Some Orthodox epologists have been piling on Josh Brisby over at his blog:
Keep in mind that their questions were originally addressed to Josh, not to me, and they sometimes quote him. Josh and I might phrase things differently or answer things differently, so I don’t presume to speak for him, but only for myself.
“If Reformed soteriology is plain in the scripture, then it has always been plain and no Christian in history is exempt from adhering to it without ‘denying the gospel’. Why then do you refuse to anathematize Augustine, the Cappadocians, Athanasius, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus, Anselm, indeed every father of the ancient church as they clearly and openly rejected both sola fide and sola scriptura, not by denying fide or scriptura, but by denying sola. And why do you not also grant such leniency to those today who espouse the same things as those fathers did regarding those doctrines, but rather say that they may be saved only if they do not consciously reject them. Both groups consciously reject them, but why is only the second group anathema?”
i) This question has nothing to do with where the truth lies. It’s just a debater’s ploy, a way of trying to put psychological pressure on his opponent. It’s irrelevant to the truth of falsity of Evangelicalism as over against Orthodoxy.
ii) Something can be objectively evident without being subjectively evident. To some extent we are products of our social conditioning. For example, Anselm didn’t know Greek and Hebrew. He was dependent on the Vulgate.
iii) It’s ultimately up to God to apportion blame. He knows the mitigating and aggravating circumstances in each particular case.
“How do you know for sure that exegesis is better?”
i) How does an Orthodox believer “know for sure” that Orthodox exegesis is better?
ii) Does God oblige us to “know for sure” whose exegesis is better? Or does he oblige us to make the best use of the evidence at our disposal?
“Especially considering that the vast witness and testimony of those who were heirs and even contemporaries of the apostles are against many of the Protestant interpretations that you (and I) have held.”
i) Canadian is conflating two distinct issues. Even if the “heirs” constitute “vast” testimony, it doesn’t follow that the “contemporaries” constitute “vast” testimony.
In his opinion, how many of the church fathers were contemporaries of the apostles? And what specific interpretations do they witness to, at variance with Protestant exegesis?
ii) How does Canadian define an “heir” to an apostle? Does he mean an immediate successor? If so, how many of the church fathers were “heirs”?
Or does he mean “heir” in the attenunated sense of apostolic succession, so that an Orthodox bishop of the 21C is just as much of an heir as Clement of Rome?
iii) When he appeals to contemporaries of the Apostles, that’s an appeal to primitive tradition. Such an appeal implicitly concedes the principle that earlier historical testimony enjoys greater prima facie value than later historical testimony.
If we apply that principle to Holy Tradition, then ecumenical councils are too late to be evidentially germane.
“Question 1: Now you've changed your mind on one of these and need a new denomination.”
To the contrary, Josh switched from one preexisting denomination to another preexisting denomination.
“Is this church hopping part of God's big plan? If not, what went wrong?”
Yes, “church hopping” is part of God’s big plan. There are no unforeseen contingencies in God’s big plan. Everything happens according to plan.
Evidently, Orthodox is an open theist. God was caught off guard by Josh’s “church hopping.”
“Question 2: Thinking about the numerous 'falling away' verses, (you know what they are, Heb 6:4, James 5:20 etc etc). Do you agree that taken in isolation, they are most naturally interpreted to mean someone can fall away?”
i) ”Taken in isolation,” Jn 14:28 is “most naturally interpreted to mean” that Jesus is a lesser being than God. Does Orthodox subscribe to Aryan hermeneutics?
ii) Calvinism doesn’t deny that “someone can fall away.”
“If so, how do you know that interpreting these verses through the lens of your understanding of other verses is more correct than interpreting these other verses through the lens of these verses?”
Since the question is predicated on the false assumption that, in Calvinism, “someone” can’t “fall away,” there is no other “lens” to “correct” the Reformed understanding of Heb 6, &c.
“Question 3: If apostolic succession within the concept of ‘one catholic church’ is in no way a good argument, how would someone know in the 2nd century what is the true faith among a whole bunch of religious sects, many claiming the name of Christ and many claiming pseudopigraphal writings of Jesus and the apostles?”
Not everyone in the 2C would know the true faith. There were 2C reprobates who belonged to heretical sects. God doesn’t shield everyone from spiritual deception and self-deception. Only the elect.
