Sunday, July 12, 2009

How Far Can Rationalism Take Us? Scripture Alone a Development?

This article is not your typical apologetics article. In fact it may even be the opposite of what a traditional apologist would write to defend his arguments and affirm his faith position. I think however sometimes we just need to step back and ponder the paradoxes of life. I also have an 11 minute podcast to go along with this article. You can get it on Itunes or you can listen to it online here.

In light of a recent blog discussion I was having regarding historical accuracy ad interpretation, I decided I wanted to elaborate on it a bit more. Many of us today are rationalists in mind and heart. It is an imprint that the Age of Enlightenment has left on us. We don't intend to to do it, but it is ingrained in our culture. In fact we are turning into a culture of secularists without even realizing it. In the course of the day we read material and make personal judgments on things all of the time. We examine the facts and dissect things with science and come to logical conclusions. Unfortunately this type of thinking only gets you so far when it comes to choosing what Christian faith you will embrace.

It is true that many people are raised to embrace a certain faith and choose not look outside of that because that is all they have ever known. There are those who are convicted one way or another by a personal experience, bad or good. Many people come to a point where they question everything they have believed and end up rationalizing themselves out of theism into atheism. Rationalism can have its consequences.

The classic example in Western Christianity is the Protestant vs Catholic argument. One side says that the Church is governed by belief in Scripture alone which is given to us by God alone, the other says it is the Church established by Christ alone. Both have their historical problems if we really want to get down to dissecting history and putting it under a magnifying glass.

Protestant apologists like to try and corner Catholics into having to prove the papal primacy from the first 300 or so years of Christianity. There are examples of the Pope being appealed to for various reasons for sure. But one can easily dismiss the historical accounts based on reasons other than papal primacy. One can read history and choose to see what one wants to see. So there must be more than human reason alone to prove the primacy of Peter. Although faith and reason are not opposed, reason alone will not get you the answers you are looking for.

Yes the Catholic can appeal to Scripture as the Protestant can and both pit their interpretations against one another. They can debate over what Matthew 16 means, and tear apart the text and examine it. They can examine the Church Fathers and argue about what they really meant in their writings, although they were written to certain audiences for exclusive reasons over 1700 years ago. But if we shift our focus from the papacy to the New Testament canon, we find ourselves in the same boat as trying to prove the papacy from the first 300 years of Christianity.

If we were to take all of the historical information that we could find and examine it and confined ourselves only to the first 300 or so of Christianity we would be in the same situation as the Catholic trying to prove the papacy from the same isolated period. Some argue that the Scriptures were easy to determine, but anyone who has studied the history of the New Testament Canon knows that there was not a universal consensus until almost the year 400. So where would that leave the rationalist who only will appeal to a certain time period to prove a certain doctrine or belief? Would we follow those who used the The Shepherd of Hermas as Scripture, as some churches did? For example Daniel F. Lieuwen Copyright (c) 1995 in his work tells us, “St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215) made use of an open canon. He seemed ``practically unconcerned about canonicity. To him, inspiration is what mattered.''(29) In addition to books that did not make it into the final New Testament canon but which had local canonicity (Barnabas, Didache, I Clement, Revelation of Peter, the Shepherd, the Gospel according to the Hebrews), he also used the Gospel of the Egyptians, Preaching of Peter, Traditions of Matthias, Sibylline Oracles, and the Oral Gospel.(30) He did, however, prefer the four church gospels to all others, although he supplemented them freely with apocryphal gospels. He was the first to treat non-Pauline letters of the apostles (other than I Peter) as scripture-he accepted I Peter, I and II John, and Jude as scripture.(31)” If we can see here that a Church Father was using another canon other than what we have today then why not go with his canon? It says he was the first to introduce non Pauline epistles into use. Why not condemn him as a heretic? Those before him after-all, were using another canon, one which refused to use any non-Pauline epistles. We have a problem here do we not?

If we are going to use our own historical reasoning alone to determine our faith then we are left to an infinite number of possibilities. The only reason we have a settled New Testament canon is because the Church gradually developed the canon by her authority. Ancient Christianity was not one that subscribed to Scripture Alone, and to my knowledge Christ never told anyone that once the New Testament was finished that the Church now operated under a new system of authority.

