Thursday, July 30, 2009

Eastern errancy

I'd like to respond to this comment on my blog about the inerrancy of the Scripture and harmonisation from my Eastern Orthodox friend David Bryan, and as always, to ask him please to correct any misconceptions I've incorporated about EOC. I understand whenever you have to cut this off; moving cross-country is no easy task. But I think the problem for your position is deeper than you realise, I really do.

Men wrote the thing, yes, but "men carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Don't you believe that your church is guided by the Holy Spirit? Why can't someone turn the same objection back on your church? I mean, it's made up of MEN.
What's really funny to me is that it's your church that believes in theosis, faithful believers' partaking in the divine nature. These 4 Evangelists were, I'm sure you'd agree, much, much farther along in their being conformed to the image of Christ than you or I will ever be (until we die). Thus they would have been much closer to God, better, deeper partakers of the divine nature than you or I. And yet, here you are
1) correcting them according to your far-removed, 21st-century perspective.
-The irony here is that EO-dox are usually the ones criticising Reformed believers for looking at early writers and the Scr from a far-removed, future perspective.
2) making a powerful distinction between man and God.
-The irony here is that EO-dox are usually the ones who, from a Reformed perspective, shrinks and blurs the distinction between man and God.

All that to say, in this line of reasoning, you are acting like a liberal Protestant. That's not a good thing, but unfortunately it's not the only area in which EO-dox do so.

Maybe it's not as apparent to you for another reason. I've asked both you and Anastasios about the role that evangelism and apologetics play in the life of the semi-serious and serious EO layman, and you've told me that the former is inadequate and the latter is barely existent. Anastasios in particular let me know that he'd never heard of an EO apologist engaging, say, an atheist in public debate. I could be wrong, but I'm not at all sure you have encountered many atheists or skeptics and really talked turkey with them about stuff like this. So let me come at it from another angle.

You're talking to Joe American Skeptic. You tell him you believe that Jesus Christ instituted a church while He was walking the Earth, and entrusted it to His disciples, and His disciples spread the good news of Jesus all around the world and appointed other people to take their places when they died in the churches and to celebrate the sacraments of Christ, like baptism and the Eucharist. So, this church has come down to us through the years with successions of bishops, which is kind of like what you'd call "pastors".

You tell him you believe the Bible, that you believe what the Bible says and also what the church has always believed down through the centuries. You know, b/c the guys who were handed down the tradition of the church from the apostles and then on down through their successors, they all taught the same things.

So he wonders if it is true? For example, what would you say the sign above Christ on the Cross actually said, in its entirety? Each gospel account stated something explicitly regarding what the sign said, when in reality only one of the four was actually right, at best, and the other three (or all four) were (in some cases drastically) in error as to what the sign actually said after all, right? (He hadn't read Seth's comment, which clears up the misunderstanding.)

You'd say you're fine with one gospel saying one inscription and another saying sthg else, because men wrote the thing. Inspiration doesn't necessarily produce airtight, factual data synchronization. There's still far and away enough agreement as to the major events (Nativity, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost) that Scripture very strongly stands as a faithful witness to the Advent of Christ and the reality of His Church.

He wonders if inspiration doesn't necessarily produce factual data, how do you know that the Resurrection, for example, actually, factually happened?
You'd answer that you have the faithful witness of the church down thru the centuries. It's a lot of people.

Here's where it gets sticky. He thought that "a lot of people" is what caused the problem in the first place - multiple ppl write these varied accts of what was written above the Cross. But suddenly more people is a good thing?

So, what will you say? That you have a succession of people who heard from the teachings of the apostles themselves, no?

But hadn't the Gospel writers also heard from them? Weren't at least a couple of them eyewitnesses? Why do you rely on early church writers when the earliest ones are untrustworthy?
Or do you trust them for SPIRITUAL truth but not other kinds of truth? How do you make the distinction when the truth in question is not only spiritual in nature, such as
1) the Crucifixion
2) the Resurrection
3) the promised Parousia
4) the new Heaven and the new Earth
5) the theosis of the faithful

On what basis do you assert that those are indeed faithfully transmitted, while other things, such as the Cross inscription, were not? Is it just b/c you don't understand how the Cross inscription accts could fit together (even though Seth explained how)? Why is it better to ascribe error to a production of the Holy Spirit rather than to admit that you don't understand how it could all work together, but God knows and, while often He does make that knowledge and understanding available to humans, sometimes He just doesn't. You talk about mystery an awful lot in EOC; why do you abandon it in this arena? Where does the Bible itself distinguish between "OK, here's some spiritual truth, so this is really the real truth, for real," and "Here's some other stuff about, you know, the physical surroundings, the historical narrative. This isn't really a big deal. In fact, you could probably skip over it, b/c 21st-century archæologists will be able to totally reconstruct the whole thing WAY better than I'll be able to tell it here. So yeah, just fuggedaboudit (2 Maccabees 15:38-39)"?

The same questions go for early church authors. Only, there were alot more of them! You think the 4 accts are irreconcilable, but 40 different early church authors all saying different things is a better situation? Will you retreat to "oh, well, ____ was just speaking as an individual, private theologian, and the church's reaction to it over time bore out that he was mistaken"? But when all the church fathers hold the Scr in highest regard and ascribe no error to it thru hundreds and hundreds of years and thousands of pages, somehow *you* know better, with your 21st-century wisdom and insight?

Is this where following EO tradition leads someone? Is it really that far out of the vein of EOC tradition to hold to the inerrancy of the Bible?
And of course, we must ask, if it is, how would anyone know for sure? After all, if God-breathed Scripture is errant, what hope have non-theopneustos writings from men who were *not* "carried along by the Holy Spirit"?

(cross-posted at my blog)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I got myself banned

So in this I guess I stand in the footsteps of many better men before me.
I've been putting in some time at Mark Shea's blog, and I guess I made it as long as I did before the ban is because he was out of town the last 4 days of last week. I thought he'd be happy to have me, since I drove his combox to just under 160 comments. That kind of pub don't come easy, you know. But it all started to crumble when I compared his behavior and unnecessarily insulting language (in fact, I was just agreeing, as did another commenter, with a different commenter) to that of Art Sippo and Tim Staples. Although, he's probably right to censure me for that. I mean, with such irenic comments as:
Liar. You intend war on Holy Church.
what other conclusion would anyone (like Ben Douglass - thanks for trying, Ben) draw?

(BTW, hopefully Mark appreciates the traffic I'm thus driving to his site. One can only wish he'd present arguments worthy thereof.)
(It's also very interesting that Mark got all bent out of shape by my comparisons of him to Art Sippo and Tim Staples. One can only wonder why that is...)

Anyway, the long combox for the primary conversation I was engaged in might be worth the read, at least somewhat. Let me draw out two of the primary points I was making, the former of which never saw a rebuttal and the latter of which I was, amazingly, dealing with the entire time.