“Question 4: Read the parable of the sheep (Luke 15:4, of the woman with coins (v8) and the parable of the ungrateful son (v11). Jesus is painting a picture for us of what God is like. Does this picture fit in with the reformed picture of a God who decides to damn most people because of his choice?”
i) Does the parable of the prodigal son “fit in with the picture of a God” who won’t forgive anyone apart from Calvary?
ii) Calvinism has no official position on what percentage of humanity is elect or reprobate.
“Question 5: What books about Eastern Orthodoxy have you read? Do you think it is enough to truely understand Orthodoxy?”
i) What books about Reformed theology have you read? What books about Protestant canonics have you read? What commentaries on the Apocrypha have you read?
ii) Yes, I think I’ve read enough to understand the claims of Orthodoxy.
“Question 6: Can you point to any church father, priest, bishop or church between the apostles and the reformers whose church you would be more or less happy to have been in theologically? “
I often attend churches I don’t completely agree with. I often consult theologians and Bible scholars whom I don’t completely agree with.
“Question 7: What went wrong practically speaking when the church came to recognize the deutero-canon?”
It’s wrong to insistent that something is the Word of God when it’s only the word of man.
“How do you know the same thing didn't go wrong with the Jews?”
“Question 8: How do you know Esther is scripture?”
i) How do *you* know that Esther is scripture?
ii) Sometimes we don’t *know* things. Sometimes we merely *believe* them on the basis of the best available evidence.
This is a good occasion to make a larger point. What are our duties to God? God often commands his people to do things which fall short of knowledge.
Take the OT law code. There were a number of capital crimes in the OT. The accused was put on trial. Witnesses were summoned.
The judge himself did not observe the crime. He was dependent on second-hand evidence. Witnesses can be mistaken. Witnesses can lie. An innocent man can be convicted.
Yet the Jews were duty-bound to execute a man convicted of a capital offense. The Jews were obligated to carry out their judicial duties on the basis of evidence which could be misleading or erroneous.
So God can oblige us to do something even in cases where the evidence may let us down. Our moral and spiritual responsibilities aren’t contingent on my being right all the time.
iii) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we mistakenly include Esther in the canon, because we went the best available evidence, which happens to point in the wrong direction.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow the evidence. Our obligations to God do not require apodictic proof.
“Question 9: Do you agree that the Church at the time the NT canon was settled was very similar to Eastern Orthodoxy? If not, why not.”
This is deceptive. The de facto question of when the NT canon was settled is distinct from the de jure question of how the NT canon ought to be settled.
“If so, why do you trust implicitely the decisions and tradition of the Church that you so deeply distrust today?”
i) I don’t accept the decisions and traditions of the church as a package deal. I open the package, sift the traditions, and reexamine the decision-making process.
ii) Moreover, the case for the NT canon isn’t limited to external attestation.
“Question 10: What was the new covenant rule of Christian faith in first century churches before they had NT scripture and when apostles were not present (for whatever reason)? Do you agree that it was oral tradition?”
i) ”Tradition” is a loaded word. Even the Orthodox don’t equate every tradition with Holy Tradition. We’re talking, at most, about oral *transmission*, not oral *tradition*.
ii) An oral mode of transmission was never a rule of faith. That confuses a temporary, utilitarian process with a theological criterion.
“If so, what went wrong when the Church never discarded this rule of faith that it had from the beginning?”
i) The modality of oral transmission was never the “rule of faith.” What was “discarded” was not the rule of faith, but a process—a mode of transmission.
ii) There’s an obvious difference between St. Paul telling me something, and a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of somebody who said he heard St. Paul say something.
iii) There’s a reason why the Apostolic kerygma was committed to writing. There’s a reason we have a NT.
“1.) Why did you ignore his quotes of Protestant scholars? I noticed over at Trioblog that they tried to make the new testament seem as if it didn't quote the DC or paraphrase the DC, but that still doesn't deal with the many protestant scholars who said the opposite. He gave lots of quotes from Protestant scholars and they were never dealt with.”
i) Which quotes by which scholars on which particular topics were “ignored”?
ii) We saw Dyer deliberately quoting Bruce out of context.
iii) Whether or not the NT ever alludes to the Apocrypha is a red herring. The question is how a literary allusion functions. How does a NT writer treat his sources? What is their prior reputation?
