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Roman Catholicism

 

By What Authority Indeed?

 


James White

The following exchange took place on a Roman Catholic list in 1997 over the course of a couple of weeks.  As you will see at the end of this exchange, Mr. Mark Shea, author of By What Authority?, threatened legal action if I posted this material.  However, in February of 2002, Mr. Shea himself posted an entire section of this exchange on a public board.  Taking his lead, I provide below all of my posts in this exchange. 

In article <31721ff0@cclink.fhcrc.org>, marks <mshea@CCLINK.FHCRC.ORG> writes:

>    1.  How do you know what books constitute Scripture apart from the
>    authority of Sacred Tradition (which you have attacked as
>    'tradition of men'?)

Greetings, Mark:

     "Where had I gone wrong?"

          ---Mark Shea, _By What Authority?_, p. 83.

Indeed, that is the question, is it not?

First, my compliments on a very well written book.  It communicates its message clearly, and with a lot of personality.  Stuffy scholar-types will sniffle at it, but don't let that bother you.  It seems that there are many who feel that if you don't address difficult topics solely in scholarly language, you would be better off saying nothing at all.  Scholarship for the sake of scholars only.  Not for me, anyway.

My copy of your work is well marked, I assure you.  There are many, many issues upon which I believe you have indeed "gone wrong," but they will come up as the conversation progresses---and that assumes, of course, that the converstion will, in fact, progress.

BTW, before I forget, I found the expose of the Jesus Seminar and the like to be most entertaining.  It was also most useful in reaching your target audience, for they would inevitably join you in recoiling at the arrogant heresy of the Robert Funks of the world.  I might note that Funk once told me and some others on a radio program to "go to hell" and then hung up on us.  Such a kind and loving man.  ;)

 

But lest I be accused of wasting bandwidth, let's get to the heart of the matter.  Your main argument is that without "Sacred Tradition," sola scriptura cannot stand, since the canon of Scripture requires external revelation so as to provide certainty.  Such is a quick synopsis of the argument you develop in chapters 3-5 of _By What Authority_.  But to be able to accurately evaluate the claims you make in these 43 short pages, I would like to ascertain a few more particulars that didn't make it into the text of your book:

1)  You use the term "revelation" of the canon.  I realize your work is not intended to meet the standards of the ITN-PS (International Theological Nit-Pickers Society), but the term "revelation" does carry some pretty heavy dogmatic baggage.  In fact, I've met more than one Roman Catholic who would say that specific, special "revelation" is limited to *Scripture.*  Certainly the vast majority would say that revelation ended with the Scriptures: there is none past the apostolic age.  Hence, could you expand just a bit on what you mean by identifying the canon as "revelation" that exists outside of Scripture?  It would seem you certainly don't hold to the "material sufficiency" viewpoint of Scripture, but more to the partim-partim viewpoint of the majority at Trent.

2)  Along the same lines, could you help me understand where you derive the Sacred Tradition that provides you with your current canon?  I mean, Hippo and Carthage were not ecumenical councils; you find lots of folks, including Popes, holding to a different canon of Scripture *after* both of those provincial councils.  Many sources admit that the first *dogmatic* listing of the canon as you now have it is found in Trent.  Now, I really don't think the point you were trying to communicate in your book was, "The canon was uncertain and unknowable until 1546."  That really wouldn't fly too well with your target audience.  So, just how does one define "Sacred Tradition" in your view?  And it might help many who find your arguments persuasive to compare and contrast the "Sacred Tradition" that tells you 2 Maccabees is Scripture with the "Sacred Tradition" that tells you that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven: or is it the same "Sacred Tradition"? 

I think those questions should get us started, don't you?  In closing, might you indicate, briefly, if you have read any of the following works of late?

_Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible_, Don Kistler, ed. (Soli Deo Gloria Publishers, 1995).
_Peter and the Rock_, by William Webster (Christian Resources, 1996).
_The Roman Catholic Controversy_ (Bethany House, 1996).

If you haven't had a chance to drop by our web page since mid-December, it's changed---rather radically.  A review of your book will be posted there shortly.  http://www.aomin.org.

In His service,

James>>>

*/// James White, Orthopodeo@aol.com \\\*
>>> Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, AZ Campus <<<
>>> Faraston Theological Seminary <<<
"The Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit."
 Web Page:  http://www.aomin.org

[To CATHOLIC@AMERICAN.EDU on 03-04-97

I hope to engage in further dialogue on the issue of Mark Shea's presentation of the necessity of "Sacred Tradition" soon.  However, Mark's initial response included the following materials:

Upon noting that he had not read any of the recent Protestant works defending the position he decries, Mark writes:

>     James, before we get much further, please be aware of several
>      things.

>      1.  I am writing from work, the only account I have, and therefore
>      have little time to engage in protracted debates with somebody
>      who runs a professional anti-Catholic "ministry" (Alpha Omega
>      Ministries, for all you lurkers) dedicated to the destruction of
>      the Catholic Church and all its works and ways.

If I responded to someone who wrote to me concerning my own books and characterized them as being dedicated to "the destruction of the Christian Church and all its works and ways," I'd sort of expect any further conversation to be, well, short.  I am always amazed at the double standard that exists with some Roman Catholic apologists.  While I did not mention you specifically in _The Roman Catholic Controversy_, I consistently referred to others, such as Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Tim Staples, Scott Hahn, etc., as "Roman Catholic apologists."  I did not refer to them as "anti-Protestants," nor did I describe their ministries as being "dedicated to the destruction of the Christian Church and all its works and ways."  I feel no compulsion to "poison the well" and attempt to immediately bring negative emotions to bear.  Let the truth be clearly heard without the muddle of emotionalism.  So, Mark, I have to ask you: do you characterize all Protestant ministries that dare say, "No, Rome has erred on such and such a point," as you do ours?  And may I ask why you ignore our work with Mormons, JW's, atheists, and the like?  Please forgive me for being blunt, but aren't you just doing your best to paint our work in the worst possible light, and that unfairly?

>      2.  My wife is *this close* from having a baby, which means I
>      will, quite suddenly, be silent (very possibly without a word of
>      explanation, depending on when baby comes) and remain so for at
>      least a week.

 Fully understood, of course.  I placed no time demands in my initial post.

>      3.  I have *massive* writing projects ahead which concern me a
>      great deal more than having to re-write my book on Internet to
>      satisfy your incredible hunger to argue with Catholics.

I will allow the fair-minded reader to judge the last section of your comment.  Somehow I doubt you would appreciate such a comment in a different context.  I'll chalk it up to pre-baby pressures.  As to writing projects, I have three books myself.

>      4.  I am blasting off to New Zealand in early April and have a ton
>      of preparation for that little sojourn down under.

Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Salt Lake, Indianapolis, and Long Island---all in the next 90 days, not including teaching a Systematic Theology class along the way.

>      All of which is to say, my answers stand a good chance of becoming
>      ever more terse and (soon) non-existent.  Silence, however,
>      will not imply that you have shamed me into the mute inability to
>      reply to your crushing logical defence of sola scriptura (since
>      there is no such thing).  It just means I have too much to do and
>      to little time to do it.

< chuckle >  "....since there is no such thing."  I find the statement sort of humorous, in light of the fact that upon being asked if you have read any of the recent Protestant works on the subject, you said, "Nope."  Again, if you encountered someone making comments like this in a different venue, well, I think you might see what they indicate.

>      However, if others want to join the fray with you, I welcome it.
>      Only please, you others, don't start answering for me ("Mark
>      meant X by this passage").  Please give your own answers to James'
>      tedious assaults on Catholic Faith, not what you guess mine might
>      be.  That will reduce confusion.

You know, Mark, I've read the complaints of many Catholics, including some of your own friends, about how they felt they were being treated when they entered into dialogues on other lists.  Yet, I can honestly say, I can't remember a single one of them who ever received such a transparently bigoted response to an *initial* post as this one.  I could have posted something about "Mark Shea's tedious assaults on the Bible," but I didn't.  Instead, I asked questions based upon your own text.  For some reason, you can't possibly accept the idea that anyone could 1) understand your arguments, 2) understand the arguments of Hahn, Keating, Madrid, Staples, et. al., and yet 3) not only reject those arguments, but present counter arguments as well.  Hence, it seems you take the "stir up the emotions, rally the troops," rather than the "demonstrate the truth by presentation" approach.  I'm disappointed, but I got over being surprised by such things a long time ago.

I was hoping some interaction would help produce a better, more *fair* and insightful review of your book.  I'm sorry, but I get the *distinct* feeling that such isn't going to be the case.

*/// James White, Orthopodeo@aol.com \\\*
>>> Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, AZ Campus <<<
>>> Faraston Theological Seminary <<<
"The Gospel is ours to proclaim, not to edit."
 Web Page:  http://www.aomin.org 

[To CATHOLIC@AMERICAN.EDU on 03-05-97

(Psalm 56:4)  In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?

In a message dated 97-03-06 12:43:14 EST, you write:

> > If I responded to someone who wrote to me concerning my own books and
>  > characterized them as being dedicated to "the destruction of the Christian
>  > Church and all its works and ways," I'd sort of expect any further
>  > conversation to be, well, short.  I am always amazed at the double standard
>  > that exists with some Roman Catholic apologists.

>  etc.

>  James.  You complain of a double standard.  I notice you make a distinction
>  between the "Christian Church" and the Catholic Church.

< chuckle >  Uh, Mark, would you rather I had said "Catholic Church" there?  That wouldn't have made a whole lot of sense, would it?  No, but that's not your concern anyway, it seems.

You know, I don't think I can remember a single conversation---if such a term is even semi useful here---that has degraded as *quickly* as this one.  In fact, the thought just struck me that the monks of the St. Benedict Center have always been far more courteous and kind than you have.  I can't help but notice the massive difference in attitude between your book and this series of posts.

Everything I pointed out in my last post---mainly the appeal to the "crowd" and the unfair, unkind, and inaccurate caricatures you presented in your last post---went unanswered here.  Instead, more attempts to "poison the well" are presented, nothing more. 

>  I believe Protestants are Christian, James.

>  Are Catholics Christian, James?
 

I don't even think all Protestants are Christians, Mark, do you?  Robert Funk is technically a Protestant, isn't he, Mark?  But I don't believe he's a Christian, do you?  And what's the name of the lesbian witch who is professor of theology at Boston College?  She's a Catholic, but I doubt very much she's a Christian---what do you think, Mark?

You err, badly, if you think I equate "Protestant = Christian, Catholic = non-Christian."  You might try reading some of the works Protestants write on these issues, Mark.  It would really help you to quit tilting at windmills.  For example, a few months back I offered to send you _The Roman Catholic Controversy_ in exchange for your own book: you declined.  On pages 26-27 of that book you will find the following:

       I am not saying that there are no professing Roman Catholics who are saved, nor that there are not Roman Catholic leaders who do not embrace God's grace in a saving manner.  I speak of the official teachings of Rome, enshrined in her creeds, encyclicals, and conciliar documents, when I speak of Rome's "teachings."  It is plain to all who will look that there is as wide a diversity of understandings of those teachings among Catholics as there are differing perspectives amongst Protestants on similar issues.  It is vital to differentiate between the official teachings of Rome and the individual understandings of those teachings.

       Many conservative Protestants, convinced that the Roman Catholic system has departed, fatally, from the true path, struggle with the idea that there are still those within that system that are heirs of eternal life.  It should be remembered, however, that Protestants have always acknowledged the wideness of God's grace and mercy in this way.  We look back upon men like Wycliffe and Hus, and recognize that they found the truth of the gospel even while they were within the confines of the Roman communion.  Luther surely understood what it was to be justified by faith while a Roman Catholic monk.  Are we really to assume he was the first, or even the last?  Surely not.

>  {Snip all the rest of the stuff documenting the fact that James
>  has gone round and round with much wiser heads than mine on "bible
>  only" revelation and is immune to the effects of argumentation.}

Note again the unfair, unkind caricaturization:  "is immune to the effect of argumentation."  It must be very nice to proclaim yourself the victor without ever dirtying your hands with the details, Mark.

>  James, you have simply proven my point.  If you are really interested
>  in this stuff, just go over the voluminous transcripts of your
>  own unlistening conversations with Catholic on your Sola list.

Note again: "unlistening conversations."  Does the term "bigotry" enter into the picture here, perhaps?  At the very least, "bias" is a proper term.  It would be very easy to dismiss yourself, David Currie, Steve Ray, etc., as those who were unwilling to "listen" before their conversion to Rome.  I prefer tackling the issues, Mark.  Why don't you?

>  Or better yet, read my book again (since your questions yesterday
>  were already addressed there, but you did not seem aware of it).

If you mean the questions I originally posted, that assumes your book is self-attesting and perspicuous.  :)  Of course, the problem is, Roman theology has so many facets and currents and the like that there are certain questions that must be asked to get a firm hold on a particular person's viewpoint.

>  I've written my book once.  I don't have to write it again.

Yes, Mark.  I'm not asking you to re-write your book.  I'm asking you to explain and defend its statements.  I must admit---as an author, I find your attitude most strange.  My book on the KJV controversy has brought hundreds of letters and e-mails.  I've had a hard time bringing myself to write back to everyone and say, "I've written my book once.  I don't have to write it again."  Difficult attitude to understand.

>  Protestants are Christian, James.

Those who are in Christ are, Mark.  The name means nothing---only Christ means anything.

>  Are Catholics Christian, James?  Yes or no.  Then tell us about double
>  standards. 

Let's say I gave you a blanket "no," Mark---logically, how in the world would that amount to a double-standard like the one you are using consistently in your responses?  It wouldn't.  But my answer is the same: those who are in Christ are, Mark.  The name means nothing---only Christ means anything.  Again, if you would bother to keep up with Protestant writings on the subject, you'd be aware of that.

Mark, your book is full of errors, leaps in logic, half-truths, and downright *untruths.*  The logical way of dealing with this is to 1) attempt to ascertain as accurately as possible what the author of such a book *meant,* 2) dialogue on the specific historical errors (such as your constant assumption of the universal acceptance of the Apocrypha, which is simply *untrue*), 3) present cogent and, in your case, completely ignored, Protestant arguments, and 4) provide to everyone interested the conclusions of such an inquiry.  Since you won't allow even the first step, I can only critique the historical errors, point out the simple fact that you haven't interacted with the responses to your own position, nor with the *real* Protestant position, and finally inform those interested that when asked to engage such topics, the result  on your part was pure emotionalism, the old "play to the crowd and make the other guy look like a real nasty dude" tactic.  Like I said, disappointing, but not overly surprising.

   +-------<<<<< Orthopodeo@aol.com >>>>>-------+
   +                                            +
   +                James White                 +
   +            http://www.aomin.org            +
   +                                            +
   +-------<<<<<<< Sola Scriptura! >>>>>>-------+

         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 CATHOLIC@AMERICAN.EDU on 03-06-97]</

(Psalm 119:18)  Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.

