Is Sola Scriptura in the Bible? A Reply to R.C. Sproul Jr.

Nov 5th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

R.C. Sproul Jr. recently wrote a short article titled “Is Sola Scriptura in the Bible?” In light of our recent article treating the subject of sola scriptura, it might be helpful to examine Sproul’s comments from a Catholic point of view.


R.C. Sproul Jr.

R.C. Sproul Jr.

Sproul begins his essay with the following paragraph:

No, and yes. The Bible does not have specific text that suggests that the Bible alone is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice. Those who delight to point this out, however, typically Roman Catholics and the eastern Orthodox, typically miss the point. First, their energies more often than not are aimed at the Anabaptist error that we call solo Scriptura. Here the person affirms that all he needs is himself and his Bible. The wisdom of the church in history, the community of believers, are all deemed irrelevant to understanding the things of God. Solo scriptura is reprehensible and ignorant and a-historical.

Here Sproul first acknowledges that the Bible does not have a text that suggests that it alone is our final authority. Then he claims that Catholics and Orthodox who point this out are missing the point, because they are aiming their energies at solo scriptura. However, if the point of the Catholics and Orthodox who state this is straightforwardly to point out that the Bible does not have a text that suggests that it alone is our final authority, then these Catholics and Orthodox are not “missing the point,” but in fact making a true claim, one that Sproul himself acknowledges. We agree with Sproul that solo scriptura is “reprehensible.” But if, as Neal Judisch and I have recently argued here, there is no principled difference between solo scriptura and sola scriptura, then the fact that the Bible does not have a passage that suggests that the Bible alone is our final authority, is deeply problematic for those who claim that the Bible alone is our final authority.

Sproul continues:

Sola Scriptura, like the Scriptures themselves, recognizes that God has gifted the church with teachers and pastors. It recognizes that the church has progressed and reached consensus on critical issues in and through the ancient ecumenical creeds. It affirms with vigor that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. But it also affirms that even these giants have feet of clay. And there is where the Bible does in the end teach sola Scriptura.

If by “feet of clay” Sproul means that every mere human, during this present life, is capable of sin and error, then the Catholic Church agrees, in which case the fact that men have “feet of clay” does not entail sola scriptura. But if by “feet of clay” Sproul means that there was no oral Apostolic Tradition, and/or that the Holy Spirit failed to preserve this oral Apostolic Tradition, and/or that the Holy Spirit fails to protect the Church’s Magisterium from error when it definitively determines doctrine on matters of faith and morals, then Sproul needs to demonstrate that these results are entailed by the fact that men have “feet of clay.” Merely pointing out that men have “feet of clay” does not by itself set limitations on what the Holy Spirit is able to do through men.

Sproul then writes:

Sola Scriptura is a biblical doctrine not because the Bible says so. That would be a tautology- the kind of argument we find in that collection of lies the Book of Mormon. Instead the Bible is our alone final authority because it alone is the Word of God. It has been attested, authenticated, by God Himself. Miracles serve as the divine imprimatur, the proof that this is a message of God. This is how Nicodemus reasoned when he said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). This is also how Jesus Himself reasoned when He first forgave the sins of the paralytic lowered through the roof. In response to the unspoken charge that He had blasphemed, Jesus told the man, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:1-8).

Sproul claims that “the Bible is our alone final authority because it alone is the Word of God.” Nothing he says here actually demonstrates that only the Bible is the Word of God. In other words, nothing Sproul says here shows that the oral teaching of the Apostles was not the Word of God, or that this oral Apostolic Tradition, as it was passed down orally in the Church, was not the Word of God. The Catholic Church agrees that the Bible is the Word of God written. That’s not the point of disagreement. The point of disagreement (between Protestants and the Catholic Church) regarding sola scriptura is twofold: First, whether the Word of God written is the entirety of the Word of God given to the Church from the Apostles, or whether the Word of God spoken, and orally transmitted and handed down by the succession of bishops, is also the Word of God given to the Church from the Apostles. Second, whether or not Christ established a unique interpretive authority by way of apostolic succession from one Apostle to whom Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom. Sproul’s prooftexts do not substantiate the Protestant position regarding either of those two points of disagreement.

Sproul continues:

I would be quite content to add as a second infallible and inerrant authority the ancient creeds of the church under the following conditions. First, those who gathered to formulate these creeds would need to have their message authenticated by miraculous works. Let them raise men from the dead. Second, we must add those creeds to our Bibles. If both sources are equally authoritative, why do we separate them? In like manner, I’d be content to add as a second infallible and inerrant authority the statements of the Pope when He speaks ex cathedra. First, however, let him raise men from the dead. Second, let us add his words, assuming he would even tell us what they were, to our canon.

Here Sproul says that he would be content to add the ancient creeds as a second infallible and inerrant authority [along with the Bible] if those who formulated the creeds performed miracles, and those creeds were added to the Bible. In reply, Sproul’s being content to recognize the ancient creeds as inerrant and “infallible” on the basis of miracles performed by those who wrote them does not show whether or not the Holy Spirit protected the Church from error when formulating them. Sproul’s statement is a statement about himself. No statement about Sproul himself (or what would make him content) should determine what all Christians should believe about sola scriptura or about the authority of the Church’s creeds. Sproul’s claim presumes (without any substantiation) that only if the bishops in an ecumenical council performed miracles, and raised men from the dead, could we know that the Holy Spirit protected that council from error in its definitive determination of doctrine regarding faith and morals. Does Sproul know that every author of Scripture performed miracles and raised men from the dead? Did the author of Hebrews perform miracles? Did the author of Jude? Did Luke perform miracles? Sproul has just mutilated his own Bible in Marcion-style, being required by his own criterion to excise from it every book whose author was not recorded as performing some miracle. If he wishes then to appeal to the decisions of the Church regarding which books were canonical to avoid this problem, he will need to know which men in the Church made these decisions and that each of them performed miracles. But that is something he does not know, and cannot know. So his position commits the fallacy of special pleading — requiring that his interlocutor’s position be subject to a criterion he does not apply to his own position. Moreover, he does not show that the way the Catholic and Orthodox know ecumenical councils’ definitive statements on faith and morals to be divinely protected from error is insufficient.

Sproul likewise presumes (without substantiation) that there is no possible distinction between inspiration and infallibility. In other words, he [falsely] assumes that whatever is uttered infallibly is divinely inspired. A council’s being divinely protected from error in its decisions regarding faith and morals does not entail that its rulings are divinely inspired. Hence they need not be included in the Bible.

He adds:

But wait, there’s more. I want an authoritative list, in both instances of what these messages are. Ask someone Orthodox to show you exactly where you can read their infallible tradition and you will receive slippery ooze. Ask someone Roman Catholic for a list of infallible papal or consiliar [sic] statements, and you will receive the same.

Apparently Sproul is unaware of Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. But even if Ott hadn’t published this book, whether or not such a list is published does not show that there is no principled way for the Catholic Church to draw up such a list. The non-existence of a published list of infallible Church dogmas would not demonstrate that no Church teaching is infallible. Nor would it demonstrate that we cannot know whether there are any infallible dogmas, or that the Church does not know which of her teachings are infallible. So Sproul’s insistence on an “authoritative list” is a red herring.

Sproul then writes:

Finally, there is this problem. In both instances, Rome and Orthodoxy, you run headlong into the problem of the infinite regress. That is, those who are less strident in their views on tradition, who deny that tradition carries additional content to the Scripture, instead argue that tradition gives an infallible and inerrant interpretation of Scripture. Okay. Where then can we find an infallible and inerrant interpretation of the interpretation? Assuming we could succeed there, of course, we would need an inerrant interpretation of the interpretation of the interpretation. Ad nauseum.

Neal Judisch and I respond to that objection in section V of our article, “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”

Sproul continues:

No, the Bible is God’s Word. It is perspicuous, understandable. It says what it means and means what it says. It is attested by the miraculous power of God. And it is all these things, alone. It alone, all by itself, equips us for every good work. Flee anyone who tells you that more is required to understand, or more is required to obey.

Catholics agree, of course, that the Bible is God’s Word written. But Sproul has not demonstrated that the unwritten Apostolic Tradition is not God’s Word. The [oral] preaching of the Apostles was in fact attested by miracles. So was the authority of the Apostles themselves, the authority that Christ had given to them to preach and teach in His Name (i.e. as His authorized representatives), and the authority that they gave to their successors. The miracles done by the Apostles attest to the enduring authority and binding requirement on the Church of their practice of authorizing episcopal successors no less than it does to the authority of their written words. Sproul arbitrarily picks from the Apostles’ actions only one subset (i.e. their act of writing) as authoritative for the Church, and in that respect his position is ad hoc.

Lastly, Sproul concludes:

If you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to get and read my friend Keith Mathison’s outstanding book The Shape of Sola Scriptura.

For a Catholic response to Mathison’s book, see the article mentioned above, by Neal Judisch and myself, titled, “Solo scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority.”

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  1. A wonderful response. Clear and concise. Thank you very much!

  2. I would also add that Mr. Sproul should intend to level the playing field by defining the version of the canon of the bible he wishes to work from. The Protestant canon uses only those boks of the Hebrew Scripture that survived the Jewish Reformations around 90 AD when Christians were officially booted and certain books necessary for the continuity of the messianic teaching of Jesus were demoted. Jesus taught from an earlier Jewish canon that today’s protestants do not recognize as canonical.

    Additionally, I would argue that we no where have the complete word that God. Jesus would have had to have been followed around by a stenographer from the time he learned to speak in order to make that a fact. We have a record of many of Christ’s teachings. It is up to us to apply those to life in our times.

    Finally, I would simply say John 16:12-14. Jesus said it himself.

  3. “Sola Scriptura, like the Scriptures themselves, recognizes that God has gifted the church with teachers and pastors……But it also affirms that even these giants have feet of clay. And there is where the Bible does in the end teach sola Scriptura. ”

    Wow!, this is an incredibly circular argument if I’ve ever seen one.

  4. “It is perspicuous, understandable. It says what it means and means what it says.”

    Obviously it isn’t so since thousands upon thousands of “Bible-fearing Christians” are pitted against each other over this so called “understandable” Scriptural interpretation.

  5. quote: “No, the Bible is God’s Word. It is perspicuous, understandable. It says what it means and means what it says. It is attested by the miraculous power of God. And it is all these things, alone. It alone, all by itself, equips us for every good work. Flee anyone who tells you that more is required to understand, or more is required to obey.”

    Then why is it necessary for Ruling and Teaching Elders in OPC and PCA churches to vow to accept in all sincerity the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms if the Bible is “perspicuous, understandable”; if it “alone, all by itself, equips us for every good work”?

    I should think it would be somewhat redundant, requiring for ordination, a 400-year old commentary in an ecclesial community that claims scripture alone.

    Perhaps more ministers should flee, then…

  6. Found this site by reading Imonk. Great interview. Thanks. Guess you would say I’m a former evangelical hanging out with Orthodox and Catholics. The part about not being able to work through the labyrinth by perfect exegesis was well formed. Underlying philosophy being a major role and what that philosophy is seems to be a rare search which in itself is a bit perplexing. Oh well. Apparently the “bible alone,(in a bubble)” slogan pretty much squelches most thoughts on those lines.
    Was wondering if your familiar with this guy. You guys might have crossed paths in the night while swimming the Tiber ;).

    http://www.chriscastaldo.com/chris.php

  7. “No, the Bible is God’s Word. It is perspicuous, understandable. It says what it means and means what it says. It is attested by the miraculous power of God. And it is all these things, alone. It alone, all by itself, equips us for every good work.”

    If this is true then the Holy Spirit would not have led Philip to the Ethiopian official.
    http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/acts/acts8.htm#v27

    The scriptures are clear that we do need teachers to help us with God’s written word. The Bible alone is not what God intended.

  8. Bryan, I really admire the respectful tone of your article, and your point by point analysis and refutation of arguments advanced by R. C. Sproul Jr.


    In regards to the doctrine of sola scriptura, I believe that your point gets to the heart of the matter: … “the fact that the Bible does not have a passage that suggests that the Bible alone is our final authority, is deeply problematic for those who claim that the Bible alone is our final authority.” I would like to make a few comments about that point.

    R. C. Sproul Jr.: The Bible does not have specific text that suggests that the Bible alone is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice. Those who delight to point this out, however, typically Roman Catholics and the eastern Orthodox, typically miss the point.

    I don’t know if the Catholics and Orthodox “delight” in pointing out the obvious, but I disagree that the Catholics are missing the point because they don’t understanding the distinction between sola scriptura and solo scriptura. The real point is that there is nothing in the Bible that says that the Protestant Bible is the ONLY source of infallible authority for Christians. Catholics that point out the obvious are defending their faith against a Protestant doctrine that has never been part of their faith. All confirmed Catholics are called to defend the faith, and all confirmed Catholics have been given the sacramental grace to defend the faith:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    1303
    … Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

    – it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross

    I believe that just about any Catholic can use two simple arguments to refute the doctrine of sola scriptura; simple arguments that make use the internal contradictions inherent in sola scriptura. While the arguments may be simple, the hard part in using them is not letting the conversation get sidetracked!


    To use these two arguments one must first remember that Luther’s doctrine of sola scriptura is not primarily a doctrine about the infallible authority of scriptures – it is instead, a doctrine that was created to deny the authority of the teaching office of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.


    In refuting sola scriptura one should remember that one is not refuting that scriptures speak with infallible authority (since that is what the Catholic Church teaches); one is refuting the ONLY in Luther’s novel doctrine, i.e. that ONLY the Protestant Bible has infallible authority for Christians.

    I believe that it is not hard to show that it is unreasonable to ask me to believe in sola scriptura.

    One well known way to refute sola scriptura is to ask where the Bible lists the books that belong in the Bible (the canon argument). One will be on unassailable grounds if one sticks to that point and doesn’t get sidetracked into an argument of how the canon was established for the Church. Matt Yonke’s article Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture made good use of the canon argument, but the comments to the article became sidetracked by a discussion of how the canon came to be defined. Which was too bad, IMO, because this is a very good article that showed how one can use the canon argument without getting into a discussion of how the canon came to be formally defined. Matt Yonke talks more about the canon argument in this podcast.

    How the canon of scriptures came to be formally defined is a complicated subject that requires a fair amount of study before one is competent to argue in that realm. If one is interested in that topic, I have seen positive reviews for this book: Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, The Untold Story of the Lost Books of the Protestant Bible , by Gary G. Mitchuta. I haven’t read this book yet, but it is on my list of books to buy. I also understand that CTC is planning to run an article about the canon, which I am also looking forward to reading.

    The other easy way to refute sola scriptura is one I learned from listening to Scott Hahn’s conversion testimony. Simply ask to be shown the verses in the Bible that teach that the Protestant Bible is the ONLY source of infallible authority for Christians. The person that attempts to do that will, at best, only be able to show you verses in the Bible that teach that scriptures HAVE divine authority, which is not the point that you are refuting. It is unreasonable to ask me to believe in a doctrine that is not explicitly taught in the Bible if that doctrine claims the Bible is the ONLY source of infallible doctrine.


    I think that just about any Catholic can use the two arguments given above to refute sola scriptura if they remember a few things; the argument is not about the infallible authority of scriptures; insist that the person that is advancing sola scriptura doctrine show you the verses in his Bible that explicitly support this doctrine, and don’t let yourself get sidetracked with arguments that are not explicitly taught by the Bible. If the person that is defending sola scriptura cannot defend this doctrine by using only what is explicitly taught in the Bible, I see no reason to believe that the Bible is the only source of infallible doctrine.

    Do not fear or doubt, for God is your guide. 4 Ezra 16:75

  9. Oscar,

    Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I hope that it might be helpful to you in working your way through “the labyrinth.” I know of Chris Castaldo, but I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with him. When Chris hosted the discussion between Frank Beckwith and Timothy George, I wrote some comments on it here, if you are interested.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  10. It’s interesting that Sproul says he wants some miracles to verify the authority of the Catholic Church. One of the things that drew me to our Church is the fact that there seem to be more miracles from our Saints than from famous Protestants. Of course I haven’t collected proof for all of the miracles that have been claimed, and everyone believes that many claimed miracles are accidents or coincidences. But when someone with saintly honesty, surrounded by other people with saintly honesty, is claimed by others to have performed miraculous healings, etc. — and accepts this claim without denying it — then it does make me wonder. There have been so many of these saints, and the attempts to discredit them by atheists and religious opponents have sometimes been so dishonest, that I am left to conclude that many Catholic saints have performed miracles. Where is the reformed protestant Saint Teresa of Avila?

