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August 06, 2007

Comments

Melinda, I want to thank you, Greg and STR for hosting Dr. Beckwith. I don't believe that EWTN or the other forums that are currently interviewing Dr. Beckwith will allow the type of insightful challenges that Greg posed. Here is a link to some wonderful articles that address many of the facts that F.F Bruce does in The Canon Of Scripture.

http://www.christiantruth.com/articles.html

Also a set of books by William Webster and David King is in my opinion the greatest work on Sola Scripture ever produced.

http://www.christiantruth.com/ssvol3ad.html

"The practices of the early church, how they used these books in church services and to get authoritative teaching, demonstrate that there was an early consensus about the canon." But while this consensus was forming the church engaged in other practices that Greg and you reject: penance, confession, indulgences, Real Presence of the Eucharist, and a rudimentary understanding of purgatory. In order to reject this, you have to say that "consensus" only counts for canonicity but not for the liturgical practices in which the Scriptures were used and from which the consensus you cite is extracted.

In addition, why should any Christian accept any Church Council? If the answer is because it is consistent with Scripture, then where in Scripture is the list of 27 NT books? It's not there. Remember that the Scriptura of Sola Sciptura applies to the Bible as a whole and not to its separated parts, for if that were the case someone who just believed in the Book of Numbers as inspired would be obeying Sola Scriptura. But we know that can't be right. So, until the whole is fixed, the disparate parts, though inspired, are not the Scriptura of sola Scriptura per se. After all, many Christian communities did not have the entire collection for generations, though virtually all of them had wholes or parts of what would eventually become the canon. There was no printing press and many Christians were illiterate. And yet, many of them maintained a largely orthodox theology. Why? Because the church universal protected and applied the faith delivered to them by their predecessors. It was a faith inexorably connected to the church's spiritual practices.

But the fixing of the canon itself--the judgment that this is the correct collection of texts--is something above and beyond the text, just as my judgment that defendant X is guilty is not identical to X's guilt. It is a different sort of truth about the defendant. So, sola Scriptura is a theory about the nature of a particular collection of books that we think of as one collection. And yet, it is not something explicitly stated in any of the books. That is, no one book pronounces an explicit and definitive judgment about the canonicity of a collection of books whose authors, for a variety of reasons, did not know about the other books.

So, Bruce is correct that there was a consensus about the canon's contents. But there were also close calls--I Peter, e.g. A church council made a judgment that we today accept. But if all you have is a consensus argument, you have an external standard--consensus--that is adequate to recognize the content of the canon. But then you must believe that consensus is an infallible principle by which one can discover canons. But this results in two problems. 1. It means you have to take seriously the practices I mentioned above--confession, penance--that were accepted widely in the Church. 2. It means that there is an infallible church standard--consensus--by which we can determine canonicity. In that case, you've moved closer to Rome.

How can we accept the canon and not penance, etc? By examining the reasons given for the practice. We agree with their logic regarding the canon -- apostolic authorship, usefulness, general agreement with the rest of the body of writings, etc. When they teach us about purgatory, we scratch our heads and ignore them because they don't make the case.

On sola scriptura, I'm not sure you can make a case for either it or tradition that isn't circular.

I would like to Thank STR and Francis Beckwith for doing the interview (it is a fascinating interview). After a person listens to that interview, I don’t know how they could say something like “Catholicism is obviously, obviously false…Catholicism is clearly, clearly not Christian” The interview experience might have taught listeners that one has to go to great lengths if they are going to try to show that Catholicism is incorrect (and even then it isn’t clear that Catholicism is incorrect). Beckwith had sophisticated answers that touched on key areas. I think a step forward has been made for the relationship between Protestants and Catholics here. The interview was like a foundation for studying the issues in more detail. I’m excided about the new interview that is going to talk about Francis Beckwith’s new pro-life book.

Many years ago I was on WEZE radio in Boston, MA, with then recent Catholic convert Gerry Matatics (the same Matatics who is now a sedevacantist but who had been, up to that time, a staunch defender of orthodox Roman Catholicism, at least as staff apologist for Catholic Answers). Mr. Matatics and I had done two debates the preceding week at Boston College, one on justification, the other on the Apocrypha. At one point during the radio program I asked Mr. Matatics the following question.

How did the faithful Jewish person know that Isaiah and 2 Chronicles were Scripture fifty years before the coming of Christ?

He was completely stunned by the question. For those Roman Catholics who argue that the authority of the Church is necessary for the establishment of the canon of Scripture, rather than seeing Scripture as an artifact of revelation (a point I made in _Scripture Alone_, pp. 102-109), the question poses what I think is a truly unsolvable puzzle. Over the years since I first asked the question on the fly of Mr. Matatics, I have received the following kinds of replies:

1) Some have said no one could, in fact, know, until the Papacy was established. However, this flies in the face of the fact that the Lord Jesus held men accountable to what was found in the Scriptures during His ministry, which He could not have done had this been true.

2) Some have said they could only known by reference to the Urim and the Thummim, i.e., by asking the High Priest to inquire of the Lord on their behalf. Yes, seriously, I have had some suggest this. Obviously, it suffers from many problems, but the response to the first reply would apply equally well here.

3) Some have said they would have to follow the "Jewish magisterium." That sounds great, until you realize that the Jews never accepted the very books that Trent dogmatically canonized in 1546, creating the conundrum of magisterial contradiction.

The fact is, the question points out that the demand to have an infallible authority define the canon is anachronistic at best, and, in the case of Rome's claims, unworkable in light of the fact that the first *dogmatic* and hence *infallible* definition is that of Trent, leaving us with the untenable idea that no one could truly use Scripture until after the time of the Reformation. I leave aside here all the most interesting facts concerning how even Popes rejected the final conclusions of Trent (Pope Gregory the Great rejecting Maccabees, for example). Those who have studied these issues in depth, from both sides, well know the facts of the matter.

There is one last thing I would like to note. I would like to ask anyone who claims that the Roman Catholic Church, as it exists today, has existed for nearly 2000 years, to explain something to me. When the Council of Nicea convened, around 318 (by one count) bishops attended. Could a Roman Catholic representative point me to a single bishop at Nicea who believed what you believe de fide? That is, was there a single bishop in attendance who believed, for example, in transubstantiation? Purgatory, as defined by Rome today? Indulgences? The thesaurus meritorum? Immaculate Conception? Bodily Assumption? Papal Infallibility? If these things have been defined de fide, are we to believe that the gospel has "changed" since that time, if, in fact, these things were not defined as part of the gospel at that time? Are we not left with the specter of the comments of Gerry Matatics in my debate with him on Long Island in 1996 wherein he boldly stated, before the entire audience, that we have the very same warrant to believe in the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven that we have to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave? Hard to believe? Here is the video of him saying it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSyfdwmsXzc

I will be reviewing a number of the comments made on STR Sunday evening this week on The Dividing Line. I did indeed feel it was a very educational exchange.

James White
www.aomin.org

In the past I've been quite impressed with Frank Beckwith's command of Christian apologetics, but listening to him yesterday demonstrated that much of it is window dressing.

He bumbled and stumbled around in his responses, and really all the blather about "the Canon" is really just more of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin." Sadly yesterday's interview proved something Greg has said a number of times, "Sometimes the smartest people make the most foolish mistakes."

Beckwith simply cannot rationalize how Catholicism can be in any sense the same as the pure faith Christ seeks of His followers. It is impossible to say one is on the side of Truth and Grace by using the Law as his defense.

The Catholic Church is simply the ecclesiastical manifestion of the World System's Law. When Beckwith or any Catholic claims they are truly Christian of any stripe, they are speaking of a most brilliant counterfeit.

It is just as sad that many of your listeners will be convinced that Beckwith's god is the same as Christ. So maybe I was wrong after all. Beckwith may just be quite the apologist.

Dr. Beckwith,

You raise an excellent question: On what consistent basis can we accept the early church's consensus decisions in recognizing what writings were God-breathed, while rejecting some of the early church's other consensus decisions/views/practices? If Protestants have no basis for distinguishing between the two, then sola Scriptura falls apart.

ChrisB suggested one answer: We don't accept their decisions about the canon on the basis that it was their decision--rather, we look at their rationale and agree with it. (Personally, I'm not familiar enough with history to know whether that's a sufficient answer. After all, if we don't have access to the relevant information, then we can't examine the evidence that way.)

But I'm more inclined to believe the theological argument on the canon that James R White presents: The Canon exists in the mind of God, as a function of God inspiring some books. If God inspires something, it is automatically part of the Canon. God would infallibly know the contents of Canon even if no one on Earth knew it. But God declared in Isaiah 55:11 that His word will not return to Him empty, but it shall accomplish what He purposes, and shall succeed in the thing for which He sends it. So He'll make sure that our canon matches the Canon.

If God breathes out Scripture, He will ensure that it accomplishes His purpose: Equipping the saints. And just as the Jews recognized the inspired books of the OT (such that Jesus held them responsible for knowing that it was God's word spoken to them), so God will ensure that we receive the correct Canon.

In other words, I trust that the early church correctly recognized the Canon. But that trust is not a trust in the early church's consensus, but in God's working to ensure that we would know what His Word is. God does not allow His word to return to Him empty.

Now, Catholics think that we have a body with an on-going interpretive/revelatory authority of apostolic succession--just like God worked to ensure the purity of the recognized Canon, He works to ensure the theological purity of the teaching of the Roman Catholic magisterium. They argue that the Bible teaches us to expect that. If they're right, then of course we should submit to the magisterial authority of Rome. But I don't believe they /are/ right--I don't see any such promise in the Bible.

And that is the consistent basis on which I accept that the early church correctly recognized the canon, but incorrectly believed in penance, confession, indulgences, Real Presence of the Eucharist, and a rudimentary understanding of purgatory

P.S. Whoops! I see that while I was writing my comment, Dr. White posted his own comment. Oh well.

I agree with David Beck that Dr. Beckwith wasn't prepared for those questions. To his defense, he is not a Catholic apologist though he seemed to know the basis.

To comment on the original post, What does "quite early based on apostolic authority. "
Does this mean 60AD or 300AD?

Edgar.

