Karl Barth v. Keith Mathison on the Early Church & Sola Scriptura

German postage stamp honoring Karl Barth's 100th birthday
German postage stamp honoring Karl Barth’s 100th birthday

I. Keith Mathison v. Karl Barth

Did the early Christians believe in sola Scriptura, the idea that the entirety of Divine revelation is contained within Sacred Scripture? Or did they hold that Christ also left the Apostles with particular Apostolic Traditions to be carried on? In Keith Mathison’s 2001 book The Shape of Sola Scriptura, he forcefully argues for the first of these views (sola Scriptura, or “Tradition I”), while claiming that the second view (the Catholic view of Scripture plus Tradition, or “Tradition II”), is a “novel doctrine.” He bases this claim on some pretty sweeping claims of early Church history:

An important problem for Tradition II is the fact that it finds no support in the witness of the earliest church fathers. For centuries, the view the fathers held was Tradition I – Scripture is the sole source of revelation which is to be interpreted in and by the Church within the context of the rule of faith. If there were a second source of divine revelation alongside Scripture in the post-apostolic church, the silence of the early Church to that fact and its explicit statements denying that possibility are weighty objections. The problem is that Tradition II itself is a novel doctrine.

I could try to explain why these claims are false, but I realize that it would be hard for you to know whether or not to believe me. If you’re someone looking to find out what the early Christians believed about sola Scriptura, it can be frustrating. You’ve got Catholic authors claiming that they took the Catholic view, Protestant authors claiming that they took the Protestant view, and both sides offer quotations that seem to support their views. What we need is someone arguing against their own position.

An analogy can be drawn to the rule against hearsay. Ordinarily, your out-of-court statements can’t be admitted into evidence. After all, you weren’t under oath, nobody had a chance to cross-examine you, and so it’s hard to gauge how honest or accurate your statements are (no offense). But one of the most important exceptions to this is for what are called statements against interest (Rule 804(b)(3)). The logic is clear. When you’re saying something that benefits you, you might be tempted to lie, or at least exaggerate, or stretch or color the truth, or select our facts selectively. But if you’re sharing information that you know hurts your interests, why would you lie about that? So we typically have good reason to believe you when you’re incriminating yourself.

In our context, we need a Protestant theologian arguing that most of the Church Fathers took the Catholic view. And we have just such a theologian in Karl Barth. If you’re not familiar, Karl Barth (1886-1968) is the Swiss Reformed theologian that Christianity Today declared “the most important theologian of the twentieth century,” crediting him with making ” it possible for theologians again to take the Bible seriously.” The Berkeley Institute’s Matthew Rose, in a First Things essay, would go further, describing him as “the greatest theologian since the Reformation.”

And make no mistake, Barth was no moderate on the question of sola Scriptura. He went so far as to deny that the Catholic Church was the true Church for denying this doctrine. In Church Dogmatics, his magnum opus, he declares that this question

…has constituted the true frontier which separates the Roman Catholic Church and the true, Evangelical Church, and which will inexorably separate them, so long as both continue to be what they are. […] The Evangelical, and with it the true Church, stands or falls by the fact that (apart, of course, from the revealed and proclaimed Word of God which is identical with Scripture) it understands exclusively the statement that the Bible is the Word of God, claiming direct, absolute and material authority neither for a third authority nor for itself.

(This and all subsequent Barth citations come from Volume I, Book II, Chapter III, Section 2, sub. 2 of Church Dogmatics, pp. 546-49.)

So Barth believes just as fervently in sola Scriptura as does Mathison, but with a key difference. Where Mathison claims that the early Christians were all believers in sola Scriptura, Barth has both the scholarly acuity and personal integrity to acknowledge that this isn’t true. He argued that the Reformed position (sola Scriptura) was present, but: “If the Reformed decision was no novelty in the Church, neither was the Tridentine, and we have to concede that the scales had long come down on the latter side. Had it been otherwise, the Reformation would not have had to be carried through in the painful but unavoidable form of a disruption.”

In reading that, you might imagine that he means that the sola Scriptura fight was settled in favor of the Catholic side in the Middle Ages or so. But no, he views those scales as having coming down by about 400 A.D. Here’s his assessment:

By the turn of the 4th and 5th centuries what the Church as such has to say side by side with Holy Scripture, even if only in amplification and confirmation of it, already has a particular weight of its own, so that the saying which we have already quoted from Augustine – which the Reformers attempted in vain to interpret in meliorem partem [“in the best way”] – now became possible: in answer to the question what we are to tell those who still do not believe in the Gospel, Augustine has to confess, obviously on the basis of his personal experience: Ego vero evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicae ecclesiase commoveret aucrotias [“For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church”]. That I have the Gospel and can believe in it is obviously, as Augustine sees it and as he was rightly understood in the later Catholic polemics, itself a gift of Church tradition. Therefore the saying foreshadows that inclusion of Scripture itself into the tradition which was expressly accomplished at a much later date.

So Barth is saying both that Catholics (and not the Reformers) get Augustine’s views on this question correct, and that the Church of the 4th-5th century already recognized that dynamism between Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium that sola Scriptura would later rebut.

 

So Barth’s scholarship is valuable in that it consistent of ten major “statements against interest.” The reason Barth believes that the “Tridentine” (that is, the Catholic view, dogmatically defined at Trent) was present from the earliest days of the Church, and the reason he views the case as being virtually settled in favor of the Catholic position by the year 400, is because he knew the Church Fathers like few others. So with that in mind, I’m not going to give any further commentary until the conclusion. Instead, I’ve tracked down ten of the Patristic citations that he offers, provided some context (and emphasis), and place them in roughly-chronological order. This way, you can read the evidence for yourself. You be the judge of whether Mathison or Barth is getting the story of the early Church straight.

II. The Early Church Fathers on Sola Scriptura 

1. Irenaeus of Lyons (130-202):

True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, [2 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 13] which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God].

2. Tertullian (155-240):

Chapter 19. Appeal, in Discussion of Heresy, Lies Not to the Scriptures. The Scriptures Belong Only to Those Who Have the Rule of Faith.

Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians? For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.

3. Tertullian again (using the parable of the wheat and weeds to show that new doctrines are necessarily false):

Let me return, however, from this digression to discuss the priority of truth, and the comparative lateness of falsehood, deriving support for my argument even from that parable which puts in the first place the sowing by the Lord of the good seed of the wheat, but introduces at a later stage the adulteration of the crop by its enemy the devil with the useless weed of the wild oats. For herein is figuratively described the difference of doctrines, since in other passages also the word of God is likened unto seed. From the actual order, therefore, it becomes clear, that that which was first delivered is of the Lord and is true, while that is strange and false which was afterwards introduced. This sentence will keep its ground in opposition to all later heresies, which have no consistent quality of kindred knowledge inherent in them— to claim the truth as on their side.

