thessalonians 1:5 for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power . . .

1 Thessalonians 1:6 . . . you received the word in much affliction . . .

1 Thessalonians 2:2 . . . we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God . . .

1 Thessalonians 2:8 . . . ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves . . .

1 Thessalonians 2:9 . . . we preached to you the gospel of God.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 . . . you received the word of God, which you heard from us, . . .

1 Thessalonians 4:1 . . . as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God . . .

2 Thessalonians 1:8 . . . vengeance upon . . . those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 2:14 To this he called you through our gospel . . .

2 Thessalonians 2:15 . . . hold to the traditions . . . taught . . . by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 . . . pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph . . .

2 Thessalonians 3:6 . . . the tradition that you received from us.

Paul uses the words and phrases gospeltradition, and word of the Lord interchangeably even in the space of just five verses (2 Thessalonians 2:14-3:1)!!! So it is quite biblical and Pauline to say, “we must proclaim the saving tradition,” since “tradition” and “gospel” and “word of God” are synonymous in Paul’s mind and that of the Apostles. Therefore, this broad application can’t be reduced to a single usage and limited in its meaning, as the good pastor foolishly tries to do here.

*
I’m sure Pastor Bayack would agree with me that a fundamental (characteristically Protestant) rule of hermeneutics, is to compare Scripture with Scripture. I have done that, where tradition (paradosis) is concerned, and quite comprehensively. Pastor Bayack has not. But if he wishes to do so now, I’d be absolutely delighted to interact with his response to my exegesis.
*
Secondly, the argument he gives concerning “absolute certainty of salvation” is clearly logically fallacious (I shall treat it in passing, even though we stray from our subject). In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul writes that God chose you from the beginning to be saved . . . Well, sure: God chooses and elects who is saved. And it is “present” to God, not future, as He is outside of time. Welcome to Christian Theology 0101. This is Catholic doctrine, and we believe in predestination (of the saved, but not the damned) as well.
*
It is a binding dogma of the Church (for proof of this assertion, see related papers on my Salvation & Justification page). But Paul here does not teach that the believer himself is “absolutely” assured of his own salvation. The passage teaches nothing of the sort (only eisegesis forces it to); it merely states that God chooses his elect. God’s foreknowledge and omniscience are quite distinct from our fallible and sin-infected knowledge, as I’m sure Pastor Bayack would readily grant.
*
Thirdly, does Pastor Bayack wish to argue that every person in the Thessalonian church was amongst the elect, so that we should take this verse absolutely literally? That would hardly be a tenable position. This is a corporate address, and cannot be applied literally to each and every person in that church. Communities are always a mixed bag; we know this from Paul’s letters to the Galatians and Corinthians, and Jesus’ reprimands of the “seven churches” (note that He still regards them as “churches” despite most being pitiable examples of Christianity at best) in the book of Revelation (and any Christian’s own experience). If there are a few Christians to be found even in the lowly Catholic Church, according to our friend, then certainly there were a few reprobates who hung around the Thessalonian church . . .
*
Fourthly, the Apostle Paul himself possesses no such “absolute assurance” at all. Paul was not Luther, the one who was neurotically obsessed with figuring out whether God loved him or not. Paul is rather confident of God’s love, yet he never speaks of having already attained the prize of salvation:
1 Corinthians 9:27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
*
1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
*
Galatians 5:1, 4 . . . stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery . . . You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
*
Philippians 3:11-14 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own . . . I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
*
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.
*
1 Timothy 5:15 For some have already strayed after Satan.
*
[See also 1 Samuel 11:6, 18:11-12, Ezekiel 18:24, 33:12-13, 18, Galatians 4:9, Colossians 1:23, Hebrews 3:12-14, 6:4-6, 11-12, 10:23, 26, 29, 36, 39, 12:15, 2 Peter 2:15, 20-21, Revelation 2:4-5]
Catholics believe that every person can have a moral assurance of salvation, provided we examine ourselves honestly and thoroughly to determine if we are in right relationship to God and not engaged in gravely sinful activities. We assert that this is the biblical view, seeing that it is often stated that “fornicators, adulterers, idolaters, liars, thieves,” etc. will not inherit the kingdom (salvation).
*
Fifth, even John Calvin does not hold that someone other than God (I say, even the Apostle Paul, especially since he wasn’t even absolutely sure of his own election) could know whether another person was amongst the elect (though indeed he taught that one could be personally sure of their own election):
[W]e are not bidden to distinguish between reprobate and elect – that is for God alone, not for us, to do . . . (Institutes of the Christian Religion [McNeill / Battles edition, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960], IV. 1. 3.)
*
We must thus consider both God’s secret election and his inner call. For he alone “knows who are his” [II Tim. 2:19] . . . except that they bear his insignia by which they may be distinguished from the reprobate. But because a small and contemptible number are hidden in a huge multitude and a few grains of wheat are covered by a pile of chaff, we must leave to God alone the knowledge of his church, whose foundation is his secret election. It is not sufficient, indeed, for us to comprehend in mind and thought the multitude of the elect, unless we consider the unity of the church as that into which we are convinced we have been truly engrafted. (Ibid., IV.1. 2.)
*
Of those who openly wear his badge, his eyes alone see the ones who are unfeignedly holy and will persevere to the very end [Matt. 24:13] – the ultimate point of salvation. (Ibid., IV.1. 8.)
Sixth, right in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, in the immediate context of Pastor Bayack’s citation, Paul speaks of the traditions being passed by word of mouth; oral tradition, which is anathema to the Protestant position. So our friend will say that this was to cease when the Bible was completed. That’s a nice opinion, but that is all it is: Pastor Bayack’s own arbitrary opinion. It is nowhere stated in the Bible; therefore it must be dismissed as an extrabiblical notion; therefore contrary to sola Scriptura and certainly not an indisputable tenet of belief (even granting Protestant premises). So, indeed, the tradition referred to here is no Protestant tradition, as it includes authoritative oral proclamation, which is never regarded as temporary by the Apostles.
*
Seventh, if we wish to play this game of defining tradition by immediate context, rather than repeated usage, then Pastor Bayack’s argument will eventually backfire, simply by finding a context which goes against (much) Protestant teaching. For instance:
1 Corinthians 11:2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.
Following our friend’s method, let us see what the very next verse states (and how it will “define” this tradition):
1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband . . .
Now, any evangelical Protestant who takes any sociological note at all of what is going on in his own theological circles knows full well that feminism and unisexism is launching an all-out assault and infiltrating evangelical circles left and right. And no biblical doctrine is more despised by a certain “enlightened” feminist outlook as outdated, “patriarchal,” and oppressive, than the headship of the husband. The point is that, once again (as always), Protestantism (even at official denominational levels) is caving into the zeitgeist and fads of our time.
*
Apart from the ongoing ecclesiological and doctrinal chaos that has always typified Protestantism, there is certainly no present-day agreement about the meaning of this teaching of Paul, even in supposedly “orthodox” conservative evangelical circles. Yet (again, using Pastor Bayack’s own methodology against us), this is part and parcel of New Testament tradition! Paraphrasing our friend, and turning the tables:
    *
    Are these verses part of the structure of Protestant tradition [substitute the more accepted word “doctrine” for the faint of heart] or are they part of the explosion that brings it down?