Greg has said a number of times, "Sometimes the smartest people make the most foolish mistakes." That could be applied to Greg or any other highly intelligent person. After listening to the interview, it definitely wouldn’t be applied to Francis.
Beckwith was very sharp in the interview. Many of Beckwith’s answers made it clear that Koukl’s arguments were very weak. Because Beckwith is a new Catholic, Beckwith was slightly hesitant, but Beckwith’s answers were stronger than Koukl’s answers. That says a lot considering that Greg was in control of his own program. Francis will only become better at defending Catholicism. It is sad that some people still won’t understand that Catholics, Protestants, and the Eastern Orthodoxy are all Christians. Many Christians will still have unproductive arguments with each other when Christians should be refuting things like secular humanism. Dr Beckwith won the debate (in terms of content). Koukl won the debate in terms of how relaxed and smooth he sounded. Is being smooth more important than content? You did an outstanding and powerful job in the interview, Dr. Beckwith! Keep it up! You’re making it more and more difficult for people to say that Catholics aren’t Christian. When they struggle vigorously to portray Catholics as non-Christians, they can’t come up with anything convincing. It isn’t like we are talking about Mormonism, Islam, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, etc. We are talking about Catholicism.

Thank you, Tim, for drawing out the ontological characteristics of an inspired (God-breathed) canon and how the epistemological characteristics flow directly out of that. You beat me to it!

Too many Catholics resolve this issue by looking first to the epistemic question ("How do we know what is scripture?") instead of the ontological question ("What exactly does it mean for something to be God-breathed, and what would that necessitate?"). The latter, it seems to me, will dictate the former. I think this is where the fundamental mistake lies, and why Dr. Beckwith's arguments above are so convincing to the Catholic mind and so unconvincing to mine.

From yesterday's show:

DR. BECKWITH (1:02:15 into the show): [I]f this was going to be a debate, you should have told me ahead of time ... I entered the show thinking this was going to be a time in which I’ll be able to share my journey in a safe place, and I just don’t sense that.

*&*&*&*&*&

Greg's treatment of his so-called "dear friend" was not cool at all. It certainly wasn't emblematic of the "winsome ambassador" that STR talks about.

As far as Dr. James White entering the fray here ... Dr. White debated Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin on the Bible Answer Man radio show a while back. Who won the debate? Here's a clue: An audio CD of the debate is available at Catholic Answers, where Akin works (www.catholic.com).

I was really disappointed in Greg yesterday.

RE: Jimmy Akin and "debates."

As I have explained many times, Mr. Akin has debated me once, on KIXL radio in Austin, Texas. Today, Akin repudiates one of the primary arguments he used in that debate, so I doubt he claims to have won it.

The recording to which Dave Pierre refers (which is carried at www.aomin.org, and always has been) is of the Bible Answer Man broadcast with Hank Hanegraaf. It is not a debate. There is no single topic, just as there was no debate on STR last evening. Why Catholic Answers insists upon calling it that might be explained by the fact that Jimmy Akin and Karl Keating have had standing challenges to debate for many years, but never seem to find the time to do so. And we have invited Tim Staples to debate a number of times since he joined the staff of Catholic Answers, but, alas, he has not found the time to do so either.

Now, ironically, I addressed this very issue, and played a portion of the Bible Answer Man program, on last Thursday's Dividing Line, and documented that at the very start, Akin misrepresented what I said, missed the point of my argument, and basically failed to give a meaningful response to my very first statement. And as always, I invite everyone to examine the facts for themselves. Take a listen:

http://www.aomin.org/podcasts/20070802fta.mp3

James White
www.aomin.org

Paul wrote, "I don't believe that EWTN or the other forums that are currently interviewing Dr. Beckwith will allow the type of insightful challenges that Greg posed."

I am a regular listener of EWTN radio, and the Catholic Answers radio show takes calls from Protestants all the time. In fact, many times I have heard them say at the beginning of a show, "Today we are taking calls from non-Catholics only."

Meanwhile, on yesterday's show, Greg said, "We are only taking calls from Protestants ... This is a Protestant show."

Again, not cool at all.

I am quite certain that Peter and Paul did not offer a philosophical account of the doctrine of the Trinity that is identical to the substance-person distinctions that one finds during the Nicean debates and later at Chalcedon. This post-4th century account is in fact the one held by contemporary orthodox Christians, Protestants and Catholics alike. So, by analogy, if a doctrine must be held in its fullest and most philosophically sophisticated form in order to be Christian (which I believe Mr. White is arguing), then Nicea itself is as dubious as transubstantiation or purgatory. Of course, the question is whether the Christian church at the time of Nicea engaged in practices and held beliefs that were earlier, less sophisticated, understandings of these doctrines. The answer is clearly "yes," as J.N.D Kelly shows in his book Early Christian Doctrine. Consider, for example, Canon 13 from the Council of Nicea that discusses the administering of communion to certain excommunicated Christians near death. Called viaticum (which is Latin for "provisions for the journey"), today it would be called a type of indulgence, since its purpose is to impart God's free grace to the excommunicated recipient for the sake of his eternal soul. The Canon calls it "last and most indispensable" and part of "ancient canonical law," which means that it goes much further back than Nicea in 325 A.D.

In response to Tim: the theoretical framework you offer is interesting, but it only works, if it works at all, if you are trying to figure out a way to keep the canon while jettisoning the practices in which the canon was read and was an integral part of Christian worship. Why would you want to do that unless you were already committed to that demarcation? What I am suggesting is you entertain the possibility that this demarcation is a post-Reformation, anti-sacramental, free church construction that the church of the early centuries would have thought bizarre. Let me explain.

If our predecessors, those that gave us the riches of Christian theology in its earliest centuries, thought that the Christian life was enriched, strengthened, and our love for Jesus deepened, by practices like penance, confession, and contemplative prayer, and if these predecessors read the Scriptures in the midst of and as an integral aspect of these practices, why would you not entertain them with the same deference you respect their judgment of Scripture? Yes, they could have been wrong. But first you should do yourself a favor and see how they saw Scripture and how they intertwined its contents with the life of the Church, a liturgical church that is quite a distance from overhead projectors and worship bands with which most of us are familiar.

I do want to thank Greg and Melinda for having me on as a guest. I will confess that my performance was less than stellar, largely because I was prepared for one sort of interview and received another. That is not Greg's or Melinda's fault. They both are good souls with pure motives, and I love them very much. It is my fault. For I had traveled quite a distance in the past several years, from Protestantism to Catholicism, not realizing that some of my friends were not on the same journey. So, for me, what seemed like a small trek in late April was the conclusion of a spiritual jog that had begun, inadvertently, many years prior. Thus, I saw my friends as only an arms length away, when in fact the distance was greater. And yet, we are so close; so close in fact that we can bridge the distance by our mutual affection and love for Christ, something that theological disputation may not ever be able to bridge this side of heaven.

God bless Stand To Reason.

Frank

Well said, Frank. Listening to the discussion on the radio yesterday was fascinating...I learned a lot and thought it was criminal that these kinds of foundational topics hadn't been addressed earlier on STR.

I love James Emery White's thoughts. But the crux of the matter was brought up by Greg in the big two questions: authority and justification. I hate to say it but I thought Frank gave a legit explanation for why it is by Faith in Christ alone that justifies the Catholic. Greg gave a typically reformed perspective I also found strong...though not contradictory.

I saw Beckwith (and his brand of Catholicism) as deeply mystical, rich and profound in a way that was communicated as much by his words, as his stumbling and (for the firs time) a grasping that left him short on words. Greg represents what I'm familiar with most Reformers is a 16th century Germanic mind approaching the "laws of grace".

I'm neither RC nor Reformed because they both serve different kinds of minds, but this is the same Christ.

I also had a tiny problem when Frank called foul on Greg's debate tactics. I was taken back that you, Frank, were taken back. I assumed that you were going to give an account for your reversion and that Greg was going to challenge you. It seems reasonable that we can have these challenges so that truth can be shaken out of the discussion. I thought it was noble for you to show up on STR and for STR to have you. I'd like to see a rematch and open up more time for callers.

And Frank, as long as you see Christ as the sole justification for your sins I don't question your resolve to have to confess within the Catholic church. It doesn't bother me at all. I think Pentacostals believe and practice things ten times freakier than you.

Martin Luther: "Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures or evident reason (for I believe in neither the Pope nor councils alone, since it has been established that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures that I have adduced, and my conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God; and I am neither able nor willing to recant, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen."

One would be hard pressed to disagree with Luthers logic concerning inconsistencies with the interpretation and interpreters of the Word of God.

The same problem exists in the church of Rome today. They have long since disqualified themselves as the mouthpiece of God.

Brad

P.S. I felt a little sorry for Francis, he's not quite equipped to be an apologist for Rome yet, and he wants to just talk about the journey he's on. One day I think he'll be a little more prepared and I cant help but think of Matt. 23:15, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves".

Is the use of the term "viaticum" in the 13th canon of the Council of Nicea evidence of an early belief in indulgences?

Dr. Beckwith, in his STR interview, alleged that the practice of indulgences has roots going back to the Council of Nicea, and before. He has repeated this claim in a post on the STR blog. But does such a claim withstand scrutiny? Let's examine it.

First, the practice of indulgences is recognized by all to be secondary to, and derivative from, the concept of the thesaurus meritorum, the treasury of merit. This concept has been traced in its development primarily to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, giving rise then to the practice of the selling of indulgences and the funding of the building of St. Peter's in Rome. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "The development of this doctrine in explicit form was the work of the great Schoolmen, notably Alexander of Hales (Summa, IV, Q. xxiii, m. 3, n. 6), Albertus Magnus (In IV Sent., dist. xx, art. 16), and St. Thomas (In IV Sent., dist. xx, q. i, art. 3, sol. 1)." (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07783a.htm). Add to this reality the fact that the very concept of purgatory itself was a late development, with only portions of the later doctrine being found as late as Gregory the Great (who gave the greatest impetus to its development, but still did not hold to the de fide doctrine of the fifteenth century). If the foundational elements had not as yet taken recognizable form at these late dates, upon what basis, then, can one meaningfully read into an early fourth century document such concepts? This would involve the grossest forms of historical anachronism. As Dr. Beckwith stated himself on STR, "I am not a historian." So I wonder, what historians does he cite who make a serious argument for Canon 13 referring to indulgences as defined by Rome?

It might be good to read the 13th canon:

Concerning the departing, the ancient canonical law is still to be maintained, to wit, that, if any man be at the point of death, he must not be deprived of the last and most indispensable Viaticum. But, if any one should be restored to health again who has received the communion when his life was despaired of, let him remain among those who communicate in prayers only. But in general, and in the case of any dying person whatsoever asking to receive the Eucharist, let the Bishop, after examination made, give it him.

