Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inaudible oral tradition

Last week or so I posted a number of comments over at Green Baggins. I’m reposting them here:

steve hays said,
October 7, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Bryan Cross said,

“What you are doing here is presenting a false dilemma: either Scripture is sufficient to preserve the Church in the unity Christ intended, or Scripture has no intrinsic meaning. That’s a false dilemma because there is a middle position.”

Notice how Bryan rigs the issue by framing the issue in terms of whether or not Scripture is sufficient to preserve the intended unity of the church. But before he can run with that, he needs to establish two key assumptions:

i) He needs to show that Scripture is supposed to preserve the unity of the church.

ii) He also needs to show, by responsible exegesis, that his allusion to Jn 17:21 supports his claim.

“The Scripture, being divinely inspired, has an intrinsic meaning that can be properly and rightly known only by the aid of the Spirit working through the Church.”

Textbook case of begging the question.

“Men may grasp at it with their own minds, but without the divinely established interpretive authority Christ established in the Church He founded, they fall into a thousand different incommensurable and irresolvable interpretations. The last five hundred years demonstrates that fact most clearly.”

Is he admitting that we can grasp the meaning of Scripture with our own minds?

“The Church never diminished Scripture to make room for Tradition. Tradition was always there since the Church was born on Pentecost. Tradition was there before the first book of the NT was written.”

And OT Scripture was there before the Christian church existed. For that matter, the prophet Amos was there before the papacy existed.

“Tradition is that by which the Church knew who wrote which books, and which books were to be canonized.”

“The Church” doesn’t know anything. “The Church” is a personification for a bunch of people.

And Bryan doesn’t really mean “the Church.” That’s his euphemism for the papacy and the episcopate. Bryan always speaks in code language. Using this rhetorical bait-and-switch tactic. Classic doubletalk, where “the Church” doesn’t mean “the Church.”

“The Catholic Church claims its authority on what Christ gave to St. Peter in Caesarea, not on the Gospel of St. Matthew chapter 16. St. Peter already had the keys before the Gospel of St. Matthew was ever written. You’re evaluating the doctrine of the Catholic Church through a Protestant paradigm, as if the Catholic Church too holds to ‘sola scriptura.’ But that just begs the question, i.e. assumes precisely what is in question between us. From the Catholic point of view, we (Catholics) were there before the NT was written.”

From the Jewish point of view, Moses was there before the bishop of Rome.

“We knew about the keys before the NT was written.”

The collective “we” is just an imaginary retrojection. Bryan didn’t know about the keys before the NT was written.

“We didn’t learn this from Scripture, but from the lips of the living God incarnate, as He spoke them at Caesarea.”

Bryan is play-acting. Bryan didn’t hear this from the lips of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI didn’t hear this from the lips of Christ. We’re all in the same boat.

“One of our leaders (i.e. St. Matthew) later wrote the account down, in a book you got from us.”

i) Matthew was not a Roman Catholic. And the church of Rome doesn’t hold the copyright to the Gospel of Matthew.

ii) BTW, it’s nice to see that Bryan affirms the apostolic authorship of Matthew, but that hardly represents mainstream Catholic Bible scholarship. That’s the sort of thing evangelical scholars would still defend.

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 8:34 am

Bryan Cross said,

“As Sean pointed out in the first comment in this thread, St. Paul commands the Christians to “hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” (2 Thess. 2:15)”

i) This is a good example of how Bryan makes a specious case for Romanism. He begins by positing a false premise, then proceeds to build on his false premise.

ii) Notice the fatal equivocation of terms. See how he’s putting words in the mouth of St. Paul.

Paul doesn’t command Christians in general to do this. Rather, Paul commands the Thessalonians to do this. This command was directed at Christians living in the mid-1C. Christians living at the time the apostles were alive. Christians who actually had direct word-of-mouth knowledge of apostolic teaching. Christians who actually heard the apostles preach and teach.

iii) In the nature of the case, that type of firsthand access to the spoken word of the apostles is hardly interchangeable with 3rd, 4th, 5th-hand acquaintance.

iv) By contrast, the written word is accessible to posterity. As we know from the OT, that’s a primary reason Scripture was inscripturated in the first place: a permanent, public record of God’s revealed will.

v) Also notice that Bryan must quote a written source to even establish the existence of an oral source. So his knowledge of the oral source is dependent on his knowledge of the written source.

vi) As long as we’re quoting 2 Thes, here’s something else we should also quote:

“…not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way…” (2 Thes 2:2-3).

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write” (2 Thes 3:17).

So the Thessalonians are not to credit every putative apostolic “tradition” as an actual apostolic tradition. To the contrary, they are to be on their guard against spurious apostolic traditions.

Therefore, if Bryan is serious about applying 2 Thes to the situation of modern-day Christians, he needs to explain and defend the process by which he authenticates oral apostolic tradition.

“And that imperative applied to all Christians in the generation after the Apostles. They were to hold to everything the Apostles had taught, not only to those things written down by the Apostles. Not only does Scripture nowhere say to follow only what the Apostles wrote; it explicitly states that the believers should also abide by what they taught by word of mouth.”

