Church Chat

White’s comments are in red. Pacheco’s comments are in blue.


I have recently read your responses to Mr. Porvaznik, “Argument for infallibility”, and I would like to pick  up where you left off with him. Would you be willing to do this Mr. White?  

No thank you, I’m quite busy.

James
Sola Scriptura: A Fundamental Truth
James White, Th.D. * Orthopodeo@aomin.org ^

“The Sword of God smites whatever they draw and forges from a pretended  apostolic tradition, without the authority and testimony of the Scriptures.” (Jerome, Commentarii in prophetas: Aggaeum 1:11 [CCL 76A.725]).


I’m sure you’re quite busy, Dr. White.  Distorting what the early Church Fathers wrote must take up a lot of your time.  Your reference to Jerome above is quite laughable, considering that Jerome was an ordained Catholic priest and secretary and confidant of Pope Damasus.  It’s too bad you don’t have the time to discuss how your ‘logic’ is nothing of the kind (especially your debate with Mr. Madrid of Catholic Answers on sola scriptura). I have written a 10 page analysis of your debate with Mr. Madrid, demonstrating where your position falls apart – in particular, your allusion to how the Old Testament Church could not have been infallible.  No matter, it will be well used in my apologetics group.

You know very well that St. Jerome DID believe in Apostolic Tradition:  “I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter.  I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built…”   (Letter to Pope Damasus, [15,2]).

– John Pacheco


I see you are as kind as many of your compatriots.  Well, another example of an RC apologist glowing with the fruit of the Spirit.  Thanks for confirming my faith.

James


It’s unfortunate you don’t think I was ‘kind’ to you.  The charity I afford people of other Christian faiths or religions is directly proportional to their knowledge of the Catholic faith.  If you think I am being uncharitable, then you must really be sorry for the way you treated Mr. Madrid (i.e. ignoring him at the beginning of the debate and refusing to shake his hand at the end of it).

By citing Jerome as a supporter of ‘sola scriptura’ to me is tantamount to me telling you that Martin Luther vigorously upheld the practice of indulgences.  If I did something like that, I would expect to be rightly challenged and rebuked.  Because you are probably very familiar with much of the early Church Fathers and appear to accept their views as influential, how else can I say that you distort or misrepresent their teachings?  If you think that is being uncharitable, you shouldn’t be in the business of Apologetics.  I don’t recall Jesus being that ‘charitable’ to Pharisees who should have known better.  And you are very much mistaken about RC Apologists who, I believe, are infinitely more charitable than Fundamentalists Engaged in the same work.

I don’t expect you to respond, but I offer you my comments on some of the defects of logic you engaged in during the debate with Madrid.  If you are honest enough, I think you can admit to yourself that you have some great difficulties in remaining Protestant.  I hope you will reconsider your position, and I will pray for you.

Ut Unum Sint…

John Pacheco,
Apologists of St. Francis De Sales


I was going to ignore this, but I have a love of the truth:  the above is a lie.  I have refuted the lie on our website.  If you love the truth, you will stop spreading a lie.  Thanks.

James


I searched your website for your rejection of the ‘lie’ you refuted.  I could not find it.  My Evangelical friend and I are wondering where it is.  I did, however, find a section called ‘Debating Certain Roman Catholic Apologists…’  Based on the information presented, it is very clear that you are very anxious to debate people.  Yet, you seem very bewildered by the fact that Dr. Hahn refuses to debate you even though it seems to me quite clear why he would not.  He was probably using the same JUSTIFIED rationale you, yourself, used in refusing to debate two overzealous RC apologists for their ‘ungentlemen like’ behaviour.

When I asked you to comment on some of my observations on your remarks about RC arguments, you notified me that you were too busy.  That’s fair enough.  I accept that.  Why don’t you accept that as a legitimate reason why other RC Apologists will not debate you? Or maybe you’ve demonstrated to them your overly abrasive and combative nature – is that not a possibility?

John

P.S. I find it quite amusing that many of the RC Apologist listed were former Protestants, who, when faced with the truth, accepted it and converted.


http://www.aomin.org/cathan.html  Right toward the end.

Also, if you are even remotely interested in FAIRLY evaluating how I behave in debates, why not obtain the video tapes of some of them?  For example, obtain the recent debate with Father Mitchell Pacwa (April, 1998, Long Island).  Or is that too much to ask?

My Evangelical friend and I are wondering where it is.  I did, however, find a section called ‘Debating Certain Roman Catholic Apologists…’  Based on the information presented, it is very clear that you are very anxious to debate people.  Yet, you seem very bewildered by the fact that Dr. Hahn refuses to debate you even though it seems to me quite clear why he would not.  He was probably using the same JUSTIFIED rationale you, yourself, used in refusing to debate two overzealous RC apologists for their ‘ungentlemen like’ behaviour.

I simply ask you to have the temerity to actually examine the video tapes or audio tapes of the actual debates.  Such hardly seems like an outrageous request.  I am, I admit, tired of people accepting everything that is said about me without ever checking on things for themselves.  It strikes me are more than a little bit hypocritical.

When I asked you to comment on some of my observations on your remarks about RC arguments, you notified me that you were too busy.  That’s fair enough.  I accept that.  Why don’t you accept that as a legitimate reason why other RC Apologists will not debate you? Or maybe you’ve demonstrated to them your overly abrasive and combative nature – is that not a possibility?

I’ve demonstrated nothing of the kind—-and your response to my reply was, in fact, abrasive and combative.

James


Dr. White,

Please do not misunderstand me.  I am very sure that you are very civil and cordial in a debate.  I never suggested that you were not.  (What transpired between you and Mr. Madrid occurred outside of the debate, and is now a matter personal credibility.)  I based my comments, primarily, on information you supplied in your own web site; that is, your rather course way of attracting debates, which confirms, in my opinion, Mr. Madrid’s comments about your  zealous way of seeking debaters.  As you are very well aware, Mr. Madrid’s impressions of you are not unique, as there are others who share his view – former Protestants, no less – and they have documented other unflattering incidents.  I only asked you to consider this as a reason why some people will not debate you.

If you recall, I was initially interested in seeking your comments on my refutations of your arguments with Mr. Madrid.  I think it’s unfortunate that your too busy to dialogue.  I think that many of your arguments are circular, appeal to false alternatives, and fall in on themselves when you use the same criteria to judge Protestantism.   If you play by the ‘Reason sword’, as you should, then you must live and die by it.  Your arguments in support of ‘sola scriptura’ do not hold so why are you still ‘protesting’?

– John


Please do not misunderstand me.  I am very sure that you are very civil and cordial in a debate.  I never suggested that you were not.  (What transpired between you and Mr. Madrid occurred outside of the debate, and is now a matter personal credibility.)  I based my comments, primarily, on information you supplied in your own web site; that is, your rather course way of attracting debates, which confirms, in my opinion, Mr. Madrid’s comments about your  zealous way of seeking debaters.  As you are very well aware, Mr. Madrid’s impressions of you are not unique, as there are others who share his view – former Protestants, no less – and they have documented other unflattering incidents.  I only asked you to consider this as a reason why some people will not debate you.

1)  I have documented Mr. Madrids’ “myths” on our website (cathan.html).  Do you have any reply to this information?

2)  I pointed out in that document that *Catholic Answers* arranged most of our first debates.  Do you have any response to this information?

3)  I have turned down as many debates as I’ve accepted.  Do you have any response to this information?

If you recall, I was initially interested in seeking your comments on my refutations of your arguments with Mr. Madrid.  I think it’s unfortunate that your too busy to dialogue.  I think that many of your arguments are circular, appeal to false alternatives, and fall in on themselves when you use the same criteria to judge Protestantism.   If you play by the ‘Reason sword’, as you should, then you must live and die by it.  Your arguments in support of ‘sola scriptura’ do not hold so why are you still ‘protesting’?

If I recall, you asked about the file on infallibility and my friend Phil Porvaznik.

I believe they hold up just fine, and have demonstrated that in public debate.  I do dialogue—-with lots of folks, and have, over the past three days, spent quite some time doing just that.  But there is only so much time in a day, and with school starting up in a few weeks, numerous articles, chapters, and even books to write, I hesitate to invest such time.  If I start such a dialogue, and discover that you have ten times the amount of time I do, I know the inevitable result: if I can’t continue it, you tell everyone how you “refuted” me and I “ran.”  If I don’t enter the debate at all, I’m “unwilling to defend my position.”  If I spend half my life and bury you under documentation, you say I’m obsessed and unbalanced. See, I’ve experienced every single one of those alternatives before.  I’ve learned how it works.

Now, let me ask you something: have you read _The Roman Catholic Controversy_?  Have you read _Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible_?  Have you listened to the 1996 debate with Tim Staples on sola scriptura?  The 1997 debate against Gerry Matatics on the same issue (not the 1992 one, the 1997 one, where Gerry did FAR better, making for a much better debate over all)?

James


In response to your some of your remarks:

I have not had the opportunity to read the books or hear the debates you listed, although I hope to do so in the future.  I have, however, heard other debates and  I have read the arguments posed by Protestant apologists.

I assure you, Dr. White, I do not have enormous amounts of time to spend in this endeavour either, nor will I charge you with ‘running’ from me even if I did.  I accept that you have other responsibilities which take up your time.  If you tried to ‘bury me with information’, I would not call you ‘unbalanced or obsessive’, but rather inform you that I do not have the time to give a informed rebuttal.

I do think we could avoid these extremes, which would otherwise be necessary, since we are both (you perhaps more than I) knowledgeable in the development of the bible, the writings of the early Church, and issues like infallibility.  So I think we can steer a reasonable compromise since most of our time will be made through appeals to reason – not in doing mountains of research.  I am not interested in accusing you of ‘running’ or calling you ‘obsessive’.  I’ll take what I can get, and should you choose to end the discussion at any time, I won’t think anything of it.  I can wholly appreciate that you have other commitments.

Our correspondence could be limited to under a few paragraphs every couple of days.  That would suit me just fine.  You could respond at your convenience.  Is this agreeable to you?

John _

Our correspondence could be limited to under a few paragraphs every couple of days.  That would suit me just fine.  You could respond at your convenience.  Is this agreeable to you?

Given the equanimity and fairness of your reply, yes, gladly.  Nice to talk to someone who doesn’t have a hatchet hiding behind his back.  🙂

So, briefly, what do you feel is the key error in my presentation of sola scriptura?

James


Dr. White,

Thank you for your participation.  I really appreciate it.

You have asked me what I believe is the key error in your presentation of ‘sola scriptura’?  I think it may be with the idea of a human authority.  Do you believe that a human authority can make a morally binding decision in the Jewish and/or Christian religions?

Yes, the Bible is plain about that: Hebrews 13:17:  “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

If Christians are to ‘obey’ their leaders when they make a morally binding decision, does this apply to the interpretation of Sacred Scripture as well?  And if it does, does this mean that these leaders are necessary for the exposition of entire Christian truth?

The leaders are just as dependent upon the Scriptures as the rest of all Christians (there is no such thing in the NT as a class of priests, etc.). The NT pattern is a local church with a plurality of elders/bishops (note the use of the plural “leaders” in the Hebrews passage).  The elders/bishops of the local church make decisions for that body.  They are not, of course, infallible, as even groups of godly men can be overtaken by sinful desires, scripture-denying traditions, etc.

In response to your second question, what does the term “necessary” mean? If you mean “In God’s economy He has chosen to use godly men in the church to teach and preach the whole counsel of God,” that would be true.  But if you mean “God’s Word is incomplete and insufficient without the addition of other sources of revelatory authority,” I would strongly deny such an assertion.  Hence, you must define exactly what you mean by “necessary.”

I think we should number our points so we don’t get lost…

1) Your position that the New Testament has a pattern of ‘a local church with a plurality of elders/bishops.  The elders/bishops of the local church make decisions for that body.’  In this arrangement, can each local church decide a question of doctrinal dispute independently of the other churches?  If each can do this, then what is their authority for promulgating doctrine?  Where does this authority come from?

2) You believe that the bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, yet you reject that no church leader is infallible.  So we have an infallible collection of books on the one hand, and a fallible group of teachers on the other hand.  Question:  is the Gospel MESSAGE fallible or infallible?

3) In your understanding of  ‘necessary’ church leaders, you said that God has chosen to use ‘godly men in the church to teach and preach the whole counsel of God’, and in that sense, they are necessary.   If God chose godly men  to preach his word, and it is through godly men that we are to understand the Gospel message, then how could God let ALL these ‘godly’ men err when they are preaching the truth of His Word?  If we are ALL fallible in our interpretation of the bible, then it follows that no one or group has, potentially, EVER been able to teach without error:  we are have been potentially in error since the death of the last Apostle.  The ‘gates of hell’ apparently have prevailed against the church which cannot be the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’ since such a church does not exist.

John


Your position that the New Testament has a pattern of a local church with a plurality of elders/bishops.  The elders/bishops of the local church make decisions for that body.  In this arrangement, can each local church decide a question of doctrinal dispute independently of the other churches?  If each can do this, then what is their authority for promulgating doctrine?  Where does this authority come from?

Churches don’t promulgate doctrines—they teach doctrines, based upon the Word of God.  Yes, each local church his held responsible for holding firmly to the Word of God (I might parallel this with the idea in Roman Catholicism that each bishop is sworn to fidelity to the Magisterium, though, of course, that does not either guarantee that the bishop *will* be faithful, nor that he will have a very good grasp of what the Magisterium teaches).  You see how the Ephesians were commended by the Lord for doing just this in Revelation 2:2.

You believe that the bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, yet you reject that no church leader is infallible.

I think you meant “you assert that no human leader of the church is personally infallible in his beliefs.”

So we have an infallible collection of books on the one hand, and a fallible group of teachers on the other hand.  Question:  is the Gospel MESSAGE fallible or infallible?

Infallible.

In your understanding of  *necessary* church leaders, you said that God has chosen to use godly men in the church to teach and preach the whole counsel of God, and in that sense, they are necessary.

I.e., God has chosen to organize the church in that way, hence, they are necessary to the plan, not “necessary” in the philosophical use of that word (nor the epistemological one, which is normally, in my experience, where RC writers end up engaging in improper equivocation).

If God chose godly men  to preach his word, and it is through godly men that we are to understand the Gospel message, then how could God let ALL these *godly* men err when they are preaching the truth of His Word?

He hasn’t, of course.

If we re ALL fallible in our interpretation of the bible, then it follows that no one or group has, potentially, EVER been able to teach the without error:  we are have been potentially in error since the death of the last Apostle.