1) Mark Shea had said in the OP:
The whole "Scripture is perspicuous" thing is a classic case of elevating human tradition to the level of equality with the word of God. It works like this: the enthusiast for the doctrine of the "perspicuity of Scripure" reasons "God always does what is best. Having a Bible that is perspicuous is best. Therefore, God has done that."

(You can play that game with anything you like, by the way: "God always does what is best. Having the gift of tongues is best. Therefore, God grants all believers the gift of tongues." "God always does what is best. Health and wealth are best. Therefore, God will all believers to be healthy and wealthy.")
I kicked it off with:
Y'all in the RCC argue that way, though, all the time for the Marian dogmas. Come now, don't forget your own legacy, where you've been. You're ripping your own strategy now.
I got one irrelevant rebuttal, then a request for specifics, which I provided:
Specifically, here are a few:
Two (here citing Bishop of Neapolis in Cyprus in the 7th century)
Matatics vs White on the Marian Dogmas
Then, later:
My point is that this exact argument was lambasted by Mark Shea when used to support the perspicuity of Scr. I point out that RCs use it for one of Shea's pet doctrines, and people get all upset.
And finally:
In fact, on his own Catechism, interestingly:

1380 It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us "to the end,"209 even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us,210 and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love...
Not to mention the fact that I don't know of anyone who's ever used that type of argumentation, as TurretinFan also pointed out.

2) People and their agreement as standard of truth.
I suppose it's what one should expect from a man-centered religion like Rome's, but it gets a little tiresome after a while. For example, from commenters sympathetic to the Roman side of things, with my responses below them:
-Of course, this begs the question of how a former Protestant like myself became convinced that the RC church does possess apostolic authority and hence a valid magesterium.
-If it's so simple, why do you disagree with so many people?
There's that fallacy again! Why do you keep trying to make PEOPLE the standard of truth? You think Jesus did that or sthg?

From Vatican Council I (1870), on the primacy of Peter and Papal Infallibility:

"This doctrine is to be believed and held by all the faithful in accordance with the ancient and unchanging faith of the whole church....To this absolutely manifest teaching of the sacred scriptures, as it has always been understood by the catholic church, are clearly opposed the distorted opinions of those who misrepresent the form of government which Christ the lord established in his church and deny that Peter, in preference to the rest of the apostles, taken singly or collectively, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction."

Yet many ppl, even RCs, don't hold to this. If it's so simple, so ancient, unchanging, absolutely manifest, always understood by the catholic church, and if the opposition is distorted opinions, why do you disagree with so many people?
The answer is clear - people's agreement is not the standard of truth. Remember what Jesus said about the narrow and wide gates?

-Why do so many people disagree about Calvinism if its supposedly the truest form of Christianity, based solely on perspicuous Sacred Scripture?
Why do so many people disagree about RC dogma if it's supposedly the truest form of Christianity, based on the living-voice infallible Magisterial authority, who can step in and clear up doctrine disputes?
How many times do I have to say this? People are not the standard of truth. Wide gate vs narrow gate. I came not to bring peace, but a sword. Let me add to that 1 Cor 11:
18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.

-Whereas both you and the United Methodists (who ordained my friend) think you're entirely right and fully Christian with no consciousness of rebellion to God or his church.
Same goes for the women priests. THEY think THEY'RE right. They think they're rightfully dissenting from the oppressive patriarchal structure of RCC, but they are the heirs to the true church.
Once again, you're trying to make people the standard of truth.

All in all, a very satisfying excursion across the Tiber. It's often comforting to know things haven't changed over yonder.

Tidbits Till Saturday

Jason Engwer has put together an interesting entry: Are The Letters Of Ignatius And Polycarp Forgeries? based on Allen Brent's Ignatius Of Antioch (New York, New York: T & T Clark International, 2009). Great stuff, a worthy read.

On the other hand, a Romanist apologist seems to have finally gotten a copy of What Luther Says (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959; one-volume edition; tenth printing). If this is so, expect a torrent of Luther related posts.

Someone over at the Catholic Champion commented on my recent look at Cyril's "out of the New Testament" tidbit:

It appears that Lecture 18, which clearly puts Saint Gregory at odds with a Scripture Alone mentality, is not something Mr. Swan feels the need to address. I did notice that he jumped all over you about asking him a simple question about Lecture 17 that was not even elaborated on, and Mr Swan even went and posted something on his blogsite about it. Yet he wrote nothing about 18 which you did elaborate on. Interesting, but not surprising.

I simply didn't get to it yet, and I probably won't until at the earliest, next week. As to "jumping" about a simple question, that translates to: looking up a quote no one expected me to. The mis-reading by Matthew was so atrocious on Lecture 17, that I wasn't very inspired to look up his other references.

Here was an interesting exchange on my post about Gregory of Nyssa's Unwritten Traditions. It's funny how those with their feet sunk firmly in the mud on Rome's side of the Tiber will not admit the translator blundered with the Greek. In the link, the Romanist who insisted that the word for Scripture has a negative modifier, ἀ, shows his own ignorance. The negative modifier in Greek is ἀ, but that's not the modifier in this word...The modifier is ἀνά, meaning "on or upon." The word ἀνάγραπτοι means "written upon" or "recorded." Can't at least one zealous defender of Rome admit the translator got it wrong?

Catholic apologist Mark Shea has quite a mouth when it comes to defending Romanism. His comments on Eric Svendsen in this post and this post show that from the heart, the mouth speaks. I look forward to the next time a zealous defender of Romanism brings up Luther's language.

I had an interesting tine on Iron Sharpens Iron interviewing David DiSabatino on his Larry Norman movie. The MP3 can be found here.

I had lunch with Chris Arnzen on Monday. His cell phone rang, he looked at his caller I.D. to see who's calling and says, "Hey, it's Harold Camping." I suggested he should have ended the call by saying, "...and thank you for calling, and shall we take our next call please..." I hope everyone enjoys the debate.

A few people are trying to follow me on Twitter, but I don't really go anywhere, so I've never posted anything on it.

I will be checking out of cyber space for a few days.

Mark Shea Says...Time for a Little Clarity... to which Catholic apologists are buddies, and which are not:

"Bob Sungenis is lying when he says he is running a piece "courtesy of" yours truly. He has neither my permission, nor the permission of the reader I quote and refused to take it down when I wrote demanding he do so. So the guy knows nothing of "courtesy". But the internet being what it is, he can cut and paste anything and I can't stop him. However, in case you are wondering, I have nothing to do with Sungenis' little enclave of anti-semitic kookery and bad science nuttery."[source]

"Bob [Sungenis] decided he is incapable of error and headed out into space. I do not wish to be associated with his anti-semitic nonsense, nor with his geocentric rubbish. He has chosen to ignore his bishop's request to avoid spewing his anti-semitic garbage. Any sensible Catholic would stay a mile away from this junk." [source]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Radio Interview: David Di Sabatino - Fallen Angel, The Outlaw Larry Norman

I'm going out to WNYG radio this afternoon to co-interview Canadian documentary filmmaker David DiSabatino on his second movie, Fallen Angel, The Outlaw Larry Norman. The interview will be on Chris Arnzen's Iron Sharpens Iron show. The show can be heard live at at 3 PM.