    In any case, I think that’s why Sproul wants the council participants themselves to have performed the miracles. He knows that there are many honest people who believe in miracles performed by other Catholic saints, and that these miracles have lead millions to faith in Christ. But other than the fact that it’s useful for his argument, I don’t see any a priori reason why it should be the council participants themselves who need to perform the miracles, when the saints who obeyed the councils, upheld them, and taught them, performed miracles anyway.

    It seems our only competitor in claiming miracles is evangelistic faith healers on T.V. Of course, there are other problems there.

    Likewise, he’s quite off when he complains about a certain indeterminacy to Catholic infallible teaching. Men have learned to distinguish between the bible’s science and it’s doctrine: between what is, literally speaking, quite incorrect about what the bible teaches, and what is probably literally true, and what must be literally true. But these three categories are nowhere taught by the bible. And without definitive lists of what is in these three categories, there is a serious indeterminacy in what can be learned infallibly from the scriptures. A fool would then claim: “the bible’s infallibility is meaningless — it’s an empty claim.” But Spoul and I both know that such a claim is itself foolish. . . just because we can’t eliminate unavoidable indeterminacy in the bible’s infallibility, it doesn’t mean that the bible’s infallibility can’t be useful for bringing us definitively towards God.

    Well if this is true of the unavoidable indeterminacy of our inerrant book, how much more is it true of the unavoidable indeterminacy of our merely infallible magisterium.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  11. This is an old thread and perhaps this comment will go unnoticed but I think the answer to the question of whether or not the Bible teaches Sola Scriptura can be answered in the resounding affirmative. Here I am not trying to defend RC Sproul Jr per se but answer the question biblically.

    First of all, I grant that there is no explicit single passage that I can point to prove the point. However, to demand that kind of proof is facile and strawman argumentation. There is not a single passage that expounds the doctrine of the Trinity either or the keeping of the Lord’s Day and “Trinity” cannot be found in the Bible yet it is rightfully necessary for orthodoxy.

    Where does one find biblical support therefore for the doctrines of Sola Scriptura and the Trinity? Well if I may borrow from Scott Hahn the answer is “everywhere”. He once argued that the idea of purgatory was for him as a former protestant easy to accept for it was taught in the Bible. Support for Sola Scriptura can be more easily defended biblically. It is found clearly in the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles who repeatedly argued from the Scriptures alone for final authority. How many times does Jesus say “It is written”? Also what of 2 Tim 3:16 to 17 which states that Scripture alone is sufficient for competence in the faith or Luke addressing his Gospel to Theophilus so that he might have “certainty” of what he had been taught or the noble-minded Bereans who checked what Paul taught by the Scriptures to see if what they said were true (Acts 17:9-11) or Jesus on the Road to Emmaus where He used Scripture to show that the Messiah had to suffer.

    The list goes on but I think it is very evident that Scripture is the final authority upheld in the stories of Scripture and only the Word of God will never pass away (Matt 24:35) and Jesus is the Word incarnate.

  12. But the scriptures Jesus is referring to are the Old Testament scriptures, to say nothing of New Testament. I have a hard time with Sola Scriptura for the basic fact that the majority of people were illiterate until the time of the printing presses, to say the least that bibles weren’t available for the lay person until well after said time as well. That’s not to say that scripture isn’t authoritative, because it is. But are we talking about OT scripture? or NT scripture? The official cannon was recognized by the church. Would there be a “bible” without the church? Would Paul have said his letters were scripture? In most of his letters he admonishes the people to keep/obey the things/traditions he has TOLD them. This is where tradition also plays a role. The Church, Scripture and Tradition must all work together. What is the Bible without tradition (a context)? What is scripture without the Church? I conclude, not much and given over to the whims and interpretation of man.

  13. Michelle, Jesus would of course have been referring more directly to OT but once the NT canon was completed, His reference would have been to that as well. He said as much I believe when He said that the Holy Spirit would reveal truth that they were not able to hear at that time (John 16:12, 13). That was obviously referring to authoritative canon.

    As for Paul’s epistles, Peter calls them Scripture (2 Pet 3:16) and I believe the apostles understood they were writing the words of God inspired by the Spirit (cf 1 Cor 7:10). Take note however, of the 2 Pet 3:16 passage and 2 Cor 3:3 – the Spirit is given to all of faith and it is the “ignorant and unstable” who twist them. Jesus says His sheep will hear His voice and turn from strangers by the very new nature He imparts on them, not by simply accepting a visible and established authority.

    So Michelle, tradition is important. The Church has authority but it is derived and secondary to Scripture. It is not infallible as the Scripture is infallible.

    Would there be a Bible without the Church? NO. However, this proves nothing. The Church bears witness to the truth and Jesus has charged her to guard it. The Church is the ground and pillar of truth. But what is primary? The Bible without the Church is like Jesus without disciples but obviously it is the Word which is Christ who is primary. Once Moses wrote the law, he fell under the same authority as the law and could not revise or add to it. This is why the unique exhortation in Rev 22:18 (the last chapter in the last book of the canon) is so remarkable. It applies directly to Revelation obviously but also applies to all Scripture by extension.

    Therefore, we are not talking about the whims and interpretations of man but how Christ leads the Church into all truth by the power of the Holy Spirit.

  14. Michelle, one other point about your illusion to illiteracy. I believe God judges us where we are at. If we are illiterate or if we do not have a Bible, then of course He does not expect us to look at Scripture in the same way He would expect you or me to look at Scripture since that is within our reach. This is one reason I find the Reformation so remarkable is that in God’s Providence it coincided with the invention in Europe of the printing press such that the writings that flowed could not be contained.

    However, what is the goal we strive for? We are called to maturity in Scripture and to move on from elementary principles (Heb 5:12 and 6:1). In the OT, even there, God commanded Israel to study the law, read it and write it out (cf Deut 6:9, 11:20). So my question is, if the LORD commanded the less mature old covenant believers to do this, how much more would He command us to do so? (cf Heb 2:3).

  15. Can you guys point me to a good description of the Roman Catholic understanding of the establishment of the cannon? I recently spoke with a catholic convert that made the claim that this was a very messy process with significant doubts about what should and should not be included and this surprised me as I understood (from reading guys like Sproul and Gerstner) that it was actually fairly obvious what books were and we’re not scripture). Because this doubt was significantly influential in his rejection of Sola Scriptura I’d like to understand the Catholic position on the Cannon.

  16. Jack,

    Tom Brown wrote the article “The Canon Question”, you can read here. I wrote a guest post called “The Canon Made Impossible”, you can read here.

    Peace

  17. Zoltan,

    Scripture is *not* the “only” source of authority to which Jesus appealed in his rebukes to Satan, the Pharisees, et al. He appealed to His own intrinsic authority as well. His own spoken word was not authoritative because someone wrote it down; rather, it was authoritative before it was ever inscribed.

    This authority which Jesus asserted was given to the Apostles after His resurrection, when He breathed on them, said “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and deputized them with His own authority to grant and withhold absolution (John 20).

    Also, 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 does not say that scripture is the only and sufficient authority for a believer. It says that Scripture is profitable to make a Christian complete. You are making the text say something it does not say. “Profitable” does not mean “sufficient.” Just because a Christian would not be complete without Scripture, it does not follow that nothing else is needed for their catechesis and spirituality to be complete.

    Arlen

  18. Hi Arlen,

    Well, it has been some time since I posted this comment (over three years), so forgive me that I have not re-read the original article – I do not have the time right now – but rather I will focus on our comments and discussion.

    First, a point of clarification. I never wrote that Scripture was the “only” source of authority Jesus appealed to. I stated that Scripture alone was the “final” authority. I stand by that but it must be understood in a broader context which I shall come back to. Suffice for the moment that my position is perhaps more nuanced than you understood prima facie.

    Now, when Jesus rebuked Satan, the gospel accounts in Matthew and Luke do indeed support my position. Jesus states repeatedly “It is written” or “It has been said” and indeed his words to the devil are found in Scripture. So please show me where Jesus uses another authority in those passages?

    As for Jesus’ words, you are quite correct that they were in fact authoritative before someone wrote them down. I would never maintain anything less. The point is, rather, how were the hearers at that time to know they were authoritative apart from Scripture? You have merely engaged in bald assertions it seems. Please demonstrate to me where Jesus said something akin to “because I said so!” or “because I am the Son of God”?

    According to Scripture (which is God breathed), evidence must be given by two or three witnesses to be deemed true. Jesus fulfilled this in his ministry. He would have violated the Scripture if he said anything like “because I said so”, since a prophet was to be tested according to the Law and Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly. In Deut 18:21-22, we read that a prophet’s words are to be tested by his works. Jesus echoed this when he said, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” – John 10:25. Jesus pointed John the baptist to his works as well as a witness (Matt 11:4-6). However, God did not merely give the Deut 18 passage as a test for prophets, he also gave Deut 13:1-3 in which we see that a false prophet may work a sign as a test from God and it is the word that would bear witness against that false prophet. So in this, we see that we need more than one witness (not merely words or works) to establish the truth but this begs the question, where did we get these tests from? The answer of course is Scripture and thus we see even here that it is the final authority. Scripture gives us the acid test.

    Jesus explained this beautifully in John 5:30 to 47. In this passage, Jesus speaks of the “witnesses” that testify to the truth of what he says. He speaks of John the Baptist, his works and Scripture. When he said that the Father’s words bear witness about him, he is of course referring to Scripture. And when he spoke of their condemnation for not receiving his testimony he appealed to Moses (again as recorded in Scripture) as the accuser. In John 8:12-59, Jesus is challenged that his testimony is not true because he testifies about himself (which would have been a violation of the law). In this passage, however, Jesus states that what he says is true not merely because they are his words but he looks to the word of the Father (as recorded in Scripture) and alludes to the law (as recorded in Scripture), as giving veracity to what he says.

    Now your second paragraph is correct. We agree on this. The question before us, however, is whether or not the apostolic office continues in perpetuity. Here is where we differ. The Church bears real but secondary authority when it comes to Scripture. Truth must be established with Scripture and the Church bearing witness to the truth of Scripture through her doctrines and works. If the witnesses do not agree, then the truth has not been established no matter what a tradition states. For example, that Jesus had siblings according to the flesh is clearly stated in Scripture (Matt 13:55). It is only later that traditions were formed asserting the perpetual virginity of Mary contrary to Scripture (Matt 1:25).

    As for 2 Tim 3:16 – 17, I think my wording was “incomplete” and perhaps I should have expounded more. Please allow me to clarify. The text does state that the Scriptures are profitable. That profitability indeed makes one complete/adequate and Scripture is uniquely mentioned to equip us in this way but that does not mean that nothing else is needed for Christian growth as you rightly point out. If you read my entire post, you will see the broader context supported when I allude to the Trinity. Scripture does not lay this out explicitly. The Church bore witness to this as guided by the Holy Spirit. It is a thoroughly biblical doctrine but Christians have other witnesses to buttress that teaching. Moreover, we need to live the Christian life. I am in no way asserting that one could be a Christian merely by reading the Bible. However, this is more rightly a discussion about authority. In the 2 Tim 3 passage, Scripture is singled out as being profitable for “teaching, reproof, correction, training” to equip. In the previous verse in fact, we read of “the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Here again, it is Scripture as the primary witness leading to salvation. It is not the only witness (vide supra), but it is the final, infallible witness and that is why the Bereans were deemed “noble minded” for they looked to the Scriptures and tested apostolic teaching by it. They were not reprimanded for this, but rather lauded.

    Grace and Peace. Zoltan

  19. (Sorry I have to interpret everything extremely strictly in these responses, but Sola Scriptura is an extremely strict proposition, so if it were true, it would have to be airtight.)

    Zoltan: ‘[W]hat of 2 Tim 3:16 to 17 which states that Scripture alone is sufficient for competence in the faith or Luke addressing his Gospel to Theophilus so that he might have “certainty” of what he had been taught or the noble-minded Bereans who checked what Paul taught by the Scriptures to see if what they said were true (Acts 17:9-11) or Jesus on the Road to Emmaus where He used Scripture to show that the Messiah had to suffer…[T]he Bereans were deemed “noble minded” for they looked to the Scriptures and tested apostolic teaching by it. They were not reprimanded for this, but rather lauded.’

    2 Tim. 3:15 says, ‘the holy scriptures [were] able to make [him] wise unto salvation through faith’, but not them alone. And the word translated as ‘unto’, ‘eis’, does not mean ‘so much that one may have…only,’ but has many meanings, such as ‘for [the ultimate purpose]’, which does not preclude other sources. The last 3 are examples of people doubting the truth, & Scripture reinforces the right understanding each time. For example, if someone (such as Theophilus) has been told, probably only most of the Gospel, & probably only in various stories at various time, the person may doubt it. But if the person has the entire thing in front of him (& if he is able to read), he can see the thoroughness & truth much more easily, but this also does not preclude other sources. And you haven’t proven that the Berean Jews were called ‘noble-minded’ for searching the Scriptures, not for readily receiving the word. The verse says, ‘Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.’ (I’ll use the NASB since it appears you do.) Do you see how ‘they received the word with great eagerness’ is the reason since it follows ‘for’ & how since ‘examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so’ seems to be a demonstration of their eagerness, since it follows ‘eagerness’?

    Zoltan: ‘Jesus would of course have been referring more directly to OT but once the NT canon was completed, His reference would have been to that as well. He said as much I believe when He said that the Holy Spirit would reveal truth that they were not able to hear at that time (John 16:12, 13). That was obviously referring to authoritative canon.’

    But you have not provided any Scriptural basis for accepting the completion of the NT Canon as it stands (why do you accept it?), for the expansion of the understanding of ‘the Scriptures’ to include the NT, for the Truth the Disciples were unable to hear (or more literally, ‘bear’) at the time being identically, i.e. not only no less than but no MORE than, the Truth contained in the rest of the NT ONLY, for that to mean the Canon, & for the authority OF the Canon, so your evidence does not fit your standards. Also, if the OT were sufficient for competence in the faith, why are the Jews not Christians then? Why were the Pharisees not convinced that Christ is the Messiah, since they had memorized the OT? Why would any Sola-Scriptura-proponent bother with having a NT? Why do you use it? Why would any Protestants bother with commentaries, sermons, baptisms, maybe even churches at all… if those are superfluous? Protestant churches could be at home, just reading the the OT & praying. And why doesn’t everyone who professes Sola Scriptura have exactly the same faith? (I was once a Lutheran, & almost all Lutherans love the principle, but I’m guessing you are not a Lutheran, & if you are, the next Protestant is not. But even with 2 Testaments, Protestant faiths are all over, not one, & Protestants split off from each other all the time. My family had joined a splinter group & later I discovered that the True Church kicks out the heretics, e.g. Matt. 18:17 & 1 Cor. 5:12, while if one leaves the True Church, he will be burned: John 15:5,6.) Since the word ‘Christians’ is Greek & no form of it is in the MT would they even have any reason to call themselves Christians? I mean this can get ridiculous easily & fast.