If the example of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and its context “brings down” Catholic Tradition, then by the same token, 1 Corinthians 11:2-3 must bring down all the liberalized, compromised, secularized, “feminized” churches which are present by the thousands even in the evangelical Protestant milieu. There is no denying the problem. Francis Schaeffer (whom I greatly admire; and whom Steve Ray once studied with, at L’Abri in Switzerland) was “prophetically” writing about it for several years before his death, which was in 1984.
*
The same argument can be made concerning acceptance of divorce, abortion, premarital sex, female clergy, even homosexuality and euthanasia, in many evangelical circles today (not to mention contraception, which Luther and Calvin regarded as murder, and which all Christians opposed as gravely immoral before 1930). It is obvious that official, unchanging Catholic teaching on these and many other ethical, gender, sexual, and life issues, is far more in line with New Testament teaching than any particular brand of Protestantism is.
*
Thus, I submit that it is Pastor Bayack’s argument (and by extension, his theological/ecclesiological system) which is “brought down” by an “explosion” of New Testament (and even internal Protestant) logic. Not that incoherence or moral and doctrinal relativism in Protestant thought and theology is a rare thing . . . But let’s go on and see what else he attempts to come up with in his ongoing mission to “explode” the Catholic acceptance of the tradition of the New Testament and the Apostles.
*
Catholicism fares no better with a proper understanding of 2 Thessalonians 3:6. In that verse, Paul states, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition that you received from us.” He then goes on to explain beginning in verse 7 how he, Silas, and Timothy all led disciplined lives and worked for their own bread. The tradition that Paul speaks of here deals with the work ethic that “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (verse 10), and has nothing to do with things like the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, etc.
*
The Christian, apostolic, biblical tradition obviously includes ethical and behavioral elements. Does that mean, therefore, that it excludes various doctrinal elements (setting aside for the moment what exactly they might be)? This is an astonishingly weak and absurd and utterly irrelevant argument, especially coming from a trained minister of the gospel and student of the Bible. We obviously determine the complete extent of New Testament tradition by studying it as a whole. What Paul and Jesus teach in the New Testament books constitutes the tradition and gospel and word of the Lord. It is comprehensive; hence Jesus commands His followers, shortly before His Ascension, to baptize and make disciples, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . . ” (Matthew 28:20).
*
But beyond that, we also look to the early Church to determine what the gospel and tradition and “deposit of faith” was. The Apostles and other early Christians went out to preach to the world, and they didn’t simply stand and read Scripture to the crowds (though they certainly used it). What the early Church and early Fathers believed gives us a clue as to the whole extent of this New Testament tradition. They didn’t forget everything (at that early stage, they even had firsthand memory of what Jesus or His disciples had told them) as soon as the Bible was complete, c. 100. And memory was much better in that culture. It was an oral culture, where memory was cultivated from an early age. This has been documented time and again.
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And of course we find virtually all the Catholic distinctives present from the beginning (episcopal church government – bishops – , a literal Eucharist, baptismal regeneration, a priesthood, infused — not imputed — justification, apostolic succession, adherence to Tradition as well as Scripture, penance, prayers for the dead, the papacy, the communion of saints, Mary as the ever-virgin, Mother of God, and New Eve, a visible Church with councils {Jerusalem Council of Acts 15}, etc.). Doctrines develop, but they are present in kernel or fuller form from the beginning, whereas dozens of Protestant distinctives are nowhere to be found until more than 1400 years later (which scarcely suggests that they were apostolic).
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Three Protestant Bible Dictionaries agree with my basic contentions with regard to the nature of biblical tradition:
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Apostolic teaching – which included facts about Christ, their theological importance, and their ethical implications for Christian living – was described as tradition (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15). It had divine sanction (1 Cor 11:23; Gal 1:11-16) . . . Jesus rejected tradition, but only in the sense of human accretion lacking divine sanction (Mk 7:3-9). (J. D. Douglas, editor, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, revised edition, 1978, pp. 981-982)
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Appeals to authoritative Church tradition are found already in the earliest New Testament writings, the letters of Paul. Occasionally explicit reference is made to some material as traditional, including a particular set of ethical instructions (2 Thess 3:6), a set eucharistic formula (1 Cor 11:23-6), and a standardized recital of the death, burial, resurrection, and postresurrection appearances of Christ (1 Cor 15:3-7). Also recorded are more generalized references to Church traditions (1 Cor 11:2; Phil 4:9; 2 Thess 2:15; cf. Rom 6:17; Gal 1:9). . .. . The New Testament writings were first valued not as inspired Scripture but as deposits of apostolic tradition in fixed written form, to be interpreted authoritatively by the bishops and according to the rule of faith . . .
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Jesus did not totally reject the oral tradition . . . His own interpretation of the Torah in the Sermon on the Mount employs the scribal principle of ‘building a fence about the Torah’ – not simply by restricting external behavior more than the written law, but by pointing out that sinful interior urgings in themselves violate what the Torah seeks to control (Matt 5:21-2,27-8, 38-9). (Allen C. Myers, editor, Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1987; [English revision of Bijbelse Encyclopedie, edited by W.H. Gispen, Kampen, Netherlands: J.H. Kok, revised edition, 1975], translated by Raymond C. Togtman & Ralph W. Vunderink, pp. 1014-1015)
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Christian tradition in the New Testament therefore consists of the following three elements: a) the facts of Christ (1 Cor 11:23; 15:3; Lk 1:2 . . . ); b) the theological interpretation of those facts; see, e.g., the whole argument of 1 Cor 15; c) the manner of life which flows from them (1 Cor 16:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6-7). In Jude 3 the ‘faith . . . once for all delivered’ (RSV) covers all three elements (cf. Rom 6:17). Christ was made known by the apostolic testimony to Him; the apostles therefore claimed that their tradition was to be received as authoritative (1 Cor 15:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6). . . This combination of eyewitness testimony and Spirit-guided witness produced a ‘tradition’ that was a true and valid complement to the Old Testament Scriptures. So 1 Tim 5:18 and 2 Pet 3:16 place apostolic tradition alongside Scripture and describe it as such. (J. D. Douglas, editor, The New Bible Dictionary, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1962, p. 1291)
The context of these verses deals a crippling blow—not a support—to official Catholic Tradition. However, Stephen Ray conveniently ignores the context of these verses as he must.
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The above arguments show how ludicrous these contentions are, I think (especially the gratuitous “must”). If anyone is “ignoring context” (and proper exegesis), Pastor Bayack is. I’ve given at least ten times more biblical support for our view than he has given for his (if he wishes to counter-reply, then great). Even Protestant biblical scholars and commentators would not accept such a simplistic understanding of New Testament tradition, as just seen.
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They are far more in accord with my viewpoint than Pastor Bayack’s (i.e., concerning what tradition is, not, of course, with regard to its particulars, or our claims that it contains what are now “Catholic disctinctives”). But here we are discussing tradition generally, or generically. What it includes in all its particulars is another entire discussion. That requires biblical examination of each and every doctrine, and I do just that on my website, which is called Biblical Evidence for Catholicism.