This documentary, as well his documentary on Lonnie Frisbee, provide interesting commentary and insight into the early "Jesus Rock" movement. I recommend both if you have interest in this period of contemporary church history.

The Norman movie is particularly special for me, as in my youth I was quite a fan of his music. Norman was sort of like the Bob Dylan / Johnny Cash of Christian music. He was a truly fascinating individual.

I began listening to Christian rock music in the late 70's as a young kid. Now, when you like The Beatles, The Who, and Led Zeppelin, making the switch to Keith Green, the Second Chapter of Acts, and Amy Grant isn't an easy transition to make. At that time, there were only a few artists that were worth my time as long haired guitar playin youth. Larry had a wide range of music- everything from a slow balled to grunge rock blues, to quirky piano music .

It's very interesting now from an adult Reformed worldview to analyze those things that captured my interest over the years. As Calvin so well stated, "Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols." A young person will often look to a famous person, rather than Jesus. The one thing David's movie is a reminder of watching out for what comes off the assembly line.

Steve Ray's "Always reforming, always in need of reform"

From Steve Ray's blog:

If you heard a goofy homily this weekend about the multiplication of loaves and fish — a trendy priest or deacon saying it was no miracle, Jesus just taught selfish people to share the food they had with them — click here.

And also:

Some of the homilists who teach this nonsense do it because of poor training themselves. I pity because the seminaries failed them; they were encouraged to follow trendy innovations without wise mentors to properly guide them. But others chose to follow “modern” deviations that broke with established Church teaching and practice. Some who promote the “caring and sharing” reinterpretation of the miracle are driven by a suspicion of private property and favor a socialistic political agenda for redistribution of material goods, like Catholic Robin Hoods who take away from wealthy to give to the poor. Not that sharing and generosity are bad; they are not. Loving God and loving one’s fellow man is the heart of the law of Christ. But to reshape these miracles like wet clay to fit a socialist agenda is disingenuous and wrong.

Yeah, you know all those Protestants with their differing interpretations, it's good thing Rome doesn't have that problem. If one does come across it, one needs only to "click here" on Steve Ray's blog for the answer:

I hope I never have to endure another such arrogant and foolish homily. I hope my kids and grandkids will never have to endure the 70’s at Mass, either by listening to insipid homilies, pitiful additions and deletions to the sacred liturgy, or priests who think they are 2,000 years smarter than Jesus, the gospel writers and the holy popes, bishops, priests, martyrs and Doctors of the Church. I am very proud to be Catholic and very happy to watch the 70’s fading into the past as sanity begins to return to various pockets where silliness has infiltrated for the last few decades. One of the Church’s mottos rings true at this point: “Always reforming, always in need of reform.”

Always reforming, always in need of reform? Hey that's what we say... ah, never mind. I'm sure we don't mean the same thing.... Not exactly sure how you "reform" something that's infallible...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Martin Luther, the grandaddy Reformer, acknowledges the importance of the "papists"

From the CARM boards-

Martin Luther, the grandaddy Reformer, acknowledges the importance of the "papists"

“We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists [Catholics] – that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it” (Martin Luther, commentary on St. John, chapter 16).

Not quite: Luther: The Infallible Church Declared The Contents of Scripture?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cyril's Proof for God's Special Revelation Outside of Scripture

Even to me, who tell thee 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.- Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture IV, Section 17

That's straightforward isn't it? Recently, Matthew Bellisario commented on this quote saying, "Saint Cyril however never tells us that Scripture alone is how the Church receives its only Divine Revelation and where it gets its only authority from."

I presented this question to Matthew: If Cyril believed in another infallible "voice of God", I'd be willing to see your proof. That is, demonstrate that Cyril likewise told his readers to look to "x" to see the rest of God's infallible deposit given to humankind. As the quote stands, it really does sound like Cyril was telling his readers to check him out based on Scripture.

Matthew responded:

Hi James, thanks for stopping by. What do you make of this text by St. Cyril from Catechetical Lecture No 17 focusing on the Holy Spirit?

"1. In the preceding Lecture, according to our ability we set before you, our beloved hearers, some small portion of the testimonies concerning the Holy Ghost; and on the present occasion, we will, if it be God's pleasure, proceed to treat, as far as may be, of those which remain out of the New Testament: and as then to keep within due limit of your attention we restrained our eagerness (for there is no satiety in discoursing concerning the Holy Ghost), so now again we must say but a small part of what remains. For now, as well as then, we candidly own that our weakness is overwhelmed by the multitude of things written."

So, I went and looked up the quote. If Cyril's statement "if it be God's pleasure, proceed to treat, as far as may be, of those which remain out of the New Testament" is the key phrase from Cyril that was meant as an answer to my question, one would expect Cyril to then launch into these things "outside."

Take a look though at Lecture 16.32, which is the last statement before Lecture 17:

32. And indeed it were easy to collect very many texts out of the Old Testament, and to discourse more largely concerning the Holy Ghost. But the time is short; and we must be careful of the proper length of the lecture. Wherefore, being for the present content awhile with passages from the Old Testament, we will, if it be God’s pleasure, proceed in the next Lecture to the remaining texts out of the New Testament. And may the God of peace, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, count all of you worthy of His spiritual and heavenly gifts: - To whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

He says he's going to "proceed in the next Lecture to the remaining texts out of the New Testament" meaning, now that he's looked at texts out of the Old Testament, then on to the New Testament.

The point is not that's he's looking at extra biblical revelation from God outside the Scriptures, but rather, he's going to look at proof "out of" the New Testament. In fact, skim through Lecture 17, and count the verses he uses from the New Testament, it is literally, a multitude.

I haven't read a lot of Cyril's writings. If indeed Cyril held to another infallible voice of God other than the Scriptures, Lecture 17 isn't proof for it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gregory of Nyssa: We have a tradition coming down to us from the Fathers

Here's a Gregory of Nyssa quote I came across on the CARM boards:

"Let [Eunomias] first show, then, that the Church has believed in vain that the Only-begotten Son truly exists, not made such through adoption by a Father falsely so-called, but existing as such according to nature, by generation from Him Who Is, not estranged from the nature of Him who begot Him...And let no one interrupt me and say that what we confess should be confirmed by constructive reasoning. It suffices for the proof of our statement that we have a tradition coming down to us from the Fathers, an inheritance as it were, by succession from the Apostles through the saints who came after them." - St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-95) Against Eunomius (Jaeger Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, Vol. 2, pp. 84-85).

The thread in which it appears is entitled, Who invented Sola Scriptura? Since it wasn't that long ago that I posted a bit on Gregory of Nyssa, I was curious about this quote. I'm very tempted to say the quote come from Jurgens, although one finds the exact bibliographic information (from of all places) a quote from Robert Sungenis on the aomin website. In other words, I'm a bit suspicious if the person using it actually read the context.