    Zoltan: ‘I stated that Scripture alone was the “final” authority,’

    …but first of all, we have to define ‘Scripture’. Who says which books count as Scripture? Yes, 2 Tim. 3:16 says, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God,’ but a basis for some books being considered inspired & others being uninspired is a presupposition to the verse. We can say, ‘Scripture is the Word of God’, but the Book of Mormon says that as well. We can say, ‘The Scriptures say they are inspired,’ but the so-called Gospel of Thomas (I’m not saying ‘St.’ as I normally do, trying to use Protestant terms here as much as I can for your sake) says, ‘These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke,’ i.e. that they came from the mouth of God & thus must be inspired. Based on that, what is the substantive difference between the true Gospel & the false one? We can say, ‘The Scriptures don’t contradict each other,’ but there must be bodies of works out there with no contradictions but that are still untrue. For example, I could write such things as, ‘The sky is green. Grass is purple. Helium is heavier than oxygen. Water is not wet…’ for a thousand pages & never write anything that contradicts anything else, but it would contradict physical reality, so how are we sure the Scriptures don’t contradict spiritual reality & what we feel & believe is not a trick of Satan (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14)? So where did anyone who professes Sola Scriptura get the Canon? This is all only one way Sola Scriptura, or ‘Scripture is the final authority’ is impossible: meta-Scripture does not exist. We can say furthermore, ‘God entrusted the Scriptures to the Jews,’ but He entrusted the Faith to them too, & except for the ones that converted, in plain contradiction to those Scriptures they denied the coming of the Messiah & had Him crucified (Matt. 27:21-23 etc.). The ones most specifically entrusted with the Scriptures were the scribes, as in, ‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in,’ (Matt. 23:13) which was prophetic, & Adam Clarke & Louis Cappel, both Protestants, agree: please see ‘Masoretic Text vs. Original Hebrew’ at http://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/masoretic-text-vs-original-hebrew/ (although He did quote not only the LXX but also the Peshitta at least in Matt. 4:10, & since the original Hebrew mss were corrupted long after the Incarnation then destroyed, & other mss have existed, quotes that match the MT must be coincidental). Obviously, the Jews were no authority at all.

    Then we have to define ‘authority’. Here are some definitions (from the American Heritage Dictionary): ‘The power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge…An accepted source of expert information or advice.’ All Christians can agree that at least certain books are Holy Scripture & thus fit the second definition. But to use authority that fits the second definition, an authority that fits the first definition, most directly in the sense of ‘judge’, is required as an intermediary; since without an authority, a proper one, accepted by all parties involved, to act in this capacity, we can understand things to mean what we like. Even with an authority of the first type, the Pharisees were in error, because the authority was in error, why I say ‘a proper one’. For example, in Tit. 2:15, Titus was given all authority: ‘These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority,’ which 2 Pet. 1:20 fits with: ‘But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,’ (& if all of it is inspired, all of it is thus prophecy). Thus we laymen are not to interpret the Scriptures but submit to the authorities who have been appointed over us & accept their interpretation. 2 Pet. 1 continues: ‘for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,’ which leads us to who those authorities are. Acts 8:14-21 say, Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God,’ & the ‘power’ the sorcerer Simon speaks of is actually authority, ‘exousian’. Peter didn’t correct him & saying, ‘No, this is not authority,’ but continued the conversation, so the authority that Christ gave to the Apostles was given to the Samaritans referred to in Acts 8, & that was not just part of the authority, because if we are to believe Sola Scriptura & if it were restricted, then the Bible would have to say so. Thus we have to accept that the same, complete authority the Apostles have has been transferred to others & the only way it is done is the laying on of hands of someone who already has the Holy Spirit, & that only if one’s heart is right in the sight of God, as judged by one with the authority & the Spirit, received from a direct line of concurrent proper faith & physical laying of hands, that goes all the way back to the Apostles, & maintained by continuing with one’s heart still right in the sight of God, only then does anyone have that authority. Since the NT came from the Apostles, it is not the final authority itself, but a product of that authority.

    If Scripture were the final authority, then all my objections about the validity within Sola Scriptura of 2 Tim. 3:15’s application to the NT could be solved with verses. If it were the final authority, it would have to itself contain something or some things that say that it is final, i.e. to be taken after everything else, but 2 Thess. 2:15 gives the spoken words (‘logou’) that the churches received from the Apostles & the written words they received (‘epistoles’) the same honor, & instructs the churches to maintain the traditions which are in both. 2 Tim. 2:2 concurs: ‘And the things that thou hast heard [not read!] of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.’ So to say Scripture is final is to contradict 2 Thess. 2:15. Also, Thessalonica is in Greece. Does this mean the Greek churches are wrong? That they have some other tradition & thus are unable to follow 2 Thess. 2:15? If so, WHAT are these traditions they were originally taught by spoken word?

    Zoltan: ‘Now, when Jesus rebuked Satan, the gospel accounts in Matthew and Luke do indeed support my position. Jesus states repeatedly “It is written” or “It has been said” and indeed his words to the devil are found in Scripture. So please show me where Jesus uses another authority in those passages?’

    That’s one authority among others, the others I indicated above.

    Zoltan: ‘Please demonstrate to me where Jesus said something akin to “because I said so!” or “because I am the Son of God”?’

    ‘Jesus answered and said to them [i.e. the Pharisees, who said His bearing record of Himself as being the Light of the world was prohibited], “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from [i.e. from the Father, being His Son (2 John 1:3)] and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. (John 8:14)’ Thus He says essentially, ‘I am the Light of the world, and My testimony is true, because I am the Son of God’.

    Zoltan: ‘In John 8:12-59, Jesus is challenged that his testimony is not true because he testifies about himself (which would have been a violation of the law). In this passage, however, Jesus states that what he says is true not merely because they are his words but he looks to the word of the Father (as recorded in Scripture) and alludes to the law (as recorded in Scripture), as giving veracity to what he says.’

    The only (source: parallel-passages section of the Blue Letter Bible site, which is Protestant) appeal to Scripture in that section is John 8:17: ‘Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true,’ referring to Deut. 17:6: ‘On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.’ Christ replies in John 8:18, ‘I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me,’ but the Father is of course not a man, because there is only one Mediator, Christ (1 Tim. 2:5), so He proves them wrong because they said ‘men’ (‘anthropon’) & denied that God can be a witness of himself. If this were to be an argument for Sola Scriptura, wouldn’t you be accusing us of saying it is not true or of no weight? But we non-Sola-Scriptura people accept that the Law is surely true & of full weight, but that there is much, much more that is just as surely true & of just as much weight.

    Zoltan: ‘The question before us, however, is whether or not the apostolic office continues in perpetuity.’

    I proved that it does several sections back about Acts 8, since authority is conferred upon receiving an office. Here is the relevant definition of ‘office’, from Noah Webster, a Protestant & of course one of the greatest scholars of language ever: ‘A particular duty, charge or trust CONFERRED BY public AUTHORITY and for a public purpose…Offices are civil, judicial, ministerial, executive, legislative, political, municipal, diplomatic, military, ECCLESIASTICAL, &c.’ (emphasis added).

    Zoltan: ‘The Church bears real but secondary authority when it comes to Scripture…Scripture…is not the only witness (vide supra), but it is the final, infallible witness…’

    Where did the Scripture come from? It didn’t drop from heaven as one volume into the Church, but it was written by Her members. Who determined the Canon? It didn’t determine itself; the Church determined the Canon, by judging Scripture, according to the oral Holy Tradition, explained in the 4th paragraph here: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/letters_from_convert.htm#_Toc2868256 . 1 Tim. 3:15 says the Church, not the Scripture, is ‘the pillar and support of the truth’, & there is no comparable elevation of the status of Scripture, i.e. to rule over the Church & torn from the rest of Tradition even. (Scripture IS Tradition because ‘tradition’ means ‘that which is given across’ or in the English idiom ‘…handed down’, & it has been handed down to us from others.) Scripture is truth so 1 Tim. 3:15 says the Scripture is founded upon the Church not that the Church is founded upon the Scriptures. Which came first anyway? The Church in the NT was founded before the NT was written, because the founding is noted in it. And the Church is ‘ekklesia’, or ‘assembly’; the first instance I find it noted in the OT is Lev. 8:3, & the Pentateuch was written after the events in it occurred, & even long before that, since all things were created at the beginning of the world, the angels were created then, & we know they have always since assembled in heaven to worship, because God will have them to assemble in worship at the end of the world (Rev. 7:11) & He does not change (Ps. 119:160). Thus the Church (as assembly) was begun in the 6 Days of Creation. Christ is the Head of the Church, His Body (Eph. 1:22 etc.), & the Church is One (1 Cor. 1:13, Matt. 12:25 etc. & Matt. 16:18) & visible (Matt. 18:17, 1 Cor. 5:12, as well as pretty much any verse with the words ‘each other’ or ‘one another’, meaning every other person in the church, is absolutely impossible with an invisible church!). Here’s something that gives an example of the relationship: ‘Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (Eph. 5:24)’ Isn’t to say that somehow Scripture is between Christ & the Church also to say that there is a book or scroll or some kind of writing at the position of the neck? And wouldn’t it also mean that the Scriptures are fast between a husband & wife making them no longer one flesh (Gen. 2:24)? That’s nowhere in the Scriptures, & the Church is the Bride (Eph. 5:27) & Christ is the Bridegroom (Matt. 9:15 etc.) making them one Flesh. So, since there is only one Head, the Head, Christ, to place the Scriptures (again, extra-scripturally) over the Church must be to elevate them above Christ Himself. Since ‘infallible’ means ‘unable to fall’, the CHURCH (containing the infallible Scriptures) is infallible, because He said ‘any…house divided against itself will not stand’ (Matt. 12:25) but the Church, the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22), is not divided, since Paul was not crucified for us & we have not been baptized in his name (1 Cor. 1:13), ‘the gates of Hades will not overpower’ the Church (Matt 16:18), & the Church can thus never fall or (as a whole) be in error.

    Zoltan: ‘Truth must be established with Scripture and the Church bearing witness to the truth of Scripture through her doctrines and works. If the witnesses do not agree, then the truth has not been established no matter what a tradition states. For example, that Jesus had siblings according to the flesh is clearly stated in Scripture (Matt 13:55). It is only later that traditions were formed asserting the perpetual virginity of Mary contrary to Scripture (Matt 1:25).’

    Matt. 13:15 is not evidence of siblings of Christ according to the flesh existing. If you had several brothers, & someone referred to you & your mother & your brothers as ‘The son of [your father], & [your mother], & the brothers of you: James, Joseph, Simon, & Jude,’ instead of ‘[your mother] & her sons Zoltan, James, Joseph, Simon, & Jude,’ wouldn’t you think it was awkward & strange? That’s the first clue. Next, this is unbelievers speaking! Following verses say, ‘And they took offense at Him…And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.’ There is no reason to accept that what they said was true: Christ endured all things without protest. Next, a ‘brother’ can be a nephew, e.g. Gen. 14 calls Lot both Abram’s brother’s son & his brother. Next, the word in Matt. 13:15 is ‘adelphos’, which is a broad word. It could mean also spiritual brothers, i.e. men with the same Spiritual Father, for example, Timothy (1 Tim. 1:2), Titus (Tit. 1:4), & Philemon (Philm. 1:10), since they are all called sons of Paul but not according to the flesh, or it could mean members of the Church such as in one city, e.g. the brethren in 2 Thess. Next, if ‘not till’ (‘ouk…heos’) in Matt. 1:25 NECESSARILY means ‘not before, yet certainly after’, then ’till’ (‘heos’) necessarily means the opposite: ‘before, yet certainly not after’, & Acts 2:34,35 means, ‘For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, BEFORE, YET CERTAINLY NOT AFTER, I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET,’ Acts 21:26 means, ‘Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, before, yet certainly not after the sacrifice was offered for each one of them’ (i.e. he ceased to purify himself & ceased to enter the temple), & 1 Tim. 4:13 means, ‘Before, yet certainly not after I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.’ Nobody could possibly argue those meanings.

    Furthermore, beyond the Scripture specifically, there are COUNTLESS prefigurings in the Bible, Noah’s Ark being the Church, the Paschal Lamb being Christ, kings & priests being anointed ones, the grain offering & the drink offering being the bread & wine of the Last Supper, baptism being the new circumcision (well, that’s specific to Col. 2:11,12)… I could go on all day! So the Ark of the Covenant contained the Tablets of the Commandments, i.e. the Word, the manna, i.e. bread that came down from heaven, & Aaron’s Rod that budded without being planted, i.e. without seed (Heb. 9:4). Of course we know Who is the Word, is the Bread of Life (John 6:48) come down from heaven (John 6:51), & was conceived without seed (Luke 1:34,35), so I shall indicate the Ark of the New Covenant, with many more prefigurings…

    ‘You…shall screen the ark with the veil. (Ex. 40:3) ‘But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.’ (1 Cor. 11:5,6) So Mary surely must have worn a veil on her head since Christ would not be born of a disgraceful woman but a pure one.

    ‘He brought the ark into the tabernacle…Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.’ (Ex. 40:21,34) ‘…The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee…’ (Luke 1:35)

    ‘Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle [& thus the Ark, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they did set out.’ (Num. 9:22) ‘And David arose and went…to Baale-judah’ (2 Sam. 6:2) ‘And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. [i.e. the Holy Spirit came upon her; afterward…] Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah;’ (Luke 1:38,39) The same hills had been in the same place in the OT, causing the Ark to begin to fall from the cart.

    ‘Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting (anaphonountes)…’ (1 Chron. 15:28) ‘He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, even to celebrate (anaphonountas) and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel: Asaph the chief, and second to him Zechariah, then [a]Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom and Jeiel, with musical instruments, harps, lyres; also Asaph played loud-sounding (anaphonon) cymbals…And with them were Heman and Jeduthun with trumpets and cymbals for those who should sound aloud (anaphonein)…’ (1 Chron. 16:4,5,42) ‘When the priests came forth from the holy place…and all the Levitical singers…and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice (anaphonein) to praise and to glorify the Lord…’ (2 Chron. 5:11-13) ‘And David…said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?’ (2 Sam. 6:9) ‘And she spake out (anephonesen) with a loud voice, and said…And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ (Luke 1:42,43) All the ana/ane words are conjugations of the same word, Strong’s #400, always used only to describe the sound of the celebration of the arrival of the Ark in the OT, EXCEPT when it is used only once in the NT to describe the sound of the celebration of the arrival of Mary.

    ‘hTus the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed (eulogese) Obed-edom and all his household…Now it was told King David, saying, “The Lord has blessed (eulogese) the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God…’ (2 Sam. 6:11,12) ‘…Blessed (eulogemene) art thou among women, and blessed (eulogemenos) is the fruit of thy womb..And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.’ (1 Luke 1:42,48,56) The eulog words are Strong’s # 2127.

    The Ark of the Old Covenant bore Christ mystically: It is both possible & sure because He is ‘the Lord’ (1 Cor. 8:6), He is the Person of the Trinity with a Body (Col. 2:9), the Body existing mystically before the physical Incarnation, proven in the explanation of Ps. 40:6 (as it appears in the LXX) in Heb. 10:5-10, so no one but Him is able to occupy the Mercy Seat, which is upon the Ark (Ex. 40:20), & ‘Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him…Then the Lord spoke to Moses…’ Of course we already agree that in the New Testament, Mary bears Christ physically.

    So if Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, she had to be protected similar to how the old Ark was protected. Consecration is required merely to serve God as a priest (Ex. 30:30), & abstinence is a necessary preparation for encountering God (Ex. 19:15). Uzzah dying even from innocently touching the Ark was a prefiguring of the damnation that would result from defiling Mary. Other desecration was punished too, in Josh. 6:19-7:26, 2 Kings 12:18-21, & 2 Chron. 22:1-24:7.

    If Mary were not understood to be ever-virgin, Luke 1:34 would make no sense. She would not have asked ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin [footnote: Lit know no man]?’ if she had not been consecrated to God. Any ordinary virgin, unmarried woman told she would bear a child would consider it entirely obvious that she would be expected to marry & then bear the child in the ordinary course of events. Also, it was possible to be consecrated to God, because Samuel was (1 Sam. 1:11,27,28).

    Sorry to go on forever, but it seems necessary to show this evidence is just overwhelming. (Credit is due to this pg: http://www.angelfire.com/ok3/apologia/saintbenedict/maryark.html for much of the information about the Ark, except I am Orthodox, & we Orthodox don’t believe in Immaculate Conception, i.e. that the Virgin Mary was perfectly pure with no effort, but that we all inherit only inclination to sin & death, not any guilt for anything we didn’t do, & that she consciously always chose to be perfect, so her purity was although by the grace of God, still due to her own effort of perfect submission of her will to God’s will, e.g. Luke 1:38. The rest of the pg. is both Orthodox & Catholic though. But, what if she hadn’t been perfect, a sinner as is often understood by Protestants? There would have been a risk that Christ would have to condemn His own mother to damnation & God would be violating His own commandment to honor one’s mother, all an utter impossibility.)

