Contra Sola Scriptura (1 of 4)

Shape of Sola ScripturaBook Review: The Shape of Sola Scriptura. By Keith A. Mathison.  (2001)

Keith Mathison’s book The Shape of Sola Scriptura is an apologia for the classic Protestant dogma of sola scriptura (the Bible alone).  The book is timely because in recent years a growing number of Protestants have become Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.  Many of these former Protestants left because of a theological crisis, including the loss of confidence in sola scriptura.  These conversions have given rise to a stream of apologetics materials challenging Protestant theology, sola scriptura in particular.  Mathison’s book is needed because Protestantism must be able to provide a reasoned defense of its foundational tenets if it is to stop the exodus to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, and present itself as a reasonable faith.

Dr. Mathison structures his book along three lines: (1) the historical argument — the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura is consistent with the teachings of the early Church Fathers, (2) the biblical argument — the New Testament teaches sola scriptura, and (3) the pragmatic argument — sola scriptura is capable of providing church unity.  He also makes use of Heiko Oberman’s categories of Tradition I (one source theory) for Protestantism and Tradition II (two source theory) for Roman Catholicism (Mathison p. 48).  He then creates a new category Tradition 0 for modern Evangelicals.  The new category was created to distinguish classical Protestants who respect the historic creeds from modern Evangelicals who disdain them.

The Historical Argument

There are problems with the way Dr. Mathison approaches the early Church Fathers in Chapter 1.  One, he does not postulate a conceptual framework of Tradition I and II for the testing of data at the beginning of the chapter.  Instead, he dives headlong into the data and at the end of the chapter draws conclusions to support his agenda — that the early Church Fathers believed in sola scriptura.  Two, his method is to find a few sound bites from the Church Fathers to support his position.  The teachings of the Church Fathers were complex and isolating a few choice quotes is poor scholarship.  Three, his superficial presentation of the Church Fathers results in an anachronistic reading of the Church Fathers, i.e., imposing modern categories onto their writings.

Probably the most problematic aspect of Chapter 1 is the way Dr. Mathison frames the categories of Tradition I and II.  While he acknowledges the importance of the traditioning process in Tradition I, he subtly introduces a Protestant bias.  Mathison does not make explicit in Chapter 1 the premise that written tradition for Tradition I constitutes the “sole source of revelation” and is the “final authoritative norm of doctrine and practice” (p. 85, 120, 345).  He makes that premise explicit in Chapter 3 and the concluding chapter.  Not knowing this implicit bias can cause the reader of Chapter 1 to misread the Church Fathers as proto-Protestants.  Furthermore, Mathison’s definition of sola scriptura contains an ambiguity that introduces an element of confusion.  He presents Tradition I as “Scripture according to the regula fidei” (see p. 32), i.e., “Scripture with Tradition.”  By defining sola scriptura in such a broad manner the result is a version of sola scriptura that even an Orthodox Christian can embrace — a ludicrous idea!  A more useful approach would be to describe the theological method of the early Church as “Scripture in Tradition” and the Protestant method as “Scripture over Tradition.”  Orthodox Christians can accept the former but not the latter.  Defining Tradition I as “Scripture over Tradition” introduces a conceptual clarity that facilitates the testing of historical data.

Also, Mathison’s definition of Tradition II as a “secret oral tradition” (p. 45) is problematic in light of the historical evidence.  The notion of a secret oral tradition was refuted by Irenaeus in his apologia against the Gnostics.  The notion of an extra-scriptural revelation coequal to Scripture was rejected in the Montanist controversy.  The early Church recognized the Apostolic Tradition in both written and oral forms as interdependent and binding on the Church.  There is no historical evidence in the early Church of an extra-scriptural authority independent of Scripture — Mathison’s Tradition II.  This means that there could not have been a Tradition II — as Mathison defined it — in the early Church.  What Mathison labels Tradition II would not emerge until the Middle Ages in the Catholic Church as a result of the flourishing of Scholasticism and canon law.  Thus, the way Mathison sets up the categories of Tradition I and II is problematic on conceptual and historical grounds, and as presently defined impedes our understanding of the historical data.

In what follows, Dr. Mathison’s two categories will be utilized in a loose sense; Tradition I will be understood to refer to Scripture as the preeminent authority for faith and practice, and Tradition II will be understood to refer to tradition as an extra-scriptural source for doctrine and practice.  An examination of the early Church shows problems with the distinction between Tradition I and Tradition II.  The evidence show that the Church Fathers made no clear cut distinction between written and oral tradition.  J.N.D. Kelly in Early Christian Doctrines noted that the early Church understood “tradition” as the doctrine of Christ and his apostles transmitted orally or in written form (1960:30-31).  W.H.C. Frend in his The Rise of Christianity noted that by the year 200 the formation of the New Testament canon was near completion and had begun to take its place alongside the regula fidei, the episcopacy, and the liturgy as the basis for a unified church (p. 251).  (See End Note #1)  Therefore, the early Church acknowledged both oral tradition and the New Testament writings as authoritative sources.  It did not draw any distinction between the two but saw them as interdependent.

A good example of the tight link between oral and written tradition is Irenaeus of Lyons, considered to be the leading theologian in the second century.  Mathison’s reading of Irenaeus is surprisingly superficial.  He quotes extensively from secondary sources and makes only a few brief paraphrases directly from Irenaeus.  Brief references are made to Irenaeus’ use of “inscripturation” (Against Heresies (AH) 3.1) and the regula fidei (AH 3.4.2) as a means of protecting and preserving the Apostolic witness (p. 33).  A more serious failing is Mathison’s failure to do justice to Irenaeus’ complex and nuanced understanding of the relationship of Scripture to the apostolic Tradition.

In Against Heresies 3.2-3.3 Irenaeus points to apostolic succession as a means of ensuring right doctrine.  The apostolic message was safeguarded by the passing on of the creed (regula fidei) in baptism and by the office of the bishop, the successors to the apostles.  Thus, the starting point for Irenaeus’ theology was the apostolic preaching both in oral and written forms.  In another place, Irenaeus writes about the need for the pastor’s authority to be based upon apostolic succession:

This is why one must hear the presbyters who are in the church, those who have the succession from the apostles, as we have shown, and with the succession in the episcopate have received the sure spiritual gift of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father.  As for all others who are separate from the original succession, in whatever place they gather, they are suspect (AH 4.26.2).

Irenaeus’ defense of Orthodoxy rests upon the traditioning process: (1) Tradition in oral form, (2) Tradition in written form, (3) the Rule of Faith received at baptism, and (4) the office of the bishop.  All this together presents a picture quite different from Mathison’s Tradition I.

Even more problematic for Mathison’s Tradition I is Irenaeus’ complaint that if one confronts the Gnostics with Scripture they accuse the Scriptures of being ambiguous, and if one confronts the Gnostics with the tradition of the Apostles preserved through apostolic succession they claim a superior knowledge.  He writes in exasperation:

It comes to this, therefore, these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition (AH 3.2; ANF Vol. 1, p. 415).

The above passage implies that Tradition II two-source model was very much a part of the early Church Fathers.  The fact that Irenaeus, a second century Church Father, operated from a Tradition II paradigm refutes Mathison and Oberman’s claim that a transition to Tradition II took place in the fourth century (p. 32).  This is where Mathison’s superficial reading of the Church Fathers hurts his fundamental argument.  He must reconcile this passage with the Tradition I model or else he must reconsider the doctrine of sola scriptura.

Furthermore, Mathison must account for the evidence of Tradition II in other early Church Fathers.  Clement of Alexandria who lived in the second century wrote about “ecclesiastical tradition” (Stromata 6.16), a tradition (gnosis) “imparted unwritten by the apostles” (Stromata 6.7), and the relation of Scripture with “ecclesiastical tradition” (Stromata 7.16).  Another Church Father is Athanasius the Great who: (1) made reference to the “traditions of the Fathers” (Defence Against the Arians 2.30, 2.35), (2) declared “what our Fathers have delivered, this is true doctrine” (Defence of the Nicene Definition 2.4), and (3) appealed to the Faith held by the Church (Defence Against the Arians 38 and Deposition of Arius).

Dr. Mathison quotes approvingly from Cyril of Jerusalem who asserts that all he taught could be confirmed by Scripture (pp. 31-32).  It is surprising that Mathison devotes only one paragraph to Cyril of Jerusalem when his famous catechetical lectures are more complex and nuanced than Mathison lets on.  For example, Cyril also makes mention of the traditioning process (Catechetical Lectures 5.13, 15.13, 17.3, 18.32).  And even more troubling for Mathison’s Tradition I argument is Cyril’s closing exhortation to his Catechetical Lectures: “Hold fast these traditions undefiled and, keep yourselves free from offense (23.22).”

There is also a pragmatic problem with Cyril of Jerusalem.  While he supposedly operates from Tradition I, the Church that Cyril describes hardly resembles the present day Protestant or Reformed churches.  He talks about making the sign of the cross, baptism with the rite of exorcism, chrismation, and the Eucharist.  These practices are alien to Calvinists and Puritans but familiar to Eastern Orthodox Christians.  This raises the question: Why do the worship practices and church governance of many Presbyterian churches today bear a stronger resemblance to the Tradition 0 Evangelicals than Cyril of Jerusalem’s Tradition I?

There are problems with Mathison’s suggestion that by the fifth century a transition to Tradition II was underway.  Mathison’s citation of Basil the Great’s On the Holy Spirit as evidence of this crucial transition (p. 32) is based upon a superficial reading.  What is notable about Basil was not his reference to “unwritten customs” and “written teaching” (§66), other Church Fathers have made similar statements.  Rather, it was his explicit and extensive use of the Liturgy in §3 and §13 in his theologizing.  Basil’s theologizing on the basis of liturgy is an application of an ancient principle invoked by Irenaeus of Lyons: “But our opinion is in accord with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion” (AH 4.18.5 in ANF Vol. I p. 486).  Also, Basil in numerous places cites Scripture in support for his argument which points to Tradition I (see §6-12, especially §10).  What we find in Basil’s On the Holy Spirit is a mature form of the patristic method that goes back to the earlier approach that viewed oral and written tradition as different forms of a singular apostolic Tradition.  In short, Basil the Great’s theological method does not fit in neatly with Mathison’s Tradition I or II.

Thus, Mathison’s attempt to understand the early Church Fathers using Oberman’s categories of Tradition I and II involves a form of anachronism.  Jaroslav Pelikan wrote in The Emergence of the Christian Tradition:

Clearly it is an anachronism to superimpose upon the discussions of the second and third centuries categories derived from the controversies over the relation of Scripture and tradition in the sixteenth century, for “in the ante-Nicene Church . . . there was no notion of sola Scriptura, but neither was there a doctrine of traditio sola.” (1971:115; italics in original).

He further notes that in the early Church the term “tradition” was used broadly to include doctrinal, liturgical, and exegetical materials.

The emergence of an ecclesiastical authority distinct from Scripture did not take place in the fifth and sixth centuries as posited by Mathison and Oberman but much later during the Middle Ages with the rise of Scholasticism and canon law.  The emergence of a two source understanding of tradition in the Western Church marked a step away from the early Church and created a theological chasm between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  The contradictions embedded in the two source theory of tradition would also in time give rise to the Protestant Reformation.