Many people will disagree with me I know. But to me there is only one authority to follow and that is the one that Christ appointed to be carried on by his apostles by a living, breathing Word. Yes I believe the Scriptures are God's written Word, but I only know that because of the oral testimony of the apostolic Oral Word that was carried on by the apostles successors. I believe that one has to be moved by the Holy Spirit to get that. I believe that yes, history can help us prove certain characteristics about the Church. But the fact is, all of us reading this now are 1700 years removed from that time period and we do not have access to every historical fact that we would like to affirm or oppose our arguments. The fact is, we were not there in the year 300.

It is a fantasy I think that many today think they are practicing the exact Christianity that was being practiced in the year 200 or the year 300. We all want to appeal to antiquity to argue for our faith belief. Yet I believe that no matter what historical inconsistencies that we may find in history, there is only one true Church that Christ established and He alone knew how it was going to spread and grow throughout the world. It is not just historical rationalism that will give us the answers, it is the guidance of the Holy Spirit that opens us up to see beyond the eye of recorded history, and allows us to see into the heavenly kingdom of the true Church. Once we are guided by faith then we can begin to grasp the web of recorded history, which I believe the Church has been at the center of since Jesus gave it to us. If one were to say they were practicing Christianity just like the early Christians did, who would be closer, the Catholic or the Protestant? The Catholic would be living by the living oral word now, just like the a Christian in the 200s, with addition of the later canonized New Testament. The Protestant however would now being following the New Testament canon alone, which none of these early Christians would have even had the slightest inclination towards. They used the Old Testament and only gradually accepted the books of the New Testament. Who is guilty of using the development of doctrine? I'll let you decide.

I would suggest that one read a few good books on the early history of Christianity. Look at the heresies and the bishops opposing one another over the natures of Christ and the person of Christ in the first 450 years of the Church. I promise it will have your head spinning, and the one without a living breathing apostolic authority to tell you who was right would never be able to figure it out on their own. When I started writing this I did not intend this writing to be an argument against Sola Scriptura.

Before I close I would like to point out that the Catholic Church has the highest regard for the Scriptures because they are hers. But if I have learned anything from reading history, the Scriptures cannot defend themselves from those who misinterpret them outside the apostolic Church that gave them to us. They also cannot put themselves together in a Canon without some living divine authority to tell us what they are. Reasoning can only get us to accepting a living divine authority, which must be rooted in faith. It is the intellect and reason that is enlightened by faith. Rationalism alone will only get us so far.


orthodox said...

...of course, these arguments do not lead inexorably to Rome.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Sure we could grant that the Orthodox Church would somewhat fit the mold as well. But Protestantism to me just doesn't fit the mold of the early Church in any way, shape or form. But once again, although I have a high respect for the Orthodox, both of us can't be right. We could look at some other aspects such as the unity of the Church to weigh against one another.

Does the Catholic Church's structure provide for a more unifying attitude towards the Gospel or the Orthodox? Sure, lately things have gotten a little better in that aspect in the Orthodox Churches, but it is still far from unified. Divisions over ethnicity has always been a problem in the Orthodox Church. Would you agree with that or do you think they are minor problems which takes nothing away from the unity of the bishops?

Anonymous said...

your article I assume was a continuation of our previous conversations. I see the point of your arguments but you honestly believe that the system of purgatory and indulgences, and all the excesses of the 5th Marian Dogma are anywhere CLOSE to what we see in the new testament? those doctrines to me seem to have appeared out of the ether. for example is there even a slight hint of mary being co-mediatrix in the New T at all? that's quite a different issue from arguing matt 16 on the papacy. I could see how a person could argue for petrine primacy based on that text. but how can you go from "there is ONE MEDIATOR" and "who are my mother and brothers" to mary being co-mediatrix, and all the other excesses that are found in Alphonsus' work on mary? not to harp on marian doctrine but this is just one example where you have o concede that this goes well beyond development to outright invention.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Not necessarily. The mediation that refers to Mary is not used in the same context as Christ, the one Mediator, which refers to his ability as God to forgive sins,and offer the perfect sacrifice to the Father. The mediation that is referred to the Blessed Mother is not that mediation. I will explain further when I get more time. Thanks for the discussion here. I enjoy having a good conversation without resorting to insults and such.

