There was a time when Catholic
Answers tried to put forward a serious face of
sought to utilize at least semi-scholarly sources (though even
then without much serious effort to use them in context, see
this example). But
over the past few years it seems the bottom of the barrel has
come into clear view, and the pretense of scholarship has
In what is arguably the worst example of
this in quite some time Jeffrey Morrow’s article, “In the
Crosshairs of the Canon: Protestants Find History Aimed
Against Them,” Catholic
Answers reaches new lows in utterly miserable misuse of
historical facts, let alone egregiously poor writing.
I was especially bothered by this article, for it uses
a genre of writing I have used myself: the imaginary dialogue.
But, unlike Mr. Morrow, when I have my imaginary
opponents speak, I feel it necessary to grant to them 1)
intelligence and 2) a real knowledge of their professed faith.
Instead of following this direction, Mr. Morrow
presents us with three simply moronic Protestants who glibly
trot down the path to papal slaughter without a second’s
meaningful fight. Strong
words? Then you
haven’t read the article.
For example, after one of our brilliant Evangelicals
answers the question, “How did we get the Bible” with the
insightful response, “I got mine at Wal-Mart,” a seemingly
more well-read participant, Steve, chimed in with, “Wasn’t
the King James Version the first Bible?”
Ah yes, it’s going to be a scintillating
after the brilliant convert to Catholicism (a former
Evangelical himself, of course), gives a little background
about the languages of the Bible (forgetting to mention the
decree of Trent establishing Latin as the “official”
language of sacred Scripture), he asks, “Okay, does anyone
know what a canon is?” Again the brainy Elizabeth is first to demonstrate her
less-than stellar IQ with the response, “A cannon is a large
gun that shoots cannonballs.”
Oh my, did this lady vote in Palm Beach County,
perhaps? But it
only gets worse as our Evangelical friends bumble and stumble
along, aghast at the brilliant eloquence and learning of our
convert to Catholicism.
Aside from the inherent mockery of
Evangelicals found in Morrow’s article, the simple fact of
the matter is the “facts” he places in the mouth of
“Paul” are anything but facts, and any prepared Protestant
apologist would have turned the tables completely on
“Paul” in any real conversation.
To demonstrate this, I here rewrite Mr.
Morrow’s article, but with a tremendous infusion of facts
and truth, resulting in a very different outcome.
Paul, a convert to Catholicism, sat down
with John, Susan, and Bill to discuss the Bible.
Paul, having converted by reading the writings of Scott
Hahn and Karl Keating, felt quite ready to handle anything
that would come his way.
John, however, had also read Hahn and Keating, but he
had also read Calvin and Turretin and Hodge and Salmon and
Denny and Whitaker. Paul
began the discussion by asking if anyone knew how we had
gotten the Bible.
“The work of the Holy Spirit over
time” Bill said.
“Well, that depends on what you mean by
‘getting’ the Bible” John added.
“The Bible was given to us through the work of the
Holy Spirit who, as Peter put it, carried men along as they
spoke from God (2 Peter 1:21).
of the Bible is a different topic than the transmission
of the Bible over time, and the canon
of Scripture is yet a third topic as well, related to both of
the preceding concepts, but separate.”
“I’m glad to see you know what the
canon is” Paul smiled.
“That’s a very important issue.
For example, the Roman Catholic canon is different from
the Protestant canon, as it contains seven more Old Testament
books, Tobit, Judith, First and Second Maccabbees, Wisdom of
Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, as well as small portions of Ester
and Daniel. This
represents the canon of the Septuagint....”
“Actually” John noted, “the
manuscripts of the Septuagint that contain these books are
Christian in origin, correct?
Have you read the tremendous work of Roger Beckwith, The
Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church?
He deals with this issue in-depth with the most modern
“Well, no, I haven’t” Paul replied.
“But, be that as it may, the fact is the early Church
decided which books belonged in the canon....”
“Which canon?” John interrupted. “Old Testament or New?”
“Well, both” Paul replied.
“There was no consensus as to what books were in the
Old Testament amongst the Jews until the Council of Jamnia....”
“That’s untrue” John asserted. “As Beckwith proved, there was indeed a clear consensus on
the Old Testament canon long before the time of the New
is seen in noting the testimony of Josephus, the testimony of
the Jewish writings themselves, and the issue of the books
that were ‘laid up” in the Temple.