Potentially in error?  Well, every man has the potential for error—if it were not so, Paul would not have written to Timothy and said what he did in 1 Timothy 4:16:  “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”  Why the exhortation to stand for sound doctrine if there would be no need to, since someone (the Pope, presumably?) would be infallible anyway, and would straighten everything out?  No, my friend, Paul was very clear: (Acts 20:28-31)  “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. [29] “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; [30] and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. [31] “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.

The *gates of hell* apparently have prevailed against the church which cannot be the *pillar and foundation of truth* since such a church does not exist.

JW:  That’s not a question, but an assertion, but I’ll respond to it anyway.  It is grossly flawed on any logical, historical, or Biblical level.  It is logically flawed since it *assumes* that personal infallibility must be possessed by the Church, or by the leaders of the Church, for the Church to exist.  That is like saying my computer does not exist because I do not have infallible knowledge of how it works.  Historically, we find the Church being corrected by her Lord more than once, even in the NT documents—so much for her infallibility.  And finally, we find nothing in the Bible that says that the Church’s human leaders are infallible.  Instead, we are specifically told that the Church will always struggle with false teachers, and that standing for sound doctrine is a must.  Unless you are going to say that one must be infallible to know what sound doctrine is (which would be a self-refuting statement, since, you are manifestly not infallible, but, claim to know what false doctrine and true doctrine are), it follows that your conclusion is without scriptural or logical merit.

For the sake of brevity, I will not address all of the points you made, but instead will focus my arguments on the most important ones…

1)  I believe that I did not make my question explicit enough about the New Testament Churches.  When I asked,  “can each church decide a doctrinal question independently of the other churches?’, I wanted to get your opinion on whether they were bound in unity somehow or could they have preached different doctrines?

2) You assert that the Gospel Message is infallible.  I think I have a difficulty understanding your logic here.  If the Gospel Message is infallible, but no individual Church leader(s) is infallible, how is that TRUE  Gospel Message communicated to me infallibly; that is, without distortion or corruption? And if you would say through God’s Word, I will say: Which Word are you referring to?  Whose Gospel are we talking about? There are many of them out there [2 Cor. 11:4, Acts 15:24, Luke 1:1].  Now, if I ask you whether YOU have the TRUE Gospel , your best answer is ‘possibly’ because you admitted earlier that no one is infallible.

What good is an infallible bible, if no one can say, definitively, what the infallible Scriptures say?  If you cannot ensure me that you are giving me God’s truth, then why should I place my trust in your interpretation of it?  Is it consistent with God’s nature to hold someone to the truth, judge him on that truth, yet fail to provide the medium of knowing the truth definitively?  It’s like saying, ‘well, there’s the bible, boys, but don’t think you can know what it’s trying to say for sure.’  How can you say that your salvation is ‘assured’, for instance, when your whole thesis is built on a ‘maybe it’s a wrong doctrine’ theology?

Question:  Were the Apostles infallible?

3)  In response to my assertion: “If we are ALL fallible in our interpretation of the bible, then it follows that no one or group has, potentially, EVER been able to teach the without error:  we are have been potentially in error since the death of the last Apostle”, remarkably, you agree that the everyone has the potential for error (including the Church).  You cite 1 Timothy 4:16 and Acts 20:28-31 as proof texts.  Let me offer you my observations on, what I perceive to be, your defects in logic.

I do not see how Acts 20:28-31 is exclusively or even necessarily relating to error in the church.  I seems to me to be a strategic pastoral exhortation.  There have been some bishops, through neglect and carelessness, which caused many to leave the faith, but that, by itself, does not constitute error.  All it means is that they were lazy – a sin, for sure, but not error.

By appealing to 1 Timothy 4:16, you have appealed to a ‘false alternative’.  One particular person or even bishop might be fallible, but that does not mean that another bishop or the entire Church is fallible, does it? St. Paul could very well be saying, “You know, Timothy, that earlier I told you that the church is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim 3:15).  Well, I also told the Thessalonians to hold fast to our Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15), so I’m telling you now to be careful to teach what the Church teaches because you, personally, can make a mistake.  Therefore, you must be vigilant and careful in your teaching because if you are not faithful to this PARTICULAR Gospel (because there are many false ones) that I have preached to you, your salvation could be lost for you and those who hear you BECAUSE they believe you teach what the infallible Church teaches – they believe you teach the truth. Don’t think you can be lazy, hoping that ‘everything will sort itself out later’ by the successor of Kephas.  You know that we don’t yet live in the ‘communication’ age, and by the time it is ‘sorted’, many souls could be lost – including yours.”

If, on the other hand, you could provide me with a Scriptural reference which eliminates EVERY teacher or group of teachers from teaching infallibly, then THAT would be evidence.  But as it stands now, you can’t say that since Timothy is fallible, it means that EVERYONE else is as well.  Infallibility is a charism of one particular person and the Church as a whole – neither of which is disproved by this passage.

But, then again, this is just ANOTHER equally fallible interpretation just like yours…So we can’t say whose right….

I believe that I did not make my question explicit enough about the New Testament Churches.  When I asked,  “can each church decide a doctrinal question independently of the other churches?’, I wanted to get your opinion on whether they were bound in unity somehow or could they have preached different doctrines?

They are bound to fidelity to the Word.  As they are more faithful to the Word, their teachings are more in line with each other.  The less faithful they are, the less harmonious the proclamation.

You assert that the Gospel Message is infallible.  I think I have a difficulty understanding your logic here.  If the Gospel Message is infallible, but no individual Church leader(s) is infallible, how is that TRUE  Gospel Message communicated to me infallibly; that is, without distortion or corruption?

God has chosen to use fallible instruments to preach the Gospel.  I do not have to be infallible to preach an infallible message.  Do you have a computer?  Let’s say it had a perfect set of instructions with it.  Do you have to be infallible to use the instructions?  Does your fallibility make the instructions fallible?  I see some major category error issues here regarding the idea that we have to be infallible to use an infallible source of truth.  Why?

And if you would say through God’s Word, I will say: Which Word are you referring to?  Whose Gospel are we talking about? There are many of them out there [2 Cor. 11:4, Acts 15:24, Luke 1:1].  Now, if I ask you whether YOU have the TRUE Gospel , your best answer is ‘possibly’ because you admitted earlier that no one is infallible.

I can only assume that you function on the basis of thinking that individual men must be infallible to have sufficient knowledge of the Gospel.  I do not embrace such an epistemology, since, obviously, it results in an utter destruction of all knowledge.  You are not infallible; neither am I.  Hence, given the conclusions derived from the above, we can’t be having this conversation to begin with, since neither of us are infallible.  I have to wonder, again, do you apply this standard to Roman theology as well?  That is, do you have infallible knowledge of Roman teaching?  Canon law?  Every pronouncement of Rome?  If you don’t, are you consistent in asking such questions of the Protestant?

What good is an infallible bible, if no one can say, definitively, what the infallible Scriptures say?

What good is an infallible Magisterium, if no one can say, definitively, what the infallible Magisterium says?  Again, I simply seek consistency on your part.  I utterly reject the idea that I must be infallible to have sufficient knowledge of an infallible revelation.  So, I reject the basis of your question.  But I also point out that your are not consistent in your own position as well, making it doubly in error.

If you cannot ensure me that you are giving me God’s truth, then why should I place my trust in your interpretation of it?

If I was asking you to put your trust in ME, that might be a valid question.  I’m not.  I’m asking you to put your trust in the Word, and I will not intrude myself as some authority between you and the Word.  I am liable to correction and examination like anyone else.  I get the wonderful opportunity of teaching the Word.  I’m accountable to God for that teaching.  But YOU are accountable for what you do with it.

Is it consistent with God’s nature to hold someone to the truth, judge him on that truth, yet fail to provide the medium of knowing the truth definitively?

Yes, it is.  But, I deny that infallibility is needed to know definitively.

It’s like saying, ‘well, there’s the bible, boys, but don’t think you can know what it’s trying to say for sure.’  How can you say that your salvation is ‘assured’, for instance, when your whole thesis is built on a ‘maybe it’s a wrong doctrine’ theology?

I reject, of course, such inaccurate representations.  Infallibility is not required for sufficient and sound knowledge.  I have a very good grasp of the doctrine of the Trinity—but not an infallible one.  Am I not a Trinitarian?  Of course I am.  Are you?  If you say you are a Trinitarian, do you claim infallible knowledge of it?

Question:  Were the Apostles infallible?

No.  Their inspired teaching was infallible, but they, personally, were fallible.  Look at Peter in Antioch; Paul and Barnabas separating ways, etc.

In response to my assertion: “If we are ALL fallible in our interpretation of the bible, then it follows that no one or group has, potentially, EVER been able to teach the without error:  we are have been potentially in error since the death of the last Apostle”, remarkably, you agree that the everyone has the potential for error (including the Church).  You cite 1 Timothy 4:16 and Acts 20:28-31 as proof texts.

Let me offer you my observations on, what I perceive to be, your defects in logic.

I do not see how Acts 20:28-31 is exclusively or even necessarily relating to error in the church.  I seems to me to be a strategic pastoral exhortation.  There have been some bishops, through neglect and carelessness, which caused many to leave the faith, but that, by itself, does not constitute error.  All it means is that they were lazy – a sin, for sure, but not error.

Acts 20 indicates that there will be false teaching within the Church. Paul does not say “And you will always be able to refer to the infallible bishop of Rome to answer such false teachings.”  In fact, any meaningful exegesis of the text of the NT will never lead one to that conclusion. Hence, I do not see how the above comments in any way change the application I made.

By appealing to 1 Timothy 4:16, you have appealed to a ‘false alternative’.  One particular person or even bishop might be fallible, but that does not mean that another bishop or the entire Church is fallible, does it?

Nor did I make the application you did.  I simply pointed out that such exhortations indicate that false teaching would be part of the normative experience of the Church.  I think such a fact denies your assertions regarding the necessity of an infallible interpreter in the Church.

St. Paul could very well be saying…

Given your own position, should you hazard an interpretation, given that Rome has not infallible defined the passage?  🙂

“You know, Timothy, that earlier I told you that the church is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim 3:15).  Well, I also told the Thessalonians to hold fast to our Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15), so I’m telling you now to be careful to teach what the Church teaches because you, personally, can make a mistake.

You are assuming an entity called the “Church” that would be “teaching” something.

Therefore, you must be vigilant and careful in your teaching because if you are not faithful to this PARTICULAR Gospel (because there are many false ones) that I have preached to you, your salvation could be lost for you and those who hear you BECAUSE they believe you teach what the infallible Church teaches – they believe you teach the truth. Don’t think you can be lazy, hoping that ‘everything will sort itself out later’ by the successor of Kephas.  You know that we don’t yet live in the ‘communication’ age, and by the time it is ‘sorted’, many souls could be lost – including yours.”

Of course, you assume your position without substantiating it—-you have no basis for inserting “the infallible Church” since Paul never uses such terminology; nor “the successor of Kephas” since again, such is an historical anachronism.  There wasn’t even a monarchical episcopate in Rome at the time, hence, the only proper word to describe this kind of interpretation is “eisegesis.”

If, on the other hand, you could provide me with a Scriptural reference which eliminates EVERY teacher or group of teachers from teaching infallibly, then THAT would be evidence.

Uh, well, you *do* see the logical error in your statement, I hope.  You are making a positive assertion.  The burden lies upon you, then, to substantiate the existence of this infallible teacher or group.  It is one of the common flaws of Roman argumentation to attempt to make me prove a universal negative (i.e., “There is no such thing as an infallible teacher”).  RC apologists have gotten away with this for a while.  I have no intention of allowing such illogic to prevail.  You are making the positive assertion.  You must bear the burden of proving it, not assuming it, as you’ve done throughout the above.  I’ve provided you with positive evidence of the necessity of study and struggle for the church that is inconsistent with your position.  Your response has assumed your own position, and engaged in eisegesis.  Hence, I see no reason to embrace a position that is internally self-contradictory, biblically inconsistent, and logically flawed.

They are bound to fidelity to the Word.  As they are more faithful to the Word, their teachings are more in line with each other. The less faithful they are, the less harmonious the proclamation.

There are a number of difficulties in your argument, Dr. White. I’d like to elaborate on just two.  You say that the churches are ‘bound to fidelity to the Word.’  How can these various early churches be bound in fidelity to the ‘Word’ if they don’t even have in their possession the same ‘Word’ as you do in the NT canon?  The question is:  WHAT is the Word and who has the AUTHORITY to proclaim the True Gospel?

Secondly, even if they did have the NT canon at the time (which they did not), does that mean that ‘the Word’ alone as you understand it to mean (ie the bible alone) would be sufficient for resolving disputes, considering, of course, that individual leaders will have different interpretations of ‘the Word’?  Doesn’t sola scriptura translate into inevitable division within Christianity?  If you say that ‘sola scriptura’ is sufficient, then what value do you place on the unity of the whole Christian Church?

God has chosen to use fallible instruments to preach the Gospel.  I do not have to be infallible to preach an infallible message.   Do you have a computer?  Let’s say it had a perfect set of instructions with it.  Do you have to be infallible to use the instructions?  Does your fallibility make the instructions fallible?  I see some major category error issues here regarding the idea that we have to be infallible to use an infallible source of truth.  Why?

Let’s take a look at your example of the computer and its instructions.  You are trying to suggest that you don’t have to be infallible to use a perfect set of instructions.  There are, however, a number of defects in your characterization.  First, you are assuming that the instructions are widely and readily available; that everyone can afford this instruction book; and that everyone is able to read. This was not the case before the invention of the printing press nor the case for all Christians even today.  Therefore, at least from an historical point of view, it is an untenable position for you to hold. Secondly, you assume that the instructions are so clear and evident that there is little, if any, chance that they can be misapplied or misinterpreted.  Well, that may be the case for an instruction booklet for a computer (or maybe not!), but you can hardly put the ‘teachings’ of a computer manual on par with the inspired Word of God.  If you could, then why don’t your Presbyterian or Lutheran colleagues agree with you on baptismal regeneration?  If Scripture is so ‘clear, evident, and sufficient’, then why are their such irreconcilable differences in Protestantism’s 30,000 denominations?  Thirdly, you are quite right to propose that any person can use the instructions.  I will concede that such a person can get some, or even much, out of the instruction manual by himself, but wouldn’t it be excellent to have a representative of the company, indeed the one who put the manual together, drop in and show you some of the things that you didn’t see at first or warn you of certain problems you might encounter?  Finally, you are begging the question of ‘sola scriptura’ since you are assuming the sufficiency of the instruction booklet without reading the customer service message in the first page which is ALWAYS in an instruction booklet:  “FOR CUSTOMER SUPPORT, CALL 1-800-RCHURCH.” Or biblically stated, “…in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church…” (Ephesians 3:10).