Anonymous said...

well i'll hold my comments until you get further opportunity to answer more extensively. btw, in regard to mary's mediation and her position as it relates to christ: have you read Alphonsus' work on the matter?

(after listening to your exchange with dr. white I knew I'd be able to have a rational (haha forgive the term) conversation with you. I also appreciate your speedy responses!)

Matthew Bellisario said...

Yes I have read St. Alphonsus work and he also differentiates between the two, I recommend reading The Glories of Mary by him. If you read the declaration of the author at the very beginning he tells us the distinction.

orthodox said...

"Does the Catholic Church's structure provide for a more unifying attitude towards the Gospel or the Orthodox?"

I would say the Orthodox, but I'm prepared to hear the arguments.

"Sure, lately things have gotten a little better in that aspect in the Orthodox Churches, but it is still far from unified."


"Divisions over ethnicity has always been a problem in the Orthodox Church. Would you agree with that or do you think they are minor problems which takes nothing away from the unity of the bishops?"

What problems or divisions are we talking about?

We've seen how Rome deals with ethnic differences, and we are not impressed. Neither are the Eastern Catholics very impressed.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Well the treatment that the ROCOR and OCA churches have shown each other over the years hasn't been impressive either. That is one example.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Father Alexander Schmemann wrote, When today, almost two hundred years after the implanting of Orthodoxy on the American continent, one hears endless debates about the future Orthodox unification in America as a remote and not too realistic ideal, to which one ritually pays lip service while in fact opposing its realization, one is amazed by the conscious or unconscious denial of a simple fact: that this unity did exist, was a reality, that the first "epiphany" of Orthodoxy here was not as a jungle of ethnic ecclesiastical colonies, serving primarily if not exclusively the interests of their various "nationalisms" and "Mother Churches," but precisely as a Local Church meant to transcend all "natural" divisions and to share all spiritual values; that this unity was broken and then arbitrarily replaced with the unheard-of principle of "jurisdictional multiplicity" which denies and transgresses every single norm of Orthodox Tradition; that the situation which exists today is thus truly a sin and a tragedy."

The Bitter Fruits of Disunity
Fr. Josiah Trenham wrote,

While virtually every American Orthodox Christian has some story or other to relate how our divisions have wounded them personally and caused grief it is important I think to face something of a substantial enumeration of the sad fruits of our division. Our division manifests itself in many practical and pastoral ways:

1. Some Orthodox jurisdictions receive persons from Latin and certain Protestant bodies into Holy Orthodoxy by baptism and chrismation, some by chrismation alone, and some merely by confession of faith.

2. Some Orthodox jurisdictions receive Latin clergy converting to Holy Orthodoxy merely by vesting, while others ordain.

3. Some Orthodox jurisdictions recognize all marriages performed outside Holy Orthodoxy as being real marriages (though certainly not sacramental) whether performed for an Orthodox or non-Orthodox, while others recognize no marriages performed outside Holy Orthodoxy whether performed for an Orthodox or a non-Orthodox. This results in someone being denied a fourth marriage in one jurisdiction while being permitted a marriage (and a first one at that!) in another jurisdiction; someone being denied ordination in one jurisdiction because of a previous marriage outside the Church, while being accepted as a candidate for ordination in another jurisdiction; a non-Orthodox married couple having to be married by the Church when they convert one jurisdiction, while in another they are received without a need for an Orthodox marriage service to be performed for them. In some jurisdictions "inter-faith" marriages mean those that are between an Orthodox and a non-Orthodox, while in other an "inter-faith" marriage means a marriage even between two Orthodox Christians from various jurisdictions.

4. Some Orthodox jurisdictions bury suicides under certain circumstances, while others forbid the burial of suicides under all circumstances.

5. Some Orthodox jurisdictions bury a person who was cremated with all funeral rites in the church temple, others permit only Trisagion Prayers of Mercy in the funeral home, some forbid any prayers anywhere for a person who was cremated.

