by Mark Bonocore
Well, if you feel that I am misrepresenting your doctrine, Mr. White, will you at least do me the favor of showing me the flaw in my reasoning in regard to your position? As I understand it, you maintain that:
(a) The Bible is a source of objective information which any sincere, unbiased, intelligent Christian believer can read and understand.
(b) The Bible objectively teaches the Evangelical (Reformed Baptist) Christian faith.
(c) The Evangelical (Reformed Baptist) Christian faith is Christian orthodoxy.
Do I understand you correctly so far, Mr. White? Well, if so, I believe that you also maintain that:
(d) "Sola Scriptura is a fundamental truth" -- the rule of faith for Christian orthodoxy (i.e. Reformed Baptist Evangelicalism).
(e) This is because the Bible alone is all that the Apostles left to us; and thus the Bible contains (in written form) the sum total of orthodox Christian doctrine (i.e. the doctrines of Reformed Baptist Evangelicalism).
(f) A true, sincere, Sola Scriptura reading of the Bible will objectively and invariably present the Evangelical (Reformed Baptist) Christian faith to the reader.
(g) Some early Christians, such as the Church Father St. Athanasius, subscribed to Sola Scriptura.
So, do you agree with all the statements above, Mr. White? Have I misrepresented your position in regard to any of them? Well, if not, can you please explain, for starters, what went wrong with St. Athanasius? :-) You do claim that he subscribed to Sola Scriptura, right? Well, was St. Athanasius a Reformed Baptist Evangelical? Are you able to recognize him as one?
We both know that such a thing is impossible because Athanasius clearly taught things that are alien to Reformed Baptist Evangelicalism, such as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Mary's perpetual virginity, infant Baptism, and the like.
So, what went wrong? Clearly, if you still hold that Athanasius subscribed to Sola Scriptura, you must also maintain that he was not very good at it. ;-) However, upon what would you objectively base that assumption? If you claim to subscribe to Sola Scriptura, and (as you say) St. Athanasius also subscribed to Sola Scriptura, what makes your interpretation of the Bible any better than his? What is your objective standard for deciding whose interpretation is correct?
Would you say that St. Athanasius was not an orthodox Christian? Remember, we are talking about the lone voice against the Arian heresy in the 4th Century Eastern Church (indeed, "throughout the whole Church," according to your colleague, Robert Zins). So, was Athanasius orthodox or not? After all, according to your position, he did hold to the rule of faith of "orthodox Christianity" (Sola Scriptura). Yet, even so, he did not arrive at Reformed Baptist Evangelicalism. Why not?
Do you think that St. Athanasius was not sincere? Do you think he wasn't intelligent? Do you think he was not committed to Christ?
Clearly, if you hold that St. Athanasius subscribed to Sola Scriptura as the rule of faith, yet did not arrive at the same interpretation of the Bible as you, you must then conclude that he made some error along the way. Yet, Mr. White, assuming that St. Athanasius did fall short in this regard, how can you be sure that you're not prone to error as well? :-) If a sincere, intelligent, saintly man like St. Athanasius could "misinterpret the Bible's objective message" (even when he was a native speaker of Biblical Greek!), how do you know you're not doing it as well? How do you know that your interpretation of the Bible is any more orthodox than Athanasius' ? How do you objectively know that the Reformed Baptist Evangelical interpretation of Scripture is objectively correct???
That is to say, how do you know that it's any better than St. Athanasius', OR Martin Luther's (who also taught the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Mary's perpetual virginity, and infant Baptism ...just like St. Athanasius. ;-)
So, if Athanasius (supposedly) subscribed to Sola Scriptura, and if Martin Luther also subscribed to Sola Scriptura; and if they agree on these doctrines, while you oppose them, how do you objectively know that your position is correct? How do you know that "the Eucharist is symbolic," that "Mary had other children," and that "Baptism is merely an outward sign" when (a) the Scriptures never directly define these issues, and (b) the verses which indirectly refer to them can be interpreted differently by Sola Scriptura-style readers? Therefore, how can you objectively claim to be orthodox? How do you know that the Bible objectively teaches the Reformed Baptist Evangelical faith?
There's only one way, Mr. White. You need to show that your interpretation of the Bible is consistent and repeatable throughout history. You need to show Christians in the early Church who you would clearly identify as "orthodox" (i.e. Reformed Baptist Evangelicals).
(a) If the Bible is an objective source of information, and ...
(b) If it objectively teaches the Reformed Baptist Evangelical Christian faith, then ...
(c) The Reformed Baptist Evangelical faith should be the consistent result from any Sola Scriptura reading of the Bible.
Therefore, let's assume that St. Athanasius and Martin Luther are "historical flukes." :-) Let's say that, for whatever reason, they failed to be faithful to Sola Scriptura. In that case, it still follows that ...
(a) If the Bible presents us with an objective body of doctrine, and ...
