Open Letter to James White on the Sola Scriptura Debate between James White and Patrick Madrid

I had the opportunity to read the transcript of your 1993 debate with Patrick Madrid on the issue of sola scriptura. As a Catholic Apologist, I believe that you failed to answer Mr. Madrid’s arguments on a number of issues, but I also think that Mr. Madrid did not have the time to address some of the philosophically untenable arguments which you presented. I offer some observations here for your comment. I have numbered my points so you can refer to them accordingly.

Point #1:

I should say that none of your arguments caused me or Mr. Madrid much difficulty, but I believe that there was one argument that you raised which did, at least initially, propose a problem for the Catholic stance. It relates to your question regarding the man who lived 50 years before Christ: How did the Jewish man 50 years before Christ know that the books of 2 Chronicles and Isaiah were Scripture? (Second Question from JW to PM, Paragraph 1). This is a fair question which needs to be addressed.

The Catholic Argument goes like this:

Premise 1: Jesus Christ established an infallible church.

Premise 2: This church teaches that the bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God.

Conclusion: The bible must be infallible since the church is infallible.

But, you say, Premise 1 above is not necessary for the scriptures to be infallible (Paragraph 4) because:

Premise 1: The Old Testament Church regarded 2 Chronicles and Isaiah to be inspired.

Premise 2: This Old Testament Church erred i.e. in the Canon and binding Corban tradition.

Conclusion: Infallibility is not necessary for determining the canon, and therefore, the Church can be fallible, and must be rejected as a source of infallible authority.

Now, the Catholic must reject, you say, one of these two premises in order to maintain an infallible church. The Catholic accepts that 2 Chronicles and Isaiah were considered inspired although there was no complete canon until the first century A.D. for the Jews. Hence, Premise 2 must be rejected. In order to reject Premise 2, I must challenge the two examples of alleged error that you have posed.

The first instance poses little difficulty. A Jewish Council meeting in 90 A.D. is hardly going to have the authority or the charism from God to correctly choose the canon after the Christian Church has been established. At Christ’s crucifixion, the Old Covenant was replaced with the New Covenant, and so the authority to teach and protect the Church from error rested with the ‘new Israel’. The Jews rejected Christ, and are technically the first heretics of the Church so their decisions are quite irrelevant (Cf. Isaiah 2:15-25).

Your second point, however, is a more substantial one. You claim that the Pharisees and scribes didn’t believe that the Corban rule was a mere human tradition, but rather one having divine authority. I tend to agree with your assessment that their tradition was binding, and you couldn’t pick and choose. You then point to Matthew 15 which shows Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for their criticism of the Apostles not washing their hands, and you also note Jesus’ ‘rejection’ of the Corban rule. Because of this rejection, you assert that Jesus has implied that the scribes and Pharisees are in error. So the bottom line is this: if the Catholic cannot prove that Jesus accepted these teachings as binding, then his case falls. In order to do so, he must demonstrate an almost impossible task: Jesus accepting erroneous tradition but still binding his followers to it!!!

Of course, it is the Catholic contention that Christ did not reject the Corban rule but the Scribes ABUSE of it. This view has been dealt with satisfactorily by many Catholic apologists so I do not want to revisit it here. But let us say, for the sake of argument, that the Corban rule itself was in error, and the Old Testament Church was not preserved from error.

In Matthew 23:2, Jesus makes a morally binding argument, warning his followers to submit to the seat of Moses, which the Pharisees and scribes hold. “All that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according their deeds…” Now, you try and reconcile this teaching with his condemnation of the Pharisees and Scribes’ traditions ( in Matthew 15 and later in Matthew 23) by massaging what Jesus meant by ‘all that they tell you’. You take the line of Gundry, claiming that ‘all things whatever does not include their interpretative tradition’ (Closing Statement, Paragraph 8). If it did, then your whole case would fall.

My view is this: When Jesus said ‘All that they tell you…’, He meant exactly that (in matters of religion which of course included the interpretative tradition). The reconciliation of Jesus’ rejection of SOME of their traditions with their infallibility appears to be a contradiction, but it is no more a contradiction than Jesus’ abrogation of the Mosaic Law which was the Word of God, most notably in Matthew 5:31-42. And even then, it is not even an abrogation or abolishment of the law (Cf. Matthew 5:17). Jesus will not abolish the Old Testament traditions and laws while LEGITIMATE authority, which He recognizes, still exists. Even though some of these human traditions and laws will not be binding in the New Covenant, Christ warns His disciples that “not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, UNTIL all things have taken place” (Matthew 5:18).