VII. Zapping Church History and Bashing the Church Fathers
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Just about anything can be proven when Scripture is taken out of context and the old saying, “a text without a context is a pretext” applies very well to him. In fact, he is quite adept at ignoring the context of Scripture if an allegorical interpretation supports his point. When I challenged him about using extensive allegory, especially in reference to the Old Testament, he stated, “I have often used Old Testament passages in the same ‘patristic’ manner as the earliest Church Fathers” (11) and “If you mean by allegory that I interpret them patristically, I plead guilty” (11).
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I agree totally about the supreme importance of context. But I would contend that Pastor Bayack, too, is guilty of neglecting this (whether or not Steve Ray is). I’ve now spent many hours refuting his false claims, utilizing tons of Scripture in the process (and I have enjoyed it immensely, because I always love studying Holy Scripture). Let the reader judge who is being more “biblical” in their analyses and exegesis. General hermeneutical principles and the place of allegory are beyond my purview here. I refer Pastor Bayack and readers to my paper: Dialogue: Clearness (Perspicuity) of Scripture and the Formal Sufficiency of Scripture (with Carmen Bryant). That dialogue deals with hermeneutical issues (including the history of same).
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In this paper, one learns, for example, that the early heretics tended to believe in a hyper-literal interpretation of Scripture, to the exclusion of allegory, whereas the orthodox Catholic Chalcedonian trinitarians accepted allegory (though not denying a primacy of the literal interpretation). So this is yet another instance of Protestantism being analogous to the heresies in their theological method (just as in the case of sola Scriptura and in the tendency to reject apostolic succession and the crucial, indispensable function of history in Christianity).
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The Gnostics, for example, rejected the Incarnation (the Apostle John was already refuting them in John 1), so it was entirely predictable and logically consistent that they would reject Church history as well, since the Church is the embodiment of Christ and the continuation of His mission in time and space. Christianity is not a disembodied, ethereal religion. It takes in the physical world as well. In the Christian view, the body is good, sensory pleasure is good, and hence the Church and history are good, and sacraments bring together spiritual graces and physical means, just as God took on flesh and became man, thus raising human flesh and mankind to previously unknown sublime levels. This is the incarnational principle.
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Statements like this reveal another crutch that Stephen Ray must lean upon to support Catholic Tradition—the Church Fathers.
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Indeed, as any legitimate Christian system should, because Christianity is intrinsically historical. Many Protestants seem to take this dim view of Church history and the Fathers. But Christianity is historical at its very core, as Judaism before it was. It was confirmed by eyewitness testimony of miracles, and Jesus’ Resurrection; very much historical criteria of proof, credibility, and plausibility.
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What Pastor Bayack calls a “crutch” is absolutely essential to self-consistent Christianity, even in terms of getting the Bible itself into the good pastor’s hands. Without the Catholic Church and Tradition and Fathers we would not have the Bible we have today. Canonization (just like the authorship of the Bible) was a very human process. But the history of the Church is a continuation of Jesus’ Incarnation. God took on flesh and became man. After our Lord’s Ascension, the Body of Christ, the Church, continued the physical presence of Jesus on the earth, in a sense. God works with men; men are physical; the Church they belong to is physical in many ways (this gets into sacramentalism as well: another huge discussion, but see the many biblical proofs in my paper: Heartfelt Sacramentalism (Not Mere Charms).
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In my review I stated that he quotes them as though they were infallible and that nowhere in his book does he consider that they may contract Scripture to which the humble Mr. Ray responds, “With all due respect the above comment is nothing but stupid. Come on Mr. Bayack, of course some of the Fathers contradict Scripture some of the time” (16).
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I assumed that you believed as much, Mr. Ray, but that is not what I said, if indeed you truly read my review. I said that you treat them as though they are infallible, not that you believe them to be infallible. He continues, “Do I have to attach a disclaimer for each citation?” (11). No. But where do you give any disclaimer, even one, that the Church Fathers were prone to error? Judging by the way you so authoritatively referenced them, how is a simple mind like mine to conclude otherwise? 
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It is common knowledge (with the slightest study on the subject) that in Catholic, and Orthodox theology, the Fathers are not regarded as individually infallible. Even popes are infallible only when they authoritatively proclaim, not always. So I must agree that even the question and the distinction without a difference drawn betrays yet another lamentable instance of Protestant ignorance, which is never surprising to those of us who deal in Protestant misconceptions all the time, in the course of defending the Catholic Church. And, admittedly, it can get irritating and frustrating to us, so that we may not always respond as charitably as we should.
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I’m not sure if Steve makes a precise statement in either of his two books of exactly how patristic authority is regarded in the Catholic Church. I couldn’t locate one myself. If he doesn’t, I think it was an unfortunate omission, given the multitude of patristic citations in each book. He has, however, written an article which I have had on my Church Fathers page for some time (and it is available on his website): Unanimous Consent of the Fathers. In this paper (included in the Catholic Dictionary of Apologetics and Evangelism — Ignatius Press) Steve states (emphasis added):
The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by a few patristic witnesses does not harm the collective patristic testimony. The word “unanimous” comes from two Latin words: únus, one + animus, mind. “Consent” in Latin means agreement, accord, and harmony; being of the same mind or opinion. Where the Fathers speak in harmony, with one mind overall – not necessarily each and every one agreeing on every detail but by consensus and general agreement – we have “unanimous consent.” The teachings of the Fathers provide us with an authentic witness to the apostolic tradition. . . .
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A fine definition of Unanimous Consent, based on the Church Councils, is provided in the Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary,
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When the Fathers of the Church are morally unanimous in their teaching that a certain doctrine is a part of revelation, or is received by the universal Church, or that the opposite of a doctrine is heretical, then their united testimony is a certain criterion of divine tradition. As the Fathers are not personally infallible, the counter-testimony of one or two would not be destructive of the value of the collective testimony; so a moral unanimity only is required. (Wilkes-Barre, Penn.: Dimension Books, 1965, pg. 153)