I can only assume that you function on the basis of thinking that individual men must be infallible to have sufficient knowledge of the Gospel.  I do not embrace such an epistemology, since, obviously, it results in an utter destruction of all knowledge.  You are not infallible; neither am I.  Hence, given the conclusions derived from the above, we can’t be having this conversation to begin with, since neither of us are infallible.  I have to wonder, again, do you apply this standard to Roman theology as well?  That is, do you have infallible knowledge of Roman teaching?  Canon law? Every pronouncement of Rome? If you don’t, are you consistent in asking such questions of a Protestant?

First, you say that to require someone to be infallible would result in “utter destruction of knowledge.”  Oh really?  What KIND of knowledge would be destroyed by requiring an infallible source?

Secondly, my personal fallibility is irrelevant to whether I can know a truth infallibly.  All that is required is that I understand what infallibility is, and that I need someone with infallibility to know the truth.

Thirdly, no I do not have infallible knowledge of Catholic theology, but that is irrelevant to whether it exists.  Once I have been correctly taught it, I am bound to follow it.  God or His Church does not hold someone accountable in the case of material error.

What good is an infallible Magisterium, if no one can say, definitively, what the infallible Magisterium says?

I am not sure I understand your meaning here.  The beauty of an infallible Magisterium is that it can, in fact, definitively say what it has taught in the past and what it teaches now.  The Magisterium, unlike the bible, acts as a corrective and protective instrument for the Word of God, guarding it against those who wish to either distort its authentic meaning – whether in biblical times, during the Council of Nicea, the Council of Trent, or the Second Vatican Council.  So when Joe Heretic gets up and says, ‘this is what the bible teaches’ or ‘this is what the Council of Trent MEANT’, this living voice can protect the Truth.

If I was asking you to put your trust in ME, that might be a valid question. I’m not.  I’m asking you to  put your trust in the Word, and I will not intrude myself as some authority between you and the Word.  I am liable to correction and examination like anyone else.  I get the wonderful opportunity of teaching the Word.  I’m accountable to God for that teaching.  But YOU are accountable for what you do to it.

As a Protestant apologist, you are trying to convince me of your position.  As I understand it, you are also trying to convince people that YOUR PARTICULAR interpretation of the bible (Calvinist?) is the correct one while others who do not hold your views, including Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. are wrong.  But, when I ask you why I should subscribe to your particular interpretation, you say that I shouldn’t put my trust in you per se but ‘in the Word’. Well, that would be a great thing if there was only one ‘Word’ out there, but there are many ‘Words’.  If you tell me that the bible teaches ‘this’, then am I not placing my trust in YOU rather than the other guy who says that the bible teaches ‘that’?   So AGAIN, I ask you, what ‘Word’, or perhaps more pointedly, in WHOSE INTEPRETATION of the ‘Word’ should I place my trust?  Whether you want to admit it or not, that obtrusive authority which you reject inevitably comes into play.  In order to establish your Gospel over the next guy’s, you must appeal to an authority that the other guy DOES NOT HAVE; you can’t appeal to the bible because it is a COMMON AUTHORITY.

Is it consistent with God’s nature to hold someone to the truth, judge him on that truth, yet fail to provide the medium of knowing the truth definitively?

Yes it is. But, I deny that infallibility is needed to know definitively.

Are you proposing that there is another way of knowing the true gospel without infallibility?  If you are, what is this method?  Please elaborate.

I reject, of course, such inaccurate  representations. Infallibility  is not required for sufficient and sound knowledge.  I have a good grasp of the Trinity – but not an infallible one.  Am I not a Trinitarian?  Of course I am.  Are you?  If you say you are a Trinitarian, do you claim infallible knowledge of it?

Infallibility is not a matter of knowing a matter or doctrine in its completeness; it is concerned with being preserved from error.  You seem to confuse these concepts in your comments about the Trinity.  The Catholic Church says, for instance , that the Son is of the same substance as the Father.  This is an infallible statement.  It is a revealed truth that God wants us to know definitively and positively.  The best that you can do, however, is to say that you have a ‘good grasp of the Trinity’, but that you could be wrong (i.e. your opinion on one of the central common points of the Trinity could be false – in which case this ‘good grasp’ might not be very good at all).  So what does this mean?  That you can be unsure about the doctrine on the Trinity, but sure on salvation by faith alone and ‘assured salvation’?  You asked me if I claim an infallible knowledge of the Trinity.  Yes, I most certainly do.  This means that my knowledge is not in error; it is by no means complete and there may be more to learn about the nature of the Trinity, but as far as my current knowledge of the doctrine goes – yes, it is infallible.  It is not unlike watching a motor vehicle coming down a road.  You recognize it as a motor vehicle, but as it gets closer, it becomes more defined – you see that it is a blue car.  You don’t know its make or model YET, but that doesn’t mean that your earlier observations about the car are incorrect; they are simply incomplete.

Question:  Were the Apostles infallible?

No.  Their inspired teaching was infallible, but they, personally, were fallible.  Look at Peter in Antioch; Paul and Barnabas separating ways, etc.

Quite, right, Dr. White, although they were personally fallible, their inspired teaching was infallible.  But earlier you asserted that you don’t have to be infallible to preach an infallible message.  This does not make much sense.  Consider:

Argument 1:

Premise 1:  A fallible preacher speaks.

Premise 2:  The words coming out of his mouth form a message.  The particular message is the Gospel.

Premise 3:  The message (whatever that may be) is infallible.  (How do I know it’s infallible? – because it’s the Gospel message!).

Sub-conclusion:  It follows that the words making up this message are infallible in the order they are presented.

Premise 4:  The words are spoken by the preacher.

Premise 5:  The mouth, tongue, and voice box are the instrument for speaking these words.

Premise 6:  The mouth, tongue, and voice belong to the preacher.

Conclusion:  The preacher is infallible when he preaches about the Gospel message.

In order to reject the conclusion, which premise(s) do you reject?

Argument 2:

;Premise 1:  The bible alone is the sole source of divine revelation.

Premise 2:  Only those maxims that are explicitly taught in the bible are binding on a Christian.

Premise 3:  Jesus and the Apostles preached the infallible Gospel message.

Premise 4:  Jesus and the Apostles were infallible in their teaching.

Premise 5:  God’s revealed truth can be known definitively at any point in time.

Premise 6: The New Testament demonstrates that the infallible Gospel message was preached by      infallible teachers.

Conclusion:  An infallible message must be given by an infallible messenger.

In order to reject the conclusion, which premise(s) do you reject?

[You may say that any particular preacher can preach an infallible Gospel message, but later teach error. (Of course, even this presupposes a standard by which the preacher’s Gospel can be measured.)  In other words, while being an infallible teacher is sufficient, it need not be necessary.  However, if the preacher is fallible, than ANY particular preaching may be fallible, in which case, the truth of the Gospel cannot be known definitively at any time, only possibly.  This would mean rejecting Premise 5.  Are you prepared to do this?]

Acts 20 indicates that there will be false teaching within the Church.  Paul does not say “and you will always be able to refer to the bishop of Rome to answer such false teachings.”  In fact, any meaningful exegesis of the text of the NT will never lead one to that conclusion.  Hence, I do not see how the above comments in any way change the application that I made.  Nor did I make the application you did.  I simply pointed out that such exhortations indicate that false teaching would be part of the normative experience of the Church.  I think such a fact denies your assertions regarding the necessity of an infallible interpreter of the Church.

Let’s back up a bit.  Infallibility means that the Bishops of the world united with the Bishop of Rome (Cf. Matthew 18:18), or the Bishop of Rome alone (Matthew 16:18-19) cannot err on matters of faith And morals when they publicly teach a doctrine to be held definitively by the faithful.  I have never heard of a Catholic Apologist pointing to Acts 20:28-31 and 1 Timothy 4:16 as proof texts for infallibility.  I quite agree with you that you would be hard-pressed in using these passages for this purpose.  However, it was YOU not I who brought up these passages in order to discount infallibility.  In these passages, where EXACTLY does it convey the meaning that all of the bishops or the bishops united with Peter or even the entire Church would teach error? It says no such thing.  What it does say is that savage wolves will come from ‘among you’.  Does that mean “all of you will become ‘savage wolves’” or “the church which is the pillar of truth will fall’?  I don’t think so.  The Church can expect the gates of hell to challenge her – dupes of Satan to come from within, but She has Her Divine founder’s promise that it will not prevail.  God is greater than man’s conniving to bring down His Church.

Given your own position, should you hazard an interpretation given that Rome has not infallibly defined the passage?

Yes, I am free to do so since my interpretation does not contradict the Catholic Church’s teaching on authority.

You are assuming an entity called the “Church” that would be teaching something.

I assume nothing.  Jesus founded a Church, the visible one under the authority of the Apostles and their successors.  They were given the power to loose and bind.  Peter was given the keys to pass down.  This is biblical.  You might not agree with my interpretation (and my interpretation is really no less ‘valid’ than yours because neither of us have authority over the other), but that is another matter outside of your claim of me assuming a teaching authority called the “Church”.

Of course, you assume your position without substantiating it – you have no basis for inserting ‘the infallible Church’ since Paul never uses such terminology; nor ‘the successor of Kephas’ since again, such is an historical anachronism.  There wasn’t even a monarchical episcopate in Rome at that time, hence, the only proper word to describe this kind of interpretation is “eisegesis”.

I was not suggesting that St. Paul meant every word explicitly or even that he meant infallibility.  (Actually, I was being quite cheeky.)  I only wanted to demonstrate to you that St. Paul’s warning to St. Timothy could not be taken as a proof text against papal or church infallibility as you tried to suggest.  Bishop Timothy IS fallible, but that passage says nothing about the ENTIRE Church  which was described as the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’ just one chapter previously (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).  Read the passage carefully.  It would be no different than the Pope today telling Bishop Jack the same thing.  If the Pope repeated these words to him, would anyone be under the impression that Bishop Jack is infallible or that the Pope or the Church is not?  No. Incidentally, the passage is very supportive of the Catholic view of Episcopal authority (whether it is seen as ‘monarchical’ is irrelevant to the clear evidence of authority.)  St. Paul recognizes the very POWERFUL and AUTHORITATIVE voice that he has given to Timothy, and he warns him of his very grave responsibility.  The last part of the verse can be thus paraphrased:  ‘Recognize that your voice, your very audible teaching, carries great weight among the brethren.  If you teach them what we have taught you, you will ensure for them salvation because they believe you.  And they believe you BECAUSE you have the AUTHORITY to teach from ME (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:2) and the Church.’  And why should Timothy believe the Church of the Apostles?  Because it is the pillar and foundation of truth, or in other words, it is infallible!

Uh, well, you do see the logical error in your statement, I hope.  You are making a positive assertion.  The burden lies upon you, then, to substantiate the existence of this infallible teacher or group.  It is one of the common flaws of Roman argumentation to attempt to make me prove a universal negative (ie, “there’s no such thing as an infallible teacher”).  RC apologists have gotten away with this for a while.  I have  no intention of allowing such illogic to prevail.  You are making the positive assertion.  You must bear the burden of proving it, not assuming it, as you’ve done throughout the above.  I’ve provided you with positive evidence of the necessity of study and struggle for the Church that is inconsistent with your position.  Your response has assumed your own position, and engaged in eisegesis.  Hence, I see no reason to embrace a position that is internally self-contradictory, biblically inconsistent, and logically flawed.

You are quite right that the burden lies on me to substantiate the existence of this infallible teacher.  That’s fair enough.  I never asked you to prove the non-existence of an infallible teacher.  I only asked you to consider the implication of not having an infallible teacher when I asked, “If we are ALL fallible in our interpretation of the bible, then it follows that no one or group has, potentially, EVER been able to teach without error.”  Instead of addressing the implication of a fallible teacher, your response was to try to show that infallibility was contradicted in Scripture by citing Acts 20:28-31 and 1 Timothy 4:16.  So it was you who tried to prove a universal negative which I never asked you to do in the first place.  My role so far has been to provide rebuttals to your citings.  Since you were ALREADY trying to disprove that universal negative, I only asked that you provide me with a Scriptural passage which contradicts the CORRECT definition of infallibility which you tried to do with Acts 20:28-31 and 1 Timothy 4:16.  Since you initially attempted to do this with a false understanding of infallibility, I only asked you to try to do so with a correct understanding of it.  Secondly, if I have to ‘prove the existence of an infallible teacher’ (which I can do), then you must prove the existence of an ‘infallible collection of books’, which is not a universal negative. Shall we try?  Would you like me to go first?

John


This post is tremendously long.  I don’t know that I have the time to do much with it.

There are a number of difficulties in your argument, Dr. White. I’d like to elaborate on just two.  You say that the churches are ‘bound to fidelity to the Word.’  How can these various early churches be bound in fidelity to the ‘Word’ if they don’t even have in their possession the same ‘Word’ as you do in the NT canon?

They had the Word, John.  If they didn’t, how does the NT quote the OT all the time?  You seem to forget that the Church *always* had the Word, and was subject to it.  A quotation of an OT passage was considered the “final argument” in the NT documents.  Hence, your “difficulty” is not a difficulty at all.  God held the Israelites accountable to His Word long before the NT was written.  How did He do that?

The question is:  WHAT is the Word and who has the AUTHORITY to proclaim the True Gospel?

No, not really.  The question is what has the authority of God—what is theopneustos or what is not?

Secondly, even if they did have the NT canon at the time (which they did not), does that mean that ‘the Word’ alone as you understand it to mean (ie the bible alone) would be sufficient for resolving disputes, considering, of course, that individual leaders will have different interpretations of ‘the Word’?

That assumes that sola scriptura means there will be no disputes.  It doesn’t say that, so, I again invite you to address the actual doctrine. There will be disputes, as there were in the NT.  If there were disputes when the apostles were still living and teaching, why shouldn’t there be disputes later?  Are there not disputes amongst Roman Catholics?

Doesn’t sola scriptura translate into inevitable division within Christianity?

No, sin translates into inevitable division within Christianity.  It’s not the Word’s fault that we don’t believe all of it.

If you say that ‘sola scriptura’ is sufficient, then what value do you place on the unity of the whole Christian Church?

I put a higher value on the truth of the Gospel.  Rome’s attempts at “unity” are well known to any person familiar with history, and really, I don’t know how you can even go that direction.

God has chosen to use fallible instruments to preach the Gospel.  I do not have to be infallible to preach an infallible message.   Do you have a computer?  Let’s say it had a perfect set of instructions with it.  Do you have to be infallible to use the instructions?  Does your fallibility make the instructions fallible?  I see some major category error issues here regarding the idea that we have to be infallible to use an infallible source of truth.  Why?

Let’s take a look at your example of the computer and its instructions.  You are trying to suggest that you don’t have to be infallible to use a perfect set of instructions.  There are, however, a number of defects in your characterization.  First, you are assuming that the instructions are widely and readily available;

No, I made no such assumption.  How is that relevant?