So, in other words, the Old Testament Church had full authority to bind and loose, and all God’s people were morally bound (Cf. Isaiah 22:15-25, Matthew 23:14) to follow it. And this is not just a Catholic view either:

“The astonishing authority conceded ‘the teachers of the law and the Pharisees’ in [Matthew 23] v.2 becomes explicit in v.3. Even if the emphasis in v.3 falls at the end, where Jesus denounces the Jewish leaders’ hypocrisy, the beginning of the verse gives them full authority in all they teach, even if they do not live up to it. ‘Panta hosa’ (‘everything’) is a strong expression and cannot be limited to ‘that teaching of the law that is in Jesus’ view a faithful interpretation of it’; they cover everything the leaders teach, including oral tradition as well (Garland, pp. 48f.; contr Allen; Plummer; Schlatter; Stonehouse, Witness of Matthew, pp 196f.; and others) Nor does the test say their authority rest in roles but not in their doctrine; on the contrary, v.3 affirms their doctrine but condemns their practice.” [D.A. Carson, “Matthew”, in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 8 (Matthew, Mark, Luke), (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 471-472 {additional editors include Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. ofTrinity Divinity School; Bruce K. Waltke of Regent College; James Montgomery Boice, Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Merrill C. Tenny of Wheaton College}].

And in your rebuttal to Mr. Porvaznik, you admit this: “One does not have to be infallible to have authority” (Pt.6). So the argument of the Old Testament Church knowing Isaiah and 2 Chronicles was inspired goes something like this:

Premise: The Old Testament Church had authority from God (Cf. Deuteronomy 17:8-11, Isaiah 22:15-25, Matthew 23:2)

Premise: The Old Testament Church erred in ‘binding’ the Jews to erroneous doctrines(Cf. Matthew 15), but still regarded Isaiah and 2 Chronicles to be inspired.

Conclusion: Infallibility is not necessary to know whether Scripture is inspired.

Well, lets see if that works with the New Testament Church.

Premise: Jesus Christ established a church with authority as evidenced from the writings of the early Christians, including but certainly not limited to the current New Testament Scriptures.

Premise: This authoritative church exercised its authority to ‘bind’ Christians on what should be considered the inspired Word of God since there was no widespread agreement theron.

Premise: The inspired word of God says that the New Testament Church is infallible (OT- Isaiah 35:8, Isaiah 59:20-21, NT-Matthew 16:18,28:19-20, Jn 14:16-17, 1 Timothy 3:15, John 16:13, Ephesians 4:11-14).

Conclusion: Although infallibility is not required to prove canonicity, legitimate authority is.

So, in other words, I believe (with good historical reasons) the Catholic Church has authority from Christ, and I am bound to believe what she says about the canon, irrespective of her possible fallibility – because we don’t know whether she is like the alleged fallible Old Testament Church or if She has an infallible charism. The question of infallibility is irrelevant AT THIS POINT because the authority over the Jewish people that the Old Testament Church had is the SAME authority that the New Testament Church has over Christians.

On examining the canon that this authoritative, binding , and possibly fallible church defined, I discover that these particular Scriptures point to an infallible Church. Since I am bound to believe the Scriptures, I am therefore bound to believe that the Catholic Church has this particular charism of infallibility. If the Catholic Church is infallible, then the canon which it defined as coming from the Apostles and as the inspired ‘Word of God’ must be infallible.

But you will say, “you can’t derive an infallible result (the Church’s infallibility or Scripture’s infallibility) from an argument based on fallible premises (Jesus establishing an authoritative church).” Well, can you derive an infallible result from an argument based on INFALLIBLE premises? Of course not – there is no such thing as an infallible premise *a priori* unless God revealed it. Your whole objection necessitates God *directly* revealing to you an infallible truth – anything less is a fallible premise, which you reject. Hence, BY YOUR OWN CRITERIA, unless God has *directly revealed* the composition of the inspired Word of God to you, you can’t rely on anybody or anything else for an infallible truth. So my question to you is: are you hiding something from us O Prophet?

Point #2

In your opening statement (Paragraph 6), you were defining what ‘sola scriptura’ is not when you said, “it is not a denial of the Church’s authority to teach God’s truth. 1 Timothy 3:15 describes the Church as the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’. The truth is in Jesus Christ and in His Word. The Church teaches truth and calls men to Christ and , in so doing, functions as the pillar and foundation thereof.”