VIII. Paul, Pagans, Prophets, Plato, Patristics, and Protestant Pastors
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Anyone who yokes his interpretation of Scripture together with the Church Fathers is often building on a perforated foundation—its appearance belies its strength. If Stephen Ray truly believes the Church Fathers to be fallible, then he should examine them as the Bereans did Paul in Acts 17:11 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 also). If the great apostle’s teaching was subject to examination, then that of lesser men should be as well. What most people fail to realize about the Church Fathers is that many of them often embraced a syncretistic approach seeking to harmonize Greek
philosophy and Biblical truth.
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“It was argued by some Christian apologists that the best doctrines of philosophy were due to the inworking in the world of the same Divine Word who had become incarnate in Jesus Christ. ‘The teachings of Plato,’ says Justin Martyr, ‘are not alien to those of Christ, though not in all respects similar. . . . For all the writers (of antiquity) were able to have a dim vision of realities by means of the indwelling seed of the implanted Word.” (Edwin Hatch, The Influences of Greek Ideas and Usages Upon the Christian Church [London: Williams and Norgate, 1895; repr., Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson, 1995], 126-27, parenthesis in original)
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The intent was to make Christianity appeal to the Greek mind. However, this approach is fatally flawed. Worldly wisdom is “earthly, natural, [and] demonic” as we read in James 3:15 and is directly at odds with divine wisdom as we read in 1 Corinthians 2. The carnal mind will never believe due to intellectual reasoning alone. He will not accept the things of God until the Lord opens his eyes and draws him to believe (cf. John 6:44). Thus the oil-and-water mix pursued by many of the Fathers often yielded hazardous interpretations of the Word of God. Poison plus water
equals poison.
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This is another huge subject, and Pastor Bayack is now revealing the common, most regrettable and unbiblical evangelical Protestant distrust of the mind and reason, and of selective truths which may have been (and often were) present in the nobler pagan minds such as that of Socrates, Aristotle and Plato. He wishes to contend that this “syncretistic” attitude is foreign to Christianity and the New Testament. It is not. Elsewhere I have written:
We observe the Apostle Paul “incorporating paganism” in a sense when he dialogues with the Greek intellectuals and philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17). He compliments their religiosity (17:22), and comments on a pagan “altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ ” (17:23). He then goes on to preach that this “unknown god” is indeed Yahweh, the God of the OT and of the Jews (17:23-24). Then he expands upon the understanding of the true God as opposed to “shrines made by human hands” (17:24-25), and God as Sovereign and Sustaining Creator (17:26-28). In doing so he cites two pagan poets and/or philosophers: Epimenides of Crete (whom he also cites in Titus 1:12) and Aratus of Cilicia (17:28) and expands upon their understanding as well (17:29).
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This is basically the same thing that the Church does with regard to pagan feasts and customs: it takes whatever is not sinful and Christianizes it. To me, this is great practical wisdom and a profound understanding of human nature. The frequent Protestant assumption that this is a wholesale adoption of paganism per se, and an evil and diabolical mixture of idolatry and paganism with Christianity is way off the mark . . . After all, the Apostle Paul is clearly guilty of mixing paganism and Christianity also. :-) Remember, it was Paul who stated:
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To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. (1 Cor 9:22; NRSV; read the context of 9:19-21)
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In my opinion, the Church’s practice concerning Easter, Christmas, All Souls Day, All Saints Day, etc. is a straightforward application of Paul’s own “evangelistic strategy,” if you will. That puts all this in quite a different light, when it is backed up explicitly from Scripture. The early Church merely followed Paul’s lead. Furthermore, skeptics of Christianity trace the Trinity itself to Babylonian three-headed gods and suchlike, and the Resurrection of Christ to Mithraism or other pagan religious beliefs, but that doesn’t stop Protestants from believing in the Triune God or the Resurrection. So this whole critique eventually backfires on those who give it. (Is Catholicism Half-Pagan?)
Let us continue. Stephen Ray is not finished in his support of Catholic Tradition. In his section “Questions for ‘Bible Christians’” on page 26, he draws upon Jude 9, 14-15 as support for oral Tradition being authoritative and even treating it as God’s Word. Is it?
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Jude 9 discusses the dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil over the body of Moses. While this event is not found in the Old Testament, it is found in the apocryphal book The Assumption of Moses. Verses 14-15 discuss a prophecy of Enoch which is also not found in the Old Testament but is found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Do these references support oral Tradition as being authoritative or that the Catholic Apocrypha is also part of the inspired Word of God?
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No, they do not. God at times allows His writers to quote truths from non-inspired sources to make a point. For example, Paul quotes ancient poets three times in inspired writings. In Acts 17:28 he quotes Aratus’ poem Phaenomena when he says, “Even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His offspring.’” Does this mean that Phaenomena is inspired or that the oral tradition which transmitted it is the Word of God?
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Is the same true of Menander and Epimenides because he quotes them in 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Titus 1:12 respectively? Man in his pursuit of knowledge occasionally intersects God’s truth. After all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
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But didn’t Pastor Bayack just say, above: “Worldly wisdom is ‘earthly, natural, [and] demonic’ as we read in James 3:15 and is directly at odds with divine wisdom as we read in 1 Corinthians 2.” ? Is this not contradictory to his present (true) point that pagans and other non-Christians may possess snippets of truth, even “God’s truth”? Perhaps he can return and inform us as to which of his two contradictory opinions he prefers. No one is saying that to merely quote some source makes it inspired per se, but it would seem to imply a considerable authority and trustworthiness of the source. Catholic apologist David Palm elaborates:
Jude relates an altercation between Michael and Satan:
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When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ (Jude 9).
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As H. Willmering says in A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture,
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This incident is not mentioned in Scripture, but may have been a Jewish oral tradition, which is well known to the readers of this epistle.
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Some versions of the story circulating in ancient Judaism depict Satan trying to intervene as Michael buries the body. Several of the Church Fathers know of another version in which Moses’ body is assumed into heaven after his death. Jude draws on this oral Tradition to highlight the incredible arrogance of the heretics he opposes; even Michael the archangel did not take it on himself to rebuke Satan, and yet these men have no scruples in reviling celestial beings.This text provides another example of a New Testament author tapping oral Tradition to expound Christian doctrine—in this case an issue of behavior. In addition, this text relates well to a Catholic dogma that troubles many non-Catholics—the bodily Assumption of Mary. There is no explicit biblical evidence for Mary’s Assumption (although see Rev. 12:1-6), but Jude not only provides us with a third biblical example of the bodily assumption of one of God’s special servants (see also Gen. 5:24, 2 Kgs. 2:11), he shows that oral Tradition can be the ground on which belief in such a dogma may be based. (“Oral Tradition in the New Testament”)
In my extensive and very enjoyable dialogue with a Baptist (who henceforth was never to be heard from again): Sola Scriptura, the Old Testament, and Ancient Jewish Practice, I drew the following conclusions from my numerous analogical and biblical arguments, which have some relevance to our present discussion. My friend was contending that the Old Testament Jews believed in sola Scriptura (i.e., their views on formal principles of authority were more consistent with Protestantism). I denied this (with many arguments), and maintained that they were much more similar to the Catholic “three-legged stool” of Scripture, Church, and Tradition.
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The same is true of events and quotations that God uses from apocryphal sources even if these sources were not inspired. (By the way, if Catholicism appeals to these verses in Jude as support for apocryphal inspiration, then why is neither The Book of Enoch nor The Assumption of Moses found in the Catholic Apocrypha?
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Because it’s an argument from analogy and methodology, not exact equivalence. The important and relevant point here is that there are many thinly-veiled references to the so-called “apocryphal” books which are in the Catholic OT canon in the New Testament, yet Protestants never think that suggests canonicity of those books; all the while they state over and over that when any of the 39 Old Testament books accepted by Protestants are cited, that this suggests their canonicity. Here are three examples of clear (though not technically “direct”) references to the “Apocrypha” in the New Testament:
Revelation 1:4 Grace to you . . . from the seven spirits who are before his throne. (cf. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6)
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Revelation 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. (cf. 5:8)
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Tobit 12:15 I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.
St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:29, seems to have 2 Maccabees 12:44 in mind. This saying of Paul is one of the most difficult in the New Testament for Protestants to interpret, given their theology:
1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
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2 Maccabees 12:44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.
This passage of St. Paul shows that it was the custom of the early Church to watch, pray and fast for the souls of the deceased. In Scripture, to be baptized is often a metaphor for affliction or (in the Catholic understanding) penance (for example, Matthew 3:11, Mark 10:38-39, Luke 3:16, 12:50). Since those in heaven have no need of prayer, and those in hell can’t benefit from it, these practices, sanctioned by St. Paul, must be directed towards those in purgatory. Otherwise, prayers and penances for the dead make no sense, and this seems to be largely what Paul is trying to bring out. The “penance interpretation” is contextually supported by the next three verses, where St. Paul speaks of Why am I in peril every hour? . . . I die every day, and so forth.
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And Hebrews 11:35 mirrors the thought of 2 Maccabees 7:29:
Hebrews 11:35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.
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2 Maccabees 7:29 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers. [a mother speaking to her son: see 7:25-26]
How is it that these non-inspired books could support Apocryphal inspiration?)
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The Catholic argument here is not so much to support the Deuterocanonical books, as it is to support the normative nature of an authoritative, non-canonical oral Tradition. We say that the “Apocrypha” is Scripture because it was declared so at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage (393, 397), along with the other books which Protestants accept. Our friends have the inconsistent principle, once again. The seven books they dispute were arbitrarily ditched in the 16th century because they contained clear proofs of doctrines (such as purgatory) which Luther rejected. But who gave Luther the authority to determine by himself what constituted Sacred Scripture? Who anointed him as God’s Holy Prophet or some sort of “pseudo-Moses”?
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Furthermore, in verse 14 Jude writes “Enoch . . . prophesied”. By contrast, notice how Matthew referred to the prophecy of Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:5, “For so it has been written by the prophet.” Enoch’s quote is inspired while Micah’s writings are inspired. Never is it said, “It is written” concerning The Book of Enoch nor any other apocryphal writing. Jude references Enoch’s prophecy, not the book. Neither the document nor its word-of-mouth transmission have the same authority as Scripture.
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See the above arguments and links. This paper is long enough. One can’t conquer the world in a single paper. Now we are engaged in extensive arguments about the biblical canon . . .
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And neither does Roman Catholic Tradition.
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I agree. The Catholic Church is the Guardian and Custodian of the Bible and Tradition. It is not equal to it, nor does it have any right or power to change God’s Tradition, the Gospel, or the Bible. Protestants, on the other hand, thought nothing of overturning doctrines which had been continuously believed and passed-down for 1500 years. This is indeed the usurpation of Scripture and harmonious Apostolic Tradition, so I suggest that Pastor Bayack examine his own Protestant house (all the hundreds of rooms in it).