4. Origen (184-254):

2. Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz., the powers and the holy virtues; it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points. For as we ceased to seek for truth (notwithstanding the professions of many among Greeks and Barbarians to make it known) among all who claimed it for erroneous opinions, after we had come to believe that Christ was the Son of God, and were persuaded that we must learn it from Himself; so, seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and tradition.

5. Basil the Great (329-379):

66. Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us in a mystery by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more.

6. Epiphanius of Salamis (310-403):

However, none of the sacred words need an allegorical interpretation of their meaning; they need examination, and the perception to understand each proposition’s force. But tradition must be used too, for not everything is available from the sacred scripture. Thus the holy apostles handed some things down in scriptures but some in traditions, as St. Paul says, “As I delivered the tradition to you,” [1 Corinthians 11:2] and elsewhere “So I teach, and so I have delivered the tradition in the churches,” [Cf. 1 Cor. 11:2; 7:17] and “If ye keep the tradition in memory, unless ye have believed in vain” [1 Cor. 15:2]. God’s holy apostles, then gave God’s holy church the tradition that it is sinful to change one’s mind and marry after vowing virginity.

7. John Chrysostom (349-407)

[2 Thessalonians 2:15] So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours.

Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit.Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther. Here he shows that there were many who were shaken.

8. Augustine (354-430):

But as in the thief, to whom the material administration of the sacrament was necessarily wanting, the salvation was complete, because it was spiritually present through his piety, so, when the sacrament itself is present, salvation is complete, if what the thief possessed be unavoidably wanting. And this is the firm tradition of the universal Church, in respect of the baptism of infants, who certainly are as yet unable “with the heart to believe unto righteousness, and with the mouth to make confession unto salvation,” as the thief could do; nay, who even, by crying and moaning when the mystery is performed upon them, raise their voices in opposition to the mysterious words, and yet no Christian will say that they are baptized to no purpose. [….]

And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of baptism in the case of infants, from the parallel of circumcision, which was received by God’s earlier people, and before receiving which Abraham was justified, as Cornelius also was enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized.

9. Augustine again:

12. Cease, then, to bring forward against us the authority of Cyprian in favor of repeating baptism, but cling with us to the example of Cyprian for the preservation of unity. For this question of baptism had not been as yet completely worked out, but yet the Church observed the most wholesome custom of correcting what was wrong, not repeating what was already given, even in the case of schismatics and heretics: she healed the wounded part, but did not meddle with what was whole. And this custom, coming, I suppose, from tradition (like many other things which are held to have been handed down under their actual sanction, because they are preserved throughout the whole Church, though they are not found either in their letters, or in the Councils of their successors),— this most wholesome custom, I say, according to the holy Cyprian, began to be what is called amended by his predecessor Agrippinus. But, according to the teaching which springs from a more careful investigation into the truth, which, after great doubt and fluctuation, was brought at last to the decision of a plenary Council, we ought to believe that it rather began to be corrupted than to receive correction at the hands of Agrippinus.

10. Second Council of Nicaea (787)

To make our confession short, we keep unchanged all the ecclesiastical traditions handed down to us, whether in writing or verbally, one of which is the making of pictorial representations, agreeable to the history of the preaching of the Gospel, a tradition useful in many respects, but especially in this, that so the incarnation of the Word of God is shown forth as real and not merely phantastic, for these have mutual indications and without doubt have also mutual significations. [….]

Those, therefore who dare to think or teach otherwise, or as wicked heretics to spurn the traditions of the Church and to invent some novelty, or else to reject some of those things which the Church has received (e.g., the Book of the Gospels, or the image of the cross, or the pictorial icons, or the holy relics of a martyr), or evilly and sharply to devise anything subversive of the lawful traditions of the Catholic Church or to turn to common uses the sacred vessels or the venerable monasteries, if they be Bishops or Clerics, we command that they be deposed; if religious or laics, that they be cut off from communion. [….]

The holy Synod cried out: So we all believe, we all are so minded, we all give our consent and have signed. This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the orthodox, this is the faith which has made firm the whole world. Believing in one God, to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honourable images! Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not thus think, let them be driven far away from the Church. For we follow the most ancient legislation of the Catholic Church. We keep the laws of the Fathers. We anathematize those who add anything to or take anything away from the Catholic Church. We anathematize the introduced novelty of the revilers of Christians. We salute the venerable images. We place under anathema those who do not do this.

Conclusion

I want to touch on a few things in closing. First, this isn’t all of the evidence out there in favor of the Catholic position within the earliest centuries of the Church. Rather, these were just the texts that Karl Barth happened to cite in the course of a few pages showing how the so-called “Tridentine” view actually dates back to about 1500 years before Trent.

Second, you might have noticed that the last citation (II Nicaea) is a great deal later than all of the others. It’s included because it shows a sort of final triumph for the Catholic view. At this point, upon pain of excommunication and damnation, you can’t reject extra-biblical Church teaching… and this is still only about halfway between the Resurrection and the Reformation.

Finally, having read all of the Patristic evidence – in the Fathers’ own words – is there any way to sustain Mathison’s assertion that the Catholic view “finds no support in the witness of the earliest church fathers”? I admit that my own biases might come into play here, but why do people still take these sorts of historical claims seriously?

53 Comments

  1. This is a serious subject which deserves a more thoughtful reply, and a more thoughtful thinker, but let me add my two cents contra Barth:

    I think the citations Barth employs really are not addressing what modern Catholics (or even the Catholics of Second Nicea) view as “Church Tradition.”

    For example, Irenaeus writes:

    “True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures…”

    It pays to pay attention to what Irenaeus was writing about–heretics. Heretics who forged Scriptures by editing and contriving new ones, and who likewise claimed Apostolic Succession of teachers taught by other teachers going back to the Apostles. So, Irenaeus is saying that the Catholic Church of the 2nd century in which there was shared doctrines in publicly recognized churches in the cities in which the Apostles planted them, with identical Scriptures and no hint of Gnosticism, served as proof of their own Orthodoxy. In effect, the universality of these churches served as verification that they were all onto something.

    To say a verse such as this endorses a tradition outside of the Scripture, or that Irenaeus though that these churches can or will indefinitely preserve doctrines, let alone extra-biblical ones (which he was not even commenting on) requires a fair degree of reading into the text.

    I think it is most useful to take this lens, and then apply it to Origen and Augustine. You will start seeing that what they say actually makes more sense. Now, I am not saying every single Father can be read this way. However, unless one reads at least some of the Fathers this way, it would be easy to misunderstand their statements.

    I oft quote Augustine in his second book against the Donatists (“But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true..”), as well as his 82nd letter (to Jerome–“I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error…As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason.”). Augustine was clear that he did not believe any other source of revelation, other than Scripture, is fully reliable. So, when we read quotes like Augustine’s here, I think we misread them if we do not add that lens like I was speaking of.