In Chapter 2 Dr. Mathison describes the historical and theological context in which the Protestant Reformation and the doctrine of sola scriptura emerged.  He goes into some detail describing the rising tensions between Tradition I and Tradition II among the medieval theologians and scholars.  Yet an issue that Mathison fails to address is whether the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura was more a product of the humanist movement of the medieval period than a return to modus operandum of the early Church.  Locating sola scriptura‘s origins in the humanist movement’s method of ad fontes (back to the sources) makes a lot of sense and would explain the considerable differences between the Protestant Reformation and the early Church.  However, this opens the door for the criticism that the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura is a historical novelty, something that Mathison denies (see p. 292, 298).

In Chapter 3 Mathison seeks to show that the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura was not a novelty but a return to the method of the early Church Fathers.  He writes:

In fact, the position the magisterial Reformers maintained was essentially that which was held in the early Church and throughout most of the medieval Church–that Scripture was the sole source of revelation; that it was the final authoritative norm of doctrine and practice; that it was to be interpreted according to the regula fidei.  In other words, the case can be made that the Reformers adhered to Tradition I (p. 85).

However, Mathison’s subsuming both the early Church Fathers and the Protestant Reformers under Tradition I is problematic.  There is a subtle but important difference in the way they understood the role of tradition.  While the Protestant Reformers accepted the regula fidei, they subordinated it to Scripture.  There is no evidence of this subordination among the church Fathers.

Dr. Mathison claims that the Reformers used the same method as the early Church Fathers, but the evidence suggests that their theological method diverged significantly from the Church Fathers.  The Protestant Reformers interposed a tension between Scripture and Tradition, something that did not exist in the early Church Fathers.  Richard Muller observes:

The Reformation did not invent the view that scripture is the prior norm of doctrine, the source of all necessary doctrines, sufficient in its teachings for salvation.  Such was the view of many medieval theologians and commentators.  What the Reformation did in a new and forceful manner was to pose scripture against tradition and practices of the church and at the same time, define scripture as clear and certain in and of itself and therefore “self-interpreting” (Muller 1996:36; italics added).

The elevating of Scripture over tradition led to a more skeptical attitude towards the apostolic Tradition.  Dillenberger and Welch note:

Luther and Calvin both studied and knew the church Fathers.  They quoted Augustine most. Ideally, the Fathers were to be understood as those who expounded biblical truth, who led men to an understanding of the Bible.  Actually, both of the reformers (Luther particularly) felt that the Fathers generally led not to the clarity of the gospel, but away from it. Even the councils of the church could not be taken as finally authoritative or necessarily correct (p. 53; italics added).

The difference in theological method resulted in significant theological differences between the Reformers and the early Church.  Philip Schaff in Vol. II of his History of the Christian Church notes:

On the other hand the theology of the fathers still less accords with the Protestant standard of orthodoxy.  We seek in vain among them for the evangelical doctrines of the exclusive authority of the Scriptures, justification by faith alone, the universal priesthood of the laity; and we find instead as early as the second century a high estimate of ecclesiastical traditions, meritorious and extra- meritorious works, and strong sacerdotal, sacramentarian, ritualistic, and ascetic tendencies, which gradually matured in the Greek and Roman types of catholicity (p. 628; italics added).

The disparity in doctrine and practice between Protestantism and the early Church Fathers makes Mathison’s claim that both shared  sola scriptura vulnerable to criticism.

Mathison’s equating the Protestant sola scriptura with the patristic consensus can be attributed to a lack of familiarity with the early Church Fathers as well as to the ambiguous manner in which Tradition I and II were defined.  The theology of the early Church had a singular source: The apostolic preaching in oral and written form.  Over time the apostolic tradition evolved into Scripture in Tradition — Scripture surrounded by a matrix of the Creed (regula fidei), the episcopacy, the liturgy, the patristic consensus, and the Ecumenical Councils.

During the Middle Ages the theological enterprise underwent a number a major changes: (1) an extra-scriptural canon law emerged as an authority equal to Scripture, (2) it was soon joined by an extra-scriptural doctrinal tradition, and (3) it was supervised by a centralized Papacy (Pelikan Vol. 4 pp. 121-126).  The theology of the medieval Catholic Church evolved into Tradition over Scripture.  The Reformers challenged the Papal monopoly on doctrine by attributing to Scripture a radical sovereignty over the Papacy and all other authorities.  This resulted in an inversion of the previous model resulting in Scripture over Tradition.

Even though the Reformers sought to return to the theological method of the Church Fathers, they could not do so because their ecclesial context had changed radically.  From a sociological standpoint, Mathison’s Tradition I consists of a written text and an ideology (regula fidei) with no mention of the social institution in which they function.  Irenaeus on the other hand situates the written text and the ideology within the office of the bishop.  Mathison’s avoidance of the episcopacy is contrary to the ecclesiology of the early Church.  Ignatius of Antioch wrote:

See that you all follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as if it were the Apostles.  And reverence the deacons as the command of God.  Let no one do any other things appertaining to the Church without the bishop.  Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints.  (Letter to the Smyrnaeans VIII).

It was the office of the bishop that linked the congregation to the apostles and facilitated doctrinal unity across the Roman empire; without the episcopacy there is no effective unity.  Ignatius’ emphasis in his letters on the church gathered around the bishop was not his own opinion but the “apostolic tradition” set down in writing in the face of his impending martyrdom (Eusebius’ Church History 3.36).  The ecclesial structure of the early Church can be described as a conciliar episcopacy, something that Protestantism lacked due to the general rejection of the episcopacy (the exception being the Church of England).  This raises a number of troubling questions: We have the Apostles’ writings but where are the bishops, the successors to the apostles?  How can we claim to have the right reading of the Scripture apart from the tradition handed down by the bishops?  Is our pastor’s seminary training sufficient to ensure the right reading of Scripture?  And in light of Ignatius and Irenaeus, how can our church belong to a denomination that has no apostolic succession?

The Biblical Argument

Former Protestants have criticized sola scriptura as being unbiblical (pp. 287-289).  Their critiques proceed along two lines: (1) nowhere does the Bible teach sola scriptura and (2) the Bible does in fact teach the need for tradition.

The case of the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11) provides a good example of Tradition II: “…for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (NIV, italics added) What we see here is the Old Testament Scriptures being read in light of the Apostolic preaching.  Here we see written tradition from the old covenant meeting the oral tradition of the new covenant and both operating in harmony with each other due to the fact that both have a common source: divine revelation.  After Paul’s death his message continued on in the oral form through the memories of his listeners and in the written forms through his readers.  There is no categorical distinction between oral and written tradition.  Paul makes that clear in II Thessalonians 2:15 “…stand firm and hold to the traditions we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” (NIV; italics added)  Paul here is teaching that the Thessalonians were to hold fast to the apostolic message in both the written and oral form.  Nowhere does he teach that the apostolic message in written form takes precedence over the apostolic message in oral form.

However, Mathison introduces a categorical distinction to defend sola scriptura.  He argues that continuing revelation was only valid while the apostles were living but after the apostles died continuing revelation became inoperative and divine revelation became confined to the written text.  He writes:

The error in this argument is the failure to distinguish between an era in which God’s revelation was still being communicated to His people and an era in which it has been completed (p. 161).

There are problems with Dr. Mathison’s position here.  One, none of the apostles taught that the written form takes precedence over the oral form.  Two, none of the early Church Fathers thought in terms of continuing revelations but in terms of the apostolic message in two forms, written and oral.  Three, Mathison seems to assume that with the passing of the original apostles a crisis of authority took place in the early Church that was resolved by written tradition taking precedence over oral tradition.  The question here is: Where does Mathison’s theory of the supposed superiority of the written tradition come from?  What evidence is there among the early Church Fathers that such a transitional crisis happened?

There is no evidence from church history that such a crisis occurred.  The early Church confronted three major crises that touched upon the issue of doctrinal authority: (1) Marcionism which denied the authority of the Old Testament and the non-Pauline epistles; (2) Gnosticism which denied the Incarnation and the teaching authority of the bishops; and (3) Montanism which insisted that true apostolic succession resided with those who continued to receive the special revelations by the Holy Spirit (see Pelikan 1971:109).  There is no historical evidence to support Mathison’s assumption of written tradition superseding oral tradition.  Until this is established, Mathison is open to being criticized for reading Scripture through a set of unproven assumptions.

Thus in his reading of the New Testament texts, Mathison is not engaging in exegesis but eisegesis, the mistake of reading something into the text.  Mathison’s low regard for oral tradition can be seen in his claim that it is “inherently unstable” and cannot be “independently verified” (p. 175).  This attitude is radically at odds with that of Irenaeus and the other Church Fathers.  The Reformers’ controversy with the Catholic Church resulted in a skewed understanding of the Early Church’s Tradition I.  Jaroslav Pelikan in The Vindication of Tradition noted: “…one of the most intriguing aspects of this kind of study is the uncovering of the processes by which the very antitraditionalism of the Reformation has itself become a tradition” (p. 11).

Dr. Mathison cites Luke 1:1-4 as evidence that the apostolic teaching requires securing by written form (p. 175).  It should be noted that the apostolic teaching can be secured in other forms as well.  Paul spoke of the traditioning process taking place through: (1) the Good News (I Corinthians 15:3-5), (2) the Eucharist (I Corinthians 11:23-26), and (3) the office of the bishop (II Timothy 2:2). (See End Note #2)  A common thread running through these verses is the idea of Paul having received his teaching from Christ and his passing on this teaching to his followers through the regula fidei, the Eucharist, and the episcopacy.  When we view these as an interlocking and mutually reinforcing hermeneutical matrix we find something that closely resembles the Orthodox model of Scripture in Tradition.  The question here is: Why does Mathison insist on securing the apostolic tradition solely within the written text?

The Pragmatic Argument

Protestantism’s denominational chaos has been cited as proof of sola scriptura’s inability to provide a unifying theological framework.  To those who ask if sola scriptura has ever worked in practice, Mathison replies “nowhere” if we are talking about the distorted version of sola scriptura — Tradition 0 (Popular Evangelicalism), but it did work well for the first three to four hundred years if we are talking about Tradition I (pp. 289-290).  This argument is based upon the fact that in the early Church there was no infallible bishop exercising universal jurisdiction (p. 290).  But it should be kept in mind that the early Church comprised a network of bishops who dealt with major theological issues through local, regional, and universal councils.  By means of a conciliar episcopacy the early Church was able to avoid the denominational pluralism that plagued Protestantism early on.

With respect to Protestantism over the past five centuries Mathison has had to concede that it has not worked well (p. 290).  When we look at the Reformed tradition, which we can assume had the best understanding of sola scriptura, we find similar practical difficulties.  Which particular Reformed denomination has been most faithful to the principle of sola scriptura? PCUSA, PCA, OPC, RCA, EPC, BPC, CPC, CPCA, WPCUS, ARPC, RPCA, RPCGA, or CREC? (See End Note #3) Has sola scriptura proven to be a source of doctrinal unity or division in the Reformed churches?