Further, there was no ‘Council of Jamnia.’ There was discussion concerning a couple of minor books
amongst some Jewish leaders, but surely no ‘council’ in
the sense of a formal meeting with voting, etc.
The canon of the Old Testament was clearly understood,
and clearly functional, at the time of the Lord Jesus’
ministry in Palestine. And
what is also clear is that the canon used by Jesus and His
apostles did not
include the apocryphal books.”
“I am uncertain about those issues”
Paul replied, “but I am certain that the choosing of the
book of the Bible....”
“You mean the New Testament?” John
“OK, the New Testament....was a process
undertaken by the early Church, which was thoroughly
“Catholic, or Roman Catholic?” John
Paul looked surprised by the question.
“There is a difference?”
“Of course” John replied.
“Catholic simply means ‘universal,’ and it was a
term used in the early Church to differentiate true believers
from those outside. ‘Roman
Catholic’ carries far more ‘baggage’ than the mere term
includes, as it is used by modern Roman apologists, the idea
of Papal authority, doctrines such as purgatory, indulgences,
Marian dogmas, etc. The
early church was ‘catholic’ but it was surely not
Paul looked flustered at this point.
“Well, I disagree. The early Christians believed in the Real Presence of Jesus
in Holy Communion....”
“But not in transubstantiation,
right?” John inserted.
“Well, they may not have used the
“So why do you interpret their belief
in a ‘real presence’ as being relevant to a Roman Catholic
dogma defined a thousand years later?”
“Well, it’s one of the many evidences
that the Roman Catholic Church has been the one true Church
“And if that were the case, Paul, it
would follow that what the early Fathers believed regarding
what you call the ‘real presence’ would fit with what Rome
teaches today, which is manifestly not the case. You will
not find the early Fathers setting aside consecrated hosts,
for example, in a tabernacle or monstrance for the express
purpose of worshipping it, which is a natural and necessary
result of a belief in transubstantiation.
So, whatever they meant by ‘real presence’ it
surely was not what you as a Roman Catholic believe today.”
“That’s just not the case!” Paul
Ignatius clearly believed in what I believe.
He said in Romans 7.3, “I desire the bread of God,
which is the flesh of Christ who was of the seed of David; and
for a draught I desire His blood, which is love
“Think about what you just quoted,
Paul” John replied. “There
is nothing about transubstantiation in those words.
When you realize the background of Ignatius’
writings, and his battle against gnosticism, as well as
Jesus’ words in John 6 about Him being the bread of heaven,
the words of Ignatius make perfect sense without reading into
them any kind of Aristotelian dogma of accidents and
substance, etc. and etc. Besides, if you really
think this is such a universal belief, please explain the
following four citations to me:
“The sacrament of the body and blood of
Christ, which we receive, is a divine thing, because by it
we are made partakers of the divine-nature.
Yet the substance or nature of the bread and wine
does not cease.
And assuredly the image and the similitude of the body and
blood of Christ are celebrated in the performance of the
mysteries.” Gelasius, bishop of Rome, in
Jacques Paul Migne, Patrologiae Latinae, Tractatus de duabis
naturis Adversus Eutychen et Nestorium 14.
“The mystical emblems of the body and
blood of Christ continue in their original essence and form,
they are visible and tangible as they were before [the
consecration]; but the contemplation of the spirit and of
faith sees in them that which they have become, and
they are adored also as that which they are to believers.”
(Theodoret, Dialogue ii, Opera ed. Hal. tom. iv p.
In other words, in respect of His divine presence we always have Christ; in respect of His presence in the flesh it was rightly said to the disciples, 'Me you will not have always.'
In this respect the Church enjoyed His presence only
for a few days: now it possesses Him by faith, without
seeing Him with the eyes....He left the world by a bodily
withdrawal, He proceeded
to the Father by His ascension man, but He forsook
not the world in the ruling activity of His presence.
The Lord Jesus, in the discourse which He addressed
to His disciples after the supper, when Himself in immediate
proximity to His passion, and, as it were, on the eve of departure,
and of depriving them of His bodily presence while
continuing His spiritual presence to all His disciples till
the very end of the world...."
(Augustine, John: Tractates 50, 92, 102, and 118).
Who is the bread of the Kingdom of God, but
He who says, "I am the living Bread which came down
from heaven?" Do
not get your mouth ready, but your heart.
On this occasion it was that the parable of this
supper was set forth. Lo,
we believe in Christ, we receive Him with faith.