IX. Pastor Bayack’s Word vs. the Word of God, Calvin, & Luther (Gospel and Baptism)
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ii. The Word of God
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Stephen Ray’s ability to handle the Word of God has also been weighed in the balance and found wanting. He is as obligated to follow Rome’s handling of Scripture as he is her Tradition, even if it means throwing himself into a vortex of error.
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But what does the Protestant do in this regard? Well, Joe Q. Protestant is an atomistic individual who (when all’s said and done) follows his own theological inclination wherever it may lead. There are plenty of “vortex’s of error” in Protestant ranks. There must be, because the mere existence of contradiction and competing theologies and Christianities logically requires that someone is in error. At least individual Catholics such as Steve Ray and myself consciously acknowledge and submit to an entity and Tradition far greater than one frail and fallible human being. At least Catholics acknowledge that the Holy Spirit has been talking to a lot of holy men and women for 2000 years (not just “me”), and that they may have learned a few things, a little bit in all that time that we can spiritually benefit from.
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G. K. Chesterton stated that “tradition is the democracy of the dead.” Protestantism, on the other hand, is more like the “dictatorship of the individual.” The wheel (theoretically, following the principles of private judgment and sola Scriptura) could be re-invented with every Protestant. Every Protestant is his own pope, and assumes more authority for himself than any pope ever dreamt of in his wildest dreams.
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Not surprisingly, Mr. Ray views this as a badge of honor. “Ignorant people like to claim Catholicism contradicts the Bible, but it was actually the great fidelity of the Catholic Church to Scripture and the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles that eventually caused me to convert to the Catholic Church” (7). “One of the nice things about being a Catholic is that there are no longer any verses that don’t fit or make sense, such as 1 Peter 3:31, John 20:23, Colossians 1:24, John 3:5, etc.” (11). He holds to the same line that I was taught in fourth-grade Parochial school, namely, that
since Roman Catholicism is supposedly an infallible Church, she possesses an infallible interpretation of Scripture.
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If this is so, then where is the official, infallible set of commentaries whereby I might look up the meaning of any and every verse? Surely a simple mind like mine would benefit from that. Yet none exists. Wouldn’t such a set be the invincible fortress which no heresy could assault? Why does Rome not give us the authoritative, once-for-all, verse-by-verse exposition of the Word of God which would forever silence her critics?
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Because the Church is concerned with guarding the apostolic deposit in its entirety, not requiring its members to believe a certain way about particular Bible verses. The Church declares infallible doctrines, not infallible interpretations of individual verses. Another case of the Catholic not being able to win, where its more vehement critics are concerned . . . We observe Pastor Bayack’s impassioned complaint and mocking tone above. Yet we can be sure that if there did exist a Catholic document giving a binding, dogmatic opinion on every verse in the entire Bible, that this would be considered the most tyrannical, oppressive, dictatorial phenomenon ever seen in world history.
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We should not hope for such a commentary anytime soon. And if Stephen Ray’s capability with the Bible reflects that of his Church, it is understandable why such a commentary will never exist. For example, he states, “Paul taught the churches many things . . . [including] how to ordain priests” (10). I am want to find such a passage! If Stephen Ray had any proficiency in Greek, he would know that the word for “priest” is the word hiereus (or archiereus for “chief/ruling priest”) and nowhere does Paul ever ordain a hiereus or teach a church to do the same. He did appoint elders in some churches (e.g. Acts 14:23) but the Greek word for “elder” is presbuteros from which we get our word “presbytery”. Never is the New Testament church office of presbuteros ever equated with hiereus.
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I will defer to a link (Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church), as I am rapidly tiring (after now more than 15 hours) of answering this paper, and its multitude of errors:
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Yet Mr. Ray’s exegetical skid does not stop there. When I made some remarks about the issue of baptism, he stated, “Paul’s converts were all baptized immediately upon belief in Christ (e.g. Acts 16:31) as he was himself (Acts 9:17-18)” (12).
Apparently he has never read Acts 13:12, 13:48, 17:4, 17:12, and 17:34 which make no mention of baptism accompanying belief among Paul’s converts. No doubt these believers were eventually baptized but contrary to Stephen Ray there is nothing in the text to suggest that it immediately followed belief. Several other passages also show us that not all converts were immediately baptized such as Acts 4:4, 6:7, 9:35, 9:42, and 11:21.
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But these are not the only blunders he makes regarding baptism. As I mentioned earlier he devotes over ninety pages of his book to supposedly prove baptismal regeneration, pages which include attempts to rebut Evangelical arguments opposing it. I pointed out that nowhere does he address 1 Corinthians 1:17 where Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” To this he responded, “I really don’t see what the above verse has to do with anything” (12).
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I am amazed at this statement! Surely Mr. Ray would realize that simple minds like mine would latch on to verses like this. And if my argument is so easy to refute, then doing so in his book would only strengthen his. Yet he ignores this verse, as he must, since it is one of the most potent against his position. If baptism was necessary for salvation, then Paul erred grievously by not baptizing everyone immediately upon belief. Why would he leave his listeners in eternal peril if they merely believed but had to wait for someone else to come along and finish the evangelistic job? What surgeon would shut down the operating room half way through a heart transplant?
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In 1 Corinthians 1:17 where Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” the Greek word for “but” is not the simple conjunction de but the adversative particle alla which is the plural of allos, meaning “another”. Anyone with even basic competence with Greek knows that alla denotes a sharp contrast. Paul’s distinction between baptism and the gospel could not be clearer.
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Again, since this is another major discussion, I will defer to my many papers on the topic on my Baptism and Sacramentalism page.
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Speaking now of the gospel, Stephen Ray continues his Biblical and theological ambiguity as he writes, “I am thankful to be part of the Church that has consistently taught the true Gospel from the very beginning. She has gone neither to the right nor to the left but stayed the course so that two thousand years later the Gospel is still proclaimed with truth and accuracy” (18).
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What is the gospel according to Rome, Mr. Ray? Interestingly enough, for your boast about the Catholic Church preserving the true gospel, you give no definition of it. Is it, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” as Paul told the Philippians jailer in Acts 16:31? Is it the same definition that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which I remind you again contains no mention of baptism or communion, the two sacraments your book so frantically tries to prove are essential to saving faith?
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The core and essence of the gospel is the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf, as our Redeemer and Savior. This is a biblical definition, as explicated in the papers:
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Many anti-Catholic Protestants, however (strangely enough), wish to go beyond the Bible’s own definition of “gospel” and define it in terms of the peculiar and exclusivistic Protestant sense of sola fide and imputed, extrinsic, external justification and instant assurance of salvation. In so doing, they deny that Catholicism possesses a true gospel.
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It cannot be this simple as Rome’s gospel is much more complex. It goes something like this, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized and receive communion, together with receiving as many of the other five sacraments as possible (in addition to praying to Mary and the saints for extra intercession), in the hope that you might go to heaven after you spend an indefinite period of time in that half-way hell of Purgatory.”
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Well yes, as shown above, since Tradition and Gospel seem to be synonymous in Paul’s mind, and since he seems to include all of Christian teaching in the category of tradition, and since Jesus commanded His disciples to teach all that He taught them, there is a sense in which “gospel” and “tradition” are all-encompassing, taking in the whole of Christianity. Words are often used in more than one sense in Scripture, as Pastor Bayack well knows.
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Now I am not passing judgment on individuals nor am I making a blanket statement that all Catholics are going to hell. “The Father . . . has given all judgment to the Son” as Jesus said in John 5:22 and we all do well to leave it with Him. However, we are to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and nowhere is this more crucial than the gospel.