  20. P.S. Sorry, again! A few verses are the wrong version. Ordinarily I use the KJV in discussions with Protestants, since it is accepted as correct by pretty much every Protestant, its NT is allowed in Orthodox Liturgy (so it is very close to the Greek) & the OT would be if it were the LXX throughout, not MT plus LXX Deuterocanon, & as a bonus it was derived from the Douay-Rheims version, so it is close to that as well; thus it may be the most widely accepted, or at least not-objected-to, version in the world. I had used it, & later noticed NASB wording in Zoltan’s post & tried to change all verses I had quoted. Here are my corrections so far:

    ‘…The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…’ (Luke 1:35)

    ‘and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?’ (2 Sam. 6:9) ‘And she cried out (anephonesen) with a loud voice and said, “…how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?’ (Luke 1:42,43)

    ‘And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed (eulogemene) are you among women, and blessed (eulogemenos) is the fruit of your womb!”…“For He has had regard for the humble state of His [a]bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed…And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.’ (Luke 1:42,48,56)

    Also, I had meant ‘Peter didn’t correct him, saying…’

  21. Three things to think about.

    1.) Jesus in Matthew 18 says to take disputes to the Church, not scripture. Why is that, if He felt scripture is the final authority?

    2.) In 1Timothy St. Paul says the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. Again, why doesn’t he say scripture, if he felt scripture is the final authority?

    3.) How can scripture be the final authority, if two people do not agree with what they think it says, though both claim to be guided by the Spirit? Think about the controversies over baptism, John 6, how the word porneia is applied, is Peter the rock and papal primacy……and the list goes on. How has appealing to scripture solved any of these issues?

    If you look at all the Protestant denominations that sola scriptura has spawned, how can anyone objectively think sola scriptura is a source of unity?

  22. Hi Duane,

    As you can see, it has been some time since I have been on this website and I am realizing now that I have not responded to Greta which I shall come to (Lord willing) at some point. My time, however, is limited.

    Let me begin by saying that as a Protestant in the Reformed tradition, I am very comfortable with defending the authority of the church. The question is not whether or not the church has authority (as Jesus outlines in Matthew 18 which you referenced), but rather what is the proper place and understanding of that authority and in the current context, how that relates to Scripture.

    1) With respect to Matthew 18, that is clearly referring to matters of interpersonal conflict or dispute. In the OT, two prostitutes came to Solomon to plead their case that they were the mother of a certain baby. What Scripture could resolve this? None. Courts are needed even within the Church. How did Solomon arrive at his ruling? Of course he used biblical principles of truth and justice but the decision was based on wisdom. Did that place Solomon over the Scripture? Was he then right to marry foreign wives (clearly against Scripture) or to build places for idol worship in Israel (1 Kings 11:7)? How can he be a judge in one sense and yet be held accountable in another sense. What was the ultimate authority? So in Matthew 18, Jesus is telling us to bring our disputes to the church, but this authority to judge in interpersonal disputes does not place the church above Scripture any more than Solomon was above the Law even though he ruled upon it.

    2) I find your quotation of 1 Tim 3:15 interesting for several reasons. First, the Greek word you have translated as “foundation” is ἑδραίωμα. That is more accurately translated as support or buttress. Linguistically, this is connected with στῦλος in the Greek using the word καί which is the conjunction “and”. Therefore, the word for pillar (στῦλος) has to connect logically with the word ἑδραίωμα. Paul is clearly using the analogy of a building here as he even alludes to “the household of God”. But if the word pillar is translated accurately (and I believe it is) it connotes a secondary supportive role. In other words, how can something be a pillar (secondary support) and a foundation at the same time? Properly speaking, pillars rest on already established foundations. Likewise a buttress serves another type of secondary supportive role. Hence the logicality of the conjunction is maintained. The more accurate Greek word for foundation is θεμέλιον. This is found in 1 Cor 3:11. “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”.

    Here lies one of the key problems with in this discussion. We must not conflate things which God makes distinct in my view. That is akin to the heresy of modalism. The Father is not the Son is not the Spirit yet together they are One God. The foundation is Christ and Christ is not the Church. Christ is the Head and we are his Body. So in this we have a perfect analogy of a building being made by the power of the Holy Spirit to be the very household of God. That building is the church and within the Church we have pillars and buttresses which support the Truth which is Christ as he taught “I am the Truth”.

    So in this, one would be mistaken to think final authority rests with the Church because that would conflate the Church with Jesus. He is the final authority and he is the Logos or Word made flesh. The Church supports the teaching of the Word. However, the Word is not merely the Bible but the fullness of the revelation that comes in Christ. His Word is infallible and in that, we have the final authority.

    In this passage you quote, Paul is speaking about how the Church ought to be governed. He is not talking about authority in the abstract. In other words, it would not make sense for Paul to mention Scripture as the authority in the context because he is talking specifically about the Church upholding Truth which of course is Christ and there is no division between Jesus and Scripture when it comes to truth.

    3) You ask a very good question. I believe the Church does have a real yet secondary authority as guided by the Holy Spirit to define foundational issues. As we see from history when the Church was more united, we have creeds established like the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon all being upheld even by Protestant churches to this day. However, in Revelation 2, Jesus admonishes and rebukes certain “churches” for tolerating false teachers in their midst. The interesting thing to note is that these are still deemed to be churches even though there is error within.

    In the Roman Catholic Church as well, there is diversity of teaching and tolerance of what many would deem to be error and yet how are these to be decided? Some accuse Pope Benedict of heresy! Should a RC politician be excommunicated for supporting abortion? Some bishops say yes but in practice, this rarely if ever happens. Moreover, Rome has officially ruled that the Eastern Orthodox are a true church and yet how can you resolve differences with them? How will Rome ever be reconciled to the Eastern Orthodox Church? What is the means of healing the Schism?

    The fact of the matter is, every denomination more or less has a means of dealing with controversy within their denomination. Jesus spoke to seven churches in Revelation. There was diversity yet they are all deemed churches. Scripture is the final and infallible authority just as demonstrated by the Bereans who were deemed “noble minded” because they tested what the apostles said with Scripture (Acts 17:10-15). I would urge that you really ponder this passage. The Apostles laid no claim to authority and they took no umbrage at people testing their teaching with Scripture. We are warned repeatedly of erroneous doctrines and false teachers in the Bible. At one time, a majority of bishops were sympathetic to Arianism and Athanasius seemingly alone stood against that heresy even suffering exile for it multiple times. What would you have done living back then if your bishop was an Arian and you disagreed with him?

    In closing, how the Holy Spirit will bring us all back together will truly take a miracle not because of any fault in the Scripture but because of the fallibility and sin of man. I will take the long view on this.

    Grace and Peace.

  23. Hi Zoltan,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I will go further in what I said earlier. No one practices sola scriptura no matter what they say. In the end, if a person does not understand a passage of scripture, they ask someone they trust to explain it to them (as the Ethiopian did with Philip) making the person they trust the final authority. Some people make themselves that final authority, others their pastors, until they disagree. (I find it interesting that I have heard sola scriptura adherents argue for and against abortion and contraception. How can this be?) Catholics do not believe Jesus set it up this way. Jesus did not tell his Apostles to write a single thing. He said go forth and teach what I have taught you. The fact that the Apostles laid no claim to authority did not mean that they did not possess it! Tell me, if the Apostles were around today, would you say they have or do not have the authority to explain the scriptures definitively?

    Do you not see that the Pharisees rejected Jesus because they themselves were practicing a form of sola scriptura? The Pharisees were not stupid men. They were well educated and knew the OT well. Yet when Jesus came and explained it to them, they rejected him because his explanation did not fit their views, and what they expected God’s kingdom to look like, and because in their eyes he had even broke the laws of scripture. They thought no real messiah would ever do that! You look around and see no real difference today. Did Jesus have the authority to explain and define it to them?

    Catholics believe that when Jesus gave the keys, and the power to bind and loose, he gave the Church the authority. Like the Apostles when Jesus asks them if they too are going to leave, though they do not understand, implicitly they know that following Him is the only answer. Though there are times I may not understand what the Church teaches, I implicitly know that She has, and will continue to get it right (I trust in Jesus’ promise that the Spirit will lead the Church into all truth).

    I do not understand your interpersonal comment. All sin is interpersonal, whether it be between man and God, or man and man. If you cannot use the scriptures to settle a dispute, how can you say it is the final authority?

    As to your Arianism comment, I would do what Athanasius did. Appeal to Rome. I once read an excerpt from a Protestant historian commenting how ‘lucky’ Rome was that heresy did not touch her, in those early centuries, when heresy was rampant in the Eastern Church. An objective person could easily reply: not luck, but Jesus fulfilling his promise to protect His Church.”

  24. Hi Duane,

    I will start by pointing out that you have not really interacted fully with what I wrote. If you are not interested in having a discussion and defending your position but merely “go(ing) further in what I said earlier”, then where does that leave us?

    Both or our positions are predicated on one main point – the work of the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the promise Jesus made to lead us into all truth. If God intended the Church to be governed the way the RCC is, then you would be right. Likewise, if He intended it to be governed more like the Protestant Church, then I would be right. So how do we discern this?

    To begin, let me point out that an authoritarian approach is going to be more efficient at arriving at decisions and leading in certain directions than one based on consensus over time. This has nothing to do with God’s will, it is simply the nature of the system. If you want to argue that God’s desire is to spoon feed truth to us from authoritative bishops who cannot be questioned any more than Scripture, how are you going to prove this without begging the question? What I find interesting is that you seem to assume that God intended the Church to be like “X” and since the RCC is like “X”, therefore the RCC is the true church. Moreover, what is the test that one may apply to whether or not Rome has ever taught heresy? According to you, there would be no test. The entire position that there is papal infallibility makes it impossible to critique in that way. How could one ever prove the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to be true or false except by appealing to the very authority that declared it true?

    Who is the arbiter in your mind that these basic tenets of the authority of Rome are true but you? You cannot merely appeal to history because history is very messy. The Arian heresy was by no means resolved by appeals to Rome as though her bishop was acknowledged to be Pope then. The NewAdvent website even states that pertaining to the Arian heresy: “In the whole story there is but one single hero — the undaunted Athanasius — whose mind was equal to the problems, as his great spirit to the vicissitudes, a question on which the future of Christianity depended.”

    Where do you find evidence that Athanasius merely “appealed to Rome” and all was resolved? Moreover, Constantine was also instrumental and the final council occurred in Constantinople not Rome. So if Jesus intended for the Bishop of Rome to be Pope as he is conceived by RCC’s today, why did the Holy Spirit not make that more apparent to the people in the time of the Arian heresy? Moreover, how was orthodoxy arrived at without such a papacy if it is essentially unworkable as you contend? Did we “luck” into it? It would have saved a lot of time and grief if we had an authoritative pope then but it seems to me that God does not always act in the neat way we would like Him to act and history as well as Scripture clearly teaches that to us. Yet we still arrived at truth collectively despite your position that such is impossible. As an aside, I would further note that at the first Jerusalem Church Council in Scripture, we see James is the presiding bishop not Peter (James had the final word and all were agreed) – Acts 15:13.

    So when you write “no one practises Sola Scriptura” I believe you are conflating it with solo Scriptura. If one needs a passage explained, they should go to their pastor. That does not mean they should take everything the pastor says as “final authority” but they look to him as a teacher and should consider his counsel carefully as he is more learned and he bears an office. Even more importantly, there are creeds and confessions of the Church. These bear even more authority than a single pastor. As a Reformed Catholic Christian, I stand on confessions that have stood the test of time for centuries and each component of those confessions are thoroughly defended and defensible from Scripture (unlike say the Immaculate Conception of Mary or her perpetual virginity).

    So when you ask “If the Apostles were around today …” you have touched once again on a key point. I believe the apostolic office has ceased, whereas you (like many Pentecostals) believe it has not. Indeed the apostles bore great authority but they did not teach the way Rome does now. Paul used Scripture to prove his point and he worked signs as did other apostles. The signs they worked were meant in part to ratify their apostleship as Jesus promised. This was in keeping with God’s mandate that the truth be established by two or three witnesses since anything akin to “Because I said so and I am the Pope” is not sufficient. Jesus himself when questioned by John’s disciples did not merely speak but worked signs and told the disciples to tell John what they heard AND saw (Luke 7:22). So the clear sign of an apostle (as it was of a prophet in the OT), was the working of a sign that ratified that God had truly sent them to bring new revelation. However, Moses gave explicit instruction as to how a prophet’s teaching was to be tested and that was with Scripture.

    Your take on the Pharisees is erroneous. The main problem with the Pharisees was pride not exegetical. They saw themselves as preeminent and wanted to defend that position. Their hearts were hardened as the Scriptures teach and they could not accept the revelation of the New Covenant despite many admitted signs (John 11:47) not because of any lack of intelligence as you point out, but because they were not Jesus’ sheep (John 10:26). They could not even understand the Scripture’s plain teaching even though they sat in Moses’ seat of authority as Jesus acknowledged (Matt 23:2). What you are missing here is the work of the Holy Spirit it seems in all believers. Jesus taught that His sheep hear his voice (John 10:27). That is why the disciples were drawn to Him even though they themselves did not understand His teaching at first (cf Mk 6:52). However, after Pentecost and the giving of the Spirit, all that changed. We are living on the other side of Pentecost now so your comparison to the Pharisees falls flat unless you are maintaining that we Protestants have no part in the Holy Spirit but that would be contrary to the official teaching of the RCC (which by the way changed on that point with Vatican II).

    As for the interpersonal comment, sorry I was not clearer. The point I am making is that we may certainly appeal to Scripture to discern whether or not stealing or killing is wrong. What we cannot do, is use Scripture to discern who did the stealing or killing. That requires an authoritative court and witnesses etc. The court determines that person A stole from person B. The Scripture tells us that is wrong and what should be done about it. In that sense, it is the final authority. It’s authority supersedes any human authority. So even if human law and courts uphold a “right to abortion” then Scripture trumps that because it is taking of innocent life. I know of no major official Protestant Church statement that deems abortion to be good. That individual Christians might justify it in some twisted way is no different than RC’s who do the same or use birth control.

    Grace and Peace.

    PS – As before, I may not have time to answer quickly given other obligations.

  25. Again greetings Zoltan.

    To begin, let me point out that an authoritarian approach is going to be more efficient at arriving at decisions and leading in certain directions than one based on consensus over time. This has nothing to do with God’s will, it is simply the nature of the system. If you want to argue that God’s desire is to spoon feed truth to us from authoritative bishops who cannot be questioned any more than Scripture, how are you going to prove this without begging the question? What I find interesting is that you seem to assume that God intended the Church to be like “X” and since the RCC is like “X”, therefore the RCC is the true church. Moreover, what is the test that one may apply to whether or not Rome has ever taught heresy? According to you, there would be no test. The entire position that there is papal infallibility makes it impossible to critique in that way. How could one ever prove the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to be true or false except by appealing to the very authority that declared it true?

    So when you write “no one practises Sola Scriptura” I believe you are conflating it with solo Scriptura. If one needs a passage explained, they should go to their pastor. That does not mean they should take everything the pastor says as “final authority” but they look to him as a teacher and should consider his counsel carefully as he is more learned and he bears an office. Even more importantly, there are creeds and confessions of the Church. These bear even more authority than a single pastor. As a Reformed Catholic Christian, I stand on confessions that have stood the test of time for centuries and each component of those confessions are thoroughly defended and defensible from Scripture (unlike say the Immaculate Conception of Mary or her perpetual virginity).

    How do you know that the Scriptures that your confessions are based on are inspired? I know they are inspired because of the Church, which canonized them, but what is your reason for accepting them? If they are truly a fallible list of infallible books, as some people would claim, the again an objective person could say that the Church again was guided by the Holy Spirit. The odds of picking 27 infallible books perfectly out of probably hundreds of fallible books has to be astronomical. And yet the other thing that is left unstated, is that maybe they left some infallible books out there.
    Witness of the Bible

    What about the Bible’s own claim to inspiration? There are not many places where such a claim is made even elliptically, and most books in the Old and New Testaments make no such claim at all. In fact, no New Testament writer explicitly claims that he himself is writing at the direct behest of God, with the exception of John, the author of Revelation.

    Besides, even if every biblical book began with the phrase, “The following is an inspired book,” this would prove nothing. A book of false scriptures can easily assert that it is inspired, and many do. The mere claim of inspiration is insufficient to establish that something is bona fide.