In receiving Him we know what to think of.
We receive but little, and are nourished in the
heart. It is
not then what is seen, but what is believed, that feeds us. Therefore we too have not sought for that outward sense.
This is then to eat the meat, not that which
perishes, but that which endures unto eternal life.
To what purpose do you make ready teeth and stomach?
Believe, and you have eaten already.
(Augustine John: Tractate 25:12).
Paul blinked and asked, “You carry
stuff like that around?”
“Yeah,” John beamed, “I have a Palm
Tungsten T, and its loaded with all sorts of fun stuff.”
“Well, I’ll have to look into those
quotations, especially the one from Gelasius.
But, let’s lay that issue aside for a moment.
They believed what we believe about baptism, surely you
“Most who addressed the subject surely
believed baptism was a part of their salvation, that is
certain. Some did
not address it, and a small few, such as Clement of Rome and
Mathetes in his letter to Diognetius, clearly taught a belief
in justification by faith without works of human merit, which
would hardly be consistent with the modern view of baptism in
Paul pressed on, “Well, they surely
believed in the authority of bishops and priests, especially
the Bishop of Rome, the pope, who was looked to as a supreme
authority by all the churches spread across the known
“I imagine you actually believe that,
Paul, but you couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Not only did it take quite some time for the unbiblical
concept of a priesthood to develop (it is absent from many of
the earliest Christian writings, let alone the New Testament),
but the distinction of elder and bishop, likewise an
unbiblical one, took time in many quarters as well.
But it is especially misleading to engage in the kind
of anachronism you just did regarding the Papacy.
It is simply impossible to substantiate that kind of
assertion from a fair reading of the historical records.
There is so much evidence contradicting what you just
said it is hard to even know where to begin....”
[For a summary, see http://www.straitgate.com/aom/#pacwapapacy]
Susan finally piped up and joined in,
“OK, so you disagree over the nature of the early church.
Let’s get back to the subject at hand if we could.”
“The subject of the nature, and
authority, of the Church, is very much related to Roman
Catholic claims regarding the canon and the Bible, Susan”
John pointed out.
“Yes,” Paul agreed, “especially
since it was the bishops of the Catholic Church like Augustine
and Athanasius who decided the extent of the canon.”
“Tell me, Paul,” John replied, “Did
either Augustine or Athanasius ever say anything like, ‘We
as bishops are determining the books of Scripture’?”
Paul pursed his lips.
“Well, not off the top of my head.”
“When Athanasius wrote his 39th
Festal Letter in 369, had any allegedly infallible
‘councils’ met to ‘determine’ the canon?”
“No, the Council of Rome, though was
only a little over a decade later.”
“Many scholars today recognize the
alleged ‘Council of Rome’ did not even take place, and is
an anachronistic interpolation of Gelasius’ listing.
Be that as it may, here is what Athanasius said in that
3. In proceeding to make
mention of these things, I shall adopt, to commend my
undertaking, the pattern of Luke the Evangelist, saying on
my own account: ‘Forasmuch as some have taken in hand,’
to reduce into order for themselves the books termed
apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired
Scripture, concerning which we have been fully persuaded, as
they who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers
of the Word, delivered to the fathers; it seemed good to me
also, having been urged thereto by true brethren, and having
learned from the beginning, to set before you the books
included in the Canon, and handed down, and accredited as
Divine; to the end that any one who has fallen into error
may condemn those who have led him astray; and that he who
has continued steadfast in purity may again rejoice, having
these things brought to his remembrance.
4. There are, then, of the
Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have
heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the
letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names
being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next
Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy.
Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then
Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of
Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and
so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the
first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book.
Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book.
After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs,
next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then
the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then
Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations,
and the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel,
each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.
5. Again it is not tedious to
speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the
four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called
Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of
John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there
are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The
first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after
these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the
Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the
Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to
Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And
besides, the Revelation of John.
“Well, two things.
First, Athanasius says this had been handed on to him,
establishing the need of tradition, and second, he does
include Baruch, and he doesn’t include Esther” Paul
“Quite true, Paul.
Athanasius gives the same canon listing of the Old
Testament we find earlier in Cyril of Jerusalem, who likewise
said it had been passed on to him, and by Melito of Sardis,
who wrote long before, at the end of the second century.
If you want to make this some kind of ‘tradition,’
you instantly have a problem: it contradicts what your own
Church has defined as ‘tradition’ regarding the canon!
