Thursday, March 13, 2008

Orthodox Dishonesty, Chapter LXX...

I wandered across a statement from an Orthodox E-pologist tonight criticizing David T. King for allegedly dishonestly quoting the Fathers of the Ancient Church in Volume 1 of Holy Scripture, The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith. Specifically, he said that he misquoted Gregory of Nyssa.

In Chapter 3, King tries to assault an argument that John 20:30 is an argument for tradition.

John 20:30 "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book".

King argues that the Fathers interpreted this passage to mean that one should not speculate above and beyond what scripture says. However when we bother to look up the references, this is not what we find at all.

His first quote is from Gregory of Nyssa. In the quote Gregory states that scripture is silent on a particular theological question. But look what Gregory says a couple of sentences later:

"But it may be that the Evangelist means this in his profound wisdom: that we are to learn the majesty of the Son of God not by the miracles alone which He did in the flesh. For these are little compared with the greatness of His other work. “But look thou up to Heaven! Behold its glories! Transfer your thought to the wide compass of the earth, and the watery depths!"

In other words, Gregory is actually advising against looking to scripture for answers, and instead to look to the glory of God in creation. In other words, he states the exact opposite of what King would have him say.
This particular E-pologist isn't well known for his own honesty, regularly violating his ban on this blog by posting pseudonymously, so I decided to check his "research."

1. David King is specifically dealing with the claims of Roman Catholics with respect to the existence of extrabiblical traditions about Jesus. This E-pologist can't seem to follow King's argument, or he's too dishonest to represent it correctly. It's often hard to tell with him.

2. Specifically, he quotes John O'Brien:
There are certain truths which Christ and the Apostles taught which are not recorded in the Scriptures but which are embodied in the life, practice, and ministry of the Church, in her unwritten and written traditions, which supplement the biblical record.
3. Then, he cites Gregory as a Patristic witness against that very sort of thing, with respect to the way Roman Catholics construe John 21:25.

Here is the full quote from Gregory of Nyssa:

Wherefore Holy Scripture omits all idle inquiry into substance as superfluous and unnecessary. And methinks it was for this that John, the Son of Thunder, who with the loud voice of the doctrines contained in his Gospel rose above that of the preaching which heralded them, said at the close of his Gospel, "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." He certainly does not mean by these the miracles of healing, for of these the narrative leaves none unrecorded, even though it does not mention the names of all who were healed. For when he tells us that the dead were raised, that the blind received their sight, that the deaf heard, that the lame walked, and that He healed all manner of sickness and all manner of disease, he does not in this leave any miracle unrecorded, but embraces each and all in these general terms. But it may be that the Evangelist means this in his profound wisdom: that we are to learn the majesty of the Son of God not by the miracles alone which He did in the flesh. For these are little compared with the greatness of His other work. "But look thou up to Heaven! Behold its glories! Transfer your thought to the wide compass of the earth, and the watery depths! Embrace with your mind the whole world, and when you have come to the knowledge of supramundane nature, learn that these are the true works of Him Who sojourned for you in the flesh," which (says he), "if each were written"—and the essence, manner, origin, and extent of each given—the world itself could not contain the fulness of Christ's teaching about the world itself. For since God has made all things in wisdom, and to His wisdom there is no limit (for "His understanding," says the Scripture, "is infinite"), the world, that is bounded by limits of its own, cannot contain within itself the account of infinite wisdom. If, then, the whole world is too little to contain the teaching of the works of God, how many worlds could contain an account of the Lord of them all? For perhaps it will not be denied even by the tongue of the blasphemer that the Maker of all things, which have been created by the mere fiat of His will, is infinitely greater than all. If, then, the whole creation cannot contain what might be said respecting itself (for so, according to our explanation, the great Evangelist testifies), how should human shallowness contain all that might be said of the Lord of Creation? Let those grand talkers inform us what man is, in comparison with the universe, what geometrical point is so without magnitude, which of the atoms of Epicurus is capable of such infinitesimal reduction in the vain fancy of those who make such problems the object of their study, which of them falls so little short of non-existence, as human shallowness, when compared with the universe. As says also great David, with a true insight into human weakness, "Mine age is as nothing unto You," not saying that it is absolutely nothing, but signifying, by this comparison to the non-existent, that what is so exceedingly brief is next to nothing at all.
There is little if anything here with which we, the Reformed, would disagree.

1. Is Gregory saying we should look to extrabiblical traditions that are embodied, for example, in the liturgy of the Church? No.

2. Is he appealing to extrabiblical traditions about the miracles of Jesus (for example, His childhood) that we might find embodied in the life of the Church, for example, in icons? No.

Therefore, Gregory is saying exactly what Brother David says Gregory wrote. Who is mishandling Gregory?

3. Does the Protestant rule of faith say that all knowledge about God is absolutely confined to Scripture, to special revelation alone? No! For we have a doctrine of common grace. We do believe in Natural Theology. We just place limits on its utility, for we place it in subjection to Scripture, which is alone infallible. Of course, this Orthodox E-pologist, chronic liar that he has proven himself to be in the past, regularly misrepresents our rule of faith.

Gregory even says later:

I have said, then (for I make my master's words my own), that reason supplies us with but a dim and imperfect comprehension of the Divine nature; nevertheless, the knowledge that we gather from the term which piety allows us to apply to it is sufficient for our limited capacity.

4. Indeed, on what basis might Gregory make such an appeal? I wonder if our inept Orthodox E-pologist recognizes this text from the Bible:

1O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
3When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
9O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
I take it reading comprehension is not this E-pologist's forte.