Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Evidence, Anachronisms, and John Salza

Awhile back I posted “Why RC Apologists Will Never Be Exegetes” which highlighted some of the assumptions in John Salza’s response to Randy Blackaby’s article, “Mary: Evolving Doctrine or Eternal Truth.” [For a similar post, check out “Sola Scriptura, the Early Church, and Some Blog Comments” for my interaction with commenter “Bob.”] Well, John Salza stopped by my blog yesterday and left this comment on that post:

***QUOTE***

Dear Mr. May:

I read your criticisms of my rebuttal to Mr. Blackaby’s article “The Evolving Doctrine of Mary.” You have revealed many prejudices in your treatment of my rebuttal.

For example, you say that I anachronistically read the Catholic Church back into history. Interesting. Tell me why the Church is referred to as “Catholic” as early as 107 A.D. by Ignatius? Why did the rest of the Fathers refer to the Church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic? Since I can prove that there is an unbroken lineage of successors to the chair of Peter which ends with the current Pope Benedict XVI, the burden is on you to prove that the Catholic Church of the first century is not the Catholic Church of today.

You say that I have not provided the slightest bit of evidence for Marian dogmas, and yet I provided quotes from the first five centuries of the Church to support my contentions (and with which Mr. Blackaby failed to interact). Again, Mr. May, the burden is on you to provide rebuttal evidence; otherwise, you are simply advancing your own unfounded opinions. Let’ all be honest in these dialogues, shall we?

John Salza

***END-QUOTE***

I certainly did not expect for Mr. Salza to 1) find my post 2) comment on my post. I am, of course, glad that he did. I do not wish to repeat what I have already said in two posts. I would, however, like to point out a few things in this comment by Salza:

I read your criticisms of my rebuttal to Mr. Blackaby’s article “The Evolving Doctrine of Mary.” You have revealed many prejudices in your treatment of my rebuttal.

I’m curious what Salza means by “prejudices.” Is he talking about presuppositions? Or is he talking about unjustified, or even hateful bias? The latter would simply be incorrect. The former would need to be necessarily justified. Let’s see how he follows this:

For example, you say that I anachronistically read the Catholic Church back into history. Interesting. Tell me why the Church is referred to as “Catholic” as early as 107 A.D. by Ignatius? Why did the rest of the Fathers refer to the Church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic?

What irony! As Mr. Salza claims that he has, in fact, not, anachronistically read the Roman church back into history, he does exactly that! Yes, the church is referred to as “Catholic” as early as 107 A.D. In fact, I would say that the true church is the Catholic church. But it is simply an anachronism to read back the modern Roman Church into the term “Catholic,” or into the term “mass” or the phrase “bishop of Rome.” Such type of argumentation is simply ridiculous. We could do the same thing with any term. A Mormon could anachronistically read the LDS church into the phrase “prophet.” Does Salza accept such argumentation from an LDS apologist? If not, then why does he utilize it?

The same is the case when it comes to “One” or “Apostolic.” Yes, the Nicene fathers affirmed an apostolic church in the since that it was built upon and conforming to the teachings of the Apostles as seen in Scripture. To read into the word “Apostolic” the concept of an apostolic succession is simply anachronistic.

Since I can prove that there is an unbroken lineage of successors to the chair of Peter which ends with the current Pope Benedict XVI, the burden is on you to prove that the Catholic Church of the first century is not the Catholic Church of today.

1. This is simply backwards logic. You can’t start with the assumption that the Roman Church equals the early Church. You must first look at the Scriptures, look at the early Church, and then conclude if the Roman Church matches up. In any case, such proof has already been provided. Both Scripture and the early Fathers emphatically disagree with your basis of authority. Any thing else flows from that, and that is where one needs to start.

2. You simply cannot prove that there is “an unbroken lineage of successors to the chair of Peter which ends with the current Pope Benedict XVI” without utilizing an anachronism. That is, you will no doubt read back the papacy into the concept of a bishop in the first few centuries. Unless you have evidence that no other RC Apologist has ever presented, you cannot prove what you claim to be able to prove. Additionally, could you provide me citation of the Ante-Nicene church affirming such doctrines as papal infallibility or the Imaculate Conception?

3. On the side of the negative,

Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian all related Mt. 16 to Peter. They all disagree with Rome. Tertullian said Peter is the rock through his preaching. Origen said Peter is the rock because he allegorically represents all Christians, and all who follow Jesus are “rocks.” Cyprian said Peter is the rock, because he represents the entire episcopate, and, because of this, no single bishop has authority to interfere in the episcopate of another. Cyprian’s view is closest to Rome, but Rome, contrary to Cyprian, infers that the Bishop of Rome rules over all other bishops and all the sees are dependent on Rome. Cyprian says that all the bishops are independent of one another and Rome.In fact all of them unanimously disagree with Rome’s interpretation of Matt. 16 and the parallel passage in Luke. So is your lineage unbroken?

You say that I have not provided the slightest bit of evidence for Marian dogmas, and yet I provided quotes from the first five centuries of the Church to support my contentions (and with which Mr. Blackaby failed to interact). Again, Mr. May, the burden is on you to provide rebuttal evidence; otherwise, you are simply advancing your own unfounded opinions. Let’ all be honest in these dialogues, shall we?

I personally did not interact with your citations in my blog articles because I was more concerned with your authority. The utilization of both backwards logic and the anachronism permeated your response. For instance, you said, “If Mr. Blackaby disagrees, then have him produce just one quote from the first five centuries of the Church that denied Mary was sinless.” But this is simply backwards. We aren’t supposed to assume that Mary was sinless and then attempt to prove it wrong. Rather, it must first be established.

When it comes down to Scriptural authority, you utilize the same constantly-refuted prooftexts. Nothing is new. And when that Scriptural authority is questioned, you appeal to tradition. So this is indeed, as I pointed out in my last two articles, a matter of authority. And I have offered rebuttal evidence concerning this matter. So, Mr. Salza, Let’s be honest in these dialogues, shall we?

Evan May.

3 comments:

  1. A lot of groups claim a succession from the apostles (Eastern Orthodox, Copts, Anglicans, some Lutherans, successionist Baptists, etc.). With a city like Rome, which was a capital of an empire and was prominent in Christian circles for other non-papal reasons, we would expect a continual interest in maintaining churches there, which would result in maintaining bishops. The fact that a line of bishops since the time of the apostles can be traced in association with that city isn't particularly impressive, especially given that the succession was sometimes maintained by means of bribery, murder, arbitrarily settled disputes between rival claimants, etc. The fact that a line of succession has been maintained doesn't tell us that the latest bishop in that line is valid by apostolic standards, nor does it tell us that he's correct in what he teaches. We know that the Roman bishops in the Roman Catholic succession have often contradicted each other on doctrinal issues.

    As far as Mary is concerned, we have good Biblical evidence of her sinfulness, and many church fathers either directly or indirectly refer to her as a sinner. Men like Tertullian, Origen, and John Chrysostom even name the sins they think she committed. Nobody in the ante-Nicene era advocated her sinlessness from conception onward. That concept doesn't appear until later, and even the early post-Nicene fathers say more to contradict the Roman Catholic view on this issue than to support it. Augustine believed in a post-conception sinlessness of Mary, but denied that she was immaculately conceived. He wrote that his belief that only Jesus was immaculately conceived is consistent with the faith of the universal church (On The Grace Of Christ, And On Original Sin, 2:47-48). Some of the bishops of Rome were among those who denied Mary's sinlessness.

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  2. Nicely said, Emay. I like reading your stuff. :)

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