Athanasius, and Cyril, and Melito, are witnesses to the
fact that the decision of the Council of Trent does
not command the weight of history.
In fact, Paul, I would assert that the early Church
Fathers who knew the most
about Old Testament backgrounds were least
likely to hold to the Apocryphal books, and those who knew the
least were most likely to do so, depending on the manuscripts of the Septuagint
that they were familiar with.
It is no wonder that Origen, who learned Hebrew, Melito
of Sardis, who inquired into Palestine on the issue, and
Jerome, who likewise learned Hebrew, all understood the issue
and rejected the Apocryphal books.”
“But none of those men were infallible,
“Of course not, Paul, and that is your
can’t point to any single man who was.
So how this collection of fallible men all of a sudden
becomes ‘infallible’ when it becomes the ‘universal
faith of the church’ or the ‘consensus of the Fathers’
is hard to understand. In
fact, take a wild guess who said the following:
I am but showing how Romanists reconcile
their abstract reverence for Antiquity with their
Romanism,--with their creed, and their notion of the
Church’s infallibility in declaring it; how small their
success is, and how great their unfairness, is another
question. Whatever judgment we form either of their conduct
or its issue, such is the fact, that they extol the Fathers
as a whole, and disparage them individually; they call them
one by one Doctors of the Church, yet they explain away one
by one their arguments, judgments, and testimony. They
refuse to combine their separate and coincident statements;
they take each by himself, and settle with the first before
they go to the next. And thus their boasted reliance on the
Fathers comes, at length, to this,--to identify Catholicity
with the decrees of Councils, and to admit those Councils
only which the Pope has confirmed.”
“Well, whoever it was was not very
nice, calling us Romanists!” Paul retorted.
“Actually, the term was common in the
nineteenth century, but what about what it says?
Every time we Protestants show you this Father or that
who disagreed with what you now claim we
must believe, they are dismissed as “individually
result is that ancient “catholicity” is, for you, nothing
more than what the modern Roman Church demands it to be.”
“That’s not the case at all. Who was it, then, that you were quoting?
Some anti-Catholic writer from the last century?”
“No, actually, that was John Henry
Newman, Lectures on the
Prophetical Office of the Church: Viewed Relatively to
Romanism and Popular Protestantism, 2nd ed. (London:
Gilbert & Rivington, 1838), pp. 70-71.”
“Well he surely changed his tune later
on!” Paul exclaimed.
“Yes, he did, but he never successfully
refuted his own previously made arguments.
His development hypothesis is not an argument, it’s
“I disagree, but before discussing
that, you mentioned Jerome.
Jerome included the deuterocanonicals in the Vulgate
translation, and he simply noted that he knew the Jews
did not include them in their canon.
It’s obvious he did accept them.”
“That’s interesting,” John replied,
opening another file on his Tungsten T, “since more than a
thousand years later, Cardinal Cajetan....”
“That the same Cajetan that interviewed
“Yes, the general of the Dominican
order who examined Luther in October of 1518.
He wrote a book, a commentary on the Old Testament, in
which he wrote,
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
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.
All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament;
cited in William Whitaker, A
Disputation on Holy Scripture (Cambridge: University
Press, 1849, 48.)
John continued as he switched to another
file, “Now as to your claim that Jerome embraced the
apocryphal book, you have again been misled.
Yes, he learned that the Jews rejected these books when
he learned Hebrew. However,
the way you put it it sounded like you were saying he was
simply mentioning that the Jews rejected them and he didn’t.
That’s just not the case.
Listen to his own words which he wrote in his prologue
to ‘the three books of Solomon’:
There circulates also the ‘all-virtuous’
Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sira, together with a similar work,
the pseudopigraph entitled the Wisdom of Solomon.
The former of these I have also found in Hebrew,
entitled not ‘Ecclesiasticus’, as among the Latins, but
‘Parables”. ... The latter is nowhere found among the
Hebrews: its very style smacks of Greek eloquence, and several
ancient writers affirm it to be the work of Philo the Jew.
Therefore as the church indeed reads Judith, Tobit and
the books of Maccabees, but does not receive them among the
canonical books, so let it also read these two volumes for the
edification of the people but not for establishing the
authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.
As you will note, Paul, Jerome
specifically excludes these books from the canon, and
relegates them, like Cajetan, to those that are to be read for
edification but not for
“I’m now completely lost” Susan
“Sorry,” John said, “but I think
Paul here understands why these issues are important.”