“2.) Why would you point to the ‘science of textual criticism’ in regards to ‘authentic books and inauthentic books’? You are aware what the Liberals have done to most of the Biblical books you accept by using the science of textual criticism.”
Strictly speaking, “textual criticism” is used to authenticate or inauthenticate a text, not a book, viz. the Long Ending of Mark.
“The traditional Reformed arguments against the DC(deuto-canon) books are used by Liberals against the PC(protocanon books) books.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with historical criticism. But liberals operate with liberal presuppositions when they use historical criticism.
“3.) You know historicaly the evidence would support the opposite conclusion. It would be more accurate to say that ‘all jews’ before the first advent didn't embrace the D.C. books. “We know that many did embrace the DC books.”
Tell us specifically what pre-Christian Jews canonized the Apocrypha. Give us names and dates.
“The dead sea scrolls have many D.C. books...so they obviously embraced some of them before the first advent.”
This is equivocal. “Having” many books in your library is not the same thing as canonizing a book. I have books by atheists in my library. I don’t confuse them with the Bible.
“But one could also say that some jews only embraced the first five books.”
Which Jews? Is this an allusion to the Sadducees? If so, then that’s a popular misconception of what they believed. Cf. F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 40-41.
“This is true too. The jews were not in agreement about the books before 150 A.D.”
Where’s your evidence?
“4.) Do you think you misunderstood Jay's LXX argument? You called it a ‘source fallacy’? But wouldn't it be more likely that they actually used the LXX as their Old Testament text? I mean, if they often quoted from it then it would mean that they often read it.”
You’re equivocating between the content of the Old Greek version and the content of Christian copies of the LXX.
When codices of the LXX include Christian books like Barnabas, Hermas, or 1-2 Clement, does this mean the Jews originally included Barnabas, Hermas, and 1-2 Clement in their OT canon?
I understand that many Orthodox believers are ignorant about the textual history of the LXX, but when their ignorance has been repeatedly corrected, and they continue to peddle the same erroneous arguments, then it’s difficult to acquit them of dissimulation.
“5.) “My question is: Do you think it is possible that the Jews rejected the D.C. books in 150 A.D. because the christians were using them to convert them to christianity?”
i) This isn’t a case of what’s “possible.” It’s a case of what the evidence points to.
ii) Why would Jews reject (or eject) the Apocrypha on those grounds, but not reject OT books containing OT prophecies (e.g. Isaiah, Daniel, the Psalter)?
iii) What probative evidence do you have that the Jews rejected the Apocrypha after 150 AD?
“6.)If the 1st century church didn't have 100% uniformity in regards to the books of the Bible, and if the churches after them didn't have 100% uniformity of Bible books then what makes you think that the Church today should have 100% uniformity?”
Because Orthodox epologists typically claim that Orthodoxy confers an epistemic advantage over the Protestant position.
“7.) You said that the D.C. has historical errors. Liberal Prots say the samething about the Protocanon itself.”
And conservative Protestant scholars have argued them down. We’re waiting to see you do the same thing.
“Plus I have seen Roman Catholic Apologists (Like my friend Phatcatholic) show that the D.C. doesn't have the historical errors as you claim.”
Funny, since I was quoting from a Roman Catholic scholar (Fitzmyer) on the historical errors in Tobit.
“Just as things can be explained away in the Protocanon.....the samething can be done for the Deuto-canon.”
If it can be done, do it. Don’t say it, show it. For example, do you think Solomon wrote Wisdom?
“8.) The differences in the canon of scripture among the Byzantine and Slavic rites is not great. Yet you make it seem as if it is. 4th Maccebees is in the Apendix of one. The same might be true in regards to the Prayer of Manessah. Other than that the only other differences don't really matter to this conversation.”
The Orthodox church has been back and forth on the canon throughout its checkered history:
“The Eastern Orthodox have a different understanding of what the word ‘Canon’ means.”
Just as Solomon had a different understanding of what the word “monogamy” means.
The Orthodox church gives you a buffet a canons to choose from.
“Our understanding is more Church Historic.”
Their understanding is more Church phantasmagoric.
“You can find it in the Ancient Church.”
Since the church fathers didn’t agree on the canon, where in the ancient church are we to look?