    So when you ask “If the Apostles were around today …” you have touched once again on a key point. I believe the apostolic office has ceased, whereas you (like many Pentecostals) believe it has not. Indeed the apostles bore great authority but they did not teach the way Rome does now. Paul used Scripture to prove his point and he worked signs as did other apostles. The signs they worked were meant in part to ratify their apostleship as Jesus promised. This was in keeping with God’s mandate that the truth be established by two or three witnesses since anything akin to “Because I said so and I am the Pope” is not sufficient. Jesus himself when questioned by John’s disciples did not merely speak but worked signs and told the disciples to tell John what they heard AND saw (Luke 7:22). So the clear sign of an apostle (as it was of a prophet in the OT), was the working of a sign that ratified that God had truly sent them to bring new revelation. However, Moses gave explicit instruction as to how a prophet’s teaching was to be tested and that was with Scripture.

    Further, Christ said he would found a Church. Both the Bible (still taken as merely a historical book, not yet as an inspired one) and other ancient works attest to the fact that Christ established a Church with the rudiments of what we see in the Catholic Church today—papacy, hierarchy, priesthood, sacraments, and teaching authority.

    We have thus taken the material and purely historically concluded that Jesus founded the Catholic Church. Because of his Resurrection we have reason to take seriously his claims concerning the Church, including its authority to teach in his name.

    This Catholic Church tells us the Bible is inspired, and we can take the Church’s word for it precisely because the Church is infallible. Only after having been told by a properly constituted authority—that is, one established by God to assure us of the truth concerning matters of faith—that the Bible is inspired can we reasonably begin to use it as an inspired book.

    A Spiral Argument

    Note that this is not a circular argument. We are not basing the inspiration of the Bible on the Church’s infallibility and the Church’s infallibility on the word of an inspired Bible. That indeed would be a circular argument! What we have is really a spiral argument. On the first level we argue to the reliability of the Bible insofar as it is history. From that we conclude that an infallible Church was founded. And then we take the word of that infallible Church that the Bible is inspired. This is not a circular argument because the final conclusion (the Bible is inspired) is not simply a restatement of its initial finding (the Bible is historically reliable), and its initial finding (the Bible is historically reliable) is in no way based on the final conclusion (the Bible is inspired). What we have demonstrated is that without the existence of the Church, we could never know whether the Bible is inspired.

    I can infer from Scripture the Immaculate Conception and Perpetual Virginity just like I can the Trinity. Whether you accept that as proof is up to you.

    Could you send me the links where you see pope’s or the RCC’s teachings that are not based on scripture?

  26. My reply that I posted earlier somehow got lost, so I will try again.

    To begin, let me point out that an authoritarian approach is going to be more efficient at arriving at decisions and leading in certain directions than one based on consensus over time. This has nothing to do with God’s will, it is simply the nature of the system. If you want to argue that God’s desire is to spoon feed truth to us from authoritative bishops who cannot be questioned any more than Scripture, how are you going to prove this without begging the question? What I find interesting is that you seem to assume that God intended the Church to be like “X” and since the RCC is like “X”, therefore the RCC is the true church. Moreover, what is the test that one may apply to whether or not Rome has ever taught heresy? According to you, there would be no test. The entire position that there is papal infallibility makes it impossible to critique in that way. How could one ever prove the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to be true or false except by appealing to the very authority that declared it true?

    And yet the same can be said about the scriptures. Why should anyone believe they are true? Why those books and not the gospel of Thomas, or any other gnostic gospel, for that matter? I believe they are true because the Catholic Church that predates the New Testament said they are true. Do you accept that Jesus started a church, and if He did where is it today? I read the witness of the early church as to whether Rome teaches heresy. Tell me what is the test that you apply? Scripture? Yet I can prove from scripture that Rome has not taught heresy.
    I have never understood anyone’s problem with the claim of infallibility. You look at the claim of infallibility as arrogance. I look at it as a terrible weight that must be carried, for any church to have validity to it’s members, and Christ fulfilling His promise to lead His Church into all truth. Are you really saying you want to belong to a church where the leaders cannot tell you that they are NOT teaching you error?

    Who is the arbiter in your mind that these basic tenets of the authority of Rome are true but you? You cannot merely appeal to history because history is very messy. The Arian heresy was by no means resolved by appeals to Rome as though her bishop was acknowledged to be Pope then.

    Are you saying that there were no acknowledged popes during the Arian Heresy? From the New World Encyclopedia

    The long reign of Pope Silvester I had been followed by the brief papacy of Pope Mark. After Mark’s death, the papal chair remained vacant for four months. What occasioned this comparatively long vacancy is unknown, although it is worth noting that serious controversy now raged over the continuing Arian controversy, which had been by no means settled at the Council of Nicaea in 325. The Liber Pontificalis reports that, before coming to the papacy, Julius had suffered exile as a result of the Arianizing policy of the emperors, although this report is not entirely trusted by scholars.

    On February 6, 337, Julius was finally elected pope. A native of Rome, he was the son of a man named Rusticus.

    Did Jesus grant authority to the Apostles, and give St. Peter the authority to bind and loose? If He did, why would it end when they died? Why would Jesus start a church where the leaders authority ends after the first generation? That makes no sense.

    Where do you find evidence that Athanasius merely “appealed to Rome” and all was resolved? Moreover, Constantine was also instrumental and the final council occurred in Constantinople not Rome. So if Jesus intended for the Bishop of Rome to be Pope as he is conceived by RCC’s today, why did the Holy Spirit not make that more apparent to the people in the time of the Arian heresy?

    Where did I say when St. Athanasius appealed to Rome, that all was resolved? You asked what I would do, and I said like St. Athanasius I would appeal to Rome.

    Again from aforementioned site.

    During the reign of Constantine the Great, the anti-Arian patriarch Athanasius of Alexandria had been banished after Constantine became persuaded that his previous policy of attempting to suppress Arianism was unwise. After the emperor’s death in May 337, his son Constantine II, as governor of Gaul, permitted Athanasius to return to his see of Alexandria. An opposing party in Egypt, however, recognized a rival bishop in the person of Pistus. They sent a delegation to Julius asking him to admit Pistus into communion with Rome, also delivering to the pope the decisions of the Council of Tyre (335) to prove that Athanasius had been validly deposed.

    For his part, Athanasius sent envoys to Rome to deliver to Julius a conciliar letter from certain other Egyptian bishops, containing a justification of Athanasius as their patriarch. The two opposing delegations were summoned by Pope Julius for a hearing. The anti-Athanasian envoys now asked the pope to assemble a major council, before which both parties should present their case for decision.

    Athanasius of Alexandria

    Julius convened the synod at Rome, having dispatched two envoys to bear a letter of invitation to the eastern bishops. In the meantime, under the leadership of Eusebius of Nicomedia, the patriarch of Constantinople, a council had been held at Antioch which had elected George of Cappadocia as patriarch of Alexandria in the place of both Pistus and Athanasius. George was duly installed at Alexandria over the violent objections of the supporters of Athanasius, who was now once again forced into exile.

    Believing the matter to be settled, the other eastern bishops consequently refused to attend the synod summoned by Julius. Rome, meanwhile, became a refuge for Athanasius and other anti-Arian leaders, among them Marcellus of Ancyra, who had been removed by the pro-Arian party. The Roman council was held in the autumn of 340 or 341, under the presidency of the pope. After Athanasius and Marcellus both made satisfactory professions of faith, they were exonerated and declared to be re-established in their episcopal rights. Julius communicated this decision in a notable letter to the bishops of the Eusebian party in the East, in which he justified his proceedings and strongly objected to the refusal of the Eastern bishops to attend the Roman council. Even if Athanasius and his companions were somewhat to blame in their actions, the pope admitted, the Alexandrian church should first have written to the pope before taking action against them. “Can you be ignorant,” Julius wrote, “that this is the custom, that we should be written to first, so that from here what is just may be defined?”

    Sure reads like they knew where the authority lay, choosing to ignore authority does not mean that authority does not exist.

    This next section is from the website unam sanctam catholicam. It shows that the people of that time knew that the authority of the popes was apparent. It is quite lengthy but well worth the read. Notice how one of the councils begs the pope to ratify one of the canons, admitting that if he doesn’t, then that canon is null.


    The Papal Primacy in the First Councils

    An Answer to the Claim that the Petrine Primacy was a Doctrine Invented in the Middle Ages

    By Laurentius

    It is standard fare in the apologetics of Protestants and Eastern Orthodox to assert that the doctrine of the primacy of the See of Rome was an invention of the Middle Ages. A corollary of this assertion is the belief that, in the patristic era, the bishops patriarchal sees all interacted basically as equals with no concept of a Roman primacy until the early medieval era. How can a Catholic answer these charges?

    Most Christians are totally unaware that the historical evidence for the Petrine primacy is quite rock-solid (pun intended). Many would assume there are good arguments that can be made either way, particularly among the Eastern Orthodox. Of course, neither Protestants nor Eastern Orthodox have an ‘official’ view as to how the papacy fits in with the historical testimony, but they all agree the papacy is a serious doctrinal error that crept in over the centuries. The goal of this article is to show that none other than the earliest Ecumenical Councils indicate the Bishop of Rome was Supreme Head of the Church [1], and given this fact, both Protestants and Eastern Orthodox are ultimately forced to admit the Church fell into apostasy, since the papal primacy is testified to by an agreed upon historical Christian witness. All quotes in this article are from virtually undisputed primary historical sources.

    Canon 6 of Nicaea

    Everyone is aware of the Council of Nicaea, held in 325, and how it was renowned for not only being the First Ecumenical Council but also for its importance in stopping Arianism. A common belief is that this was a gathering of 318 bishops of equal standing (i.e. no concept of a Roman primacy) who’s collective conciliar authority won the day. But this concept fails to understand the reality of the ecclesial structures then in place, in which there clearly was a hierarchy of bishops, with the Pope at the top. An important testimony to this comes from Canon 6 of this same council, which states:

    “Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop.”

    This teaches that as per “ancient custom,” there have been three major Sees, each retaining certain jurisdictions. The main ‘controversy’ surrounding Canon 6 is whether it is envisioning a ‘trio of Patriarchs’ rather than a Primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Preferring the former interpretation are obviously the Protestants [2] and the Eastern Orthodox. While a quick reading seems to lend weight to the the former reading, a more careful second look reveals that is not the case. Informed Catholics throughout the ages have pointed to a few key details as to why any reading other than that of Papal Primacy doesn’t work.

    First of all, from a grammatical point of view, the Canon says nothing about a jurisdiction in reference to the Bishop of Rome. Thus, the idea that Alexandria governs Egypt and Libya, while the Bishop of Rome governs some “Roman” land like Italy is projected onto the Canon, effectively putting words into it’s mouth. This does not prove the Roman primacy, but it does help to remind us that this Canon does not deny a Roman primacy either, since no “Roman territory” is explicitly mentioned.

    Second, in terms of the Canon making a logical argument, an interpretation that renders the Canon something to the effect, “Let the Bishop of Alexandria rule Egypt since it is customary for the Bishop of Rome to rule Italy” is a non-sequitur fallacy. In other words, it’s irrelevant if the Bishop of Rome governs Italy, since that says nothing about who should rule elsewhere and especially what land they should govern. The same can be said if it is taken to mean “since it is customary for the Bishop of Rome to be a Patriarch,” which brings out the logical fallacy all the more. For a Council that just got done addressing one of the most pernicious heresies of all time, including using precise and deliberate language for the Creed, we should expect a far more reasonable argument in Canon 6 than what Protestants and Eastern Orthodox have to offer.

    If Canon 6 excludes some kind of “territory of Italy” over which Rome has primacy, what is the correct interpretation? The Catholic interpretation understands the Canon as follows:

    “Let the Bishop of Alexandria continue to govern Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, since assigning this jurisdiction is an ancient custom established by the Bishop of Rome and reiterated now by this Nicene Council.”

    All of the sudden, this Canon has some “teeth”. The appeal of the Council is to an ancient custom, which surely must have originated on some solid basis (i.e. not accepted simply “because it’s old”), and this basis is none other than the delegation of the Bishop of Rome. Without question, only the Catholic interpretation of this Canon satisfies the intellect and confirms the Faith, especially when we look at it in the context of the Canons of the councils immediately following Nicaea which sought to expound upon Canon 6.

    Council of Constantinople Canons 2 & 3

    The Second Ecumenical Council, held in 381 (55 years after Nicaea), gives further credence to the Catholic position on the Papacy. Here are Canon 2 and Canon 3 from this Council:

    Canon 2: The bishops are not to go beyond their dioceses to churches lying outside of their bounds, nor bring confusion on the churches; but let the Bishop of Alexandria, according to the canons, alone administer the affairs of Egypt; and let the bishops of the East manage the East alone, the privileges of the Church in Antioch, which are mentioned in the canons of Nicaea, being preserved; and let the bishops of the Asian Diocese administer the Asian affairs only; and the Pontic bishops only Pontic matters; and the Thracian bishops only Thracian affairs. And let not bishops go beyond their dioceses for ordination or any other ecclesiastical ministrations, unless they be invited. And the aforesaid canon concerning dioceses being observed, it is evident that the synod of every province will administer the affairs of that particular province as was decreed at Nicaea. But the Churches of God in heathen nations must be governed according to the custom which has prevailed from the times of the Fathers.

    Canon 3: The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honor after the Bishop of Rome; because Constantinople is New Rome.

    Notice that Canon 2 clearly references Canon 6 of Nicaea in regards to the jurisdiction and prerogatives of Alexandria and Antioch, yet no mention is made of an alleged “Patriarchate” or “jurisdiction of Italy” of the Bishop of Rome. This is quite odd if, in fact, Canon 6 was meant to be interpreted in the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant manner. But such makes perfect sense with the Catholic understanding of Canon 6. No jurisdiction of Italy is mentioned because one did not exist. If it did exist, surely it would have been mentioned, along with those of Pontus, Thrace, Antioch and Alexandria. While the Bishop of Rome is properly Bishop of the Roman Diocese, as Successor of Peter he also has a final jurisdiction over all the local churches as well.

    And if that wasn’t enough, Canon 3 says the Bishop of Rome is of first rank, and that Constantinople being “New Rome” is thus to receive second rank among all the Bishops. This is utterly absurd if, indeed, there was an equality among the bishops, particularly an equality among Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch (i.e. the alternate reading of Canon 6). This only makes sense if Rome truly was of first rank and that this was universally understood this whole time. In other words, Canon 3 establishes that everybody already agreed that Rome was ranked first; Canon 3 simply establishes that Constantinople would now comes second.

    More problematic is that within Canon 3 we see the seeds of what would blossom into an all out attack on the Papacy, with the Patriarchate of Constantinople initiating a power-grab that would throw the Church into serious turmoil. [3] As will be shown shortly, Canon 3 was never accepted by the Pope, and for reasons most Protestants and Eastern Orthodox would not expect.

    The Proceedings of the Council of Ephesus

    The Third Ecumenical Council gathered in Ephesus in the year 431 and condemned the heretic Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius. Though none of its canons directly pertains to the main subject, the Acts of the Council were preserved, and they shed important light on the significance of the papacy in the eyes of the whole Church. For example, in Session III of the Council, the Pope’s head representative stated the following:

    “Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: “There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to to-day and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Clestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod, which the most humane and Christian Emperors have commanded to assemble, bearing in mind and continually watching over the Catholic faith. For they both have kept and are now keeping intact the apostolic doctrine handed down to them from their most pious and humane grandfathers and fathers of holy memory down to the present time.”

    This kind of talk was not out of the ordinary to those in attendance at the Council since the Pope’s authority was acknowledged by all. This sounds nothing like what Protestants or Eastern Orthodox would have us believe about the “true” status of the Bishop of Rome. But this raises yet another point against them: if such manifest heresy as the papal primacy was being espoused, then surely someone would have gotten up and objected. Surely after condemning the Patriarch of Constantinople (Nestorius), the Council would have turned around and condemned this “Papalist heresy” while they were at it. But what did St Cyril of Alexandria, champion of orthodoxy at the Council say following this “outburst” by Philip? Observe:

    “Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria said: “The professions which have been made by [the Papal Legates] Arcadius and Projectus, the most holy and pious bishops, as also by Philip, the most religious presbyter of the Roman Church, stand manifest to the holy Synod. For they have made their profession in the place of the Apostolic See, and of the whole of the holy synod of the God-beloved and most holy bishops of the West. Wherefore let those things which were defined by the most holy [Pope] Celestine, the God-beloved bishop, be carried into effect, and the vote cast against Nestorius the heretic, by the holy Synod, which met in the metropolis of Ephesus be agreed to universally; for this purpose let there be added to the already prepared acts the proceedings of yesterday and today, and let them be shewn to their holiness, so that by their subscription according to custom, their canonical agreement with all of us may be manifest.”