In a message dated 97-03-06 15:01:25 EST, you write:

> Mark's book strikes at a very central weakness inherent in the idea of Sola
>  Scriptura: if a believer can't practically decide what is, and what is not
>  Scripture, than how can he be expected to follow Scripture, and to follow it
>  as the sole practical guide to his faith?  Mark's whole question boils down
>  to:

>    In practice, how is one to know what is and what is not Scripture, apart
>    from Tradition?

That isn't, actually, what Mark's question "boils down to."  There is so much more to the question that goes far beyond that---the definition of "Tradition," as I pointed out in my original post, for example, is *vital.*

Since you've read my book, and seem willing to answer some questions, I'd like to ask you to answer the question in the third paragraph of page 94 regarding how a Jewish man knew "infallibly" what the canon of Scripture was prior to the time of Christ.

BTW, in light of Mark's answers yesterday, are you comfortable saying that no one *did* know, with infallible certainty, what Scripture was until 1546?

>  As long as your response to him fails to answer this question, you fail to
>  provide a logical alternative to Sacred Tradition. Please give an answer
>  that would allow me to practically discern why I should agree that (for
>  example):

>    1) Clement, Wisdom, and Enoch are not Scriptural
>    2) Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Hebrews, James, and Revelations are

>  Instead of treating Mark's important question, you have so far avoided the
>  issue. Your posted responses were more along the lines of attacking the
>  Catholic position (and getting some facts wrong as you did), derisive ad
>  hominem attacks on Mark (these make you look bad), and other irrelevant
>  rhetorical flourishes. 

Like I pointed out, since it is Mark who has introduced ad-hominem, emotionally-based arguments, and that in the *first* response, I despair of getting much of a fair hearing from you. 

>  You say that there have been counter-arguments to Mark's arguments. So how
>  do they answer this question?

>  You chuckle, and deride Mark for not reading any of the 3 books that you
>  promote as good counter-arguments. I did read one of your suggestions, your
>  own "The Roman Catholic Controversy."  With regard to the canon in
>  particular, I was quite unimpressed with your reasoning.
 
I am not surprised.

>  From memory (and it
>  has been about 3 months since I looked at it), several things struck me:

>  1) You frankly admit that uncertainty about the canon would bring down the
>  entire position of Sola Scriptura. (You deny that there is a problem here,
>  but my jaw dropped at this candor, since you flat-out agree with Mark in
>  the importance of the question to your side.)

>  2) You seemed to say that Catholics might have a point with regard to the
>  New Testament canon. (You quickly pass over this apparent admission, even
>  though you previously said that uncertainty about the canon is serious.)

>  3) You state that our knowledge of the OT canon, on the other hand, was
>  solid. This was the bulk of your rebuttal of the canon question. Your
>  arguments for this were along the lines of "Well, of course there is a
>  canon," but you never said *how* we are to discern it. Catholics agree that
>  there is a canon too, so why do you beat at this straw man? Your treatment
>  is completely useless for determining as a practical matter what, precisely,
>  the canon is, and utterly fails to answer the question. 

Well, I can honestly say, your memory isn't too good.  :)  I really haven't the foggiest idea how to respond to these three statements, since they have almost nothing whatsoever to do with anything I've written in my book.

1)  No, I made no such admission, and would love you to cite the passage that you think makes this point.

2)  I said it might *appear* that the Roman argument works for the NT, but it collapses on the OT.  Specifically, I said on page 94, "While the Roman Catholic argument about the canon might appear to have some validity with reference to the New Testament, it falls apart upon application to the Old."  If you had read this statement in its context, you would see that I am not saying you "might have a point with regard to the New Testament canon." 

3)  You skip over the discussion of canon as a function of Scripture, as if it wasn't even there.  Did you understand that discussion?

>  After reading your book, the end result was that I came away more impressed
>  than ever that discerning the canon was a central flaw in Sola Scriptura,
>  and that there was no good rebuttal here from your position. If the other
>  two books fail as badly, then I don't see why reading them is relevant to
>  this discussion.   

Honestly, I doubt any information is useful to a person who is unwilling to listen or consider, so I'm not surprised.  However, I wonder why Mark's book blissfully ignores all of these issues?

>  If they do answer the question, then could you please
>  summarize the rules they use for determining the canon? If your summary
>  sounds stimulating, then you might get us interested enough to want to track
>  them down directly.

Rules?  Since canon is a function of inspiration, are you seriously asking for rules that would apply to God?  Or did you ignore the difference between the canon as a function of Scripture, and our own recognition of it?

>  Catholics don't have a Sola Scriptura position, but you do. An attack on how
>  we discern Scripture isn't the central question in our faith understanding
>  that it is in yours.

No, Catholics don't have a sola scriptura position.  They have a sola ecclesia position.  The final authority, in all things, is the Church.  BTW, why is it an "attack"?  Why is pointing out inconsistencies and contradictions in Roman positions defined by yourself and Mark as "attacks"? 

   +-------<<<<< Orthopodeo@aol.com >>>>>-------+
   +                                            +
   +                James White                 +
   +            http://www.aomin.org            +
   +                                            +
   +-------<<<<<<< Sola Scriptura! >>>>>>-------+
 

        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 (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 3). 

In a message dated 97-03-06 16:43:34 EST, you write:

>      Well, don't feel like it's a duty.  I just figured it might be
>      entertaining to let other people try to coax James into answering
>      the straight question "How do I, Joe/Jane Schmoo-in-the-Pew, know
>      what is inspired Scripture apart from Sacred Tradition and the
>      authority of the Church?" So far I have never seen James give a
>      straight answer to that question.  Nobody I know has ever seen him
>      do it either.  Perhaps if enough Catholics ask him, he will
>      achieve critical mass (as distinct from achieving criticism of the
>      mass) and answer that simple question.  But I kinda doubt it.
>      Watch his modus operandi.  He believes the best defence is a
>      good offence and so focuses entirely on criticizing Catholics and
>      asking interminable questions about things he's already received
>      answers to a hundred times before.  Ask him however many times
>      you may, and he *never* tells us how he knows what is inspired
>      Scripture, he just ignores the question and makes another stale
>      complaint about Sacred Tradition.
 

Your kindness, fairness, and sense of fair play is truly over-whelming, Mark.

I'm sure you don't want to answer questions about whether your claims about "Sacred Tradition" are consistent and logical---then again, epistemologically speaking, since you've bought into sola ecclesia, such questions are not answerable anyway.  Rome must be right because, well, Rome is *always* right.  Never mind that you have to base your arguments upon falsehoods regarding the OT canon, etc., as long as it is in the service of the Mother Church.

You see, Mark: you *claim* to have infallible knowledge of the canon because you accept what Rome tells you is "Sacred Tradition."  Now, I then ask you, "How do you *know* that's Sacred Tradition?" and you are right back to square one.  All you've done is move the ultimate epistemological question one step back----it's so plain, it's amazing you don't see it.  Yet you launch your attack against those who won't play the shell game with you, and won't invest in themselves the quality of infallibility.  It may work with some folks, Mark, but by God's grace, it doesn't work with *everyone.*

A few examples of errors and shallow research in your book, Mark:

pp. 54-55:

"And that Scripture included, from the fourth century to the Reformation, seven books (Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach, and Baruch) and some pieces of Daniel and Esther which you Evangelicals reject as 'apocryphal.' "

All through your book you assume the consistent acceptance of the Apocryphal books---yet, if you had bothered to read some of the most basic works on the subject (such as Beckwith's 1985 work), you would know better.  You would know Pope Gregory the Great rejected some of these very books you claim were universally hailed as Scripture.  Now how can that be, since he would be the keeper of the capital 'T' Tradition par-excellence?  And what in the world was Cardinal Cajetan babbling about here:

"Here we close our commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament.  For the rest (that is, Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees) are counted by St. Jerome out of the canonical books, and are placed among the Apocrypha, along with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, as is plain from the Prologus Galeatus.  Nor be thou disturbed, like a raw scholar, if thou shouldest find anywhere, either in the sacred councils or the sacred doctors, these books reckoned canonical.  For the words as well as of councils and of doctors are to be reduced to the correction of Jerome.  Now, according to his judgment, in the epistle to the bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus, these books (and any other like books in the canon of the bible) are not canonical, that is, not in the nature of a rule for confirming matters of faith.  Yet, they may be called canonical, that is, in the nature of a rule for the edification of the faithful, as being received and authorized in the canon of the bible for that purpose.  By the help of this distinction thou mayest see thy way clear through that which Augustine says, and what is written in the provincial council of Carthage."  (Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament; cited in William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture (Cambridge: University Press, 1849, 48.)

Confusion about what is, and what is not, canon, as late as the Reformation?  How can this be?

p. 55:

"Therefore pardon me for saying so, said the voice of modernism, but it looks to us realists as though your own great Protestant theologian, R.C. Sproul, is more realistic than you.  For he at least acknowledges the incoherence of your "purely biblical" revelation by describing your traditional Bible as a "fallible collection of infallible books" (whatever that means)."

The "voice of modernism" sounds suspiciously like a relative of Screwtape and his cohort, know what I mean?  He must write for This Rock.  Anyway, it's too bad you haven't read those books I mentioned: R.C. has an article in there where he explains exactly what that line means.  Unfortunately, he would no more say that your "purely biblical" view was "incoherent" than he'd say the Pope is infallible.  But I have gotten the *very* strong idea that such citations of Protestant scholars are, in your view, to be used in the service of something other than fairness.  Of course, I find the out-of-context citation of Protestant scholars to be epidemic in current RC apologetics works (the new work by Butler, Dahlgren and Hess comes to mind immediately), so I guess it might be catching.  :)

Now in closing (aren't you glad?), I made a note right above the "NOTES" on page 55.  It reads, "Key error -- abandoning the real source, theopneustos."  In all your recitation of your brave attempt to defend sola scriptura, you never once give me the indication that you ever knew what it was based *upon.*  And a book that attacks sola scriptura, without knowing the *basis* of the doctrine, is not a book that will accomplish much in the long run.

   +-------<<<<< Orthopodeo@aol.com >>>>>-------+
   +                                            +
   +                James White                 +
   +            http://www.aomin.org            +
   +                                            +
   +-------<<<<<<< Sola Scriptura! >>>>>>-------+ 

        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).
 

[To CATHOLIC@AMERICAN.EDU on 03-06-97]</

In a message dated 97-03-07 12:21:19 EST, you write:

>     Shoveling mercury with a pitchfork, I wrote of James White:

>  >      Ask him however many times
>  >      you may, and he *never* tells us how he knows what is inspired
>  >      Scripture, he just ignores the question and makes another stale
>  >      complaint about Sacred Tradition.

>      And James, as if to oblige me, replies...

>  I'm sure you don't want to answer questions about whether your claims about
>  "Sacred Tradition" are consistent and logical---then again, epistemologically
>  speaking, since you've bought into sola ecclesia, such questions are not
>  answerable anyway.  Rome must be right because, well, Rome is *always* right.
>
>   Never mind that you have to base your arguments upon falsehoods regarding
>  the OT canon, etc., as long as it is in the service of the Mother Church.

>      etc.
 

< Which assertions, I note, go utterly ignored in all of Mark's replies, and his book. >

 >      Not many people know this, but James has actually had a button
>      installed on his word processor to generate these "Ignore the
>      question and attack Sacred Tradition" replies automatically.  My
>      prediction was, dare I say it?, infallible! :) 

No, I have a lot of macros, but that isn't one of them.  Again, Mark, it's pretty clear you have no intention of allowing a level playing field, nor do you have the first desire to apply the same rules to your own position you insist upon for others.  You demand answers to your questions without allowing anyone to say, "Uh, excuse me, Mark, but your own position can't answer that question logically, so why are you asking it?"  I've gotten that indication quite clearly, so you can stop providing daily examples for us all.  :)  BTW, pointing out that a person is being inconsistent in their position *does* amount to a *partial* answer.  Now, I could easily say, "And Mark, since you admit to not bother to read much in the way of Protestant scholarship, you don't have good ground upon which to stand.  As some famous person ("Corkscrew," perhaps, or maybe "Slimemold"?) has said, 'I've already written my book.  I'm not going to write it again.' "  But, that would be a most unfriendly thing to say, so I won't.

While riding today I decided to try to find at least a few moments to begin some *short* posts on the subject of the authority of Scripture---to present the topic as it is completely ignored by you, Currie, Ray, and just about everyone else I've been reading recently.  Sort of like the black hole of Catholic apologetics, I guess.  If I could figure out a way to attach my laptop to the aero bars of my bike, *and* type, while riding, I might get that done sooner.  But alas, I haven't figured that out yet.  Instead, I'm staring four sermons, a trip to Albuquerque, a trip to Minneapolis, the rest of the chapters in my book on the Trinity, and five solid nights the week before Easter of missions work at the Mormon Easter Pageant in Mesa, AZ---all in the next 24 days.  Patience is still a virtue, isn't it?

>      Fact is, James *has* no answer to the question, knows it, and so
>      must change the subject. 

Bullies write like this, Mark, not thoughtful people.  I could act the same way:  "Why does Mark not interact with the currently published Protestant literature on this issue?  Why doesn't he deal with Sproul honestly?  It's easy: he can't.  He has no answers, so he decieves by blowing smoke."  Yeah, that's *real* easy.  And you know how long those conversations last?  Not long, I assure you.  So how about dumping the bravado, quit acting like a mind reader, and get serious, Mark?  You confess you haven't even read _The Roman Catholic Controversy_.  I've read Keating, Madrid, Ray, Currie, Shea, Butler/Dalhgren/Hess, et. al.; so upon what ground do you logically say *I* don't have an answer?? 

>      I have not yet checked the rest of my email (Charles, I'm getting
>      posts from March 5 arriving this morning.  Dunno why.), but I am
>      curious as to my other post.  James is intensely interested in
>      fairness.  He asked me two questions in his initial post, which I
>      answered.  I then mentioned he runs an anti-Catholic "ministry."
>      James, with a marvelous display of ruffled feathers declared this
>      "unfair" and said I was "anti-Protestant".

Excuse me, Mark?  Do you deal with all of history in this manner?  You surely must realize that those on the list can read posts for themselves.  And there is something called an "archive file" too.  You said:

    1.  I am writing from work, the only account I have, and therefore
    have little time to engage in protracted debates with somebody
    who runs a professional anti-Catholic "ministry" (Alpha Omega
    Ministries, for all you lurkers) dedicated to the destruction of
    the Catholic Church and all its works and ways.

In my reply, I wrote:

If I responded to someone who wrote to me concerning my own books and characterized them as being dedicated to "the destruction of the Christian Church and all its works and ways," I'd sort of expect any further conversation to be, well, short.  I am always amazed at the double standard that exists with some Roman Catholic apologists.  While I did not mention you specifically in _The Roman Catholic Controversy_, I consistently referred to others, such as Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Tim Staples, Scott Hahn, etc., as "Roman Catholic apologists."  I did not refer to them as "anti-Protestants," nor did I describe their ministries as being "dedicated to the destruction of the Christian Church and all its works and ways."  I feel no compulsion to "poison the well" and attempt to immediately bring negative emotions to bear.  Let the truth be clearly heard without the muddle of emotionalism.  So, Mark, I have to ask you: do you characterize all Protestant ministries that dare say, "No, Rome has erred on such and such a point," as you do ours?  And may I ask why you ignore our work with Mormons, JW's, atheists, and the like?  Please forgive me for being blunt, but aren't you just doing your best to paint our work in the worst possible light, and that unfairly?