A quick glance at various Roman Catholic sources reveals that it is a great leap to go from the simple meaning of "viaticum" as it was used in the fourth century to the much later concept of indulgences. At this point in history this referred to the giving of the Eucharist to those who were on death's door step. Of course, I hasten to point out that at this time there was no reservation of consecrated hosts. One will search in vain for any tabernacles, monstrances, etc., in this time period. They simply do not exist, and that fact is confirmed by Roman Catholic sources. The church did not maintain them or treat them with any special care after the eucharistic service itself. There is a fairly obvious reason for this. "Real Presence" and "transubstantiation" are two different things logically, theologically, and historically, despite how often they are conflated anachronistically by modern Roman Catholics. In any case, the canon simpyl has to do with the practice of bringing the eucharist to those who are dying. To read into this some kind of reference to indulgences is to provide yet another tremendous example of anachronistic reading of early church sources.

But while we are in the canons of the Council of Nicea (a council that had to fight for acceptance in the decades that came after, which even saw the bishop of Rome abandoning its defense), I think there is another canon that should be examined, for I wonder if Dr. Beckwith puts as much weight in what it says?

Canon 6

Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.

If, in fact, it was the "ancient custom" for the Bishop of Rome to be viewed as the supreme head of the faithful, I have to wonder why Nicea said it was the ancient custom for the Bishop of Alexandria to have the headship over his own jurisdiction, just as Rome had jurisdiction in Italy?

In any case, I would like to close by noting that Dr. Beckwith did not answer my question. I asked: who at Nicea believed as he believes today? What bishop held to the doctrines that Rome has defined de fide today? The answer is painfully clear: no one did. Not a single one of those bishops believed de fide what Dr. Beckwith believes today, and what he must, if he is consistent, define as the very definitions of the gospel. I fully understand why Dr. Beckwith would hesitate to "go all in" when it comes to Rome's authority claims. But the fact of the matter is, there is no logical, consistent stopping point. That is why Matatics said what he said in the clip I referred to before.

Finally, given that the purgatory issue was central in the STR interview, may I once again invite folks to consider this formal debate section on the topic of purgatory with a credentialed Roman Catholic priest and scholar?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhODLhskR-g

Likewise, in reference to Rome's misuse and abuse of church history:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4aOzMBLqWk

James White
www.aomin.org

I need to challenge Dr. Beckwith on what his expectations were going into the radio show. How can we expect two dear friends to ignore the elephant in the room that unavoidably changes their friendship?

In response to his expressed hurt over some of the negative emails he and Frankie have recieved. I need to take us back a few years to the Dixie Chicks and their feud with Pres. Bush. Of the multiple millions of people who had an opinion on what they said and the response from their audience, a few cowards anonymously registered death threats against them. This needed to be taken seriously by everyone, but the unfortunate effect was this: They immediately focused on the threats as to what was important, and never since then took the opportunity to thoughtfully defend their views in any substantive way.

Dr. Beckwith, there are jerks in this world, the Body of Christ included. I challenge you to not let this reality define your experience and become the validation for the positions you have taken.

Apropos, I think, of the discussion. From "How (not) to Speak of God" by Peter Rollins:

"Most of us have been brought up to think that Jesus taught an ethical system for his disciples to follow. The term 'ethics' refers to an approach to moral situations in which we work out how we ought to act by deriving ideas from a foundation given by reason and/or revelation. By seeing Jesus as an ethical teacher we approach the Bible as this foundation and read it as one would read a text book -- attempting to read it in a neutral manner so as to work out how we should act......However, the religious idea of truth, as expressed above, places this modernistic approach into question. For, not only is there no such thing as a neutral interpretive space, but also the religious idea of truth demands that we should have a prejudice when reading the text: a prejudice of love. The Bible itself teaches us that we must not enter into any situation in a neutral and objective manner, even the reading of scripture, but always with eyes of love. Christ himself expressed this when he healed on the Sabbath, informing those who sought to condemn him that the law was made for humanity, not humanity for the law. .....This does not mean that we re-interpret our traditions in any way we want, but rather that we must be committed to living in the tension between exegesis (by which we extract meaning from the text) and eisegesis (by which we read meaning into the text). By acknowledging that all our readings are located in a cultural context and have certain prejudices, we understand that engaging with the Bible can never mean that we simply extract meaning from it, but also that we read meaning into it. In being faithful to the text we must move away from the naive attempt to read it from some neutral, heavenly height and we must attempt to read it as one who has been born of God and thus born of love: for that is the prejudice of God. Here the ideal of scripture reading as a type of scientific objectivity is replaced by an approach that creatively interprets with love.....

....acknowledging that we all get God wrong and that revelation can be interpreted in a variety of ways does not necessarily mean that we are caught in the tentacles of relativism, but rather can open up a dynamic, kinetic relationship with the text."

Mr. White's question assumes that whatever is believed today in its current form must have been held in that identical form generations ago. But given that assumption--which I thought I had adequately unpacked in my reductio above--nothing of the rich metaphysical grounding of Trinitarianism, Christ's two natures, or even the nuanced understandings of Sola Scriptura or total depravity held by Reformed brethren survives that standard. Does anyone seriously believe that without the resources of substance philosophy that the doctrine of the Trinity or the Incarnation could be adequately and elegantly presented and defended as they were at Nicea and Chalcedon? For example, if one reads Scripture alone, one can certainly come up with Jesus being God, but it would be quite a trick to move from that to substances, persons, properties, and essences, the necessary elements that today we simply take for granted, without the resources of Greek philosophy. These concepts--Trinity and incarnation--are an inheritance from which we spend spiritual capital and think we earned it. But as these concepts were being developed in their fullest forms, the Church was busy helping its members to become more holy and devout through the practices of confession and penance. These were not merely theoretical issues, but questions that involved the eternal fate of Christians that had betrayed their faith while their fellows were martyred. This posed an interesting problem for the Church that had no easy scriptural solution. How do we welcome back traitors while honoring the sacrifice of our more noble brethren. It was in this context that the sacraments confession and penance--with a robust view of God's grace coupled with our responsibility as Christians to the life of the church and its perserverance--were developed. They have their roots in Scripture but they arise from history. Christianity, after all, is an historical faith, and not merely an ahistorical theological system.

If Mr. White is correct, we should all become restorationist.

Paul writes, “never since then took the opportunity to thoughtfully defend their views in any substantive way. Dr. Beckwith, there are jerks in this world, the Body of Christ included. I challenge you to not let this reality define your experience and become the validation for the positions” Sounds exactly like Dr. Beckwith to me. You know how he is known for being irrational, etc. You know how Beckwith isn’t known for using logic, and evidence (that is sarcasm). Beckwith writes, “They have their roots in Scripture but they arise from history. Christianity, after all, is an historical faith, and not merely an ahistorical theological system.” The bridge between Catholicism, Protestantism, and Easter Orthodoxy is becoming stronger with every word you speak and write, Dr. Beckwith!

In Him,
Kyl

Frank: You are right. I should entertain that possibility.

I'm fairly young--in my 20's. I was raised in an evangelical home, being taught 20th century American evangelical (Reformed) traditions. If I take God's Word seriously, that means I have to step back from the understanding of Christianity I was taught, examine the church & the Bible & history with the humility of an open mind, and test my assumptions & received traditions. Right now...Well, I can't honestly claim to have done that. I'm trying. I'm in process. I'm studying, and trying very hard to genuinely hear the Catholic point of view. But I can't honestly claim to be a Protestant by conviction at this point. I haven't even read the Council of Trent! How could I claim to be a Protestant by conviction instead of by accident if I don't even really understand the interaction between Rome and Geneva? For that reason, I should be humble in the strength of the claims that I make, and continue to consider all sides.

You said, "the theoretical framework you offer is interesting, but it only works, if it works at all, if you are trying to figure out a way to keep the canon while jettisoning the practices in which the canon was read and was an integral part of Christian worship." You also said, "why would you not entertain them with the same deference you respect their judgment of Scripture?"

But I just finished telling you that my respect is /not/ directed at their judgment of Scripture. My respect, trust, and deference is directed at the work of God to ensure that His Word does not fail. I do respect their sacrifices, their faithfulness in the face of persecution, and their devotion to Christ. I value them as the earliest part of kingdom of God, as fellow members of the body of Christ. If I get to meet them in heaven, well, that'll be pretty cool. I treasure the Scriptures of which they were the passive receptors. I should, and do, and will continue to hear their voice; I will consider their contribution of their understanding of Christianity. As a voice of men. An important voice, but only a human voice.

Yes, the framework could easily be used by someone just seeking an excuse to be a Protestant. It was not an argument against /any/ Roman Catholic doctrine; it is not a basis for rejecting any doctrine, including those you mentioned--penance, confession, indulgences, Real Presence of the Eucharist, and a rudimentary understanding of purgatory.

I think you misunderstood the point. It was an answer to the question that you raised--as far as I can see, a /complete/ answer to the question you raised. It is a consistent basis on which a Protestant can believe that our canon is correct without being required to believe every doctrine held in the early church. It is a correction of pervasive Catholic assumptions about the need for an authority to give us the canon--or at least it's a suggestion of an alternative. It is a view of revelation that takes into account the God-breathing of the Old Testament. It's a view of the nature of God's word that comes out of God's word, by looking at His promises about His word and by looking at Jesus' view of the OT. It wasn't a demonstration that we should reject liturgical practices or indulgences or purgatory or the teaching authority of the magisterium; it does little good for you to point out that it wasn't. You raised an objection to the Protestant viewpoint, and I responded to that objection, arguing that it has no force.

I realize a full defense of the Protestant position would require more.

Frank, I think you've missed White's point. It is not the Trinity or sola scriptura that is in trouble -- it is the magesterium. Protestants have no problem with a gradual growth in our understanding of God or Christ, but it's hard to understand how the RC church can have the infallible interpretation of something only 500, 1000, or 1500 years after it was written (depending on the topic).