Once again, Bryan is putting words in the mouth of St. Paul. Once again, Bryan is building on a false premise. Paul does not “explicitly” apply that command to all Christians in the generation after the apostles. Indeed, that’s not even implicit in what he says.

Rather, he applies that statement to listeners or readers who were contemporaneous with the author of the letter. This is all that St. Paul actually says in the verse cited.

Paul doesn’t say, “After I’m dead, your children are obligated to hold to hearsay claims attributed to the me and my fellow apostles.”

Rather, the Thessalonians are to hold to what *he* taught *them*. Either face-to-face communication, or via his signed letters, delivered by one of his known couriers.

“But on the contrary, claiming that all one needs to interpret Scripture are some exegetical tools, the historico-critical method and some lexicons, denigrates Scripture, by reducing it to a merely natural book, decipherable through natural tools and the natural power of human reason.”

That’s clearly fallacious. The nature of the audience has no bearing on the nature of the book. You might as well say the book can’t be inspired unless the reader or listener is also inspired.

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 8:40 am

BTW, I can’t help but notice that Bryan is giving us his private interpretation of 2 Thes 2:15. I don’t see him quoting an infallible interpretation of 2 Thes 2:15 from the extraordinary Magisterium.

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 10:02 am

BTW, I can’t help noticing that Bryan takes the Pauline authorship of 2 Thes for granted. But that’s not something he got from reading your average Roman Catholic scholar. Rather, that’s a carryover from his bad old days as a benighted evangelical. Like many evangelical converts to Rome, Bryan is to the right of his adopted denomination on Bible criticism. It’s not as if the hierarchy requires the laity to affirm the Pauline authorship of 2 Thes.

Now it’s possible that Bryan merely assumes the Pauline authorship of 2 Thes for the sake of argument. But if this is a purely tu quoque appeal, then he will need to restructure his argument. For a letter from a forger commanding his readers to adhere to his bogus apostolic traditions doesn’t seem to be a very promising starting-point to make the case for oral apostolic tradition.

So either way, Bryan has backed himself into a dilemma. Does he or does he not affirm the Pauline authorship of 2 Thes? If so, then on what grounds? It can’t be grounded in the official policy of his adopted denomination, for the Roman church doesn’t require that of its members. That’s not de fide. Indeed, there are Catholic Bible scholars in good standing with their ecclesiastical superiors who openly deny the Pauline authorship of 2 Thes.

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

Tom Riello said,

“My concern would be similar to what Pope Benedict has expressed about such notions: The Scripture is left to the playground of the exegetes and the historical/critical scholars to decide what is or is not still in force. Could your argument against Bryan possibly prove too much? Namely, that the Bible is subject to the whims of exegesis and the academy. One says this passage is still operative, the other says that this was for that particular time (I am thinking of Paul’s not allowing women to the ordained ministry) and still another says the passage is not authentic. How would you defend your position contra the liberal academy? What makes it different? (Please know that I am not asking in order to engage in some polemical fight but out of a genuine desire to hear your answer).”

i) Exegesis applies to texts generally–whether biblical, papal, patristic, conciliar, or secular. Bryan assumes that readers of Green Baggins can properly interpret his statements. Bryan assumes that he can properly interpret the statements of commenters at Green Baggins.

You had to interpret my statement to frame your question, and I had to interpret your question to answer it.

So if you think that leaves it to the “playground” of exegetes, than you objection applies with equal force to Magisterial statements as well as statements made by Catholic epologists like Bryan.

ii) Either exegetes give arguments for their interpretations or they don’t. If so, then it’s a question of judging the quality of the argument.

If you think we can’t judge the quality of an argument, then we can’t judge the quality of arguments for Roman Catholicism.

iii) As to historical/critical scholars, that depends, in part, on the evidence they adduce, but that also depends on their methods and assumptions. If, say, a historical/critical scholar is screening the witness of Scripture through the filter of methodological naturalism, then we’re entitled to challenge that hermeneutical grid.

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 11:42 am

Tom Riello said,

“Given what you said, my concern is this: It seems that this understanding of interpretation only allows for making a quality argument, nothing more, nothing less.”

And why is that a source of concern? Didn’t Jesus and the Apostles reason from the Scriptures? They argued down their opponents.

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Tom Riello said,

“Certainly you don’t think Jesus and the Apostles thought that their reasoning from the Scripture was only the putting forth of a quality argument.”

They thought it was sufficient to argue for their interpretation. That’s what they gave their audience. “My interpretation is right for this reason. Or, your interpretation is wrong for this reason.”

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Nick said,

“A recent example is when Steve Hays went around saying the Levitical Sacrifices modeled Penal Substitution, even condemning other Protestants for not believing it, but Steve went utterly silent (and even mocked me) when I called him out to prove that. Just see this article on his blog, scroll down to my first comment.”

That’s a documentable lie. I pointed out that Nick committed stock word-study fallacies.

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Bryan Cross said,

“I wouldn’t believe in ecclesial infallibility if the Church didn’t teach it.”