The pragmatic argument deserves more than the two page rebuttal made by Mathison.  Dr. Mathison lists three reasons why sola scriptura hasn’t worked so far: (1) the Reformation took place long after the initial schisms, (2) sola scriptura was soon replaced by a distorted version “solo scriptura” espoused by Evangelicals, and (3) the rise of the Enlightenment (p. 290).  But his defense of sola scriptura against the charge of hermeneutical chaos suffers from a serious gap.  None of these explanations account for the Marburg Colloquy in 1527 where Luther and Zwingli met to debate the meaning of words of Christ: “This is my body.” Their failure to work out the practical implications of how to celebrate the Lord’s Supper constitutes one of Protestantism’s earliest failures.  This tragic event took place just ten years after Luther’s 95 Theses with the result that the Protestant movement soon was divided into three factions.  Calvin was unable to forge a theological consensus beyond his own circle of followers.  In Chapter 3, “Martin Luther and John Calvin,” Mathison makes no mention of Ulrich Zwingli, the great Swiss Reformer.  This shows a serious gap in Mathison’s historical analysis.  The Marburg Colloquy is an early occurrence of the impracticality of sola scriptura for the magisterial Reformation and is something Mathison needs to address.

Mathison’s Critique of Eastern Orthodoxy

Mathison’s critique of the Orthodox position relied heavily on modern sources, e.g., Timothy Ware (1993), Georges Florovsky (1987), Archimandrite Chryostomos (1984), and Hierodeacon Gregory (1995).  It is surprising that he did not make use of the “Confessions of Dositheus” (1672) which is listed in Leith’s Creeds of the Churches which he cites in his book.  The Confessions of Dositheus is important for two reasons.  One, it is a response to Cyril Lucaris, the Patriarch of Constantinople who embraced John Calvin’s teachings and was subsequently deposed.  Two, it was a conciliar response to a theological crisis.  A synod was convened in Jerusalem in 1672 and Patriarch Dositheus drew up the Church’s official stance with respect to Calvinism.  If anything, this is the source document Mathison should have cited in his critique of Eastern Orthodoxy; his failure to do so is indicative of his lack of familiarity with Orthodoxy.

The greatest strength and at the same time the greatest weakness of Mathison’s book is his four fold categories of Tradition 0, I, II, and III.  His four fold categories facilitates comparison and analysis of the different theological positions taken by the Church Fathers, Protestant Reformers, Roman Catholics, and modern Evangelicals.  However, we find Dr. Mathison admitting that Eastern Orthodoxy does not fall into any of the categories he constructed.

The concept of Scripture, tradition, and the Church in the Eastern Orthodox church does not parallel any of the concepts we have already discussed.  It does not fall into the category of Tradition 0, I, II, or III as these have been explained.  The isolation of the Eastern church from the Western church led to an entirely different development of this concept (p. 225).

The result is that Mathison’s taxonomy of Tradition is not equipped to critically assess Eastern Orthodoxy.  This is a major weakness in his book.  It creates ambiguity and confusion with respect to our understanding of the early Church.  Dr. Mathison finds that the early Church Fathers accepted sola scriptura, a claim that the Orthodox Church — which claims unbroken continuity with the early Church — would take issue with.  This leaves the reader wondering: Was the early Church Protestant or Orthodox? A refinement of conceptual categories is needed in order to better understand and compare the early Church’s understanding of Scripture and Tradition with that of Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  Until that is done, Mathison lacks the conceptual tools for undertaking a serious critique of Orthodox theology.  It proposed that Mathison’s ambiguous Tradition I (Scripture with Tradition) be replaced with “Scripture in Tradition” for the early Church and “Scripture over Tradition” for the Protestant Reformers.  Below is an alternative taxonomy.

ALTERNATIVE TYPOLOGY
Church Type Theological Method Governance Structure
Early Church Fathers Scripture in Tradition Conciliar Episcopacy
Medieval Catholicism Tradition Over Scripture Centralized Papacy
Protestant Reformation Scripture Over Tradition Denominationalism
Protestant Fundamentalism Scripture Without Tradition Non-Denominationalism

 

 

The advantage of this alternative typology is that: (1) it shifts the focus from source to authority, (2) it takes into account the social context in which doctrinal decisions are made and implemented, and (3) it avoids the conceptual ambiguities of Mathison’s Tradition I.

Conclusion

In summary, Dr. Mathison’s book has serious shortcomings: (1) his treatment of the early Church Fathers is superficial and simplistic, (2) his attempt to apply Tradition I and II involved an anachronistic reading of the early Church Fathers, (3) his dismissal of the New Testament passages dealing with oral tradition is based upon an unproven assumption of the superiority of written tradition over oral tradition, (4) his plea for patience in allowing sola scriptura to prove itself in modern Protestantism is not a reasoned argument, and (5) his framework of Tradition I vs. Tradition II is unable to assess the Eastern Orthodox position.

As an apologia Dr. Mathison’s book falls short of its intended purpose.  Probably the main cause for the book’s weaknesses arise from Mathison giving more attention to countering Roman Catholicism than to Eastern Orthodoxy.  It is hoped that a theologian of Mathison’s caliber will: (1) give more attention to the Orthodox Church and (2) take another closer look at the early Church Fathers.

If Sola Scriptura Fails…

Dr. Mathison notes that the “branch theory” of the visible Church is a corollary of sola scriptura (p. 319).  This means that if sola scriptura is shown to be untenable, then the “branch theory” must be discarded in favor of the one visible Church model.  As a good Calvinist Dr. Mathison holds to a high view of the Church.  He writes:

Christians are to be in submission to the Church, but the Church is not identical to Rome.  The difficulty today is that the Church has been fragmented into many pieces making identification of the “Church” a significant problem (p. 312).

Ruling out the Catholic Church, this leaves us with the Orthodox Church.  The Orthodox Church claims that it is the one holy catholic and apostolic Church confessed in the Nicene Creed.  They base this assertion on two criteria set forth by Irenaeus: apostolicity and catholicity.

The tradition of the apostles, made clear in all the world, can be clearly seen in every church by those who wish to behold the truth.  We can eumerate those who were established by the apostles as bishops in the churches, and their successors down to our time, none of whom taught or thought of anything like their [the Gnostics] mad ideas (AH 3.3.1; Richardson 1970:371).

The Orthodox Church can trace its apostolic succession directly back to the original apostles.  Furthermore, the Orthodox Church is united by a faith and worship that spans across time and space.  As Irenaeus wrote:

Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house.  She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth (AH 1.10.2; Richardson 1970:360).

The Orthodox Church has the unity of faith and doctrinal stability that is so sadly lacking among Protestants.  Ultimately, sola scriptura must be recognized for what it is: A theological innovation that has no place in the historic Christian faith.  Where the Roman Catholic approach is the Church over Scripture, the Eastern Orthodox approach is Scripture in Tradition.  The Orthodox Church has guarded the apostolic Faith from heresies and innovation for the past two millennia.  Protestants need to give serious consideration to Orthodoxy’s claim to have the stable framework for the right reading of Scripture.

Robert Arakaki

References

Athanasius the Great.  1980.  Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.  Volume IV.  Second Series.  Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, editors.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Basil the Great.  1980.  On The Holy Spirit.  David Anderson, translator.  Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Clement of Alexandria.  1983.  Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume II.  Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Cyril of Jerusalem.  1983.  Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.  Volume VII.  Second Series.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Dillenberger, John and Claude Welch.  1954.  Protestant Christianity: Interpreted Through Its Development.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Eusebius.  1965.  The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine. G.A. Williamson, translator.  New York: Penguin Books.

Frend, W.H.C.  1984.  The Rise of Christianity.  Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Ignatius of Antioch.  1912.  In Apostolic Fathers Volume I.  Kirsopp Lake, translator.  Loeb Classical Library.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Irenaeus of Lyons.  1985.  Against Heresies.  In Ante-Nicene Fathers.  Volume I.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Kelly, J.N.D.  1960.  Early Christian Doctrines.  Revised Edition.  San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Leith, John H. ed.  Creeds of the Churches: A Reader in Christian Doctrine From the Bible to the Present. John H. Leith, editor.  Third edition, 1982.  Atlanta, Georgia: John Knox Press, 1963.

Muller, Richard A.  1996.  “Scripture” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation.  Volume 4.  Hans J. Hillerbrand, editor in chief.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Oberman, Heiko A.  1992.  The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Oberman, Heiko A.  1963.  The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Company.

Pelikan, Jaroslav.  1971.  The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600).  Volume 1.  The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Pelikan, Jaroslav.  1984.  Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700).  Volume 4.  The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Pelikan, Jaroslav.  1984.  The Vindication of Tradition.  The 1983 Jefferson Lectures in the Humanities.  New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Richardson, Cyril, ed.  1970.  Early Christian Fathers.  New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.

Schaff, Philip.  1910.  Ante-Nicene Christianity (A.D. 100-325). Volume II of History of the Christian Church.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Schaff, Philip.  1910.  Modern Christianity: The German Reformation. Volume VII of History of the Christian Church.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

End Note #1

It is important for modern day Protestants to put themselves in the place of the early Christians who had no printed Bibles and whose only access to the Scriptures was through the Sunday liturgy (I Timothy 4:13, Justin Martyr’s First Apology 67). Also, the Scriptures read out loud in the liturgy were part of the received tradition. A formally defined universal and standard canon of Scripture would not come into existence until the fourth century. Thus, the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura contains a number of assumptions that could not apply to the situation of the early Church

End Note #2

(1) “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for ours sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve (I Corinthians 15:3-5, NIV, italics added);

(2) “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (I Corinthians 11:23-26, NIV, italics added); and

(3) “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to each others” (II Timothy 2:2, NIV, italics added).

End Note #3

The acronyms stand for: PCUSA (Presbyterian Church USA), PCA (Presbyterian Church in America, OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church), RCA (Reformed Church of America), EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church), BPC (Bible Presbyterian Church), CPC (Cumberland Presbyterian Church), CPCA (Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America), WPCUS (Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States), ARPC (Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church), RPCA (Reformed Presbyterian Church in America), RPCGA (Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly), CREC (Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches).

Coming Soon:   The review of Keith Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scriptura opens the 4 part Contra Sola Scriptura series.  Future postings will include biblical, historical, and sociological critiques of sola scriptura.

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226 comments:

    1. Hi Mike, Welcome the discussion! I hope that out of this will come lively discussions on the Internet but also face-to-face conversations among friends. Let us remember to be gentle and honest with each other as we talk about our beliefs and convictions. The OrthodoxBridge is for Reformed Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Please let your Reformed friends know about OrthodoxBridge!

  1. Robert,

    As one who loved Dr. Keith Mathison’s book, you give a Reformed Christian ALOT to think about. For instance, I don’t ever believe I’ve seen the Four-Fold Matrix you laid out — nor been exposed to the notion of “Scripture In Tradition” as you’ve laid it out here. Much to think about here and ponder, and I look forward to the discussion. Thanks for the work and this blog. It should get very interesting.

  2. Oh yeah…I intended to say that to grasp all this well enough to really find where my problems are…I’ll have to read it over a few more times.

    1. David, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. This blog posting will be a demanding one for the readers. I would urge all who wish to comment on this posting to reread Mathison or if they don’t have a copy, to go out and buy their own copy of “The Shape of Sola Scriptura.” I learned a lot from interacting with Dr. Mathison’s book.

  3. Great post; look forward to the rest on this topic.

    This book has misled many in the Reformed and evangelical world. It is nice to see a solid critique of it.