I am left wondering, just a bit, how pointing out that entire monuments of dogmatic theology--such as Papal Infallibility, the Immaculate Conception (a concept taught against over the centuries by no less than *seven* bishops of Rome), the Bodily Assumption (first found in the Transitus literature which, ironically, was condemned by Pope Gelasius, and that half a millennium after Christ), and the entire complex of beliefs that developed in the middle ages into what is today the doctrines of purgatory, the thesaurus meritorum, and indulgences--were simply unknown to the church in the days of Nicea is the same as asking for belief in the "identical form." This assumes, without providing any basis for doing so, that an at least *recognizable* form of these dogmas (I do hope everyone notes the term dogma, a de fide definition that cannot be rejected by the faithful follower of the Roman See) existed in the hearts and minds of the bishops of Nicea. Is this what you are alleging, Dr. Beckwith? If so, could you please be so kind as to document these things? It is possible that in the 90 to 120 days of "marathon reading" you did earlier this year you discovered what I have failed to find in 18 years of study, so I would be most edified to find this material. But since you have admitted, repeatedly, that you had not even read the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent until earlier this year, I have a strong feeling that such works as Salmon, Whittaker, Goode, and numerous other such works, have likewise escaped your notice.

You are, of course, quite right to assert that many modern Roman Catholic concepts have ancient roots. The entire Marian complex can indeed be traced to very early sources. Early gnostic sources, that is, not to distinctly Christian ones. The perpetual virginity of Mary, for example, is first found not in truly Christian writings, but in the gnostic gospels of the second century. Have you considered, Dr. Beckwith, what it means for Rome to have the capacity, the ability, to define, de fide I remind you---this is not a belief you can dismiss or just "ponder," at least not while asserting in other venues that "words have meaning"--that Mary remained physically "in tact" as a virgin *after* the birth of Jesus? I can fully understand how the gnostics worked that out, being docetic in their thinking, but just how, sir, can one read Isaiah 9 and read that a child will be *born* to us and then allow an authority not once identified in Scripture to overturn the obvious meaning of the text so as to believe that this birth somehow involved the supernatural removal of the baby without the natural physical effects of birth upon the mother? And have you pondered what it means that such an amazing assertion can be attached to the gospel of Jesus Christ as a necessary article of belief?

It seems that part of your developing apologetic is to assert that since important developments in creedal theology took place within a context where, for example, confession or penance was taking place (you attached these directly to such issues as how to deal with the lapsed, i.e., the issues behind the Novatian Schism, Donatist Controversy, etc.,), this means that such practices are to be seen not only as valid today, but, evidently, as more valid in the "one true church" (as Benedict has reminded us of late) than any other view. But I have to wonder at the logic of such an assertion, and its historical validity as well. I first remind you of some statements from that period that probably did not appear in Jimmy Akin's books (but did appear in such works as Soli Deo Gloria's work on sola scriptura, for example---did you read that in your marathon?). The great defender of Nicea, he who stood against councils and bishops for decades in defense of the deity of Christ (upon what epistemological or ecclesiastical foundation could one stand for decades against the voice of numerous councils, attended by more bishops than Nicea, along with the condemnations of numerous bishops in all of the major sees, Dr. Beckwith---if, of course, your current views are correct?), Athanasius, in Contra Gentiles 1:1 put it rather bluntly, "The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the truth." Do tell me, Dr. Beckwith---if the man of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work by that which is theopneustos (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and if the inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the truth, as Athanasius asserted, how do the Scriptures sufficiently equip you to preach the Bodily Assumption of Mary which, as a de fide doctrine of the Christian faith, defined as such by the authority of the One True Church, would of necessity be a good work for the man of God? Just a question that I wish someone had been able to ask. But I digress. Do you agree, or disagree, with Cyril of Jerusalem, who instructed his readers, "In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but from the Holy Scriptures" (Catechetical Lectures 4:17). And in your reading I am certain you encountered the words of Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote, "...we make the Holy Scriptures the canon and the rule of every dogma; we of necessity look upon that, and receive alone that which may be made conformable to the intention of those writings (On the Soul and Resurrection). Are these statements, sir, just as valid and important as noting the ancient practice of penance?
But more than just noting the presence of these kinds of statements (and there are many, many more), I likewise point you to numerous practices and beliefs not embraced by Rome today. Why are those beliefs less important, or even to be rejected? Because of the truly consistent epistemology that lies behind Rome's claims: sola ecclesia. Rome gets to define not only the extent (canon) and meaning (interpretation) of Scripture, infallibly, but the extent and meaning of tradition as well. She gets to pick and choose between what practices and activities of the myriad one can find in early church history she will invest with some kind of special authority and which ones she will reject. She gets to define what is tradition, and what isn't. So, when Irenaeus gives us the very earliest claim to an apostolic teaching or belief in all of patristic literature in claiming the apostles taught Jesus was more than fifty years old at His death (an idea he was promoting to oppose a particular gnostic error of his day), we all can together identify such a tradition as corrupt, and reject it. Yet, if the very first claim by a Christian writer that he has an apostolic teaching that exists outside of Scripture is to be rejected as corrupt, and that within a hundred years after the death of the last apostles, upon what logical basis are we to assume Rome kept pure a fragment of tradition, unknown to the early centuries in any form, never once preached, never once bound upon the consciences of the faithful, upon which she could define as dogma the Bodily Assumption of Mary in the middle of the twentieth century? Why? Because Rome says so, that's why. It is as simple as that.

Dr. Beckwith, one does not honor the early church by embracing Rome's absolute authority claims. One can honor the lives of great men of God and still examine their teachings on the basis of the touchstone of the Word of God. I can honor Athanasius and then do as he instructed me to do in testing his teachings by that which is God-breathed. In fact, I suggest that I can be far more honest in my handling of patristic materials than a faithful, consistent Roman Catholic can, for the Roman Catholic has already been instructed that on certain issues a "unanimous consent" of the Fathers exists---when in fact, that simply isn't true. I can look honestly as the political development of the Papacy over time. Can you? Can you see Augustine representing the majority of early writers in rejecting the very foundations of modern Papal claims, not only in his view of Matthew 16, the Cathedra Petri, etc., but in his rejection of Zosimus' claims to authority in the matter of Pelagius, and accept what it meant concerning the views he held at the time? Or do you have to find a way "around" these facts because Rome tells you otherwise? Can you accept that without forged documents such as the Donation of Constantine and the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals that the entire foundation of Papal authority as it developed in history would be altered beyond recognition? Does it mean something to you that your new ultimate epistemological authority in matters of faith and morals hangs in mid-air, its historical claims having collapsed long ago?

I do hope that we all, everyone considering these things, will recognize that all of this comes back to the key issue: the gospel. You were asked by the second caller, Paul, how your gospel has changed. You did not really answer the question. Eleven years ago on the Bible Answer Man broadcast I discussed Roman Catholicism for three hours with Tim Staples, now staff apologist with Catholic Answers. At one point we agreed, thankfully, to this point: that if he and I were to be protesting abortion outside of a clinic somewhere, and someone were to walk up to the both of us and say, "What must I do to be saved?" that we would respond in substantively different manners. We would *not* say the same thing in response. And so I ask: if apostolic succession is important, shouldn't it be an apostolic succession of truth rather than an apostolic succession of persons? Should it not be our first priority to preach and teach what the apostles themselves taught? I have a sad feeling that at this point you would question whether we could even do so (i.e., that you would question the sufficiency of Scripture for such a task). But it is that very issues that separates us, epistemologically, and, since we preach different gospels, on the very level of faith itself.

It seems silly to say that “Dr. Beckwith wasn’t prepared or was bumbling his words”, in light of the context in which Dr. Beckwith came into the situation. Originally from the get go I assumed that this interview was going to be about Dr. Beckwith explaining his story, and his reasons for rejoining the Roman Catholic Church. I didn’t really have an expectation in them getting into serious doctrinal discussions because it seems a 2 hour segment doesn’t provide ample time for both, and a blog/book can do it much better.

I mean from the interview I didn’t even catch the “reason” he stepped down and re-converted to the Roman Catholic Church. I heard his journey, but I didn’t get a real sense of the driving force that made him make that jump (fully knowing that much of this “questioning” and talk would take place because of it). And I thought this was the whole purpose of the interview lol, if anyone can enlighten me, preferable in Dr. Beckwith’s own words it would be greatly appreciated.

Overall I don’t understand why there is so much, “well if he only knew this then…” talk going around, as though Dr. Beckwith made his decision because a lack of intellect almost as if he just “missed something and ended up a Catholic”. The guy is not dumb and I doubt he made this choice without some very serious prayer, meditations, and reading on the subject. While I disagree with his conclusion I was very hopeful with his concept of “evangelizing in the Catholic Church” and his encouragement for Catholics to read Protestant writers books/materials. It seems he is still working out a lot of issues in his mind, so why not allow him and God to hash it out?

Your brother in Christ,

-Josh

I enjoyed the broadcast; but I was disappointed that Greg wasn't able to ask the questions he had in mind -- they were pretty much the same ones I had. I hope a strong Catholic apologist would agree to discuss with Greg -- although I had high hopes that the friendship and understanding Greg and Francis have would help the communication.

The Magesterium has NOT guarded the faith, has NOT passed to to the common people; has instead expanded its authority at the cost of its teaching and correcting ministry. (Er -- this is a valid criticism of most of the evangelical world as well. Most of them have REJECTED any correcting ministry.)

But throughout the world, rank-and-file Catholics identify with Christianity, and yet are never exposed to fundamental doctrines, accepting instead a local syncretist animism, or family loyalty, or simple institutional ties. The "infallible" teaching of the Church is simply not present to the people who are supposed to be served by it; in practice it's reserved for the hierarchy. Even there, rot is present; the recent pederasty scandal shows that even within the hierarchy loyalty is sometimes more important than faithfulness.

Does the Magersterium have apostolic succession? I can't tell; the historical details are mostly lost.

Does it matter?

Consider the illustration of the grafted branches (Rom 11:17): the blessing is not given by right of succession, but by God's kindness and our faithfulness in that kindness. This illustration isn't speaking about individuals losing salvation -- otherwise it wouldn't make sense to be comparing the Jews to the Gentiles. It's talking about entire people groups -- it's talking about the churches.

So having the succession might not matter, if the blessing of God is lost. I haven't attempted to argue that it has been lost, by the way.

Another problem is the nature of the authority of the Church. One of the deepest parts of that authority is to decide who is part of the visible church and who is not; in short, excommunication. But this authority was never given to the apostles in any way; it was announced by Christ to His disciples in Matt 18, and given His name "whenever two or more gather". In other words, although congregationalism was never Christ's mandate, and voting is not the meaning, there's an element of congregationalism in the definition of what constitutes the Church.