1)  You've never provided a logical response to this criticism.

2)  There is nothing in this that calls *you* an "anti-Protestant."  In fact, as anyone can see, I specifically *deny* using the term.

So, Mark, we seem to be left with two possibilities here:

1)  Mark is so freaked about a soon-to-be little Shea, that his mind is blitzed and not functioning well, or,

2)  Mark is misrepresenting conversations that took place only a few days ago for maximum emotional effect.  

Which is it, Mark?

>      Now I believe Protestants are Christian.  I can think of several
>      (George MacDonald, CS Lewis (that good Ulsterman), and Dorothy
>      Sayers, as well as good eggs like Chuck Swindoll, Jack Hayford,
>      Elisabeth Eliot, the sainted Jim Eliot and several members of my
>      wife's family whom I regard as great saints.  The only conceivable
>      reason I think I might not see them in heaven is that they will be
>      so close to the Throne (and I so far up in the nosebleed seats)
>      that I won't be able to spy them at that distance.

I might point out, Mark, that their lives were lived as they were only because they were blessed to live at a time when they had the freedom to believe as they did.

>      But now, having answered James' questions, I ask in return:  does
>      James say Catholics are Christian?

>      After he answers those two simple questions (Are Catholics
>      Christian?/How do I determine what the canon is apart from Sacred
>      Tradition and the Magisterium?) we will be in a much better
>      position to discuss fairness, etc.)

>      James, thanks for your input.  It is nice to be vindicated so
>      publically.  Your comments are duly noted.

>      I look forward to a straight answer to my straight questions.

Hmm, is your mail program not working well, Mark?  Seems I pointed out the answers to those questions a few days ago.  Possibly the messages you are getting are so garbled and so muddled that that explains why you'd say publically that I identified you as an "anti-Protestant"?  Here, let me re-post a section from 3/6/97:

I don't even think all Protestants are Christians, Mark, do you?  Robert Funk is technically a Protestant, isn't he, Mark?  But I don't believe he's a Christian, do you?  And what's the name of the lesbian witch who is professor of theology at Boston College?  She's a Catholic, but I doubt very much she's a Christian---what do you think, Mark?

You err, badly, if you think I equate "Protestant = Christian, Catholic = non-Christian."  You might try reading some of the works Protestants write on these issues, Mark.  It would really help you to quit tilting at windmills.  For example, a few months back I offered to send you _The Roman Catholic Controversy_ in exchange for your own book: you declined.  On pages 26-27 of that book you will find the following:

       I am not saying that there are no professing Roman Catholics who are saved, nor that there are not Roman Catholic leaders who do not embrace God's grace in a saving manner.  I speak of the official teachings of Rome, enshrined in her creeds, encyclicals, and conciliar documents, when I speak of Rome's "teachings."  It is plain to all who will look that there is as wide a diversity of understandings of those teachings among Catholics as there are differing perspectives amongst Protestants on similar issues.  It is vital to differentiate between the official teachings of Rome and the individual understandings of those teachings.

       Many conservative Protestants, convinced that the Roman Catholic system has departed, fatally, from the true path, struggle with the idea that there are still those within that system that are heirs of eternal life.  It should be remembered, however, that Protestants have always acknowledged the wideness of God's grace and mercy in this way.  We look back upon men like Wycliffe and Hus, and recognize that they found the truth of the gospel even while they were within the confines of the Roman communion.  Luther surely understood what it was to be justified by faith while a Roman Catholic monk.  Are we really to assume he was the first, or even the last?  Surely not.

Now, let's hope that makes it through the process intact.

In a message dated 97-03-07 12:43:58 EST, you write:

> >    In practice, how is one to know what is and what is not Scripture, apart
>  >    from Tradition?

>      And James hits the button on his word processor...

>  That isn't, actually, what Mark's question "boils down to."  There is so much
>  more to the question that goes far beyond that---the definition of
>  "Tradition," as I pointed out in my original post, for example, is *vital.*

>      etc.

>      and somehow never *does* get around to giving a straight answer to
>      that straight question.

>      Have a pitchfork, Michael!  There's a lot of shoveling to do!
 

Mark, may I ask that you at least act civilly, and not intrude your insults into everyone else's threads?  You may not like me (that's obvious); you may want everyone else to dislike me as well (equally obvious); but unless you have a REALLY strong reason for not wanting any meaningful conversations to take place here, I'd like to ask that you drop the constant personal stuff.  How about it?

BTW, I find it amazing that you can say, "Nope, haven't read your book, haven't read the Soli Deo Gloria work, either," and then, with a straight face, say, "He never does give a straight answer, does he?"  I've just got to ask, Mark:  how in the world would you know?

Over the past few days I've been asked the same question over and over again:  "So, how do you know the canon?"  No matter what I say, the same question comes back.

It's not that it isn't an important question: it is.  But I'm reminded a good bit of the young LDS folks I have shared with at the Mormon Easter Pageant the last 13 years: they ask the same questions, over and over again, and are often far too impatient to allow a meaningful reply.  "So what about the Book of Mormon, huh?  Have you read it?  Huh?"  "Yes," I reply, "I have."  "So, have you prayed about it?"  "No," I reply, "I haven't, because...."  And at that point a million objections start flying.  Once in a while I can focus them enough to accomplish something, but most of the time, they are off to the races.

Mark Shea has written a book based upon that one question.  I can see why he'd be a bit uncomfortable having to back up a bit and find out if this one question, that has so changed his life, is actually a valid and self-consistent one.  But I don't know of anyone else here with quite the same vested interest, so addressing the fundamental issues would seem worthwhile.

I'm not going to re-write what I've written, either.  But I am going to summarize some things, and add a lot of new things, too.  And as God gives me grace, I'm going to fight verbosity to the death.  :)

I'd like to start with a quote, if I might, from Athanasius' _Contra Gentes_ I:1:  "For indeed the holy and God-breathed (Gr: theopneustos) Scriptures are sufficient (Gr: autarkeis) for the preaching of the truth."

If Protestants could have a patron saint, Athanasius would be mine.  :)  I spent most of yesterday editing an article I've written for the next edition of the CRI Journal titled, "What Really Happened at Nicea?"  The article covers the council, the role of Constantine, the homoousion clause, and the Arian ascendancy in the decades following Nicea.  And, of course, in the midst of all that, you can't help but to talk about Athanasius.

Here's one tenacious fellow.  Kicked out of his see five times, on-the-outs with the majority of the church hierarchy of his day, Athanasius stood firm despite all the reasons *not to.*  "Athanasius contra mundum" spoke to a real truth.

I feel a real kinship with Athanasius in many areas.  I have dealt extensively with JW's, and his extensive refutations of the Arians are music to my ears.  He wrote the first in-depth treatise on the atonement, too. 

At one point in his life, Athanasius had to choose: would he bow to the organized church, or would he remain faithful to witness of Scripture?  He chose the latter, much to our benefit today. 

All of this brings me to point number one: I believe it is easily establishable that Athanasius viewed 2 Timothy 3:16 as I do.  That is, he saw that the *nature* of Scripture places it upon a level that is above all other authorities.  Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed.

Sola scriptura is based upon the acceptance of this truth: that Scripture is God-breathed.  Hence, one of the common arguments used *against* sola scriptura, that being that there are 23,000 denominations today, hence, sola scriptura can't be true, is obviously fatally flawed: not only does the argument provide internal consistency problems, but how many of those 23,000 denominations really believe the Bible is God-breathed?  Very few, I'm sad to say.  Be that as it may, if Roman apologists are going to provide a meaningful critique of sola scriptura, they are going to have to start here, for this is the source of the doctrine.  Scripture is God speaking---it carries His authority, not derivatively, but personally.  I do not believe there is any other source of authority, be that tradition or magisterium, that is theopneustos.   Hence, point #1:

Scripture is theopneustos, that is, God-breathed.

   +-------<<<<< Orthopodeo@aol.com >>>>>-------+
   +                                            +
   +                James White                 +
   +            http://www.aomin.org            +
   +                                            +
   +-------<<<<<<< Sola Scriptura! >>>>>>-------+
 

        The doctrine of the Church should be proven, not announced; therefore
        show that the Scriptures teach these things.  ----Theodoret 

[To CATHOLIC@AMERICAN.EDU on 03-07-97]</

(Psalm 119:18)  Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.

In a message dated 97-03-07 14:38:51 EST, you write:

> > That isn't, actually, what Mark's question "boils down to."  There is so much
>  > more to the question that goes far beyond that---the definition of
>  > "Tradition," as I pointed out in my original post, for example, is *vital.*

>  If you're uncomfortable with the idea of Tradition, then I'll rephrase the
>  question for you:

>      In practice, how is someone to know what is, and what is not, Scripture?

You miss my point.  "Tradition" is the *means* Mark uses---hence, what is meant by "Tradition" becomes central.  Yet, answering the question of what is, and what is not, "Tradition," is quite a sticky subject, and I think Mark well knows that.

Let me illustrate: if you believe there is an apostolic tradition that defines the canon, do you believe it is actually traceable to the apostles themselves?  If so, who gave this "tradition"?  Who passed it on?  Why did it take so long to surface?  Why did Athanasius "miss" this tradition and give a different canon in his 39th Festal Letter of 369?  Would such a tradition fit into how you view 2 Thessalonians 2:15?  If so, then you should be able to trace it.

Of course, a lot of modern Roman Catholics don't hold to that view of "Tradition."  The teaching authority of the Church, in essence, becomes the "Tradition."  But we've just barely begun to scratch the surface of all the various views of "Tradition" at all.  The problem is, if you say "Tradition" determines your canon, but you can't tell me exactly what "Tradition" is, how are you in any better position than I am?

>  This is key, whether you care to admit it or not. Come on, James. Give us a
>  direct answer to the question.

You've read my book, and well know I *do* give a direct answer.  Why is everyone on this "you won't give a direct answer" kick?  I don't appeal to an extra-biblical revelation, since I deny one exists.  I don't believe the canon is a separate revelation, but is a function of Scripture itself---a function of inspiration.  Now, logically, the next question would be, "Please define what you mean by that."  But so far, all I've gotten is, "Just answer the question on the grounds *we* set."  Strange, isn't it?

>  > Since you've read my book, and seem willing to answer some questions...

>  In the past few days, you've tossed several questions off, and several of us
>  have gone to apparent trouble and time to answer them for you. I haven't|
>  seen any sign that you care about considering our replies. Several of us
>  made some effort to take your questions seriously, and civil discourse
>  requires that you do the same. So before I answer you, please demonstrate
>  that you care for a rational discussion here by giving us a direct answer to
>  Mark's question.

I have clearly done so.  I can't imagine what you are talking about.

>  > Rules?  Since canon is a function of inspiration, are you seriously asking
>  > for rules that would apply to God?  Or did you ignore the difference between
>  > the canon as a function of Scripture, and our own recognition of it?

>  Come on, James. We both agree that God does what he wants. The fact is that
>  we both use rules to help us discern what he has done and what he wants us
>  to do. If you deny this, then your own charges that the Catholic Church
>  behaves contrary to God's will are logically meaningless, since you yourself
>  admit no rules that you can use to tell whether anything adheres to God's
>  will.

Huh?  I don't follow.  You claimed to have read the section of my book where I discuss this, yet, when I answer on that basis, you don't follow.  Is the canon a function of inspiration?  Yes or no?

>  Either you're engaging in another straw man argument here, or you really do
>  misunderstand my question. Just in case it is the latter, I'll clarify for
>  you:

>      What practical rules can a *person* use to determine what is, and is
>      not, Scripture?

>  If you continue to avoid answering this, then we will have to assume that
>  you have no workable way of defining Scripture for yourself. The result is
>  that you simply have no logical basis for telling Catholics with any
>  certainty that they are un-Scriptural.

"If you don't answer this question right now, without providing a basis, and on the basis we define, you lose."  OK, well, whatever.  I'll continue laying the foundations in the posts I'm writing to the list in general.  If that's not good enough for you, well, I'm sorry.  Not much I can do about that.

   +-------<<<<< Orthopodeo@aol.com >>>>>-------+
   +                                            +
   +                James White                 +
   +            http://www.aomin.org            +
   +                                            +
   +-------<<<<<<< Sola Scriptura! >>>>>>-------+

        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 (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 3). 

[To CATHOLIC@AMERICAN.EDU on 03-07-97]</

       In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith,
        not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Script-
        ures.  Do not be led astray by winning words and clever
        arguments.  Even to me, who tell you these things, do not
        give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Script-
        ures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation
        in which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but
        from the Holy Scriptures. --St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 350)
        _Catechetical Lectures_ 4:17.
 

Yesterday I noted a little bit concerning the *nature* of Scripture.  It is God-breathed, theopneustos.  This is the only use of this term in the NT, and it is vital to note that Paul says that it is the *Scriptures themselves* that are God-breathed.  We often play fast and loose with the term "inspired" and "inspiration."  We speak of the Apostles writing by inspiration, yet, biblically, the only thing that is truly "inspired" in this high manner is Scripture itself: the final product.

Paul was not alone, however, in saying that Scripture is God's speaking.  The Lord Jesus had taught his before:

(Mat 22:29-33)  But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. [30] "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. [31] "But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: [32] 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." [33] When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

Note the specific assertion of the Lord:  "have you not read WHAT WAS SPOKEN TO YOU BY GOD...."  The juxtaposition of "read" and "spoken" is striking.  Jesus held these Jewish men accountable for the very speaking of God in Scripture.  This is plainly borne out by the phrase, "spoken TO YOU."  Yet, of course, these words had been spoken to Moses centuries before.  Yet in the Lord's view, they are living words, so that when we read them, they are spoken to *us* as well.

This background allows us to understand a passage that is often cited by Protestants in regard to sola scriptura:

(Mat 15:3-9)  And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? [4] "For God said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.' [5] "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God," [6] he is not to honor his father or his mother.' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. [7] "You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: [8] 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. [9] 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'"

Mark's parallel passage is useful, too:

(Mark 7:6-13)  And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. [7] 'BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' [8] "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." [9] He was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. [10] "For Moses said, 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER'; and, 'HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH'; [11] but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' [12] you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; [13] thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."

In most Roman apologetics works, these passages are dismissed in a cavalier manner with, "Well, this is talking about *human* traditions, not *divine* traditions."  But such completely misses the point.

1)  The Jews claimed the Corban tradition was divine in origin.  As David Palm rightly points out, Tractate Aboth of the Mishnah makes explicit claims concerning the passing down of oral tradition through the leadership of the people of Israel.  This is exactly what Mark notes in verse 13, "by your tradition which you have handed down."  Yet, the Lord Jesus *rejects* the Corban rule, and on what basis?  It's incompatibility with Scripture.