    In Conclusion:

    I think, in terms of actual religious authority, it would be untrue to say that strictly the Scriptures are the only authority and no other authority can possibly exist. Even the Scripture refutes this. There existed prophets that led the Israelites, as well as Christians in apostolic times, before the closing of the Canon. So, God’s revelation is the only true authority, Scripture is merely a medium, of many, of this revelation.

    So, when I defend Sola Scriptura, it is not because I do not think that Apostolic Tradition, if it were accurately preserved, would not carry equal authority (though, I think this can be argued anyway). Rather, it is the matter of proven reliability. There is universal agreement that the Scripture contains therein God’s revelation. Apostolic Traditions that are extra-biblical, such as Irenaeus saying that Jesus was over 50 years old, Tertullian/Hippolytus/Jerome/others writing about the churches universally making those baptized taste milk mixed with honey, or Cyril of Jerusalem’s claim that all men everywhere pray towards the east should remind us of two things. First, how trivial and seemingly unimportant such extrabiblical doctrines are (is anyone here willing to go to the mats defending these?) and two, how they have all fallen into disuse, or have been discredited.

    All the truly important doctrines, such as the Trinity, can be proven from the Scriptures. So, in terms of reliability, the Scriptures cannot be equaled and traditions supposedly sourced from the Apostles appear suspect.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. I”m not following your logic Craig. How do you weigh reliability over history/early reality?

      Scripture itself (which isn’t self defining) indicates tradition. Most people want to be Protestant since life is much easier to make up your own interpretation of scripture. Post modern man, who is infected with scientism and a rejection of the metaphysical, keeps making God smaller and putting him in a box through doctrines such as sola scriptura. History is often very reliable.

    2. Craig,

      You said, “All the truly important doctrines, such as the Trinity, can be proven from the Scriptures. So, in terms of reliability, the Scriptures cannot be equaled and traditions supposedly sourced from the Apostles appear suspect.”

      Let’s parse that a little bit:

      1. “All the truly important doctrines, such as the Trinity, can be proven from the Scriptures.”

      Catholics and Orthodox believe that signing themselves with the sign of the cross is important. It has a Biblical basis, but the practice itself cannot be read from the scriptures. However, it is unversal in place and time. One cannot pinpoint exactly where and when the practice started. Of course, Protestants reject this tradition.

      In contrast, the celebration of Christmas was not universal in place and time in the early centuries. St Irenaeus and Tertullian do not mention it in their lists of Christian holy days. It is first mentioned in Egypt in 200 AD. Protestants at one time in the past hated it with violence. Nowadays they love it with a vengeance.

      The question then boils down to this: who tells Protestants what is or isn’t important? Is it you, or perhaps the guy in authority above you? Tell us, please. Because if we look at Protestant history, the answer is not in the Bible.

      2. “So, in terms of reliability, the Scriptures cannot be equaled and traditions supposedly sourced from the Apostles appear suspect.”

      In the eyes of the Catholic, if there is an appearance of contradiction between Scripture And Tradition, the Catholic should doubt his eyes. Humility requires this. No individual Catholic alive today can say he has more theological competence than the entire Catholic Church whose entire knowledge and experience spans 2,000 years.

      On the other hand, when Protestants see a conflict between Scripture and praxis, they trust their own eyes. They cannot see themselves as capable of self-deception. For example, how many times have you asserted in this forum that the Deuterocanonicals are not inspired? This silly assertion implies that you know better than the 2,000 year old Catholic Church. And you’re not even 50 years old.

      If the Scriptures cannot be equalled in reliability, it is because the Catholic Church itself is reliable. Scripture is written tradition. Scripture was first delivered orally before it was preserved in letter and type. There is no conflict between Scripture and Tradition. If there is, it’s just the silly phantoms in your mind.

  2. Clayton,

    I think you are not perceiving, or I am not describing well, the substance of my response. Joe appears to be defending the idea, through Barth, that the early Church well accepted a body of extra-biblical tradition which was put on par (though some of the quotes put it above*, such as Tertullian) the Scripture.

    Usually, when Catholics defend the idea it is in the words of Second Nicea, and it is used as an explanation as to why the Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox) Church has so many doctrines which are extra-biblical, but are considered essential and important.

    My counterpoint to this is that that notion is not defending in several of those quotes. Rather, the Fathers such as Origen, Irenaeus, and Augustine (writing against the Donatists) were appealing to Apostolic Tradition as a means of verifying Catholic practice and understandings…in a sense, one verifies his doctrines against the universal acceptance of the church. So, Augustine was arguing that the majority of churches don’t rebaptize as a way of saying Catholic practice of not rebaptizing is correct, while the Donatists are incorrect. You will find, in nearly all those quotes, that the sacraments themselves are referred to as the traditions the Apostles handed down. They don’t appear aware of volumes of knowledge on all sorts of other matters.

    This is why I think they are appealing to tradition as a way of saying the familiar form of worship in Christian churches, when compared to Gnostic heretics in the 2nd-4th centuries, is verification that all of the churches that worship the same are doing something right and that it is indeed Apostolic.

    God bless,
    Craig

  3. Generally, I resist the urge to make a comment, and I hugely appreciate Joe and his studies and writing. The question, from a practical standpoint, normally only arises when someone perceives that there is a dissonance between “a tradition” and the words of Scripture. I have often found that Scripture and traditions (or Tradition) do not stand in juxtaposition or possess any inherent disagreements, though. Let us assume Craig’s position for a moment. What is the logical outcome of this? From an orthodox Catholic perspective, it really changes nothing in terms of the observance of the faith, because Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are in agreement. Again, taking the perspective that the aforementioned fathers are to be cited and considered in their fight against heresies, were they all and always fighting an issue of others adding to or taking from Scriptures, which Craig used as an example (the Canon not yet being formally defined)? Nay, rather, the difference between the orthodox and the heterodox was often a difference of interpretation, for often both sides cited the same Scriptures for their justification (sounds very similar to today). That is why Sacred Tradition is so important – to provide the interpretive lens for Sacred Scripture. We all accept that Scripture itself attests that it does not contain everything; there must be that which is extra-Biblical to support, defend, and guide. There is a deep and intertwined relationship between the guide and path down which he guides, one that we cannot really separate, placing the two against each other, so I would caution that.

    Let me give this caveat – as a convert clergyman, I studied at Dallas Theological Seminary under the late Howard Hendricks, who in his well-known class on the Basics of Bible Exegesis stated clearly that there is only one correct interpretation of Scripture; there are many applications. Perhaps interestingly, the late J. Dwight Pentecost, also a professor of mine at DTS, taught the Catholic view on the indissolubility of marriage, from the Greek of the Gospels, although I would not realize it as such until I had some years later begun my walk down the road to Rome. Thus, I am not writing this ONLY as a Catholic priest. Perhaps yet another example of what Joe advocated at the beginning of his article – let those who stand on the other side of an argument make your case for you.