This is a popular quote. The actual context can be found in the The Post-Nicene Fathers:

Let our author, then, show this to begin with, that it is in vain that the Church has believed that the Only-begotten Son truly exists, not adopted by a Father falsely so called, but existing according to nature, by generation from Him Who is, not alienated from the essence of Him that begat Him. But so long as his primary proposition remains unproved, it is idle to dwell on those which are secondary. And let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our fathers, handled on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them.

In the CARM thread, I briefly responded that what wasn't done by the use of this quote is define what is meant by "tradition." In the quote cited, Gregory is comparing an established position with "undemonstrated nonsense." He's saying if someone puts forth a new position without establishing it, there is no good reason to accept it. When it came to defeating Euonomius, Gregory does not appear to rely on some other infallible authoritative content as a means of argumentation. "Tradition," in the quote cited, does not contradict sola scriptura. To prove Gregory's statement is against sola scriptura, you've got to prove Gregory believed in another source of infallible truth by this statement. "Tradition" for the early Christian writers is usually referring to a basic, foundational outline of belief about God and Christ, or refers to practices and rites not doctrinal or dogmatic.

One of my favorite recent blog posts is Turretinfan's What Gregory of Nyssa Considered Inspired. (By the way, Turretinfan appears to have considerably more time available on the Internet than I do!).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sungenis vs. Hahn

Sungenis: "I’m afraid that the attempt by Mitch and Hahn to deal with the “works of the law” issue is symptomatic of a basic misunderstanding of the whole issue of justification, as well as a misunderstanding of how the Old Covenant relates to the New Covenant."

Sungenis: "So, the long and short of it is this: we need to stop going to the Protestants for our understanding of Justification, whether it’s Joseph Fitzmyer’s attempt to say that justification is “forensic” in his New Jerome Biblical Commentary, or Scott Hahn’s attempt to say that “works of the law” refers only to the ceremonial law or that works are only required in “final justification.” These divergences arise because of a basic misunderstanding of how the Old Covenant relates to the New, which is the same problem we are having today when Catholic prelates deny supersessionism and teach that the Old Covenant is still valid for the Jews today. One small error can send us off in a hundred different, but erroneous, directions."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Quotable Sippo #8

I have an occasional feature called, "The Quotable Sippo." It's very simple, I just let Catholic apologist Art Sippo speak for himself. Recently, Dr. Sippo provided some of his insights, and well... let's just let the good doctor speak for himself:

Well, TECHNICALLY, the only true texts of the Bible were the autographs in the original languages whaich are long gone. Every version that we have is a copy of a copy of a copy.... etc. And vernacular paraphrases (there is no such thing as a tranlsation: TRADUTORE TRADITORE) all suffer from some deficiencies.

This is one reason why "sola scriptura" is assinine. It is utterly unworkable.

Um, didn't Jesus use a translation called the septua... ah, never mind.


I think that what we really need is a more LITERAL Bible translation (similar to the old RSV) with good Catholic notes. It also needs to take into accounthe differneces between the Septuagint Greek OT (especially those quoted in the NT) and the Hebrew texts.

Dear Dr. Sippo.... Your wish has come true! Pick up a copy of The New Catholic Answer Bible put together by a team of Professional Catholic apologists! Wait a minute.... shouldn't the Magisterium be putting out a Bible with "good Catholic notes....ah never mind...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Luther Changed Genesis 3:15?

From the Catholic Answers forum:

I was told that Gen 3:15 was always translated as "she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."(D-R translation) until Luther changed it to "he" and "his". Is this true? What is the word in the original language, is it gender neutral? Why would Luther change it, didn't he have a great devotion to Mary?


And It will crush your head, and you will crush Its heel.

How amazing, how damnable, that through the agency of foolish exegetes Satan has managed to apply this passage, which in fullest measure abounds in the comfort of the Son of God, to the Virgin Mary! For in all the Latin Bibles the pronoun appears in the feminine gender: “And she will crush.” Even Lyra, who was not unfamiliar with the Hebrew language, is carried away by this error as by a swollen and raging torrent. So he is brought to the wicked position, despite the text, that he understands this passage of the Blessed Virgin, through whom, by the mediation of her Son, the power of Satan has been broken. He applies to her the statement in Canticles (Song of Sol. 6:4): “Thou art terrible as an army set in array.” Although he offers this opinion as one which he has received from others, his great sin consists in not refuting it. All the recent interpreters have followed along and misused this most sacred statement for the purpose of idolatry, without anyone objecting to it or preventing it.

This happened through either ignorance of negligence on the part of the rulers in the church. Because they offered no resistance to idolatry, sound teaching gradually disappeared. Now that we have restored it by the grace of God, these shameful and gluttonous beasts show clearly that they do not care about the worship of God but only about their ecclesiastical revenues. Because idolatry seems to afford protection to these revenues, they are provoked when men are taught the truth. In their blindness they do not see that those who accept the teaching of the Gospel lose nothing except their sins and eternal death, but gain freedom from all idolatry and from the rule of Satan.

Therefore let us thank God that now we have also this passage unimpaired and restored. We do not want to take away from Mary any honor which is her due; but we want to remove the idolatry contained in the statement that by giving birth to Christ, Mary has destroyed all the power of Satan. If this is a true statement, does not the same honor belong to all the other women who preceded Mary in the same line? In fact, a portion of this glory will belong also to their husbands and to all the ancestors of Mary. For if she had not had these, she herself would not have existed either, since she was born in wedlock according to the usual order of nature. If, therefore, she has destroyed Satan by giving birth to Christ, her ancestors must be given a position of honor on the same level.

But Scripture teaches us otherwise and declares (Rom. 4:25): “Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification”; likewise (John 1:29): “Behold the Lamb of God, which bears the sins of the world.” Therefore let the Blessed Virgin keep her place of honor. Among all the women of the world she has this privilege from God, that as a virgin she gave birth to the Son of God. But this must not be permitted to deprive her Son of the glory of our redemption and deliverance.

Then we must be careful to preserve the real meaning of the Holy Scriptures and their truly wonderful light. When we are given instruction in this passage concerning the enmity between the serpent and the woman—such an enmity that the Seed of the woman will crush the serpent with all his powers—this is a revelation of the depths of God’s goodness. Satan understood this threat well; therefore he has continued to rage against human nature with such great hatred. Adam and Eve were encouraged by this promise. Wholeheartedly they grasped the hope of their restoration; and, full of faith, they saw that God cared about their salvation, since He clearly declares that the male Seed of the woman would prostrate this enemy. The order of words in this sentence is very forceful.

He says “her Seed.” It is as if He were saying: “Through the woman you, Satan, set upon and seduced the man, so that through sin you might be their head and master. But I, in turn, shall lie in wait for you by means of the same instrument. I shall snatch away the woman, and from her I shall produce a Seed, and that Seed will crush your head. You have corrupted the flesh through sin and have made it subject to death, but from that very flesh I shall bring forth a Man who will crush and prostrate you and all your powers.”