2)  The point of Matthew 15/Mark 7 is not that all "tradition" of any kind be rejected; it is that all tradition of any kind---even that which is claimed to be "divine," is SUBJECT to and hence INFERIOR to, Scripture.  No three-legged stools or anything of the kind.

Hence:

1)  Scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos).

2)  Because Scripture is God speaking, it is the standard by which all "tradition" is to be measured.

Soon we will need to discuss the epistemology involved in admitting that God has spoken, and how one could offer "proof" that would validate God's own truth claims.  And, we need to look at Matthew 23 and "Moses' seat" as well: a passage often badly misused in this discussion.

   +-------<<<<< Orthopodeo@aol.com >>>>>-------+
   +                                            +
   +                James White                 +
   +            http://www.aomin.org            +
   +                                            +
   +-------<<<<<<< Sola Scriptura! >>>>>>-------+
 

        The doctrine of the Church should be proven, not announced; therefore
        show that the Scriptures teach these things.  ----Theodoret
 

[To {N%} on 03-08-97]</

Psalm 119:18)  Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. 

In a message dated 97-03-08 11:12:31 EST, you write:

>     James:  Who said "Read my book"?  Only the bullying, bigoted,
>      shallow, lying, evasive, and uncivil Mark Shea says things like
>      that!

etc. and etc.  

You seem far too distracted for much reasonable dialogue right now, Mark.  Perhaps we should wait until you have less pressure on you.  You don't seem to realize how you are screeching.  If you must do all the personal stuff, well, go ahead.  But I'll do my best to ignore it, OK?

   +-------<<<<< Orthopodeo@aol.com >>>>>-------+
   +                                            +
   +                James White                 +
   +            http://www.aomin.org            +
   +                                            +
   +-------<<<<<<< Sola Scriptura! >>>>>>-------+
 

        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 (Augustine, De unitate ecclesiae, 3).

In a message dated 97-03-10 12:41:45 EST, you write:

>     James, I don't think a day has gone by last week that you did not,
>      implicitly or explicitly, call me a liar.  So I guess this is as
>      good a way to start a week as any.

I.e., "I've been caught; I can't find a single place where James has called me an anti-Protestant, despite the fact that I've said so a couple of times now.  But darn it, I ain't gonna admit it.  Let's see if we can blow a bit more smoke here, all the while hoping nobody notices that I took seventy or eighty pages in a book to get around to substantiating my position, but I'm not going to let James have *any* opportunity of laying such a foundation.  If I keep at him long enough, at least some folks will buy into my tactic and I can do some damage control."

Mark, since you didn't bother to address in your book the fundamental beliefs Protestants present on the issue of Scripture, authority, canon, and the rest, I'm going to lay those foundations, if you don't mind.  If you'd like to keep up the "you've called me this [can't document it, but I'll say it anyway], and you've called me that" stuff, well, you go ahead.  Too much going on this week to play that game, though.

In a message dated 97-03-10 13:21:55 EST, you write:

>     Try as I might, I cannot see how the question "How do you tell
>      what Scripture is?" is invalid and self-contradicting.

Of course, I didn't say it was, Mark.  This is the kind of "cheap debating trick" that Dr. Pacwa *avoided.*

I said your answer, which includes the wonderfully simple concept of "Sacred Tradition," is invalid and self-contradictory.  Tell me, Mark, plain and simple now: how do you know what is, and what is not, Sacred Tradition?

Let me venture a guess: Rome tells you.  So, Sacred Tradition his what Rome defines as Sacred Tradition.  Is there an external means of verifying Rome's claim?  Nope, since she's infallible.  So, Rome defines ST, and, by this, also defines Scripture.

Let's follow this a bit further, Mark: who *interprets* ST?  Isn't it Rome?  Infallibly, no less.  And who *interprets* the Scriptures?  I hardly need to cite Trent of VII for that one: Rome.

So let's see: Rome defines, and interprets, ST; Rome defines, and interprets, Scripture. 

Hence, it *looks* like Rome is your ultimate authority in all matters religious, and seemingly, epistemological as well.

So I guess you agree with Karl Keating's statement:

          The Catholic believes in inspiration because the Church tells him so---that is putting it bluntly---and that same Church has the authority to interpret the inspired text.  [_Catholicism and Fundamentalism_, p. 127]

Now, if we haven't jumped the track anywhere along the line, it seems your position then is "I know the canon of Scripture infallibly because Rome tells me what it is."  Now, *most* folks immediately notice something: that really doesn't answer the question.  It *assumes* Rome has the ability to *infallibly* provide such certainty.  That is hardly a given, Mark.  And on a simple epistemological basis, what you've done is move the ultimate question about ultimate authorities back one whole step: the Protestant invests the Scriptures with ultimate authority; you invest the Church with that ultimate authority, so that you can then allow the Church to define the canon for you.  However, you are left answering the same question: why is *this* your ultimate authority?

Ultimate authorities are peculiar things, Mark: they are not liable to validation by a higher source.  That's why they are ultimate authorities.  Oh, you may provide arguments that support the claim of source X being ultimate, but none of those arguments can provide a *guarantee* of that ultimate authority, since if they did, then the argument itself would become the ultimate authority.

Now, the Protestant says that which is theopneustos is his or her ultimate authority.  That's a pretty safe assertion: God's speaking is about as high an authority as you can find.  But when you ask "how do you know?" you are melding two very distinct issues into one question: 1) what is the authority of God's speaking, and can external arguments be provided to guarantee the truthfulness of what God says? and 2) how do *I* come to knowledge of what is theopneustos?

The two issues are quite distinct.  God's authority is supreme simply because God is God; my *knowledge* of God's authority is limited and fallible because *I* am limited and fallible.  The Protestant owns up to the difficulties of directly encountering God's truth: that's what lies behind Sproul's statement about the canon.  Unfortunately, Mark, I don't get the faintest hint from what you have said that you have really tried to enter into Sproul's position so as to understand it, and why it doesn't mean what you THINK it means.

Now, let me make something real clear here, Mark: every question you can throw at the Protestant position regarding Scripture, I can throw at the Roman position regarding the Church's authority.  You haven't accomplished anything by giving up your personal responsibility to a hierarchy that claims infallible authority.  Your decision to do that was a fallible one itself.

But let I get too wordy here, let's see if we can agree on *something.*  Let's make a helpful distinction regarding the canon.

          Canon1 = the canon as created by the action of God in inspiration

          Canon2 = the canon as recognized and known by men

Let's not get too ambitious here, but can we agree that Canon1 is determined solely and completely by God?  That is, God created the canon, not as a seperate entity, but simply by choosing to inspire SOME but not ALL written books.  Think we can agree on that fundamental assertion?  If so, then maybe we can move on from there.

In a message dated 97-03-10 13:38:55 EST, you write:

> We are getting to the epistemological foundations now:  If God says
>  something, how can He guarantee its truthfulness?

>      James:

>      This is a dodge.  The question is, How do you tell what is
>      inspired Scripture?  Obviously if God has said something it
>      is the Truth (though not necessarily the whole Truth as
>      Hebrews 1:1 points out).  Nobody disputes that God's word is
>      truth.  Please answer the question.  How do you tell what is
>      inspired Scripture?

Mark, has the thought occurred to you that an outside observer might get the feeling that you *really* don't want anyone to think through the implications of your pet question?  Let me try one of your famous dialogues:

James:  There are a lot of issues involved in this question, Mark.

Mark:  Nope, it's real simple.

James:  Questions of ultimate authorities and epistemology aren't normally real simple, Mark.

Mark:  Just answer the question, James.

James:  Without defining any of the issues, Mark?

Mark:  Just answer the question.

James:  How would a quick answer help anyone, Mark?  If I said, "The canon is a function of Scripture, created by the act of inspiration, and I comet to have knowledge of it in the same way the believer did fifty years before Christ," how would that actually help things?

Mark:  See, you guys just can't answer the question.  We win by default.

James:  But Mark, you are assuming a zillion things in your position, and in reality, are just moving the question back one step: you make Rome your ultimate authority.  That may allow you to answer the canon question real easily, but now you have to answer the same question I have to answer about ultimate authorities.

Mark:  Nah, that's just a dodge.  Just answer the question, James.

And so on.

Now like I said, Mark, I can't force you to deal with the leaps you've made in your logic process so as to arrive where you have arrived.  But unless you run this list, I don't think you can stop me from presenting my position, as I have begun to do in the "God's Authority" series of posts.

In a message dated 97-03-10 13:42:33 EST, you write:

> > We are getting to the epistemological foundations now:  If God says
>  > something, how can He guarantee its truthfulness?

>  But this begs the question, "Where does God say this?"  The basic
>  question that you have been dancing around is, "How do you know which
>  books of the Bible are in the canon of Scripture?"  This is the question
>  that people here are calling on you to answer.

Yes, John, I know.  And to answer that question meaningfully, we have to do something a little more than provide a sentence response.

I have to admit, in my darker moments, I'm reminded of the constant drumbeat of the Jehovah's Witness:

James:  So, you see, the doctrine of the Trinity is based upon three biblical teachings, monotheism, the....

JW:  Just show me where the term Trinity appears in the Bible.

James:  Well, the term doesn't appear in the Bible, but as I was saying, it is based upon three biblical teachings, monotheism, the existence of three divine Persons, and....

JW:  See, you can't show me the Trinity from the Bible.  This is just a dodge.

James:  I'm trying to explain to you that if you take all the Bible says about the subject, you are forced to recognize the doctrine of the Trinity.  Now, like I was saying, you have three biblical doctrines, mono.....

JW:  Just show me where the Trinity is in the Bible.

etc. and etc.

It would be easy (if rather unfulfilling on an epistemological level) to say, "Hey, Mr. Jehovah's Witness, you believe in the Trinity because the Pope says to, OK?"  But my unofficial patron saint, Athanasius, didn't do it that way (for some strange reason), and neither do I.

In the same way, you can ask a question that *assumes* a half dozen things (as Mark's question does), but unless you have the patience to allow a foundation to be laid, why ask the question at all?

In a message dated 97-03-10 15:06:32 EST, you write: 

> I said your answer, which includes the wonderfully simple concept of "Sacred
>  Tradition," is invalid and self-contradictory.  Tell me, Mark, plain and
>  simple now: how do you know what is, and what is not, Sacred Tradition?

>      I already told you in my first post.  By the teaching of the
>      Church, whose life blood *is* the Tradition.

>  Let me venture a guess: Rome tells you.

>      No.  Not just Rome.  The whole Catholic Church in union with the
>      bishops and Peter.  You do recall my quote from Augustine in _By
>      What Authority_ "I would not believe the gospel myself did not the
>      authority of the Catholic Church convince me to do so."  The
>      Catholic Church is more than the bishop of Rome.

You believe things, Mark, that are uniquely Roman, and you do so because Rome teaches it, not because the "whole Catholic Church" does so.  I am quite familiar with Augustine's quote (ever read Calvin's discussion of the passage?), but that doesn't change the fact that when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty, it is *Rome's* definition of ST that is final with you, correct?  So let's be very specific here: when you speak of Sacred Tradition, you speak of it as it is finally determined and defined by the Roman Catholic Church, and specifically, by the Roman Catholic Church as she speaks through the Vicar of Christ on earth, the successor of Peter, the bishop of Rome, correct?

Now, I wrote you a pretty long post this morning.  It contained a lot of discussion of the very issue you keep saying I *won't* get around to.  Now its possible that you fired off this one response to the first part, and will get to the rest later.  I do the same thing.  But, *just in case,* I remind you of what else I said:

So, Sacred Tradition his what Rome defines as Sacred Tradition.  Is there an external means of verifying Rome's claim?  Nope, since she's infallible.  So, Rome defines ST, and, by this, also defines Scripture.

Let's follow this a bit further, Mark: who *interprets* ST?  Isn't it Rome?  Infallibly, no less.  And who *interprets* the Scriptures?  I hardly need to cite Trent of VII for that one: Rome.

So let's see: Rome defines, and interprets, ST; Rome defines, and interprets, Scripture. 

Hence, it *looks* like Rome is your ultimate authority in all matters religious, and seemingly, epistemological as well.

So I guess you agree with Karl Keating's statement:

          The Catholic believes in inspiration because the Church tells him so---that is putting it bluntly---and that same Church has the authority to interpret the inspired text.  [_Catholicism and Fundamentalism_, p. 127]

Now, if we haven't jumped the track anywhere along the line, it seems your position then is "I know the canon of Scripture infallibly because Rome tells me what it is."  Now, *most* folks immediately notice something: that really doesn't answer the question.  It *assumes* Rome has the ability to *infallibly* provide such certainty.  That is hardly a given, Mark.  And on a simple epistemological basis, what you've done is move the ultimate question about ultimate authorities back one whole step: the Protestant invests the Scriptures with ultimate authority; you invest the Church with that ultimate authority, so that you can then allow the Church to define the canon for you.  However, you are left answering the same question: why is *this* your ultimate authority? 

Ultimate authorities are peculiar things, Mark: they are not liable to validation by a higher source.  That's why they are ultimate authorities.  Oh, you may provide arguments that support the claim of source X being ultimate, but none of those arguments can provide a *guarantee* of that ultimate authority, since if they did, then the argument itself would become the ultimate authority.

Now, the Protestant says that which is theopneustos is his or her ultimate authority.  That's a pretty safe assertion: God's speaking is about as high an authority as you can find.  But when you ask "how do you know?" you are melding two very distinct issues into one question: 1) what is the authority of God's speaking, and can external arguments be provided to guarantee the truthfulness of what God says? and 2) how do *I* come to knowledge of what is theopneustos?

The two issues are quite distinct.  God's authority is supreme simply because God is God; my *knowledge* of God's authority is limited and fallible because *I* am limited and fallible.  The Protestant owns up to the difficulties of directly encountering God's truth: that's what lies behind Sproul's statement about the canon.  Unfortunately, Mark, I don't get the faintest hint from what you have said that you have really tried to enter into Sproul's position so as to understand it, and why it doesn't mean what you THINK it means.

Now, let me make something real clear here, Mark: every question you can throw at the Protestant position regarding Scripture, I can throw at the Roman position regarding the Church's authority.  You haven't accomplished anything by giving up your personal responsibility to a hierarchy that claims infallible authority.  Your decision to do that was a fallible one itself.

But let I get too wordy here, let's see if we can agree on *something.*  Let's make a helpful distinction regarding the canon.

          Canon1 = the canon as created by the action of God in inspiration

          Canon2 = the canon as recognized and known by men

Let's not get too ambitious here, but can we agree that Canon1 is determined solely and completely by God?  That is, God created the canon, not as a seperate entity, but simply by choosing to inspire SOME but not ALL written books.  Think we can agree on that fundamental assertion?  If so, then maybe we can move on from there.