…that everyone can afford this instruction book; and that everyone is able to read.

Actually, you are straining at a gnat to swallow a camel, John.  The illustration makes one simple point: you don’t have to be infallible to use perfect instructions.  You are avoiding that point and moving on to other objections.  Are you willing to admit this point before moving on?

This was not the case before the invention of the printing press nor the case for all Christians even today.  Therefore, at least from an historical point of view, it is an untenable position for you to hold.

Of course not.  You have moved the illustration from its context, ignored its point, and are now asking it to answer to other questions.  Bad argumentation, John.

Secondly, you assume that the instructions are so clear and evident that there is little, if any, chance that they can be misapplied or misinterpreted.

I make no such assumption at all.  Please stick to the point.

Well, that may be the case for an instruction booklet for a computer (or maybe not!), but you can hardly put the ‘teachings’ of a computer manual on par with the inspired Word of God.

Of course not, but again, stick to the point.  Do you, or do you not, have to be infallible for the set of instructions to be perfect?  Yes or no?

If you could, then why don’t your Presbyterian or Lutheran colleagues agree with you on baptismal regeneration?  If Scripture is so ‘clear, evident, and sufficient’, then why are their such Irreconcilable differences in Protestantism’s 30,000 denominations?

John, I’ve addressed all these issues before, and I confess, I don’t have time to re-write, just for you, everything I’ve written on this topic before.  Please re-read my response to Catholic Answers on our web page and take seriously my response before asking me to interact with you.  I specifically addressed this very topic in that article, which, I believe, you said you had read.

James


I will try to make restrict my comments to a length which is agreeable to you from now on.

A)  You either did not understand the implication of my comments, or I did not make them explicit enough.  Let me illustrate.  You earlier remarked that the early churches are bound to fidelity to the Word.  “As they are more faithful to the Word, their teaching are more in line with each other.  The less faithful they are, the less harmonious the proclamation.”  Question:  how can I distinguish between the degree of ‘faithfulness’ of two churches who teach opposing doctrines?  One Church preaches one Word according to the bible, the other Church preaches another according to the bible.  By whose STANDARD shall I measure them?  My own?

B)  But, you see Dr. White, you are avoiding the inevitable question when it comes to INTERPRETING theopneustos, namely, is everyone’s interpretation of theopneustos equally valid?  If it is, why should I trust yours?  If it is not, then whose should I trust and WHY should I trust it?  Or, are you going to suggest that everyone’s interpretation of theopneustos is the same?  Or, are you going to suggest that we should not interpret theopneustos, and just let it sit there, having no meaning in our lives?

C)  I am addressing the actual doctrine.  Read what I said (Scripture is not “sufficient for RESOLVING disputes”), and read what you said (“Sola Scriptura [does not] mean that there will be no disputes”).  See the difference?  The key word here is RESOLUTION.  I find it quite amusing that you refer to the New Testament Church addressing disputes, and that there would be disputes later.  Read Acts 15.  There is a dispute.  It is settled by the Apostles’ judgement and their INTERPRETATION of Scripture. THERE IS A RESOLUTION of the dispute BECAUSE there is divinely guided human authority.  IF THERE IS NO RESOLUTION, THERE IS NO DEFINITIVE MEANING TO THE GOSPEL.  And as for later history…oh yeah, there were many heretics in the Church who appealed to the bible for their ‘authority’.  And we all know what Protestants do when there is a dispute about a doctrine, don’t we?  As for your questions regarding disputes amongst Roman Catholics – no, there is no dispute among ROMAN Catholics on defined articles of faith because to be a ROMAN Catholic, by definition, is to agree with what the Magisterium teaches – PERIOD.

D)  I think I would qualify as “any person familiar with history”. Which history are you referring to, and how does this impact on the necessity of the unity of the body?  May I refer you to any of  St. Paul’s letters where he talks about ‘the body’ (not a hand or a foot alone), or when he admonishes the Corinthians to have “no divisions among you” (1 Corinthians 1:10).  Furthermore, you ask how I can even ‘go in that direction’.   Well, it’s the direction of Jesus Christ who prayed that we all “may be one” (John 17:22), so it’s my direction also.  I have a love of the truth too.  I believe it exists and that it can be known definitively.  You, on the other hand, can’t be sure of the Truth (as you have admitted on the Trinity, for instance). One of the qualities of  truth is that it can be known definitively.  Thus, if you can’t be sure of the truth, then it is not the truth.

E)  First of all, I have not ignored your point at all.  True, I may have brought out some of the implications of your analogy, but, despite your objections to them, I have hardly ignored your original point.  (By the way, I would still like your comments on the practical difficulties of ‘sola scriptura’ from an historical perspective, namely – availability, affordability, and literacy.)  In your analogy of the computer and its instructions, you were trying to suggest that you don’t have to be infallible to use the instructions.  As I addressed the issue DIRECTLY in my rebuttal, I mentioned that I don’t disagree with this in most instances. Notwithstanding this, is it not possible that the instruction booklet will be ambiguous or vague in certain areas – like the bible?  In this case, what, or more appropriately, where do you turn if not to the customer service representative to resolve the perceived ambiguity or contradiction?

John


You either did not understand the implication of my comments, or I did not make them explicit enough.  Let me illustrate.  You earlier remarked that the early churches are bound to fidelity to the Word.  “As they are more faithful to the Word, their teaching are more in line with each other.  The less faithful they are, the less harmonious the proclamation.”  Question:  how can I distinguish between the degree of ‘faithfulness’ of two churches who teach opposing doctrines?  One Church preaches one Word according to the bible, the other Church preaches another according to the bible.  By whose STANDARD shall I measure them?  My own?

You again function on an erroneous assumption: that the Word is so unclear as to not allow a person to make such a decision.  I do not believe this is true, and I would never charge God with such an inability to clearly present His truth in His Word.  Yes, you will be held accountable for what you believe.  But there is no logical means of asserting that if YOU are held accountable, that YOU become the “standard.”  The standard is Scripture, and you are responsible for testing assertions by that standard.

But, you see Dr. White, you are avoiding the inevitable question when it comes to INTERPRETING theopneustos, namely, is everyone’s interpretation of theopneustos equally valid?

Of course not.  That is why one “grows in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ,” why one “meditates” upon the Word day and night, why one is zealous in one’s task (yes, work) of studying and handling God’s truth.  The Baptist Confession speaks of the “due use of the ordinary means.”  Do you know what this means?

If it is, why should I trust yours.  If it is not, then whose should I trust and WHY should I trust it?   I’m not asking you to trust mine.  I’m telling you you have to quit looking for someone else to shoulder your burden, and start taking responsibility for yourself.

Or, are you going to suggest that everyone’s interpretation of theopneustos is the same?

That’s silly.

Or, are you going to suggest that we should not interpret theopneustos, and just let it sit there, having no meaning in our lives?

Well, again, when you take the time to read what I’ve written, and take it seriously, please let me know.  This kind of silliness is not worthy of the investment of time, and is simply insulting.  I would never write to a Roman Catholic apologist and make such inane statements, so I don’t know why you feel free to do so.

James


I’d like to clear up a misunderstanding before we proceed.  When I asked:

“Are you going to suggest that everyone’s interpretation of theopneustos is the same? “

and

“Are you going to suggest that we should not interpret theopneustos, and just let it sit there, having no meaning in our lives?”

I simply wanted to discount some alternatives that are accepted by some Christians.  It was by no means an attempt at sarcasm, although I see that it could be taken that way.  My apologies.

I’d like to explore this idea of the bible being a standard for testing assertions.

You say that “the standard is Scripture, and you are responsible for testing assertions by that standard.”

Premise:  Is the concept of a “standard” ALONE enough to test an assertion?

Do you agree or disagree?

Regards, John

P.S. I’d still like some comments on the rest of my last E-Mail to you (points C,D,E).


In essence, may I ask if you have:

1)  Read the relevant chapters on sola scriptura in _The Roman Catholic Controversy_?

2)  Read the articles on the web page, specifically, www.aomin.org/cathan.html and the article responding to David Palm’s presentation on tradition in the NT?

James


In essence, may I ask if you have:

i)  Read the relevant chapters on sola scriptura in “The Roman Catholic Controversy”?

ii)  Read the articles on the web page, specifically ,www.aomin.org/cathan.html and the article responding to David Palm’s presentation on tradition in the NT?

In answer to you questions:

i) No, I have not read the relevant chapters on sola scriptura in “The Roman Catholic Controversy”?  Is this absolutely necessary to the questions I have posed?

ii) Yes, I did read your article responding to David Palm’s presentation on tradition in the NT.  And I also read (as you asked me to do earlier in our dialogue) your debate with Gerry Matatics.

Let me offer you some of my impressions of those pieces:

After reading the debates you have had with Gerry Matatics and Patrick Madrid, as well as some of your other articles, including this one responding to David Palm, there are a number of instances where you accuse your opponents of “begging the question” when they do no such thing    As for your article responding to  David Palm, I don’t see how any of your comments there relate directly to my questions to you.  If you’re wondering whether I thought you brought up any valid points about Tradition, my response is, quite frankly, no.  In fact, there were serious flaws in many of your responses.

In regards to your debate with Gerry Matatics:  First off, you are a good debater.  But, it just goes to show that even intelligent men cannot overcome the compelling arguments against sola scriptura.  God does that sort of thing from time to time.

Secondly, I find it very difficult to understand how you can even bring the Church Fathers into a debate when they are all Catholics, and NONE of them support sola scriptura.  You like to quote St. Augustine, a Bishop of the Catholic Church in Hippo.   Didn’t he tell the Pelagians who were twisting Scripture to buttress their own positions:  “Rome has spoken; the matter is closed”?  Why would he do that if he thought the bible alone could (and here’s that very important word, Dr. White) RESOLVE the dispute?  And why would he even refer to Rome as an authority if he didn’t think that would settle the issue with them?

There’s no point in saying ‘the bible says this’ to a Buddhist.  But there is a point in saying that to a Christian.  Why?  Because the Christian SHOULD submit to the authority of the bible.  Likewise, St. Augustine is implicitly recognizing the same thing with Rome when he makes this comment to the followers of Pelagius.  (I am really shocked that a Protestant would even bring up orthodox Catholic bishops, some of whom, individually, – like Augustine – effectively DEFINED Catholic beliefs.)

Thirdly, there is a typo in the last paragraph of Gerry Matatics concluding comments:  “According to Church Fathers…The Catechism teaches that every Church father was an infallible individual…”  Of course, this is false.  It should read:  “The Catechism does NOT teach that every Church father was an infallible individual.”  Please make the change. No one Church Father (except the successor of Peter) is infallible.  The Church believes that God grants godly men, whether they are bishops or even theologians – perhaps even you, Dr. White, the ability to penetrate the Word of God to come to a better understanding of it.  For instance, the theology around the angels or communion of saints as well as the Trinity are good examples of theological works, which draw fuller understanding of the doctrine while not contradicting the basic elements of the doctrine.  (During the Arian heresy, for instance, it was proposed to introduce the word “homoousios” or “of the same substance”. Eusebius of Nicomedia objected that it was a technical term not found in Scripture.  But his objection was overruled at the Council of Nicea, essentially because if Scripture is interpreted different ways, the Church must explain Scripture by a term outside of it.)  The ultimate determination of the TRUTH of any theology, however, resides not with the brilliant or the learned but with the successors to the Apostles, united with the successor of St. Peter.

This brings me to my final comment, a rather amusing point you made in response to David Palm, regarding Mary’s perpetual virginity.   (By the way, why did Calvin believe Mary was perpetually virgin?):

“The student of Church history, having gotten back up off the floor upon reading that paragraph, has to simply respond,

‘Well, then who decides from the many conflicting viewpoints found in the patristic sources what is and what is not Tradition?’”

I will be very happy to answer that question, Dr. White, since I am a student of Church history.  Although I have not been rolling around the floor all this time as many of your students have, I would ask them to get up off that floor and answer ESSENTIALLY THE SAME QUESTION THAT I HAVE POSED TO YOU FOR TWO OR THREE WEEKS NOW, having yet to receive an adequate response:

‘Well, then who decides from the many conflicting viewpoints found in PROTESTANTISM what is and what is not BIBLICAL?’”

If your question is valid, then so is mine.  In fact, it’s an excellent and valid question, Dr. White.  I’m glad you asked it – in fact, I’m thrilled.  My answer to your question is simple:  the Magisterium of the Catholic Church decides the question of what is Tradition and what is not, and it can do so because of the words of Her Divine founder.  Where in Protestantism is there an authority to say what is ‘biblical’ and what is not, given the multitude of conflicting viewpoints among so-called ‘bible believing churches’?  It’s a rather straightforward question, so please answer it.

John


This brings me to my final comment, a rather amusing point you made in response to David Palm, regarding Mary’s perpetual virginity.   (By the way, why did Calvin believe Mary was perpetually virgin?)

Because he was a product of his time.

“The student of Church history, having gotten back up off the floor upon reading that paragraph, has to simply respond, ‘Well, then who decides from the many conflicting viewpoints found in the patristic sources what is and what is not Tradition?’”

I will be very happy to answer that question, Dr. White, since I am a student of Church history.  Although I have not been rolling around the floor all this time as many of your students have, I would ask them to get up off that floor and answer ESSENTIALLY THE SAME QUESTION THAT I HAVE POSED TO YOU FOR TWO OR THREE WEEKS NOW, having yet to receive an adequate response:

‘Well, then who decides from the many conflicting viewpoints found in PROTESTANTISM what is and what is not BIBLICAL?’”

If your question is valid, then so is mine.  In fact, it’s an excellent and valid question, Dr. White.  I’m glad you asked it – in fact, I’m thrilled.  My answer to your question is simple:  the Magisterium of the Catholic Church decides the question of what is Tradition and what is not, and it can do so because of the words of Her Divine founder.

Of course.  Sola ecclesia.

Where in Protestantism is there an authority to say what is ‘biblical’ and what is not, given the multitude of conflicting viewpoints among so-called ‘bible believing churches’?  It’s a rather straightforward question, so please answer it.

We do not claim to have an infallible Magisterium.  We leave the infallibility to God, and follow His Word.  We don’t (at least, if we are consistent—some Protestants held on to too much of what they learned from Rome, but eventually they got over that imperfection) torture heretics, imprison them, and burn them at the stake for disagreeing with us on doctrinal issues (please, please, please don’t insult me by saying the Church never did that, only the secular authorities did; such thinking would excuse even Hitler’s deeds).  And please don’t say the Inquisition isn’t relevant: the Inquisition is the *direct* result of the claim to having a infallible teaching Magisterium that gives you the alleged “final authority” you demand from me.