  4. zzzzzzzzzzzzz…

    Mathison. The standard punching bag of Catholic/Orthodox opponents to sola Scriptura. We just have to get you Orthodox guys to say more with less. I don’t have time to read all this let alone respond to it knowing someone will take what I say in five paragraphs and respond with a thousand.

    It would be much nicer however if you guys actually dealt with the magisterial and later Protestants themselves instead of the bumper sticker slogan-filled books of modern Reformedville. How about taking the time to evaluate the substance of classical Protestantism instead of the slightly awkward form found in some of its most recent descendants? Now that would be worth reading. Because, as it is, your comments ring quite hollow to any more classical Protestant familiar with the actual source material of the Reformers and the history and theology of the Church prior to their arrival. I don’t doubt that you can persuade the unaware and those unfamiliar with history, but surely you have more to say to those not so naive.

    1. Hi Kevin, thanks for visiting the OrthodoxBridge!

      I wish the posting on Mathison’s “The Shape of Sola Scriptura” was shorter but I concluded that putting out the critique in its entirety was the best way of making a coherent case against Mathison’s position. Maybe you don’t have the time to read the entire posting, but it is important that Mathison’s readers are given good reasons to reassess his arguments.

      As for what you called “Reformedville,” it is important to note that there are indications of a growing openness among certain Reformed Christians to Eastern Orthodoxy. I believe that it is important that we treat others from another faith tradition with charity and respect, even when we disagree with their theology.

      There is a certain trajectory to the postings in the OrthodoxBridge. I started off with commentary on some video podcasts, then moved on to book reviews; in the future I will be dealing with the writings of John Calvin and some of the other major Reformed theologians. The main purpose of this blog is to initiate a dialogue with Reformed Christians and Evangelicals interested in Eastern Orthodoxy. You are most welcome to join us.

      1. As for what you called “Reformedville,” it is important to note that there are indications of a growing openness among certain Reformed Christians to Eastern Orthodoxy.

        LOL. And people told me this wasn’t a recruiting site–C2C Orthodox-style. OK. If you say so.

        It’s kind of ironic and tragically amusing that after the last 100 years of apostate defection in the mainline Protestant arena, we’re supposed to treat the move of ill-informed and ill-equipped men in micro-Reformed denominations toward Catholicism and Orthodoxy as something positive and remain open to such change as if it was a natural progression and something to respect.

        Truth be told, while I certainly can see why and how people have moved this direction from the Reformed perspective it’s hardly a good thing and to treat it as such is asking more than we ought to be willing to give.

        If you want real dialog, let’s remove the gloves and quit pretending we’re having tea with the Queen and a Patriarch or two. Let’s also realize this site and its objectives for what they are. Deal with the truth and be willing to hear your brother out even if you don’t like what or how things are said. Let’s be concerned a little less about what’s proper and a little more about substance. Then, we might get somewhere between us.

        1. Keven, you say: “Deal with the truth and be willing to hear your brother out even if you don’t like what or how things are said.”

          Yet you also said: “Because, as it is, your comments ring quite hollow…”

          Do they ring hollow (or as I almost typo ‘hallow’ lol) because of your inability to want to listen to them, contradicting statement no. 1?

          Also why should it be a problem if Orthodox critique the descendents of Reformed Protestantism? Are you saying that the descendents believe something differently than handed down to them by the original reformers? If this is the case, then you further prove the Orthodox critique of Reformed Protestantism, and what Robert says in this essay.

  5. @ Kevin,

    Perhaps you could give Robert something more appropriate to review that you would consider to be standard fare amongst the Magisterial Reformed folks?

    I understand why you might not appreciate the review of this particular book (although you admitted did not read it). Perhaps you read his “About” section where Robert specifically says he wishes to dialog with the Reformed Protestants (of all strips I imagine) and part of that conversation could very well be over some other book that you believe does a better job than the one reviewed above?

    I may be speaking for Robert here but I would only wish that you would submit something for discussion that is considerably better than this particular book being reviewed. I would enjoy reading the dialog that follows.

    John

  6. It’s not a matter of one individual work to suggest. I would like to know what the writer of this review has read on this subject besides Mathison from the standpoint of the Reformers and whether or not any real primary source material has been considered. Or, are we just all too conveniently tilting at windmills and knocking down paper tigers?

    But, there are definitely other problems here not the least of which is the historically inaccurate table on “alternative typology” presented above. I’m sure more could be said–and truly I’m not here to defend Mathison’s work–but perhaps Mr. Arakaki can first let us know what he’s actually read from the Reformers and the Reformed tradition prior to 1950 (and excluding Schaff) on the subject before we go any further and I take the time to read the article in detail.

  7. OK. Well, I took the time to read the article after all and have a few comments which need to be made concerning this review. First, it’s been several years since I’ve read Mathison’s book so I’m not going to comment too much on Mathison’s thesis in the first place. But, there are some glaring problems with the review as it stands now.

    The first thing I would note is that Mr. Mathison’s book was not intended to be either a comprehensive book on any of the subjects addressed in it nor was it intended for anything other than a popular audience. Expecting detailed contextual discussions regarding the history of the Fathers is not really dealing with the book on its own terms and unrealistic in the main. Most people who might buy and read the book are not equipped to deal with the multitude of issues surrounding historical interpretation and understanding of the Fathers in the first place. Furthermore, expecting the book to handle Orthodoxy in any way but in a summary fashion is also going beyond the book’s original purpose. The Reformed have (for better or worse) a predilection to deal with subjects like this in reference primarily to Rome. That’s not really out of line since the Reformation itself sprang out of a Western practice of Christianity. Responding to Rome is what the Reformed are usually busy doing. That is not to say that a reply to the Orthodox could not be found in another work by him or others, only that the book was obviously designed to handle Rome’s concerns in the main.

    The Historical Argument

    First, the review above faults Mathison for not laying all his cards out on the table as well as pretending he shouldn’t have a Protestant bias in reviewing the historical data, but I would submit the reviewer does much the same thing by forgetting to note that he works from an Orthodox perspective in interpreting the data that we have before us. To pretend one side is biased in their presentation of the facts while seemingly feigning objectivity in the matter is no less troubling than what the reviewer thinks of the book in question. Maybe the perspective of the reviewer ought to be obvious to us given the nature of this website, but the same could certainly be said for Mr. Mathison who works from a known and decidedly Reformed perspective in presenting his position. Claiming he “subtly introduces a Protestant bias” is a less than charitable way to say he’s not working honestly with the texts before him. The reality, however, is that both the Reformed and Orthodox perspectives work with certain biases and neither is being necessarily dishonest by presenting the facts as they understand them. As such, this represents a major weakness in the review that ought to be corrected.

    Additionally, providing extensive references to the Fathers in the book as the reviewer would have liked would have taken this book from a popular survey of the extant material to a much more scholarly endeavor (and likely limited the use and audience of his book in the first place). The reviewer is just not being reasonable here to expect so much from one popular work. The contention that Mathison is merely engaged in anachronistic proof-texting also falls flat as again he’s writing for a popular audience and not attempting to be exhaustive.

    Last, in reference to the Fathers themselves, this book by Mathison is not the first Reformed work to see the Fathers as Mathison presents them or in a similar vein. I don’t see the review dealing with the overall Reformed perspective of the Fathers in any way other than a summary dismissive fashion – and why should we expect more than this as this review is merely a blog post on the Internet somewhere? Are we really to believe that the Reformers had no answer for the objections brought to the fore regarding either Mathison’s reading or the position of the Orthodox (if we for the moment pretend there merely is one position on this from the Orthodox as the review implies)? Do we really think that five hundred years of scholarly work in this area in Reformed circles produced no results in terms of understanding the Fathers? We’re certainly left with this impression, but the problem is of course that this critique of Mathison is just as brief and dismissive as anything Mathison himself has done with the Fathers concerning the role of tradition and Scripture and the review leaves the larger body of scholarly work by the Reformed generally untouched.

    The Biblical Argument

    The example provided by the review of Acts 17:11 is manifestly in error. The Bereans didn’t look at the Old Testament in light of Apostolic preaching, but *evaluated* Apostolic preaching on the basis of what the Word of God as they had it in the Old Testament had to say.

    As for 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ff., recognizing a distinction between the written and spoken word is no threat to the Reformed position. If we speak of tradition as both written and spoken, there is nothing in the text that can demonstrate for us that written and spoken tradition differ in regards to the Apostolic kerygma. It is likely one and the same even though later expositors would claim that additional information was communicated orally different from what we have in the Scriptures. The problem for those who advocate this view is of course the fact that the Scriptures do not comment on the content of said verbal transmission. And, while later sources like Pelikan have no issue with accepting the more expansive testimony of some of the later Fathers on this point, from the Reformed perspective what is required is endorsement from the Scriptures themselves that such is the case. And, of course, we have no such endorsement from the pages of Scripture.

    The ‘Pragmatic Argument’

    This is also one of the weakest spots of this review. In point of fact, the Great Schism of 1054 AD is manifestly more important to consider on this issue if we are going to fault sola Scriptura for “Protestantism’s denominational chaos”. The truth is that sola Scriptura is not overly relevant to the current malaise of denominationalism any more than the Orthodox view of Scripture and Tradition have bearing on the long-standing division originating in the Great Schism. You can’t completely blame the actions of a spoiled daughter on anyone except the mother who fails to discipline her. Responsibility for fragmentation in the Church ought first to be laid at the feet of the men who could not come to unity in the first place.

    But, both historical issues regarding 1054 or later fragmentation on the part of the Reformed have complex causes and shouldn’t be seen quite so starkly and especially without bringing to the fore the fact that both communions suffer from issues regarding the implementation of their doctrine. Besides, I’m happy to grant that the Reformed were in some sense responsible for the fragmentation of Western Christendom but they were also largely and positively responsible for the Protestant work ethic, the economic revolution of capitalism, and the founding of the American Republic among many other good things. We can trace positive consequences to sola Scriptura as much as we might like to point out negative ones. To present an unbalanced viewpoint and only mention what you may think is negative on the part of convincing people to run Eastward is prejudicial and not the best way to proceed.

    Last, as I have already mentioned in a previous comment, the review suffers from a framework reflected in the “alternative typology” that is manifestly in error historically speaking. Speaking in such general terms forgets the actual diversity present in our common history since the times of the New Testament. To say, for example, that medieval Catholicism was primarily a time of a centralized papacy in the West is manifestly inaccurate as conciliarism ruled the day well into the High Middle Ages. Nor is it true that the Middle Ages was a time where Scripture was always seen as subordinate to prevailing traditions. Also, the Protestant Reformation was not denominational in nature as the table claims. Denominationalism is a much more recent phenomena. This sort of macro approach to Christian history is manifestly inaccurate, not helpful to understanding the complex issues before us, and while interesting does not represent a consensus view worth adopting. Last, it’s no less simplistic or superficial than Mathison’s view as presented in his book.

    1. Keven you write: “If we speak of tradition as both written and spoken, there is nothing in the text that can demonstrate for us that written and spoken tradition differ in regards to the Apostolic kerygma. It is likely one and the same even though later expositors would claim that additional information was communicated orally different from what we have in the Scriptures.”

      This is the Orthodox position! In fact, it was stated by Robert multiple times in his essay above. The issue for Protestants is to see whether or not their worship resembles that of the early Church Father’s, which we all know it does not. As also cited in the above essay.