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Indeed. Then how can so many Protestants get the biblical definition so wrong, and in so doing, read one billion Catholics out of the Christian faith because they supposedly lack the simple gospel?
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These irreconcilable differences in understanding the gospel mean that Stephen Ray and I cannot be on the same team (as he well knows) in spite of his statement, “It is sad when I have to lock horns with someone who claims the name of my Savior Jesus Christ—one with whom we should lock arms in love to take a united stand for Christ in the midst of a pagan culture” (1, italics in original).  
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So Martin Luther, because he believed in baptismal regeneration, is on a different team than Pastor Bayack (a non-Christian team?) and all the Protestants who take a different view of baptism? After all, Luther (always the great super-hero and Protestant champion whenever he disagrees with the Catholic Church) wrote:
Little children . . . are free in every way, secure and saved solely through the glory of their baptism . . . Through the prayer of the believing church which presents it, . . . the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by inpoured faith. Nor should I doubt that even a godless adult could be changed, in any of the sacraments, if the same church prayed for and presented him, as we read of the paralytic in the Gospel, who was healed through the faith of others (Mark 2:3-12). I should be ready to admit that in this sense the sacraments of the New Law are efficacious in conferring grace, not only to those who do not, but even to those who do most obstinately present an obstacle. (The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520, from the translation of A. T. W. Steinhauser, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, revised edition, 1970, p. 197)
Likewise, in his Large Catechism (1529), Luther stated:
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    Expressed in the simplest form, the power, the effect, the benefit, the fruit and the purpose of baptism is to save. No one is baptized that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare [of Mark 16:16], that he may be saved. But to be saved, we know very well, is to be delivered from sin, death, and Satan, and to enter Christ’s kingdom and live forever with him . . . Through the Word, baptism receives the power to become the washing of regeneration, as St. Paul calls it in Titus 3:5 . . . Faith clings to the water and believes it to be baptism which effects pure salvation and life . . .When sin and conscience oppress us . . . you may say: It is a fact that I am baptized, but, being baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and obtain eternal life for both soul and body . . . Hence, no greater jewel can adorn our body or soul than baptism; for through it perfect holiness and salvation become accessible to us . . . (Edition by Augsburg Publishing House [Minneapolis], 1935, sections 223-224, 230, pp. 162, 165)
Even John Calvin, though he denied baptismal regeneration, believed in a host of extraordinary effects from baptism. He certainly wouldn’t wish to minimize it at all (or the larger concept of sacramentalism itself), like Pastor Bayack does. He also accepted the validity of Catholic baptism, so that all he describes below applies to all baptized Catholics. Calvin stated in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.15.16 (McNeill / Battles edition, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), that:
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    Such today are our Catabaptists, who deny that we have been duly baptized because we were baptized by impious and idolatrous men under the papal government . . . baptism is accordingly not of man but of God, no matter who administers it. Ignorant or even contemptuous as those who baptized us were of God and all piety, they did not baptize us into the fellowship of either their ignorance or sacrilege, but into faith in Jesus Christ, because it was not their own name but God’s that they invoked, and they baptized us into no other name. But if it was the baptism of God, it surely had, enclosed in itself, the promise of forgiveness of sins, mortification of the flesh, spiritual vivification, and participation in Christ.
Calvin’s biographer Francois Wendel writes (probably referring to this very passage):
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The Anabaptists repudiated the baptism that they had received at the hands of Roman Catholic priests, on the ground that the latter were unworthy and unable to confer true baptism. Calvin replies that what matters is that we should have been baptized in Christ, and that notwithstanding any errors or unworthiness in him who administers baptism the divine promise is fulfilled towards us. (Calvin: The Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, translated by Philip Mairet, New York: Harper & Row, 1963 [originally 1950 in French], pp. 322-323)
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So (according to John Calvin) all Catholics are indeed brothers in Christ, and Christians. He states, e.g., in Institutes IV.15. 1:
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    Baptism is the sign of initiation by which we are received into the society of the church, in order that, engrafted in Christ, we may be reckoned among God’s children.
And in IV.15. 3:
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    But we must realize that at whatever time we are baptized, we are once for all washed and purged for our whole life . . . we may always be sure and confident of the forgiveness of sins . . . For Christ’s purity has been offered us in it [baptism]; his purity ever flourishes; it is defiled by no spots, but buries and cleanses away all our defilements.
To nail this point down (like Luther and his 95 Theses), I again summarize what Calvin writes about the effects of all Catholic baptisms, as well as Protestant ones:
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    1. “forgiveness of sins”2. “mortification of the flesh”3. “spiritual vivification”4. “participation in Christ”5. “received into the society of the church”6. “engrafted in Christ”7. “reckoned among God’s children”8. “washed and purged for our whole life”9. “sure and confident of the forgiveness of sins”10.”Christ’s purity has been offered us in it [baptism]”11.”his purity ever flourishes; it is defiled by no spots, but buries and cleanses away all our defilements”
Therefore, utilizing the reasons of Luther and Calvin themselves, I assert that Pastor Bayack and all Protestants (whether temperamentally anti-Catholic or no) ought to accept Catholics as Christians and brothers in Christ, and to not place them in an inherently inferior spiritual category. Argue points of theology, yes, but exclude from the Body of Christ? May it never be . . .
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Did Paul “lock arms” with the Judaizers who infested the churches of Galatia? Think of all the beliefs they shared. Both were Monotheists. Both believed the same Old Testament Scriptures. Both had a similar morality and were repulsed by the rank paganism around them. Both esteemed the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law. They had many important, fundamental beliefs in common. But there was one difference in belief which would never be bridged—the nature of justification.
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Paul embraced justification on the basis of faith alone but the Judaizers also believed that keeping the Law was necessary. Imagine how they could have appealed to Paul: “Paul, our differences aren’t so great. Look at all that we have in common. We really just disagree in this one area. You believe in justification by faith alone, and we believe in faith plus keeping the Law and the traditions practiced by our fathers and their
successors and are still proclaimed nearly fifteen hundred years later with truth and accuracy. Let’s pull together that we might fight as one.”
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But how did Paul react to the Judaizers? “We did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you” (Galatians 2:5). Regardless of whatever beliefs they may have had in common, their differences on this one vital issue would keep them forever apart.
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How, then, can both Calvin and Luther accept Catholic baptism? Furthermore, we know Luther allowed those who still believed in Transubstantiation to join his party in 1543, only three years before he died (Letter to the Evangelicals at Venice, June 13, 1543). Writing about the Elevation of the Host in 1544, Luther stated:
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“If Christ is truly present in the Bread, why should He not be treated with the utmost respect and even be adored?” Joachim, a friend, added: “We saw how Luther bowed low at the Elevation with great devotion and reverently worshiped Christ.” (Mathesius, Table Talk, Leipzig, 1903, p. 341)
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In 1545 Luther described the Eucharist as the “adorable Sacrament,” which caused Calvin to accuse him of “raising up an idol in God’s temple,” and of being “half-papist.” Hadn’t the Founder of Protestantism, restorer of the “gospel,” co-originator (with Calvin) of sola fide and sola Scriptura read about Paul and the Judaizers?! Why didn’t he know what Pastor Bayack knows?!
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And what are we simple-minded folk to believe, with such confusion and counter-claims swirling all around us, courtesy of our ever-competing, ever-dividing, mutually-anathematizing Protestant friends? I think now — at any rate — I can sympathize with Pastor Bayack’s plea, as a simple-minded pilgrim; a somewhat tortured and tormented soul, trying so hard to comprehend all this. It took 15 hours, but I am here, and we now have that in common, if little else.
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So it is forevermore with those who embrace the gospel of faith alone and those who embrace faith plus works of any kind.
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The biblical doctrine is grace alone through faith, with inevitable good works resulting, as part and parcel of the nature of saving faith. See my web page: Salvation and Justification for many biblical proofs. Another very long discussion . . .