Thus this promise and this threat are very clear, and yet they are also very indefinite. They leave the devil in such a state that he suspects all mothers of giving birth to this Seed, although only one woman was to be the mother of this blessed Seed. Thus because God is threatening in general when He says “her Seed,” He is mocking Satan and making him afraid of all women.

In the same way the faith of all people was strengthened; from the hour in which the promise was made they waited for the Seed and derived comfort from It against Satan. When Eve had given birth to her first-born son, she hoped that she already had that Crusher. Although she was deceived in this hope, she saw that eventually this Seed would be born from among her descendants, whenever it might be that He would be born. Also so far as human beings were concerned, therefore, this promise was very clear and at the same time very obscure.

Isaiah (7:14) threw some light on this when he said that a virgin would give birth, for at that time it was already sure that this Seed would not be born as the result of the union of a man and a woman. But he adds certain other statements which, so to speak, he wraps around his prophecy. So it was that this very clear promise remained dark until Mary had given birth; the angels were witnesses of this birth, and after the angels the shepherds and the Magi, until this birth was revealed to the entire world through the apostles.

Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 1: Luther's works, vol. 1 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (1:191). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

But I return to the text. This very clear promise is at the same time also very obscure, because God speaks in general of “the Seed of the woman.” Thus at the same time He makes all women suspect to Satan and worries him with endless concern and care. It is, therefore, an amazing instance of synecdoche. “the woman’s Seed,” He says. This means all individuals in general; and yet He is speaking of only one individual, of the Seed of Mary, who is a mother without union with a male. Thus the first little expression, “I shall put enmity between you and the woman,” seems to denote all women in general. God wanted to make all women suspect to Satan; on the other hand, He wanted to leave the godly with a very certain hope, so that they might expect this salvation from all who gave birth, until the real one came. In the same way this “her Seed” is spoken most individually, if I may use this expression, concerning the Seed which was born only to Mary of the tribe of Judah, who was espoused to Joseph.

Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 1: Luther's works, vol. 1 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (1:195). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Luther: Noblemen, townsmen, peasants, all classes understand the Evangelium better than I or St. Paul

Over on the Catholic Answers boards, a person asked for information about a few Luther quotes:

Jul 18, '09, 11:22 am
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Does anyone know what the original date and source for these quotes by Martin Luther? I see them quoted often in books and on line, but haven't reference seen the original source materials (i.e., one of his letters, books, speeches or sermons). Thanks in advance!

"This one will not hear of Baptism, and that one denies the sacrament, another puts a world between this and the last day: some teach that Christ is not God, some say this, some say that: there are as many sects and creeds as there are heads. No yokel is so rude but when he has dreams and fancies, he thinks himself inspired by the Holy Ghost and must be a prophet"(citation: De Wette III, 61. quoted in O'Hare, The Facts About Luther, 208.)

"Noblemen, townsmen, peasants, all classes understand the Evangelium better than I or St. Paul; they are now wise and think themselves more learned than all the ministers." (citation: Walch XIV, 1360. quoted in O'Hare, Ibid, 209.)

The Catholic Answers participant is simply asking for original date and source. As to the first quote, The source is To the Christians at Antwerp April, 1525. I took a look at it a while back here: Luther: "There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads..." (see also my follow-up entry here). The second quote is more obscure. It comes from at least two different sources. The remainder of this entry will focus on the later quote. The simple answer is that the quote is an August 1532 Table Talk utterance.

Roman Catholic Polemical Use
The second quote has been very popular with Rome's defenders. Patrick O'Hare cites it here in his The Facts About Luther. O'Hare states,
Seeing his power and authority to control the masses gone, he now in a spirit of disappointment sarcastically remarks: "Noblemen, townsmen, peasants, all classes understand the Evangelium better than I or St. Paul; they are now wise and think themselves more learned than all the ministers." (Walch XIV, 1360.)
There are a number of English translations of this quote. Here are a few examples:
"Peasants and nobles know the Gospel better than St . Paul or D. M. Luther; they are wise and they think themselves better than all their clergy." (Walch XIV, 1360) [link]
He once said, " Nobles, citizens, peasants, I might add almost all men, think they know the Gospel better than Dr. Luther or St. Paul himself; and look down on pastors, rather on the Lord and Master of pastors. . . . The nobles seek to govern, and yet know not how. The pope knows how to govern, and does govern. The least papist is more capable of governing than—I cry them mercy—ten of our court nobles."[link]
On one occasion he said, " Nobles, citizens, peasants, everybody, anybody, knows the gospel better than Dr. Luther, or even St. Paul himself. They all despise the pastors of God, or rather, the God and master of pastors." (Tischreden, 5)[link]
"Our nobles, citizens, peasants, nay, every man, believe That they understand the Scripture much better than Dr. Luther, or than St. Paul himself! They despise their teachers, or, rather, the Lord, who is the teacher of all."[link]
"Now everybody, anybody, knows the Gospel better than Dr. Luther, or even St. Paul himself. Nobles, citizens, peasants, despise the pastors of God, or rather the God and Master of pastors." [link]
"Peasants and noblemen know the Evangelium better than St. Paul and Dr. Martin Luther, they are clever and think themselves better than their pastors"[link]

There are at least two sources for this quote. The quote as cited by Father O'Hare (and others) is "Walch XIV, 1360." This page can be found here (in the upper corner to the left of page 789 it says "Walch XIV, 1360"). The writing is entitled, D. Martin Luthers Prophezeiung nach dem Abscheiden des Churfürsten Johannes, August, 1532 (Martin Luther's Prophecies after the death of Elector John of Saxony). Elector John died in August 1532. To my knowledge, no complete English translation has been done of this writing. A footnote at the bottom of the page explains this writing appears to be a collection of Tischreden statements.   This would make sense since another version can be found in the Table Talk. The source therefore is most likely the Table Talk.  The utterance states,

The text can also be found here from a version of the Table Talk from the early 1700's (right column, first paragraph). A lengthier utterance can also be found in WA TR 2: 259 (1906b). Keep in mind, Luther did not write the Table Talk. The Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death.

There are a few English translations of this Table talk utterance found in older versions of this source, none quite exact as the German paragraph above or the lengthier WA version.

Kings, princes, lords, any one will needs understand the gospel far better than I, Martin Luther, ay, or even than St Paul; for they deem themselves wise and full of policy. But herein they scorn and condemn, not us, poor preachers and ministers, but the Lord and Governor of all preachers and ministers, who has sent us to preach and teach, and who will scorn and condemn them in such sort, that they shall smart again; even He that says: "Whoso heareth you, heareth me; and whoso toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye." The great ones would govern, but they know not how. (link)
"Noblemen conceive themselves to be wise, from whence they contemn God s ministers. Well, on ! M said Luther; " God will contemn them again. A nobleman thinketh he understandeth the Gospel better than St. Paul." (link)  

If you do an Internet search on the use of this quote, you'll note it's polemically used to describe something like the devastating results of Luther's Reformation. For instance, Father O'Hare uses it to prove, "...Luther himself testifies to the utter failure of the cardinal principle of his so-called Reformation." What O'Hare fails to do though is interpret Luther's understanding of the Gospel in his eschatological framework. Rome's line of argumentation caricatures Luther's theology. Luther often expected the Gospel to have a devastating effect on society. He was not a postmillenialist. One could likewise apply the same argumentation to Rome's preaching of her "gospel," and likewise come up with negative "moral results."