(b) If that objective body of doctrine can be read and correctly understood by anyone who adheres to the principle of Sola Scriptura, and ...
(c) If orthdox Christians throughout history have always rejected the "man-made traditions" of Catholicism and "remained faithful" to the Apostlic faith as it is "contained solely in the pages of Scripture," then ....
It necessarily follows, Mr. White, that you must be able to point to an ancient "orthodox Christian." ...That is to say, someone who achieved the same result from reading the Bible as you (i.e. the Reformed Baptist Evangelical faith).
Otherwise, you have no objective standard for showing that your interpretation of Scripture is correct. Now, once again, how is my reasoning flawed? :-)
If "X" = Reformed Baptist Evangelicalism, ....
And if you say that the Bible objectively teaches "X," ...
And if the Bible does indeed objectively teach "X," ....
Then we must have numerous examples of ancient "orthodox Christians" saying that the Bible teaches "X" too.
Where is the flaw in that, Mr. White? :-)
Yet, if we lack even a single example of an ancient Christian claiming that the Bible teaches "X" (i.e., Reformed Baptist Evangelicalism), then ...
(1) Either the Bible was not properly understood until you Reformed Baptists came along, or ...
(2) The Bible doesn't teach "X" at all. ;-)
So, if (2) is correct, your position is undone; and if (1) is correct, then Sola Scriptura is still disproven as a practical principle, since centuries of committed, Sola Scriptura Christians had the Bible in their possession but failed to read it correctly.
So, you only have one choice, Mr. White. If Sola Scriptura is true; and if your interpretation of the Bible is the objective message presented by the written text, then you must point to an ancient Christian who is unquestionably "orthodox" in your eyes (i.e., one who would be your co-religious today).
Now, I seriously doubt that you would have difficulty identifying such a person in the 17th or 18th century. I'm sure you could find an "orthodox Christian" from that time most easily. And the same goes for today. I doubt anyone would seriously dispute that Jason Engwer is (even remotely) your co-religious. So, what about your co-religious in the ancient Church, Mr. White? Where are they? Using the same standards as those cited above, can you name an "orthodox Christian" from ancient times or not? And, if not, why not? :-) Didn't they possess the Bible? Didn't some of them (according to your view) adhere to Sola Scriptura and despise the "human traditions" of Rome? :-)
Well, if so, where are they? Where were they when St. Athanasius supposedly stood alone in defending the Deity of Christ? :-) Where were they when Pope Innocent tried to include the "Apocrypha" in the Bible? Where were they when the Council of Ephesus proclaimed Mary to be the "Mother of God," or when St. Athanasius was teaching the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the perpetual virginity of Mary, and the Baptism of infants? Did "orthodox Christians" have nothing to say??? :-)
Ah! But, my dear Mr. White, doesn't the Bible say "By their fruits you shall know them"? So, where are the "fruits" of these ancient "orthodox Christians" ?
And, if the "remnant" of orthodox Christians which you and your associates are always talking about said nothing against these "abuses," then they couldn't have been very "orthodox" themselves, could they? :-) Where was their Elijah? Where was their Jeremiah? Did God raise up no one to speak out against the "wholesale apostasy" that Catholicism supposedly is? And so, does that mean that God cared more for the Israelites than He does for His own Church?! :-)
Again, Mr. White, if Athanasius, who supposedly stood alone against Arianism, and who (you say) subscribed to Sola Scriptura, was not part of the "orthodox remnant," then who, in God's Holy Name, was??? :-)
Again, if Evangelicals like yourself are going to claim that we Catholics read the Bible incorrectly, then you must be able to show that your interpretation is objectively correct and objectively repeatable.
So, for the 6th time, James, I'm giving you a chance to prove that your principle of Sola Scriptura works. Name an ancient "Bible Christian" like yourself. Name a Church Father who read the Bible correctly (like you).
If the Apostles left the Church with a static, written record as the rule of orthodoxy, and if that written record is objectively understandable, and if your interpretation represents the correct understanding of that objective record, then we must have ancient, yet full-developed, Evangelicals among the Church Fathers. At least among those who, you say, subscribed to Sola Scriptura. So, can you please name one.
That's my reasoning, James. I am more than ready to respectfully consider yours.
JAMES WHITE: 7 INDISPUTABLE TEACHINGS
by Mark J. Bonocore
James White teaches:
(1) "The Reformed Baptist Christian faith is Christian orthodoxy."
(2) "The Bible objectively teaches the Reformed Baptist Christian faith."
(3) "Sola Scriptura ('Bible alone') is a fundamental truth of orthodox Christianity."
(4) "If one reads the Bible, employing the fundamental truth of 'Bible alone,' one will arrive at its objective teaching: the Reformed Baptist Christian faith."
Would Mr. White dispute any of the statements above? Certainly not. So, let us proceed with his teaching.