X. Parting Shots From Pastor Bayack
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Conclusion
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My opinion about Crossing the Tiber remains the same—it is a masterpiece of tangled, selective scholarship which will only widen the path of many on the already broad road to destruction. It’s that simple.
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So Steve Ray is in effect leading people to hell as a deluded “Pied Piper” himself. What a monstrous and unfounded thing to say. I think Pastor Bayack should think very seriously about his own words, in light of our Lord Jesus’ warning:
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Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.
I need not say anything more. Mr. Ray, though, is sure to say plenty more and I concede the last word to him, as I must. When it comes to who can shout the loudest, I’m no match for him. He is sure to have the last word that he might triumph over every critic. Yet Scripture will have the ultimate last word and will triumph over every error that threatens the gospel of grace by which we are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
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Note that Pastor Bayack conveniently bows out of the dialogue with a gratuitous parting shot (as opposed to a legitimate biblical rebuke); most unseemly, coming from a man of the cloth. This means I won’t — sadly and disappointingly — expect him to respond to my paper (an outcome not altogether unexpected, though). If he does I will be delighted and pleasantly surprised, but I won’t hold my breath. The good pastor says that Scripture will have the last word. Indeed it will, and it has — I think — in this paper. I haven’t “shouted” to the best of my knowledge, but I have offered an awful lot of Scripture. I apologize upfront for any excess of language or undue judgment or rashness.
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If my esteemed Protestant brother truly respects that Scripture which he expounds upon every week from his pulpit (to much good effect, no doubt – and I mean that sincerely), then surely he will return and interact with this massive presentation of it, and not disappear like so many others I have dialogued with, under the pretense and empty excuse that his Catholic opponents can only special plead, eisegete, make personal attacks, and offer no cogent biblical arguments. I will be anxiously awaiting Pastor Bayack’s decision.
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Praise God for sending His Son to fully pay the price for my sin. Praise God because salvation is a totally free gift which we merely receive. And praise God for a gospel so simple that a mind like mine can understand it.
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Amen! Would that Pastor Bayack could understand that Steve Ray and I both wholeheartedly concur with him in this particular statement, and so does the Catholic Church. What he intended to be a stark dividing line between us instead turns out to be a refreshing area of agreement (if only he knew that).
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May Stephen Ray “become foolish that he may become wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18).
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He is an extraordinary fool for Christ, I can assure anyone, having known him for 17 years and having observed his many labors for the gospel and the kingdom, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic. No doubt Pastor Bayack accomplishes much good as well in his ministry. We hope and pray that he can remove the present slanders and misunderstandings of the Catholic Church from his thoughts and writings, so as to foster more unity and respect among fellow Christians.
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And no, I have not as of yet observed Pastor Bayack being convinced by the least jot or tittle of any of Steve’s arguments, so I don’t need to modify an earlier statement I made tentatively, in which I noted a certain (and possibly hypocritical) double standard in the pastor’s numerous stern personal judgments of Steve Ray, and highly doubted whether Rev. Bayack would do any better with regard to the sort of behavior for which he indignantly excoriated Steve. My suspicions in that regard have now been wholly confirmed and unchallenged, having reached the end of Pastor Bayack’s critique.