    As a priest ministering to the faithful day-to-day, I do not spend a great deal of time each day pondering these things, to be honest. Questions that touch on this do come around occasionally – sometimes from Catholics, but also from Protestants whom I know well. It is important, but even assuming some of Craig’s points, I still do not see how that argues against Joe’s, or Barth’s, point, unless one is coming at it from a point of rejection already. If that be the case, the conversation needs to take a dramatically different turn.

    I’m not trying to “dumb down” the conversation. I’m simply trying to see the perspectives and draw the logical consequences – the 2nd, 3rd, 4th order effects, if you will. Thank you for raising topics of discussion like this, which help us all to more fully consider the faith.

    1. Ken, I think there is a difference you are glossing over. The heretics Origen and Irenaeus were writings against did have different Scriptures, and did place themselves outside of the Christian tradition as they saw themselves as followers of enlightened teachers with secret teachings. Hence, tradition, and its universality and public practice over generations, is what in Irenaeus’ mind verified orthodox interpretation. He can point to visible churches, connected to the original Apostolic ones, and verify they all have similar practices and believed the same things. He even pointed to those who existed outside the established church but who had preserved Apostolic teaching, furnishing them as proof of the ancientness of agreed upon Christian doctrines (Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 4).

      The difference between this, let’s say, and arguments from tradition in favor of the “necessity” of crossing oneself, or praying towards the east, or tasting milk and honey after baptism is profound. The former, that I was describing, furnishes tradition as a verification of doctrines. The latter asserts that tradition has taught the necessity of doing certain bits and pieces of varying minutia that have nothing to do with doctrine. Further, because some of these have fallen into disuse, it serves as positive proof that not everything called tradition (even with wide agreement in the early church such as the milk and honey rite, http://christianreformedtheology.com/2015/03/04/milk-honey-baptism-and-the-death-of-tradition/) really is tradition.

      This is why I base my case on the reliability of the Scriptures, a case that Augustine made as well. Because ultimately, even though Apostolic traditions exists, there does not truly exist a means of verifying which a true and which are false. Then, we get into traditions such as the assumption of Mary, that lack a positive, orthodox mention until the 6th century. Now, I personally do not think it is a bad thing if Mary’s body was assumed into heaven. It is not impossible. However, the earliest recorded mention of Mary’s demise is from Saint Epiphanius, who writes:

      “Or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and he can do whatever he desires; for her end no one knows.”Either the holy Virgin died and was buried; then her falling asleep was with honor, her death chaste, her crown that of virginity. Or she was killed, as it is written; ‘And your own soul a sword shall pierce’; then her glory is among the martyrs and her holy body amid blessings, she through whom the light rose over the world. Or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and he can do whatever he desires; for her end no one knows.”

      He appears completely unaware of a commonly accepted tradition. By quoting Revelation 12 and Luke 2, it is apparent he is trying to answer the question from the Scriptures, as there does not exist a tradition as to where she died, how she died, and what happened to the body. There does come a point where a tradition mentioned only 6 centuries later from a historical viewpoint does not appear credible, especially when we have earlier recorded mentions that would appear to not be aware of its existence.

      So, “tradition” has morphed from a verification of commonly agreed upon doctrines of which we can trace from the Scripture and the general attitudes towards worship as we can see written in the letters of the Fathers into a kind of escape hatch where all sorts of doctrines lacking ancient support are guaranteed as authentic and given a “plausible” means of transmission.

      I just wanted to point out this really was not the spirit of what these writers were really saying about tradition. And, to be fair, I am just some random guy on the internet. I too am trying to get a firmer grasp of what tradition teaches and doing my studying.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. Craig,

        You said: “The difference between this, let’s say, and arguments from tradition in favor of the “necessity” of crossing oneself, or praying towards the east, or tasting milk and honey after baptism is profound. The former, that I was describing, furnishes tradition as a verification of doctrines. The latter asserts that tradition has taught the necessity of doing certain bits and pieces of varying minutia that have nothing to do with doctrine…”

        Again, this brings us back to my question: Who tells Protestants that a Catholic or Orthodox who signs himself with the sign of the cross is “doing certain bits and pieces of varying minutia that have nothing to do with doctrine”? How sure are you that this ancient practice has nothing to do with Biblical doctrine?

        Protestants these days celebrate Christmas, who told them to do that? And who told them that Christmas is on Dec 25, not Jan 6? And how sure are you that remembering Christmas has nothing to do with doctrine? Will you tell that to your own pastor?

        An increasing number of Protestants lately are now celebrating Ash Wednesday. Can you please tell them that what they’re doing has nothing to do with doctrine?

        St Augustine quoted St Cyprian who seems to describe the kind of Christian you are:

        “Wherefore the holy Cyprian, whose dignity is only increased by his humility, who so loved the pattern set by Peter as to use the words, “Giving us thereby a pattern of concord and patience, that WE SHOULD NOT PERTINACIOUSLY LOVE OUR OWN OPINIONS, but should rather account as our own any true and rightful suggestions of our brethren and colleagues, for the common health and good,” (Against the Donatists, book 3, chap 4)

        That is what St Augustine said on the very book you claim to support your opinion in Scripture and Tradition! There are people who are so madly in love with their opinions, they are totally lacking the virtue of humility. They do not receive correction very well. They are stubborn schismatics.

        Craig, before you lecture us here on what St Augustine really thinks, perhaps you ought to look in the mirror and see if the person there is someone who does not “pertinaciously love his own opinions.”

          1. Craig,

            Oh, I see… You don’t want me asking questions about your silly opinions so you cry “ad hominem”. Doesn’t that prove St Augustine and St Cyprian that you do love your opinions so badly?

            Well then let me repeat the question: WHO tells Protestants that Catholics or Orthodox are wrong or unscriptural in their traditions?WHO tells Protestants which doctrine is or isn’t important?

            Don’t be embarrassed… say it. You seem to be a smart guy who knows a lot. I promise to give you a decent conversation even if the answer is “It’s me Pope Craig Truglia!”

          2. “WHO tells Protestants that Catholics or Orthodox are wrong or unscriptural in their traditions? WHO tells Protestants which doctrine is or isn’t important?”

            Well, this is one of those questions Craig has been repeatedly denying any answer here for as long as I can remember. Just in case we already know the answer, though:

            Craig’s interpretation and his tradition (either one of them individual or collective) tell that Catholics or Orthodox are wrong or unscriptural in their traditions;

            Craig’s interpretation and his tradition (either one of them individual or collective) tell Protestants which doctrine is or isn’t important.