So, [John], what we have is my admitted fallibility embracing the infallible Word of God, recognizing my own possibility of error, and seeking to consistently bow to the Word in all things throughout my life. We also have your own fallibility in embracing your ultimate authority—Rome’s teachings.  You don’t have infallible understanding of Rome’s teachings, nor do you have infallible understanding of the Bible, either.  Hence, of the two of us, you have more to grapple with, and more possibility therefore of error.  I go directly to what is *surely* infallible, and you go through an organization that I believe to be VERY fallible.  So, what advantage do you gain, may I ask?

In response to my question about John Calvin believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity, you said that it was, “because he was a product of his time.”

Is this what you think of  the concept of a transcendent and eternal truth?  Where is the historicity, or the bond of your belief with even your Protestant forefathers?  Do you not see the sad consequence of your belief – everyone deciding what is ‘biblical’ and what is not?  This time Luther and Calvin were not biblical enough for you.  Next time, Dr. White, YOUR beliefs will not be ‘biblically-based’ for the next lone ranger that comes along.  We are not to be lone rangers who individually decide that some previous century of Christians (or the Church down the road, for that matter) was not ‘biblical’ enough.  Christ never taught such an absurd doctrine – He taught quite the opposite.  Surely you can appreciate the difficulty here.  Come now, Dr. White, be honest.

In my previous comments, I asserted that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church decides the question of what is Tradition and what is not, and it can do so because of the words of Her Divine founder.  You responded, ‘Of course.  Sola ecclesia.’  Now, I don’t know exactly what you mean here.  If you mean that Sacred Tradition is the only source of divine revelation, this is false.  Vatican II states quite explicitly that both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition both “form one sacred deposit of the word of God which is committed to the Church.”  On the other hand, if you take ‘sola ecclesia’ to mean that only the Church acting through the successors to the Apostles has the sovereign right to decide what is ‘biblical’ and/or ‘binding’ on Christians, then yes – because that is quite biblical and historical.  To whom would you have me listen? Billy Graham?  Jerry Falwell?  Charles Russell?  David Koresh?  Perhaps, I should declare all of them ‘unbiblical’, and afford myself my very own doctrinal blunders based on my own limited understanding of the bible. Or perhaps I should listen to you and your peculiar doctrines i.e. assured salvation, rapture? etc.

I would like to congratulate you, however, on finally LIFTING this debate to its proper level.  The fact that you recognize the CENTRAL and CRITICAL role of a human instrument in communicating God’s Written Word is real progress.  So, it’s no longer scripture speaking for itself since it cannot, but SOMEONE interpreting Scripture and speaking for Christ.  Who shall it be, Dr. White? Choose one for me:  Sola ecclesia, sola John Pacheco, sola James White, or sola someone else?

Your next few comments on infallibility and the Inquisition are indeed remarkable.

You make the unwarranted connection between impeccability and infallibility.  If you wish to continue on this train of logic, then you have just eliminated the inspired, inerrant Scriptures from consideration.  None of these writers were impeccable.  You consider the Psalms inspired even though they were written by a murderer and adulterer – hardly endearing qualities.  In fact, Dr. White, can you give me just one biblical example where God’s people are allowed to usurp God’s anointed leader even though these leaders were immoral? Just one example will do.

With regard to the Inquisition, I assume you mean the Spanish Inquisition. Now you insist that the Inquisition is relevant to the definition of infallibility.  If that is the case, where exactly is the doctrinal error taught by the Pope during this time?  Where did the Pope teach (as binding on all Christians) that murder and torture were acceptable forms of evangelization?  Can you please cite the relevant Church document for that?  If you can’t, then your objection is quite unsustainable, and rather directed toward a straw man in the first place.

You further state that “the Inquisition is the direct result of the claim to having an infallible Magisterium”.  Again, you’ve committed another logical blunder, Dr. White:  ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ – “after this, therefore because of this”.  Such reasoning is fallacious because the preceding factor may not have anything to do (or at least not be the dominating factor) with the event.    There were many factors involved during this sad period in Church History, and to look at one particular characteristic and point to that as the only cause is not valid.

Admittedly, your point is not totally without merit.  Yes, there is a real threat to use this particular charism unwisely because those who possess it may be inclined to the sin of pride.  (Scott Hahn has mentioned the need to guard against this triumphant attitude in many of his talks.)  Notwithstanding this fact, abusing the charism of infallibility through unacceptable conversion techniques has NOTHING to do with infallibility ITSELF.  You don’t ban cars because some moron decided to run down his enemy with one, do you?

The Spanish Inquisition was an embarrassing moment in Church History, but don’t you think it’s possible for someone to have the truth, yet use overzealous and abusive methods of evangelization?  Let us not forget, Dr. White, that Protestant countries imprisoned, tortured, and killed ‘heretics’.  Luther, Melanchtan, Calvin, and Theodore of Beza EXPLICITLY approved of capital punishment for obstinate heretics.  Your forefather, John Calvin, once wrote, “Heretics are to be coerced by the sword”, after he had burned Michael Servetus at the stake.  I don’t hear you putting down Calvin’s view of salvation because of it, do I?

The difference between you and I, Dr. White, is that I look at what Calvin TAUGHT and not the sin that he committed.  Unlike you, I do not use Ad Hominem argumentation to refute my opponents.  The use of such a technique just goes to show how weak your case really is.

In regards to an infallible understanding of either Rome’s teaching or the bible, you’re quite right to say that I am not infallible in my teaching.  But did I say that I was?  If someone asked me if I have the truth, I could say ‘yes’ because I can point to an infallible teacher and say that “Whoever listens to [them] listens to [Christ].”  (Luke 10:16).  The last time I checked, Christ could not err so the implications of this become clear.  Indeed, my understanding of the Church’s teaching might be fallible, but it is not an explicit or conscious denial of that understanding.  However, if I were to propose an understanding of the teaching that was contrary to the truth, the Church could correct it (that’s the beauty of the living voice of Christ in His Church), and I would have to submit to it. (You would appreciate this feature on the Feeneyite teaching, for instance, which the Church does not accept.)  You, on the hand, do not have this wonderful gift of God.  You have an infallible collection of books (so you say), but have no way of definitively communicating the truth of those books to me. That’s like being given a great French literary piece, and only having a cursory knowledge of the language – you’ll miss much too much.

John Pacheco

“For she [the Church] is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers.”  (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, [3,4,1], 180 A.D.).

In response to my question about John Calvin believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity, you said that it was, “because he was a product of his time.”

Is this what you think of  the concept of a transcendent and eternal truth?

Of course not.  And why would you make such a huge leap of illogic is…?

Where is the historicity, or the bond of your belief with even your Protestant forefathers?

If you understood Protestants, you’d know we hold each other, including our ‘forefathers’, to the standard of truth.

Do you not see the sad consequence of your belief – everyone deciding what is ‘biblical’ and what is not?

Yes, I do.  It’s called freedom.  Go look at Torquemada and see the result of the opposite.

This time Luther and Calvin were not biblical enough for you.  Next time, Dr. White, YOUR beliefs will not be ‘biblically-based’ for the next lone ranger that comes along.  We are not to be lone rangers who individually decide that some previous century of Christians (or the Church down the road, for that matter) was not ‘biblical’ enough.  Christ never taught such an absurd doctrine – He taught quite the opposite.  Surely you can appreciate the difficulty here.  Come now, Dr. White, be honest.

I will be quite honest with you.  I have concluded that you have your view, you don’t understand, or wish to understand, mine, and I don’t have time to argue with you. Your position is untenable, and whether you want to believe it or not, you pick and choose what of the past generations you will embrace and what you won’t—you just let Rome do that work for you, nothing more.  I’m sorry you haven’t thought that issue through, but I’m not in a position to help you do it, given you are not looking for dialogue, but simply for debate.

James


In response to my question about John Calvin believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity, you said that it was, “because he was a product of his time.”

Is this what you think of  the concept of a transcendent and eternal truth?

And why would you make such a huge leap of illogic is…?

A huge leap of logic?  I think not.  Consider this.  The Catholic view of ‘doctrinal movement’ holds that doctrine can develop, but not contradict a previous teaching (remember the blue car analogy I offered?)  The Protestant view, however, because it denies infallibility, must necessarily concede that previous doctrinal beliefs about Christianity could be false.  Protestant doctrines, then, can and have contradicted themselves over time.  If you took any Catholic, from any time, and placed him in any of period of history, he could assent to the beliefs of the Church and not be in contradiction..  However, the same cannot be said for the Protestant as you have so readily admitted.  So, my point is well taken, is it not?  Your ‘truth’ is really only as good as the time you live in – it cannot transcend history.  If you and John Calvin were to meet, would you presume to tell him that Mary’s perpetual virginity was not ‘biblical’, or would you dispute other doctrines with him that he holds and you do not?  What would happen then, Dr. White?

Where is the historicity, or the bond of your belief with even your Protestant forefathers?

If you understood Protestants, you’d know we hold each other, including our ‘forefathers’, to the standard of truth.

But you see, Dr. White, all I want you to do is tell me what that truth is and promise me that that TRUTH will not contradict another ‘truth’ 100 or even 10 years from now.  Is that such an unreasonable request?

Do you not see the sad consequence of your belief – everyone deciding what is ‘biblical’ and what is not?

Yes, I do.  It’s called freedom.  Go look at Torquemada and see the result of the opposite.

True freedom is directed toward unity.  We see that relationship in the body of Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10) as we do in most democracies in the world.  Your country is free but also unified.  The problem with your belief in ‘freedom’ is that you are confusing ‘freedom’ with ‘anarchy’.  The latter term is a much better description of Protestantism today than the former one.  The former one presumes the necessity of an AUTHORITATIVE BODY and unity which Protestantism can not claim.

As for Torquemada, he did not define my theology, but John Calvin did help define yours.  I still don’t hear you rejecting Calvinist theology because John Calvin burnt some heretics at the stake.  Nor do I hear you abandoning the Psalms because they were written by an adulterer and murderer.   I simply as for consistency on your part, Dr. White.

This time Luther and Calvin were not biblical enough for you.  Next time, Dr. White, YOUR beliefs will not be ‘biblically-based’ for the next lone ranger that comes along.  We are not to be lone rangers who individually decide that some previous century of Christians (or the Church down the road, for that matter) was not ‘biblical’ enough.  Christ never taught such an absurd doctrine – He taught quite the opposite.  Surely you can appreciate the difficulty here.  Come now, Dr. White, be honest.

I will be quite honest with you.  I have concluded that you have your view, you don’t understand, or wish to understand, mine, and I don’t have time to argue with you. Your position is untenable, and whether you want to believe it or not, you pick and choose what of the past generations you will embrace and what you won’t—you just let Rome do that work for you, nothing more.  I’m sorry you haven’t thought that issue through, but I’m not in a position to help you do it, given you are not looking for dialogue, but simply for debate.

Let me first say that I believe that you understand the Catholic position very well – at least you should given the time you’ve spent researching Catholic teachings and commenting on them.  So why must you patronize me by saying that I do not understand the Protestant position on the issues we’ve been discussing?  I’ve had quite a bit of exposure to Protestant theology.

Secondly,  you say that I pick and choose.  Sure, I pick the Catholic Church because it is the church that Jesus established.  It’s easy.  You, on the other hand, must decide FOR YOURSELF what is and what is not biblical.  You too must pick and choose, except you have no guarantee that what you pick is Truth and what you reject is false.  It’s your best educated guess – which of course, will differ from your Protestant neighbour across the street.  We ALL have to pick and choose, Dr. White, the key is doing it CORRECTLY.  Understand the huge moral problems we let ourselves in for when we say:  “it’s true for me at this point in time, but maybe not for you now or later.”

Thirdly, I am looking for honest dialogue.  I simply find your answers wholly inadequate – from a biblical, historical, and logical basis.  For you to say that I am looking just to debate is simply untrue.  I’ve never once engaged in a formal debate with anyone, but according to your website, you’ve engaged in 24 public ones.  It is rather strange that you accuse me of “not looking for dialogue, but simply for debate.”

Fourthly,  at the end of your last E-mail, you provided a reference from St. Augustine:  “Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, with the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.” (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 10).

To this every Catholic would say “AMEN”. So what are you trying to prove with this reference – that St. Augustine taught ‘sola scriptura’.  St. Augustine is simply reminding his fellow bishops, indirectly, that they are bound to the Written Word of God.  They are not to contradict it.  St. Augustine is NOT saying that ONLY Scripture is to be followed.  There is no hint of that in any of his teachings if read in context.  But just to settle the matter, consider these references:

i) “[On this matter of the Pelagians], two Councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See; and form there rescripts too have come.  The matter is at an end; would that the error too might sometime be at an end.” (Sermons, 131,10)

ii)  “If you should find someone who does not yet believe in the Gospel, what would you answer him when he says:  ‘I do not believe?’  Indeed, I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic

Church did not influence me to do so.  (Against the Letter of Mani, 5,6)

iii) “I believe that this practice [baptism] comes from apostolic tradition, just as so many other practices not found in their writings nor in the councils of their successors, but which, because they are kept by the whole Church everywhere, are believed to have been commended and handed down by the Apostles themselves” (Baptism, 2,7,12)

Some closing remarks…

Well, I can see that we probably won’t progress much further than we are now.  You are, of course, at liberty to offer your comments on my observations above.  I want to thank you for your time, especially considering your busy schedule.  I had only hoped that I could offer you some insight into the Catholic Faith that you had not previously considered.  Maybe I did.  Maybe I didn’t.  We’ll leave that up to Our Lord.

I want to thank you very much for your consideration.  Please pray for me.  I will pray for you.

Best Wishes,

John Pacheco


In response to my question about John Calvin believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity, you said that it was, “because he was a product of his time.”  Is this what you think of  the concept of a transcendent and eternal truth?

Of course not.  And why would you make such a huge leap of illogic is…?

A huge leap of logic?  I think not…

I think so.  If you think I am bound to believe Calvin’s every word as the definition of “transcendent and eternal truth,” you are sadly mistaken.  Obviously, Calvin’s opinion on any topic is not the benchmark of “transcendent and eternal truth.”

Consider this.  The Catholic view of ‘doctrinal movement’ holds that doctrine can develop, but not contradict a previous teaching (remember the blue car analogy I offered?)  The Protestant view, however, because it denies infallibility, must necessarily concede that previous doctrinal beliefs about Christianity could be false.  Protestant doctrines, then, can and have contradicted themselves over time.  If you took any Catholic, from any time, and placed him in any of period of history, he could assent to the beliefs of the Church and not be in contradiction.