One of the most important things that Greg Koukl teaches is to read people charitably. It is something that we all fail to do on occasion, and I certainly have failed to do on occasion as well.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, we have an example of this for us right here in the comments box of the STR blog. Mr. White states to me, “… [Y]ou have admitted, repeatedly, that you had not even read the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent until earlier this year." This is not true. However, an uncharitable reading of my initial mention of this could lead one to that conclusion. Here's what I stated in my National Catholic Register interview:

"There was an aesthetic aspect to this well: The Catholic view of justification elegantly tied together James and Paul and the teachings of Jesus that put a premium on a believer’s faithful practice of Christian charity.

Catholicism does not teach `works righteousness.' It teaches faith in action as a manifestation of God’s grace in one’s life. That’s why Abraham’s faith results in righteousness only when he attempts to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God.

Then I read the Council of Trent, which some Protestant friends had suggested I do. What I found was shocking. I found a document that had been nearly universally misrepresented by many Protestants, including some friends.

I do not believe, however, that the misrepresentation is the result of purposeful deception. But rather, it is the result of reading Trent with Protestant assumptions and without a charitable disposition."

You can read the entire interview here: http://ncregister.com/site/article/2772

What I said is both consistent and inconsistent with the truth of White's statement: "that you had not even read the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent until earlier this year."

Now, let me ask STR readers, knowing what you know about me, how would you charitably approach my comments? Would you assume that prior to earlier this year that I had never read Trent, or would you think, "he took the suggestion of friends and reacquainted himself with a text he had not picked up in years." If you chose the latter, you are correct.

This is why in my Ignatius Press interview--give soon after the NCR interview--I clarify matters:

“IgnatiusInsight.com: Do you have any formal training in Evangelical theology?

Dr. Beckwith: Yes. I earned my first master's degree (M.A. in Christian Apologetics) under the direction of two Lutheran theologians, Charles Manske and John Warwick Montgomery. It was at the old Simon Greenleaf University that has since merged with Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. In any event, at SGU I studied Evangelical theology, apologetics, comparative religion, and church history under Montgomery, Manske, and Michael Smythe. Among the several works that Smythe had us read for his church history course was Progress of Dogma by James Orr, the great Scottish Presbyterian scholar. This is when I first came in contact with the Council of Trent. Orr's interpretation, as well as the interpretations of others I would read over the years, would shape my understanding of Trent when I finally got around to reading it for the first time a few years later. However, as I pointed out in my NCR interview, when I read Trent again with fresh eyes several months ago at the suggestion of several friends, I was shocked at how much I had missed the first time, largely because I did not read it then with a teachable spirit. I had read it more like a prosecutor trying to entrap a hostile witness rather than as a dispassionate judge seeking to issue a just verdict based on all the evidence.”

You can read the IP interview here: http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2007/fbeckwith_intervw1_jun07.asp

I believe those are the only two places in which I mentioned the Council of Trent since having returned to the Catholic Church. The first does not say what Mr. White says it says; and the second clarifies what I was saying in the first. Hence, I did not “admit repeatedly” what Mr. White claims.

Look, we all make mistakes, and I have made my share of them. So, I suspect that once Mr. White realizes his error he will make the appropriate changes on his blog and then ask STR to alter his posting here to reflect the truth about my comments. That seems like the Christian thing to do.

Now you see why reading people charitably is important. Mr. White is a Reformed Christian with a point of view that has a rich and attractive intellectual pedigree, and many of you share his convictions on a variety of matters (and I share some of them as well). But when a friend offers an uncharitable reading of another, it detracts from what we could otherwise learn from our friend. We begin to wonder, “If he can misread Beckwith on such a simple matter, one that a charitable reading will deliver a result that does not impugn his brother’s intellectual virtue but he chooses the opposite, perhaps he reads others that way as well. Perhaps his readings of Church Fathers, Popes, and Councils could be read with a more scholarly, less adversarial posture, that leads one to conclusions more congenial to his opponents’ understanding of these figures and bodies.” Perhaps. But that is another discussion for another day.

I hope the STR readers will indulge me with their graciousness and allow me to depart from participation in this combox so that I may live the life of Christ rather than just arguing about it. I’m 46 years old and I’m tired, for now.

Frank


This thread isn't the place for debate. You have two sides that can't fully elaborate where it needs elaboration. It will only produce un-Christian behavior. I'm a Protestant, but I sympathize with many Roman doctrines (minus justification). But here's my beef with some of the Protestant arguments:
1) Mr. White says no one at Nicea would qualify as a Roman Catholic today in doctrine. Unfortunately for that position, no early Church Father would qualify as a Reformed Baptist or any other Protestant group for that matter.
2) Where I tend to agree with Dr. White is where he says that Rome bundles too much into "the gospel" (making too many doctrines required for salvation that aren't "gospel" so to speak). This I find a valid critique.
3) Dr. White uses false logic however, when he says doctrines that were established later were "invented." Unless Dr. White believes all that Scripture has to offer was "discovered" immediately upon the writing down of Scripture, this argument has no weight. Obviously the Holy Spirit can guide the Church (meaning Christians) into truth over time. Dr. White won't find Once Saved Always Saved in the Early Church, yet he holds that as "gospel". Not even Augustine believed it.
4) Dr. White's view that the Holy Spirit leads Christians into agreement over essentials is not really that different from the magisterium. I don't see why he argues that the Protestant limited magisterium is much different than the Roman expanded magisterium (what I mean by that is the Protestant magisterium is more limited in what it defines as "necessary for salvation"). For example, the Scripture says nowhere that belief in justification by faith alone is required for salvation. That would be a Dr. White assumption based on his exegesis and personal study.
5) Dr. White's argument about Jewish canon is spurious since the Jews did NOT agree about which books were canonical (as the early Christians disagreed on the NT). His tossing out of the explanation that Jews didn't know the canon wasn't warranted. The fact of the matter is there were several canons floating around. One need only look at the Sadducees vs. Pharisees. Torah vs. Tanakh. Then compare that with the DSS community or the Samaritans. The Jews only forumated a universal canon after the time of Jesus. When Jesus speaks of the Scriptures he speaks in general terms (such as 2 Timothy does). The apostles and Christ used what their audience used to make their arguments. Paul uses greek thought in Athens. Jesus uses the local canon of those he spoke to. This is not to say that it is impossible that the Jews could have had their canon revealed to them. But might I ask Dr. White how this would have occurred? Did they have the Holy Spirit indwelt in them? Is there record in Scripture of the Holy Spirit saying that certain books are from God? If not the Holy Spirit, then how? And what record in Scripture is there of this (given Dr. White's sola scriptura view)? I think it is much more plausible that the Holy Spirit guided the people to use certain books until the time of Christ to point them to Christ. When Christ estbalished his Kingdom in the form of the Church on earth, I believe then the canon could be settled as authority was shared with the Church. This view doesn't rely on Sola Scriptura, but it does rely on biblical principles. It is an implicit argument. Unfortunately, that's all we can work with...including Dr. White's assertions about it.

Another quick point and I'll stop... those arguing about Mary and the transistus literature need to read more into that. Bill Webster has a great set of volumes on Sola Scriptura, and has a good book "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History"...but sometimes he doesn't quote everything one needs to make an informed decision. The very thing he quotes to show that the transistus literature was condemned ALSO says that others believed the same idea. It simply said that the transistus lit was the first written record. That doesn't make it wrong. We have some gnostic writings that might predate orthodox writings...that doesn't make the overlapping theology wrong because we have gnostic thinkers saying it first in the written record.

Anyway, that's my two cents. I wish you all well. The discussion should be all about justification in my opinion, but these are important too.

Frank, I think you've missed White's point. It is not the Trinity or sola scriptura that is in trouble -- it is the magesterium. Protestants have no problem with a gradual growth in our understanding of God or Christ, but it's hard to understand how the RC church can have the infallible interpretation of something only 500, 1000, or 1500 years after it was written (depending on the topic).

This makes no sense to me. If you believe your doctrines are the clear teaching of scripture then you have huge problems when doctrines are not pretty much identical throughout history. Protestants might not have a problem with growth of understanding but Sola Scriptora does. Scripture has not changed and if that is your ONLY source of revelation then changes are hard to explain.

In reality protestants believe very firmly in their tradition. That is why they have no trouble with developing doctrine. They don't admit they have abandoned Sola Scriptora and embraced tradition. That would mean answering the question of how do we know which tradition is right.

The Catholic faith accepts tradition and growth over time. They have addressed the very question protestants are running away from. So to react with such shock and horror to developing Catholic doctrine is to show a huge lack of understanding. It is something we expect and praise God for. God allows people of every generation to find new and deeper truths that flow from His word. He also gives us a way to know which of these new ideas we can trust and which are corruptions. He preserves His gospel.

People here seem to assume this is impossible but they don't say why. Once you have a trustworthy authority then all of this becomes quite reasonable. Once you think about it you realize we can hardly avoid developing doctrine. The real question is does God expect us to do it by prayer and a plethora of opinions or does he offer us concrete help in the form of a visible authority?

From the Second Vatican Council:

"this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication and expounds it faithfully."[5]


I think it is important if one is to discuss the catholic Faith -to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church well --to understand what we believe and not just pass on what he has "heard" we believe.

With all due respect,

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Kevin

James White in his dogged pursuit of Francis Beckwith opines with: “Could a Roman Catholic representative point me to a single bishop at Nicea who believed what you believe de fide?”

Perhaps knowing that many of the doctrines embraced by Francis as a Catholic Christian were taught by the clear majority of bishops attending Nicea (e.g. three-fold ministry, baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, etc.), James then provides a select list of doctrines that underwent many years of controversy and reflection before their final defining.

Now, this simple Catholic is truly wondering what James is trying to accomplish by pointing out that many Catholic doctrines have undergone significant develop down through the course of Christian history; for the development of dogma is a truism fully embraced by Catholicism. (BTW, James needs to add to his list the doctrines of the Trinity, Christology, atonement, soteriology, et al.)

James then adds:” I do hope that we all, everyone considering these things, will recognize that all of this comes back to the key issue: the gospel.”

