Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Deficient Roman [Catholic] Apologetics

The Roman Catholic apologetic often
relies on an anachronistic “reading-back” of later concepts
into earlier writings and events
I’m following up on some comments from down below.

In response to my comment (summarizing on the topic of Sola Scriptura) “You are projecting a number of later concepts anachronistically back into first- and second-century Christianity.... should we not be persuaded to ask, ‘what did they believe in the first, second, or third centuries?’ How will we know what was believed, except by the written documents that are attested at the different times and places to which we can locate the various early church documents?”, Erick said:

I understand where you are coming from, especially with the way the modern Catholic apologists address this. I think many Catholics today get a superficial upper-hand in the argument with philosophy and logic, but much of what is put on the table is not tenable when held under patient scrutiny.

I would love to see more people make this point over at “Catholic Answers” or at EWTN, for example.

That being said, I still think the apologetic of the reformed suffers even more.

I think the Reformed have an exceptional apologetic.

What this means is that I believe that Roman Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, however members in her do not always understand how to argue these things well.

I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is an imposter that benefitted from some historical accidents as well as some treachery and killing, and the historical Roman Catholic Church that continues to this day is an example more of the persistence of a bureaucracy than anything else.

That “members” “do not always understand how to argue these things well” is also more of a function of faulty leadership than of anything that “members” are guilty of. “The Church” always seems to be blaming someone else for its own failures. If Rome had actually produced an honest polemic at the Reformation, its “members” might be arguing things in a much better way.

In the first place, you seem to be indicating the God's sovereignty protected the canonical writings for his elect throughout the world. This always seem to ground some of the relief when things get a bit shaky in the historical journey.

What Kruger actually says is “Christians have a rational basis (or warrant) for affirming the twenty-seven books of the New Testament canon because God has created the proper epistemic environment wherein belief in the canon can be reliably formed”.

As for the “shaky” in “the historical journey”, that is dealt with thoroughly too, on its own terms. In this Reformed apologetic, a presupposition is not an excuse to fail to deal with the historical evidence (as we’ve seen in some Roman Catholic circles, for example).

The problem is the following: How could God fool His beloved children for 2,000 years on which books go into the NT? Understand that the 27 book Canon, and the 22 book (post-temple Judaism) was not held in consensus throughout the district of local churches.

First of all, God was not “fooling” anyone, but giving his people what they needed. Second, “consensus” is not a measure of truth.

Many of God's beloved were quoting from Baruch, but not from Maccabees, and from Wisdom, but not another.

You are being terribly imprecise. You could be more specific as to who was citing whom, and in what context. You will find plenty of that in Canon Revisited, for example. Also, there is no promise of “infallibility” no matter who is doing the quoting.

Were they slipped through the fingers in God's sovereignty? Or were they just not elect?

It is not for me to second-guess God.

Not to mention that the LXX included the deutero-Canon, and of which Paul freely quoted. If there was some early law from the apostles to exclude what is known by you as "apocrypha", how does this slip the church so early?

Not sure if you noticed, but it is possible to have cited from the Septuagint for convenience (local language and all), without having accepted its criteria for canonicity. John Meyendorff notes that “in spite of the fact that Byzantine patristic and ecclesiastical tradition almost exclusively uses the Septuagint as the standard Biblical text [even making “liturgical” use of the apocryphal books, which ancient writers did allow were helpful], Byzantine theologians remain faithful to a “Hebrew” criterion for Old Testament literature, which excludes texts originally composed in Greek (“Byzantine Theology”, New York: Fordham University Press, ©1974, 1979, pg 7).

Not that the Reformed use that as a criteria – I just provide it as an example as to how things can be done, while excluding your implied claim that Paul’s use of the LXX also implied acceptance of the apocryphal works.

Again, did this slip through the fingers of God's sovereignty? Or were those who lacked assurance in the 22 book canon not elect?

Ask Jesus, who said: “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” When he said to the Rich Man in hell, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them”. Does God allow the Rich Man and his family to descend into Hades without giving them “assurance in the 22 book canon”?

You see, in the reformed dogma's, I can see how one can always pick and choose who is elect and who is not

It’s not for me to do God’s job.

I am not saying, of course, that you do this, but the doctrine of Sovereignty is so close at hand, that when things get a bit hazy, we can always rely on the fact that God held "some" in his hand. And this "some", I presume you think, is the one's who always believed in the 66 canon?

This is incredibly fuzzy thinking on your part. Who says that someone is not elect just because they don’t believe in a 66-book canon?

If not, Kruger's dependence on sovereignty doesn't hold up if it cannot account for the deception of some of the children in God's family right from the very beginning, with such close proximity to the holy Fathers, the apostles themselves.