Mitt Romney said,

“I wouldn’t believe in ecclesial infallibility if the LDS Church didn’t teach it.”

Helen Keller said,

"I wouldn’t believe in ecclesial infallibility if the Swedenborgian Church didn’t teach it."

steve hays said,
October 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Bryan Cross said,

“I wouldn’t believe in ecclesial infallibility if the Church didn’t teach it.”

Unless you already knew that a church which teaches ecclesial infallibility is infallible, there would be no reason to believe its self-referential teaching.

“From the day of Pentecost, there was never a Tradition-less Church-less hermeneutical vacuum within which to interpet Scripture, against which one could test every incoming component of Tradition.”

From the day of Pentecost, there was never a Scripture-less church, for the Apostles preached from the OT.

steve hays said,
October 9, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Bryan Cross said,

” … what these Church Fathers did believe … has implications for papal primacy, even in cases where they may not have fully grasped the extent of those implications”).

That type of argument would enjoy some degree of salience if you were dealing with an inspired writer. For even if he were not fully conscious of all the implications of his statement, the unintended implications would still be inspired implications. And you could therefore draw valid inferences from what he said, regardless of whether or not he was fully aware of all that entailed.

But when you’re dealing with uninspired writers (e.g. church fathers), you can’t properly attribute to them a position of which they themselves were oblivious. You can’t make them bear witness to something they didn’t mean to affirm or deny.

Indeed, it’s often the case, because we’re shortsighted creatures, that when someone points out the unintended implications of something we said, we will retract what we said. We may exclaim, “Well, I hadn’t thought that through. But now that you draw my attention to the implicit consequences of my stated position, I see that I need to modify or retract my statement.”

steve hays said,
October 9, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Bryan Cross said,

“As discussed above regarding a tree and its fruit, because of this relation of truth and love, if the more deeply persons imbibe a particular position, the more they tend to lose graciousness and charity and become rude and uncharitable, this testifies against the truth of that position.”

i) I doubt that commenters like Pastor King and TFan have any fundamental objection to judging a belief-system by its fruits. They can speak for themselves, but I expect that one reason they oppose Roman Catholicism is because they’ve been judging Roman Catholic theology by its fruits.

ii) I’d also note that civil, charitable, ecumenical dialogue is hardly a historical trademark Bryan’s adopted denomination. Google the text of “Exsurge Domine.” Or Google the text of “Ad Extirpanda.”

“This discussion (above) is not genuine ecumenical dialogue, because genuine ecumenical dialogue is not about scoring points or ‘winning debates,’ but about reaching the truth together, in love.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, the usual purpose of a public debate is not for one debater to convince the other, or vice versa. Rather, debates are ordinarily for the benefit of the confused or the undecided. For the audience, and not the debaters.

That’s why most debaters debate. Not to persuade their opponent, which is normally an unrealistic expectation, but to get their best arguments in the public record.

“And when the uncharitable option is taken, communication becomes impossible, because then everything the other person says is (or can be) construed (and perceived) as insincere, malicious, deceitful, etc.”

Without commenting in Bryan’s motives, I’d simply like to make a general and fairly obvious point: not all writers or speakers argue in good faith. We see this all the time in politics, don’t see?

So there’s no presumption that everyone is entitled to the most charitable construction on what they say. That’s person-variable. Some people are entitled to the benefit of the doubt, but others are not. That’s just the world we live in.

steve hays said,
October 9, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Nick said,

Turretin Fan #168,

I still don’t follow your logic. I was explicitly and repeatedly speaking of “a genuine inspired apostolic *doctrine*” and *you* not caring if they were inscripturated, to which you keep replying “I’m completely satisfied with the Bible. I don’t need something else.”
You’re missing the point that an inspired *doctrine* is part of Divine Revelation, it’s part of the Deposit of Faith that must be preserved and never lost. To say you’re fine with the Bible alone – *indifferent* to a genuine inspired oral Doctrine – is to say you don’t care about the full extent of God’s Teachings He gave specifically to help and assist man.

Well, TFan is more than able to speak for himself, but I assume he’s simply agreeing with God’s own judgment on the matter. If God didn’t see fit to preserve this or that inspired utterance, then why should TFan take issue with God’s providential wisdom?

Putting the same thing in reverse, God has, in fact, inscripturated everything that ought to be preserved for the ages. Nothing was lost that we can’t do without. Unlike the Romanist, we trust in God’s selection criteria. God knows best which of his words need to be memorialized for the benefit of his people.

steve hays said,
October 10, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Bryan Cross said,

“So, in my opinion, the ‘logjam’ is broken up by backing up, epistemically, to common ground between us. In particular, we agree that Christ came from heaven, became man, and founded a Church in the first century. That’s common ground.”

Actually, traditional covenant theology accentuates the continuity between the OT church and the NT church. So Bryan’s comparison is equivocal.

“We agree about the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible (excepting the deuteros).”

No, that’s not common ground. Vatican II limits inerrancy to saving articles of faith. Not only is that all the wording requires, but the wording reflects Conciliar deliberations involving an influential speech by Cardinal König, who dissuaded the bishops from reaffirming the traditional RC position on the plenary inspiration of Scripture.