In a message dated 97-03-10 17:42:37 EST, you write:

>     I am, of course, confident that you will publically apologize for
>      accusing me of cheap debating tricks (as I am likewise confident
>      that you will publically apologize for calling me a liar in your
>      other post, now that you understand what your claims concerning my
>      supposed double standard in calling you anti-Catholic clearly
>      implies to all speakers of English).

>      Consider forgiveness yours.  You have only to appropriate for
>      yourself by a public apology.

>      Then, no more shilly-shallying.  Tell me how you can tell what is
>      inspired Scripture?

>      It's a straight question.  Give me a straight answer.

< chuckle >  You *really* don't want this discussed in-depth, do you?

I've never seen anyone invest more energy into obscuring the issues, Mark, I really haven't.  Nor have I found anyone so quick to take offense, so intent upon finding an insult behind every verb.

I didn't call you an anti-Protestant; you've done nothing but throw sand in the air to obscure that rather simple and plain fact.  But like I said, I'm not going to pursue it----you must have a really good reason for *wanting* to think I called you that, and I'm not disposed to probing into your psyche to find out why.

Despite your best efforts, we are getting into the issue now, Mark, in case you didn't notice.  I'm looking forward to your responses regarding the nature of the canon, etc.

In a message dated 97-03-10 17:44:16 EST, you write:

> > Why?  God worked with the Jewish people for 200-400 years in bringing about
>  > the OT canon.  Why not the New?  The simple fact of the matter is, sola
>  > scriptura is NOT dependent upon having a "golden index."
>  
>  How did God work with them James? Not through Scripture! 

Dan, if I recall correctly, you indicated you are a fairly new convert to Roman Catholicism.  Assuming you were like most Protestants, you probably never gave much thought to the issue of the canon, right? 

A few points (I'm not the first to make them: others have already pointed some of these out):

1)  It is a straw-man to say Protestants say the canon is "in" Scripture, as in an inspired table-of-contents or something.  At its root, sola scriptura speaks to ultimate authorities, and canon is a side-issue (though one that some like to make the *main* issue).

2)  The canon considered in and of itself is the result of what God did in inspiring *some* books, and not inspiring *other* books.  The canon, considered in its most basic and fundamental sense, is the *unavoidable* result of particular inspiration.  As soon as God said "I'm going to inspire *some* books," the canon came into existence.

3)  Please note, Dan, that the canon, in this sense, pre-existed *man.*  That is, since it was eternally God's purpose to inspire a certain number of books, and not *all* books, then it follows that even before there was a man on the planet, the canon existed in the mind of God.  And, what is important to remember, it did not depend upon men *knowing* it for its existence.  If no man on earth knew the canon, it would still exist.

4)  God's knowledge of the canon is perfect because God determined it.  "God is the author of the canon" is a fundamentally true statement.

Now, Dan, Protestants believe that God led His people---both the people of Israel (in reference to the OT canon) and the Church (in reference to the NT canon) to *recognize* what He Himself had done in inspiration.  Please note that the word "recognize" is to be taken in a passive sense: that is, the people of God are not invested with some power or ability to *define* the canon, as that is done by God's act of inspiration.  Instead, as the obedient people of God, they recognize the voice of God speaking in His Scriptures.  It was a gradual process----not overly miraculous in tone, either.  No angels from heaven with golden indexes, just the long-term guidance of the people of God.  With the OT, the process started producing results in about 200 years, and was pretty much over with in 400.  Interestingly, the same is true with the NT: we find the Muratorian canon about AD 187, and see the process pretty much coming to completion by the end of the fourth century.

Now, for some reason, people want to say that unless the canon is a revelation itself that exists outside of Scripture, then sola scriptura isn't true.  You may note a rather large logical disjunction there: sola scriptura refers to the fact that Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the Church.  Why is it infallible?  Because it is divine in origin.  Well, someone says, that's fine and dandy, but without an infallible table of contents, you are up a creek without a paddle.  Possibly---I'd like to discuss that some more and see if that charge really sticks.*  But for now, I wish to point out that the real assertion is, "Unless I have infallible knowledge of a by-product of God's revelation, then His revelation is not useful, nor can it be bound upon anyone's conscience." 

You see, Dan, right there is where I find a huge "rub"----that is, the nice, neat little argument runs smack dab into the wall known as "history and reality."  That is, if that statement is true, then from the days of Moses till 1546, Scripture was a useless appendage!  No one could be held accountable to Scripture until the Council of Trent provided an "infallible" definition of the canon.  Now really, Dan, think about it---does that make any sense?

I asked someone else, but I'll ask you now: how did a believing Jewish man know that Isaiah and 2 Chronicles were Scripture in the year AD 50?

*BTW: do you have an infallibly defined, completed, easily obtainable "canon" of Sacred Tradition?  If not, do you still hold people accountable to ST?  If so, how?

In a message dated 97-03-10 18:43:33 EST, you write:

>     You said I applied a double standard in calling you
>      "anti-Catholic".  This, being translated, means "If you call me
>      anti-Catholic, Mark, then why don't you call yourself
>      anti-Protestant?" or, in short, "You are anti-Protestant, Mark."
>      I say Protestants are Christian.  You say Catholics are not.

>      Let the reader judge.

Wow, indeed, let the reader judge.  In fact, let the reader go back, read what I've posted, and try to follow the logic that goes into that position.  It's amazing.   

>  Mark, since you didn't bother to address in your book the fundamental beliefs
>  Protestants present on the issue of Scripture, authority, canon, and the
>  rest, I'm going to lay those foundations, if you don't mind.

>      I tingle with anticipation, James.

Thanks, Mark.  I love to make you tingle.  :)

>      I presume that somewhere in
>      all of that, you will tell us how you know what inspired Scripture
>      is?  That was the question at the heart of my book. 

You know, Mark, some would say that if you were taking the time to read what I've posted, even to others, you would already have your answer. 

>      It is the
>      question you have thus far refused to answer.  I would appreciate
>      you doing so and not wasting more time on my deeply flawed and
>      sinful personality.  God knows you are right about me, I am
>      more wretched than you can dream of, but it doesn't answer my
>      question (though I have answered yours).

Your ability at self-effacement and sarcasm puts me in awe!  Do you practice this, or is it just a natural kind of thing?  :)

You say you've answered my questions.  In a sense you have---though, without allowing for more in-depth definition of your terms and the like.  It's an easy answer, just like Keating's statement: "I know Scripture is inspired because the Church tells me so!"  That's your answer all right.  But, if you don't mind, I think there's a bit more that needs to be discussed.  I'm one of those folks that goes, "Well, that may work for you, but it doesn't quite cut it for me."  The same Church you say tells you what is, and what is not, Scripture, used to hand out indulgences for money, and engaged in the murder of believing Christians for a number of centuries, so those facts alone make me just a bit hesitant to immediately jump on the bandwagon.  Besides, as I've pointed out, Mark, all you've done is move the real question back one step: how do you know the Church is infallible so as to be able to give infallible witness to the canon?

In a message dated 97-03-11 02:10:34 EST, you write:

> Unless God spoke directly to YOU, and told you which books belong to the canon,
>  this would have to be your postion too.

Well, no, Theresa, since 1) I don't claim direct revelation, and 2) I don't believe my knowledge of the canon is mediated to me by Rome.  Hence, there is a third alternative.

>  Because  even after the last apostle
>  had been dead for 300 years, the Council of Rome, included * all* the right
>  books and *only* the right books in the New Testament canon. HOW did they do
>  that? Luck?

You might want to look at little closer at the alleged "Council of Rome."

>  They did it by testing the various books  and letters  against oral
>  apostolic * tradition* as it was handed on and practiced from apostolic
>  times. This entire process was guided by God, who is infallible. So, if God
>  used the Catholic Church to infallibly declare the cannon, then he can use
>  the Church to declare other infallible truths as well.

Could you provide me with a quotation from the first four centuries that says what you said above, specifically?

>  The Church is Christ's bride, she knows her husband's voice when she hears
> it.

I agree a thousand percent---in fact, that's *my* argument.  The bride doesn't have to be infallible to hear the voice of her Husband.

>    Now, *most* folks immediately notice something: that really
>  >doesn't answer the question.  It *assumes* Rome has the ability to
>  >*infallibly* provide such certainty.

>  If you, James, had to determine what was to be included in the canon, how
>  would you do it? How would you go about sifting through all  the letters and
>  books in circulation at that time to arrive at the cannon we now have? What
>  would be your criteria? What resouces would you use? Who would you consult?
>  Since you do not believe that any man or any Church is gifted by God with
>  the charism of infallibility, could you then declare your final decision to
>  be absolutely final and infallible?

Since I don't claim infallibility, either for the church, or for myself, Theresa, I can't answer that question.  I claim infallibility only for God's Word, not for my knowledge of them. 

The fact remains, however, that claiming Rome gives you this infallible knowledge involves nothing more than moving the epistemological question back one single step.  That doesn't solve the problem.

>  If you can't then....we are all in a big mess are'nt we? Somebody's got to
>  be the infallible interpreter of the infallible book  That somebody is Rome, who
>  put the book together in the first place.

Whenever I hear someone laud Rome in that way, I remember Psalm 119:89, and wonder, "How did that believing Jew know that a thousand years before any man sat in Rome and allowed himself to be called the Vicar of Christ?"

>        Whence, is this doctrine?  Does it come from the authority of the
        Lord and of the Gospel, or does it come from the commands and
        epistles of the apostles?  For that those things must be done which
        are written God testifies and commands when He says to Joshua: `The
        book of this law shall not depart out of your mouth, that you may
        observe to do all things which are written.'  If therefore it is
        either commanded in the Gospel or contained in the epistles and the
        Acts, then also this sacred doctrine must be observed (Cyprian, Ad Pompeium).

In the previous two installments I've looked briefly at the nature of Scripture (it is theopneustos) and at the superiority of Scripture to tradition, even when that tradition is said to be divine by its proponents (Matthew 15:1-9).  Indeed, we looked as well at the fact that for the Lord Jesus, Scripture was "God speaking."  We saw this in Matthew 22:31ff.  I'd like to expand on something important that comes from this passage.

I truly do not believe anyone can argue that the Lord Jesus did not hold men accountable to the Scriptures.  Surely He upbraided even the religious leaders for their hard-heartedness and their ignorance of the Scriptures.  But let me ask everyone: how could He do this?  What I mean is this: it has been alleged, in various ways, that unless you have an *infallible* knowledge of the canon, provided by an infallible source (i.e., the Church, which, in turn, claims to be deriving this from ST), you can't have *any* meaningful knowledge of the canon, hence, SS is not a valid belief.  Now, it would follow, logically, that the Jewish believer could not possibly be bound to Scriptural authority.  Why?  Because he had no "infallible authority" to look to on canon issues.  Yet, the Lord Jesus held men accountable anyway.  How can this be?

Well, some folks have said that the Jews *did* have an infallible authority, an "OT Magisterium."  Yet, I find insuperable problems here.  1)  The canon produced by the Jewish people themselves differs from that used by Rome, leading to a conflict between two allegedly infallible sources.  2)  The Lord Jesus specifically denounced traditions that were touted by this same "OT Magisterium" (such as the Corban rule) as being void and contradictory to God's commands.  Hence, any person presenting the "infallible OT Magisterium" argument has to then find an infallible means of determing what elements of Jewish teaching are actually taught by this "Magisterium."   A sticky postion indeed that basically reduces to a lot of wishful thinking. 

Basically, you don't have an infallible hierarchical organization prior to the time of Christ to look to for canonical knowledge.  You have a *fallible* group of godly men, to be sure, but not an *infallible* one.  What's more, while some of the Jews claimed an oral tradition from Moses (as in Tractate Aboth), we well know that *if* such a tradition ever existed, it was hopelessly corrupted by the time of Christ, at the very least, for it included all sorts of traditions denounced by the Lord.

So, how can the Lord Jesus bind the consciences of men to Scripture without such an infallible source of canonical revelation?  I'd like to suggest that the question is flawed (indeed---the question that everyone keeps asking me is flawed in the same way).  The question assumes something that is in error, and it's this:

To be held accountable to Scripture, one must have infallible knowledge of the canon.

There's the problem: men don't have infallible knowledge of things.  Example: the Trinity.  I have a pretty good understanding of the Trinity.  I've defended this basic doctrine for many years, and have read extensively on the subject, both in modern theological works, and in patristic sources.  Yet, I do not have an *infallible* knowledge of the subject.  I question the wisdom (or honesty) of any person who claims to have such knowledge in this life of the Trinity.

Now, let me ask everyone: if I do not have an *infallible* knowledge of the Trinity, is it still fair to call me a Trinitarian?  I sure hope so.  I have, I believe, a *sufficient* knowledge of the Trinity, but I do not have an *infallible* knowledge of it.  Yet, I'm a Trinitarian.

In a message dated 97-03-11 17:15:22 EST, you write:

> You believe things, Mark, that are uniquely Roman, and you do so because Rome
>  teaches it, not because the "whole Catholic Church" does so.

>      In disputed matters, yes, I do remain with Peter.  But as my book
>      points out, I came to this by observing the behavior of the whole
>      Church.  I still regard the Church as a Body, not as the Pope.

I'll leave the issue of whether the bishop of Rome is, in fact, the successor of Peter for another day, another time, another place, whatever.  For now, let me ask: when you say, "I do remain with Peter," does it not logically follow that, when it comes to any disputed point, you bow to the authority of the bishop of Rome as the Vicar of Christ on earth, the universal Pastor of all Christians?  Do you not agree with Vatican II that the Church "subsists" in Rome, and that to the Roman Catholic Church has been entrusted the task of authentically interpreting the Scriptures?  And is it not true that on dogmatic issues such as Papal Infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, and the Bodily Assumption of Mary, you believe these to be divinely revealed truths, dogmas of the Christian faith, and necessary for sound and true faith? 

Now, I ask these questions, Mark, to provide substantiation for the statements I have made previously: that is, that Rome, in your view, has the authority to teach infallibly because Rome, par excellence, is the keeper of ST, is she not?

>        I am quite
>  familiar with Augustine's quote (ever read Calvin's discussion of the
>  passage?), but that doesn't change the fact that when it comes right down to
>  the nitty-gritty, it is *Rome's* definition of ST that is final with you,
>  correct?

>      The overwhelming majority of ST is not defined.

A very fascinating statement---not in the sense of disagreement, but in what the statement *means.*  I think we can see just how nebulous "ST" is when we ponder what it means that the "overwhelming majority of ST is not defined."  I would love to pursue this some more, for I truly do wish to know how people can give so much authority to ST when, in point of fact, nobody knows for certain what it is (one thing is for sure---I have a whole lot better and clearer idea of what the canon of Scripture is than you do the canon of ST!), but that may be outside the parameters of the current discussion at the moment.  Maybe when we both have lots of free time.  (Yeah, like that will happen any time soon!).

>      However, when the
>      ocassional dispute comes up and the Church cannot reach consensus,
>      I remain with Peter.  It seems to me to be the biblical thing to
>      do.  Sometimes Peter sin (like David) and sometimes he screws up
>      or holds an opinion which I do not (like concerning the justice of
>      the Gulf War).