            And whence come his tradition and his interpretation?
            “From the Bible”, he’ll answer, for sure. So we’re back to a “we believe the Bible and you don’t” kind of argument, which Mathison had the good sense to deal with in an interesting article. Tertullian’s quote above addresses the same issue. And no, Craig, not all heretics discussed by those authors used books that were different from the future canon. And even if they did, how would you disprove those books? By saying that they weren’t inspired? How do you know they weren’t inspired? “My books are inspired and yours aren’t?” It’s an endless circle, even from the perspective of that time, unless… unless there is an argument from tradition. And the Canon is a tradition, too.

          3. “[N]ot all heretics discussed by those authors used books that were different from the future canon.”

            My initial reply never said they did. It said that the Gnostics did particularly, and we need to understand the context of some of these fathers and whom they were referencing in their polemics.

            As for Augustine, he was generally writing to Donatsts (who had an identical Canon), though he also wrote against Manichees which were essentially 4th-5th century Gnostics.

            “And even if they did, how would you disprove those books?”

            That’s the whole point of my response. They disproved not only these books, but even their claims to Apostolic Succession and accurate transmission of “tradition” by pointing to the universality of doctrines and traditions in the visible, Catholic Church.

            Hence, when Irenaeus was invoking tradition, he was speaking of not an ominous set of doctrines which only came to light later (the modern Catholic view, an arguably the Second Nicea view), but rather a publicly recognized set of doctrines and practices visible in the Apostolic, established churches.

            To answer your first contention, it has something I have addressed elsewhere on this site but never to anyone’s satisfaction. I don’t believe any earthly authority or any study of history can prove to us the authority of revelation, or any religious authority whatsoever. I believe that only conviction from the Holy Spirit of Christianity’s truth verifies its authority.

            God bless,
            Craig

  4. If I understand the definition of sola scriptura as proffered by several of the leading Protestant theologians including Mathison and James White, the scriptures alone are infallible and sufficient to function as the infallible rule of faith for the Church, and contain everything that one must believe to be a Christian. If the scriptures are infallible for this purpose, it necessarily follows that the scriptures must be clear and unambiguous. Yet the very large number of competing and mutually exclusive interpretations of scripture among various Protestant denominations seems to prove that scripture is neither universally clear or unambiguous, even as to core principles.

    1. “If the scriptures are infallible for this purpose, it necessarily follows that the scriptures must be clear and unambiguous.”

      The Scriptures do not say this, however. Peter says some of what Paul wrote was “difficult.” The Scriptures to attest to its sufficiency for matters of faith, morals and practice (2 Tim 3:15-17). More convincingly, both Peter and Paul write letters which in effect are their last will and testament (2 Peter, 2 Tim), and both of these letters actually address how to deal with false doctrines and teach correct ones in their absence. The answer they give is identical: go to the Scriptures. See 2 Peter 1:12-2:1 and 2 Tim 3:10-4:3. To not do as they asked, or to do differently as they asked, is to disobey essentially their last Apostolic commands. Further, to say that these passages somehow don’t clearly teach what they say is to render even the plainest statements of any religious authority to be so confusing, that they are useless.

      So, ultimately I do not think Sola Scriptura relies upon the basis that there cannot be another authority, or that any guy in the woods alone with the Bible can accurately surmise the truth faith simply by reading. Rather, the basis of Sola Scriptura is that the Apostles did not leave us another authority, nor cite another authority, and the church cited no other authority in the settling of crucial doctrines. For all of the peripheral matters where tradition was used as the bulwark against deviations in accepted extra-biblical practices, Catholics today do not all follow what the Fathers did. So, it appears that Scripture alone is without error and agreed upon to contain religious doctrines, and it attests to its own sufficiency in these matters. This does not mean that the Scripture has the answer to all life’s questions and every religious question. However, it is sufficient for faith, morals, practice, and the defense of true doctrines. “The sacred writings…are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” To say that the Scripture does not and cannot turns the Scripture into a liar.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. First time poster but been reading for a while.
        I think Craig has an interesting argument.

        We have to use the bible only as this is the only universally accepted tradition we can agree came from the apostles.

        Catholics would suggest I believe, as I am only a layman, that the bible is a tradition of the church which was to be used in a more ancient tradition namely the mass and also as a prop to support other beliefs and practices of the church and is not a necessity for christianity.

        If we can show any other traditions that go back to the apostles like the mass I think Craig is suggesting that he would accept them.

        But for some reason catholics continual mass going ,crossing themselves etc. won’t do.

        He then rejects the Catholic Church as the church of acts because it has these extra scriptural traditions.

        So surely Craig is leaving it open for us to persuade him.

        1. I am open to be persuaded by the truth, and I pray daily that I worship God in truth. Apart from the grace of God, we cannot worship in truth. It is my hope and prayer that this is the mindset of everyone here.

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. Craig,

            If you are really open to the truth, then why do you dodge questions? Refusing to answer questions is a sure sign you don’t want others to know the truth about your opinion.

            Even Jesus answered the Pharisees who threw questions at him. He never ran away from those who want to see through his teachings. He never ignored them the way you do.

            If you have learned anything about Jesus it is that he hates people who say one thing and do the opposite. He hates hypocrites with a vehemence. So never tell us you worship God in truth and seek his grace when you come here. You never came here for that purpose.

            If you came here to understand the Catholic faith better, to correct your false notions of our Church, God will answer your prayer. There are many here who would gladly give you correction in charity. But God knows that it isn’t what you came here for. He has shown us the pertinacity of a schismatic through you. You do not receive correction well. When fig trees do not bear fruit, they need to be cut down, because they just take up space and drain the ground’s nutrients.

            So don’t go about dragging God into your agenda. He has nothing to do with you.

          2. My sentiments exactly Craig! Well said. BTW, and I hope you take the following statement as not only me being honest, and having some fun, but also of good intentions and good will.

            I have been praying for your conversion to the Catholic Church, itd be great to have someone on the right side with as much blog time as you have.

            God bless

          3. I don’t take offense, Trogos. I have been talking to Max (classmate of Joe’s) a lot via email, and I am not here to champion a denomination. I believe Catholics can be saved, I believe Protestants can be saved, I believe all those who trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior are saved. I even have a fair bit of an appreciation for architecture and history which makes me appreciate a lot of things about Catholicism in general. My wife and I stop in and sit for a Mass infrequently simply because we appreciate these things. Sadly, we don’t get much more out of it.