That’s why liberal scholars like Joseph Fitzmyer, John Meier, Luke Timothy Johnson, and the late Raymond Brown (to name a few) reflect mainstream RC Bible scholarship.

However, I agree with TFan that this is a diversion from the issue at hand. I only mention this so that Bryan’s errors don’t go unchecked.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 8:01 am

Bryan Cross said,

“That’s not true. See ‘Vatican II and the Inerrancy of the Bible.’”

For documentation:

Any memory of old theories of verbal inspiration was to be omitted, and hence any form of an impersonal, mechanistic interpretation of the origin of Scripture… But this little word veritas that intruded here proved to be a living cell that continued to grow. But what did it mean? Only, “religious” or even “secular7′ truth, to use the language of the 1962 schema? This was the real problem that now had to be taken up with full force both inside and outside the conciliar discussion. This did not happen, and new suggestions for the solution of the inerrancy question, as modem research posed it, could be made only hesitantly.

Form F was worked out in the third session of the Council. The first change that strikes us is in the title of Article 11: “Statuitur factum inspirationis et veritatis S. Scripturae.” Inerrantia is replaced by the positive term veritas, which is notably extended in the text. In the course of the discussion on the schema in the autumn of 1964, various fathers from the Eastern and the Western Churches made important speeches on the necessity of an interpretation of the inerrancy of Scripture that would be in harmony with the latest findings of exegesis. It was variously pointed out that the doctrine of inerrancy received its particular and narrower formulation in the 19th century, at a time when the means of secular historical research and criticism were used to investigate the secular historical accuracy of Scripture, and this was more or less denied – which had inevitable consequences for its theological validity. The teaching office of the Church sought to concentrate its defense at the point of immediate attack: i.e. to defend the inerrancy of Scripture even in the veritates profanae generally defending the claim of the Bible and of Christianity to be revelation. To defend scriptural inerrancy in this sphere of secular truths various theories were employed which sought to prove the absolute inerrancy of Scripture on the basis of these conditions and attitudes.

Because of the apologetical viewpoint from which they started, they were in danger of producing a
narrowness and a false accentuation7 in the doctrine of inerrancy. Also in the area of the interpretation of Scripture and the rules pertaining to this we can see a similar phenomenon, which the Council observed in different spheres of theology and endeavoured to nullify: namely, the tendency to an apologetical isolation and the claim to absolutism of a partial view. With this kind of motivation for the defense of the inerrancy of Scripture in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, there was a weakening of the awareness that Scripture as the inspired, written word of God is supposed above all to serve the preservation and expansion of the saving revelation and reality given through Christ in the world. Of course it was always realized that this was the real purpose of Scripture. In the question of inerrancy, however, the emphasis was placed on the one-sided and isolated – accentuation of the veritates profanae. This tended to create uncertainty rather than a joyful confidence that God’s truth and salvation remain present in the world in an unfalsified and permanent form–namely through the inspired word. It was necessary to reawaken this awareness. The doctrine of inerrancy needed its own centre and the right accentuation.

In this respect the most important contribution was undoubtedly the speech by Cardinal Koenig on 2 October 1964. Several other fathers who took part in the discussion from 2 to 6 October either verbally or in writing came back to this point. The Cardinal first of all pointed out the new situation that exists in relation to the question of inerrancy. As a result of intensive Oriental studies our picture of the veritas historica and the fides historica of Scripture has been clarified. Many of the 19th century objections to the Old Testament in particular and its reliability as an account of historical fact are now irrelevant But Oriental studies have also produced another finding: “ . . . laudata scientia rerum orientalium insuper demonstrat in Bibliis Sacris notitias historicas et notitias scientiae naturalis a veritate quandoque deficere.” Thus Cardinal Koenig admitted that not all the difficulties could be solved. On the contrary, in certain cases they have an urgency that is borne out by scientific research. His speech mentioned a few examples: according to Mk 2:26 David had entered the house of God under the high priest Abiathar and eaten the bread of the Presence. In fact, however, according to 1 Sam 21: l ff. it was not under Abiathar, but under his father Abimelech. In Mt 27:9 we read that in the fate of Judas a prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled. In fact it is Zech 11: 12f. that is quoted. In Dan 1: 1 we read that King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in the third year of King Jehoiakim, i.e. 607 B.C., but from the authentic chronicle of King Nebuchadnezzar that has been discovered we know that the siege can only have taken place three years later. Other geographical and chronological points could be quoted in this connection.

The fact that this speech could be held in a plenary session without any protest being made is surely significant… Thus Cardinal Koenig implicitly gives up that premise that comes from the aprioristic and unhistorical thinking that has dominated teaching on inerrancy since the age of the Fathers: if one admits that a sacred writer has made a mistake, then one is necessarily admitting that God has made a mistake with the human author.