Mr. White also holds that:
(5) "The Bible, in the form of the present Protestant canon, has always been in the possession of orthodox Christians."
(6) "The Apostles entrusted this Bible to their earliest followers with the result that it would become the sum total of orthodox Christian doctrine: that of the Reformed Baptist Christian faith."
(7) "Some early Christians (e.g. St. Athanasius) subscribed to Sola Scriptura ('Bible alone')."
So, if all these things are true, why wasn't St. Athanasius an "orthodox (i.e. Reformed Baptist) Christian"?
Did he possess the Bible in its present Protestant canon? Yes, according to Mr. White, he did.
Did he subscribe to the fundamental truth of Sola Scriptura? Once again, according to Mr. White, the answer is yes.
So, if he had the Bible, and if he used Sola Scriptura, why didn't St. Athanasius arrive at the Reformed Baptist Christian faith? What did Athanasius lack that James White does not???? He must have lacked something. Or, perhaps, he did not truly subscribe to Sola Scriptura.
Okay, let's say that St. Athanasius is a flawed example. Let's say that he failed to employ Sola Scriptura correctly. Well, if that's the case, ....
(a) James White still teaches that "Sola Scriptura is a fundamental truth for orthodox Christianity."
(b) He also maintains that "the Bible (i.e., the present Protestant canon) was always in the possession of orthodox Christians from the time of the Apostles onward."
(c) He also holds that "the Bible objectively teaches the Reformed Baptist Christian faith."
Thus, if (a), (b), and (c) are correct, then we should have many, many examples of ancient Christians whose beliefs are identical to those of modern, Reformed Baptists like James White.
So, why don't we see this? If there were ancient Christians who (a) subscribed to Sola Scriptura, (b) always possessed the Bible as we have it today, and (c) objectively arrived at the Reformed Baptist faith from reading the Bible, why doesn't history have a record of any of them?
Indeed, of the thousands of Church Fathers who James White has read, how can it be that not one of them mirrors his own, Reformed Baptist Christian faith? ...That is to say, how is it possible that, out of thousands of Church fathers, James White has never come across one who is "orthodox"? ...One who managed to arrive at what he says the Bible objectively teaches.
Was Clement of Rome orthodox? Not according to James White. Was Polycarp? Again, not by White's standards. Was Ignatius of Antioch? No. Was Irenaeus of Lyon? No. Was Justin Martyr? No. Was Clement of Alexandria? No. Was Tertullian? No. Was Hippolytus of Rome? No. Was Origen? No. Was Cyprian? No.Was Stephen of Rome? Was Dionysius of Alexandria? No. Was Eusebius of Caesarea? No. Was Anthony of Egypt? No. Was Ephraem the Syrian? No. Was Aphraates the Persian? No. Was Athanasius? No. Was Cyril of Jerusalem? No. Was Gregory Nazianzus? No. Was Basil the Great? No. Was Gregory of Nyssa? No. Was Ambrose of Milan? No. Was Jerome? No. Was John Chrysostom? No. Was Augustine of Hippo? No. Was Hilary of Poitiers? No. Was Cyril of Alexandria? No. Was Germanus of Auxerre? No. Was Patrick of Ireland? No. Was Leo the Great? No. Was Benedict of Nursia? No. Was Columba of Iona? No. Was Gregory the Great? No. Was Augustine of Canterbury? No.Was Isidore of Serville? No. Was Cuthbert of Northumbria? No. Was John Damascene? No. Was Boniface of Germany? No. Was Bede the Venerable? No. Were Cyril and Methodius? No.
And the list could go on and on.
So, what's the problem here? If the Reformed Baptist faith is Christian orthodoxy, and if the Bible which objectively teaches the Reformed Baptist faith was always in the possession of Christians, how is it possible that no ancient Christian arrived at orthodoxy??? It's not. :-) It's totally impossible. ...Unless James White wishes to claim that he possesses some unique, spiritual gift which all these other men of God were lacking.
So, until Mr. White deigns to produce an ancient Christian who mirrors his own Reformed Baptist faith, he must concede both that his interpretation of Scripture is objectively unreliable and that his fundamental principle of Sola Scriptura is impractical and unable to demonstate itself over the course of recorded history, thus proving itself to be an untrustworthy and false doctrine.
And, if Mr. White has a problem with my analysis of his position, I challenge him again (for the 10th time) to show me where there's a flaw in my reasoning.
To recap: X = The Bible -- Y = The Reformed Baptist faith -- S = Sola Scriptura
If we have always possessed X in it's present form, and if X objectively teaches Y, and if S is all one requires to conclude that X teaches Y, then Y should be a repeatable and objectively-demonstrable phenomenon.
So, what am I overlooking, Mr. White? :-)
Sic transit gloria mundi. Gloria tibi, Domine.
The Catholic Legate
November 24, 2004