            However, being a Protestant by conviction, there are a fair degree of logical and historical questions that I find (as yet) impossible to reconcile. Further, though I am one of the few Protestants I know which would like to see confession make a come-back (my baptist church practiced in in the 1800s for example and wouldn’t let you partake in the Lord’s Supper if you didn’t), I find certain views concerning the efficacy of the sacraments heart to square with the Scripture and Tradition. Lastly, and probably most importantly, I find in Catholicism a very large emphasis towards works vis a vis grace which is neither Biblical nor traditional, almost a violent response to the worse excesses of Protestantism but something I suspect is equally dangerous.

            Of course, I am open to the idea I am completely misguided and delusional as well, which is why I do pray for guidance on spiritual matters and appreciate anyone else’s prayers for the same.

            God bless,
            Craig

          4. Craig my friend I don’t take offense. You’ve been a blessing in my life and we’ve never met (although I know we “cross swords”). Please if you find time pray for me as well. God knows I need it.

            Viva Cristo Rey

          5. Trogos writes…”Craig my friend I don’t take offense. ”

            Trogos still hasn’t mastered reading what people are saying.

      2. The Scriptures do not say this, however.
        The scriptures do not say that they themselves are infallible or sufficient either. I cannot find sola scriptura or justification by faith alone or any other Protestant heretical doctrine in the Bible. They are just traditions.

        To not do as they asked, or to do differently as they asked, is to disobey essentially their last Apostolic commands.
        Why didn’t those apostles leave us with a list of the books that we were supposed to read? It’s so ridiculously embarrassing to say, “Go read the Holy Books”, and saying also that those books are not easy to interpret, and then, according to your interpretation, it amounts to “Go read the Holy Books which we won’t tell you which books are and we won’t tell you how to interpret, either, and we won’t leave anyone in our place to tell anything about that, either”.

        2 Peter 1:12-2:1 Is talking about the confirmation of the Old Testament prophecies, and there you find that “no prophecy is of personal interpretation”.
        So does The Scriptures do not say this, however.
        The scriptures do not say that they themselves are infallible or sufficient either. I cannot find sola scriptura or justification by faith alone or any other Protestant heretical doctrine in the Bible. They are just traditions.

        To not do as they asked, or to do differently as they asked, is to disobey essentially their last Apostolic commands.
        Why didn’t those apostles leave us with a list of the books that we were supposed to read? It’s so ridiculously embarrassing to say, “Go read the Holy Books”, and saying also that those books are not easy to interpret, and then, according to your interpretation, it amounts to “Go read the Holy Books which we won’t tell you which books are and we won’t tell you how to interpret, either, and we won’t leave anyone in our place to tell anything about that, either”.

        2 Peter 1:12-2:1 Is talking about the confirmation of the Old Testament prophecies, and there you find that “no prophecy is of personal interpretation”. Almost the same goes for 2 Tm.

        the basis of Sola Scriptura is that the Apostles did not leave us another authority, nor cite another authority, and the church cited no other authority in the settling of crucial doctrines.
        If that is so, the lone man in the woods can interpret as he sees fit.
        You say: I do not think Sola Scriptura relies upon the basis that there cannot be another authority,
        You just think that the apostles didn’t give this other authority, but that it exists, and is necessary, but otherwise one might argue that this authority, not being apostolic, is not trustworthy enough. Yes, I’m fond of genealogies, as were the Jews-turned-Christians in apostolic times, and the church fathers in later times. Authority is an unbroken chain. I[ hadn’t thought about this before, but oddly, Common Law is much closer to that “tradition vs scripture” debate (on the side of tradition) than Civil Law. ]

        “The sacred writings… are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
        Oh, yes “you know those from whom you learned it”, so, learning from *people*…

        However, it is sufficient for faith, morals, practice, and the defense of true doctrines.
        If it were sufficient for faith, Arians and their ilk would be much welcome. If it were sufficient for morals, you wouldn’t find nudist or abortionist or gay churches galore. If it were sufficient for “true doctrine”, you wouldn’t find false doctrines being defended “based on the Bible”. I can defend Arianism from the Bible, so? If it were sufficient for practice, I could stop going to church and just make myself an altar at home, or just use the table, read some passages and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The New Testament is anything but a ritual manual. And last but not least, the Bible doesn’t say it is sufficient. And that is sufficient reason for me to believe only in what the Bible says, and I believe (ops, I know) that the Bible doesn’t say it is sufficient, unless someone show me otherwise.

  5. February 29, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I wonder if Rico and De Maria share an IP address.

    Me – that made me laugh…

    Rico does ask a valid question about the sign of the cross and Christmas…..

    1. I’m sorry CK, I would more thoroughly address points if they were made in a respectful way. Dignifying them with a response leads to endless bickering, which I am trying not to engage in. People ought to know that we are Christians by how we love one another, and even a Christian should love an unbeliever as Christ loved the rich younger ruler. So, I’ll answer whatever question or point, but it should be posed respectfully.

  6. When discussing the Early Church, I cannot be help raise a question. Was there a difference between tradition and scripture? The development of the biblical canon was a long movement of the Holy Spirit. I can certainly see the early church viewing the words written down as apostolic tradition because there was a long time when they were one and the same. Our modern issue is looking at a 16th century argument applying to a first century world. Clearly this will be easy and not anachronistic at all! Oh…

      1. Unless I am illiterate, I could read nowhere in Joe’s quotations anything affirming that tradition and written word are mutually exclusive.

          1. That which starts with “Let me return, however, from this digression to discuss[…]”? I doesn’t even mention scripture or tradition… yes, I must be illiterate, then.

  7. I think hans is correct..

    According to protestants scripture is the only tradition….there fore the church is not necessary.

    According to catholics the church and what it says is tradition , including the bible but the bible is not necessary ..The church is.

    My question to protestants is …does jesus leave a church or a book.

    My question to catholics is what are the fundamentals of Christianity . Personally I think this is easy for catholics.

    Now I also think that all Christians should be less judgemental and more understanding . .as Pope Francis is…judge not lest ye be judged….I think from a protestant translation

  8. Athanasius wrote:

    For, what our Fathers have delivered, this is truly doctrine; and this is truly the token of doctors, to confess the same thing with each other, and to vary neither from themselves nor from their fathers; whereas they who have not this character are to be called not true doctors but evil. Thus the Greeks, as not witnessing to the same doctrines, but quarrelling one with another, have no truth of teaching; but the holy and veritable heralds of the truth agree together, and do not differ. For though they lived in different times, yet they one and all tend the same way, being prophets of the one God, and preaching the same Word harmoniously (De Decretis, Par. 4).

    In another book he writes:

    Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faiths sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture (De Synodis, 6).

    As I said before, a church father often invoked tradition (here the unanimity of the fathers before the Arians in De Decretis 4) as a verification of the truth, but not a self-sufficient authority vis a vis the Scriptures. Athanasius wrote that the Scriptures are sufficient above all things. Hence, I hope this example sheds some light on the point have been trying to make in my replies (especially the first one.) The existence of tradition served as a juror in which doctrines were approved and disapproved…not another source of extra-biblical doctrines that were binding on the conscience in addition to the Biblical ones.