    2. Keven you say: “Also, the Protestant Reformation was not denominational in nature as the table claims. Denominationalism is a much more recent phenomena.”

      This is completely false. Explain then the Zwinglians, the Lutheran’s, the Calvisinists, the Church of England, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the list goes on and on. And this isn’t an new list, but a very old list. As the essay stated, just 10 years after the Reformation did denominations start to arise.

  8. Instead of more same-old, same-old critiques designed to make people question their superficial understandings of their present tradition so as to embrace another one that they also only superficially understand, it would be good to see some real engagement with the historical factors that always contextualize theological movements.

    It’s tiring to see theology-wonks endlessly claim from the rooftops that Protestant divisions are all attributable to the fissiparating instability of sola Scriptura. The Reformation was a natural outgrowth of numerous cultural pressures that came to a head during the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance – not the least of which was the crystallization and development of social “localism” versus social “universalism.” One reason that theology went in multiple directions at the time of the Reformation was because there were multiple starting points in the Western tradition and these were taken up by multiple micro-cultures within the West.

    Local needs were different, and different theologies developed to address those different needs. It simply is not true that there was one monolithic “sola Scriptura” view that just failed to “work” in terms of unifying theological reflection, and so endless division happened. Different groups brought different questions to the same text of Scripture, and since they began in different places, their systems of theology necessarily went in different directions. That’s exactly what happened between Rome and the East over the several centuries prior to 1054. Greek-speakers and their Greek culture and Latin-speakers and their Latin culture progressively grew apart precisely because they read the same Scriptures through different lenses. There wasn’t some monolithic principle of unity that failed to “work” – this was just human nature working itself out under God’s providence in a world still dominated by the cultural multiplicity of Babel.

    In sum, historical and social forces, not to mention linguistic differences, vastly affect theological reflection. It never has been the case and never will be the case that there is some “Objective Theology” that only one group has perfectly right. Any criticism of the Reformation that begins and ends with the assumption that sola Scriptura is the root cause of division is utterly superficial, and need not be taken seriously by anyone who bothers to get his head out of perfectionistic theology and apologetics works and into the real, very messy world of Christian history.

    1. Tim,

      Thank you for your observations about the complex historical and cultural situation from which sola scriptura emerged. I will looking at the historical origins of sola scriptura in a future posting. So in a way you stole my thunder!

      But I have a question, you wrote: “Here wasn’t some monolithic principle of unity that failed to “work” – this was just human nature working itself out under God’s providence in a world still dominated by the cultural multiplicity of Babel.”

      Does that mean that for you there is no core set of beliefs that unites the Christian Church? And that instead of one Church one can only expect a plurality of denominations and interpretations?

    2. Hey Tim,

      Like much of what you say above and appreciate your spirit. The causes of the Reformation were far more culturally diverse and complicated than we might assume at first blush. And I certainly don’t see Robert’s critique trying to imply it was all a simplistic case of Sola Scriptura! 🙂

      But I realy don’t see the West/Rome’s departure on the Papacy & the Filioque as really just Scripture looked at through various lenses. Rather, it seems clear that the holy Tradition (oral and written) of the Faith was rejected by Rome. To see the East and West as simply doing Bible study with different presuppositions seem more like anachronistic deconstructionism. Even Aquinas held that the Pope and Filioque stand and fall together.

      One thing that’s been good for me in reading Orthodoxy is to see my own Tradition more clearly, and the a priori presuppositions inherent in it that I bring to the Scriptures. Let’s keep talking to each other…as kindly as possible.

    3. Tim you write: “It’s tiring to see theology-wonks endlessly claim from the rooftops that Protestant divisions are all attributable to the fissiparating instability of sola Scriptura. The Reformation was a natural outgrowth of numerous cultural pressures that came to a head during the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance – not the least of which was the crystallization and development of social “localism” versus social “universalism.” One reason that theology went in multiple directions at the time of the Reformation was because there were multiple starting points in the Western tradition and these were taken up by multiple micro-cultures within the West. ”

      Why did this NOT happen in the East? Is there but one macro-culture in the East? I think not. Your argument is painfully superficial in light of the fact that the East was somehow stable, consistent and unified, while the West was rampantly divided.

  9. Kevin,
    You said:
    “Do we really think that five hundred years of scholarly work in this area in Reformed circles produced no results in terms of understanding the Fathers?……..and the review leaves the larger body of scholarly work by the Reformed generally untouched.”

    This betrays the Protestant principle of interpretation. You go to the scripture, history, or the Father’s and interpret them personally with scholarly assistance. Then you choose or found a church based on your agreement with others regarding these findings. You have no mechanism to raise the level from human scholarly opinion to divine revelation that is binding for the people of God as the NT church and the Conciliar church after her had.

    You said ” The example provided by the review of Acts 17:11 is manifestly in error. The Bereans didn’t look at the Old Testament in light of Apostolic preaching, but *evaluated* Apostolic preaching on the basis of what the Word of God as they had it in the Old Testament had to say.”

    Start Acts 17 at v.1. Paul preaches to the Thessalonians from the scriptures that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead but then gave them some Divine revelation not in the scriptures that they MUST accept for salvation–This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.
    A mob ensued because they were not willing to search the scriptures or accept Paul’s testimony that he knew WHO this Christ was. On to Berea where those noble but unbelieving Jews received Paul’s word and searched the scriptures. They searched the scriptures not to put an Apostle to the scriptural test, but to see if his assertion of a suffering and rising Messiah in the scriptures was true. This established, they submitted by faith completely to Paul’s gospel concerning Jesus himself which came by his testimony not scripture. The Berean Jews did not believe or employ Sola Scriptura!

    You said: “The problem for those who advocate this view is of course the fact that the Scriptures do not comment on the content of said verbal transmission. And, while later sources like Pelikan have no issue with accepting the more expansive testimony of some of the later Fathers on this point, from the Reformed perspective what is required is endorsement from the Scriptures themselves that such is the case. And, of course, we have no such endorsement from the pages of Scripture.”

    Allow me to roughly paraphrase in reverse: “The problem for those who do not advocate this view is of course the fact that the scriptures do not even comment on the content of said scriptures (canon)! And while later sources such as Luther and Calvin have no issue with accepting a more truncated view of the canon and tradition, from the Orthodox perspective what is required is endorsement from the Scriptures and the Tradition that such is the case. And, of course, we have no such endorsement from the pages of Scripture or from Tradition.

    1. >>>This betrays the Protestant principle of interpretation. You go to the scripture, history, or the Father’s and interpret them personally with scholarly assistance.

      Leaving aside your caricature for the moment, I hate to break it to you but I actually am a classical Protestant. Big surprise that I might act like one (even though you are mistaken in regards to your understanding of how we might proceed).

      >>>They searched the scriptures not to put an Apostle to the scriptural test, but to see if his assertion of a suffering and rising Messiah in the scriptures was true

      I don’t want to point out the obvious, but this individualistic approach to understanding and interpreting Scripture you are advocating seems very Protestant. Frankly, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

      The truth is that the Bereans tested the message of the Apostle (the spoken tradition) by evaluating it from the authority and perspective of the revealed Word of God in the Scriptures they had available to them. But, again, this only points out what I’ve also said regarding 1 Thess. 2:15 – the spoken word and the revealed word point to the same thing.

      As for your last paragraph and the ‘reverse paraphrase’, it would be better to just come out and say what you want to say. As it is, what you’ve said makes little if any sense to me.

      1. Hi Kevin, I was just wondering what you mean when you call yourself a “classical protestant”? What is your definition of this term?

  10. Hello Robert,

    You have done a great job here. I have intended to write something along these lines myself, but have not gotten to it.

    One point I note that your reformed detractors have not touched on, because they cannot do so with any success is your critique of Mathison’s superficial reading of the Fathers of the Church. His arguments are simply untenable, and anyone who bothers to go back to the sources can see that easily for themselves.

    Here are some replies I wrote to past attempts… I believe this one was in response to James White:

    http://www.saintjonah.org/articles/stcyprian_sola.htm

    And this one was in response to William Webster:

    http://www.saintjonah.org/articles/solascriptura_earlychurch.htm

    A few more articles of interest can be found here:

    http://www.saintjonah.org/articles/responses_sola.htm

    And here:

    http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/tca_solascriptura.aspx

    I would recommend you switch to a translation other than the NIV, for the reasons stated here:

    http://www.saintjonah.org/articles/translations.htm

    Generally, when it comes to the New Testament, I would recommend sticking with the NKJV or KJV, because they are both accurate translations, and are based on a text that is essentially that which the Church has preserved, rather than on a modern reconstruction, based on flawed premises.

      1. Kevin, the Orthodox have a different way of looking at the question than Protestants. We tend to think that the text that the Church actual preserved is preferable to a text that is reconstructed by a few (mostly liberal) Protestant scholars who assume that a few manuscripts retrieved from trash bins and ash heaps (and reflect an idiosyncratic Egyptian text type) are more likely to reflect the original text. If we take the ending of St. Mark’s Gospel as an example, only three Greek manuscripts in the world omit the ending. One is a very late manuscript that is not considered to be particularly significant. One leaves a blank large enough for that ending (and it is the only sizable blank space in the manuscript), and the other suddenly increasing the size of the letters at the end of the Gospel of Mark… and if you shrunk those letters down to their normal size, you would have the same blank space — and so this blank space is evidence that the scribes who copied them where well aware of the omitted ending. On the other hand, the Diatessaron, which is older than all three of those manuscripts has the material from Mark’s ending, which shows that the ending is older than those manuscripts. I think on purely objective basis that the evidence for the ending far outweighs the evidence against it. This is just one example, but it well illustrates what is at issue here. And so before you laugh further, you might want to educate yourself on the question. Some recommended reading for you: The Last Twelve Verses of Mark By William R. Farmer (Cambridge University Press
        An oldie, but a goodie on the subject:
        The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel of St. Mark, by John W. Burgon
        A more recent and more general article:
        New Testament Textual Criticism: The Case for Byzantine Priority
        Maurice A. Robinson

        This has nothing to do with the KJV only advocates that believe that the KJV is a divinely inspired translations. However, there are only two translations that are readily available, and generally accurate, and which are based on manuscripts that reflect the Byzantine textual tradition of the Orthodox Church: the KJV and the NKJV.

      2. Keven you say: “This is only getting richer. An Orthodox KJV-only advocate.”

        That is not what Fr. John Whiteford is. I suggest you reread what he wrote, possibly get to know him (as I have), and then reassess your comments. It is clear you interpolate “KJV only” into what Fr. John has said.

  11. Tim,
    You make great accomodation to the foibles, weakness and accidental circumstances of folks doing theology. We see this in the early church where disagreements about the ecclesial pizza driver forgetting some widows (Acts 6) and theological disagreements at the highest level (Acts 15) occured. No where, however, do we see this as an excuse for the sin of schism. The apostolic and post-apostolic church lived, acted and admonished as if there was an “objective theology” that should retain the unity of Christ’s body. By what standard did the early church measure the sin of schism? How would Protestants go about repenting of this sin?
    Who has authority to guide and make determinitive decisions between all of the differing theologies of folks with all those local needs?

  12. Tim wrote:

    “….The Reformation was a natural outgrowth of numerous cultural pressures that came to a head during the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance – not the least of which was the crystallization and development of social “localism” versus social “universalism.” One reason that theology went in multiple directions at the time of the Reformation was because there were multiple starting points in the Western tradition and these were taken up by multiple micro-cultures within the West.”