Addendum (2016)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2009. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Setting the Record Straight: the Instability of "the Conversion Story"

I wish I had more time today to write an extensive blog article on "conversion stories." I've recently been in a few squabbles with close friends on my "radical views" on why I don't think much of them, and I strongly oppose having them as part of a church service.

David Waltz has provided yet another example of the instability of using "the conversion story"- "Setting the Record Straight" - A Public statement by Ken Guindon. I have nothing against Ken, - he's a nice guy, and we've had some pleasant conversations. Converts to Romanism and Orthodoxy love using the "story" as an apologetic tool. I've written about this here. I consider them nothing more than examples of the theology of glory.

As to conversion stories, I don't approve of them being used as apologetic tools, for the simple reason they are based on subjective experience. Someone else's experience is not the Gospel. God doesn't need the help of your "story" to evangelize.

Often, if you boil down a "conversion story" people like talking about themselves. They like the attention. I know one particular person who will launch into her "story" at any minute, especially with a new acquaintance.

In the worship service, I don't approve of someone bringing attention to themselves and their "story"- I don't really care about their story. I want Christ's story. Some people hold that at baptism, it's good for the person to tell their "story"- I disagree. Perhaps it's because I'm embarrassed at the sins I've committed against Christ. When I bring them's like reminding the person you love how awful you've been against them.

As to dramatic conversion stories, I believe that "dead in sin" is "dead in sin." Each person, before regeneration is equally dead in sin. God then raises a person to spiritual life. Some people aren't more "dead" than others because they were a worse sinner. This pops their "conversion story balloon." Suppose Christ called Lazarus to life from the tomb, along with another person who was a bit more sinful. Which person being called forth from the tomb has the more dramatic testimony? Neither! Both are equally miraculous.

On a positive note, I have no problem with getting to know someone and hearing their "story". This is fine over a cup of coffee. But please, keep your "story" out of the spotlight. If you want to tell a "story"- tell Christ's story.

Again, I wish I had more time to write about this. I'd like to thank David Waltz, Ken Guindon, and all my Roman Catholic "conversion story" sages for providing so many examples of the instability of "the conversion story." For me, I'll stick with the Scriptures and their story.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Now you see you don't

Soundtrack to this blog post available here

And now...a brief excursion into the world of the sublime.... as to how easily bloggers can edit themselves when in attack mode... A defender of Rome has compiled an interesting overview of my blog entries in which I've either responded to him or mentioned him. Here's a little of his blogger magic based on his recent blog entry:

Now you see it... this is what was originally posted:

The illustrious, inimitable anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist Bishop James White is utterly obsessed with Steve Ray, as I have shown. Likewise, anti-Catholic Reformed Prebyterian [sic] John Q. Doe (a White wannabe if there ever was one) is obsessed with my apologetics (specifically my Luther research, which is only one small part of my overall work).

Now you don't... this is the edit:

The illustrious, inimitable anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist Bishop James White is utterly obsessed with Steve Ray, as I have shown. Likewise, anti-Catholic Reformed Protestant John Q. Doe is obsessed with my apologetics (specifically my Luther research, which is only one small part of my overall work).

There is error here,  I've never been a Presbyterian. I'm not a Reformed Baptist either, nor do the folks over at spend much time looking up Luther quotes. This defender of Rome asks for the logic of why I don't take him seriously, yet I've responded to him over the years. This is simple: I might not take him seriously, but unfortunately others do. For the most part, I've interacted with his Luther information and misinformation (and I'll probably continue to do so). Other times I've responded to the typical insults or charges he throws either at me.

Here's another interesting tidbit from this Roman defender:

It's rather odd for someone to be obsessed with a person (way more than all other individuals of an opposing position, by far; probably put together) one claims to not even take "seriously." No one should take me seriously, as Our Man Doe informs one and all. Ironically, he once took me so extraordinarily seriously that he wrote a 54,000-word, book length treatise with 202 footnotes, written in a graduate school seminary class, entirely devoted to an attempted refutation of my take on Luther's Mariology (first entry below). When I answered that too quickly, thus puncturing his pride and (apparently) fragile ego, alas, he stopped taking me seriously (he has himself verified this).

This is incorrect. As to "a 54,000-word, book length treatise with 202 footnotes, written in a graduate school seminary class," I did write a response to his misuse of Luther's Mariology, but it was not written in or for a graduate school seminary class. Perhaps the magic will work you see it, now you don't.

Update: The magic continues:

The illustrious, inimitable anti-Catholic Reformed Baptist Bishop James White is utterly obsessed with Steve Ray, as I have shown. Likewise, anti-Catholic Reformed Protestant John Q. Doe (a White wannabe if there ever was one) is obsessed with my apologetics (specifically my Luther research, which is only one small part of my overall work.

...Likewise, anti-Catholic Reformed Protestant John Q. Doe (a White wannabe if ever there was one) is obsessed with my apologetics...

This defender of Rome was busy today working out this paragraph to make sure he dishes out the best insult! Rome's apologetics at its best!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

I've Been Refuted, Once Again

And now...a brief excursion into the world of the sublime....

At this point, I don't really recall why DA no longer mentions my name on his blog, but rather writes about me using an insulting name he's created. I think, if I recall correctly, he's doing it as some sort of punishment. I'm a little fuzzy on all the facts at this point, but if I recall, after his negations via the telephone with Tim Enloe, they both decided to play nice together, and both removed the "DA is [insert slander] " and the "Tim is [insert slander]" posts from their respective blogs. Of course, that peace only lasts as long as DA can tolerate. He's recently re-posted his "Tim is [insert slander]" diatribes from long ago. Yes, turning the other check only can last so long in the world of DA. It is very reminiscent of junior high school.

A while back, DA offered the same olive branch to me. He asked that I go through my entire blog, and remove any nasties I may have uttered against the DA empire. Go through my entire blog and edit? That's stuff for people with time to do. Perhaps a full time professional Catholic apologist tapping away on his computer somewhere has time for that, but I don't. But DA, decided to delete all the "James Swan is [insert slander]" material from his blog.

Yes, such great efforts showed me the great moral high road... for a little while. He then began using an insulting name for me he made up..."John Q. "Deadhead." Now maybe he explained this ostensive title, if he did, I don't recall what the point is. So, he continued writing the same nasties against me, though without using my real name. Such is Catholic morality 101. This to me seems even worse than before he edited his nasty posts about me and sent me candy and flowers.