I'm sorry, you lost me with the Gulf War.  I'm obviously missing an inside comment there. 

>      I do not break communion with him though.  And
>      when he compels assent to some point of faith (an exceedingly rare
>      event), I intend, by the grace of God, to give it.  It seems to me
>      that I ought to do so, based on Scripture and Tradition and the
>      testimony of the saints.
 

Well, again, leaving off the personification of Peter in the bishop of Rome, and the historical problems with such a viewpoint, does it not follow that *ultimately* your source for "infallible knowledge" of such things as the canon is found in the infallibility of the Church of Rome as the Mother of all churches?

>        So let's be very specific here: when you speak of Sacred Tradition,
>  you speak of it as it is finally determined and defined by the Roman Catholic
>  Church, and specifically, by the Roman Catholic Church as she speaks through
>  the Vicar of Christ on earth, the successor of Peter, the bishop of Rome,
>  correct?

>      This is a very reductionist way of putting it.  I repeat myself
>      in a different metaphor:

>      I believe truth is symphonic.  The Church, the whole Church, sings
>      the gospel.  Sometimes there is discord (or dischord, if you
>      will).  Most of the time the Church finds the right notes and gets
>      back on key itself.  Sometimes a conductor is necessary to help
>      the Church find the right notes.  The tradition is held
>      collegially, but when collegiality is just not functioning, then
>      yes, one remains with the conductor whom God has given.

And the infallible knowledge you claim to have of the canon, to get us back to the beginning, is found not collegially (since I can provide lots and lots of quotes demonstrating viewpoints other than that expressed at Trent) but in following this "conductor" who is, in fact, personifying the Church at Rome, right? 

>        Is there an
>  external means of verifying Rome's claim?

>      How about the Tradition, the bishops, and the witness of the Body
>      of Christ through the ages?

I really hope we can dig into this response, Mark.  Who interprets "Tradition"?  Recently, here on the list, Theresa rebuked me for even daring to suggest that Augustine might have held viewpoints not exactly in line with modern Roman Catholic dogma.  I was told that not only is "private interpretation" of the Scriptures not allowed, but neither is "private interpretation" of the patristic sources!  So, who, finally, interprets "Tradition"?  I'm reminded of the words attributed to Pius IX at Vatican I, "I am the tradition."  When you say the bishops, how do the "bishops" express any binding testimony outside the infallibility of the Roman curia?  Who interprets the wishes of the bishops infallibly?  And while the phrase "the witness of the Body of Christ through the ages" *sounds* very nice, what does it mean *functionally*?  Many people I know define ST as just that: the witness of the Body of Christ through the ages.  But that only brings us back to square one again, for who interprets THAT?  In the final analysis, Rome, again.

So, I have to ask again: is there *really* an external means of verifying Rome's claim?  You and I aren't up to it as individuals (or so it is said); you can't say, "Well, Rome has historically misread the Tradition of the Church at this point."  Or can you say that?  I truly wish to know.

>      It was not Rome alone, but Trent which defined Scripture
>      dogmatically.  Before this, as my book and Deacon Ed have point
>      out, it was held by the sensus fidelium and determined by what
>      various communities used in their liturgies and believed to be
>      according to the Holy Faith.  This looks to me a lot like Sacred
>      Tradition.

If Trent had taken a different view of the deuterocanonicals, say the one of Athanasius or Jerome of Melito of Sardis or Gregory the Great or Cardinal Cajetan, would you not today, likewise, be saying that *that* canon was held by the "sensus fidelium"?  Or, to put it another way, wouldn't you agree with me that I could muster FAR more patristic support for *rejecting* the deuterocanonicals than you can from the same time period for substantiating the Bodily Assumption of Mary?  If one is ST, why isn't the other ST?  See, Mark, it seems to me that one is ST and the other is heresy simply because Rome, speaking at Trent (the control of both Trent and Vatican I by the Papacy is well known and documented), *said so.*  Sola ecclesia again.

>  So let's see: Rome defines, and interprets, ST; Rome defines, and interprets,
>  Scripture.

>      No, James.  The Body of Christ, in union with the bishops and
>      Peter does so under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This is the
>      Catholic claim.

Yes, it is the Catholic claim.  But in this claim, only one voice speaks infallibly and finally: Rome's.  On disputed points, Rome's word is final, is it not?

Mark Shea was saying:

>      It, like all points of supernatural revelation
>      cannot, as St. Thomas tells us, be proven.  But all arguments
>      against it can be rebutted.  I did not come to believe the
>      Catholic claim because I could prove it, any more than I came to
>      believe in the Trinity because I could prove it.  I came to
>      believe it because, in light of it, everything else made sense.

Mark, I believe in the Trinity because it is a revelation of God, and is inherently true, whether it makes other things "make sense" or not.  I believe in the Trinity because one *must* in order to hold onto everything Scripture says about the nature of God.

But we are getting somewhere here, I think.  It seems you are saying that your view of ST cannot be proven: that this viewpoint, since it forms the ultimate presupposition of your epistemology, is beyond logical proof, for that is the nature of all ultimate presuppositions.  And, if I was correct in the previous post in pointing out that, in the final analysis, every statement you made boiled down to the authority of the Church of Christ *speaking through the Vicar of Christ, the Pope,* then it would seem that indeed you agree with Karl Keating's statement, noted below, that is, that you know the Bible is inspired because the Church tells you so.  It is this position that logically underlies your question, "How do you know which books are inspired and which are not?"  You claim to know, and you know because the Church says so.

Now, it seems to me that your question is meant to cause discomfort for the Protestant in that it makes he or she examine his or her ultimate epistemological presupposition: that God's speaking is, by nature, the ultimate authority.  That when God says, "I am God, and there is no other," the proper question is not, "How can I know if God said this or not?" but rather, "I had better believe and obey."  In fact, in the garden long ago, the first temptation included right along with it the line, "Has God *really* said....?"  The Protestant is in a quandry: if he tries to find an external source of verification for God's own speaking (i.e., that which is theopneustos), he will be making his ultimate authority dependent upon something else---which logically makes that something else his ultimate authority.  So, to maintain logical consistency, the Protestant refuses to go this route, and instead owns up to his or her decision to embrace---directly, without mediation---the authority of God's speaking *on the basis of its inherent nature as theopneustos.*  [Please note, I'm not here even beginning to touch upon the many failures of Protestants to be consistent at this point, and the many times where, unwittingly, they do in fact try to find some external source of verification.  I speak here of the "best" (in my view) of Protestant theology, which is not always the most *popular* form.]

The Protestant, then, makes a decision to invest final and ultimate authority in Scripture as God's speaking, and is willing (or should be willing) to own up to the questions that flow from that choice.  As a fallible human being, I don't try to cover over my fallibility with a cloud of dust or smoke---instead, I own my fallibility, and do my best, by grace and by the Spirit, to grow in Christ and in obedience to God.

The Roman Catholic may well shake his or her head in pity for my plight.  But, in reality, I think the Roman Catholic is in no better position, despite thinking he or she *is*!  You see, while I admit the fallibility of my own decisions, the Roman Catholic *should* likewise admit the fallibility of his or her own decisions as well, even when it comes to final and ultimate authorities.  You see, while it may provide some comfort to say, "I don't have to struggle with canon issues: the Church tells me what to believe about that," such doesn't really relieve you from the possibility of error.  As anyone can see, all you've done is given over your responsibility to struggle in such areas to someone or something else.  And what that means is, you've rolled all the many fallible decisions I as a Protestant has to make into one big, mondo-sized yet FALLIBLE decision: that the Church of Rome can function as your final and ultimate source of authority and certainty.  You can't say your decision to choose Rome over, say, Salt Lake, or Brooklyn, or Mecca, is *infallible.*  *You* made the decision to submit to *one* particular "ultimate authority."  That decision is just as fallible and liable to error as mine.  You can't anymore tell me, infallibly, why you can trust Rome as I can tell you that Esther is canonical.  But, Mark, I'll tell you one thing: I don't have *nearly* as many hurdles to get over in struggling with Esther as you have struggling with Honorius or Liberius or Sixtus or....well, the list goes on.

So, Mark, you see why I can't accept the bare use of your famous question: it begs the issue, is based upon all sorts of other things (mainly, your epistemological presuppositions about Rome's authority), and quite simply, it isn't *fair* to demand an answer of a "loaded" question *without* the full discussion that places the issue in its proper setting.

>      You are aware of the ancient axiom that we understand more noble
>      things less clearly and less noble things more clearly?  Likewise,
>      I cannot see the sun clearly for it is too bright, but I see
>      everything else *by* it.  So with the Tradition.  I did not come
>      to believe the Tradition because I fully understand it (for to do
>      so would be to understand God himself), but because in light of it
>      everything else was illumined.

I admit I struggle with such exalted views of "Tradition."  Did this "Tradition" likewise exist and function in, say, the year AD 345?

>      You say "Rome" defines and interprets Scripture.  My own grasp of
>      things is that the whole Body does so,

Mark, an honest question: is it possible that your "own grasp of things" is in error?  If so, how would you come to know?

>      with the bishops and the
>      Holy Father at the head.  There is an organic unity at work that
>      you are not seeing.  It is, I came to conclude, useless to tell a
>      living Tradition that it does not know its own mind.  It is even
>      more useless to borrow something from that Tradition and then
>      declare the rest of the Tradition false.

I confess I see no organic unity to the *historical* definition of "Tradition," and I see ST, as defined by Rome, as the invention *of* Rome.  Let me offer an example: would you see the dogmatic decrees of Vatican I as an example of ST, or at least an infallible definition of some of the *content* of ST?  If not, the following example will be meaningless, and you can ignore it.  If you do, however, then I have to ask: when Vatican I says that it is the "ancient and constant faith of the universal Church" (secundum antiquam atque constantem universalis Ecclesiae fidem) that the "primacy of jurisdiction over the universal Church of God was immediately and directly promised and given to blessed Peter" and to his successors, the bishops of Rome, how can I identify this as anything but an utter falsehood?  I *know* beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is NOT the universal, or even the ancient, faith of the Church.  This is not *apostolic tradition,* even if you call it "Sacred Tradition."  So how can I do anything other than call this "tradition" false?

I certainly see, Mark, how, once one *accepts* the claims of Rome, and *embraces* her all-encompassing claim to infallibility, the rest just "slips into place."  Once you've accepted the existence of ST (which you can't see, define, or hold Rome accountable to), and Rome's ability to define ST when she deems necessary, all other doctrines will, in time, fall into place.

>  So I guess you agree with Karl Keating's statement:

>            The Catholic believes in inspiration because the Church tells him so
>            ---that is putting it bluntly---and that same Church has the authority
>            to interpret the inspired text.
>            [_Catholicism and Fundamentalism_, p. 127]

>      Sound fair to me.

Well, I thought later, "What's he supposed to do, disagree with the editor of This Rock?  What would happen to Corkscrew and Slimemold??"  :)

>  Now, if we haven't jumped the track anywhere along the line, it seems your
>  position then is "I know the canon of Scripture infallibly because Rome tells
>  me what it is."

>      No the whole Church, in big and little ways, bears witness to the
>      Tradition.

But in the final analysis, Rome's decision is the final one, correct?

>      No.  You are taking a conclusion I have come to and saying that it
>      is an assumption.  As my book makes clear, (chap 9) I ask is the
>      early Church and intelligent and reasonably honest bunch?  I
>      begin, in short, from human premises, since I am, perhaps
>      unfortunately, only human.

Might I suggest that you might have some difficulty reasoning from such general bases to such specific conclusions?

>      Answering that question in the
>      affirmative based, not on divine insights, but on such human
>      resources as I have, I then pass on to the next inference.
>      Namely, if they are honest and intelligent (and the evidence is
>      good that they are) then the tradition they hand on, both written
>      and unwritten, is credible.  Part of that tradition includes
>      Scripture which says things like "Jesus is the Son of God who told
>      the apostles 'He who listens to me listens to you' and 'I will
>      guide you into all truth and never leave or forsake you.'  Another
>      part of that Tradition (borne witness to in the NT and by
>      subsequent patristic testimony) is that the apostles handed down
>      both Scripture and a nascent episcopal structure in union with a
>      Church called the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth.  And so,
>      grace building on nature I come to the conclusion that the Church
>      is a human community (as Jesus is a human being) that is vastly
>      more than a human community (as Jesus is vastly more than a human
>      being) and that, by Jesus' promise, I can trust that he won't let
>      that community define error as dogma.  I can also coincidently
>      trust that the Scripture which they hold up as the trustworthy
>      written info about Jesus is trustworthy indeed.

And Robert Funk will accept this?  :)  No, he won't.  But since I've about worn out my keyboard this afternoon, I'll try to be brief.  When you say the "early Church," who are you talking about?  You see, you have to pick and choose right from the start.  Take Tertullian for example: you can only buy into half his stuff because of his later Montanism.  Or even earlier with something like Barnabus---considered canonical by many in Rome for a long time, I might add!---there's all sorts of stuff in some of these books and writers that is just simply goofy.  Even someone as sharp as Irenaeus thought Jesus was over 50 years old.  Is this "tradition" or "Tradition"?  Who is to say?  In the final analysis, Rome says, and Rome picks and chooses what elements of the historical data will be defined as "tradition" or "Tradition" and which ones won't.

I, too, see Jesus founding a Church, a Church which is likewise the pillar and foundation of the truth.  But I also find that church torn by strife inside and out *from the days of the apostles onward,* and I find the same man who wrote the phrase "pillar and foundation" warning that ravenous wolves would enter *into* the church, not sparing the flock (for more on this, see my response to an argument on infallibility at www.aomin.org/Roman.html).  So I find an apostolic succession of *truth* to be far more comforting than an apostolic succession of *geneaology.*  That is, I think the person who speaks the message the apostles spoke is in a far better position than one who *claims* descent from them, but who does not preach the same message they did.

Well, there was a bit more, but I don't want to wear out my welcome.

In a message dated 97-03-12 09:53:30 EST, you write:

> So, Mark, you see why I can't accept the bare use of your famous question: it
>  > begs the issue, is based upon all sorts of other things (mainly, your
>  > epistemological presuppositions about Rome's authority), and quite simply, it
>  > isn't *fair* to demand an answer of a "loaded" question without* the full
>  > discussion that places the issue in its proper setting.

>  Now we are getting somewhere James! You have finally admitted that you,
> yourself, are your ultimate  
>  authority (Not Scripture) and that you, in your ultimate authority, have
> decided to place your faith in  
>  James White's ability to make judgments in matters of faith and morals.

< deep sigh >  No, Dan, I never said any such thing.

Ultimate authority for me:  that which is theopneustos.  My choice is to hold to that ultimate authority, period.
Ultimate authority for RC:  ST, defined and proclaimed by Rome; since no definition of ST is available, in practice, the ultimate authority becomes the ecclesia itself, Rome.

Sola scriptura vs. sola ecclesia.