Now, Dr. White, if the Church is the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’ and the ‘Church teaches the truth’ as you claim, then HOW CAN IT NOT BE INFALLIBLE? As a Protestant, you must necessarily assert that the Church (or anyone, for that matter) is NOT infallible – that is, anyone can make a mistake. So I infer from your above comments that your intention in making those remarks was to suggest that the Church does teach truth, but she can also can teach error. (Please correct my understanding of your comments if I am mistaken.)

Assuming, for the moment, that my understanding is correct, your argument against infallibility of the church in the debate falls even before you begin to discuss it later on. First of all, if ALL humans are fallible in their interpretation of the bible’s teaching on faith and morals, then how can anyone be SURE of their beliefs? The inevitable answer that you must give is that no one can be. No one can be sure at all since everyone, by definition, is fallible. And if that is the case, then what good is an infallible bible when no one can say, definitively, what the infallible books say? In essence therefore, the inevitable conclusion to the belief in an infallible bible but fallible teachers is that God is pulling our leg: He has not provided the means of knowing the truth DEFINITIVELY since no one can say what the truth is. In my opinion, this situation would be anarchical and absurd. Under that scenario, God would be either be a contradiction or a sadist, neither of which is possible.

Secondly, the very nature of ‘truth’ is that it does not contain any error, or else it would not be ‘truth’ at all, but only ‘some truth’ or ‘much truth’ but not the ‘truth’ in its totality. Hence, when St. Paul claims that the Church is the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’, you have two possible interpretations of this passage, namely, that St. Paul meant the truth in its entirety or only ‘much truth with some error’. Which do you think he meant??? Personally, I think the latter alternative is untenable, and the former one is the only real choice.

Point #3

Later on in your opening statement, you remarked (Paragraph 26), “the Church is not left without the voice of God. For when the Church listens to Scripture, she is hearing her Lord speaking to her. The authority of the Church, then in teaching, and rebuking, and instructing, is derived, despite Roman Catholic claims to the contrary, from Scripture itself.”

There are three things here on which I wish to comment. My first comment is a point of order. Dr. White, it IS true that the Roman Catholic Church claims its authority to teach, rebuke, and instruct from Scripture. There is no dispute with you on that point. You are guilty, however, of the same disastrous error that your predecessors were: inserting or implying the word ALONE into the meaning of a teaching: the bible ALONE, faith ALONE, ‘Me and Jesus’ ALONE, etc., etc. You are guilty of suggesting that the Church looks at Scripture ALONE in justifying its authority – it does no such thing.

What exactly do you mean when you say, “when the Church listens to Scripture…”? Are you suggesting that there are times when She doesn’t? And if there are, how do I OBJECTIVELY tell when the Church is ‘listening to Scripture” and when She is not? By appealing and comparing Her teachings to Scripture? If that is your answer, then it looks like we have an impossible situation – it is one’s own personal ‘fallible’ interpretation versus the Church’s alleged fallible interpretation. Under that scenario, the truth ends up in the trash…

Finally, I find it quite inexplicable that while you admit that the ‘Lord speaks to the Church’ and that the Church can ‘teach, rebuke, and instruct’, the Church can nevertheless somehow bungle God’s message to His people, and therefore teach a FALSE gospel which of course impacts a Christian’s salvation. For me, that would be like General Motors selling you a car without a steering wheel. You’d be all over the road. Come to think of it…that looks a lot like Protestantism’s doctrines today, doesn’t it – all over the religious landscape? Where is the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’ in that?!?

Point #4

The major thrust of your debate was to appeal to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in order to prove ‘sola scriptura’ (Opening Statement, Paragraphs 27-36).

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.”

I have carefully read the sources you cite, and with the exception of the last scholar, none of the sources even suggest ‘sufficiency’ as the primary meaning of the word ‘artios’. So you have a serious problem because there is no widespread agreement on what the word MEANS. As soon as you start bringing in scholars to tell you what a word means, then you are relying on someone, some expert OUTSIDE of the Scriptures to tell you what the Gospel means, and you’d better be sure you’ve got the right scholar. What is the implication of this? Well, it seems to me that since you do not have unanimous agreement on this translation even WITHIN Protestantism, then your whole argument for the formal sufficiency of Scripture falls, which by definition, claims that doctrinal disputes can be settled CONCLUSIVELY without an appeal to another authority.