Now recently DA stopped by and left a few comments, which surprised me as well, because he vowed to never waste his time over here with me. I admit, I did leave a stray comment on one of DA's recent Luther entries when he posted he had recently "discovered an entire online translation of Martin Luther's tract, Against Henry VIII." I think my comment was "LOL". Discovered? No, he found reading my blog. LOL.

But then DA appeared over here, which was very surprising.

Anyway, both he and Paul Hoffer seemed a bit befuddled by my comment about Gregory of Nyssa: "his language reflects his understanding of sacred scripture. The arguments I would have with him would be over his interpretation of the Biblical text, not his use of words that may not be found in the Bible." Both DA and Paul thought this comment implied that in some sense, a modern day Roman Catholic (like DA or Paul) could be considered as to adhering to sola scriptura. I was actually amazed by this sentiment- because, at least with these guys, I assumed each understood sola scriptura. I then recommended a few books for these guys to pick up.

This though was another opportunity for DA to continue breaking his vow to never interact with me again. He posted, yet again, another one of those "James Swan is [insert slander]" posts. I actually tried to listen to it via his new MP3 feature, but it says "Sorry, this article is not available yet." I can only speculate it's a technical issue, or DA isn't quite finished either adding or deleting more nasties to it. He tends to post and then edit. Anyway, I didn't save a copy, so whatever form it takes-mudless or mud throwing, is all up to DA.

Anyway, this isn't all too difficult to explain. One aspect of Sola Scriptura says that the Scriptures are the sole infallible authority for the church. That is, the only evidence of God's infallible special revelation extant in the world today are the sacred scriptures. When Hoffer and DA thought my comments in regard to Gregory of Nyssa's interpretation of the Bible could likewise be applied across the board to all Catholics, they in essence, missed this fundamental point. To my knowledge, DA and Hoffer believe that God's infallible voice of special revelation is not only found in the Bible, but in the teaching magisterium and Sacred Tradition. My math isn't that good, but that's 3 vehicles of infallible special revelation, not 1. Therefore, it would be impossible to say any modern Romanist holding to 3 vehicles of infallible special revelation in any sense held to sola scriptura.

The counter to comment about Gregory of Nyssa would be to prove Gregory of Nyssa held that God's infallible voice of special revelation was found elsewhere. All the material I've seen so far shows that Gregory of Nyssa considered the Scriptures to be the infallible voice of God. I'm no expert on Gregory of Nyssa. Perhaps one could present interesting counter evidence showing at least, Gregory of Nyssa was inconsistent (recall he wasn't infallible). I'm sure Gregory of Nyssa believed the church has authority, well so do I. Sola scriptura does not deny the church has authority. I bet Gregory of Nyssa thought that there have been times in which God's infallible revelation was transmitted orally, well, so do I. Sola Scriptura does not deny there have been such times. I bet Gregory of Nyssa believed in tradition. Well, so do I. Sola scriptura is not a denial of all tradition. Some traditions can be God honoring and useful in the church. They are though, not infallible, and must be tested and scrutinized by the Scriptures. I bet Gregory of Nyssa believed the Holy Spirit guides the church, well so do I. The Holy Spirit can guide the church without her being infallible.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

An Ancient Voice For The Day #28

Ambrose (c. 339-97):

"Let God Himself, Who made me, teach me the mystery of heaven, not man, who knew not himself. Whom rather than God should I believe concerning God? NPNF2: Vol. X, The Letters of St. Ambrose, Letter 18, § 7.

Many times have the clergy erred; the bishop has wavered in his opinion; the rich men have adhered in their judgment to the earthly princes of the world; meanwhile the people alone preserved the faith entire. John Daillé, A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1856), p. 197.

Latin text: Plerumque clerus erravit, Sacerdos mutavit sententiam, divites cum saeculi istius terreno rege senserunt; populus fidem propriam reservavit. In Psalmum David CXVIII Expositio, Sermo 17, §17, PL 15:1446.

On Psalm 1: Be not alarmed because the cup of Babylon is a golden cup, for you drink out of the cup of wisdom, which is more precious than gold and silver. Drink of each cup, therefore, of the Old and New Testament, because you drink of Christ from each. Drink Christ, that you may drink the blood with which you are redeemed: drink Christ, that you may drink his discourses. His discourse is the Old Testament; his discourse is the New Testament. The Holy Scripture is drunk and devoured, when the juice of the eternal Word descends into the veins and energies of the mind. Lastly, man lives not by bread alone, but by every word of God. Drink this word, but drink it in its right order. First drink it in the Old Testament, and make haste to drink it in the New Testament. George Finch, A Sketch of the Romish Controversy (London: G. Norman, 1831), pp. 220-222.

Latin text: Nec te moveat quod Babylonis aureum poculum est; quia et tu bibis poculum sapientiae, quae sit auro argentoque pretiosior. Utrumque ergo poculum bibe veteris et novi Testamenti; quia in utroque Christum bibis. Bibe Christum, quia vitis est, bibe Christum, quia petra est quae vomuit aquam; bibe Christum, quia fons vitae est, bibe Christum, quia flumen est, cujus impetus laetificat civitatem Dei; bibe Christum, quia pax est; bibe Christum, quia flumina de ventre ejus fluent aquae vivae; bibe Christum, ut bibas sanguinem quo redemptus es; bibe Christum, ut bibas sermones ejus; sermo ejus Testamentum est vetus, sermo ejus Testamentum est novum. Bibitur Scriptura divina, et devoratur Scriptura divina cum in venas mentis ac vires animae succus verbi descendit aeterni. Denique non in solo pane vivit homo, sed in omni verbo Dei. Hoc verbum bibe, sed ordine suo bibe. Primum bibe in veteri Testamento: cito fac ut bibas et in novo Testamento. Enarrationes In XII Psalmos, In Psalmum Primum Enarratio, §33, PL 14:939-940.

Commenting on ‘And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide.’ (Lk. 9:4): So the faith of the Church must be sought first and foremost; if Christ is to dwell therein, it is undoubtedly to be chosen. But lest an unbelieving people or heretical teacher disfigure its habitation, it is enjoined that the fellowship of heretics be avoided and the synagogue shunned. The dust is to be shaken off your feet [cf. St. Luke 9:5], lest when the drynesses of barren unbelief crumble the sole of your mind it is stained as if by a dry and sandy soil. For a preacher of the Gospel must take upon himself the bodily weaknesses of a faithful people, so to speak, and lift up and remove from his own soles the worthless actions like to dust, according as it is written: “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” [II Corinthians 11:29]. Thus, any Church which rejects faith and does not possess the foundations of Apostolic preaching is to be abandoned, lest it be able to bespatter some stain of unbelief. This the Apostle also clearly affirmed, saying, “A man that is an heretic after the first admonition reject” [Titus 3:10]. Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book VI, §68, pp. 216-217.

For an excellent compilation of quotes of the Church fathers teaching on the primacy, sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture, get a copy of Holy Scripture:The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol III- The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Gregory of Nyssa's Unwritten Traditions....