I do not disown my fallibility.  Instead, I point out that passing off the same ultimate choice I have made to someone else is, itself, a fallible choice.  We both have made our choices: I choose that which is God's speaking, period.  You choose that which is "the Church speaking."  I have to answer questions about not having an infallible canon.  You have to answer questions about why Rome is infallible so as to give you an infallible canon.  As I have said a dozen times now, all you've done is move the ultimate epistemological question back *one* step, nothing more. 


> In  making those judgements  
>  you will  rely not solely on Scripture but also upon what you pick and
> choose as truthful from the  
>  writings of the Fathers and other Christians down through time.

Just as Rome, over time, has done as well: picking and choosing what, out of history, she will accept as ST, and what she will reject.  Same process, one major difference: I can change my mind and admit error: Rome can't, due to the claim of infallibility.

>  This differs from Catholics in that we also acknowledge that we are our own
> ultimate authority as far as  
>  choosing where to place our faith in deciding matters of faith and morals.
> Instead of placing our faith in  
>  ourselves we have chosen to place our faith in the Roman Catholic Church.

Quite true: you have turned over your responsibility in making these final decisions to a hierarchy that claims the ability to provide you with infallible assurance.

>  Now you should spare us another long-winded treatise based upon your
> interpretations and get to the  
>  core of the issue.

Might I suggest you should consider being a little more kind in your terminology?

> Why is placing trust in yourself on matters of faith and
> morals more reasonable and  
>  likely to lead to proper  decisions than looking to the Catholic Church fo
> guidance?

Correction: I have not placed my trust in myself, I have placed my trust in the Scriptures.  Please at least *hear* what is being said.

>  The standard by  
>  which to judge this decision would be consistency because God is immutable.

One cannot speak of truth without using the word "consistency," most definitely.

> As we struggle to  
>  understand revelation the only thing that we can look at without having to
> subject it to our own  
>  interpretation  what is true is consistency.

I do not disown the responsibility of interpreting that which God has revealed.  The Scripture commands us to "test all things," to look to the Scriptures, and to rightly handle the word of truth.  There is no command (despite the oft misused passage in Peter) against believers directly encountering, and interpreting, the Scriptures.

> If some candidate for authority
> has changed it's teaching on  
>  a matter of faith or morals that candidate has proven itself to fail against
> the criteria of God's immutability.  

Insert the term "infallible" before "authority," and I'll agree with you wholeheartedly, and I'll cite it as one of the main reasons I am not a Roman Catholic.

>  I submit that the Catholic Church has never changed (altered from one
> essential thing to another - not  
>  developed and clarified) its teaching on any matter of faith or morals. 

And I will say you are in error.  I can go to history to discuss this----you can't, since, in the ultimate scheme of things, you can't test Rome's claims separate from your commitment to her.  That is, if I point out the condemnation of Honorius as an example, you *have* to interpret the historical data in light of what Rome commands you to do.  Rome can't be wrong, so, Rome can't be wrong!  If I point out to you the glaring contradiction between the 4th Lateran Council and Vatican II, again, these facts *can't* mean what they *look* like they mean because, again, Rome is infallible, and you must interpret facts in the light of that assumption.

> This the Church claims and this I  
>  believe. I also proclaijm that if the Chruch can be proven to have changed
> in these matters then the  
>  Church is proven to be a false claimant and I would no longer be a Catholic.
> So, you task should be  
>  simple and not require a bunch of long-winded, pseudo scholarly elaboration.

You *really* need an attitude adjustment, Dan: if you would like to prove I am a pseudo-scholar, I will await your rebuttals of my published works.
 

In a message dated 97-03-13 14:52:27 EST, you write: 

>    James requests a refresher on when exactly he said Catholics are
>      not Christian.  James, of course, knows that he wrote this:

>  I am not saying that there are no professing Roman Catholics who
>  are save d, nor that there are not Roman Catholic leaders who do
>  not embrace God's grace in a saving manner.  I speak of the
>  official teachings of Rome, enshrined in her creeds, encyclicals,
>  and conciliar documents, when I speak of Rome's "teachings."

>      and he may even recall that I wrote this reply:

>      <snip>

>      Let me redefine the question:  Is one who fully believes in the
>      truth claims of the Catholic Faith (me, f'rinstance) a Christian?
>      Your answer boils down to saying "Catholics are Christian insofar
>      as they repudiate the Catholic Faith."  This seems very much like
>      saying "Catholics aren't Christian."

You know what, Mark, I think I'll be done with this thread soon, too.  Mainly because I can't get you to be honest in representing almost *anything* I say.  Your wonderful little editing always gives you a way to avoid the weight of anything I say.  For example, you just said I asked for a little refresher.  Yet, the archives say otherwise:

> 1) I am all in favor of discussing any issues you like, but how long do you
>  intend to go on asking James White to explain his rational for Sola
>  Scriptura when it is obvious he does not want to?

>      As long as he want to use it as the basis for claiming that
>      Catholics are not Christian.

YOU said I use SS as "the basis for claiming that Catholics are not Christian."  I asked you to show me WHERE I ever said that.  You didn't do that; instead, you snipped your comment out, so that no one could see what I was responding to, misrepresented what I said, and then went on from there to blow more smoke and again do your best to inflame emotions in this list.  I could provide so many examples of how you have done this in only about a week or so that it's just slightly less than amazing.

I congratulate you on doing very well in "defending" your "home turf," so to speak.  That is obviously how you see yourself and this encounter.  It's a shame, but there's little I can do about it.

I will respond to your last long missive over the next few days, possibly even today, though time is running short.  One thing is for sure: this brief interchange will be most helpful in writing a response to your book.

In a message dated 97-03-12 23:50:30 EST, you write:

> Mark, I believe in the Trinity because it is a revelation of God, and is
>  inherently true, whether it makes other things "make sense" or not.  I
>  believe in the Trinity because one *must* in order to hold onto everything
>  Scripture says about the nature of God.

>      Arius felt very differently.  And his views were dealt with
>      by what authority?  Certainly not by Scripture alone.

At this very point, Mark, you err badly.  How, indeed, was Arius and Arianism defeated?  By councils and the Roman Pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth?  Certainly not.  In point of fact, Arianism was defeated for one simple reason: it was untrue.  Nicea was victorious not because the Pope said it would be---indeed, Liberius gave in under Imperial pressure and signed the Arianized Sirmium Creed---but because what it said about Christ was *true to Scripture.*  This is why Arianism was defeated: not because of ST, not because of Magisteriums, but because the truth of God is eternal, and is sufficiently clear in His Word to be known by those whose hearts are sensitive enough to listen.

I'll tell you what, Mark: though you've snipped every single one of these questions out of your posts and ignored them, I'll ask anyway: show me where Athanasius pointed to ST as defined by an infallible Roman magisterium in defending Nicea and the deity of Christ.  You should be able to find dozens of such references, *if* your position is true.  I can point out *dozens* of passages where Athanasius argues *as I argue* against Arianism, but I can't find a one where he argues like YOU.  And the amazing thing is, Athanasius managed to stand firm against Arianism not only without an infallible Pope, but without a canon, too!  How in the world did he do it?  Same way I do, actually.

>      One is hard
>      pressed on the basis of Scripture alone to discover dogmatic
>      certainty concerning the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Really, Mark?  I have no problems at all.  So the Scriptures are really that muddled and unclear that you can't come up with sufficiently clear testimony to the deity of the Holy Spirit?  Acts 5 isn't enough for you, nor Acts 13, nor 1 Corinthians 12, etc.?  I see.  I guess God mumbled alot when inspiring the Scriptures.

You see, here you provide the classic Roman argument against the sufficiency of Scripture.  Keating makes the same allegation in his own works.  Yet, the early Fathers who argued these points somehow went to Scripture themselves and managed to make a go of it---and without an infallible canon then, too!  How did they do it? 

>      Apart from
>      viewing Scripture through the lens of Sacred Tradition, Scripture
>      is rather fuzzy on this and can be read several different way (as
>      patristic period literature itself attests).

Ah, that great lens of Sacred Tradition----your ultimate epistemological presupposition which colors everything else.  So thick is that lens in your eye, Mark, that you can see circles as lines, and lines as circles.  And no amount of data on the page in front of you can help you to see that you are arguing in a very *small* circle, all the while saying you aren't.  I don't want your lens, Mark.  You can keep your ST glasses.  I prefer this one:

         (Psa 119:18)  Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.

The Psalmist does not pray, "Oh place the lens of Sacred Tradition in my eye that I might be able to make out truth from the blurry, fuzzy mess that is Sacred Scripture."  Thet "Wonderful things" are right there in God's law: it's spiritual insight that is needed, not Roman authority.

>      I agree the Trinity
>      is revealed (even though it is a development of doctrine).

The Trinity is revealed in the Incarnation: the NT is the record of its revelation.  Creedal precision is a development based upon Scripture, not ST.

>      In
>      exactly the same way, I think the Immaculate Conception and all
>      the other developments of doctrine in the Catholic communion are
>      revealed (even thought they too are later developments).

Not even an iota of similarity, of course.

>      What I
>      can't for the life of me understand is why the Trinitarian
>      developments are good while the others are bad and contrary to
>      Scripture and of such gravity that they actually make the Catholic
>      communion non-Christian.  I daresay Arius said the same of the
>      post-Nicaea Church.

< chuckle >  The Trinity is a revealed doctrine, based upon the broadest, deepest testimony of Scripture one can imagine.  One can trace it to the most primitive of Christian writers after the Apostles.  In contrast, Roman dogmas like the Immaculate Conception, Bodily Assumption, Papal Infallibility, indulgences, and the like, find no testimony in Scripture *whatsoever,* and are unknown in the very same documents I can point to in the post-apostolic period that testify to Trinitarian doctrine.  And as for Arius, your church history needs some brushing up.  Arius liked the post-Nicene Church, since it became Arian quite quickly.  Haven't you ever read Jerome's statement, concerning that dark period of Arian ascendancy following Nicea?  He described it as a time when "the whole world groaned and was astonished to find itself Arian" (Adversus Luciferianus, 19).

>  But we are getting somewhere here, I think.  It seems you are saying that
>  your view of ST cannot be proven: that this viewpoint, since it forms the
>  ultimate presupposition of your epistemology, is beyond logical proof, for
>  that is the nature of all ultimate presuppositions.

>      It is not a presupposition.  It is a conclusion.  God is the
>      source of all authority.  He cannot be grasped by the human mind.
>      It does not follow from this that a human being can therefore say
>      (as you do) "Because Tradition cannot be proven, my Bible is from
>      God.  Don't ask why I think so.  It's an ultimate presupposition
>      and that's that."

It is a presupposition, whether you wish to admit it or not, Mark.  It is the "lens in your eye," as you put it.  That lens gives shape and form to everything else.  How can it be a conclusion, when you admit it is the grid through which you read everything else?  Also, I didn't say, "Don't ask why I think so."  I've never said such a thing, and by now, you should know that.  More straw-men.

>      Your book came from somewhere.  It came from the Body of Christ (a
>      body which extends back in time before the Incarnation, since the
>      Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world).

It came from the mouth of God, not the Body of Christ.  It is God's message *to* the Body of Christ.  Your lens is in the way again, Mark.

>     You have been
>      telling us, in essence, that you know somehow this Book is from
>      God.  You have yet to tell us how you know this.  You just do.
>      It's an ultimate presupposition thing and I wouldn't understand.

Oh, you *should* understand, Mark, but you've invested your life and reputation in a different viewpoint, so you *won't* understand.  I can just see someone standing in the audience when Jesus uttered those words you've ignored in Matthew 22 (indeed, you've ignored all the Scripture passages I've cited as far as I can see) and saying, "Hey, well, that's your opinion, Rabbi.  You need some external infallible authority, say, off in Rome somewhere, to tell you that God really spoke those words back in Genesis."  I guess Jesus' word wouldn't be good enough for you: you need to put a mediator inbetween that is what, more trustworthy or something? 

"Yeah, hath God said?" is an old saw, Mark.  I wouldn't want to be caught using it with such regularity. What's more, since you don't answer that question with any more infallible certainty than *I* do, what's the beef?

>      Meanwhile, the Catholic Faith says its revelation is clearly and
>      *publically* handed down in both written and unwritten form under
>      the guidance of bishops who were consecrated in full view of
>      everybody (cf. Irenaeus comments on the credentials of Polycarp
>      and his standing in all the Churches of Asia, as well as
>      Irenaeus' account of the Roman succession).

Publically handed down, Mark?  Great---how about showing us, then, since it was *publically* handed down, a few Fathers in the 2nd century who believed as you believe about the Bodily Assumption or the Bishop of Rome?  How about Irenaeus there, or Polycarp?  I'd like to see this *public* record of this handing on of these few defined elements of ST.  Strange feeling, knowing that something you just wrote is going to be snipped so fast even a Pentium 200 with 64 megs of RAM couldn't keep up..... 

>      Where'd these bishops and their Scriptures come from?

>      They tell us: the apostles.

>      Where'd they get *their* authority? From Jesus.  Where's *his*
>      authority from?  God.

>      This seems clear to me.  Your posts about theopneustos Scripture
>      and how it's self-attesting and greater than Tradition and how
>      this is all proof that Catholic teaching has mutated into a false
>      gospel is, well, not all that clear.  Could you make you posts
>      more to the point?
 
Oh Mark, you know the point----that's why you ignore the point.  You ignored it in your book, though you must know it is at the heart of the issue.  I can say one thing, Mr. Shea: at least I represent my opposition in my published works a whole lot better than you do in yours.

>      You compare the attempt to find out what Scripture is with the
>      work of Satan ("Has God really said?") and then say...

< groan >  My goodness, Mark, do you *practice* creating these misrepresentations?  I'd never think to twist someone's words so blatantly and publically!

>  So, to maintain logical consistency, the Protestant refuses to go
>  this route, and instead owns up to his or her decision to embrace---directly,
>  without mediation---the authority of God's speaking *on the basis of its
>  inherent nature as theopneustos.*
 

>      I *think* this is closest you've come to an answer.  In
>      translation, it means "Scripture is that which is god-breathed and
>      you can tell what is god-breathed because it's Scripture."
 
No, Mark, your "translation" is little more than a vain attempt to avoid the obvious, sad to say.

>      Yesterday, you chided me for turning my brain over to Rome and not
>      being willing to ask the Tough Questions.  I am comforted in my
>      choice, if this is the best that you have to give.  *How* *do*
>      *you* *knowwwwwwwwwwwww* that this book and not that has an
>      inherent theopneustos nature?  I know because the Body of Him who
>      is Truth has guaranteed it to me.  This does not strike me as
>      satanic.

>  The Roman Catholic may well shake his or her head in pity for my plight.
>   But, in reality, I think the Roman Catholic is in no better position,
>  despite thinking he or she *is*!  You see, while I admit the fallibility of
>  my own decisions, the Roman Catholic *should* likewise admit the fallibility
>  of his or her own decisions as well, even when it comes to final and
>  ultimate authorities.

>      Catholics can give *reasons* (based on Sacred Tradition and the
>      authority of the Church, which derives from Christ) for believing
>      in the authority they do.