Since James has already opened-the-door, it is more than fair to now ask of him: “Could an Evangelical representative point me to a single bishop at Nicea who believed what you believe is ‘the gospel’?” Better yet, how about a single bishop from 150 AD to 1517 AD…

David

James White just cant handle it that good theological and academic people like Beckwith are converting to the Church that Christ founded. Beckwith is a philosopher not a skilled theological debator and I dont understand why he needs to be able to answer everyone of James Whites point to somehow prove that his conversion is genuinely built on Truth. When St.Paul converted to Christianity, he couldnt immediately give big theological treatises and defenses on everything, that took time. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us Truth not James White. Perhaps James White should actually stop with the excuses and actually debate Robert Sungenis again (a skilled Catholic debator) and then he can show the world how biblical his beliefs really are. In fact I nearly converted to the reformed religion after listening to James White, then I listed to his debates with Robert Sungenis and it opened my eyes, particularly in cross examination, James White didnt always have the answers. In particular listen to his debate with Sungenis on Papal Infallibility, James White was slam dunked in cross examination! Welcome home Dr.Beckwith, leave debates to people like Robert Sungenis and Patrick Madrid, you have nothing to prove.

From the STR interview, time mark 42:37:

"If you read the Council of Trent...which, by the way, really shocked me. I expected to read this sort of horrible document, you know, requiring people to stick pins in their eyes, you know, and flagellate themselves, you know, and it turns out that there are things in there that are quite amazing, that the initial grace is given to us by God, in fact, there's a condemnation in there for anyone who says that our works, apart from grace...I mean, I thought to myself, I had not been told...I had been misinformed!"

Could someone please explain to me how these words were actually meant to indicate, "Now, I had read the Council of Trent before." Excuse me, but how can you say you expected to read "this sort of horrible document, you know, requiring people to stick pins in their eyes, you know, and flagellate themselves, you know, and it turns out that there are things in there that are quite amazing..." when what you were really saying is "I had read the document before with such prejudice that I had not really understood it, but this time I chose to read it with charity instead." I'm sorry, but I cannot even begin to understand how you can make this kind of statement when you had already studied the document in the past.

I would further challenge the repeated assertion that reading Trent with "charity" makes all the difference in the world. If by "charity" one means "in its original context," that's fine, but is Beckwith alleging that he did not read Trent in its original context years before? I have cited the Council of Trent many times in my own writings. Where have I ever done so a-historically or a-contextually? Do some fundamentalists quote Trent as if it were a baseball bat without the slightest idea of its historical context? Of course, but is Beckwith identifying himself as such a narrow-minded fundamentalist? Surely not!

So Dr. Beckwith's claims regarding his reading of Trent now raises all sorts of new questions that he has not addressed. If, in fact, he had read Trent as a serious student of theology in the past, as he seems to be claiming now, how could he say what he said on STR, quoted above? How could he be "amazed" at what any basic reading of the text would have revealed to any layman? How can anyone read Trent and not know it condemns Pelagianism? How could he not know the most basic issues addressed by the Council? (I note in passing that some of his comments to Koukl could be taken to indicate that he does not understand that the canon listing at Trent was the first dogmatic definition of the canon in Roman theology, including the Apocrypha). A person who has read Trent knows that the issue of the Reformation has never, ever been the *necessity* of grace. Everyone knows that. The dividing line at the Reformation was the *sufficiency* of grace, not the necessity of grace. That was the issue then...it remains the issue today.

James White
www.aomin.org

Mr White,

You have a gift for missing the obvious. Dr Beckwith is simply saying that the tradition we come from influences the way we read things a lot. I know you think your reading of everything is fair and impartial and only other people are biased in their interpretation. Dr Beckwith has gotten past that. He sees that his reading it as a protestant caused him to make certain assumptions that were not warranted by the text. That takes humility to admit that. You respond to his vulnerability by trying to score as many points as you can. Whatever.

A brief response to Goodlove's comments:

1) Mr. White says no one at Nicea would qualify as a Roman Catholic today in doctrine. Unfortunately for that position, no early Church Father would qualify as a Reformed Baptist or any other Protestant group for that matter.

Non-sequitur. Beckwith was claiming Nicea. I recognize Nicea was...Nicea. I have never claimed, nor does my theological epistemology require me to assert, that the council fathers were Reformed Baptists. My claim is that the Roman claim, which does require, at its core, that historical continuity, is untenable. I can let those at Nicea be who they were. I don't need to turn them into anything they were not.

2) Where I tend to agree with Dr. White is where he says that Rome bundles too much into "the gospel" (making too many doctrines required for salvation that aren't "gospel" so to speak). This I find a valid critique.

It is not a matter of just "bundling" stuff into the gospel. Galatians 5 makes it plain: seek justification in anything other than faith in Jesus Christ alone, and Christ will be of no benefit to you. We are talking about life and death here.

3) Dr. White uses false logic however, when he says doctrines that were established later were "invented."

If it is not biblical, it was invented at some point; that is, if it was not preached by the Apostles with Christ's appointment, then it had to have an origin in time. However, that origin is normally not of the final doctrine, but of a number of smaller departures from the truth that, over time, come together to produce even greater error. Normally, it is man's desire to control the grace of God that is the impetus behind such things (the blasphemy of purgatory, for example, with its concept of satispassio, which is so very appealing to the natural man).

Unless Dr. White believes all that Scripture has to offer was "discovered" immediately upon the writing down of Scripture, this argument has no weight. Obviously the Holy Spirit can guide the Church (meaning Christians) into truth over time. Dr. White won't find Once Saved Always Saved in the Early Church, yet he holds that as "gospel". Not even Augustine believed it.

I see you have never read my published works. I'm sorry to see that, but it is quite common. I would direct you to my discussion of the development of doctrine in both _The Roman Catholic Controversy_ as well as _Scripture Alone_. I will not repeat those discussions here.

4) Dr. White's view that the Holy Spirit leads Christians into agreement over essentials is not really that different from the magisterium.

I don't even recall saying those words, but even if I did, this would not in any way, shape, or form, be the same as Rome's magisterium. Once again, I refer you to my published works on the subject.

I don't see why he argues that the Protestant limited magisterium is much different than the Roman expanded magisterium (what I mean by that is the Protestant magisterium is more limited in what it defines as "necessary for salvation"). For example, the Scripture says nowhere that belief in justification by faith alone is required for salvation. That would be a Dr. White assumption based on his exegesis and personal study.

Again, you are misrepresenting me. Please document where I have made sola fide an object of saving faith. I have written a 400+ page work on justification. It is available widely. Have you read it? Please cite where I made this assertion. Thank you.

5) Dr. White's argument about Jewish canon is spurious since the Jews did NOT agree about which books were canonical (as the early Christians disagreed on the NT). His tossing out of the explanation that Jews didn't know the canon wasn't warranted. The fact of the matter is there were several canons floating around. One need only look at the Sadducees vs. Pharisees. Torah vs. Tanakh. Then compare that with the DSS community or the Samaritans. The Jews only forumated a universal canon after the time of Jesus.

This is a common view...from the 19th century. I would recommend my reader catch up with modern studies of the issue, and would especially direct him to Roger Beckwith's fine work, _The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church_.

Another quick point and I'll stop... those arguing about Mary and the transistus literature need to read more into that. Bill Webster has a great set of volumes on Sola Scriptura, and has a good book "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History"...but sometimes he doesn't quote everything one needs to make an informed decision. The very thing he quotes to show that the transistus literature was condemned ALSO says that others believed the same idea.

Yes...other gnostics did. No question about it. Gnosticism is indeed the root of the Marian dogmas.

It simply said that the transistus lit was the first written record. That doesn't make it wrong. We have some gnostic writings that might predate orthodox writings...that doesn't make the overlapping theology wrong because we have gnostic thinkers saying it first in the written record.

I'm sorry, but this is simply muddled thinking. No one has argued "just because it is in gnostic writings means it is wrong." The concept of Jesus basically "beaming" out of Mary is perfectly consistent with a docetic/dualistic worldview, that's the point. See my discussion in my book, _Mary: Another Redeemer?_

James White
www.aomin.org

Frank,
Nice try in suggesting White apologize/backtrack/clarify. White has magisterial authority when it comes to himself. While I agree with much of what he says theologically and disagree with many Roman Catholic teachings theologically, White has never been cordial to anyone that I can see, so don't feel too bad :)

That being said, it seems incredulous to me that you would expect to go onto a protestant apologetic radio show and not expect the questions you received. The first big question was on justification, and that seemed to be a very difficult one for you to handle.

Dr. White,
Why is such a belligerent tone necessary? Why not disagree with arguments alone and without the attending emotion? You offer such good resources that I have found edifying, but I have to filter past the polemics.

One more thing before I go....

Randy has it right. It is one thing to read Trent in your mid-20s after being tutored by some fine Lutheran minds. It is quite another to read it again in your mid-40s with two decades of reading, writing, and discussion under one's belt, not to mention the soberness that comes with age.

My expression of bewilderment on the radio is an extension of the joy I felt when I realized that my previous understanding of Trent was the result of looking at it through 16th century Lutheran lenses.

But once one reads Lehmann-Pannenberg and others on this, one get a better sense of the condemnations and their import and how they relate to us today. It is interesting that my prior reading of Trent--in the mid-80s--was prior to my philosophical training. It was my philosophical training in classical and medievel thought that helped me to better understand the deeper philosophical, and anthropological, issues at stake at Trent, something that only became apparent to me when I read Trent with "fresh eyes" months ago. Nominalism, unfortunately, had infected certain segments of Church life and had spawned a perverted application of the church's teachings that Luther rightfully objected to. Unfortunately, that very same nominalism was part and parcel of his "solution."

I've said enough already. I'm OCD'ing on this stuff and need to rest.

Frank

James White posted @ 12:13PM:

>> 1) Mr. White says no one at Nicea would qualify as a Roman Catholic today in doctrine. Unfortunately for that position, no early Church Father would qualify as a Reformed Baptist or any other Protestant group for that matter.
Non-sequitur. Beckwith was claiming Nicea. I recognize Nicea was...Nicea. I have never claimed, nor does my theological epistemology require me to assert, that the council fathers were Reformed Baptists. My claim is that the Roman claim, which does require, at its core, that historical continuity, is untenable. I can let those at Nicea be who they were. I don't need to turn them into anything they were not.>>


Not “Non-sequitur” for you have many times in the past invoked the historic creeds as secondary, non-infallible, authorities; and you have chastised Catholics who do not read such secondary authorities into your understanding of sola scriptura.