    God bless,
    Craig

  9. I don’t read those quotes from Athanaisus to claim Tradition and Scripture to be mutually exclusive, nor do they appear to claim that Tradition is unimportant. His reference to the “proceedings of the fathers”, seems rather to be an affirmation of Tradtion, at least in the context of ecumenical councils called for the purpose of settling a dispute as to the meaning of scripture, which they did in accordance with apostolic Tradtion and Scripture.

    Athanaisus was in a true battle against the heresy of Arianism which relied on the Scriptures as the sole source for itheir doctrines and claims. Arianism is maybe one of the clearest examples of interpreting Scriopture in a manner inconsistent with the historical understanding as reflected in the Tradition of the church. To quote Athansius:
    “For the faith which the Council has confessed in writing, that is the faith of the Catholic Church; to assert this, the blessed Fathers so expressed themselves while condemning the Arian heresy. (Defense of the Nicene Definition, Chap. 27).
    Even as to the establishment of the celebration of Easter, Athanasius recognized the importance of apostolic Tradtion:
    “Without prefixing Consulate, month, and day, [the Fathers] wrote concerning Easter, ‘It seemed good as follows,’ for it did then seem good that there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, ‘It seemed good,’ but, ‘Thus believes the Catholic Church’; and thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to show that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolic; and what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught by the Apostles. (Letter on the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia).

    1. It wasn’t said that tradition was unimportant. Rather, tradition verified what the Scripture already taught.

      Also, I hope Athanasius saying “for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things” will put to rest some commenters here who repeatedly remind me that the sufficiency of Scripture is a “Protestant innovation.”

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. Bum! The search for you quote on Google gives 8 results! All in reformation apologetics! Doesn’t this tell something? Craig’s James White osmosis comeback? But take a look:

        “Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a council is needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in the divine Scriptures” (On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, 6).

        Does St. Athanasius’ original Greek really say that Scripture is “sufficient above all things”? No. In a very simple sentence which a first-year Greek student should be able to translate correctly, St. Athanasius declares “For divine Scripture is more sufficient than all [other writings, councils, etc.].” The sentence in transliterated Greek reads Esti men gar hikanotera panton he theia graphe. Here we do not have an absolute statement, but a comparative one. To say that Scripture is the primary source of doctrine is not to say that it is the sole source of doctrine. I do not know of any Catholic theologian, doctor, or council of prelates of any period in the Church’s history who would not view arguments from Sacred Scripture as the more authoritative among various sources of doctrine. This quotation gives absolutely no support to the Protestant error of sola scriptura. The issue here in the Greek is subtle, yes, but seemingly too subtle for the Protestant apologist to have caught.

        Athanasius’ entire anti-Arian corpus is nothing if not a scriptural refutation of heresy. The heretics claim Scripture as their guide. Fine, then let’s show them how they err from Scripture itself. St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, all the doctors of the Church, patristic and scholastic, prefer scriptural authority. In doing so, they do not reject, but rather assert, the teaching of the Church.

        But there’s more. The very context of this alleged Athanasian “Bible-only” proof-text (which just went “poof” as a proof) shows that even with the mistranslating, it demonstrates the exact opposite of the Protestant apologist’s thesis. Immediately preceding the passage cited, and in the very same paragraph, St. Athanasius rejects the Arians’ call for new councils based on the already sufficient expression of the Church’s authority. He writes: “What need is there of Councils when the Nicene is sufficient, as against the Arian heresy, so against the rest, which has condemned one and all by means of the sound faith?” (On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia, 6).

        In other words, the Council of Nicea has decided the matter; the authoritative interpretation of the data has been given. The progression of the holy doctor’s reasoning is clear: “Why do the Arians call for further councils when the Church’s definition at Nicea suffices? Indeed, why do they want a council at all since Scripture, on which they claim to base their teaching, is so clear on this point? In any case, Nicea is enough for clarifying the true faith found in the Scriptures. Nicea is sufficient, and Scripture is more sufficient still, but either one would be enough.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is a traditional Catholic argument through and through. From: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/656264/posts?q=1&;page=1

        1. It appears KO, De Maria, and Rico share an IP…and a tendency to embolden words in their replies.

          To be fair, I went to New Advent and read both quotes in context. I then included the citation for everyone to use.

          So what did De Maria, I mean, Rico, whoops, I mean KO prove? Really, not anything. He just proved that he cannot really respond to what my reply really said without ad hominems.

          I just point this out, because if these guys really do share IPs, such posting is dishonest and not only should you go to Confession about it, Joe should consider an IP ban.

          My apologies if I am wrong.

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. Same quotation from New Advent http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2817.htm:

            Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrine so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture (De Synodis 6).

            Take note that it still says “for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things.”

            So, until someone breaks out the Greek, I think De Maria’s/Rico’s/KO’s credibility is a little less than New Advent’s. As for the interpretation of what Athansius said, again I would ask readers here to go to my reply pertaining to tradition verifying Scriptural understandings.

            I KO or whomever wants to reply, I give him the last word, because I think this conversation has degenerated enough.

            God bless,
            Craig

          2. My quotation was not from New Advent’s, neither the Greek interpretation was mine. If you shout ad hominem again, I’m just using your own words; the fact that the exact quotation you posted here returned 8 results speaks to the fact that in New Advent’s translation there is no typo/grammar mistake in “faith’s”, so that if you had just copy-pasted from New Advent’s translation I would find many, many more sources. In another post you said you learned from osmosis from a James White site about a bogus 50-year-old-Jesus tradition that would prove “tradition” is unreliable. That’s your reliability. You said those words yourself. You cannot swallow or answer the argument I quoted, and blandly accept a translation that suits you when you pick up your bricolage of quotations.

            “But, beyond this sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers kept. Upon this the Church is founded, and he who should fall away from it would not be a Christian, and should no longer be so called”. (https://archive.org/stream/TheLettersOfSaintAthanasiusConcerningTheHolySpirit/Athanasius_Letters_to_Serapion_Shapland#page/n135/mode/2up)

            You’ll say Athanasius is contradicting himself, and on and on, but one could just pull out several other quotes from other writings of his.

            So what? If you think our IP’s should be banned, just know that we’re as far away as possible, as far as I can know. So apologies accepted, you’re really wrong on this, for once.

          3. Joe, I’m only one person and, as far as I know, we’re all different people. I beg all of you pardon my tone, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. I shall henceforth refrain from caustic remarks.

          4. KO,

            My apologies for the false accusation. If you have the Greek of what Athanasius wrote, then I would be appreciative. Otherwise, I would trust the translation I initially read and then verified at New Advent.

