You [Christine] write:
"It is indeed a refutation if you accept later development of doctrine on the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the nature of the Holy Spirit, etc. by the very same church fathers who also support requesting the saints’ intercession."
I've documented examples of your disagreements with the theology of those later fathers. Again, see here. You need to ask yourself whether your objection to my position is consistent with your own position. If you're not consistent with your own reasoning, why do you expect anybody else to be?
I don't get Trinitarianism from the later church fathers. I get it from scripture. The fact that the later fathers were correct on such issues doesn't prove that I should agree with them about everything else. You don't agree with them about everything else.
"If it was so clearly a heresy, then at least ONE of the fathers should have said something against it—but instead, you find widespread support."
You haven't given us any example of an early father who "said something against" the early opposition to prayer to the dead. Or the early opposition to the sinlessness of Mary. Or the early opposition to some other Roman Catholic doctrines. If the earlier fathers disagree with you, but the later fathers agree with you, it doesn't make sense for you to reject the view of the earlier fathers (or irrationally deny that they disagreed with you) while asking me why I disagree with the later fathers. If I think the earlier fathers contradict the later fathers, then I have to choose between them. Why would it be unreasonable to side with the earlier fathers?
And I don't make the same claims about early church history that Catholics have made. I believe that widespread error can occur, much as we see in Biblical times (2 Kings 22:8-13, Nehemiah 8:13-17). And I don't just look to the men commonly classified as church fathers today in order to judge what beliefs were held historically. Vigilantius opposed prayer to the dead in the post-Nicene era, and he was himself a presbyter. As Jerome acknowledged (Against Vigilantius, 2-3), Vigilantius had the support of bishops and other church leaders and laymen. And others opposed prayer to the dead after Vigilantius' time and prior to the Reformation. Prayer to the dead was popular, but it wasn't universally accepted. The unpopularity of my view in later patristic centuries isn't as bad as the absence and contradiction of your view in scripture and in the earlier patristic centuries.
"The fact is, you cannot offer a reasoned justification; you can only selectively quote and ignore what you wish from their writings. That is precisely what Luther and Calvin did, and it’s a practice that has continued on since the time of the Reformation."
Is that why your own denomination's scholars keep giving up ground in their historical disputes with Protestants? Why do you think appeals to doctrinal development have become so popular among Catholics in recent times? I've already linked you to posts in which I document Catholic scholars' acknowledgment of the early absence and widespread contradiction of Catholic doctrine (Klaus Schatz on the papacy, Ludwig Ott on the veneration of images, etc.).
"Your argument basically goes like this: Scripture says nothing about requesting the saints’ intercession, therefore, it didn’t happen then/it is forbidden. The ante-Nicene fathers say nothing about requesting the saints’ intercession (although, as noted above, I do believe Origen does), therefore, it didn’t happen then/it is forbidden. One can see why this is wrong: it’s an argumentum ex silentio, and is classified among the logical fallacies. In fact, the argument from silence is precisely what credobaptists use to argue against infant baptism, as the New Testament does not anywhere explicitly make the case for infant baptism."
Since I've repeatedly argued that scripture condemns attempts to contact the dead, citing passages in Deuteronomy and Isaiah, why would you claim that I just appeal to silence? Likewise, when I cite passages from the ante-Nicene fathers that seem to oppose prayer to the dead in some manner, why would you claim that my approach is to appeal to silence?
But even if I did only appeal to silence, whether such an appeal is fallacious depends on the context. If there's silence in a context in which we would expect something to be mentioned under the conditions in question, then there's nothing fallacious about appealing to silence. I've explained why prayer to the dead should have been mentioned where it wasn't. You need to address what I said instead of continuing to ignore it.
And if you think that credobaptists just appeal to silence, then credobaptism is another position you're criticizing without knowing much about it. I'm a credobaptist, I've argued for the position on this blog, and I didn't just appeal to silence. See my two articles on the subject on the page I linked you to earlier, here, and you can find a lot of other material I've written on the subject in the archives. You could also read some credobaptist scholars, like the ones who contributed to Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright, edd., Believer's Baptism (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2006). They don't just appeal to silence. Neither do the paedobaptist scholars I've cited in my articles elsewhere on this blog, who acknowledge some of the early evidence for credobaptism.
You keep telling us about your Oxford education. So, why do you keep arguing at a Catholic Answers level?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
The Significance Of Later Patristic Support For Prayer To The Dead
I've been posting a lot about praying to the dead lately. I've done that largely because it's a topic that isn't addressed often, and it's rarely addressed in much depth when it does come up. I'm still discussing the subject with Christine, a Roman Catholic, in another thread. We're still discussing Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Isaiah 8:19, Isaiah 19:3, Origen's view of prayer, and some other issues. Anybody interested can read that thread. What I want to do here is repost my comments on the significance of the later patristic support for prayer to the dead, as well as what I said about some other topics. I hope these recent exchanges on prayer to the dead will help people in thinking through these issues.