Here's an interesting tidbit I didn't find, but is well worth pointing out why one should check sources and references, particularly those put forth by the advocates of Romanism. Sometimes when they mine nuggets from the church fathers, what they weigh on the scale of truth is Pyrite, fool's gold.

The following is from Revds. J. Berington and J. Kirk, The Faith of Catholics, Confirmed by Scripture and Attested by the Fathers of the First Five Centuries of the Church, three volumes, Third Enlarged Edition, with Preface, Corrections, and Additions by the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Capel, D.D. (New York: Fr. Pustet & Co., 1909), on page 414. He cites Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395) stating:

"Let Eunomius tell us whence he derives this assurance? From what inspired declaration? Which of the evangelists, which of the Apostles has uttered any such declaration? What prophet, or lawgiver, or patriarch, or which amongst the others whom the Holy Ghost has inspired, whose declarations are unwritten,' introduced any such term. Whether have we learned in the tradition of the faith from the truth that we ought to believe Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, or that He is a creature? How happened it that the Truth, whilst transmitting to us' the mystery, gave as a law faith on the Son, and not on the creature?"

So there you have it, a quote from Gregory of Nyssa to support Rome's claims of inspired unwritten traditions. The author even provides the Greek text to substantiate his claim.

When one checks the Greek, the word Gregory used was ἀνάγραπτοι. It does not mean “unwritten,” but the very opposite, “recorded” or “committed to writing.” The text should be rendered:

"Let him say, whence he derives the boldness to affirm this : from what divinely-inspired testimony? What Evangelist, what Apostle uttered such a saying? What prophet, or lawgiver, or patriarch, or any one else of those who were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, whose words are committed to writing, taught such a phrase? We have learnt in the tradition of the faith by the Truth to believe in the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit. Ought we to believe that he is created? How is it that the Truth when delivering to us the mystery has enjoined faith in the Son and not in a creature? And how is it that the divinely-inspired Apostle, while he worships Christ, declares that those who extend their worship beyond the Creator to the creature are idolaters?" William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd edition, Vol. 3, (London: John Henry Jackson, publisher, 1853), p. 142.

Remember, all that is Google Books is not gold. I am grateful to the person who pointed this out to me. Old books from Google are wonderful, but not always accurate.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Scott Hahn and "Prima Scriptura"

This is a very interesting thread over on Catholic Answers:

Scott Hahn and "Prima Scriptura"?

"I was at a friend's for lunch today, and I made the mistake of mentioning Dr. Scott Hahn's name... To our collective surprise, my friend reacted both violently and vocally (?!). He is a graduate of Steubenville (both BA and Masters in Theology), and apparently had Dr. Hahn as a professor in the early 90s. He has some very harsh things to say about him, both personally and "professionally"...! One of his most vehement claims is that Dr. Hahn teaches "prima scriptura", explaining this to us as a belief that Scripture is a "higher" authority than Tradition. My friend says that because of this, Dr. Hahn is heretical and goes against the teachings of the Church, and that when he called Dr. Hahn on it in class, he was ignored."

The answers and interaction are quite fascinating, watching the Catholic participants dialog back and forth on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, agreeing and disagreeing. Some highlights:

"I would not say that traditions don't change. Some traditions do in fact change along a timeline and this is the reason for measuring tradition with scripture. If there is a contradiction between the two, scripture is right. I would not say that traditions don't change. Some traditions do in fact change along a timeline and this is the reason for measuring tradition with scripture. If there is a contradiction between the two, scripture is right."

"In describing prima Scriptura, Jimmy Akin writes, "Apostolic Scripture does have primacy over Apostolic Tradition (and the Church as well; see Vatican II, Dei Verbum 11). We look to it first and foremost because it is inspired, giving us God's ipsisima verba. But we also look to Apostolic Tradition to help us understand Apostolic Scripture, since it conveys God's ipsisima vox."As Akin explains, the words of Apostolic Scripture are inspired, but "while the original giving of Apostolic Tradition was inspired, the words in which it has been passed down to us are not inspired."

"Sounds to me like the Church does not put the "prima" in "prima scriptura", but I would like to hear others that can find documentation to the opposite."

"The Catechism clearly states that Scripture and Tradition are equal. That being said, stating that Scripture has primacy does not necessarily mean that it is greater than Tradition"

"Prima Scriptura is excluded by "Dei Verbum," which iterates and reiterates the conjoining of Tradition plus Holy Scripture;"

"The underlying assumption of prima Scriptura must be examined: that Tradition as it was initially transmitted before the death of the last was inspired, but Tradition as we receive it today is not inspired."

"Only Scripture is inspired; Tradition is without error, but the theological notion of inspiration has always been applied to Scripture alone. In line with that, Hahn does not assert that Tradition was ever inspired."

"I think the point being missed is that neither scripture nor tradition is authoritative in the sense being discussed. The Pope and the Magesterium are authoritative. Both scripture and tradition are measured by that authority."

"There are three main points that I take issue with Dr. Hahn regarding Prima Scriptura. Here are the three points that he made. (please keep in mind that this was published in 1992, and I am using it to speak of Prima Scriptura and not Dr. Hahn personally for I do not know if he holds the same positions now) 1. God is not the author of Sacred Tradition. 2. Sacred Tradition is not Inspired. 3. The Magisterium is a channel of Divine Revelation along with Scripture and Tradition.If the different advocates of Prima Scriptura have something in common, which is essential James Atkins and Dr. Scott Hahn at this point, it is point #2, that Sacred Tradition is not Inspired. That is really what defines the term "Prima Scriptura". Thus Scripture is the only inspired source (though they still maintain that Tradition is infallible)."

"Tradition does not all come from Scripture. It predates Scripture and was the measuring stick by which works were judged for admission to the canon. Tradition also contains things not found in Scripture, which is in agreement with Paul, who tells us to adhere to all that has been passed on, whether orally or in writing."

"actually, no. scripture predates tradition. in the early church the first cue was taken from the old testament prophecies. the new testament was written with the old testament in mind. the early traditions came from the old testament and as the new testament was being written, tradition is the interpretation of the scriptures. this does not pit one against the other but instead causes them to go hand in hand, but we always begin with scripture because that is where we get tradition from (the church's infallible interpretation of scripture)."

...and so on.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Catholic Marketing 101

Mark Shea's living up to his blog subtitle: "Mark Shea's Blog: So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!" in regard to his new three volume opus-

I'm happy to report that I have not yet seen a single negative review! Catholic response has been uniformly thumbs up, which makes Papa proud of his baby. (Of course, there will *be* negative reviews from guys like James White, Eric Svendsen, James Swan and the other nattering nabobs of anti-Catholicism, whose *job* is to give a negative review to stuff like this.) But once you get away from the anti-Catholic fever swamps, I will be interested to see how the book fares in place like Christianity Today, where you have honest Evangelicals who are serious about trying to engage Catholics, well, honestly.