“Yes” Paul answered.
“But I’ve been told by a number of men I truly
trust that the Bible of the early Church was apostolic
need to realize the earliest Church fathers, like Clement and
Ignatius, were disciples of the apostles themselves. What Jesus taught was faithfully passed by the apostles to
their own disciples. This
was in accordance with what Paul commanded Timothy while
planting a church: ‘And what you have heard from me before
many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to
teach other also.’ This
is found in the second verse of the second chapter of the
second book of Timothy.”
“Known to the rest of us as 2 Timothy
2:2” John chuckled.
“But again, you couldn’t be farther from the mark,
Paul. The Bible
of the early Church, as I would think you must know, included far
more than some wonderfully nebulous concept of
All one has to do is read a few pages of the New
Testament to find that the “Bible” was alive and well in
the hands of the Apostles, and hence the early Church.
We know that Paul’s letters were considered Scripture
during the lifetime of Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16), and Paul
quoted Luke as Scripture as well (1 Timothy 5:18).
That means you had New Testament Scripture functioning
as such in the apostolic period itself. Next, I note in passing that if you mean ‘Clement of
Rome’ with that reference to ‘Clement’ that we actually
do not know who wrote the epistle of “Clement of Rome to the
Corinthians,” and the letter itself speaks in the plural,
not the singular, as there was, at the time, a plurality of
elders ruling the church in Rome, not a single bishop. Finally, Paul’s words to Timothy are not supportive of some
concept of “oral tradition passed down outside Scripture”
as they are so often misused by Roman Catholic apologists.
In fact, Tertullian refuted your own use of this verse
when he wrote,
is, as we have said, the same madness, in their allowing
indeed that the apostles were ignorant of nothing, and
preached not any (doctrines) which contradicted one another,
but at the same time insisting that they did not reveal all
to all men, for that they proclaimed some openly and to all
the world, whilst they disclosed others (only) in secret and
to a few, because Paul addressed even this expression to
Timothy: “O Timothy, guard that which is entrusted to
thee;” and again: “That good thing which was committed
unto thee keep.” What is this deposit? Is it so secret as
to be supposed to characterize a new doctrine? or is it a
part of that charge of which he says, “This charge I
commit unto thee, son Timothy?” and also of that precept
of which he says, “I charge thee in the sight of God, who
quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ who witnessed
a good confession under Pontius Pilate, that thou keep this
commandment?” Now, what is (this) commandment and what is
(this) charge? From the preceding and the succeeding
contexts, it will be manifest that there is no mysterious
hint darkly suggested in this expression about (some)
far-fetched doctrine, but that a warning is rather given
against receiving any other (doctrine) than that which Timothy
had heard from himself, as
I take it publicly: “Before many witnesses” is his
phrase. Now, if they refuse to allow that the church is
meant by these “many witnesses,” it matters nothing,
since nothing could have been secret which was produced
“before many witnesses.” Nor, again, must the
circumstance of his having wished him to “commit these
things to faithful men, who should be able to teach others
also,” be construed into a proof of there being some
occult gospel. For, when he says “these things,” he
refers to the things of which he is writing at the moment.
In reference, however, to occult subjects, he would have
called them, as being absent, those things, not these things,
to one who had a joint knowledge of them with himself.
Paul looked unhappy.
“How can I fight a Palm Tungsten T that seemingly has no
limitations upon memory?”
“This isn’t the first time I’ve been over this
“I can see that” Paul replied. “But it amazes me that, despite your study of these things,
you continue to hold to the Protestant position.
Let’s cut to the quick,
then” Paul decided, moving to the “big gun” that would
surely demonstrate the need of the Roman Catholic position.
“Praise be” Bill finally muttered. “Yes, let’s” Susan added.
Paul prepared to deliver what he himself
had believed to be an unanswerable argument.
“The simple reason sola
scriptura doesn’t work is because without the Catholic
Church’s decision regarding the canon you don’t have a
“Really?” John asked, sitting back.
“And when exactly did that take place?
“Well, you have the councils of Hippo
“Those were not ecumenical councils,
“Well, no, they are not reckoned as
such” Paul replied.
“And you are saying we must have an infallible decision to have a reliable Bible, so, are local councils
“No, they are not.”
“OK, so the first infallible reckoning
of the canon was when?”
“Well, that would be Trent, 1556.”
“1546, actually, April.”