Of course, that assumes what it is meant to prove: that Rome is infallible, and that the doctrinal viewpoint she says she believes now, and has always believed, is, in fact, what was believed in previous generations.  ‘Sola ecclesia’ does have its advantages, as it can never be proven wrong.  That is, if you point to the fact that the 4th Lateran Council gave plenary indulgences for those who would take up the sword in the effort to “exterminate” the heretics, and then contrast that with Lumen Gentium and its view of religious freedom, and say, “See, Rome has been inconsistent,” Rome’s answer is easy:  “Oh, but we didn’t believe that, and, of course, we are the only ones who have the infallible right to say what we taught back then anyway.”  Hence, it is a system that is beyond refutation: since Rome gets to set the parameters, the result is always rigged.  When you show a contradiction, Rome just says, “Oh, we didn’t really believe that.”  History becomes irrelevant.  It’s easy, for example, to prove what extra ecclesiam nulla salus meant, say, to an Innocent III or the 4th Lateran Council.  But the current Pope, as recently as 9/9, has spoken of salvation coming to those who honestly follow the dictates of their religion, even if they do not know Christ.  It is pure sophistry to say that that places them “in the Church” and that this was how Popes five to nine hundred years ago understood it.  But, to the consistent Roman Catholic, that’s irrelevant: what matters is what the infallible Magisterium says *today,* not what was actually and obviously believed *back then.*

Hence, you have really not accomplished a lot to say, “Well, Protestants are not a monolithic group.”  We know that.  It’s not relevant.  We don’t expect to be.  And it also accomplishes little to say, “Well, it sure is nice to claim our leaders are infallible,” since that doesn’t mean much.  Mormons say as much.

However, the same cannot be said for the Protestant as you have so readily  admitted.  So, my point is well taken, is it not?  Your ‘truth’ is really only as good as the time you live in – it cannot transcend history.  If you and John Calvin were to meet, would you presume to tell him that Mary’s perpetual virginity was not ‘biblical’, or would you dispute other doctrines with him that he holds and you do not?  What would happen then, Dr. White?

:  Since Calvin believed in sola scriptura, we could sit down and refer to an unchanging standard.  I could show him studies we have done with computers on the phrase “hews hou” that are beyond anything he could have done at the time.  And he could then have a fuller understanding of the text and its relevance to the situation.

Where is the historicity, or the bond of your belief with even your Protestant forefathers?

If you understood Protestants, you’d know we hold each other, including our ‘forefathers’, to the standard of truth.

But you see, Dr. White, all I want you to do is tell me what that truth is and promise me that that TRUTH will not contradict another ‘truth’ 100 or even 10 years from now.  Is that such an unreasonable request?

No, and that truth is the Word of God, which is unchanging and unchangeable.

E)

True freedom is directed toward unity.  We see that relationship in the body of Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10) as we do in most democracies in the world.  Your country is free but also unified.  The problem with your belief in ‘freedom’ is that you are confusing ‘freedom’ with ‘anarchy’. The latter term is a much better description of Protestantism today than the former one.  The former one presumes the necessity of an AUTHORITATIVE BODY and unity which Protestantism cannot claim.

No, freedom means you don’t kill people because they disagree with your viewpoints.  Freedom means you have full and unfettered access to the AUTHORITATIVE BODY (the Bible), and that you are free to follow that Word wherever it leads.

If you want the opposite, consider this: you are FORCED to believe in the Bodily Assumption of Mary.  It is a doctrine unknown to the early Church, and unknown to the writers of Scripture.  But, you HAVE to believe it.  You have no “freedom” to examine this teaching the way Jesus taught us to (Matthew 15:1-9).  You can’t do it.  You’ve exchanged the ultimate authority of God’s Word for the authority of Rome.

Unity?  Well, the JW’s have more unity than you have, but it’s based upon the same false premise.  The only true unity is a unity based upon *truth.*  You can have all the unity you want on such doctrines as the Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption.  The simple fact of the matter is, by making that an element of God’s truth, you have shown you have no unity with those who lived their entire lives without having the *slightest* knowledge of such things, nor did they ever believe them.

F)

As for Torquemada, he did not define my theology, but John Calvin did help define yours.  I still don’t hear you rejecting Calvinist theology because John Calvin burnt some heretics at the stake.  Nor do I hear you abandoning the Psalms because they were written by an adulterer and  murderer.  I simply as for consistency on your part, Dr. White.

You miss the point.  I don’t believe Calvin was infallible (and he didn’t burn anyone, either, but that’s irrelevant).  But Torquemada’s actions were *completely and totally in line with Roman teaching in his day.*  Has Rome changed her view on that?  I don’t know, but if she has, that only shows that her doctrines have indeed changed over time.

G)

I will be quite honest with you.  I have concluded that you have your view, you don’t understand, or wish to understand, mine, and I don’t have time to argue with you. Your position is untenable, and whether you want to believe it or not, you pick and choose what of the past generations you will embrace and what you won’t—you just let Rome do that work for you, nothing more.  I’m sorry you haven’t thought that issue through, but I’m not in a position to help you do it, given you are not looking for dialogue, but simply for debate.

Let me first say that I believe that you understand the Catholic position very well – at least you should given the time you’ve spent researching Catholic teachings and commenting on them.  So why must you patronize me by saying that I do not understand the Protestant position on the issues we’ve been discussing?  I’ve had quite a bit of exposure to Protestant theology.

Because, your objections are based upon straw men.  Hence, either you 1) lack understanding, 2) are far too easily influenced by RC apologists who are dishonest in their presentations, or 3) you are dishonest yourself.  If you could suggest a fourth possibility, I’d be glad to consider it.  As it stands, I think I have chosen the least offensive possibility at first.  I could be convinced to go for the other possibilities if you try hard enough.

H)

Secondly,  you say that I pick and choose.  Sure, I pick the Catholic Church because it is the church that Jesus established.  It’s easy.  You, on the other hand, must decide FOR YOURSELF what is and what is not biblical.

Again, think about what you just wrote.  You PICKED FOR YOURSELF which Church to say Jesus founded.  I don’t believe Jesus founded anything in Rome.  A Mormon believes Jesus founded their Church.  A JW believes Jesus founded their organization.  So what?  You seem to think you’ve escaped that element of fallibility in choosing your ultimate authorities.  You haven’t.  You’ve chosen to turn that responsibility over to someone else, but, that doesn’t remove it from you.  You’ve chosen Rome.  Fine.  That was a fallible choice.  There are zillions of reasons to question the choice.  But, once it is made, you can no longer, meaningfully, weigh those reasons, since Rome has now become your infallible ultimate authority.  You are trapped in a very tight epistemological circle, and that choice was a *fallible* one on your part.

I gladly own up to my need to search the Scriptures, read, study, be zealous, and be prepared (all things that are commanded in Scripture, hence, why command something if, in reality, all you have to do is rely upon the See of Peter in Rome?).  I gladly own up to my fallibility.  Honesty about oneself is a refreshing thing, actually.  I’m glad I don’t think I’m infallible.  That means I have to continue studying.  I have to continue reading, learning, making progress in my understanding.  The Bible speaks of our “growing in the grace and KNOWLEDGE of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Well, I’m growing.  I haven’t arrived.  Again, who is taking the biblical position here?  It seems *really* obvious to me.

J)

You too must pick and choose, except you have no guarantee that what you pick is Truth and what you reject is false.  It’s your best educated guess – which of course, will differ from your Protestant neighbour across the street.

And, of course, you have no guarantee that what you chose in Rome is the Truth, even if you think you do.  I can’t make you see that your entire argument refutes your own position, but, it sure is obvious out here.

K)

We ALL have to pick and choose, Dr. White, the key is doing it CORRECTLY.  Understand the huge moral problems we let ourselves in for when we say:  “it’s true for me at this point in time, but maybe not for you now or later.”

Of course, I utterly reject relativistic concepts of truth.

L)

Thirdly, I am looking for honest dialogue.  I simply find your answers wholly inadequate – from a biblical, historical, and logical basis.  For you to say that I am looking just to debate is simply untrue.  I’ve never once engaged in a formal debate with anyone, but according to your web site, you’ve engaged in 24 public ones.  It is rather strange that you accuse me of “not looking for dialogue, but simply for debate.”

I don’t have time for such debates.  I have a half dozen folks come shooting for me every week—-Roman Catholic, Mormon, KJV Only, Jehovah’s Witness, you name it.  Everybody wants to take their shots.  Sorry, I still have books to write, articles to write, formal debates to do, radio programs to produce….and that means I don’t have time to play games.  I have to make a decision as to whether someone is playing games with me or not.  I don’t know if you are, but I have to make that decision as I read what you write.

M)

Fourthly,  at the end of your last E-mail, you provided a reference from St. Augustine:  “Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, with the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.” (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 10). To this every Catholic would say “AMEN”.

Not consistently you couldn’t, since, obviously, that means you have to PERSONALLY test what the “canonical Scriptures of God” say.

N)

So what are you trying to prove with this reference – that St. Augustine taught ‘sola scriptura’.  St. Augustine is simply reminding his fellow bishops, indirectly, that they are bound to the Written Word of God.  They are not to contradict it.  St. Augustine is NOT saying that ONLY Scripture is to be followed.  There is no hint of that in any of his teachings if read in context.  But just to settle the matter, consider these references:

i) “[On this matter of the Pelagians], two Councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See; and form there rescripts too have come.  The matter is at an end; would that the error too might sometime be at an end.” (Sermons, 131,10)

Yes, so?  I’ve read the entire sermon.  It is utterly irrelevant to the entire concept of sola scriptura, and the sufficiency of Scripture (though it is often completely mis-cited; at least you didn’t do that!).

ii)  “If you should find someone who does not yet believe in the Gospel, what would you answer him when he says:  ‘I do not believe?’  Indeed, I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so.”  (Against the Letter of Mani, 5,6)

Yes, yes, yes, I know these all well.

iii) “I believe that this practice [baptism] comes from apostolic tradition, just as so many other practices not found in their writings nor in the councils of their successors, but which, because they are kept by the whole Church everywhere, are believed to have been commended and handed down by the Apostles themselves” (Baptism, 2,7,12)

Ever read the epistle of Cyprian he’s responding to?  Fascinating debate.

Just a few other snippets of Augustine to consider: What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought.  Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher. (Augustine, De bono viduitatis, 2)

I must not press the authority of Nicea against you, nor you that of Ariminum against me; I do not acknowledge the one, as you do not the other; but let us come to ground that is common to both–the testimony of the Holy Scriptures(To Maximin the Arian)

Let us not hear:  This I say, this you say; but, thus says the Lord. Surely it is the books of the Lord on whose authority we[…] church, there let us discuss our case. (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 3)

Let those things be removed from our midst which we quote against each other not from divine canonical books but from elsewhere. Someone may perhaps ask:  Why do you want to remove these things from the midst?  Because I do not want the holy church proved by human documents but by divine oracles (Ibid).

Whatever they may adduce, and wherever they may quote from, let us rather, if we are His sheep, hear the voice of our Shepherd. Therefore let us search for the church in the sacred canonical Scriptures (Ibid).

If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema. (Contra litteras Petiliani, Bk 3, ch. 6)

You ought to notice particularly and store in your memory that God wanted to lay a firm foundation in the Scriptures against treacherous errors, a foundation against which no one dares to speak who would in any way be considered a Christian.  For when He offered Himself to them to touch, this did not suffice Him unless He also confirmed the heart of the believers from the Scriptures, for He foresaw that the time would come when we would not have anything to touch but would have something to read (In Epistolam Johannis tractus, 2).

Thou hast persuaded me that not those who believe but those who do not believe Thy books, are culpable.  Therefore, when we were too weak to find the truth by the light of reason and the authority of the Holy Scriptures was necessary for us on this account, I had already begun to believe that Thou wouldst by no means have given to that Scripture so excellent an authority throughout all lands if it had not been Thy will that through it Thou shouldest be believed and that through it Thou shouldest be sought (Confessions, Bk 6, ch 5).

And this one is most interesting:

Augustine on the Canon of Scripture Chapter 8. The Canonical Books 12.

But let us now go back to consider the third step here mentioned, for it is about it that I have set myself to speak and reason as the Lord shall grant me wisdom. The most skillful interpreter of the sacred writings, then, will be he who in the first place has read them all and retained them in his knowledge, if not yet with full understanding, still with such knowledge as reading gives, those of them, at least, that are called  canonical. For he will read the others with greater safety when built up in the belief of the truth, so that they will not take first possession of a weak mind, nor, cheating it with dangerous falsehoods and delusions, fill it with prejudices adverse to a sound understanding. Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal.”   Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume II, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume II, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 8

Do you think Augustine had a Roman Catholic viewpoint here, perhaps?

James

Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth (Basil, Ep. ad Eustathius, NPNF II, 8:229).


Greetings, Dr. White.  My latest response is given below…

A)

In response to my question about John Calvin believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity, you said that it was, “because he was a product of his time.”  Is this what you think of  the concept of a transcendent and eternal truth?

Of course not.  And why would you make such a huge leap of illogic is…?

A huge leap of logic?  I think not…

I think so.  If you think I am bound to believe Calvin’s every word as the definition of “transcendent and eternal truth,” you are sadly mistaken.  Obviously, Calvin’s opinion on any topic is not the benchmark of “transcendent and eternal truth.”

Of course, I never said that it was.  But I thought Calvin believed and taught only those things found in Scripture?  I thought that Calvin’s benchmark, the bible alone, was the same as yours.  You would think that with a *common* benchmark you would arrive at the same conclusion.  Since you do not, there are only a limited number of alternatives:

1) the benchmark is  faulty;
2) the benchmark is intended to lead the parties to opposite conclusions;
3) the benchmark was not properly understood by one party.

If the third alternative is chosen, which is implicit in your answer [i.e. Calvin (along with Luther and Zwingli) held erroneous beliefs about Mary’s perpetual virginity], then you have conceded that the bible can be misunderstood – it is not *always* sufficiently plain or explicit *by itself* to reveal truth.  So then you have two alternatives to choose from:

1) Because the bible is not always sufficient for resolving doctrinal questions, there must be an outside authority to resolve doctrinal questions which are not made explicit by the bible;

2) God has established a means of divine revelation (sola scriptura) which *must*, as it is defined, allow for a repudiation or ‘correction’ of Christian belief from one century to the next.  The result is that God has instituted a means of revelation that allows Christians to believe in error at one point in time.

Those are the alternatives, Dr. White.  Which one do you choose?

B)

Consider this.  The Catholic view of ‘doctrinal movement’ holds that doctrine can develop, but not contradict a previous teaching (remember the blue car analogy I offered?)  The Protestant view, however, because it denies infallibility, must necessarily concede that previous doctrinal beliefs about Christianity could be false.  Protestant doctrines, then, can and have contradicted themselves over time.  If you took any Catholic, from any time, and placed him in any of period of history, he could assent to the beliefs of the Church and not be in contradiction.