6. Some Orthodox jurisdictions recognize civil divorce as complete and sufficient for ecclesiastical purposes, while others do not recognize civil divorce at all and insist on Church Tribunals, while yet other deal with divorce in other ways.

7. Some Orthodox jurisdictions penance a person when he/she is divorced (either by civil or Church court), while others penance a person only after he/she enters into a second or third marriage.

8. Some Orthodox jurisdictions accept clergy suspended or even deposed by other Orthodox jurisdictions.

9. Some Orthodox jurisdictions ignore bans of excommunication pronounced by hierarchs of other Orthodox jurisdictions.

Anonymous said...

this is taken verbatim from the book:

" In the franciscan chronicles it is related that brother leo once saw a red ladder, on the summit of which was jesus christ; and a white one, on the top of which was His most Holy Mother; and he saw some who tried to ascend the red ladder, and they mounted a few steps, and fell-they tried again, and again fell. they were advised to go and try the white ladder and by that on they easily ascended, for our Blessed Lady stretched out her hand and helped them, and so they got safely to heaven"

now for all the theologil consciousness of making it plain that mary is a means to christ etc etc.. how can this quote be taken any other way than to mean that christ's red ladder is much more dangerous and less likely to be ascended and that mary's ladder is ascended easily b/c mary has the compassion to stretch for her hand while christ (I presume) stands at the top of his ladder with his arms folded?
you would recommend such a picture of christ upon the souls of a person struggling with sin?

Matthew Bellisario said...

No, but once again proper context here is crucial. This is a perfect example of how the Church Fathers are misquoted and misunderstood. For example read this prayer by St. Alphonsus in its entirety. Then you can begin to understand the context. It isn't that St. Alphonsus does not believe that you can't go to Christ directly, or even that you should not. But he shows the importance of Mary's intercessory prayers for us. St. Alphonsus prayes to Our Lord, giving him the worship that is due to Him alone. He then turns to Our Lady, who is in heaven and part of the living Body of Christ,and asks that she also pray for him. Read the entire prayer, and then go back and read the quote you posted. In fact you really need to read the entire works of Saint Alphonsus to see where he is coming from. This is why it is so crucial to see things from a proper context.

St. Alphonsus De Liguori to Jesus Christ, to Obtain His Holy Love
My crucified Love, my dear Jesus! I believe in Thee, and confess Thee to be the true Son of God and my Saviour. I adore Thee from the abyss of my own nothingness, and I thank Thee for the death Thou didst suffer for me, that I might obtain the life of divine grace. My beloved Redeemer, to Thee I owe all my salvation. Through Thee I have hitherto escaped hell; through Thee have I received the pardon of my sins. But I am so ungrateful, that, instead of loving Thee, I have repeated my offenses against Thee. I deserve to be condemned, so as not to be able to love Thee any more: but no, my Jesus, punish me in any other way, but not in this. If I have not loved Thee in times past, I love Thee now; and I desire nothing but to love Thee with all my heart. But without Thy help I can do nothing. Since Thou dost command me to love Thee, give me also the strength to fulfil this Thy sweet and loving precept. Thou hast promised to grant all that we ask of Thee: You shall ask whatever you will and it shall be done unto you. Confiding, then, in this promise, my dear Jesus, I ask, first of all, pardon of all my sins; and I repent, above all things, because I have offended Thee, O Infinite Goodness! I ask for holy perseverence in Thy grace till my death. But, above all, I ask for the gift of Thy holy love. Ah, my Jesus, my Hope, my Love, my All, inflame me with that love which Thou didst come on earth to enkindle! "Tui amoris me ignem accende." For this end, make me always live in conformity with Thy holy will. Enlighten me, that I may understand more and more how worthy Thou art of our love, and that I may know the immense love Thou hast borne me, especially in giving Thy life for me. Grant, then, that I may love Thee with all my heart, and may love Thee always, and never cease to beg of Thee the grace to love Thee in this life; that, living always and dying in Thy love, I may come one day to love Thee with all my strength in heaven, never to leave off loving Thee for all eternity.