    Robert’s review hints at Tim’s excellent observation here:

    “Yet an issue that Mathison fails to address is whether the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura was more a product of the humanist movement of the medieval period than a return to modus operandum of the early Church. Locating sola scriptura‘s origins in the humanist movement’s method of ad fontes (back to the sources) makes a lot of sense and would explain the considerable differences between the Protestant Reformation and the early Church.”

    In this light Sola Scriptura becomes one aspect of a broad cultural trend that reacted to the centralization and consolidation of power and authority in the Roman Catholic Church. A reaction that lead to considerable social and political fragmentation over the next several hundred years (a trend, one could argue, that the modern secular New Global Order seeks to reverse in our day). Here, Sola Scriptura become more a justification of the intellectual and theological status-quo then dominant in the newly emergin Protestantism — and not a all a real re-discovery of the practice of the Apostles and their disciples of the first three centuries of the Church. Robert’s review could have made this point a bit more forceful — just as he could have made the fact that Early Patristic Church had no ‘new-testament scripture” — until a Church Council of Bishops was called to nail down, per their Tradition and judgement, just what books should be included and excluded.

    Since the review of Dr. Mathison’s excellent book (despite problems noted above) is only #1 of a four-part series — I’d be willing to bet Robert is not done with a stimulating review of early Church history. Stay tunned folk — we’re just getting started! 🙂

    1. David,

      Again, we have to remember that the review above works from a certain historical paradigm and understanding of the early Church that the Reformers didn’t share. As such, the view is limited in its conclusions regarding the both the reasons for the origin and use of sola Scriptura as well as whether or not such was reflected in the life and practice of the early Church.

      As for your assertion that the early Church “had no ‘new-testament scripture’ – that is just not correct. The early Church prior to the formalization of the canon had no difficulty using what we now call the New Testament and did not wait for it to have a conciliar canonical imprimatur to equate it to God’s Word and use it as such. Furthermore, this is clearly the procedure of the early Church on the whole as early as the Apostle Paul’s writings themselves (cf. 1 Tim 5:18 quoting from the Gospel of Luke as Scripture). True, there was some level of diversity in terms of what was viewed as the New Testament prior to the canonization process completing, but overall the Church even during the early centuries recognized the Scriptures for what they were (a fact which in no small part helped the later Fathers include books in the canon itself–recognizing what was already true).

  13. Gentlemen:

    I’m all for charitable discussion, insofar as that is possible. However, my time is very limited, and I cannot promise anything as far as continuing to engage your remarks. That said, a couple of rejoinders to several comments above:

    David wrote:

    But I realy don’t see the West/Rome’s departure on the Papacy & the Filioque as really just Scripture looked at through various lenses. Rather, it seems clear that the holy Tradition (oral and written) of the Faith was rejected by Rome.

    Just bear in mind that because something seems clear to you does not mean it is (a) clear to anyone else, or (b) that it is necessarily true. Clarity is always relative to persons, and persons are not reducible to tidy spreadsheet classifications. Moreover, grappling with a body of material as complex as the Church Fathers or the development of Western and Eastern traditions is not something that can be done adequately in only a few months, or even a few years, let alone in relatively short blog discussions. And if there are “convert motivations” (both motivations to defend one’s own conversion and motivations to cause others to convert) present in someone doing the examination, the way to understanding becomes all the more cluttered with the twin perils of triumphalism and superficialism. I speak from deep personal experience here, as 14 years ago I was a convert myself.

    Robert wrote:

    Does that mean that for you there is no core set of beliefs that unites the Christian Church? And that instead of one Church one can only expect a plurality of denominations and interpretations?

    This is a terribly loaded question, and it is difficult to know where to begin addressing its assumptions. For one thing, what does “unites” mean? For another, what does “one Church” mean? The question seems to assume that “unity” is more of an institutional quality (an assumption which, I note, is the mirror-image, and so the extreme opposite, of the extreme Protestant view of merely “spiritual” unity), and that multiple institutional structures necessarily militate against “unity.” But classical Protestantism disputes this premise, so I cannot give a simple, cut-and-dried answer to the question as stated.

    Furthermore, from the standpoint of real, day-t0-day Protestantism on the ground (as opposed to the convenient caricatures that converts typically create as they seek to justify their own conversions and cause others to doubt so that they too will convert) the question “is there no core set of beliefs” is simply unintelligible. The word “Christian” itself would be meaningless if it could not be defined in terms of a core set of beliefs, and if one queried any given selection of Protestants from multiple denominations, it would be easily possible to derive a core set of beliefs that all are united on, despite their adherence to different denominations. Again, the lurking assumption of the question is the quite questionable idea that “unity” is primarily an institutional matter. It is, to be sure, much more than merely spiritual love between people, but it does not follow from that recognition that its primary quality is adherence to one particular institution labeled “the Church.”

    Again, I can’t promise a great deal of involvement on this thread. The days when I could sit around arguing with people on the Internet for hours on end are gone, and I am much better off for it.

    1. Tim,

      When I was a Protestant I was deeply troubled by the the many denominations and the range of theological positions. For a long time I was haunted by Irenaeus of Lyons’ challenge to the Gnostics that the Church confessed the same Faith no matter where one went from one end of the Roman Empire to the other. As an Orthodox Christian I can say that there is a set core of beliefs that unites all Orthodox Christians: the Seven Ecumenical Councils. The unity of the Orthodox Church is more than a shared set of beliefs and institutional arrangement. The Orthodox Church is an Eucharistic community. The Eucharist is what unites the members of local parish with each other and with other Orthodox Christians around the world. The Eucharist links the local parish to its bishop and to other communions under their respective bishops and in turn through apostolic succession links the local church to the Church Fathers. As we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection we are united in worship and we are united in his Body and Blood offered in Eucharist. So the question you labeled as a labeled as “loaded” and which seems to require the parsing of each word is really a straight forward one for an Eastern Orthodox Christian. Your tortured response reflects the predicament of an intelligent Protestant keenly aware of the messy state of contemporary Protestantism.

      Thank you for your contribution to this thread! You are welcome to join us anytime.

      1. LOL. The exclusivity of the Orthodox rears its ugly head.

        AS IF the unity of Christ’s blood is not present in any other Christian communion or by any other celebration of the Eucharist. Please. The fact is that local participation in the Eucharist transcends Orthodox unity in so many ways and enjoyment of the same is not limited to Orthodox churches.

        1. Apply some historical exegesis to the Nicene Creed for a moment. Do you think that the Councils that produced that Creed understood the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church to include churches that were in schism with the Church, such as the Donatists? Obviously, no. Do you accept the Nicene Creed? Do Creeds mean whatever you wish them to mean?

          1. No. We’re not going there at least not without a lot of work first. As Tim rightly says above–to ask yet another set of loaded questions like these does not help the discussion. For one thing, classical Protestants greatly value the creeds and to pretend our position is the creeds “mean whatever [we] wish them to mean” is obviously dealing with some other position than classical Protestantism. Besides, Eucharistic participation has not always been limited to creedal participants as those who came before the creeds quite clearly demonstrate. And, in saying that I am not merely speaking of the early Church–it is the blood of Christ that has taken care of all sin for all time available by faith in Christ and God.

            You are welcome to believe and demonstrate for us all, of course, that the entirety of Christendom save the Orthodox has fallen headlong into apostasy and in no way represents Christian Eucharistic participation when they meet together over Bread and Wine. But, you’re not going to get much of a hearing from us on it as such a view is just patently ludicrous.

        2. Keven you say: “AS IF the unity of Christ’s blood is not present in any other Christian communion or by any other celebration of the Eucharist. ”

          As an Orthodox I will not say one way or another that the Blood of Christ exists or does not exists outside of the Mysteries of the Orthodox Church.

          What I will say, however, is that I am absolutely 100% positive that Christ’s Blood DOES EXIST in the Mysteries of the Orthodox Church. Outside of Her, I am in doubt, and it is suspect whether it is the Blood of Christ, or just an aberration.

          It is this framework which shapes the Orthodox critique of those outside Her. As St. Theophan the Recluse states (loosely quoted): “Do not worry about the heterodox, for God watches over them too. However, worry that you do not fall from Orthodoxy.”

          I am getting the picture that you add a lot into the comments you read, and form arguments based on the fantasies you create.

        3. Keven you say: “For one thing, classical Protestants greatly value the creeds and to pretend our position is the creeds “mean whatever [we] wish them to mean” is obviously dealing with some other position than classical Protestantism. ”

          Which Creed? Filioque or Sans Filioque?

          Clearly, depending on your answer you will admit that they “mean whatever [we] wish them to mean.”

  14. I am unsure about how much I can benefit these conversations but I would like to add one bit if I may.

    When I think institutional unity, I think of Roman Catholicism here meaning that unity is based on one’s allegiance, in the case of the RC, to the Pope. Institutional unity is one not necessarily of faith (as some Uniates would argue, I think, because they do not all submit to all the doctrines of Rome, even if they are inconsistent in doing so). In Orthodoxy, the use of institutional unity is obviously different and I myself wouldn’t use the term ‘institutional’ in order to describe that unity given the nature of our ecclesiology and the fact that it might cause confusion without proper explanation. Instead, I would argue that our unity is one of Faith and not allegiance to a particular person, Patriarchate, etc.

    Perhaps others are better suited to explain what I mean and I ask those Orthodox who are better read than I am to correct me if I am in error. As you seem to be ready to dissect Robert’s question and look at underlying assumptions (and I do not fault you for doing so, on the contrary, it is a good practice) I would also ask that we look at semantics as well, making sure that we understand one another’s definitions. I do not fault you for using institutional necessarily. So long as we define our words correctly, it might be an apt definition for Orthodox unity. I only want to make sure that you are not equating Orthodox unity with that of Rome as is often done when Protestants look at Orthodoxy. You are well aware that we are more than just “Roman Catholicism without a Pope”. Let us better defining our terms in the future to avoid talking past one another and making assumptions based on vocabulary that we do not have an agreed definition on.

    John

  15. The nature of the comments surprised me. As someone who survived the Clark-Van Til debates, round two, and the Federal Vision controversy–though horrendously scarred by both–I’m surprised the two Protestant interlocutors accuse Mr. Arakaki of uncharity, or something.

    Going after Mathison is certainly fair game. RC Sproul considered Keith Mathison the smartest theologian on the planet (I read that quote in the RTS bookstore; forgot the specific reference). Mathison’s book on Sola Script, for example, is infinitely superior to the stuff James White puts out. When I was a Van Tillian apologist, I thought Mathison’s book was the best out there.

    Now maybe Arakaki should have gone after Zanchi or Ursinus, but outside four reformed guys in their basements, most lay people don’t read Musculus. Mathison has taken much of the best of Western scholarship and distilled it in an accessible format.

    It seems the real problem with Arakaki’s critique is that he critiqued Mathison. Y’all knew this was an Orthodox site going into it. Did you really expect Arakaki to say, “Well, Mathison bested us after all. Time to pack up and go home”? And given the nature of the critique, and the current nature of Reformed polemics (puritanboard.com, anyone?), why the hostility here?