The actual aim of inspiration allows us to find a better solution: one can still maintain the true influence of God on the human authors without making him responsible for their weaknesses. These relate only to the form or the outer garment of the Gospel, and not the latter itself, however much the two might be inwardly connected- indeed, without this genuine humanity, with all its limitations, Scripture would appear like a foreign body in our world. But God speaks to us in this way, in our language, from out of our midst.
A number of Council fathers followed the example of Cardinal Koenig and refer to him as an authority: others, admittedly in the minority, produced the traditional statements, without, however, dealing with the new points raised by Cardinal Koenig.

H. Vorgrimler, ed. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Herder & Herder,
1969), 3:204-207

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 8:18 am

For the record, I was just quoting from Aloys Grillmeier’s eyewitness account of the proceedings at Vatican II. For a corroborative eyewitness account, see Hans Küng’s My Struggle for Freedom: Memoirs (Eerdmans 2003), 366-68. They were there, Bryan was not. Therefore, I have more confidence in their firsthand accounts than a newbie convert who wasn’t on the scene, knows none of the participants, &c.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 9:54 am

Notice that Sean has quietly abandoned his original claim. He’s no longer appealing to what Paul said. Rather, he’s appealing to what church fathers said Paul said. This is the typical bait-n-switch tactic of the Romanist.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 10:04 am

I also notice that Sean has yet to furnish an infallible interpretation of his prooftext. Instead, he’s given us the private interpretation of church fathers. And Bryan is in the same boat.

It’s gratifying to see their unspoken faith in the right of private judgment.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 10:44 am

Tom Riello said,

“I brought this up earlier to Steve in reference to the 2Thess 2:15 referring only to them but it needs to be said again: why should we limit it this only to the Thessalonians? Scripture is not a dead letter but living and active and as Pope Benedict reminds us we are contemporaries with Scripture by the Spirit.”

That’s a fair question in its own right, but it changes the subject. Bryan attributed a specific claim to Paul that Paul never made. It’s important to clarify what Paul did or didn’t say.

Now, you may think that Paul’s statement has applicability beyond the immediate referent. And there’s some truth to that.

But before we get to that point we can’t allow this constant bait-and-switch to go unchallenged. Paul never said what Bryan imputes to Paul. Yet that was a premise of Bryan’s argument. We don’t permit Bryan to continue building on a false premise.

Concerning your question, I don’t think any of us object to following identifiable apostolic traditions. Other than Scripture, where do we find identifiable apostolic traditions?

You can’t simply appeal to oral tradition, for unless you can document the oral tradition, there’s nothing to appeal to. But, of course, if you can document the oral tradition in question, then it ceases to be an oral tradition.

And even if you can document a putative apostolic tradition, the next question is how to verify its apostolicity.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 11:10 am

BTW, we need to distinguish between oral transmission and oral tradition. If my mother tells me something about her childhood, that’s oral transmission. If my mother tells me something her mother told her about her mother’s childhood, that’s oral tradition. Likewise, if my grandmother tells me something about her childhood that’s oral transmission, not oral tradition.

2 Thes 2:15 deals with oral transmission, not oral tradition. The Thessalonians heard certain things firsthand from the lips of Paul. That’s not equivalent to oral tradition. Tradition is second or thirdhand information.

2 Thes is dealing with firsthand information, not hearsay.

This doesn’t mean secondhand information is inherently untrustworthy. Depending on the chain-of-custody, secondhand info can be reliable.

But that’s not what Paul is referring to in 2 Thes.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 11:41 am

Nick said,

“It’s also a good indication to me that a thread is going down-hill fast and that I shouldn’t invest any further time.”

I doubt your absence will be sorely missed.

“Nobody, be they Catholic or Protestant should be beating around the bush when someone asks for clarification…”

To the contrary, Romanists like you, Bryan, and Sean excel in the fine art of obfuscation rather than clarification. I don’t plan to follow you down every rabbit trail.

“You did the same thing to me on your Psub thread (see post #105), where I spoke openly and directly, and you came back with one line brush offs when it came to defending your original claims.”

You committed classic word-study fallacies of the sort James Barr exploded decades ago. It’s not incumbent on me to tutor you in basic lexical semantics. For a good introduction to the subject, see Moisés Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning (2nd ed.).

Let’s also keep in mind that you don’t speak for the church of Rome. You’re not an authorized representative. You’re not even a priest, much less a bishop, much less the Prefect, much less the Pope.

Some lay Catholic apologists are more influential than others, and so I focus on them. But you’re not that high on the pecking order.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Sean said,

“And you wonder why some of us no longer bother to participate on some of the other Reformed blogs.”

Sounds like a promising development. Anything we can do to expedite that trend?

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Nick said,

“But two factors go against that idea: (a) Paul is speaking in the context of salvation, holding onto saving truths, which would suggest God would preserve Providentially and (b) it isn’t a leap of logic to suggest 1st Thessalonians was included in his comment on ‘by letter’ in 2Th2:15, and if so means the ‘by word of mouth’ would also be included in the saving truths category.”

i) Suppose we play along with this for the sake of argument. If oral tradition preserves saving truths which are not preserved in Scripture, and if the church of Rome is the repository of this information, then all non-Catholics are damned.