Of course, that assumes what it is meant to prove: that Rome is infallible, and that the doctrinal viewpoint she says she believes now, and has always believed, is, in fact, what was believed in previous generations.  ‘Sola ecclesia’ does have its advantages, as it can never be proven wrong.  That is, if you point to the fact that the 4th Lateran Council gave plenary indulgences for those who would take up the sword in the effort to “exterminate” the heretics, and then contrast that with Lumen Gentium and its view of religious freedom, and say, “See, Rome has been inconsistent,” Rome’s answer is easy:  “Oh, but we didn’t believe that, and, of course, we are the only ones who have the infallible right to say what we taught back then anyway.”  Hence, it is a system that is beyond refutation: since Rome gets to set the parameters, the result is always rigged.  When you show a contradiction, Rome just says, “Oh, we didn’t really believe that.”  History becomes irrelevant.  It’s easy, for example, to prove what extra ecclesiam nulla salus meant, say, to an Innocent III or the 4th Lateran Council.  But the current Pope, as recently as 9/9, has spoken of salvation coming to those who honestly follow the dictates of their religion, even if they do not know Christ.  It is pure sophistry to say that that places them “in the Church” and that this was how Popes five to nine hundred years ago understood it.  But, to the consistent Roman Catholic, that’s irrelevant: what matters is what the infallible Magisterium says *today,* not what was actually and obviously believed *back then.*

Hence, you have really not accomplished a lot to say, “Well, Protestants are not a monolithic group.”  We know that.  It’s not relevant.  We don’t expect to be.  And it also accomplishes little to say, “Well, it sure is nice to claim our leaders are infallible,” since that doesn’t mean much.  Mormons say as much.

First of all, the fact that Protestants are not ‘monolithic’ is entirely relevant because that is a biblical and historical quality of the true Church of Christ.  A synonym for ‘monolith’ is ‘pillar’.  And that’s what the bible says the Church is (1 Timothy 3:15).

Secondly, you think that it is impossible to prove that the Catholic Church has erred because  “the result is always rigged”.  Well, not really.  Show me where the Church has taught, as something to be definitively held, and then reversed it.  One example will do.  The examples that you *do* offer miss the mark as they did in your debate with Gerry Matatics.

1)   The 4th Lateran Council gave plenary indulgences for those who would take up the sword in the effort to “exterminate” the heretics, but [Vatican II] supports religious freedom.

The teaching to which you refer is found in Canon 3 of the 4th Lateran Council.  The problem with your suggestion is that you fail to recognize the difference between a dogmatic definition of an eternal truth and a decree which is given to deal with a particular problem at a particular point in history.   You also fail to appreciate the *circumstances* surrounding a particular action.  The act of killing someone is not subjectively evil if the ‘killer’ is acting in self defense.  Likewise, if society is about to be overcome with social upheaval and chaos and if the Christian religion is itself threatened by these forces (Albigensians) and if all other means have been attempted, then, yes, quite frankly, physical force would be a morally viable option.

Remember, Dr. White, that:

i) The bible is replete with God leading His people into armed struggle;

ii) God’s did not have a politically correct mind when he told Moses to wipe out the idolatrous Jews (Cf. Exodus 32).  And before you say that the Waldenses were not ‘idolatrous’ Jews, but rather only simple, loving ‘Christian’ folk who just wanted to get away from tyrannical Rome, may I refer you to the incident at Korah:

“Moses also said to Korah, ‘Listen to me, you Levites!  Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has singled you out from the community of Israel, to have you draw near him for the service of the Lord’s Dwelling and to stand before the community to minister for them?  He has allowed you and your kinsmen, the descendants of Levi, to approach him, and yet you now seek the priesthood too.”  (Numbers 16:8-10).

“Then, when Korah had assembled all his band against them at the entrance of the meeting tent, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire community, and the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Stand apart from this band, that I may consume them at once.  So they withdrew from the space around the Dwelling [of Korah, Dathan and Abiram].  And fire from the Lord came forth which consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.”  (Numbers 16:19-21,35).

iii) The attack by the Albigensians on the Christian faith both spiritually and physically (on, for instance, Papal Legate Pierre de Castelnau) is certainly not inconsistent with the Church’s teaching today i.e. the grounds for a just war (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2309)

iv) In medieval times, the state and religion were closely tied together so that an attack on one would necessarily mean an attack on the other.  Indeed, when religious disorder occurred, civil disorder was not too far behind.  The Protestant Reformation is a fine example of this.  So, given this historical circumstance the Church found itself in, physical force is certainly not to be ruled out as a means of avoiding the greater of two evils – quash the anarchist heretic now or suffer anarchy, more death, and a possible loss of Christian influence later on.  When Vatican II convened, however, these historical circumstances were no longer prevalent because the state had long ceased promoting a particular religion.  Religious ‘tolerance’, then, would no longer be a threat to civil order, or predictably result in greater religious genocide.  The Declaration on Human Freedom does support the idea of religious freedom “*provided* the just requirements of public order are observed.” (Dignitatis Humanae, 4).

2) “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (“Outside the Church there is no salvation”) meant one thing to an Innocent III or the 4th Lateran Council.  But the current Pope, as recently as 9/9, has spoken of salvation coming to those who honestly follow the dictates of their religion, even if they do not know Christ.

Membership in the Church is necessary for all men for salvation.  This is an article of faith and has been taught ‘ex cathedra’ a number of times throughout history, including during the 4th Lateran Council.

But, you say, there is a contradiction between  the 4th Lateran Council and the Catechism’s teaching (CCC 847).  Well, again Dr. White, to whom was the Fourth Lateran Council addressing this teaching?  How do you know that the Council was not speaking about people who were once in the Church and left it, or that were exposed to the Gospel and rejected it?  Indeed, if you were to consider the time and the particular heresies of the time, it is not difficult to see why such a doctrine was taught.  It is a doctrine that, ironically, applies to you today – you cannot find salvation apart from Christ’s Church – as an *objective, alternative means of salvation*.  Should you be granted eternal life, it will not be *because* of your theology, but *despite* it.

Furthermore, it is certainly not reasonable for you to assume that the Council was talking about the Mongol in Asia who was entirely ignorant of the Gospel.  Indeed, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” is a doctrine that is applied differently to the pagan depending on his culpability.  It is by its very *nature* a doctrine that depends on this fact.  Catholic theology is entirely consistent  on this point since, for instance, the commission of mortal sin requires the individual to *know* it is a sin.  Christ commanded his disciples to go and preach the Gospel message:  for those who believe and are baptized – salvation; for those who do not believe – condemnation (Cf. Mark 16:16).

Incidentally, even the early Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr (First Apology, 46) and Origen (Against Celsus 4:7) did not hold to the strict view.  And even those who first appear to hold to such a strict interpretation may not have.  Consider this one from Cyprian, himself:

“Let them not think that the way of life or salvation exists for them, if they have refused to obey the bishops and priests, since the Lord says in the book of Deuteronomy:  ‘And any man who has the insolence to refuse to listen to the priest or judge, whoever he may be in those days, that man shall die.’ (Deut. 17:12-13)  And then, indeed, they were killed with the sword…but now the proud and insolent are killed with the sword of the Spirit, WHEN THEY ARE CAST OUT FROM THE CHURCH.  For they cannot live outside, since there is only one house of God, and there can be no salvation for anyone except in the Church.”  [Letters, 61(4):4].

The heretics of Cyprian’s day were not the 20th generation of Lutheranism that exists today – they were perhaps 1 or 2 generations cut off from the Catholic Church.  To me, that’s an enormous difference – one group has likely been exposed to the Truth; the other likely has not.  As well, notice the phrase he uses, “if they have refused to obey the bishops” – if you are a 20th generation Lutheran, you probably did not know that you had to obey a Catholic bishop to be saved.

C)

However, the same cannot be said for the Protestant as you have so readily  admitted.  So, my point is well taken, is it not?  Your ‘truth’ is really only as good as the time you live in – it cannot transcend history.  If you and John Calvin were to meet, would you presume to tell him that Mary’s perpetual virginity was not ‘biblical’, or would you dispute other doctrines with him that he holds and you do not?  What would happen then, Dr. White?

Since Calvin believed in sola scriptura, we could sit down and refer to an unchanging standard.  I could show him studies we have done with computers on the phrase “hews hou” that are beyond anything he could have done at the time.  And he could then have a fuller understanding of the text and its relevance to the situation.

Yes, the bible is an unchanging standard.  I agree with you.  However, the problem with your theology is the INSTRUMENT in communicating that unchanging standard.  The standard may stay the same, but in Protestantism, everyone sees the ‘unchanging standard’ remarkably differently, thereby gutting the idea of a TRANSCENDANT and IMMUTABLE truth.  You will read your ‘unchanging standard’ *your* way.  And the Joe Lutheran will read his ‘unchanging standard’ *his* way.  You’ll both be perfectly be happy with yourselves since both of you possess the ‘unchanging standard’, except neither of you can agree on what the unchanging standard *means*.  So, whether you like it or not, the question always comes back to *whose* *unchanging standard* do we listen to?

D)

Where is the historicity, or the bond of your belief with even your Protestant forefathers?

If you understood Protestants, you’d know we hold each other, including our ‘forefathers’, to the standard of truth.

But you see, Dr. White, all I want you to do is tell me what that truth is and promise me that that TRUTH will not contradict another ‘truth’ 100 or even 10 years from now.  Is that such an unreasonable request?

No, and that truth is the Word of God, which is unchanging and unchangeable.

Yes, but your ‘Word of God’ is subject to human prejudice.  The meaning of it keeps changing and contradicting itself not only between Protestant churches, but in the same church over time.

E)

True freedom is directed toward unity.  We see that relationship in the body of Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10) as we do in most democracies in the world.  Your country is free but also unified.  The problem with your belief in ‘freedom’ is that you are confusing ‘freedom’ with ‘anarchy’. The latter term is a much better description of Protestantism today than the former one.  The former one presumes the necessity of an AUTHORITATIVE BODY and unity which Protestantism cannot claim.

No, freedom means you don’t kill people because they disagree with your viewpoints.  Freedom means you have full and unfettered access to the AUTHORITATIVE BODY (the Bible), and that you are free to follow that Word wherever it leads.

If you want the opposite, consider this: you are FORCED to believe in the Bodily Assumption of Mary.  It is a doctrine unknown to the early Church, and unknown to the writers of Scripture.  But, you HAVE to believe it.  You have no “freedom” to examine this teaching the way Jesus taught us to (Matthew 15:1-9).  You can’t do it.  You’ve exchanged the ultimate authority of God’s Word for the authority of Rome.

Unity?  Well, the JW’s have more unity than you have, but it’s based upon the same false premise.  The only true unity is a unity based upon *truth.*  You can have all the unity you want on such doctrines as the Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption.  The simple fact of the matter is, by making that an element of God’s truth, you have shown you have no unity with those who lived their entire lives without having the *slightest* knowledge of such things, nor did they ever believe them.

A few comments here…

Again, the sword goes both ways, Dr. White.  Protestants killed and tortured Catholics so does that mean that you are not ‘free’ as well? Ever heard of the ‘Martyrs of Gorkum’ who were butchered at Calvinist hands?   Or, are we to have one standard for a Protestant and another for a Catholic?

Am I free to follow the Word *wherever* it leads – into the hands of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventists, for instance?

Again, Dr. White, you fall into the same error again and again, confusing necessity and sufficiency.  Unity is a necessary quality of the True Church of Christ; it is by no means a sufficient one as you have so adeptly pointed out.  The reason that I refer to unity so much is simply because it is a biblical requirement and it is found everywhere in the early Church Fathers.  Because Protestantism does not require unity of belief, then it is false – it has failed to meet a necessary condition.

You have a knack of bringing up those doctrines on Mary that, you claim, were *never* taught in the early Church.  You use these to show that we “have no unity with those who lived their entire lives without having the *slightest* knowledge of such things, nor did they ever believe them.”  Yet, how conveniently do you omit the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist, Episcopal Authority, Baptism, and the multitude of the other distinctly Catholic teachings that are taught *everywhere* by the Church fathers and prove Catholic unity.  Why is that?

And what about the Immaculate Conception and Bodily Assumption of Mary?  Well, first of all, you know very well that there are biblical arguments for believing these doctrines.  Now, you will, of course, reject that INTERPRETATION, but that is another question entirely.  And as for *no evidence* for the Immaculate Conception, consider these:

“You alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others;
For there is not blemish in you, *nor any stains upon your Mother*.
Who of my children can compare in beauty to these?
(The Nisibene Hymns, [27,8], 370 A.D.)

“Come, then, and search out Your sheep, not through Your servants or hired men, but do it Yourself.  Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam.  Lift me up not from Sara but from Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a Virgin whom grace has made inviolate, *free of every stain of sin.*”  (St. Ambrose, Commentary on Psalm 118, [22,30], 387 A.D.)

And there is, of course, St. Augustine, who we all know is the great champion of ‘sola scriptura’.   Well, he must have a remarkably different biblical perspective from yours:  “Having excepted the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honour of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins…” (Nature and Grace, [36,42],415 A.D.)

F)

As for Torquemada, he did not define my theology, but John Calvin did help define yours.  I still don’t hear you rejecting Calvinist theology because John Calvin burnt some heretics at the stake.  Nor do I hear you abandoning the Psalms because they were written by an adulterer and  murderer.  I simply as for consistency on your part, Dr. White.

You miss the point.  I don’t believe Calvin was infallible (and he didn’t burn anyone, either, but that’s irrelevant).  But Torquemada’s actions were *completely and totally in line with Roman teaching in his day.*  Has Rome changed her view on that?  I don’t know, but if she has, that only shows that her doctrines have indeed changed over time.

No, I didn’t miss the point at all.  (And I thought Calvin did approve of burning heretics – didn’t he write a book about it?) You kept bringing up Torquemada’s persecutions as proof of the errors of the Church, yet as I have shown you, infallibility has no necessary link to impeccability.

The Spanish Inquisition was originally established to preserve religious unity and doctrinal orthodoxy within the Church and later spread to anyone suspected of heresy.  Although it was guilty of brutality, Pope Sixtus IV warned the Inquisitors against their overzealous excesses.  [And whether, you want to admit it or not, there were mixed tribunals – with the civil element predominating – and it was directed at a number of areas including murder, immorality, smuggling, usury, and other offenses.]

But what does Torquemada’s excesses have to do with an official doctrinal statement by the Church concerning faith or morals?  All it proves is that there were over zealous and brutal Catholics during the time.  Where is the error in teaching?  If Jimmy Swaggart says, ‘fornication is wrong’, and then goes and sleeps with a prostitute, does that mean that Jimmy’s teaching was wrong?