>        You see, while it may provide some comfort to say, "I don't
>  have to struggle with canon issues: the Church tells me what to believe about
>  that," such doesn't really relieve you from the possibility of error.  As
>  anyone can see, all you've done is given over your responsibility to struggle
>  in such areas to someone or something else.

>      Yes, to God, who promised to guide the Church (not just me) into
>      all truth.

>  "ultimate authority."  That decision is just as fallible and liable to error
>  as mine.  You can't anymore tell me, infallibly, why you can trust Rome as I
>  can tell you that Esther is canonical.

>  So, Mark, you see why I can't accept the bare use of your famous question: it
>  begs the issue, is based upon all sorts of other things (mainly, your
>  epistemological presuppositions about Rome's authority), and quite simply, it
>  isn't *fair* to demand an answer of a "loaded" question *without* the full
>  discussion that places the issue in its proper setting.

>      Okay.  So we now know that you have no idea why you believe
>      Scripture to be Scripture, and you are certain Catholics are not
>      Christian.  Catholics, on the contrary, do have good reasons why
>      they have a canon of Scripture (reasons I sketch in _By What
>      Authority?_) and are also quite willing to say you are Christian.

>      This is clarity... of a sort.  It reminds me of the argument
>      between Chesterton and the man who was not sure he existed.
>      Chesterton was quite sure *he* existed and so told the man that
>      he won by default since the other fellow might not be there.

>      As I told Greg, I'm not looking for *infallibility* concerning
>      your knowledge of what constitutes Scripture.  I'm looking for a
>      *reason*, any reason at all, why you accept these books of
>      Scripture as inspired that does not depend ultimately on the
>      authority of the Church and the Tradition you despise.  You seem
>      to be saying above that you regard the books as Scripture for no
>      reason whatsoever.  You can do that, of course.  But you cannot be
>      expected to be taken seriously when you say "These books which I
>      regard as the word of God for no reason whatsoever condemn all
>      Catholics to hell."  Especially since Catholics *do* give reasons
>      for why they hold these books to be Scripture.
 

In a message dated 97-03-13 14:52:27 EST, you write: 

>     This is now the third time this week that James has either said or
>      implied that I am a liar.  Each time I have responded with
>      documentation and each time James has simply maintained the
>      assault without the slightest hint of penitence.
 
This is purely untrue, and anyone with a scintilla of honesty (and a decent archive file) well knows it.  You (to slip into a Clintonesque mode) spoke inaccurately when you said I called you an anti-Protestant; when faced with this reality, you lied.  You have consistently misrepresented what I have said by refusing to quote me directly and "re-writing" what I said; I have re-posted what I actually wrote, and you have consistently ignored the re-posting of the actual words.  This is a classic tactic: when caught being dishonest, attack the other guy, whine and complain about other things, and hope like anything no one will notice.  All of this has only one purpose: obscure the fact that you can't, and won't, respond to meaningful criticism of your position.

>      In the meantime,
>      James has evaded, avoided, begged the question, and generally
>      carried on, wriggling under awareness that sooner or later he was
>      going to have to say what he finally said yesterday.  To wit:

>  So, to maintain logical consistency, the Protestant refuses to go
>  this route, and instead owns up to his or her decision to embrace---directly,
>  without mediation---the authority of God's speaking *on the basis of its
>  inherent nature as theopneustos.*

>      This, gentle reader, is the "explanation" which James heaped scorn
>      on my head for being ignorant of.
 
I.e., I pointed out that Mark Shea has gone into print without taking the time to study the issue carefully and to read responsible presentations that are relevant to his conclusions.  A terrible thing for me to do, to be sure!

>      This is what James chided me
>      for not having a firm grasp of when I said in my reply to him that
>      there are no good reasons for sola scriptura.  Yet what does
>      James' statement come down to but the proud boast that God's word
>      cannot be verified and that therefore... there are no reasons for
>      sola scriptura and that, indeed, there cannot, by the nature of
>      the case, *be* reason!
 
The sad thing is, Mark, that there will be people who will accept your contorted and twisted misrepresentations and inane reasonings without a second thought.  But really, Mr. Shea, do you think *everyone* is so gullible as to read what I wrote (in its context---something you are masterful at ignoring!) and then read your re-writing of it, and *not* come to the conclusion that you can't possibly be taken seriously?  Come now, you've got to be kidding!

>      We know Mark is theopneustos how? "Directly, without mediation."
>      We just know.  It's an ultimate presupposition thing, you wouldn't
>      understand.  By this same "ultimate presupposition" we know that
>      Scripture is the sole source of revelation.  How? "Directly,
>      without mediation."  It is because I say it is.  It's another
>      ultimate presupposition thing and you wouldn't understand (but I
>      should read _The Roman Catholic Controversy_ so I can clearly
>      *know* that James says there is no reason, there can *be* no
>      reason for believing Scripture since it just *is* Scripture.  If I
>      don't I'm astonishing ignorant to assert that there can be no good
>      reasons for sola scriptura.)
 
On the slightly off-hand chance that you are *really* as confused as the above paragraph makes you look, I should try, one last time, to disabuse you of your false conceptions.  It is possible, I guess, that you have never studied epistemology.  It is possible, though highly unlikely, that you really don't get the issue at hand, really don't understand that your alleged infallible knowledge of the canon or nature of Scripture is really based upon a fallible acceptance of an external authority.  Hence, you *may* be twisting everything I say simply due to a massive case of confusion, lack of reading and study, etc.  I say it's *possible,* but Mark, after this past week or so of reading your posts, I'm highly skeptical.

>      I said that it seemed to me that my Evangelical friends were
>      saying "We know Scripture is the totality of revelation because we
>      know the totality of revelation is Scripture."  This seems to me
>      to be circular.  James now purports to give a philosophical basis
>      for it.  God's word written need not (and apparently cannot) be
>      verified.

>      That's it.  That's all.
 
You admit you cannot provide an external verification for the ultimate authority of ST; I point out why: ultimate epistemological presuppositions do not admit of external verification.  I say the same about Scripture.  You don't address this---perhaps you cannot, or will not, for it sheds too much light on your own position, I don't know.  But in either case, you confuse the epistemological discussion of ultimate authorities with the idea that no arguments can be given in support of a particular position.  Seemingly you don't understand the difference between providing an internal critique of your opponents position based upon his own presuppositions and the presuppositions themselves.  Likewise, you errantly assert that the Protestant cannot provide a defense of the internal consistency of his beliefs based upon his presuppositions simply because the Protestant is honestly willing to admit the *place* of those presuppositions.  All of this only proves, Mark, that you have rushed into print without doing your homework.  Your book is badly flawed for this reason, and perhaps that is why you are so dead-set against allowing this discussion to take place honestly and fairly without the blatant attempts at ad-hominem and "lets get the emotional level of things as high as possible here" tactics.

>      Yet Scripture itself testifies that God's Word *Incarnate*
>      positively *surrounds* himself with verifications.  The witness of
>      the Baptist, of his miracles, of the Father, of the apostles, of
>      the Spirit, of the Prophets, of the Church down through the ages.
>      He doesn't seem to mind having his claims verified a bit ("If you
>      do not believe me, believe the miracles," he says in John.)  But
>      James' God will brook no inquiry (a strange thing for a Professor
>      of *Apologetics* to say.)
 
Indeed---it should strike you as strange indeed.  Perhaps you have misrepresented me?  Misunderstood?  Deleted too many of my points in the editing process?  Something like that.

>      He compares the question "How can you
>      tell what is Scripture?" to the words of Satan "Has God really
>      said?"
 
I compared your demand for an exterior verification of the ultimate authority of God's speaking to Satan's temptation---it is not my fault you can't tell the difference, Mark.

>      He hems, he haws, he buries us in prose and he hopes that
>      people will not notice that the theologian has no clothes.  God's
>      word (what's that, James?) is theopneustos (how do you tell what
>      is theopneustos?).
 
I gladly hand you the title of chief of rhetoric, hemming, hawing, and the like.  I can't hold a candle to you on that level.

>      James has cited irrelevancies like the fact that the canon of
>      Scripture is fuzzy for centuries in order to prove somehow that
>      our knowledge of Scripture does not depend on Tradition and the
>      authority of the Body of Him who is Truth.
 
I would LOVE to have you come out and debate the canon of Scripture in public against me, Mark.  That would be *so* enjoyable.  Gerry Matatics did it at Boston College a few years back---how about you?  You see, your rhetorical skills in writing in a catholic list might allow you to throw about such terms as "irrelevancies," but in a public debate with the audience right in front of you---well, such tactics don't work very well.  I'm sure you hope that everyone will think that those historical facts (which you have consistently ignored throughout this dialogue) are "irrelevant," since your book assumes the canonicity of the Apocrypha from the first time you mention it. 

>      He has waved
>      infallibility around as though it were germane to the argument.
 
Hmm, you claim an infallible knowledge of the canon because of the word of an infallible Church, but infallibility is not relevant.  I see.

>      It is not.  I am (as my book shows) fully and completely aware
>      that the Church's grasp of what was and was not Scripture is
>      rather blurry at first and only come into focus sharply at Trent.
>      Big deal.
 
Yeah, Big Deal!  Just because everyone from Pentecost to 1545 had to function as de facto Protestants is IRRELEVANT to the fact that the MUST now function on a different basis!  Everyone close your eyes to this glaring historical inconsistency!  Todo, I don't think we are in Kansas anymore.  Is this Rome?

>      I repeat:  I am not wondering whether James can know the canon
>      *infallibly* apart from Tradition and the authority of the Body
>      of Him Who is Truth, I am wondering how the hell he knows it *at
>      all*.
 
How the what, Mark?  Oh, I forgot: RC's don't sweat language like that.  I keep forgetting that part of things.  Anyway, since you won't discuss Tradition (or even define it meaningfully), nor the "authority" of the "Body" and all, but simply accept what Rome tells you all those things mean, there is no meaningful answer to your question.  Of course, it's designed that way: it's not meant to promote truth in the first place.  And obviously, as this dialogue has shown, neither is your book.

< further straw men, misrepresentations, and the like, deleted, as all were addressed above >

>      My reply to this is threefold:

>      A) The Jesus Seminar says, "Thank you, James.  We agree with you
>      that there is no *reason* for calling this Scripture.  You just
>      do.  We just don't.
 

No, the Jesus Seminar reads Mark Shea's book and says, "Oh, I see: this is Scripture because a bunch of prelates got together in a small town called Trent, took orders from headquarters in Rome, and wrote down a canon.  We see.  Sorry, we don't buy that.  And at least today, we can do so without getting burned alive for our refusal to do so."

>      B) The Catholic Church says Scripture is the written aspect of the
>      Tradition and cannot be separated from the life of the Church
>      without catastrophe such as James has demonstrated by abandoning
>      any reason at all for calling it inspired and simply declaring it
>      so.
 
I've already shown that it is a lie to say there is no reason---your unwillingness to honestly portray the facts only militates against your position.

>      C) I say, I have now finished my contribution to this thread.
>      James came on the list, spoiling for a fight, brimming with
>      sarcasm, contempt, insults and repeated assaults on my character,
>      ready to rip Sacred Tradition apart.
 
I will gladly allow God to determine my motivations and the truth of your accusations, Mark.  The archives don't lie. 

>      He has, instead, been
>      forced, after persistent questioning by a number of list members
>      (and an amazingly vast and varied attempt at evasion) to expose
>      his own non-existent "reasons" for holding the position he does.
>      His answer to the question "How do you tell what is Scripture?"
>      is, in the final analysis, "I can't.  I just *say* it's
>      theopneustos.  It's an ultimate presupposition thing and you
>      wouldn't understand."

>      It's true, James.  I don't understand.  I will never understand.
>      Especially when the Church *can* give a coherent account of its
>      Scripture based on Tradition and the divinely delegated authority
>      of Christ she has received.

>      You are welcome to the last word.  I'm done talking about this
>      stuff now.
 
I'm sure you are, Mark, and so am I.  But I close with this: I believe you are the one who has resorted to insults, evasion, and all sorts of dishonesty, from your very first post.  What's more, I can document that claim.  Now, I believe you have done so because your position can't stand up to real scrutiny.  So I leave you with this: I will gladly engage you in a three-hour, moderated, public debate, audio and video recording welcome for distribution of tapes, on the topic of sola scriptura, or the canon of Scripture.  One on one, no means of hiding behind cheap shots and an electronic screen.  I am confident of the outcome.  How about you, Mark?

In a message dated 97-03-17 12:43:35 EST, you write:

>     I have not seen any of your posts since I finished my
>      contributions on last week.  However, a friend has contacted me to
>      tell me (if I understand him correctly) that you have said
>      something to the effect that our conversation has provided you
>      with material for some future book.  When you came on this list,
>      you did so ostensibly because you were planning on a "review" of
>      By What Authority for your Web page.  I had and have no intention
>      of assisting you in writing another anti-Catholic book.  If, by
>      your remarks, you mean to imply that you intend to take anything I
>      have written on b.l.catholic and publish it in a book for profit,
>      I wish to point out the following.
 
< rofl > 

Paranoia seems to be at epidemic portions.  I'd suggest you read the replies yourself, Mark.  Relying on others is a dangerous route to take.  I only intend to do exactly as I said: to review your book.  Needless to say, the review will hardly be any more positive than it would have been otherwise, but in reality, little has changed from when I first read it: my first impression was that your arguments are surface level, and, my impression upon trying to get you to honestly deal with a criticism of your position is the same: your arguments are surface level. 

>     This being so, as sole holder of copyright on everything I have
>      written on b.l.catholic, I expressly deny you permission to
>      publish anything I have written here in any form whatsoever,
>      whether print or electronic, audio or visual media.

>      I am cc'ing this notice to Charles Smith, the manager of
>      b.l.Catholic and to the list itself.  I am confident that you will
>      observe United States Copyright Law.
 

I'd do that if I were you: the persona you present in your book is vastly different than the one you have presented here.  BTW, you have my permission to post everything I wrote to you anywhere you'd like to post it.  *I* am not ashamed of anything I have written. 

I will simply note in my review that 1) Mark Shea was so concerned that his responses to my questions not be made available in any other forum, he specifically e-mailed me, citing copyright law, and denying any permission to reproduce anything he wrote; 2) I gave him permission to reproduce all of my posts at any time he wanted, noting that I was not ashamed of anything I had written; 3) note that, as of the date of my review, the messages could still be accessed through www.dejanews.com; 4) provide the listserv@american.edu address for information on how to access the archives.

BTW, what *I* write in response to you in those same messages *is* my property, according to those same laws, and I have full ability to post *that* material in my review.

I repeat my challenge to you to public debate on this issue (since you didn't bother to read anything more I had to say, you probably missed that); I further challenge you to written debate on the same topic---except such a debate would require that both sides allow what they write to actually be *read* by a wide audience.  Again, *I* have no problems with allowing what *I* write to be disseminated as widely as is practically possible.  How about you, Mark?

 


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