“No, 1556, it’s right here in the
November, 2000 issue of This
“There were no meetings of the Council
of Trent between 1552 and 1562, Paul.
It was April, 1546.
This Rock just needs a better copy editor, that’s all.”
“Oh, well, whatever.”
“So,” John continued, “no one had a
reliable Bible until April of 1546?”
“Well, they had Apostolic tradition”
Paul replied uncertainly.
It is your position that in April of 1546 the world,
for the first time, had a reliable Bible?
The greatest theological battles had already been
fought against Arianism and the like without a reliable Bible?
Of what use, then, really is the Bible, if, in fact,
the Church got along without a ‘reliable’ Bible for
three-fourths of its existence?”
“That sounds really strange, Paul”
“Well, at least we have
a reliable canon of the Bible!” Paul replied, getting a bit
more than you can say!”
“Actually, Paul, you don’t” John
said, leaning forward in his chair.
“All you have done is move the canon question back
one step and hidden your action by covering the track with a
little dust and obfuscation.
You say you know the canon, and we don’t, because a
group of men representing Roman Catholicism met at Trent in
1546. You submit
yourself to their decisions.
Yet, I have to ask, why do you believe they have the authority to determine the canon?
Why are they
the only true holders of the title ‘Christ’s true
“I’m glad you asked” Paul replied. “You are right that I know the Bible is the Word of God
because the Church tells me so.
And I know the Church can tell me because when we study
history we find the Bible trustworthy.
We can know what Jesus did and said.
He told his apostles he would send them the Spirit to
lead them into all truth. Jesus’ Resurrection, which is the only adequate explanation
for his empty tomb, proved his divinity.
So we can trust what he told his disciples.
Jesus hands Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, a
symbol of not only authority but of dynastic succession.
So the Holy Spirit leads the offices of the apostles
and their successors, the bishops, into all truth.
The Church, as 1 Timothy 3:15 informs us, is the pillar
and bulwark of the truth.’
So when the episcopal successors of the apostles of the
apostles were exercising their offices in the form of
ecumenical councils, the Holy Spirit kept them free from
error. This goes
for not only when they determined which books belonged in
Scripture, but also when they determined Jesus was fully man
and fully God, as well as the Real Presence in the Eucharist,
and all of the other Catholic dogmas.”
“I’m glad all the cards are now on the table, for
this will help everyone to see the true nature of the claims
of Roman Catholicism. I would like to note two major things. First, the argument you present is challengeable at many
levels. You say
Jesus gave Peter the keys, yet, in Matthew 16, the original
Greek text uses the future tense, and the only other place in
Scripture that could show us this happening is Matthew 18:18,
yet there, Peter receives this authority alongside the other
idea of “dynastic succession” is easily challenged,
especially if you are using Isaiah 22:22 as your basis.
Yes, the Church is the pillar and foundation of the
truth, but that doesn’t make her infallible, nor does it
make her the truth
pillar and foundation support something else: in this case,
the truth. So the
argument you present is by no means itself certain, hence, how
can an uncertain, easily challengeable argument provide you
with the certainty you say we
do not have?
“But secondly, and more importantly, is the obvious
inconsistency in your
entire position. You
say that we Protestants must have an infallible definition of
the canon by some ecclesiastical body or the Bible cannot
‘function’ for us, it becomes ‘unreliable.’ Yet, when we ask you about your ultimate authority, the
Church, you ‘prove’ its authority by an extended and
questionable historical argument.
When Protestants point to the historical development of
the canon, you say that is insufficient ground.
Yet, you point to a much less clear, far more arguable
historical presentation to substantiate your own ultimate
can it be ‘OK’ for you to appeal to such an argument in
defense of the Church, when it is not for me when I point to
the passive, historical development of the canon over time?
An argument that is so obviously self-contradictory
cannot possibly be true.”
Now at this point I could present a
number of responses that have been offered by Roman Catholic
controversialists, but they all share the same circularity:
the decision to embrace Rome as the final authority in all
things is a fallible
can produce no more certainty than any other human decision.
The use of the argument that we must have Rome to have
a Bible is internally self-contradictory and hence utterly
illogical, no matter how often it is presented.
It is the classic “shell game,” where the real
question is hidden from view in the hopes that the person who
is being scammed will not notice. Sadly, those who are being
scammed are evangelical Protestants who are embracing Rome’s
claims to authority, like the “Paul” of Morrow’s article
and our re-write.
James White, December 1, 2000, rev.