With this in mind, you must stay on the same playing-field that you are placing your opponents on; in other words, you must account for the extreme gap in the development (or lack thereof) of your “gospel”—1,500 years is a pretty big gap in my book.

David

Now I see why people label James White as anti-Catholic. I don't get the impression that he views Catholics as Christians, which is absurd because they believe and confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. Most Protestants, who are not anti-catholic, at least don't question the the salvation of Catholics even though there are theoloigcal differences, but White assumes the role of God and judges these folks stand before God. James the-Anti-Catholic White!

I think Greg and Frank are to be congratulated for a civil but informed discussion of the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

Greg brought out some of the major troubling features that continue to nag at Protestants and Frank, who is clearly still thinking through some of this, gave some pretty reasonable answers.

To Greg I would say - let's do some more shows on canonicity. There is some great literature on this and maybe having a textual scholar on one Sunday might not be a bad idea.

To Frank I would say - you still have my love and respect as a Christian and a scholar. I am afraid that I must agree with James White - I have read the Canons of Niceae several times and I do not see indulgences there. You might be able to argue that they are present in an embryonic form, but I think even that is a stretch. Also, even though the practice of penance is ancient, the understanding that this aids in your forgiveness is surely an aberration that the Catholic Catechism does not teach, but is a common understanding in Catholic Churches all over the country.

Great job to both.

Aeric, a consistent Catholic who assents to the revealed dogmas of the RCC is not a Christian. I am sorry if this upsets you but until very recently this was always a mutually-exclusive dividing line. I as a Protestant was condemned and accursed and we in turn lamented that Catholics were led astray by Papal decrees and excesses. It's time for our feelings to stop being hurt and to deal with facts civilly but forcefully. Being nice does not mean saying nice things about what my faith tradition has that you can celebrate or vice versa. If you are Catholic, being nice to me means telling me that my soul is in peril because you believe me in error, and my doing the same with you. Enough about feelings--our self-esteem culture has made us intellectual wimps, incapable of dealing with weighty matters without being hurt by exclusive claims.

Thankfully many (if not most) American Catholics don't even know most of the revealed dogmas and if they know some they assent to few, that was my experience when I was Catholic. Among these, a great many have put their trust simply in Christ alone and I count them as Christians...and I seek to get them out of a church whose teachings they don't really believe anyway.

Labels like anti-Catholic are useless to dialog. Labels like "not nice" are useless to dialog when used with the hair-trigger sensitivity the postmodern era has. What are useful to dialog are facts and rigorous thought.

How much credibility would White have purchased for himself had he just admitted that he had misunderstood/misread Beckwith as saying he hadn't read Trent until recently. Alas, that is not the Reformed way, and certainly not White's way of operating.

Dr White, you may be winning battles, but you're losing the war. Your arguments are better, but your behavior drives people to Rome.

Which is just fine with me, because I think all of Christianity is bunk. I find Roman Catholics are nicer than Reformed Protestants, so I like to see people swimming the Tiber. For all the Reformed talk of grace, they seem to be the least gracious of all.

Frank wrote,

"Catholicism does not teach `works righteousness.' It teaches faith in action as a manifestation of God’s grace in one’s life. That’s why Abraham’s faith results in righteousness only when he attempts to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God."

I beg to differ. When does God account Abraham as righteous? Genesis 15:6:

And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

There is nothing about what Abraham did. It is what God accounted to him.

This is the problem with Catholicsm, just like 90% of all catholics I meet and I ask how they are going to get to heaven and they respond with "I am a good person". It is always about works and the sufficiency of God's grace is trampled on.

Dr. White a few brief thoughts (and perhaps we can continue by email if you provide an address for me):

1) You said my point about Nicea and its attendees was a non-sequitur. I disagree. If Sola Scriptura means what you claim in your book, would it not then follow that someone in 1500 years got it right? Shouldn't we find a single Church father who agreed 100% with the "essentials" that were plainly taught in Scripture? Shouldn't the Holy Spirit have led at least one Church father to be in-line with Protestant essentials? It seems that my point still is valid. I understand you to be saying (correct if wrong) that you can let them be because Scripture is the authority, so even if everyone got it wrong until you, you would be vindicated. That would be acceptable accept that you believe that Scripture is clearly understandable if one prays and studies, no? Had no Christian done that for that huge gap? That's where my point was aimed. Otherwise your response is a valid alternative.

2) I agree that Galatians makes it clear that faith in Christ yeilds justification, and that outside of Christ, nothing justifies. What we disagree on is the definition of faith. Galatians is specific: "faith working through love." (Gal. 5:6 ESV). Catholics and Protestants do not disagree.

3) I've heard Scriptural arguments for nearly every Catholic doctrine. Which do you believe is not at least implicitly addressed by Catholic scholars (whether you agree with them or not is irrelevant). What Catholic doctrine have Catholic scholars admitted they cannot find at least implicit evidence for?

However, your point is a valid one. It IS equally possible that it was due to the building up of departures from truth. That is quite possible given man's fallibility. But it is equally possible that the Holy Spirit led a group of believers to truth (and more clear truth) over time. Would you say this is impossible? Especially if it can be shown that at least there is implicit evidence of these doctrines?

4) You asked me to document where you made sola fide an object of saving faith? First let me ask, do you deny that a belief in sola fide is required for salvation? But I quote from your response: "Galatians 5 makes it plain: seek justification in anything other than faith in Jesus Christ alone, and Christ will be of no benefit to you." Would you not agree this is what you are saying? Or am I misreading your comment? If so, please clarify.

3+4) Before I address this, I would like to ask Dr. White to please not assume anything about me (such that I haven't read your works). I recently bought quite a few of them, and I have read your section on Development of Doctrine in Scripture Alone. Now on to the point. In your conversation (between Robert and Joshua), your point centers around the distinction between partim-partim vs. material sufficiency. You critique the material sufficiency view, but in my opinion at a false level. You indicate that once the tradition of 2 Thess. (in your interpretation) was written, there is no need for oral tradition, especially with the material sufficiency view. My critique is that this tradition could still implicitly be indicated in the written form, while being expounded upon in the "T"radition. Thus, the tradition of the Church would implicitly be contained in the written form, while being there to aid in interpretation of the written form. An analogy could be something along the lines of having a written outline in your lecture class, then writing down notes in the margin from the actual lecture. The lecture contains things based on the notes, and expounds upon them. Not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea.

5) Roger Beckwith's book I haven't read, perhaps you can share with me some of the insights it has. However, if the Jewish canon were settled, why didn't the early Church recognize it? The lists differed. If it was unified, and had been for some time, we'd expect the same lists. If Roger Beckwith addresses that, I'd like to know. I'm here to learn, so please share with me.

6) In regard to Mary's Assumption, you said they were all gnostics who taught it. However, there were also:

John Damascene, Germanus of Constantinople, Amadeus, Anthony of Padua, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Bernardine of Siena, Robert Bellarmine, Francis of Sales, Alphonsus, Peter Canisius

Granted, not all of these are early witnesses, but they do predate the proclamation. There is no way to prove, Dr. White, that all before the Transitus lit. were gnostics that held this view. The quote webster uses comes from the same source that says this view was based on already held belief (not gnostic).

However, arguments are also made Scripturally for the assumption of Mary (whether you find them persuasive or not). I don't see any problem with the doctrine. Mary wouldn't have been the first to be assumed into heaven, and if an Old Testament saint can, then why not Mary?

Anyway, thanks for replying to my original post Dr. White. I do appreciate your time and effort, and I stand to learn a lot from you. I've enjoyed your works so far. Again, I would love to continue via email if you have time.

Being an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I have the luxury of thinking both sides are wrong. :)For what they are worth, here are my thoughts on the conversation. It seems to me even if the Church merely recognized what was in fact inspired that this simply moves the question, was that recognition authoritative and normative? And with what kind of authority did it recognize the Scriptures as such? And this is a major point of difference-is the church merely human? This question has major Christological import since we need to understand the relationship between the two natures in Christ. Is Christ’s humanity deified? If so, what does this imply about the Church, for which the humanity of Christ forms the union of its members?

It seems to me that the kind of revisable formal recognition that Protestants have in mind doesn’t jive with the intuitions that most Protestants have. Do they really believe that the canon of Scripture is revisable? Is the doctrine of the Trinity revisable? I don’t think so and yet I don’t know why given the epistemic distance between the semantic content of the text and the access to it. The Protestant canon then seems to amount to the idea of a formally fallible but materially infallible collection of texts. To say that all formal theological statements are fallible is equivalent to saying that all formal theological statements are in principle always up for grabs. No inductive method can produce certainty sufficient to ground an absolute commitment and moving the question to subjective states does no work for I can certainly think the Spirit is authenticating works when in fact the Spirit is not.

Beckwith seems correct when he notes that a consensus implies a standard logically and historically prior to Scripture. And he is not alone in this. Ridderbos for example writes “Every attempt to find an a posteriori element to justify the canon, whether sought in the authority of its doctrine or in the consensus of the church that gradually developed goes beyond the canon itself, and thereby posits a canon above the canon which comes in conflict with the nature of canon itself.”

As for the supposed dilemma of knowing what was Scripture prior to Christ I can’t see any real problem. The problem posed appears to be the idea that if the judgment of the church is necessary then those in the OT couldn’t know what was of divine origin. That might follow if there were no prophets as to authenticate, discover and promulgate various works, but there was. Secondly, the issue really isn’t epistemological at all. The epistemological worries only serve to motivate the underlying metaphysical issue and the issue is this. What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for there to be infallible teaching? Skeptical worries are deployed in order to highlight the inadequacies of a view that renders all teaching to which we have access fallible. This is why a Catholic or Orthodox Christian can claim private judgment in knowing that X is the true Church or that some teaching is of divine origin and such but that knowing isn’t a sufficient condition to establish the *fact* that it is so. So any good Hebrew could for example know what was Scripture, but their judgment wasn’t sufficient to formally establish it as such with any normative authority and this is why the work of the prophets was necessary in relation to past works.

To harp in inspiration as the sine qua non of canonicity doesn’t help much for many early Christian writings and councils claim inspiration as well. So we need independent reasons for thinking these works are in fact inspired and these other works aren’t, in which case what is really doing the justificatory work is not inspiration but whatever independent reasons we proffer. The fluidity of inspiration also shows that the evangelical view put into the mouths of the Fathers and Scripture is rather anachronistic. One never seems to get an analysis of how they viewed inspiration.