In Paragraph 31, you state, “surely, here Paul would have to direct us to any and all other rules of faith that we would need to be complete, but he does not.” You have committed the philosophical fallacy known as an ‘appeal to a false alternative’ by excluding relevant possibilities without justification. For instance, if you were to tell me that someone was rich, I would commit the fallacy by inferring the person was poor when, in fact, he may be middle-class. In this case, Dr. White, you presuppose that Paul was giving a complete and exhaustive discourse on rules of faith, which he was not, no more than Jesus was talking about the sufficiency of justification when Christ taught that “by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

In the very next paragraph, you make the same error again when you ask, “what does it mean to say that one is ‘fully equipped’, if not to say that one is sufficient for a task?” Well, consider this alternative. If a good soccer player’s qualities include quickness, agility, endurance, and instinct, could it not mean that if a soccer player has three of the four qualities, he is yet incomplete and only by having the fourth one, he is made complete? Likewise, a man of God must have many attributes and instruments, one of which is the Scriptures which ‘complete’ and ‘fully equip’ him to preach the Gospel. Therefore, just as one quality ALONE of a soccer player does not make him complete, nor does Scripture ALONE make a man complete. And I must insist that the passage suggests this since St. Paul already recognizes ‘the man’ as a ‘man of God’ before ‘completing” him with Scripture. How is it possible that a man can be a ‘man of God’ if he does not yet have the Scriptures and the revelation of those scriptures (as the passage suggests)? A possible solution, of course, is oral tradition!!! (Understand that all I have to do is give you a POSSIBLE alternative to your question, Dr. White, in order to disprove the formal sufficiency of Scripture.)

When Patrick Madrid pointed to James 1:4 to refute your claim of the sufficiency of ‘artios’, you remarked that (Rebuttal, Paragraph 1), “the terms used in Matthew 19:21 are ‘teleios’, Colosians 1:21 ‘teleios’, Colosians 4:12 ‘teleio’, and James 1:4 ‘teleios’ and ‘holoklepoi’”, suggesting that Mr. Madrid was appealing to different Greek words which do not carry the meaning of sufficiency as ‘artios’ in 2 Timothy 3:17. However, you conveniently failed to mention in your debate with Mr. Madrid that ‘artios’ occurs only once in Scripture, so even if it did mean ‘sufficiency’ (which it likely does not as discussed above), you would not even be able to appeal to other passages to support your position. Secondly, as Mr. Madrid rightly pointed out in his observations of the debate (This Rock, Oct. 1993), the passage in James 1:4 uses much more stronger language in both the English and the Greek to suggest sufficiency than it does in 2 Timothy 3:17. So it seems to me, Dr. White, that if you are going to argue sufficiency for 2 Timothy 3:17 by a mere implication and possible meaning, then a Catholic or anyone else can make even a stronger case for sufficiency in James 1:4, which of course dilutes your position quite thoroughly.

Point #5

In Patrick Madrid’s opening statement, he noted that Catholics reject ‘formal sufficiency’, the idea that Scripture’s meaning is so clear that the Church and Tradition are unnecessary to arrive at an accurate interpretation of the meaning of Scripture. (Catholics, of course, accept ‘material sufficiency’, the idea that all necessary Christian truth is, at least, implicitly present in Sacred Scripture.) He proceeded to give the most obvious problem with formal sufficiency of Scripture, namely, the plethora of contradicting doctrines in Protestantism, and the consequent difficulty of objectively discerning the truth in the Reformed tradition. You still have yet to provide an answer to that problem. In the hopes of finding an answer, I have provided you with the dilemma you face in analytical form.

Argument 1

Premise 1: The bible is God’s word.

Premise 2: The truth exists.

Premise 3: The bible is the inspired word of God who wants us to know the truth.

The bible, therefore, contains the truth and no error.

Premise 4: There are many interpretations of God’s word, claiming to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Premise 5: Many of these interpretations contradict each other.

Conclusion: One interpretation on any particular doctrine must be true, while the others must be false, at least partially.

Argument 2

Premise 1: If the conclusion of Argument 1 has been accepted, then it serves as the first premise of Argument 2. One interpretation on any particular doctrine must be true, while the others must be false, at least partially.

Premise 2: Therefore, in order to know the truth, there must be true or accurate interpretations of the Scriptures.

Premise 3: The Scriptures themselves do not DIRECTLY say what the true interpretation of any particular doctrine is. [It does not say, for instance, that infant baptism (as held by Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians) is the correct interpretation.]