O Mother of beautiful love, my advocate and refuge, Mary, who art of all creatures the most beautiful, the most loving, and the most beloved of God, and whose only desire it is to see him loved! ah, by the love thou bearest to Jesus Christ, pray for me, and obtain for me the grace to love him always, and with all my heart! This I ask and hope for from thee. Amen.

Matthew Bellisario said...

St. Alphonsus De Liguori on the Name of Jesus

"The mere name of Jesus is sufficient to vanquish all the powers of hell. St. Paul says that God has given to Jesus Christ a name which is above every name, since it is at that name that everything is made to humble itself: He hath given Him a name which is above all names; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. In contending with the enemies of our salvation, it often avails more to victory to call to our aid the name of Jesus than to say many long prayers."

I went over to some websites where some Protestants were using some of his quotes, interpreting them to mean that Mary is the savior, which the great Saint never believed. The terms he uses must be understood in context and it must be understood in the entire context of his writings. As we see in above quotes, St. Alphonsus clearly understood the unique mediation of Christ, and Christ alone as the savior. This Saint was a brilliant theologian and a very humble man. There is more to his writings than meet the eye. Someone who does not understand Catholicism could very well become confused by just reading a couple quotes of his without understanding where he is coming from in the context of Catholic theology.

Matthew Bellisario said...

One last thing on Saint Alphonsus. When he writes about the Blessed Mother he assumes that one already understands certain tenets of the Catholic faith. I wanted to list the maxims of the great Saint so you can see how this is applied to his thinking, and the overall picture of his spiritual life, which is not Mary centered but Christ centered.

Yet why do people only go and read small portions of his writings and take them out of the entire context of his theology? What happens is people are pulling out quotes which happen to sandwiched in between a ton of other writing which explains what these texts really mean. They only see what they want to. I know people often do not have the intention of doing so, but one person does it and those who oppose Catholicism do the same thing until you have 100 websites with the same stuff on it. Here is the maxim written by the great Saint.

Matthew Bellisario said...

1. To desire ardently to increase in the love of Jesus Christ.
2. Often to make acts of love towards Jesus Christ. Immediately on waking, and before going to sleep, to make an act of love, seeking always to unite your own will to the will of Jesus Christ.
3. Often to meditate on his Passion.
4. Always to ask Jesus Christ for his love.
5. To communicate often, and many times in the day to make spiritual Communions.
6. Often to visit the Most Holy Sacrament.
7. Every morning to receive from the hands of Jesus Christ himself your own cross.
8. To desire Paradise and death, in order to be able to love Jesus Christ perfectly and for all eternity.
9. Often to speak of the love of Jesus Christ.
10. To accept contradictions for the sake of Jesus Christ.
11. To rejoice in the happiness of God.
12. To do that which is most pleasing to Jesus Christ, and not to refuse him anything that is agreeable to him.
13. To desire and to endeavor that all should love Jesus Christ.
14. To pray always for sinners and for the souls in purgatory.
15. To drive from your heart every affection that does not belong to Jesus Christ.
16. Always to have recourse to the most holy Mary, that she may obtain for us the love of Jesus Christ.
17. To honor Mary in order to please Jesus Christ.
18. To seek to please Jesus Christ in all your actions,
19. To offer yourself to Jesus Christ to suffer any pain for his love.
20 To be always determined to die rather than commit a willful venial sin.
27. To suffer crosses patiently, saying, "Thus it pleases Jesus Christ."
22. To renounce your own pleasures for the love of Jesus Christ.
23. To pray as much as possible.
24. To practice all the mortifications that obedience permits.
25. To do all your spiritual exercises as if it were for the last time.
26. To persevere in good works in the time of aridity.
27. Not to do nor yet to leave undone anything through human respect.
28. Not to complain in sickness.
29. To love solitude, to be able to converse alone with Jesus Christ.
30. To drive away melancholy [i.e. gloom].
37. Often to recommend yourself to those persons who love Jesus Christ.
32. In temptation, to have recourse to Jesus crucified, and to Mary in her sorrows.
33. To trust entirely in the Passion of Jesus Christ.
34. After committing a fault, not to be discouraged, but to repent and resolve to amend.
35. To do good to those who do evil.
36. To speak well of all, and to excuse the intention when you cannot defend the action.
37. To help your neighbor as much as you can.
38. Neither to say nor to do anything that might vex him. And if you have been wanting in charity, to ask his pardon and speak kindly to him.
39. Always to speak with mildness and in a low tone.
40. To offer to Jesus Christ all the contempt and persecution that you meet with.
41. To look upon [religious] Superiors as the representatives of Jesus Christ.
42. To obey without answering and without repugnance, and not to seek your own satisfaction in anything.
43. To like the lowest employment.
44. To like the poorest things.
45. Not to speak either good or evil of yourself.
46. To humble yourself even towards inferiors.
47. Not to excuse yourself when you are reproved.
48. Not to defend yourself when found fault with.
49. To be silent when you are disquieted [i.e. upset].
50. Always to renew your determination of becoming a saint, saying, "My Jesus, I desire to be all Yours, and You must be all mine."