However, that’s hardly the position of Vatican II, which make allowance for the salvation, not only of non-Catholics, but even non-Christians.

ii) But there is another problem with Nick’s argument. Protestants don’t contend that 1-2 Thessalonians contain all things necessary for salvation. Sola Scriptura doesn’t refer to 1-2 Thessalonians, but to the 66 books of the canon in toto. So even if 1-2 Thessalonians omitted one or more saving articles of the faith, how does that undercut the Protestant position? It doesn’t.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Tom Riello said,

“I just wanted to point people to a brilliant little post by Dr. Michael Liccione over here.”

Okay, let’s comment on that:

Michael Liccione:

“The Catholic Church teaches that each of those is necessary and that all are mutually supporting. Scripture alone does not suffice, because a set of writings composed and collected by people over a period of centuries cannot certify itself as divinely inspired and inerrant.”

That’s far from obvious. On the one hand, later writings can certify earlier writings. Likewise, contemporary writings can certify each another. And there’s even a sense in which earlier writings can prophetically certify later writings.

“Of themselves, they tell us what various people said and did about God, but they do not tell us why what some of those people said is true or why what they did was appropriate.”

Once again, that’s far from obvious. Take the argument from prophecy. If it comes true, then it was true.

“I have spent years advancing two theses: (1) if it isn’t clear, from the beginning until now, which visible body counts as ‘the Church,’ then the question what counts as Scripture and Tradition is open to a debate that can never be definitively settled.”

Once more, that’s far from obvious. For even if we accept his tendentious criterion of visibility, why stipulate that visibility must be embodied in just one “church.” Why can’t several churches “visibly” embody the truth?

“(2) if whichever body counts as ‘the Church’ is never preserved from error when interpreting Scripture and Tradition, then the meaning of Scripture and Tradition is up for indefinite debate, even if their content is not. In the final analysis, the Christian religion would reduce to a matter of opinion. And if that’s so, then there is no principled way to distinguish between divine revelation on the one hand and human opinion about the ‘sources’ thereof on the other. I’m sure that’s not a result you desire.”

Several problems with this argument:

i) The is an argument for a historical claim (i.e. what God has done in church history) which entirely eschews historical evidence. But we don’t normally prove historical events by a priori reasoning. Imagine Liccione applying that to type of reasoning to other historical claims, like the stock market.

ii) The argument is regressive. The meaning which “the Church” assigns to Scripture then shifts to the meaning of “the Church’s” interpretation.

iii) What, exactly, is so bad about “opinion”? After all, some opinions are right while others are wrong. What’s so bad about with having an opinion as long as you are right and the other guy is wrong? Does Liccione think all opinions command equal deference?

iv) His objection is self-defeating. Liccione thinks the church of Rome is the true church, but, of course, that’s just his opinion. In the final analysis, his analysis reduces to a matter of opinion.

v) A major reason that NT writers penned the NT is because the apostles couldn’t be everywhere–in time and space. So they communicate through the written word rather than the spoken word. For instance, John wrote to the Ephesian church (in 1 John) to settle a doctrinal crisis.

But imagine one of troublemakers saying, you don’t have to pay attention to that letter, since the meaning of his words is always open to debate. John can’t settle the issue by writing a letter. You may think he condemns Docetism, but that’s just your opinion. Only the Church can settle this issue.

So even though we have apostolic letters which were written with the express intention of settling an issue, Liccione has a loophole which gives 1C heretics permission to flout apostolic authority. It’s a license for insubordination.

Liccione doesn’t develop his theory from actual apostolic practice. To the contrary, he has an armchair theory which subverts the very purpose of a written document like 1 John.

vi) In fact, it’s striking that some letters were written even though oral transmission was available. Take the letters to the 7 churches in Asia Minor (Rev 2-3). Jesus doesn’t appear to the 7 churches, even though it certainly lay within his power to speak to them directly and individually.

Instead, Jesus communicates to them via the written word. He dictates the letters to the apostle John. This illustrates the priority of the written word. Although Jesus could just as easily have bypassed the literary medium, appeared to the 7 churches in person, and spoken to the congregants face-to-face, he uses a writer (John) to express his will.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Nick said,

“You’re confusing issues here. A person need not know each and every saving truth to be saved, and baptized infants are the epitome of this. Now, *if* Rome is the True Church and someone refuses to submit to it, it’s akin to refusing to submit to Christ, and thus they will indeed be damned. But that in iteslf says nothing itself of the content or extent of Divine Revelation, which is the subject we’re on.”

So in your Looking Glass world you redefine saving truths as damning truths. Saving truths aren’t something one must believe to be saved; rather, saving truths are something one must disbelieve to be damned.

If that’s the case, if Roman church is The One True Church, then the Roman church is the most dangerous institution in the world. Catholic apologists are a dire threat to the immortal well-being of humanity. For the state of ignorance is far safer than disbelief.

Therefore, by your reasoning, Roman Catholicism should be banned. Catholic literature should be burned. Catholics should be rounded up and quarantined. That way we won’t run the risk of learning saving truths which damn us. The less we know, the better our odds.

steve hays said,
October 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Nick said,

“Where did I say 1-2 Thess contain all things necessary for salvation?”