Premise 4: If the Scriptures do not say what the true interpretation of itself is (Premise 3, Argument 2), then in order for the truth to exist (Premise 2, Argument 1), there must be another source OUTSIDE of the scriptures to identify the true interpretation.

Conclusion: In order for the truth (i.e. complete truth) to exist, there must be an authoritative source outside of the Scriptures.

Argument 3

Premise 1: If the conclusion of Argument 2 has been accepted, then it serves as the first premiseof Argument 3. In order for the truth (i.e. complete truth) to exist, there must be a source outside of the Scriptures.

Premise 2: Dr. White says, however, that the Scriptures are not in need of any supplement, and that a Christian can know the truth without any other source.

Conclusion: Dr. White holds an untenable and fallacious belief.

In order to reject the final conclusion, Dr. White, you must either reject one of the premises or demonstrate where my conclusion cannot be drawn from the premises presented.

It is my opinion that since ‘sola scriptura’ cannot be the objective avenue to the Truth – the question must change from what the bible says to who should interpret it. Jesus Christ appointed twelve apostles to teach His doctrines and exercise His authority once He ascended into heaven (Cf. Matthew 28:16-20). He gave them specific authority to speak and teach what He taught (Cf. Ephesians 2:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 4:2, 2 Peter 3:2), and He warned all of His followers of the consequences of private teaching OUTSIDE of the Church (Cf. Matthew 18:16-17, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 2:20, 2 Peter 1:20-21). Most importantly, however, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles in truth (Cf. John 14:16-17), which would distinguish them from the false prophets who would later introduce false doctrines and heresies (Cf. 2 Peter 2:1). This is the reason why St. Paul described the Church as the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’ (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15), and not the bible which can be twisted by the untaught and unstable (Cf. 2 Peter 3:16). It is not unlike a secular court interpreting what the laws of society mean. Without lawful justice to interpret the laws, there would be anarchy in society. Dr. White, what is the ultimate authority in the United States – the Constitution or the Supreme Court? And EVEN if you were to maintain that the Constitution was, can you have one without the other? Likewise, in trying to determine what the sacred writers and apostles meant, there must be a group who has the authority from God to make such interpretations and binding pronouncements. That was true with the Old Testament People of God as it is with the New Testament People of God. The alternative is duplicity and error which is personified in the 30,000 Protestant denominations.

Point #6

In your Rebuttal to Mr. Madrid (Paragraph 7), you attempted to prove that 2 Thessalonians 3:6 was referring to “the tradition he had already delivered to them, that is, in writing (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14).” This is true, Dr. White. Catholics do not bring up this passage to defend oral tradition PRIMARILY, but only as a secondary defense in order to demonstrate that NOT ALL TRADITION IN GENERAL IS HUMAN TRADITION, and therefore cannot be dismissed quite that easily. You know, of course, that many Fundamentalists (perhaps not you) blindly condemn any ‘tradition’ other than the bible. This verse is used to refute this thinking. Later in that same paragraph, you assert that “2 Thessalonians 2:15…is talking about the gospel. Not oral traditions somehow passed down through the episcopate…We are talking here about the gospel itself, the teaching of the Gospel, which, of course, is found in the New Testament.” There are a few observations to make here.

If I ask you to tell me what is the Gospel, you’ll point to New Testament – which of course, begs the question, namely, is the Gospel JUST committed to writing? You say the 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is talking about the Gospel, which is found in the New Testament. Yes, that’s correct. But how does that support your claim that the Gospel is committed to written tradition ONLY i.e. in the New Testament? You have made an assertion, but have offered no support!!! Jesus said ‘preach’ the Gospel, not ‘write’ the Gospel. He chose a living, breathing transmission of it – that’s why he established a visible Church. There is no evidence that he chose written tradition only!!! In fact, if the Gospel is found in the New Testament ALONE and no where else, then the Church cannot be called the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’, can it?

If ‘oral tradition’ is just written tradition and nothing else, then why does St. Paul make a distinction between the two? Why does he not say or even imply that we should hold fast to written tradition only. I think that would have been much clearer than inserting ‘oral tradition’, don’t you?

Why do you insist on pitting the oral tradition of the Church against the written tradition? Can you not admit the possibility that the Gospel can be given through oral tradition?