            Please pardon me for writing the following, because I am sincerely not trying to argue. I think if you can actually believe me that I am being sincere, it might be easier for us to have a conversation.

            I think your portrayal of me who trolls Protestant apologetic websites and just simply parrots what they say is inaccurate, and not one you should make any more than I should falsely accuse you of being someone. For example, the point you made about Irenaeus, I would still disagree with you on because I went to New Advent, read what Irenaeus wrote, and think that James White accurately presented his thought. For what it is worth, I am just starting to read Irenaeus cover to cover. I annotated all of Book I: https://docs.google.com/document/d/12kxux-O8LfrSCtb9jJh7jCdwSikuDay08K3ejweOaNQ/edit?usp=sharing So, I do invest a fair amount of time not just simply sitting down and reading entire books from the Fathers. It does not mean I have read all of them. I am a layman, and I do not present myself as anything other than that.

            You also made a point about Arianism, I Googled up Athanasius’ response to Arianism, and what I found is what I quoted here. Before quoting it, I went to NewAdvent.org to verify the translation because I do not trust citations that come from books that are not the original source itself. Because it was accurate, I copy and pasted it. I visit ShamelessPopery.com probably more than any Christian website on the internet. When I clean the dishes or cook, I listen to the Dividing Line with James White. That’s pretty much my online intake other than straight reading, and maybe wasting 15 minutes on Facebook.

            Being that you have apologized for your caustic remarks, again I reiterate my apologies and hope that we can have respectful discourse in the future.

            God bless,
            Craig

          5. KO,

            Thank you for clarifying. I was pretty sure you weren’t the same person (there were lots of clues, as Deltaflute notes), but I wanted to just clear the air.

            I.X.,

            Joe

          6. Craig, thank you for understanding. I can see we’re moving forward to some kind of more friendly dialogue from now on. I reiterate my deepest apologies. And by the way, I really like your comments below — in response to Mark Oliver, in particular. Peace in Christ,

            KO.

      2. In your analysis, can Tradition also explain or clarify Scripture, at least in the sense that Tradition can reliably teach Scriptural meaning through historically consistent interpretation?

        1. Mike Oliver,

          Yes, what you wrote is a fair claim. There is no reason why tradition cannot accurately explain or clarify what the Scripture teaches. I think that this certainly falls within the bounds of what the Fathers Barth was quoting were talking about. And so, Catholicism has a very strong claim to correct religious understanding as they can plausibly show that their doctrines on many counts fall within the realm of tradition and do not explicitly contradict Scripture. I cannot say this is categorically always the case, otherwise I would be a Catholic, but if one believes that it is then it gives one every good reason to be so.

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. Craig,
            Thank you for the reply. My experience suggests that too often Apostolic Tradition is conflated with ecclesial tradition by those on both sides of the TIber. If so, then we violate one of the first rules of rhetoric and logic, which is to agree on definitions.
            If we can exclude from Tradition those various theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions, that were born in the local churches over time, then we might find some clarity in discussing the relationship and importance of Apostolic Tradition to Scripture.

            And since we have been referring to various Church Fathers for some help in interpreting Scripture, it may be helpful also to understand that: “The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this [Apostolic] Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.” #78, Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed).

            So perhaps on this topic, we do find some common ground.

            In Him Always
            Mike

          2. I appreciate people who can come together from different perspectives to find common ground. Thank you, Mike and Craig, for sincerely looking for the truth and common ground. It is not easy because terms like “tradition” and “scripture” are so loaded. The reality is that every church has some form of tradition that is helpful for interpreting and applying scripture to the world we live in today. The various denominations will have different sources of tradition to draw upon, but it might surprise people how often we look to the same sources. St. Augustine is the theological garden hose we all drink from to get to the living water.

  10. Joe, I’m pretty sure that De Maria, Rico, and KO are different people. From time to time they comment in the same thread (see here: http://shamelesspopery.com/false-prophets/). But what’s most telling is that they 1) address each other even in my example and 2) writing style is different. Rico is laid back. KO is more moderate in my reading. And we all know how passionate De Maria is. Can’t verify IP, but it doesn’t make any sense for them to be the same person. They’ve been making comments for a while and this accusation only came about after De Maria was kindly asked to tone it down (and has since stopped commenting). Up until the exchange between De Maria and Craig, there was never any reason to believe that Rico and KO weren’t different people.

    Just my thoughts.

    1. Accusing these posters of being the same person is a way of obfuscating and marginalizing their inputs, when other means of debating aren’t gaining the desired result. I have been subject to a milder form of the same thing. When, some time ago, in discussions about differing doctrinal evolution in Protestantism (in the overarching context of the Catholic monarchical episcopate), I raised the point that some Protestant denominations view the taking of wine as equivalent of mortal sin, while others do not. I was dismissed with a snarky ‘Cousin Vinnie would take that apart in court,” as opposed to a thoughtful treatment of how such dogmatic differences arise, in relation to the at-hand discussion. I also was told ‘if I was a real historian’ or something to that effect, my scholarship would be different, presumably leading to the same conclusions as the opposing debater.

      Craig is a skilled and tactical debater. A fellow named Alinsky set out some tactical rules for winning a debate when scholarship was insufficient, and I see some of those in use here. No matter…he is also a scholar and as long as one keeps the former in mind, debate with Craig can be enlightening and enjoyable.

      Having said, I also believe that there are better, more productive ways responding to subtle put-down than degenerating into open pejorative. We’re not quite throwing money-changers from the Temple…

  11. Rev. Hans,
    I am Catholic, not because I won or lost a debate, but because I was looking for the real church that Jesus established. It took me almost 20 years from the time I started to ask questions until I reached the conclusion. Debate is a great exercise. It sharpens your analytical skills. But it also tends to close your mind and your heart to the Truth. It seems to me that the more we debate, the less likely we are to honestly look for the truth.

    So all I am trying to do on here is point out some of the things that were important to me along my path. Sometimes that is something small like clarifying definitions. I think our goal should be the Truth, and wherever that takes us. I am convinced that such a journey ends up in the Catholic Church, as long as the person on the journey doesn’t close heart or mind to the evidence. As Newman said, to go deep into history is to cease being Protestant.

    I was raised as a Southern Baptist, in the middle of Oklahoma, so there was a church on every corner. It seems that everyone in my small town believed in God, the Trinity, Salvation, and the wages of sin. If we had any great theological differences, they weren’t the topic of discussion or debate. I guess that deep down we knew that in our town there was no room for real division.

    I was baptized on a Sunday evening when I was 12, and ‘dunked’ in the baptistery behind the choir, in front of a mural of what I assumed was the Jordan river. I wore a white cotton robe with my bathing suit underneath. There was never any teaching that my baptism acomplished more or less than the baptisms in other churches, and so there was no reason to explore the idea.

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