I see that you have problems following the argument. Nothing new.

Even if 1-2 Thes were insufficient, that doesn’t mean Scripture is insufficient. For even assuming that 1-2 Thes omit certain saving truths, if the omitted truths are stated elsewhere in Scripture, then that’s sufficient for sola Scripture.

steve hays said,
October 12, 2010 at 9:59 am

David Meyer said,

“Because that entails the several ‘truths’. Church #1 proclaims doctrine A as the truth. Church #2 proclaims doctrine A false. Thus these two churches do not (cannot) visibly or otherwise embody the truth. Either one or neither is the true Church.”

You don’t seem to know much about the facts on the ground. To take an obvious counterexample, the OPC and the PCA are two different churches. The OPC adheres to the Westminster Standards, and the PCA adheres to the Westminster standards. Different churches, same doctrine.

steve hays said,
October 12, 2010 at 4:09 pm

David Gadbois said,

“Here we are after 325 posts and we still are left without any identification much less documentation and proof of the existence of Roman Catholic oral tradition.”

That’s because you’re a godless outsider, David.

It’s like Free Masonry. Just as you have to become a 33º Mason before they divulge the trade secrets, you have to learn the secret handshake, the countersign, solve a few riddles , take a blood oath, and sacrifice a two-headed toad under a blue moon before The One True Church admits you into the esoteric mysteries of the disciplina arcana.


  1. Thanks for that heads up. I read through that entire thread and have never seen such a total demolition of the Catholic position on oral tradition.

  2. Steve,

    In response to the Levitical Sacrifice issue. My OBJECTION was that your "response" was unsubstantiated. You brushed off my article flatly contradicting your claim on the grounds it was a "stock word-study fallacy" without ever pointing out any specific places where I made the error.

    I examined every occurrence of the term "atonement" in Scripture as I was coming to my conclusion. That's not a "word study fallacy" - it's called research. A "word study fallacy" is when one only looks at a incomplete set of data on any given word and comes to a (incorrect) conclusion.

    You keep charging me with telling a "lie," but you're not being fair. I never "lied," I simply demanded actual proof for your assertions, rather that a fallacious ipse dixit.

  3. You committed the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy. It's not my job to tutor you. Get an education.

    You also committed the word-concept fallacy. See Caird's The Language and Imagery of the Bible.

    Finally, I don't owe you an explanation. You're not an authorized spokesman for Roman Catholicism. You're a self-important nonentity.


    "I examined every occurrence of the term 'atonement' in Scripture as I was coming to my conclusion."

    You faith in the perspicuity of Scripture and the right of private judgment is impressive. Since you've shown yourself to be a crypto-Protestant by your apologetic methodology, it's time for you to come clean and leave the church of Rome.

  5. Steve,

    All you can do is beat (worthy) opponents down with insults and cheap comments. I see it time and again, when you find yourself in a tight spot, you spin the issue and insult.

    It's funny how you can trumpet this or that Catholic doctrine as repugnant to Scripture, yet when called to the carpet you either go silent or bludgeon with insults. But I'll not close my eyes to the Truth, nor will many other Protestants.

    All I ask is that you expose my error with some plain Biblical and logical arguments, but you cant. Instead, you hide behind this or that author. You know that if I'm wrong on this issue you'd have destroyed my credibility and tarnished my reputation, but the fact I'm not an easy target means you can't just whip up a post "exposing" me as you do so many others.


    "All you can do is beat (worthy) opponents..."

    Which assumes you're a worthy opponent. Thanks for reinforcing the correlation between Catholic piety and overweening spiritual pride.

    "It's funny how you can trumpet this or that Catholic doctrine as repugnant to Scripture, yet when called to the carpet you either go silent or bludgeon with insults."

    I didn't discuss penal substitution in relation to Catholic theology. That debate was in reference to JD Walters and Ken Pulliam. You tried to horn in on that discussion as a pretext to plug your 2-bit blog.

    "All I ask is that you expose my error with some plain Biblical and logical arguments, but you cant. Instead, you hide behind this or that author."

    Directing you to preexisting literature is a perfectly legitimate move.

    "You know that if I'm wrong on this issue you'd have destroyed my credibility and tarnished my reputation..."

    Except that you have no credibility to destroy, or reputation to tarnish.

    "But the fact I'm not an easy target..."

    The fact that you feel the need to convince me that you're not an easy target is telltale evidence that you're an easy target. "Worthy opponents" don't need to pin medals on their chest.

  7. It's not spiritual pride to say I've done my homework and you have not. And it's not out of line to point out that a lot of the time you're not responding to the best opposing arguments but instead those that are easy to shoot down.

    You cannot even point out a single biblical counter-example to my claims, yet you keep appealing to some scholar that has supposedly debunked my claim.
    Who has the credibility in this situation? The one willing to show his work or the one hiding behind a scholar but cannot point to any actual Biblical evidence?