    So even St Cyril himself accepted the Pope’s authority without any qualms at all, and indeed he was simply acting according to the instructions Pope Celestine gave to him prior to the start of the Council. Notice how all of this continues to confirm what the prior two Ecumenical Councils indicated. When looking at doctrinal development, it behooves us to look at the former through the lens of what it developed into later. When we see how the papal authority was received and agreed upon in the days of St. Cyril, we can better understand the context in which to read statements like those found in Canon 6 of Nicaea and Canons 2 and 3 of Ephesus.

    The Council of Chalcedon

    About 20 years later, the Fourth Ecumenical Council assembled in Chalcedon (451), and it is here where the Patriarch of Constantinople begins to vehemently assert himself in his struggle to overturn the Apostolic and Conciliar Tradition regarding the Supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. The primary goal of this Council was to condemn a new form of Nestorianism, especially after a “Robber Council” a few years earlier attempted to overturn the Council of Ephesus Council by declaring the neo-Nestorianism to be orthodox. [4] At Chalcedon, Pope St Leo the Great was the one who drafted the main document, the Tome, and it was widely hailed by the bishops in attendance as masterful defense of orthodoxy. Session II of the Acts of the Council records:

    “After the reading of the foregoing epistle, the most reverend bishops cried out: This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe. Anathema to him who does not thus believe. Peter has spoken thus through Leo. So taught the Apostles. Piously and truly did Leo teach, so taught Cyril. Everlasting be the memory of Cyril. Leo and Cyril taught the same thing, anathema to him who does not so believe. This is the true faith.”

    The famous line “Peter has spoken through Leo” has been cause for much disagreement, particularly because Cyril is mentioned right along side him. But this is because St. Cyril had already taken care of this original form of this heresy in the prior Council, which was addressed above, and they’re rightly giving credit where credit is due (which is always the Catholic practice). [5] This in no way takes away from the fact the Council saw Pope Leo filling the chair of St Peter, and this language is not an accident, and confirms the Catholic position. When it came time to excommunicate Dioscorus, the Papal Legates said the following in Session III:

    “Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, hath stripped him of the episcopate, and hath alienated from him all hieratic worthiness. Therefore let this most holy and great synod sentence the before mentioned Dioscorus to the canonical penalties.”

    Again, we see clear evidence of the Pope’s authority in guiding the council and a reference back to Leo as Peter, the “rock and foundation” of the Church. But even after all this (and remember, the Western Bishops weren’t present), when the time came to propose and vote on canons, in one of the most pernicious acts in Church history, the Council approved the infamous Canon 28:

    “Following in all things the decisions of the holy Fathers, and acknowledging the canon, which has been just read, of the One Hundred and Fifty Bishops beloved-of-God (who assembled in the imperial city of Constantinople, which is New Rome, in the time of the Emperor Theodosius of happy memory), we also do enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoued with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that, in the Pontic, the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of the Dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that, as has been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid Dioceses should be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to him.”

    In this canon, the Council not only reaffirmed the bogus power grab of Canon 3 of the Council of Constantinople, but here the Council pushed Constantinople to “equal” standing with Rome, as well as new tracts of areas by which to exercise its new jurisdiction. Now when it is said “the Council” did this, it is not to mean it was done in honesty and openness, but rather deceit. It did this without consulting the West or the Pope, and the massive political sway Constantinople held pressured the East to comply and vote it through.

    But the absurdity of all this is plain by the words of this Canon: the “logic” employed by this Canon was that Patriarchal authority and jurisdiction corresponds to a city’s size and political sway rather than to being founded by an Apostle and recognized as such from the start (see End Note #3). Such is a perfect demonstration of what political pressure is capable of, but Catholics know secular powers never trump the powers of Christ and His Church.

    Leo’s Defense of Rome’s Prerogatives

    In response to this shameless power grab, Pope St Leo the Great responded very negatively in a series of Letters, and in these Letters we see a defense of Papal Primacy at it’s finest. To begin, we quote from Leo’s Epistle 98, which the Council of Chalcedon sent to Leo, praising him for stopping the heresy but conclude by asking him to approve Canon 28:

    Pope St. Leo the Great
    “And we further inform you that we have decided on other things also for the good management and stability of church matters, being persuaded that your holiness will accept and ratify them, when you are told. The long prevailing custom, which the holy Church of God at Constantinople had of ordaining metropolitans for the provinces of Asia, Pontus and Thrace, we have now ratified [Canon 28] by the votes of the Synod, not so much by way of conferring a privilege on the See of Constantinople as to provide for the good government of those cities…We have ratified also the canon [Canon 3] of the 150 holy Fathers who met at Constantinople…for we are persuaded that with your usual care for others you have often extended that Apostolic prestige which belongs to you, to the church in Constantinople also… Accordingly vouchsafe most holy and blessed father to accept as your own wish, and as conducing to good government the things which we have resolved on for the removal of all confusion and the confirmation of church order. For your holiness’ delegates, the most pious bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius, and with them the right Godly presbyter Boniface, attempted vehemently to resist these decisions…

    For we duly regarding our most devout and Christ loving Emperors, who delight therein, and the illustrious senate and, so to say, the whole imperial city, considered it opportune to use the meeting of this ecumenical Synod for the ratification of your honour, and confidently corroborated this decision as if it were initiated by you with your customary fostering zeal, knowing that every success of the children rebounds to the parent’s glory. Accordingly, we entreat you, honor our decision by your assent, and as we have yielded to the head our agreement on things honorable, so may the head also fulfil for the children what is fitting. … But that you may know that we have done nothing for favor or in hatred, but as being guided by the Divine Will, we have made known to you the whole scope of our proceedings to strengthen our position and to ratify and establish what we have done.”

    Does this sound like an early Church that saw the Pope as one bishop among many, or even subordinate to a Council? Not by their own admission! Here a letter from an Ecumenical Council is begging a Pope to ratify a decision, admitting without such ratification the decision would indeed be a dead letter and attack on Christ’s Body. Notice how they admit the Papal Legates adamantly rejected this decision, so they beg Leo even more to ratify it. In response, Pope Leo sent back various Letters, one of which was Letter 104 which he wrote to the Emperor:

    “Let the city of Constantinople have, as we desire, its high rank, and under the protection of God’s right hand, long enjoy your clemency’s rule. Yet things secular stand on a different basis from things divine: and there can be no sure building save on that rock which the Lord has laid for a foundation. He that covets what is not his due, loses what is his own. Let it be enough for Anatolius that by the aid of your piety and by my favor and approval he has obtained the bishopric of so great a city. Let him not disdain a city which is royal, though he cannot make it an Apostolic See; and let him on no account hope that he can rise by doing injury to others. For the privileges of the churches determined by the canons of the holy Fathers, and fixed by the decrees of the Nicene Synod, cannot be overthrown by any unscrupulous act, nor disturbed by any innovation.”

    With a swift and solid blow, Leo exposes and demolishes the devious and faulty attempt to turn Constantinople into anything more than an honorary bishopric. Leo goes right to the heart of the error by pointing out Constantinople’s bishop is founded on secular and political power, which is a different and inferior foundation than what the Church is built upon. Moreover, he says Canon 28 effectively tramples upon Canon 6 of Nicaea, which Leo explicitly references here and which we’ve already seen confirms the papal primacy. As Leo says, Canon 28 is an “innovation,” based on an power hungry appetite which knows no limits – rightly foreseeing that Rome would be next in the cross-hairs of Constantinople’s schemes.

    Leo continued to write various Letters to various church officials and the Emperor contesting this. Let us examine Letter 106, which Leo wrote to the devious Patriarch of Constantinople Anatolius:

    “And so after the not irreproachable beginning of your ordination, after the consecration of the bishop of Antioch, which you claimed for yourself contrary to the regulations of the canons, I grieve, beloved, that you have fallen into this too, that you should try to break down the most sacred constitutions of the Nicene canons: as if this opportunity had expressly offered itself to you for the See of Alexandria to lose its privilege of second place, and the church of Antioch to forego its right to being third in dignity, in order that when these places had been subjected to your jurisdiction, all metropolitan bishops might be deprived of their proper honor. By which unheard of and never before attempted excesses you went so far beyond yourself as to drag into an occasion of self-seeking, and force connivance from that holy Synod [Chalcedon] which the zeal of our most Christian prince had convened, solely to extinguish heresy and to confirm the Catholic Faith: as if the unlawful wishes of a multitude could not be rejected, and that state of things which was truly ordained by the Holy Spirit in the canon of Nicæa could in any part be overruled by any one. Let no synodal councils flatter themselves upon the size of their assemblies, and let not any number of priests, however much larger, dare either to compare or to prefer themselves to those 318 bishops, seeing that the Synod of Nicæa is hallowed by God with such privilege, that whether by fewer or by more ecclesiastical judgments are supported, whatever is opposed to their authority is utterly destitute of all authority.”

    Here we see one of the clearest and official expositions of Canon 6 of Nicaea. And of course, Pope Leo is simply affirming what the Church has always held: this makes Canon 28 of Chalcedon a “conniving” and “self-seeking” power grab aimed at trampling upon the dignity and jurisdiction of Alexandria and Antioch, all in direct violation to Canon 6 of Nicaea. From this point on, with seedlings emerging as early as Canon 3, Constantinople and Rome would be in a power struggle that caused serious damage to the Church. This wicked and demonic scheme to attack the Papacy even played a major part in Constantinople and the Eastern Christians being invaded and concurred by the Muslim Turks, and subjected to persecution to this very day.

    Read More: Infallibility and the Case of Pope Vigilius

    Endnotes

    [1] I am indebted to Fr James Loughlin’s masterful article he wrote in 1880 in the American Catholic Quarterly Review titled The Sixth Nicene Canon and the Papacy (found in full Here). I will attempt to summarize his major arguments.

    [2] Note the irony that either option refutes Protestantism on historical grounds, since neither option is compatible with Protestant ecclesiology.

    [3] A reluctantly admitted and generally hushed historical fact of Eastern Orthodox history is that Constantinople did not have Apostolic Roots, meaning it was not founded by an Apostle like Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, and thus never held the authority that those others did. Instead, Constantinople was a purely political concoction, which became the main metroplis of the Roman Empire after the emperor Constantine established it in the middle of the fourth century. This reality causes the Eastern Orthodox to cringe inside, because after all their hype for being ancient and orthodox, their leading Patriarchate is ultimately an invention, and only rose to its prominence due to massive political pressure.

    [4] The so called “Robber Council” was a name given by Pope Leo. It was called by the Emperor and attended by about 200 bishops, but since it was condemned by Leo, it never held any authority. As various Catholics have pointed out, the irony here is that Eastern Orthodox accept Leo’s ruling (even using his term “Robber Council”) and have no principled basis for why to reject it other than its rejection by the Pope. For the Easter Orthodox to say the Robber Council was to be rejected because it taught heresy (which it did) is to beg the question, since by all other criteria it was a valid ecumenical council, and the purpose of councils is to definitively declare the truth.

    [5] In the Chacedonian “Definition of Faith,” when the first three Ecumenical Councils were reaffirmed, the Definition says this about the Third Council, “…the holy synod formerly held in Ephesus, of which Celestine of Rome and Cyril of Alexandria, of holy memory, were the leaders, we do declare that the exposition of the right and blameless…”
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    . Yet we still arrived at truth collectively despite your position that such is impossible. As an aside, I would further note that at the first Jerusalem Church Council in Scripture, we see James is the presiding bishop not Peter (James had the final word and all were agreed) – Acts 15:13.

    This is the second time that you say I stated something that I did not. I NEVER said that the truth cannot be reached at collectively.
    Let’s look at the Council of Jerusalem. Why not say in Acts that a council was held and this decision was reached? What do you think they are trying to show with St. Peter’s speech? Could it be that the vast majority of the council was for circumcision, and that St. Peter in the minority, but using the authority given to him, trumped the majority? We know what St. Peter said, all we know is that St. James just carried out St. Peter’s decision. We don’t know where St. James originally stood on the matter.
    From Catholic.com:

    The Catholic claim that Peter was the first pope is not based on sola scriptura, selective use of Scripture, or just a single passage of Scripture. (See “Beyond Matthew 16:18,” page 30.)

    As for Acts 15, a number of factors point to Peter actually being both the leader at the council and the leader of the early Church. First, there is the manner in which his speech begins and ends. By standing up to speak after the debate had subsided, Peter made an emphatic physical gesture affirming his authority and centrality. The silence afterwards indicated the finality of what Peter had just said; no one disputes either his speech or his right to make it. In fact, the witness of Paul and Barnabas, along with James’s speech, only reinforce and agree with what Peter says.

    Secondly, few non-Catholic commentators seem to notice the striking wording Peter used in his speech. If he was only a witness, wouldn’t he have appealed only to his experience? But while Peter did focus on his experience, the main object of his speech was God: “God made a choice among you, that by my mouth . . .”; “And God . . . bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit”; “He made no distinction”; and “why therefore do you put God to the test?” (vs. 7-10). It is readily apparent that Peter was quite comfortable in being a spokesman for God. Even James seems to take this for granted by stating, “Simeon has related how God first concerned himself . . .” (v. 14). There is an immediacy to Peter’s relating of God’s work which is noticeably absent from James’s speech.

    As mentioned, Paul, Barnabas, and James all reinforced and agreed with Peter’s declaration, albeit in different ways. The first two related “the signs and wonders God” had been working “among the Gentiles” (v. 12). James pointed first to the words of Peter and then to the Prophets (vs. 14-15). Those who claim James’s speech was the definitive one point to the language in verse 19 (“Therefore it is my judgement . . .”) as evidence for James’s primacy. Yet James is simply suggesting a way of implementing what Peter had already definitively expressed. “Peter speaks as the head and spokesman of the apostolic Church,” state Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, “He formulates a doctrinal judgment about the means of salvation, whereas James takes the floor after him to suggest a pastoral plan for inculturating the gospel in mixed communities where Jewish and Gentile believers live side by side (15:13-21)” (232).

    So when you write “no one practises Sola Scriptura” I believe you are conflating it with solo Scriptura. If one needs a passage explained, they should go to their pastor. That does not mean they should take everything the pastor says as “final authority” but they look to him as a teacher and should consider his counsel carefully as he is more learned and he bears an office. Even more importantly, there are creeds and confessions of the Church. These bear even more authority than a single pastor. As a Reformed Catholic Christian, I stand on confessions that have stood the test of time for centuries and each component of those confessions are thoroughly defended and defensible from Scripture (unlike say the Immaculate Conception of Mary or her perpetual virginity).

    I defer to this website’s article showing that sola and solo scriptura are the same thing.
    I can infer from scripture and the witness of the early church the Immaculate Conception and her Perpetual Virginity. Whether you accept it or not is up to you.

    Indeed the apostles bore great authority but they did not teach the way Rome does now. Paul used Scripture to prove his point and he worked signs as did other apostles.

    How do you know that the Apostles teach differently than Rome does now? Do you have access to the oral traditions handed down by St. Paul? I follow Rome’s teachings and see scripture laced throughout them.

    We are living on the other side of Pentecost now so your comparison to the Pharisees falls flat unless you are maintaining that we Protestants have no part in the Holy Spirit but that would be contrary to the official teaching of the RCC (which by the way changed on that point with Vatican II).

    Did not change, but was developed. Read St. Pius IX and some other papal comments pre-Vatican II and you will see no change, but defining.

  27. Greetings Duane,

    You wrote: “How do you know that the Scriptures that your confessions are based on are inspired? I know they are inspired because of the Church, which canonized them, but what is your reason for accepting them? If they are truly a fallible list of infallible books, as some people would claim, the again an objective person could say that the Church again was guided by the Holy Spirit.”

    To this, I direct you to what I wrote previously:

    “I believe the Church does have a real yet secondary authority as guided by the Holy Spirit to define foundational issues.”