  16. I also think the critics here are acting as though Arakaki is saying we should become Orthodox because of some existential crisis of faith due to the lack of authority. That’s not a bad argument, but I think Arakaki is just pointing out problems in Mathison’s specific argument. Even when I was a hardcore Van Tillian and thought TAG could prove the Bible’s authority (I know, go ahead and laugh. I deserve it), I still thought Mathison reasoned in a circle on what constitutes the regula fide: he says the medievals and Patristics urge us to interpret Scripture by the regula fide, which avoids the circular argument to interpret Scripture by Scripture. Yet when pressed to define the regula fide, Mathison says it is Scripture.(!)

    Even when I was a Van Tillian I saw that one.

  17. Kevin wrote:
    [David] “As for your assertion that the early Church “had no ‘new-testament scripture’ – that is just not correct. The early Church prior to the formalization of the canon had no difficulty using what we now call the New Testament and did not wait for it to have a conciliar canonical imprimatur to equate it to God’s Word and use it as such.”

    Hey Kevin, Of course there were some copies of many gospels and letters circulating around the first few centuries that were referenced. But not all ended up being recognized as Scritprue. Indeed, there were many “other gospels” and “letters” from any number of people floating about. So, despite the presence of much Scripture, the Church thought it wise to “settle” the matter. If there had not been any confusion about what should have been regarded Scripture, why was it debated and argued amongst the Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons for a few hundred years before settling it…within a Church Council? Even after the Reformation began Luther wanted to reopen the matter and reject books he didn’t like. I’m sure Robert will get to these issues in due time. There are three other Sola blogs on the way. So, he never intended to answer every possible issue/question in his first one — one you chided him for being too long to start with! 🙂 Of course, my original point (that sola scriptura could not have functioned throughout the Church in the same way during the Pratristic era up till about 354AD — as it did during the days of the Reformation or since) should be obvious to any slightely familiar with the history and making of the Cannon.

    Tim wrote: “And if there are “convert motivations” (both motivations to defend one’s own conversion and motivations to cause others to convert) present in someone doing the examination, the way to understanding becomes all the more cluttered with the twin perils of triumphalism and superficialism. I speak from deep personal experience here, as 14 years ago I was a convert myself.”

    Tim, I’ll not question your “deep personal experience”. I’ll only point out that it’s doubtful such experience gives you the ability to read hearts and motives — especially of men you don’t even know. And do we not have our own “deep personal experience”? I’ve been a Christian 50+ years and an sincere/serious Calvinist for over 32 years since my late teens (served two different PCA Churches as an Elder) but would not pretend to read your motives. Fact is, ones motive are often complex and not altogether open to us, much less others. So, let us not pretend that we know Roberts’ motives for the blog to be other than what he’s openly said — which includes wanting those in dialogue to “cross the bridge” to Orthodoxy. This should be no secret to anyone — and the burden of “persuading men” is his. Do you intend to insinuate that his motives are otherwise, and that you have (via your 14yr deep experience) unique insight into his heart? Sorry, but this is unseemly. Let’s stick with the content and specifics of the Sola Scriptura debate. You made some good interesting points there brother.

    1. David wrote:

      Hey Kevin, Of course there were some copies of many gospels and letters circulating around the first few centuries that were referenced. But not all ended up being recognized as Scritprue. Indeed, there were many “other gospels” and “letters” from any number of people floating about. So, despite the presence of much Scripture, the Church thought it wise to “settle” the matter. If there had not been any confusion about what should have been regarded Scripture, why was it debated and argued amongst the Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons for a few hundred years before settling it…within a Church Council? Even after the Reformation began Luther wanted to reopen the matter and reject books he didn’t like. I’m sure Robert will get to these issues in due time. There are three other Sola blogs on the way. So, he never intended to answer every possible issue/question in his first one — one you chided him for being too long to start with! 🙂 Of course, my original point (that sola scriptura could not have functioned throughout the Church in the same way during the Pratristic era up till about 354AD — as it did during the days of the Reformation or since) should be obvious to any slightely familiar with the history and making of the Cannon.

      David,

      Honestly, how much actual reading have you done on this subject (apart from what you might find on a site like this?). The inability on the part of some in the Church to immediately recognize some works as Scripture and others as something other than Scripture does not invalidate the authority inherent in the books that eventually were recognized as canonical nor does it mean that the Church somehow was at a loss in terms of having Scripture as the preeminent authority over her as she continued to mature. The idea that the leaders of the Church at the time spent a good deal of time arguing about the identity of the canon “for a few hundred years” is just historically uninformed. There was largely a consensus regarding the books from the current extant data and only a few of the volumes were actually disputed heavily. But, to say that sola Scriptura could not have functioned in the early Church the same way it did during the Reformation is once again looking at it from the wrong point of view and it does nothing to the Reformed position. Indeed, had heresy not been an issue it is likely that the issue of the canon would never have been settled – and none of these issues kept the Fathers overall from using the books of the New Testament as we now have them as the authoritative words of God well before anyone of them thought to provide the Church with a canon. The same is true (and even more so) with the Jewish compilation of the Hebrew Canon. There never was a council for that event, yet the Christian Church historically recognized what was clearly the case regarding the contents of the Hebrew Old Testament.

      As always, additionally, somehow we leave out the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the witness of the Word in the life of the Church. The passage ‘My sheep hear My voice’ somehow gets translated to ‘My bishops make the choice and everyone better follow them in their endorsement of what I originally said’.

      1. Kevin said, “The same is true (and even more so) with the Jewish compilation of the Hebrew Canon. There never was a council for that event, yet the Christian Church historically recognized what was clearly the case regarding the contents of the Hebrew Old Testament.” hum… has a few problems (sorry for the length…and I did edit out much!).

        A little common lite-history from Wikipedia:
        “In the Early Christian Church, the presumed fact was that the Septuagint was translated by Jews before the era of Christ, and that the Septuagint at certain places gives itself more to a christological interpretation than (say, 2nd century) Hebrew texts, was taken as evidence, that “Jews” had changed the Hebrew text in a way that made them less christological. For example Irenaeus concerning Isaiah 7.14: The Septuagint clearly writes of a virgin that shall conceive. While the Hebrew text was, according to Irenaeus, at that time interpreted by Theodotion and Aquila (both proselytes of the Jewish faith) as a young woman that shall conceive. And according to Irenaeus the Ebionites used this to claim that Joseph was the (biological) father of Jesus: From Irenaeus’ point of view that was pure heresy, facilitated by (late) anti-Christian alterations of the scripture in Hebrew, as evident by the older, pre-Christian, Septuagint.[26]”

        “When Jerome undertook the revision of the Old Latin translations of the Septuagint, he checked the Septuagint against the Hebrew texts that were then available. He came to believe that the Hebrew text better testified to Christ than the Septuagint. He broke with church tradition and translated most of the Old Testament of his Vulgate from Hebrew rather than Greek. His choice was severely criticized by Augustine, his contemporary; a flood of still less moderate criticism came from those who regarded Jerome as a forger.”

        and from “Why Orthodox Christian prefer the Septuagint Pt 4”
        http://www.prescottorthodox.org/2010/10/why-orthodox-christians-prefer-the-septuagint-part-4/

        “We have written about the differences between today’s Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the ancient Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Actually, since the Septuagint translation was finished about 290 years before Christ, and the contemporary Hebrew Masoretic text was only completed a millennium after Christ, the Septuagint version is almost 1,300 years older than the current Masoretic edition!”

        & Pt #1 here: http://preachersinstitute.com/2010/10/19/why-orthodox-christians-prefer-the-septuagint-part-1/

        “What many people do not realize is that, as long as we can determine, there have been variants in the Scriptural texts as they have come down to us. Our readers will note that we have pointed out that the texts of the Old Testament that the Protestants and Roman Catholics use today are different from the Septuagint text that the Orthodox Church has used since the time of our Saviour. Why?”

        “Some history may be useful here. By royal decree, the Septuagint text was prepared in the third century before Christ in Alexandria Egypt by the best Jewish scholars of the day.* At the time, Alexandria was the greatest center of learning in the known world, and its library was famous for its completeness and the valuable manuscripts it contained. The Septuagint translation was an occasion of great celebration, and a special day was set aside to commemorate this event in the Jewish community, which, for the most part, no longer spoke Hebrew, especially in the diaspora. (In Palestine the Jews spoke only Aramaic.) Now, with the Septuagint translation, the rabbis could instruct their people again easily in a language most of them spoke (Greek), but, in addition, they could make their faith more readily accessible to the pagan world around them. Consequently, the Septuagint was held in great esteem, and in the time of our Saviour, it was in wide use in the Jewish community (as the many quotations from it in the New Testament testify). What is also noteworthy is that Philo, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of antiquity, was also one of the foremost apologists for the Jewish religion among the pagans. Through the many tracts he wrote (all of them based on the Septuagint text), he led many thousands of pagans to convert to the Jewish faith. Yet, Philo, a contemporary of our Saviour, could not speak Hebrew. He knew only Greek.”

        “With the appearance of Christianity, however, things began to change. The many thousands of pagans who formerly had converted to Judaism now began turning to the Christian faith. In addition, thousands of Jews also converted to Christianity. Through the work of the holy Apostles, the evangélion, the “good news” of our Saviour and His triumph over mankind’s last enemy – death – began spreading like wildfire throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond.”

        “Furthermore, the Apostles were armed with proofs: the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of our Saviour’s coming. Thanks to the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, those prophecies were in a language almost everyone could understand. In the meantime, the whole Jewish world was shaken with a terrible catastrophe — the fall and complete destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70 by the Roman legions. This event, prophesied by our Saviour, caused utter consternation in the Jewish community, because, not only had the political center of the country vanished amidst inhuman atrocities and barbarity, but the Temple itself was gone! Literally, no stone was left upon a stone; the very center and heart of the Jewish faith had been ruthlessly cut out by the Romans, and even the Jewish priesthood was exterminated. The few shreds left of the city’s population were banished and the Jews began a long exile. In an attempt to restore some order out of this total devastation, around A. D. 90 or 100 a prestigious school of rabbis in the city of Jamnia (or Jabneh), which is some thirteen miles south of Jaffa, constituted a new Sanhedrin and discussed and determined the canon of the Old Testament. In view of the fact that the Septuagint was being used so extensively (and effectively) by the “new faith” (Christianity) in winning many thousands of converts from paganism and from the Jewish people themselves, it was resolved by the rabbinical school to condemn the Septuagint text and forbid its use among the Jews. The day which had been formerly been set aside as a day of celebration commemorating the translation of the Septuagint was now declared a day of mourning. Philo’s valuable tracts in defense of the Jewish faith were renounced as well, since they were based on the Septuagint translation.”

        “The Old Testament text used today by non-Orthodox Christians is the Masoretic text, which was prepared by Jewish scholars in the centuries after Christ. When they picked among the many variant texts to prepare their own version of the Old Testament, these Jewish scholars, as might be readily understood, had an already decided bias against any Scriptural variant that might lend itself to a Christian interpretation. As the centuries passed, those variant texts not used by the rabbis fell by the wayside, or were usually destroyed, and thus, about a millennium after Christ, these scholars finally arrived at what is now known as the Masoretic text.”

        “With the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in the middle of the twentieth century, however, the numerous ancient variants in the Hebrew sacred texts came to light again, and, in many cases, the Septuagint text proved to reflect the original Hebrew text better than the text that has come down to us in the later Masoretic version.”