Point #7

In Mr. Madrid’s first question to you, he asked you how you were SURE that an early work, known today as the Book of Thomas the Contender, was not what it claimed to be, namely, written by the Apostle Matthew. Your responded (First Question from PM to JW, Paragraph 3), “it is contradictory to that which is ‘theopneustos’ (God-breathed). And since it is contradictory to that which is ‘theopneustos’ and inconsistent therewith – it is not testified historically – I do not know of any Christians who ever accepted it.”

Let’s take your last comment first, “I do not know of any Christians who ever accepted it.” This is an appeal to a source OUTSIDE scripture, is it not? Why are you appealing to an authority outside scripture to determine if scripture is inspired?

Secondly, you are engaging in circular reasoning when trying to determine whether the Book of Thomas should be included as Scripture since you are comparing it to an existing canon when you say it is contradictory. Contradictory to what? That which you are trying to establish in the first place? In order for this book to ‘contradict Scripture’, we must first establish what Scripture is. Let us examine your argument analytically:

Premise 1: The bible is inspired

Premise 2: The bible is the ONLY infallible authority on matters of faith.

Premise 3: No book of the bible lists all the inspired books.

Conclusion: There is no way of telling which books are inspired.

I can reject premise 2, and therefore reject the conclusion. What is your solution?

[By the way Dr. White, as Mr. Madrid kept asking you the same question, you kept appealing to tradition:

“…you see that no one has ever believed that it was Scripture, and hence you don’t believe that it is Scripture.” (Second Question from PM to JW, Paragraph 2) “…because Christians knew, or claimed to know, that Matthew wrote Matthew…” (Second Question from PM to JW, Paragraph 7). Exactly, Dr. White, so in order for you to know definitively that Matthew wrote Matthew, you must be relying on an infallible group of Christians.]

Point #8

You claimed that “it is the Roman assertion that what is in these supposed Apostolic Traditions is different than what we have in the New Testament” (Fourth Question from PM to JW, Paragraph 3), and later you asserted that “apostolic tradition must exist since the time of the apostles, but Mr. Madrid has been telling us that we had to wait until the end of the fourth century until we knew what the canon of Scripture was!” (Paragraph 6). And in your closing statement (Paragraph 5), you make the same comment that “what was passed on is different in substance from what is found in the New Testament.”

First of all, it most certainly is NOT the Catholic assertion that Apostolic Tradition is different in substance than what we have in the New Testament. The Roman Catholic Church claims to interpret the Bible, and draw out the deposit of divine revelation therein. Why would the oral tradition of the Apostles be substantially different from their written tradition? If you want to invent Catholic beliefs, you can continue to argue against a straw man and therefore continue to delude yourself.

Your second claim is rather remarkable. Why do you necessarily equate the existence of apostolic tradition with knowing what the canon was *immediately* after all the books had been written? Is there some kind of litmus test which says, ‘unless you can establish the canon right away, your claim of apostolic oral tradition is invalid’? Implicit in your belief is that all of divine revelation was already explicitly developed and defined right away. What is your reason for believing this? (Recall, Dr. White, that although the seeds of the Trinity are established in the bible, for instance, the idea of ‘homoousios’ is a DEVELOPMENT of Church doctrine, which all Christians must accept. And you would be hard-pressed in trying to convince a Jehovah’s Witness (who, of course, belongs to a bible-only church) that the Trinity is an explicit biblical doctrine.)

I also find it interesting that you speak of the canon as if we had a defined canon before the fourth century (“Mr. Madrid has been telling us that we had to wait until the end of the fourth century until we knew what the canon of Scripture was!”). Well, what evidence do you have that we did have the same canon of NT books that we have today? In fact, Dr. White, there is no such evidence since there was hardly any definite agreement on the entire collection of authentic Apostolic letters because there were many spurious fabrications claiming to be Apostolic (i.e. the Gospel of James, the Gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Pilate, Acts of Paul and Thecla and 50 other ‘Acts’ as well as a small number of Epistles and Apocalypses.) There were also the Apocrypha or contested books which were considered by many to be inspired and apostolic as much as the current canon. These included the ‘Shepherd’ of Hermas, Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, the Gospel According to the Hebrews, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Laodiceans, and the Epistle of St. Clement. AND NOT ONLY THAT!!! There were a number of books which were not originally widely received as ‘authentic’ until the Church finally decided the question , including the Epistle of St. James, Epistle of St. Jude, 2nd Epistle of St. Peter, 2nd and 3rd of St. John, Hebrews, and Revelation.

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

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
September 4, 1999

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