    I would say that establishing the canon is foundational. So here we are likeminded insofar as believing that the Holy Spirit does lead the Church universal in establishing and recognizing the canon. RC’s like yourself commonly postulate this quandary and it does pose a problem for the Solo Scriptura position but not Sola Scriptura in my understanding. Like you, I believe the historical claims of the Scriptures to be credible. That Jesus is therefore who He claimed to be and that the Apostles established a firm foundation on which to build. We diverge on how Jesus’ authority is manifest in the world now, not that there is no reliable authority at all.

    The situation is analogous to the establishment of the Law and Prophets. How did Israel do this? Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Matt 8:4, Mk 10:3 etc). He had authority to rule (Ex 18) and indeed his “seat” continued thereafter as a locus of authority. Did that place Moses above, beside or beneath the Law? Could he introduce new law or novel worship that was not previously revealed? Of course not. As we see in Deuteronomy 13, any purported Prophet was to be tested to see if what he is saying was in keeping with God’s previously established commandments. How could such a test be valid if His word was not recorded and preserved faithfully and reliably?

    So we see that God was able to establish an infallible canon in the old covenant (Matt 5:18, Lk 16:17). Moreover, we see the authority that was established (Moses’ seat) to be an acknowledged authority even by Jesus (Matt 23:2). Was that authority infallible? Of course not because they taught erroneous things as Jesus also pointed out (Mk 7:10-12) and they did not even recognize the Messiah. So here I believe there is a problem with your position. You demand that only an infallible Church could establish an infallible canon and that we need magisterial infallibility to communicate the teaching of God reliably. The OT proves you wrong. You maintain that without the papacy as currently conceived, there is no way to establish orthodoxy reliably. Church history proves you wrong as I demonstrated in our discussion on Arianism. There was no infallible papal ruling on that to resolve the issue. It was resolved through other means with Athanasius playing a vital role being guided by the Holy Spirit. You either have to engage in gross revisionist history to deny how that was resolved or acknowledge that orthodoxy can be established without a functional infallible Pope. We do need Church authority but not necessarily in the way you currently conceive it because the Church did not always function thus.

    In reality, what we have is the infallible Holy Spirit leading fallible human beings to establish infallible Scripture and commandments. Scripture is not meant to spoon feed truth to us but it is sufficient as the basis of all doctrine (2 Tim 3:16-17). For example, I have debated the sinfulness of slavery with unbelievers who wrongly believe that it was taught in the Bible. On the contrary, slavery can be deduced as wrong from a thoroughly scriptural argument. However, we are to judge angels Paul says (1 Cor 6:3). How can we grow in maturity and wisdom to judge if the Bible were merely a paint by numbers book of rules? Jesus Himself and the Apostles taught that there would be greater and greater truth revealed to us by the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-14) but of course truth does not contradict. Therefore, what is previously established cannot be contradicted. In other words, we cannot have the Bible repeatedly speak of Jesus having earthly brothers (Matt 12:46, 13:55, Mk 3:31, Lk 8:19) and Joseph not laying with Mary “until” (ἕως) Jesus was born which demonstrates that he did have relations with her afterwards, but then say that Jesus had no earthly brothers because of some misguided views on Mary’s perpetual virginity. To claim this is as supportable as the doctrine of the Trinity is from Scripture seems a stretch but share your thoughts.

    As for the Immaculate Conception I refer you to:

    http://www.justforcatholics.org/immaculate.htm

    Quoting from the Catholic Encyclopedia referring to the immaculate conception: “No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture”

    Let us keep our focus here for now.

    Grace and Peace

  28. Duane,

    Please refrain from using all bold font, and from long quotations. A little more succinctness would be helpful.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  29. Hi Duane,

    My apologies for not getting back to this sooner. I would like to focus our discussion on the two main points I made on February 8. There are things in there which you may wish to respond to. However, I wrote that before what you had written prior was posted, and so now we have a situation where the flow of the conversation has been disrupted.

    In this posting, I will respond specifically to your reading of history regarding Athanasius and the Arian heresy. Essentially you are maintaining two things. First, that Athanasius appealed to Rome and by so doing, he effectively affirmed the primacy of the Papacy. Second, that the official Canons that you referenced confirm that the Bishop of Rome was affirmed by the early Church to be Supreme Pontiff.

    Regarding the first, I will first make some observations. The record of history shows that Athanasius and others within the Church did not merely appeal to Rome for a verdict to decide the controversy which would have simplified and shortened matters greatly. You have not demonstrated anything to contradict this. The record also shows that the Bishop of Rome did not officially convene any council early in the controversy to settle the dispute. The first Council of Nicaea was in 325 convened by the emperor. Pope Julius (or his predecessors) did not convene the Synod in Rome you allude to until 340 (15 years later!). That is simply not showing leadership or prerogative in any way because (as I maintain), that is not how the Bishop of Rome functioned then.

    Now, I am not saying the Roman Bishop had no authority. He obviously held a highly esteemed position. However, your reading of the history here is skewed in my view. He summoned Athanasius and provided some protection to him. Why would Athanasius not take him up on this? Athanasius did not “appeal” to Rome as you claim unless you can give references to back that up. He was invited. These carry different connotations to the issue at hand.

    Regarding your excerpts from Canon 6, I do not think there is significant, let alone conclusive, support for your position. Of course I would support the interpretation that the Roman See was one among several. I fail to see that the grammar does not support that. What is written regarding the Bishop of Alexandria is “like” the Bishop of Rome “also” and “likewise” in Antioch and other provinces. It then refers to “Churches” in the plural. The thrust of the statement seems to specifically be outlining the jurisdiction of the bishop of Alexandria and draws comparisons with other Metropolitans. Given that, it makes perfect sense that the canon does not need to outline the jurisdiction of Rome over “Italian” provinces if that were already understood since the parallel is being made “like/as with Rome”.

    I would further add that your statement: “For a Council that just got done addressing one of the most pernicious heresies of all time, including using precise and deliberate language for the Creed, we should expect a far more reasonable argument in Canon 6 than what Protestants and Eastern Orthodox have to offer.” argues more strongly against your position than mine. The use of precise and deliberate language is indeed even more lacking in Canon 6 to support your position. The Metropolitans in Alexandria and Antioch were “like” the one in Rome is the plainest reading. There is no “precise and deliberate language” here to support the Primacy of Rome view. Indeed, precise and deliberate language would say something like you wrote “Let the Bishop of Alexandria continue to govern Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, since assigning this jurisdiction is an ancient custom established by the Bishop of Rome and reiterated now by this Nicene Council.” – alas, that is not there. You have switched the word “like” with “since” and added clauses thus taking great liberty with the text and revising matters in your favour. So much for precise and deliberate language.

    As for the Canons 2 and 3 from the Council of Constantinople, the context again is important. What was being addressed specifically? If the dispute was among the Eastern Churches as to their jurisdictions, then it makes sense that they are the ones specifically being addressed in the Canon. Rome does not enter into the equation but that fact could support either view. By your reasoning, is Canon 1 giving an exhaustive account of all known heresies and any heresy not listed therein is thus given approbation? For example, is Docetism acceptable to the council since they do not specifically mention it? I think you are arguing too much from silence. As for “honour” discussed in Canon 3, to this day I believe the Eastern Orthodox maintain such honour given to the Bishop of Rome as the “first among equals”. However, they do not see this honour as being equated with power or direct authority.

    One last point regarding the Jerusalem Council. You draw attention to the “silence after” what Peter said in Acts 15. However, the passage actually links that silence to them “listening” to Paul and Barnabas. There is no sense of “finality” to what Peter said because the council obviously continued for some time thereafter. James gives the final word clearly and even refers to it as “my judgement”. This is definitive language. It is not merely a “suggestion”. No one disputed anything because the Holy Spirit granted them unity. You are very much reading into the passage if you think the uniting persona/office was Peter. He did not speak first as others debated before him, but James gave the Scriptural context which indeed ended the matter. Furthermore, the letter drafted identified the writers as “The brothers” (referring to Apostles and Elders) rather than naming one Apostle “et al”. Moreover, James is specifically singled out as the head of the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, 21:18) and he is even named first as a pillar by Paul in Gal 2:9 ahead of Peter. The point here at the very least is that Jesus’ words that RC’s rely upon most heavily for Petrine supremacy, were not interpreted by the Apostles in the way you do given their words, actions and how they organized themselves.

    Grace and Peace.

  30. Greetings Zoltan,

    I hope you are well.

    Now, I am not saying the Roman Bishop had no authority. He obviously held a highly esteemed position. However, your reading of the history here is skewed in my view. He summoned Athanasius and provided some protection to him. Why would Athanasius not take him up on this? Athanasius did not “appeal” to Rome as you claim unless you can give references to back that up. He was invited. These carry different connotations to the issue at hand.

    Well this website found here, quotes some scholars and lists the page numbers of their books that say that Athanasius did appeal to Rome.

    I would further add that your statement: “For a Council that just got done addressing one of the most pernicious heresies of all time, including using precise and deliberate language for the Creed, we should expect a far more reasonable argument in Canon 6 than what Protestants and Eastern Orthodox have to offer.” argues more strongly against your position than mine. The use of precise and deliberate language is indeed even more lacking in Canon 6 to support your position. The Metropolitans in Alexandria and Antioch were “like” the one in Rome is the plainest reading. There is no “precise and deliberate language” here to support the Primacy of Rome view. Indeed, precise and deliberate language would say something like you wrote “Let the Bishop of Alexandria continue to govern Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, since assigning this jurisdiction is an ancient custom established by the Bishop of Rome and reiterated now by this Nicene Council.” – alas, that is not there. You have switched the word “like” with “since” and added clauses thus taking great liberty with the text and revising matters in your favour. So much for precise and deliberate language.

    As for the Canons 2 and 3 from the Council of Constantinople, the context again is important. What was being addressed specifically? If the dispute was among the Eastern Churches as to their jurisdictions, then it makes sense that they are the ones specifically being addressed in the Canon. Rome does not enter into the equation but that fact could support either view. By your reasoning, is Canon 1 giving an exhaustive account of all known heresies and any heresy not listed therein is thus given approbation? For example, is Docetism acceptable to the council since they do not specifically mention it? I think you are arguing too much from silence. As for “honour” discussed in Canon 3, to this day I believe the Eastern Orthodox maintain such honour given to the Bishop of Rome as the “first among equals”. However, they do not see this honour as being equated with power or direct authority.

    Reread what I posted and read canons 2 and 3 with an eye to canon 6. It is the only reading that makes sense. And you can see this view brought out in later councils where if the pope did not ratify certain canons, then they were null. I could agree with your interpretation if canon 6 was all there was and no more. But in light of other councils and what the popes did in response to them (the robber council), to take your view, I would have to turn a blind eye to other councils. And here is a wonderful blog about that robber council that shows that the primacy of the pope was accepted by the East.

    One last point regarding the Jerusalem Council. You draw attention to the “silence after” what Peter said in Acts 15. However, the passage actually links that silence to them “listening” to Paul and Barnabas. There is no sense of “finality” to what Peter said because the council obviously continued for some time thereafter. James gives the final word clearly and even refers to it as “my judgement”. This is definitive language. It is not merely a “suggestion”. No one disputed anything because the Holy Spirit granted them unity. You are very much reading into the passage if you think the uniting persona/office was Peter. He did not speak first as others debated before him, but James gave the Scriptural context which indeed ended the matter. Furthermore, the letter drafted identified the writers as “The brothers” (referring to Apostles and Elders) rather than naming one Apostle “et al”. Moreover, James is specifically singled out as the head of the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, 21:18) and he is even named first as a pillar by Paul in Gal 2:9 ahead of Peter. The point here at the very least is that Jesus’ words that RC’s rely upon most heavily for Petrine supremacy, were not interpreted by the Apostles in the way you do given their words, actions and how they organized themselves

    You are reading what you want into it, and I totally see something else. We both quote scripture, but view it differently. So much for scripture being the final authority. But this reminds me of a union meeting I once went to where the union president and the recording secretary both argued vehemently for one way, but the membership voted against. The final draft, the recording secretary said “we have decided”, you would never know she had argued vehemently against what had been decided. The next day in the meeting with management the union president said “the way I see it”, and made a statement totally opposite of what he had argued for the day before.

    One final thought taken from this websitehere

    However, whereas it does say (in verse 13) how Paul and Barnabas “fall silent,” allowing James to respond, this does not take away from the entire assembly “falling silent” after Peter’s teaching in verse 12. Why? Because we are dealing with 2 Greek words. In 13, the verb is “sigesai” (infinitive aorist: meaning that Paul and Barnabas finished talking). In verse 12, it’s “esigese” (past tense aorist usage — meaning that the assembly REMAINED SILENT after Peter’s address). And, indeed, after Peter speaks, all debate stops. The matter had been settled.

    So, why does James speak? We think there are three reasons:

    He’s the bishop of Jerusalem. Peter was just a visitor.
    What he says, he …like Paul and Barnabas …ties into Peter’s declaration: “Brothers, listen to me. SYMEON has described how God…” etc.
    And, most importantly, because James was the leader of the Church’s “Jewish wing.” Remember, in verse 1 and 2 how Acts 15 describes:

    “Some who had come DOWN FROM JUDAEA were instructing the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.’

    They were coming FROM JAMES! They were HIS disciples! Therefore, he renders judgment on the matter for his Jewish party, not as a superior or equal of Peter at all. And, this is MOST clear in verse 19, where it says:

    “It is my judgment, therefore, that WE ought to STOP TROUBLING THE GENTILES.”

    Who was “troubling” the Gentiles? Not Paul and Barnabas. :-) Not Peter and his disciples, who Baptised the first Gentiles without circumcision. So, who? ONLY the Jewish Christians under James. Therefore, it is NOT the whole Church, but only the “Jewish party” that James is giving a “judgment” to.

    So again, the Council of Jerusalem was not an Ecumenical Council by Byzantine Orthodox definition. Rather, it was COMPLETELY based on the Petrine teaching office: the magisterium of the Church.

    The point here is that Jesus’ words that the RC’s use to support Petrine primacy were interpreted by the Apostles in the way the RC does, given their words and actions, and organization.

    God Bless.

  31. Greetings Duane,

    You wrote: “Well this website found here, quotes some scholars and lists the page numbers of their books that say that Athanasius did appeal to Rome.”

    I am afraid that website does not help your case very much in my view. To begin with, in order to make your case, we need references from primary sources – preferably in the writings of Athanasius (who wrote extensively) himself – that says Athanasius appealed to Rome to resolve the Arian heresy problem. This website gives very little in that regard. I will not accept the arguments of John Chapman or other more modern (and largely RC) scholars without support from primary sources. The quotes from earlier sources are quite interesting. Theodoret refers to the Bishop of Rome as “Shepherd of THAT Church” (not THE Church) and that Julius summoned Athanasius (not Athanasius appealing to Rome). Sozomen also states that Julius summoned Athansius to Rome. In fact, the ones that called upon Julius to be a judge were the Eusebians (the heretics).

    Furthermore, on that website, there is an excellent comment by someone arguing the Eastern Orthodox case which I shall quote in part: “What I notice is that nobody outside the Pope’s jurisdiction considered the Pope’s opinion decisive in any way at all. Sure, he was an important figure who you wanted on your side, but that is all.

    Nowhere in Athanasius’ extensive writings do we find the argument that everyone has to agree with the Pope or Rome, simply because he is the Pope in Rome. This is the great deafening silence we find not only in Athanasius, but in all the Fathers, in all the disputes.

    Nowadays Catholic apologists paint the picture that the thing which always is the ultimate arbiter is the Pope. But this is the one argument completely absent from Athanasius. We have him, and others discussing the authority of the general council, but no mention of the Pope. But if Catholic theology is correct, the Pope was the one thing which could end the dispute. But it didn’t. Not a single bishop switched sides because of the argument of what the Pope taught.”

    “Reread what I posted and read canons 2 and 3 with an eye to canon 6. It is the only reading that makes sense. And you can see this view brought out in later councils where if the pope did not ratify certain canons, then they were null. I could agree with your interpretation if canon 6 was all there was and no more. But in light of other councils and what the popes did in response to them (the robber council), to take your view, I would have to turn a blind eye to other councils.”