Here you’re building on your previous fuzzy statement. God does not deceive anyone. Instead, he provides a sufficient measure of instruction. He cares for his own. And he does this without an “infallible magisterium” inserting itself where, clearly, no such thing ever existed.

Ignatius tells us that there are "bishops" installed throughout the world, and he also says there is not a church if there is not a bishop with her presbyters and the deacons. Of course we know he left his bishopric in Antioch, and did comment on how God would be the bishop. We know from other sources that the chair of Ignatius, which was the chair of Peter, did not remain vacant.

Compare the meaning of the word “bishop” as Ignatius used it, compared with what it came to mean at a later time. Also, this is a perfect example of you trying to show an “infallible magisterium” where no such thing existed.

We know from other sources that the chair of Ignatius, which was the chair of Peter, did not remain vacant.

This is a perfect example of you trying to show an “infallible magisterium” where no such thing existed. Where does Ignatius talk about a “chair”. And when Ignatius does compare himself with Peter, in one instance, how different are the two?

The earliest Christians did not codify the hierarchy in the local churches.

On the contrary, they did codify themselves according to Biblical lines: “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service”. This, by the way, is a codification from which Ignatius deviated.

There were a number of "Elders", and we propose, with much historical evidence to back it up, that it was assumed that one of the "Elders" has jurisdiction over the other "Elders".

In some cases, this didn’t happen at all. See Hermas regarding the 2nd century church at Rome.

In other cases, there is “much historical evidence” that one of the “elders” was treated with more respect simply because he was “older” – and not because of anything inherent in “office”.

You seem to be forgetting that Cyprian had within his own ecclesiology an inescapable (implicit) acceptance of one visible head in the universal body of Christ. He explicitly rejected of course, but his view of the ekklesia did not match the reformed, but interestingly enough, it matches pretty close to the Catholic Church, minus a clear understanding of how the universal church was governed.

You seem to be forgetting that Cyprian is a third-century writer who inherited many of the deviations that came about in the 2nd century. That accounts for his lack of Biblical ecclesial understanding.

Insofar as it matches what the Catholic Church had, consider that Rome imitated a faulty third century church – it’s not as if Cyprian was looking into the future, seeing the Tridentine church and saying “THERE! There’s the TRUE CHURCH”.

It seems to me that if the early Church could not catch the errors of the view of a visible head governing the Church, then there were some very weak Christians at Nicea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, all of which concede to "some" primacy in Rome that was "known".

Nicaea attributed merely regional “oversight” to Rome. It would be nice if Rome had been satisfied with that.

As for Constantinople (381), they yielded to Rome out of deference to its age, and the fact that it was the capital of the empire.

You bring up Ephesus, but the only “papal” statements from there were from a third-level “legate” (i.e., “toady”) who gave a bold speech about Rome’s claims to an empty hall, after everyone had left.

Chalcedon merely picked up the language of Constantinople, which Rome rejected.

[So the papacy is] A man made development?


Then all who were conceding to it throughout it's development were simply not strong in the faith. And this is an assumption I am not willing to take.

Rather, the level of deception put forth by Rome had nothing to do with the “strength of faith” of the various individuals. By the fourth and fifth centuries, the Roman church had great wealth and power, and as well, they had a demonstrated ability to use fiction and forgery to support its claims. See also this link.

For example, Roger Collins writes:

Amongst the most important products of this period are texts written almost entirely by the pro-Symmachan camp justifying the view of the synod … This would provide vital ammunition for later generations of papal theorists.

So too would the spurious historical texts written anonymously or ascribed to earlier authors that are known collectively as the Symmachan forgeries. This was the first occasion on which the Roman church had revisited its own history, in particular the third and fourth centuries, in search of precedents. That these were largely invented does not negate the significance of the process. Forgery is an emotive word, and it should not necessarily be assumed that the documents, including the acts of two synods, were cynically concocted to justify a particular claim. Some of the periods in question, such as the pontificates of Sylvester and Liberius (352-366), were already being seen more through the prism of legend than that of history, and in the Middle Ages texts were often forged because their authors were convinced of the truth of what they contained. Their faked documents provided tangible evidence of what was already believed true.

The Symmachan forgeries reinterpreted some of the more embarrassing episodes in papal history, both real and imaginary. … How convincing these forged texts seemed in the early sixth century is unknown, but when rediscovered in later centuries, they were regarded as authentic records with unequivocal legal authority. … (Collins, “Keepers of the Keys of Heaven,” pgs 80-82).

Just because someone has strong faith doesn’t mean they can’t also be deceived by lies, especially from someone who claims to have authority.

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