G)

I will be quite honest with you.  I have concluded that you have your view, you don’t understand, or wish to understand, mine, and I don’t have time to argue with you. Your position is untenable, and whether you want to believe it or not, you pick and choose what of the past generations you will embrace and what you won’t—you just let Rome do that work for you, nothing more.  I’m sorry you haven’t thought that issue through, but I’m not in a position to help you do it, given you are not looking for dialogue, but simply for debate.

Let me first say that I believe that you understand the Catholic position very well – at least you should given the time you’ve spent researching Catholic teachings and commenting on them.  So why must you patronize me by saying that I do not understand the Protestant position on the issues we’ve been discussing?  I’ve had quite a bit of exposure to Protestant theology.

Because, your objections are based upon straw men.  Hence, either you 1) lack understanding, 2) are far too easily influenced by RC apologists who are dishonest in their presentations, or 3) you are dishonest yourself.  If you could suggest a fourth possibility, I’d be glad to consider it.  As it stands, I think I have chosen the least offensive possibility at first.  I could be convinced to go for the other possibilities if you try hard enough.

No.  I know what a straw man is, and I am not objecting to one.  I do not lack sufficient understanding in this case to determine that your arguments are philosophically, historically, and biblically faulty.  And while we are discussing this, I’ve noticed that, in reading other dialogues you’ve had with other Apologists, you are developing the most frustrating habit of claiming that the person with whom you are debating does not ‘understand’ the Protestant position when, in fact, they have demonstrated that they have a full appreciation of the topic under discussion.  Why do you do that?

I also should say that I am not easily influenced by RC Apologists since I do not accept some reasons given to support Catholic positions –  nor, for that matter, am I dishonest since I recognize that my eternal soul would be in the balance.  A fourth possibility, you ask?  Why not consider that I’m giving you God’s truth, and you are refusing to accept it.

H)

Secondly,  you say that I pick and choose.  Sure, I pick the Catholic Church because it is the church that Jesus established.  It’s easy.  You, on the other hand, must decide FOR YOURSELF what is and what is not biblical.

Again, think about what you just wrote.  You PICKED FOR YOURSELF which Church to say Jesus founded.  I don’t believe Jesus founded anything in Rome.  A Mormon believes Jesus founded their Church.  A JW believes Jesus founded their organization.  So what?  You seem to think you’ve escaped that element of fallibility in choosing your ultimate authorities.  You haven’t.  You’ve chosen to turn that responsibility over to someone else, but, that doesn’t remove it from you.  You’ve chosen Rome.  Fine.  That was a fallible choice.  There are zillions of reasons to question the choice.  But, once it is made, you can no longer, meaningfully, weigh those reasons, since Rome has now become your infallible ultimate authority.  You are trapped in a very tight epistemological circle, and that choice was a *fallible* one on your part.

I gladly own up to my need to search the Scriptures, read, study, be zealous, and be prepared (all things that are commanded in Scripture, hence, why command something if, in reality, all you have to do is rely upon the See of Peter in Rome?).  I gladly own up to my fallibility.  Honesty about oneself is a refreshing thing, actually.  I’m glad I don’t think I’m infallible.  That means I have to continue studying.  I have to continue reading, learning, making progress in my understanding.  The Bible speaks of our “growing in the grace and KNOWLEDGE of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Well, I’m growing.  I haven’t arrived.  Again, who is taking the biblical position here?  It seems *really* obvious to me.

A few comments here…

Knowledge, yes, like the *development* of doctrine in Catholicism, but not the *contradiction or repudiation* of it in Protestantism.

When you do arrive, you will look around and you will find yourself in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Refreshing to know that you have a ‘fallible collection of infallible books’?

I have *picked* the Church because logic and history forced me too.  If you want the ‘freedom’  to liberate yourself from logic and history, then that’s your prerogative.  As for the Mormons and the JWs, I don’t think that I will honour that with a response except to remind you of the ‘necessity-sufficiency error’ you keep making, and also to remind you of the Sesame Street game called, “one of these things is not like the others”.

You claim that my choice is a fallible one.  Is it really?  Let’s find out:

Premise:   Jesus was God.

Premise:  The truth exists.

Premise:  God want to communicate the truth to all people.

Premise:  God’s truth is not infused into every person’s mind.

Premise:  Since direct infusion is not used by God, oral preaching must be.

Premise:  If oral preaching is utilized and not all people have an infused knowledge of the truth, then that necessarily means that some group must exist which has this truth and has the mandate from God to communicate it.

Premise:  This group must be unified in their message and incapable of error if they are to communicate God’s truth.  God would not allow His Truth to be contradictory or in error, so He must, to be consistent with His nature, endow this group with these qualities.

Conclusion: God has chosen an identifiable group to proclaim the Truth.

Our task, then, is to find this group.  This group must
i) be able to trace its existence back to Christ;
ii) have unity of belief in what it teaches;
iii) claim to be infallible (since the true ‘group’ must reveal this truth as well).

Now, Dr. White, am I fallible?  Well, if my reasoning is fallible in this case, which premise is the fallible one in order for you to reject the conclusion?

J)

You too must pick and choose, except you have no guarantee that what you pick is Truth and what you reject is false.  It’s your best educated guess – which of course, will differ from your Protestant neighbour across the street.

And, of course, you have no guarantee that what you chose in Rome is the Truth, even if you think you do.  I can’t make you see that your entire argument refutes your own position, but, it sure is obvious out here.

As I have demonstrated above, my belief stands scrutiny.  Yours, however, falls quickly apart.

K)

We ALL have to pick and choose, Dr. White, the key is doing it CORRECTLY.  Understand the huge moral problems we let ourselves in for when we say:  “it’s true for me at this point in time, but maybe not for you now or later.”

Of course, I utterly reject relativistic concepts of truth.

Good, so when will you be entering the Catholic Church?

L)

Thirdly, I am looking for honest dialogue.  I simply find your answers wholly inadequate – from a biblical, historical, and logical basis.  For you to say that I am looking just to debate is simply untrue.  I’ve never once engaged in a formal debate with anyone, but according to your web site, you’ve engaged in 24 public ones.  It is rather strange that you accuse me of “not looking for dialogue, but simply for debate.”

I don’t have time for such debates.  I have a half dozen folks come shooting for me every week—-Roman Catholic, Mormon, KJV Only, Jehovah’s Witness, you name it.  Everybody wants to take their shots.  Sorry, I still have books to write, articles to write, formal debates to do, radio programs to produce….and that means I don’t have time to play games.  I have to make a decision as to whether someone is playing games with me or not.  I don’t know if you are, but I have to make that decision as I read what you write.

Playing games?  Who me?  Why would I want to play games?  Do I sound like I’m playing games?  If you want to terminate our dialogue, Dr. White.  Please feel free to do so.  I won’t think anything of it.

M)

Fourthly,  at the end of your last E-mail, you provided a reference from St. Augustine:  “Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, with the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.” (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 10). To this every Catholic would say “AMEN”.

Not consistently you couldn’t, since, obviously, that means you have to PERSONALLY test what the “canonical Scriptures of God” say.

No – because I could always look to the Magisterium to make a final pronouncement on what those Scriptures mean *definitively* – just like Augustine did against the Pelagians.  The Word of God can not contradict itself so neither can the oral or written elements of it.

N)

So what are you trying to prove with this reference – that St. Augustine taught ‘sola scriptura’.  St. Augustine is simply reminding his fellow bishops, indirectly, that they are bound to the Written Word of God.  They are not to contradict it.  St. Augustine is NOT saying that ONLY Scripture is to be followed.  There is no hint of that in any of his teachings if read in context.  But just to settle the matter, consider these references:

i) “[On this matter of the Pelagians], two Councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See; and form there rescripts too have come.  The matter is at an end; would that the error too might sometime be at an end.” (Sermons, 131,10)

Yes, so?  I’ve read the entire sermon.  It is utterly irrelevant to the entire concept of sola scriptura, and the sufficiency of Scripture (though it is often completely mis-cited; at least you didn’t do that!).

Irrelevant?  If it’s irrelevant, then do you do what St. Augustine does when there is a doctrinal question in your mind – do you consult the Apostolic See?

ii)  “If you should find someone who does not yet believe in the Gospel, what would you answer him when he says:  ‘I do not believe?’  Indeed, I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so.”  (Against the Letter of Mani, 5,6)

Yes, yes, yes, I know these all well.

Yes, yes, yes??? You know these *well*, but you choose not to follow the guy you think taught sola scriptura on this particular occasion?

iii) “I believe that this practice [baptism] comes from apostolic tradition, just as so many other practices not found in their writings nor in the councils of their successors, but which, because they are kept by the whole Church everywhere, are believed to have been commended and handed down by the Apostles themselves” (Baptism, 2,7,12)

Ever read the epistle of Cyprian he’s responding to?  Fascinating debate.

And your response to St. Augustine’s appeal to this ‘mysterious’ oral tradition is…?

Just a few other snippets of Augustine to consider:

What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostle? For Holy Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than we ought.  Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound to you the words of the Teacher. (Augustine, De bono viduitatis, 2)

Before I offer my comments on your ‘snippets’ from St. Augustine, let me remind you of the *multitude* of early Church father writings that I could offer you which *indisputably* support Apostolic oral Tradition.  Having said that, I will be happy to correct your understanding of St. Augustine’s teachings:

In regard to your immediately preceding citation, yes, Holy Scripture does fix the rule of Christian doctrine, but where is the ‘sola’ in St. Augustine’s teaching here?

I must not press the authority of Nicea against you, nor you that of Ariminum against me; I do not acknowledge the one, as you do not the other; but let us come to ground that is common to both–the testimony of the Holy Scriptures (To Maximin the Arian)

Yes, I would use that strategy too, if for instance, I was talking to an atheist.  That is, I would not use Scripture but appeal to philosophical proofs for God’s existence.  Does that mean that I do not consider Scripture to be authoritative?  Likewise, Augustine does not use Tradition, but uses a common ground, Scripture, to argue his case.

Let us not hear:  This I say, this you say; but, thus says the Lord. Surely it is the books of the Lord on whose authority we[…]church, there let us discuss our case (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 3)

Yes, I think we should appeal to the Scriptures too for authority and not rely on our own personal opinion. And your point is….?

Let those things be removed from our midst which we quote against each other not from divine canonical books but from elsewhere. Someone may perhaps ask:  Why do you want to remove these things from the midst?  Because I do not want the holy church proved by human documents but by divine oracles (Ibid).

Why would St. Augustine contradict himself in appealing to Rome in the citations that I’ve provided, and then here, remove this authority from his midst?  It appears that ‘those things’ are NOT oral tradition.  Sola Scriptura, therefore, is not supported here.

Whatever they may adduce,and wherever they may quote from, let us rather, if we are His sheep, hear the voice of our Shepherd. Therefore let us search for the church in the sacred canonical Scriptures (Ibid).

Same problem as above.  What is ‘the whatever they may quote from’?  A decree by the Apostolic See?  I hardly think so, Dr. White.

If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema (Contra litteras Petiliani, Bk 3, ch. 6)

Need some more background on the context to make a comment on this one.

You ought to notice particularly and store in your memory that God wanted to lay a firm foundation in the Scriptures against treacherous errors, a foundation against which no one dares to speak who would in any way be considered a Christian.  For when He offered Himself to them to touch, this did not suffice Him unless He also confirmed the heart of the believers from the Scriptures, for He foresaw that the time would come when we would not have anything to touch but would have something to read (In Epistolam Johannis tractus, 2).

This is a beautiful defense of the written Word of God.  Where does it say that only the written Word of God is the rule of faith?

Thou hast persuaded me that not those who believe but those who do not believe Thy books, are culpable.  Therefore, when we were too weak to find the truth by the light of reason and the authority of the Holy Scriptures was necessary for us on this account, I had already begun to believe that Thou wouldst by no means have given to that Scripture so excellent an authority throughout all lands if it had not been Thy will that through it Thou shouldest be believed and that through it Thou shouldest be sought (Confessions, Bk 6, ch 5).

Again, very nice.  But sufficiency is not proven.

And this one is most interesting:

Augustine on the Canon of Scripture Chapter 8. The Canonical Books 12.

But let us now go back to consider the third step here mentioned, for it is about it that I have set myself to speak and reason as the Lord shall grant me wisdom. The most skillful interpreter of the sacred writings, then, will be he who in the first place has read them all and retained them in his knowledge, if not yet with full understanding, still with such knowledge as reading gives, those of them, at least, that are called  canonical. For he will read the others with greater safety when built up in the belief of the truth, so that they will not take first possession of a weak mind, nor, cheating it with dangerous falsehoods and delusions, fill it with prejudices adverse to a sound understanding. Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal.”   Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume II, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume II, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 8

Do you think Augustine had a Roman Catholic viewpoint here, perhaps?

Yes.  Absolutely!!!  Notice how there was no real consensus on what was canonical and what was not?  Can you believe the audacity of the Catholic Church to impose its authority on ‘Church X’ who believed that the ‘Gospel of According to the Hebrews’ should be included in the canon?  And, what am I to believe regarding St. Augustine’s comment,  “I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so”  (Against the Letter of Mani, 5,6)?

Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth (Basil, Ep. ad Eustathius, NPNF II, 8:229).

Well, if St. Basil the Great meant sola scriptura by your citation, then he must have been a liar.  Play close attention to the support of oral tradition and other singularly Catholic doctrines in his treatise on the  Holy Spirit:

“Of the dogmas and kerygmas preserved in the Church, some we possess from written teaching and others we receive from the tradition of the Apostles, handed to us in mystery.  In respect to piety both are of the same force.  No one will contradict any of these, no one at any rate, who is even moderately versed in matters.  Indeed, *were we to try to reject unwritten customs as having no great authority, we would injure the Gospel in its vitals; or rather, we would reduce kerygmas to a mere term.  For instance, to take the first and most general example, who taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?  What writing has taught us to turn to the East in prayer?  Which  of the saints left us in writing the words of the epiclesis at the consecration of the Bread of the Eucharist and of the Cup of Benediction?  For we are not content with those words the Apostle or the gospel has recorded, but we say other things also, both before and after; and we regard these other words, which we have received from unwritten teaching, as being of great importance to the mystery.

Where is it written that we are to bless the baptismal water, the oil of anointing, and even the one who is being baptized:  *Is it not from silent and mystical tradition?*…This is the reason for our handing on of unwritten precepts and practices:  that the knowledge of our dogmas may not be neglected and held in contempt by the multitude through too great a familiarity…”  (St. Basil, the Great, The Holy Spirit, [27,66], 375 A.D.)

Hope to hear from you soon…

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
October 28, 1998

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