Anonymous said...

I actually read the book myself, there were many other quotes like that in the book (as i'm sure you're well aware) my point was twofold

A: while I understand it is the STATED roman catholic theology that christ is the ultimate end and goal of all devotion, it rings quite hollow when illustrations such as the ladder are used. this is not something that only gets misinterpreted by protestants as I'm sure you're very aware of the various marian cults who "take it too far" as one apologist has stated. (look at latin america for example) now while it can be conceded that those in the church who go in this direction in regard to devotion to mary are not practicing total fidelity to the minutiae of catholic doctrine, but you can't say that it's only protestants looking for acontextual citations to attack rome. Dr. white uses the illustration of a person during the wilderness wanderings rocking back and forth before a statue and saying "I wasn't giving latria moses I was only giving dulia" I realize this is a totally different conversation but it leads ultimately to my second point

B: Does it not bother you that this sort of devotion to mary as "life, sweetness, and hope" is not even hinted at in scripture? I realize we've circled this wagon before, but like I said the papacy I can understand (from a very strained interp of matt 16) but how many other doctrines in the next 50 or so years will be foisted upon the consciences of the masses? I understand your appeal to authority but let me ask you a question.

the pharisees/scribes were the ruling authority during the times of christ. the fact that jesus was the messiah was not as explicit at first. if you read the book of john you'll see that very early the rulers determined that anyone who said jesus was the messiah would be put of of the synagogue (excommunicated from the church) on what basis did they have the right to override the authority of the church? didn't christ appeal to the scriptures to prove who he was? wouldn't the pharisees of the first century say that those who refused to listen to the dictates coming from jerusalem were in rebellion?

Matthew Bellisario said...

Anonymous asked, "Does it not bother you that this sort of devotion to mary as "life, sweetness, and hope" is not even hinted at in scripture?"

To answer your question, no it does not bother me. First of all because the New Testament is only a small portion of what went on in the first years of the apostolic Church. The early Christians did not live by the writings of the New Testament. God inspired the text of New Testament to bear witness to the foundation of the Church and its beginnings in expanding to the Jews and the Gentiles. It does not cover much past that.

In order for me to be concerned I would have to see where Jesus tells his followers that the authority that He gave them would be revoked, and transferred on to a later coming New Testament almost 400 years later after the Church began. To me that is bigger a stretch to imagine than anything else.

Anonymous said...

"I would have to see where Jesus tells his followers that the authority that He gave them would be revoked, and transferred on to a later coming New Testament almost 400 years later after the Church began."

I don't understand how a protestant saying that apostolic doctrine must be upheld by fidelity to the scripture constitutes a "revocation" of apostolic authority?

where did I go wrong?

Matthew Bellisario said...

I think that the problem is that Jesus never told us that everything would be written down in the New Testament Scriptures to be the ultimate authority over the Church. Of course the Church cannot conflict with the New Testament because what is written in the NT pages is some of what the Church was living at that particular time. It is a witness to some of how the Church was living and breathing in that time period. It is a living written witness to how the Church was established by Our Lord and of course it is a written witness to Christ Our Savior and His passion, death and resurrection. However none of the early Christians would have even thought of the New Testament as being their authoritative guide to live their faith by alone. They believed what was passed on to them orally by apostolic succession divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Some of the books of the NT were used in the Divine Liturgies in the early centuries along with OT Scripture so that they could bear witness that the Old Testament prophesies had been fulfilled. So the Church began to use various books of the New Testament in variations among many different churches. As far as I can see that attitude never changed on any large scale until the Reformation. None of the apostolic churches ever subscribed to Scripture Alone as it is taught in the Protestant churches.