James 3:1, 6, 9-10 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with a greater strictness . . .

    . . . And the tongue is a fire . . . With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.

XI. Postscript: Why Pastor Bayack Decided to End This Debate 
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The following is my response: “Rev. Bayack Bows Out of Debate With Steve Ray & I, But Why?” (22 August 2000) to the posted letter of Pastor Bayack (21 August 2000) on Steve Ray’s Catholic Convert Message Board. As his letter was public, so is mine. His response follows. His words will again be in blue:
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Dave Armstrong informed me of his response and I appreciate him doing so.
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You’re welcome. I will send this counter-reply directly to you also.
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Just as I mentioned in my second article, I have neither the time nor need to address every point that Stephen Ray made concerning my initial review.
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Then why did you write a second lengthy reply, if time was an issue? You could have easily bowed out then, for ostensibly the same reasons you are giving now. I would hope that such dialogues are not based on a “need” to engage in them, but rather, on truth (on both sides). The latter is my motivation, pure and simple.
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You accused Steve of leading people down the path of destruction. As a pastor and one who is so opposed to Catholicism as a false, counterfeit version of Christianity, isn’t it incumbent upon you to refute its errors, so as to save multitudes from hell? Here is your opportunity to appear on my website, to reveal truth to all those caught in the clutches of darkness, and this is the reason you give to bow out of the discussion now?
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The same is true with Mr. Armstrong’s response.
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I figured there would be no answer. I’m well-used to that routine. It seems that anti-Catholic Protestants love to “dialogue” with Catholics who are ignorant of their faith, because that serves their purposes. But as soon as one offers a vigorous challenge back, then suddenly time becomes an issue, and even “family,” as we see below.
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You brought up a number of new issues in the portion of your reply I dealt with, including the perpetual virginity of Mary. Don’t you think it is a matter of intellectual honesty that you now deal with the counter-arguments I gave (including many citations from Luther and Calvin)? Aren’t you even interested in doing so, apart from whether or not you have the time?
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I conceded the last word to them and plan no further website writings regarding Crossing the Tiber.
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Why are you doing this, since you started the exchange in the first place? Why do you not want to follow through with the discussion until some real progress towards the attainment of truth is made in either a concession on either side, or at least an increased understanding? Isn’t that one of the purposes of such discussion and the seeking of truth?
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Or were you simply seeking a “mutual monologue” scenario and a chance to preach to the choir on the “Proclaiming the Gospel” website? Having gotten to some real “meat” and legitimate, worthwhile issues, now it is all over? Then send someone else along who does have time to defend your propositions against a lowly Catholic critique. Surely any first-year Protestant seminary student could run rings around a Catholic, right?
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This happens so often that it reminds me of Jehovah’s Witnesses who grace all our doorsteps (invariably in the middle of some pleasant or necessary activity). I have witnessed to hundreds of these people. They are very interested in discussion as long as they have a person willing to gullibly accept all that they say as gospel truth. But as soon as one raises a few objections, or mentions the contradictions of their past history (as I do, having studied them), then all of a sudden they start glancing at their watch and remember that they were supposed to be somewhere 10 minutes ago.
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Likewise, I cannot guarantee individual responses to those who seek to contact me.
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I understand that, and do it myself, but a dialogue that you started and promulgated on a public website is something else again, I think. I think that if you were truly confident of your position, that you would not stop the discussion once some hard questions are asked of you.
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Jesus Christ, the Man who had more to say than anyone else who ever lived, actually said very little in terms of recorded content. Truth does not require a voluminous defense. Error does.
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The history of opposition to all the heresies and errors in history would mitigate strongly against this ludicrous opinion. It was always the case that when the Church Fathers were challenged by the heretics, that they developed their thought and it became more complex. Arianism brought us the Nicaean formulations of the Trinity; likewise, Monophysitism brought us the Chalcedonian formulations, etc. Furthermore, if you were correct, why, then, are there scores of anti-Catholic websites and ministries and books, making quite a voluminous defense (and attack on us) indeed? Why do they not simply proclaim the simple gospel?
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While the differences between Stephen Ray/Dave Armstrong and me are of eternal significance, I nevertheless respect their time as family men and do not wish to detract further from their legitimate time demands. It was never my intention to provoke an endless debate over Crossing the Tiber.
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This illustrates the rampant contradictions in your stated reasons for ceasing debate. If these issues are of “eternal significance,” and since you started the dialogue by your critique, then should you not follow through and refute all our errors, for the sake of the lost?
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Why would you pass up the golden opportunity, e.g., of refuting me on my own website? I will upload each and every word you write, along with my response, just as I did with my reply. This is a mystery to me. It’s one thing to say Steve and I are simply fools who don’t deserve a reply in the first place, but having decided Steve was at least worthy of a reply, now you bow out, just as it gets truly interesting.
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As for family matters, this is a moot point as well. Obviously, Steve’s lovely wife Janet approves of what he does, and he spends many, many hours devoting himself to this sort of thing. True, he asked me to help, but that doesn’t get you off the hook. My beautiful wife Judy is equally willing to let me spend all the time I need for the sake of defending Christian truth and the Catholic Church: the one Jesus founded. This is a non-issue. No doubt your wife (I’m assuming you are married; I don’t know) is well-used to you having many duties in the course of your pastorate. If not, then you should have remained single, no?
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Even my very spiritually-aware 7- and 9-year-old sons would happily allow me to answer a man who tells lies about the Church they love to attend every Sunday. My 3-year-old recently came to understand that he ought to love God more than me. So if I told him that a man was attacking the Church that God set up for the purpose of helping us follow Jesus and get to heaven to be with Him eternally, even he would understand to some extent that this was important work.
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Again, I say that if time and respect for Steve’s family responsibilities (and now mine) were an issue, you should have never responded the second time. You speak in these very cordial and respectful terms now, but you weren’t very kind to Steve in your last response. Here (to refresh your memory) is how you described the reason for your bowing out, even before I entered into this thing:
My opinion about Crossing the Tiber remains the same—it is a masterpiece of tangled, selective scholarship which will only widen the path of many on the already broad road to destruction. It’s that simple. I need not say anything more. Mr. Ray, though, is sure to say plenty more and I concede the last word to him, as I must. When it comes to who can shout the loudest, I’m no match for him. He is sure to have the last word that he might triumph over every critic. Yet Scripture will have the ultimate last word and will triumph over every error that threatens the gospel of grace by which we are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
How quickly opinions change! First, it was because Scripture is able to defend itself, with no need for anyone else to fight error, that you decided to stop the dialogue. Then it was out of respect for Steve Ray’s and my family (which is no issue of concern at all for us). But above we see what I believe is the real reason: more personal attacks against Steve Ray, which typified your entire letter. For those who haven’t seen your reply, this is the sort of rhetoric which appears in it:
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It is amazing how everyone (e.g. William Webster, James White, myself, etc.) who crosses him is an arrogant mental midget, his spiritual inferior and intellectual doormat. Mr. Ray deals with them only as one is forced to deal with a pesky gnat since he considers them to be about as potent and intelligent. Quite naturally he makes no concessions to me, simpleton that I am.
If you now regret such statements, then I hope you have the decency and honesty to say so. Meanwhile, I haven’t forgotten the type of language you used against Steve, and I’m sure he hasn’t. He doesn’t regard it as a matter of personal “woundedness” or sensitivity any more than I do. For both of us, it is a matter of Christian ethics, charity, and an unfortunate straying from the serious subjects to be discussed.
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I challenge you to find someone else to finish your own counter-reply to Steve for you, if you are unable or unwilling to do it (for whatever reason). We will not sit idly by as our Church and the Ancient Faith is attacked with falsehoods, half-truths, revisionist history, double standards, etc., peppered with all sorts of personal attacks on those of us who believe with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind that Catholicism is the fullness of apostolic Christianity and spiritual truth.
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But there is a big difference between Steve and I, and you. When we talk to our children about you, we will respect you as a sincere Christian, follower of Jesus, and brother in Christ. We won’t say that you are leading people to hell, or special pleading, etc., etc. At worst we would say that you hold to some erroneous views, yet that you still had much more in common with us than not.
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What would you tell your children about us, or Catholics in general? That is a major difference here. But also, that Steve and I will not run from an attack on those truths which we believe and hold dear. We will defend them as long as we have opportunity, or else concede the argument and change our own opinion (as we both did when we converted). Steve’s website is aptly named.
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You, however, will defend your views only until they are seriously counter-challenged from Scripture, history, and Tradition, at which point you will appeal to the Bible’s ability to withstand all error without human aid, and family and time considerations, even though you state outright that the issues involved are of “eternal significance.”
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I don’t mean to pile on you, personally. Part of my frustration and passion, no doubt, is due to seeing this same sort of pattern over and over again. I get tired of it, and so some of that shows. But I stand by what I say, and I will always defend any of my papers against all critiques, or else concede when my opinions have been overthrown in a debate.
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Since your words and this reply were both posted on a public bulletin board, I will add this to the end of my critique, along with any further comments you wish to make.
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May God bless you and your ministry,
Dave Armstrong
It must have taken you a couple of hours to draft this post. Perhaps not. At least it would have taken me that long and it is time that I simply do not have. You may be able to devote several hours per day to Catholic/Protestant polemics but I am not.
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In case you didn’t notice, Stephen Ray had his initial response to my book review posted for nearly two-and-a-half years before I posted my second article. Sure I was guilty of procrastination and indecision whether or not to respond, but once I got started with my response, it took me over two months to complete, not two hours. And to be perfectly honest, I haven’t even finished reading your response. I’ve only scanned it and don’t know when I will read it entirely, if ever. I don’t know what you do for a living but my main ministry is being the Pastor of a small church which requires more time than I can give. And as passionately as I feel about these issues, they remain a secondary ministry for me, at least for now. As I stated previously, should I make any changes to my articles, I will inform you and Stephen Ray.
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I am neither apologetic of my beliefs nor unable to defend them. However, I have found that no matter whatever exegesis I may offer, it is met with the most egregious eisegesis imaginable. If this is to be the nature of debate, then it is not worth the time of either of us. I must focus my time on those who are interested in truth.
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I express my appreciation to Stephen Ray for acknowledging the gracious nature of my e-mails to him, even though we are both very direct in our writings. His e-mails to me are typically the same. I wished that I could say the same about your post.
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And I am eternally grateful to men like James White, James McCarthy, Mike Gendron, et al., who are able to give their full-time efforts to the gospel of grace through faith alone. (How blessed to understand the precious truth of “you have been saved” [Gk. “sesasmenoi”, Ephesians 2:8].) It is an honor to be counted among them and to share in the insults they receive, of which there will be plenty.
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Praise God that He chose me from eternity past to be among His elect! Praise God for delivering me from self-righteousness! Praise God for the free gift of eternal life! Praise God that I have been justified by the work of Christ alone! Praise God that salvation is totally of faith and nothing of works! Praise God for the assurance that I will go to heaven when I die! “How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee, to dwell in thy courts.” (Psalm 65:4)
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Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christus,
Chris Bayack
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Nothing needs to be said in reply to this. I think it speaks for itself, and virtually affirms my stated opinions.

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(originally posted on 22 August 2000)

Photo credit: official portrait of Catholic apologist, author, and tour guide Stephen K. Ray, from his website [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

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