As for the Jewish canon, it is hardly a product of 19th century biblical scholarship that the Sadducees rejected the writings of the prophets. And Roger Beckwith certainly isn’t the old or last word on the shape of the Hebrew canons-see MacDonald’s, The Canon Debate. I certainly have to wonder, though without passages like 2 Maccabees 7:28 where we are to derive such teachings as creation ex nihilo from the Protestant canon.

I am at a loss as to how, even if Mr. White’s arguments were anywhere near successful how it would imply the truth of Protestantism. If the viaticum isn’t the nascent seed for indulgences, it is still the case that the beliefs concerning it show that Protestantism is very innovative. Even if they are as “simple” as Mr. White glosses them rather dismissively as being, they are still quite unProtestant. And so while it may be true that no one at Nicea was a full blown Tridentine Catholic (of course via a Newmanesque theory of conceptual development, Rome doesn’t claim that they were) they certainly weren’t anything like Reformed Baptists either. The monarchial episcopate, namely that only bishops were the source of orders and could ordain, baptismal regeneration and lots of other beliefs were quite firmly in place by the time of Nicea. Were the Nicene bishops heretics by Mr. White’s standards? Much the same can be said about Canon 6 of Nicea seeing that Reformed Baptists do not have bishops. It is rather ad hoc and dismissive to state that, as Mr. White does, that he is not required to hold to historical consistency for if he is to have any plausible claim, barring LDS type restorationaism to be the society that Jesus established in history, he has some explaining to do as to why his view has the very same kind of historical discontinuity that he accuses Rome as having.

As for Sola Scriptura, while it is true that Athanasius says the things that Mr. White cites, it is also true that he cites the apocrypha as inspired scripture, not to mention the fact that he argues that the rule of faith of the Church is to be taught prior to learning the scriptures and is in fact the guide our exegesis and not any humanistic grammatical methodology. The key to the Scriptures is the right teaching about Christ and not grammar. His statements on the sufficiency of Scripture can only be read as a testament to sola scripture with extreme prejudice as a number of specialists in Athanasius have argued.

Mr. White states that Rome gets to pick and choose regarding tradition and such, but this is hardly an argument against and seems nothing more than a restatement of the position for if Rome were what she says she is, how exactly would it be problematic that she does so? Moreover, I can only substitute the individual Protestant in his statements to the effect that the individual Protestant gets to choose what canon he will or won’t accept, what is the correct interpretation and what isn’t, etc. Nothing external, material and historical can carry ultimate normative force over the individual’s own internal judgment.

As for Mary, being Found in Gnostic texts isn’t identical to being a Gnostic teaching. Lots of Christian teachings that White accepts are found and mocked in Gnostic texts. What needs to be demonstrated is that teachings like the perpetual virginity, which many Reformers accepted and defended, are in fact Gnostic teachings and not merely consistent with them. And in fact the idea that Mary was simply preserved in virginity doesn’t strike me as Jesus “beaming” out of Mary.

And thinking that OT saints partook of the heavenly life (no marriage in the heavenly state)and thereby were virgins and celebate and was Jesus, hardly requires doketic teaching as a foundation. It is quite possible that the Gnostic sources are giving a Gnostic spin on teaching that they were familiar with-“See, she remained intact because Christ didn’t partake of matter.” Gnostics generally subvert and deconstruct the material of other traditions rather than invent out of whole cloth since that would undermine their entire program of pseudonymous writing.

As for Apostolis succession, I can see no reason to pit a valid ordination against the reception of truth. Certainly in the Scriptures in both testaments, and in the Fathers it is possible to have the latter but not be a ruler. In cases where someone with a valid ordination teaches falsehood the assumption was generally that they departed from the truth that they received thereby making their succession invalid. This in no way though licenses the conclusion that the laying on of hands is not a necessary condition for possessing the apostolic ministry. It only shows that the ministry is sustained through personal choice and ordination is not a sufficient condition. Just so long as Protestants like Mr. White lack even the necessary condition, speaking of truth in its absence they will miss the point, for the apostolic ministry is continuous through history even if some of its members fail. Apostasy in Israel didn’t license any faithful Hebrew to claim the priesthood. Truth was accessed, via a primitive version of the canon of St. Vicent in the synergy of the authorized ministers, as witnessed in Acts 15, and not insolation from them.

Mr. White seems to wish to make light of Beckwith’s philosophical background. I’ll let Dr. Beckwith defend his own theological training. That said though, the same standard applies. Mr. White makes significant claims about epistemology and the nature of language of which he has no professional competence or training. Being proficient in a language mind you is not the same as being an expert on the nature of language so that Mr.s White’s training in the biblical languages is irrelevant. More specifically, Mr. White seems ill equipped to speak not only of epistemology but also the metaphysics that underlie the reformation debates. Mr. White asks, “I can look honestly as the political development of the Papacy over time. Can you?” While it is true that the Papacy developed over time, the same scholarship demonstrates that sola fide was just as much a product of political and metaphysical development. Much of the disagreement between Rome and the Reformation turns on Realist and Nominalist epistemologies, metaphysics and theories of language, of which Mr. White lacks any professional competence. This is why people end up reading documents like Trent differently and why say Augustine considered imputed righteousness but rejected it because he was a philosophical realist. Mr. White simply isn’t metaphysically neutral in his exegetical practices.

Lastly, the genuine basis of the difference between the various traditions is not soteriology but much deeper, namely in Christology. The various traditions have different soteriologies because they have different glosses on Chalcedon. People are simply digging in the wrong place.

www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com

James White,

You should study and repeat this:
knowledge, wisdom, character, knowledge, wisdom, character, knowledge, wisdom, character, etc.
Below is copied from an STR page: http://www.str.org/site/PageServer?pagename=abt_full_vision
Knowledge - an accurate grasp of the foundational precepts of the Kingdom
Wisdom - skillful, tactical, fair, and diplomatic use of knowledge
Character - a mature expression of virtue, warmth, and personal depth

Francis Beckwith,

Wow! talk about being charitable??

Did you confer the same charity to the 2 young ladies especially Walter Martin's daughter by calling her ministry a mum and pops apologetics,

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=30605682&postID=3141817657509666708

the post regarding Beckwith's statements to Walter Martin's daughter was cut off,

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=30605682&postID=3141817657509666708

Let me preface this by saying that I am not unbiased (Frank is a dear friend of mine), but nor am I Roman Catholic (I'm a Reformed Anglican). Having listened to this radio broadcast, and read the subsequent commentary, I am left with a number of impressions:

Greg Koukl is clearly a very serious and earnest apologist and follower of Christ. However his statements and questions often contained bad assumptions, leaving Frank in the position of having to answer poorly worded queries, and reply to assertions which would need to be restated to be a useful starting point for dialogue.

For example, Greg assumes that the only kind of authority which Church councils possess is the same kind of authority he has as a believer. If what I say agrees with the Bible, then it is true and ought to be accepted by all Christians. Greg even said at one point in effect, "Why, even I have that kind of authority, if what I say happens to agree with Scripture" (paraphrase).

That is a typical modern, evangelical notion of authority, but it is not one which would have been shared by the 16th and 17th century Reformational churches, who all recognized the superior ministerial authority (though not infallibility) of Church councils in determining points of doctrine. Read carefully the Westminster Confession of Faith, 31.3 for instance. Frank should not have felt compelled to even give an answer to such a view of authority as espoused by Greg, since it is a modern novelty.

The same holds true for Koukl's understanding of justification. He assumes, contrary to the Reformers themselves, that justification implies that all my future sins are already forgiven the moment I become a Christian, and that there is no continuing need for a saving application of the benefits of Christ's merit to the sinner, as though forgiveness of sins is something that happens all up front at the beginning of the Christian life. That is simply not a mainstream Protestant view, though it is popular in American church circles today. How different the modern evangelical view is from the original Protestant view of the matter can be plainly seen by comparing a reference such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, 15.2-6, or the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 194. Or one can look at the Lutheran Smalcald Articles (1537) which state: "Some fanatics may appear . . . who hold that once they have received the Spirit or the forgiveness of sins, or once they have become believers, they will persevere in faith even if they sin afterwards, and such sin will not harm them. . . . It is therefore necessary to know and to teach that when holy people, aside from the fact that they still possess and feel original sin and daily repent and strive against it, fall into open sin (as David fell into adultery, murder and blasphemy), faith and the Holy Spirit have departed from them."

Again, Frank was put in the unenviable position of trying to justify himself for not holding to a novel evangelical view which is itself not based on a sound understanding of Protestant soteriology. Evangelical soteriology (indebted to Revivalism) is so focused on the benefits of the "conversion" experience that the ongoing necessity of sacramental grace within the structures of the visible Church (something assumed by Calvin and all the Reformers, with differing nuances) is undermined. It is Greg who should be explaining why he holds to novel evangelical views that are contrary to Reformational orthodoxy.

Likewise with Koukl's assumption that Protestant convictions must mean that the future judgment based on works cannot be with a view to one's final acquittal before God (contrary to the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 90). But it is a given within Protestant orthodoxy that a range of views have been held on the nature of the final judgment and the role of good works therein, and the same is true for Roman Catholic theology. So again, Frank was put in the position of trying to explain why it is as a Roman Catholic that he believes works enter into the equation pertaining to salvation at the final judgment, without it being acknowledged that his view (leaving aside the question of "merit" and its different definitions) is already within the range of acceptable doctrine in Protestant theology itself (see the discussion in Anthony Lane, Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue, pp. 198-210). So Frank was needlessly put on the defensive based upon an over-simplified starting point.

When the questions are not worded in a helpful manner, one cannot but struggle to reply, and so I really felt for Frank as I listened to this broadcast. He is a very articulate Christian philosopher, and his understanding of Roman Catholic teaching was not at all the problem here. The problem was (with all due respect to a fine evangelical apologist in Mr. Koukl) that he was repeatedly presented with poorly worded, and sometimes hopelessly vague and open-ended questions which he then had to struggle to turn into profitable points of discussion. I'm sorry Greg, but your interview simply illustrates the confusion which American evangelicalism has created through its loss of its own Reformational identity and consequent historical theological amnesia.

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