So to me it is a larger development of doctrine to see the New Testament gradually develop over the course of almost 400 years and then believe that once that was done it would be the only authority left to go by, neglecting that there was nothing else that needed to be passed on inspired by God to keep the Church infallibly teaching the Gospel. Do you understand where I am coming from, or am I not explaining it well enough?

Anonymous said...

that understanding of how the church relates to scripture seems to be a bit simplistic and confounded.

you may want to ammend/qualify the following:

"However none of the early Christians would have even thought of the New Testament as being their authoritative guide to live their faith by alone."

on what basis can you make such an assertion? surely you've heard the many quotes from the father from dr. white that would imply the opposite? when you make sweeping statements like that you run into the apologetic trap of what happened when you and dr. white were going back and forth about the papacy. I think you'd end up in a quagmire which will leave you essentially saying "well we can't depend on intellect alone to interpret scripture OR history" (forgive me if this is a caricature of what you'd say, but that does seem to be what happened in response to the papacy conversation)

beyond that, if the new t scriptures are merely " a witness to some of how the Church was living and breathing in that time period." then how can we make the point that the man of God may be "fully equipped" for every good work via the scriptures? (I understand the rebuttal regarding the ot, but since rome is in agreement that the cannon is closed, how much moreso would that apply to the text?)

the other thing, upon reading ligori's (sp?) book, mary seems to be central to the gospel. after all the FMD, is relavant to gospel issues. why are the apostles wasting time on glossolalia and eschatology when they could have been teaching the church about the mediatorial work of mary and how intrinsic her work of intercession is (al la ligori?)

it seems to me that next to the godhead (and I will concede that official doctrine is that there is an eternal distance) but be that as it may, next to the Godhead, the person and "work" of mary in RC doctrine seems to me to take precedence over the other ancillary doctrines of the new T.

by the way I don't know if you answered my response about the marian cults as it regards to protestant nitpicking as well as my illustration about the scribes/pharisees.

Matthew Bellisario said...

I said, "However none of the early Christians would have even thought of the New Testament as being their authoritative guide to live their faith by alone."

Anonymous said, "on what basis can you make such an assertion?"

Because it is quite clear that the New Testament was not agreed upon until nearly the year 400 that is why. I have already wrote about this. Read some Biblical scholars and you will have to conclude the same thing. This is something that not even Protestants contest.

Anonymous said, "surely you've heard the many quotes from the father from dr. white that would imply the opposite?"

No, even Dr. White will admit that the apostles nor their immediate followers lived by Scripture Alone. See the Matatics debate where White found himself cornered into admitting it before a live audience, where he ended up losing his debate because he simply couldn't substantiate such a position. Take a look at it. White also clearly ignores the rules of the debate trying to stall Matatic's cross examination.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that (B)the man of God may be adequate, (C)equipped for every good work.

A few problems with pulling this verse out of context to prove the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Do you know what Timothy is referring to in this passage? The Old Testament, not the New. There was no New Testament at the time. Secondly one has to shoehorn the word work, to mean all doctrine and belief, which it clearly never says. Thirdly Timothy assumes an apostolic authority that is given to him from the apostles to teach, which all Protestants reject. Fourthly in doing some research, the Greek word ophelimos (profitable) in verse 16 means useful not sufficient.

Finally the most obvious proof that Timothy was not referring to anything in the New Testament when writing this verse is because we can read in 2 Timothy 3:15 it states “And because from thy infancy thou hast known the Holy Scriptures which can instruct thee to salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Timothy's infancy once again proves that it was referring to the OT no the NT.

I will answer more when I get the chance. Thanks for coming back by. I am enjoying our exchange.