  8. On the other hand, Nick, you've got someone who was discussing a specific situation between people who were not named Nick, who furthermore does not have infinite time on his hands, and who pointed you to a source refuting your claims. If Steve had to respond to YOUR satisfaction to every single person who jumped into a conversation, he'd never finish anything--which is no doubt your intention. You either want to wrap him up in triviality or, barring that, pretend that his not falling for your trap somehow causes him to lose face.

    Everyone decides who to interact with and at what level. You aren't owed a response from anyone. And since Steve's given you a source to look at, perhaps you should look at it.

  9. Nick writes:

    It's not spiritual pride to say I've done my homework and you have not.

    What "homework" have you done? Can you name the relevant scholars you've read and interacted with? In my experience, you don't read any.

  10. Nick is like those Hollywood wannabes who tries to make a name for himself by hanging out with the celebrities.

    Yo, I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
    So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
    I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
    So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
    I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really
    really really wanna be a star!

  11. Peter,

    I'm asking for a single verse demonstrating I'm committing these fallacies. I've seen none.

    And this isn't about wasting his time, it's about pointing out the fact Steve can spend all this time going after easy targets but when he comes against someone who's done his homework, all of the sudden he's too busy or has to spin the issue until it's dropped.

    And this isn't about him responding to my satisfaction for every single person - rather it's about someone calling him out on one important issue, which most folks are either too afraid or too uninformed to do against him. You're talking as if I'm some sort of watchdog that keeps Steve in line on a lot (if not everything he says), when all I've done is call him out on one error.

    (I know a lot is riding on that error, so I don't expect this to come easy.)


    The homework I've done is look at the raw Biblical data for myself, something that most people don't do. I prefer primary sources over secondary and tertiary ones. That means I'll look to the Biblical data before I simply take a scholar's word for it. That's how real research is done. If Steve isn't going to produce actual biblical evidence that my claim is false, and instead hiding behind some scholar, that's simply the ipse dixit fallacy.
    The notion that scholars have all the answers or that you can't make a good argument without reading a scholar is not a good way to go about making your arguments. All of us know there are scholars out there who will say whatever we're looking for them to say.

    This is not to say I ignore scholars, I just subordinate them to the primary sources. In this case of the Hebrew word for atonement, I've not found any Protestants taking a good, honest look at the data. This is especially problematic when they go around parroting Penal Substitution in the Levitical Sacrifices and such, without any real exegesis to justify those claims.


    While your song/parody was pretty funny (in typical Hays fashion), it's not getting to the heart of the issue. And I don't know if you meant to imply this, but you're not a "celebrity".

  12. NICK SAID:

    "And this isn't about wasting his time, it's about pointing out the fact Steve can spend all this time going after easy targets but when he comes against someone who's done his homework..."

    Well, Nick certainly has a low opinion of his Catholic cohorts. Just off the top of my head, I have, over the past few years, responded to "easy targets" who don't do their "homework" like Dave Armstrong, Matthew Bellisario, Francis Beckwith, Philip Blosser, Scott Carson, Bryan Cross, Ben Douglass, Scott Hahn, Paul Hoffer, Neal Judisch, Al Kimel, Apolonio Latar, Michael Liccione, Shawn McElhinney, Jonathan Prejean, Alexander Pruss, Scott Windsor, &c.

  13. Steve,

    I was talking more broadly than just the Catholics you dealt with. But even with the Catholic folks in that list you gave, you don't always present the better argument, and often are simply making snide remarks about something they said. In other words, simply mentioning their name or commenting on something they said is not equivalent to refutation of their position.

    For example, just doing a search on your blog for Ben Douglass, the "interaction" you provided over actual issues is abysmal. It's mostly mockery. So to say you've "responded to" or "interacted" with some of their work is nonsense.

    It's not a leap on my part to point out that you only "comment" upon easy targets (often but not always avoiding real issues).

    The fact remains: my work on the atonement stands in direct contradiction to your utterly false Biblical claims, and you're scrambling to bury the issue. The truth is, dancing around issues of substance is going to be your downfall in the eyes of Protestants who respect you.

  14. Nick said:
    If Steve isn't going to produce actual biblical evidence that my claim is false, and instead hiding behind some scholar, that's simply the ipse dixit fallacy.

    You therefore dismiss everything *YOU* say as the ipse dixit fallacy. Thanks for playing. Your parting gift is at the door.

    See, as little as you care about what "some scholar" says, that's still far more than *I* care about what *YOU* say.

    Oh wait. I forgot. We have your *say so* that you've done your homework. And that apparently lets you just ignore sources contrary to your position, because apparently they haven't done their homework.

    You're the Catholic version of Richard.

  15. Peter,

    Do you know what the ipse dixit fallacy is? It's citing a authority in place of an actual (counter)argument.

    That's not how genuine apologetics is done.

    Oh, and just checking Triablogue's main page for today, I see another prime example of all the time Steve has to interact with folks who have nothing of any substance to say (which he eagerly responds line by line to), yet he doesn't have time for actual arguments (in this case simply *defending* his own original assertions on Penal Substitution in Leviticus). This confirms my claim that he favors investing his time on easy targets.