    The problem with this approach as I see it Duane, is that Canons 2 and 3 come from a later council. One cannot merely read back what was said in a later council into an earlier council as though they were addressing the exact same issue in some continuum. Both councils were addressing issues before them which had similarities. I have already responded to the Canon 6 in its context and Canons 2 and 3 in their context and time but you have not responded except to say re-read what you wrote because you think it is sound. I have refuted what you wrote as far as I can see. Where is my reasoning flawed? Moreover, I do not think Canons 2 and 3 make Canon 6 read the way you want it to. You have already rightly pointed out that precision of language is needed and I think you need to apply that same razor to your position.

    My position makes perfect sense, namely, that there are supervisory Metropolitans being set up (and these are maintained in the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day) and these Canons are addressing what the jurisdictions are. I refer you to this here:

    http://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/Ecclesiastical-Province

    Quoting from that site: “In Eastern canon law since the fourth century (cf. also the Synod of Antioch of 341, can. ix), it was a principle that every civil province was likewise a church province under the supreme direction of the metropolitan, i.e. of the bishop of the provincial capital. This division into ecclesiastical provinces did not develop so early in the Western Empire”

    Note particularly that last sentence. The division into Metropolitans did NOT develop as early in the West so the lack of definition for Rome given in the Canons does not speak to some tacit acceptance of universal oversight by the Roman See, but rather that the Western Empire was overseen by Rome (both in political and ecclesial terms) and only the Eastern empire was at first divided into provinces.

    As for the Robber Council, this is quite interesting but once again it fails to prove what you believe it does. In order for a council to be deemed truly ecumenical, it had to be deemed valid by all the Metropolitans. With Rome declining to ratify the council, it cannot be deemed ecumenical. However, this does not confer unique status to Rome. If Rome held a council that was deemed invalid by Constantinople or Alexandria, the result would be the same (and history supports that). Was Julius’s Synod accepted universally? From your website we read “the Eusebians who had proposed it failed to appear”. Therefore, Julius’s authority was most definitely limited.

    The filioque controversy also demonstrates the same thing. The Eastern Church maintains to this day that what is commonly called the Nicene Creed should read that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father”. In the West, we say “proceeds from the Father and the Son”. This double procession, according to the Eastern Orthodox Church, was not in the originally agreed upon creed and was later added by the Pope in Rome. However, that did not make the Eastern Church accept the revision. In fact, they reject it to this day. As such, I do not see that the early church conferred any special authority to the Pope. That is not seen in the early tradition and that has been maintained to the present in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    With respect to your union meeting analogy, I do not see how that pertains to the Jerusalem Council. The Scripture states that they came to “one accord”. It may be that some disagreed with the wording of the final letter but we have no indication of that in the Scripture. One would have to read that into it. Perhaps, but that is merely conjecture.

    The fact that differing opinions may be reached on secondary issues when looking at Scripture is not overly troublesome to me because I take the long view. The same can be said of historical councils and creeds. After Trent, Protestants were deemed anathema, after Vatican II that changed. So how truth is perceived may change over time as the Holy Spirit leads us into truth. However, what is essential in the faith (doctrines of the Trinity, repentance, baptism, the Nature of Christ etc), no mainstream church disagrees on these so I would say there is much concord. The Reformed tradition indeed has very much in common with the RC and EO faiths even though we come from the Sola Scriptura tradition. Ponder that for a moment.

    With respect to the Jerusalem Council, I do not think you are taking into account the entirety of Scripture in your view of Peter. I refer to Gal 2:11-14. Here we see that Peter indeed did trouble the Gentiles by withdrawing from them “fearing the circumcision party”. He was in need of correction by Paul who did so publicly. This occurred in Antioch (away from Jerusalem). So the source you are referencing is over-contextualizing the council. The problem was not merely a Judean issue and therefore the judgement of James was indeed more universal. Moreover, the idea for the Jerusalem Council arose in Gentile territory and Paul and Barnabas were urged to go to Jerusalem (where James is Bishop) and inquire of “the apostles and the elders about this question” (no mention of Peter in a special role here). As such, I believer my key point stands regarding the decision of the council and James’ role in it applying to much more than just Judeans.

    Grace and Peace.

  32. Greetings Zoltan,

    I am afraid we have gotten far off topic. I am posting a response to you, and will read any response you make, but I will then only ask questions and make comments that are about sola scriptura.

    I am afraid you read only the first sentence of Theodoret. Notice the second sentence which I quote:

    You said:

    And he, following the laws of the Church, both ordered them to repair to Rome, and also summoned the divine Athanasius to judgment. And he, for his part, started at once on receiving the call; but they who had made up the story did not go to Rome, knowing that it would be easy to see through their falsehood.”

    Notice in the same part of Theodoret that you quoted he says the laws of the Church meaning universal, was to repair to Rome for a judgment.

    The obvious question is, if the authority of Rome is not real, why order them to Rome? Was the law of the Church imaginary? Why would St. Athanasius go to Rome to be judged if the pope has no authority?

    You ask for a primary source, how about St. Athanasius himself?

    When St. Athanasius, who was Patriarch of an important Eastern diocese, was deposed by Eastern Arian bishops, he appealed to Rome. Writing to the Emperor, he said: “When I left Alexandria, I did not go to your brother’s headquarters or to any other persons, but only to Rome; and having laid my case before the Church (for this was my only concern), I spent my time in the public worship.” (Quoted in Upon This Rock, Stephen Ray, ed., Ignatius Press, 1999, p. 201).

    In his correspondence, St. Athanasius has also preserved for posterity the celebrated letter of Pope St. Julius I, which defended Athanasius and restored the bishopric from which he had been wrongfully deposed. The letter of Julius called the action of the Arian bishops a novel action, indicating that earlier practice had been to refer such cases to Rome. Instead, the bishops had deposed Athanasius and then sent legates to ask approval for their action. Pope St. Julius writes: Why was nothing said to us [Pope Julius and the Roman Church] concerning the Church of the Alexandrians in particular? Are you ignorant that the custom has been for word to be written first to us, and then for a just decision to be passed from this place? If then any such suspicion rested upon the Bishop there, notice thereof ought to have been sent to the Church of this place [Rome]; whereas, after neglecting to inform us, and proceeding on their own authority as they pleased, now they desire to obtain our concurrence in their decisions, though we never condemned him.

    Again, it begs the question, why did they send legates to Rome asking for approval, if the decision of Rome has no authority?

    What I had posted above obviously blows holes in what the EO poster said in this quote

    You said:

    Furthermore, on that website, there is an excellent comment by someone arguing the Eastern Orthodox case which I shall quote in part: “What I notice is that nobody outside the Pope’s jurisdiction considered the Pope’s opinion decisive in any way at all. Sure, he was an important figure who you wanted on your side, but that is all.

    With this view you have reduced the pope to something like a lucky rabbit’s foot.

    Of all the quotes, the above by the EO may be the funniest, although the following one may tie it.

    You said:

    This is the great deafening silence we find not only in Athanasius, but in all the Fathers, in all the disputes.

    St. Augustine replies: “Rome has spoken; the case is closed”.(from his Sermons 131:10)

    St. Irenaeus:

    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3:3:2).

    I can quote more if you want? I just don’t see where all ECF in all the disputes were silent.

    Let’s move on to more errors that you state.

    As for the Robber Council, this is quite interesting but once again it fails to prove what you believe it does. In order for a council to be deemed truly ecumenical, it had to be deemed valid by all the Metropolitans.

    Using your logic, Chalcedon is not ecumenical. It was rejected by Alexandria. Yet the RC and the EO view it as ecumenical. Using your parameters, you must reject it.

    With Rome declining to ratify the council, it cannot be deemed ecumenical. However, this does not confer unique status to Rome. If Rome held a council that was deemed invalid by Constantinople or Alexandria, the result would be the same (and history supports that). Was Julius’s Synod accepted universally? From your website we read “the Eusebians who had proposed it failed to appear”. Therefore, Julius’s authority was most definitely limited.

    If I fail to appear in court, is a judge’s decision limited, or less valid? That is what you are saying.

    You said:

    The filioque controversy also demonstrates the same thing. The Eastern Church maintains to this day that what is commonly called the Nicene Creed should read that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father”. In the West, we say “proceeds from the Father and the Son”. This double procession, according to the Eastern Orthodox Church, was not in the originally agreed upon creed and was later added by the Pope in Rome. However, that did not make the Eastern Church accept the revision. In fact, they reject it to this day.

    The pope never said that the EO when they were in union with us, had to say the filioque, nor would they have to say it if reunification happened. There is much more that can be said on this controversy, but that is for another time.

    You said:

    . As such, I do not see that the early church conferred any special authority to the Pope. That is not seen in the early tradition and that has been maintained to the present in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    This refutes what you say, taken from here.

    At the heart of the dispute was this: in Asia Minor, in those churches dating back to the Apostle John, Easter was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan, the date of the Jewish Passover. Most of the Church rejected this Passover Easter practice, since it meant Easter was frequently on a weekday. They always celebrated Easter on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, even if it meant it didn’t sync up with the Jewish calendar.

    Several popes tolerated these contrary liturgical practices, since each practice traced back to at least one Apostle. Pope Victor took a different course, deciding to unify the entire Church’s Easter calendar. He ordered the Asian churches to abandon their old practice in favor of the Easter Sunday dating. They refused. The Church historian Eusebius records their response, written by a bishop named Polycrates. Their basis for refusal is that this was the unbroken practice of the Apostle John, St. Polycarp, and others.

    The letter has a few interesting characteristics. First, it refers to the Apostle “John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate.” If these second-century bishops are to be believed, this means that the Apostle John wore the golden plate of a high priest (Exodus 28:36-38). This gives us a clear indication of the fact the early Church understood their clergy in a sacerdotal way: that is, we have priests, not just pastors.

    Second, the letter answers Pope Victor’s demands by quoting Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” But that’s St. Peter’s response to the high priest. It’s not the sort of thing you say to someone beneath you. So even in arguing that Victor has exceeded his authority over them, the Asian bishops aren’t really refuting that he has authority there. As Campion says, Pope Victor isn’t treated like a foreign power or an outside meddler.

    Third, both sides in the dispute are appealing to Tradition, to chains of unbroken practice from the Apostles down to the present (and since John seems to have instituted a different practice than the other Apostles, both sides of the dispute seem to be right). We have what could be a beautiful story about coexisting liturgical traditions, the embrace of different customs, and the diversity of the Body of Christ. Only that’s not how this story turns out. Instead, it was an ugly clash of obedience and authority on the one hand, with liturgical tradition on the other.

    That’s because Pope Victor responded to the Asian bishops’ disobedience with a mass excommunication of those who refuse to switch to Easter Sunday. Other bishops — even ones who agreed with Victor — were, quite reasonably, shocked at the harshness of this punishment. St. Irenaeus (who held to an Easter Sunday date, and a believer in the Roman papacy) was one of the bishops who intervened to ensure that cooler heads prevailed. He pointed out that Pope Anacletus had communed with St. Polycarp, despite their difference on this matter.

    It’s not entirely clear (at least to me, and to the sources that I’ve read) what happened to the excommunication after Irenaeus and the other bishops spoke up. Eusebius concludes his account by saying simply:

    Thus Irenæus, who truly was well named [Irenaeus’ name comes from the Greek word for peace], became a peacemaker in this matter, exhorting and negotiating in this way in behalf of the peace of the churches. And he conferred by letter about this mooted question, not only with Victor, but also with most of the other rulers of the churches

    This leaves open the question of why the question was moot. Was it because Victor recanted the excommunications? Or because the excommunications were there to stay? My hunch is the former, simply because we don’t hear of the excommunications later on, but that’s all it is: a hunch.

    In any case, the ultimate outcome of the conflict is striking: Victor won. Asia Minor switched from Passover Easter (a tradition established by the Apostle John!) to Easter Sunday, at the demand of the pope. Within a relatively short period of time, those still holding on to the 14th of Nisan dating have been reduced to an insignificant pocket, and as far as I know, they have since gone extinct.

    Now, in a way, this story might affirm Protestant fears about the papacy, given the harshness of Victor’s response, and the Apostolic origins of the Asian liturgical calendar. But it’s worth remembering that this story isn’t from some imperious Renaissance Pope. It’s from one of the early Christian martyr popes, and the whole thing happened before the end of the second century. Literally, it’ll be over a century before we even arrive at the Edict of Milan’s legalization of Christianity, much less anything like the Council of Nicaea. Christians of a certain stripe long for the early days of Christianity, imagining highly-centralized structures like the papacy to be a later development (or invention). But this is early Christianity. The papacy has been at the heart of the Catholic Church from the start, as history shows us with both Pope Clement and Pope Victor.

    Based on what you say and the EO, my question is this. Why did Corinth write to St. Clement in the first place?

    You said:

    After Trent, Protestants were deemed anathema, after Vatican II that changed. So how truth is perceived may change over time as the Holy Spirit leads us into truth.

    You do not understand anathema in the Catholic councils. It applies to Catholics.

    Also, for what it’s worth, the canons of the councils of the Catholic Church apply only to members of the Catholic Church: after one has formally separated from the Catholic Church and rejected its authority, then its disciplinary pronouncements have no more bearing on him. The declaration of anyone as “anathema” at the Council of Trent does not technically apply to Protestants today, only to Catholics who were espousing those doctrines. You can’t very well be excommunicated from something you were never formally a part of.

    You said:

    With respect to the Jerusalem Council, I do not think you are taking into account the entirety of Scripture in your view of Peter. I refer to Gal 2:11-14. Here we see that Peter indeed did trouble the Gentiles by withdrawing from them “fearing the circumcision party”. He was in need of correction by Paul who did so publicly. This occurred in Antioch (away from Jerusalem). So the source you are referencing is over-contextualizing the council. The problem was not merely a Judean issue and therefore the judgement of James was indeed more universal. Moreover, the idea for the Jerusalem Council arose in Gentile territory and Paul and Barnabas were urged to go to Jerusalem (where James is Bishop) and inquire of “the apostles and the elders about this question” (no mention of Peter in a special role here). As such, I believer my key point stands regarding the decision of the council and James’ role in it applying to much more than just Judeans.

    Thank you for this last quote. You prove what every RC says without you knowing it. Just as the RC says that the pope is infallible when speaking ex cathedra, they can be fallible, and sin in everyday living. At the council of Jerusalem we see St. Peter acting like a pope does when acting ex cathedra. In Galatians we see St. Peter acting like a human, in everyday life. Notice St. Peter was not attempting at that point to make any doctrine, he was just not eating with other people for fear of what the circumcision party might think.
    And since it was St. James’ disciples who were pro circumcision, is it that they were teaching pro circumcision on their own, or was St. James teaching it also? If they were teaching it on their own, why call a council? St. James could have simply told them to stop. After all they are his disciples, he is their leader. Notice again, he says WE should stop pestering the Gentiles, meaning he and his disciples. Notice after St. Peter speaks he switches what we can infer he believed, and transforms his opinion to St. Peter’s.
    In my humble opinion you have totally misread the Council of Jerusalem.

    I leave you with these questions about sola scriptura, and look forward to your answers.

    1.) How was sola scriptura used at the Council of Jerusalem?

    2.) Can a person hold to sola scriptura and deny the council that set the canon?

    3.) If they deny the council, how do they know what the canon of scripture is? Can they not in good conscience set the canon themselves? Would they have an infallible canon?

    4.) How can sola scriptura be used to settle a dispute between you and me without appealing to an outside authority to give a definitive interpretation to scripture?

    5.) It granting that outside party authority to interpret the scripture, have I not just set them up as equal to scripture, since scripture is only as good as the party that interprets it?

    6.) I have been listening to numerous discussions on the Arian heresy. One thing all the commentators said, was that the dispute could not be settled by appealing to scripture. Both sides used scripture to back up their viewpoints. They were at an impasse. Finally, the side that won, appealed to Apostolic Succcession. Why didn’t sola scriptura work here?

    7.) How can an appeal be made to sola scriptura when we cannot agree on the translations? I am thinking specifically on Jesus’ teaching on divorce.

    Thank you for your time

    May the peace of Christ be with you always.

  33. Duane and Zoltan,

    This conversation has deviated far from the post at the top of this page. I recommend that you continue it off the thread. Thank you.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

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