Anonymous said...

if you're referring to the matatics debate in which matatics put forth the red herring that christ or the apostles didn't practice sola scriptura during the period of inscripturation, objectively speaking that can't be a good argument. surely you see the difference between prophets/apostles/ and christ in protestant theology and the completed cannon?

as I said, it's a mistake to make sweeping statements about how all the church viewed any given topic (again, as you will know in your interaction with dr. white) for example the following from cyril of jerusalem

"For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth"

to my understanding (and help me with this) cyril was a bishop? this is during his catechetical lecture to new believers? why didn't he say "now you new believers can't understand the scripture and nobody in the church thought they could, and we can invent new doctrines out of the ether, and ultimate you can't trust your inellect, reasoning faculties, or the Spirit of God to establish you in the core doctrines of the faith. I'm a bishop" Again, please forgive me if this comes across as caricature or sarcasm, but you have to admit, whenever Rc apologists address the big issues this idea of "the church has always believed this way" is the mantra, but whenever it actually comes down to it, historically or scripturally that just doesn't seem to be the case. it's not as clear cut as folks would have us believe.

I believe the definition of "thoroughly" in 2pet3:16 means
"1) to complete, finish

a) to furnish perfectly"

do you have the same? how can this be possible?

Matthew Bellisario said...

How can it be a sweep general statement? If there was no canonized New Testament in the year 250 then it could not have been used as a rule of faith can it? To me this is not a sweeping generalization.

Anonymous said...

..... point taken.

can you do me a favor and answer the other questions i'd asked earlier

1. marian cults as it relates to protestant "nitpicking"
2. the pharisee argument from authority
3. saint cyril's quote
4. and how the man of God can be completely equipped for every good work.

good discussion, hahaha and I realized you called me anonymous b/c you don't have my name.

Andrew. (
actually went to st. andrews school when I was in the first grade.. hahah not that it's relavant but it's a cool connection)

Ben M said...

Andrew: “Does it not bother you that this sort of devotion to mary as "life, sweetness, and hope" is not even hinted at in scripture?”

Not hinted at? My dear friend, see this post and the continuation below it:

Andrew: “didn't christ appeal to the scriptures to prove who he was?”

He appealed to them because they spoke of him! Christ was the focus, not a book!

And the model and pattern here is of Christ as a living, teaching authority. A far cry indeed from the Protestant who, truth be told, having no authority whatsoever to interpret and teach from the scriptures, simply wrests from them such interpretations as may see fit!

The scriptures function was to point to Christ, just as their function is to point to his one Church. They were never meant to be an end in themselves. Listen to St. Augustine (letter 185):

Let not, however, things like these disturb you, my beloved son. For it is foretold to us that there must needs be heresies and stumbling-blocks, that we may be instructed among our enemies … that they should be delivered from their wicked error, but also praying for them, that God would open their understanding, and that they might comprehend the Scriptures. For in the sacred books, where the Lord Christ is made manifest, there is also His Church declared; but they, with wondrous blindness, while they would know nothing of Christ Himself save what is revealed in the Scriptures, yet form their notion of His Church from the vanity of human falsehood, instead of learning what it is on the authority of the sacred books.

They recognize Christ together with us in that which is written, "They pierced my hands and my feet. They can tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture;" and yet they refuse to recognize the Church in that which follows shortly after: "All the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord's; and He is the Governor among the nations."

They recognize Christ together with us in that which is written, "The Lord has said unto me, You are my Son, this day have I begotten You;" and they will not recognize the Church in that which follows: "Ask of me, and I shall give You the heathen for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession."

They recognize Christ together with us in that which the Lord Himself says in the gospel, "Thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day;" and they will not recognize the Church in that which follows: "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:46-47 And the testimonies in the sacred books are without number, all of which it has not been necessary for me to crowd together into this book.

Come therefore, and recognize the one Church, “the Unity” as St. Augustine termed it.

Re: 1 Tim. 3:15: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

“Man of God” is a technical term, used only for those with legitimate authority, unlike the reformers, who had zero authority. In any event, the term "Man of God" is NEVER, NEVER, used, either in the Old or in the New Testament, in reference to a lay person!

God bless.