        Oophs!!! Keivin…your wrong…unless we ignore the practice of early Church history…to join with later Roman Catholics.

        Also, Michael Hyatt (former CEO of Thomas Nelson Pubs) has an excellent Three-Part series on ‘Scripture & Tradition”…here
        http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/eastwest/scripture_and_tradition_part_1 (parts #2 & #3 are listed there just above Pt#1)

  18. Ansgar,

    If you’d like to provide a substantive rebuttal to what has already been outlined by myself and Tim Enloe, you are welcome to do so. However, I did not call Mr. Arakaki uncharitable. As for whether Mathison’s work ought to be addressed, I don’t have any problem with an Orthodox assessment of the same. Of course, anyone is welcome to evaluate the work. But, on the other hand, let us avoid giving the impression that it represents the sort of scholarly grand slam Mr. Arakaki’s review might like to validate in order to claim that a sufficient refutation of sola Scriptura has been accomplished here. What Mr. Arakaki has not done is interact with the comprehensive Reformed perspective regarding the Fathers themselves except to address the limited popular presentation made by Mr. Mathison. In the main, he has left our position fairly untouched.

    As for what R.C. Sproul has made of Mathison or his work or how it compares to that of James White, I couldn’t care less. While Sproul is well known as a Reformed pastor, his overall work has also served to devalue the depth and care necessary for a well-molded historically informed Protestant position in the name of popularizing the same and making it palatable to masses of people who have little if any real background in the subject.

    1. “What Mr. Arakaki has not done is interact with the comprehensive Reformed perspective regarding the Fathers themselves except to address the limited popular presentation made by Mr. Mathison. In the main, he has left our position fairly untouched.”

      Since this is one of many posts on this subject and those related, perhaps you can offer this as a suggestion for future posts? It’s as if you expect him to so much in one post which you yourself said was already very long. Hold your horses. I do hope that Mr. Arakaki is indeed able to get to these very issues. But considering the size of this one post, perhaps it will be acceptable if he chooses to work through the material over a span of a few, no?

      John

    2. Well, we agree about Sproul anyway. I would be interested in what constitutes the “whole Reformed perspective.” Calvin’s Institutes really don’t say that much about “authority” in the grand scheme of things. And as Bahnsen noted, finding a final reformed position on ________ is very difficult. Some would say Van Til, but as I learned the hard way at RTS, Van Til is not the standard of Reformed Epistemology, my late mentor notwithstanding.

      While Arakaki didn’t interact with the entire Reformed use of the patrum consensus, he did interact with the usual arguments Reformed people give concerning Sts Cyril and Irenaeus (anyway, this is the first of four posts, so he might). True, Blessed Augustine dynamic between Scripture and Tradition probably deserves a post to himself.

  19. “John the second” — If you remember, Mr. Arakaki faulted Mathison for not dealing with the Fathers more in-depth as I noted originally. Given that, it should come as no surprise that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  20. I’ve read Dr. Mathison’s book twice, and I have worked for hire for the publisher of Dr. Mathison’s book. I’ve devoured thousands upon thousands of pages of Luther, Mr. Sola Scriptura himself. I’ve been to lectures and conferences on such matters, and I’ve been a guest in the homes of Protestant men such as Sproul and DeMar. Heck, I even wrote for Mr. Johnson’s website Reformed Catholicism for several years. And after all that, I still became Orthodox.

    Mr. Johnson is virtually alone in his claim that Dr. Mathison’s book does not state the Protestant position(s) on Scripture. Most Protestants I know who have read this book seem to wave it around as a trump card. They will not be able to do that anymore once they read this.

    Not only do I believe that Mr. Arakaki’s critique of Dr. Mathison’s book is spot-on, I believe it withstands Mr. Johnson’s critique. I find plenty of heat and little light in Mr. Johnson’s statements, and I will certainly commend this critique to others interested in exploring this issues.

    1. Jamey,

      Such formalism for such old friends! Not necessary. I use “Mr.” with Arakaki because I do not know him personally. At any rate, I’m not alone in my implied critique of Mathison’s work and on an issue like this Google is certainly likely your friend. But, better friends are had in our tradition on this issue that have already passed from this world. No one questions your street cred on once being a town crier of Reformedville, but the fact that you personally went the way of Orthodoxy is no reflection upon the legitimacy of the arguments I’m presenting nor is it immediately relevant. It makes for great theater however! You should have posted a picture of your new tattoo as a signature on your comment.

      The idea that “most Protestants…wave [Mathison’s book] around as a trump card” is also definitely exaggeration, but even if it wasn’t–so what? Most Protestants today endorse a variety of silliness just as most who at least grew up Orthodox or Catholic know very little about the history and theological underpinnings of their own ethnic identity. But, none of that has anything to do really with the issues at hand. While you are free to disagree with Tim and I on these things, demonstrating that we are wrong is yet another exercise you have yet to complete. I’m guessing you’re not really interested in doing that and you prefer bluster to a more appropriate demonstration where I’m in error.

      Last, regarding your unfounded comment on heat vs. light, I can only say that what I present with passion here is the truth as I see it. I’m sorry if you don’t agree, but hopefully you’ll at least take the time to continue to read what I write.

  21. Here’s another thought: while Arakaki could have done an extensive review of Whitaker or somebody, the fact is many Reformed people are touting Mathison’s book as the new definitive argument for s.s. Whether or not you agree, that appears to be the case. Tabletalk has a wide readership, and while it isn’t much of a theological periodical, I admit, it probably represents the lay Reformed mindset accurately.

    Mr. Arakaki probably reviewed this particular piece because that is what many people are probably reading. But let’s pretend I’m wrong. Fair enough. What is the definitive “be all” book for sola scriptura?

    1. >>>But let’s pretend I’m wrong. Fair enough. What is the definitive “be all” book for sola scriptura?

      No. Part of our point here is that this is the wrong question. This is not a matter of what’s the “be all” or best of breed book to respond to – when you’re working with an entire set of traditions (Reformed or otherwise) from an opposing or alternate perspective you can’t point to one book or one work that will encompass all that needs to be said whether you are pro or con. That doesn’t mean you can’t review a particular book, but it does mean you can’t adequately address the matter as if the opposing arguments and resulting traditions have been slam dunk defeated through the minimal effort of writing a single book review (multi-post as it may become).

      For one thing, it could very well be that the definitive book has yet to be written that would satisfy your particular concerns or that of Orthodoxy–or more likely–no book can be written that would persuade you in the first place and all we are left with is the sort of punching bag Mathison’s book has become in Catholic and Orthodox circles (similarly, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead”).

      Secondly, just because Mathison’s book is well read and accepted by many in conservative Reformed camps today doesn’t mean automatically that it either represents the Reformed tradition in the main or that it ought to be the work to turn to in evaluating the massive amount of material on sola Scriptura from an Orthodox perspective–unless of course you really are working with an axe to grind in trying to convince people who are only superficially aware of the Reformed faith to jump ship and embrace an equally shallow icon-filled existence in Orthodoxy.

      We’re not here to paint the target for you all in order to enable you to shoot and split any previous arrows dead center like some sort of heroic Robin Hood. The fact that you need our help in doing so just demonstrates how little has actually been investigated on the Orthodox side of the fence in examining Reformed doctrine, history, and practice with an eye to understanding it as it actually is and has been over the centuries. Do the spade work yourself and get back to us. Make it clear that you’ve actually read the relevant primary source material in terms of both the Reformed and the early Church. So far, I’m not convinced anyone here has (yeah, yeah, I know Mr. Arakaki has at least four more posts coming with at least one of them being a 3.5 page single space reply to yours truly–but even here we’re just not going to take his word for it. I leave it to him to demonstrate his depth of learning in regards to these things and then we’ll see if further response is required).

      Besides, more work on a foundational level needs to be addressed and that’s the very sort of thing that Mr. Arakaki has skipped over in addition to only lightly treating Mr. Mathison’s arguments and the Reformed position in general as I have already pointed out. Because Mr. Arakaki has decided to descend upon the particulars without really discussing the foundational differences that keep us leagues apart, we will never really get to a helpful estimation of the Reformed understanding from an Orthodox perspective in this discussion–at least, not until the discussion has been reframed and reset along more appropriate lines. Otherwise, all that winds up happening here is just more paper tiger destruction.

      It’s okay, though, because Tim and I are used to it. You guys are just late to the party. I’ll hear you out, though, and perhaps something profitable can be gained from the exchange. I have my doubts, but I’m usually a real sucker for the one in million chance that this discussion will end up differently than most all the other ones. Prove me wrong. I welcome it.

      1. Mathison’s book is certainly the best argument any reformed writer has put out on the subject. It falls flat too, but I would be interested in your pointing to a better defense of your position on Sola Scriptura.

        1. [tap tap tap, Kevin hits the microphone]

          Is anyone listening???

          I’m not here to present you with a better defense or the best defense of sola Scriptura. I even stated early on I’m not here to defend Mathison’s work.

          I know that’s what you guys would like to see, but I don’t work for the Department of Provide Arguments To Knock Down In the Name of Orthodoxy. Do the research yourself. However, if you think Mathison’s work is the best out there, you are manifestly uninformed about the subject and classical Protestantism as a whole. That much we know. That should set off warning flags for anyone seriously interested in these topics that what is going on here is manifestly something other than a proper examination of all things Protestant.

          1. Keven you write: “However, if you think Mathison’s work is the best out there, you are manifestly uninformed about the subject and classical Protestantism as a whole.”

            I’ve already stated this once, but I am unable to control myself from over-stating it…. why is present day Protestantism different from Classical Protestantism? Furthermore don’t you think that a issue with this idea (that present day differs from the classical) is a horrible sticking point against the consistency of the Protestant position?

            The Holy Spirit is absolutely consistent: from Adam, through the Judges, Kings, the Prophets, and the Disciples, the Spirit has pointed in one direction with absolute consistency.

            Why then should the understanding of Christianity, and the method through which Her teachings are present, be inconsistent? Does the Holy Spirit NOT lead Protestantism?

            If you say it does not, why then should we consider Protestants to be Christian? If it does, why are there inconsistencies, not only in present day, but as you so conveniently, and ironically abhorrently argue for, inconsistencies between the teachings of the classical reformers and their present day descendants?

          2. Kevin, I have been debating Protestants of all stripes, including Reformed folks such as William Webster and James White for years on this issue. The fact that you cannot name a better defense, but pretend to know of one is simply disingenuous. If there was one, I would have ran across it by now — unless, perhaps, if it was very recent in vintage. And the early reformers are of no real help to you here, because they wrote before Protestantism had become the undeniable mess that it has become, and before the advent of historical criticism which is a factor that has to be dealt with on this issue.

  22. Robert,

    In point of fact, as I said, there is a great deal of theological unity among Protestants. Converts to other traditions tend to downplay the unity and up-play the diversity because that serves the agenda of trying to make others doubt, become unstable, and follow the convert’s own path through radical uncertainty into a (supposed) final resting place in The (supposedly Clear and Objective) One True Tradition. But there is no reason why a Protestant could not reverse this order and instead choose to focus on the large amount of agreement between different denominations. Though I am no expert on the matter, I do believe that the Orthodox recognize a lot of theological diversity, as in the concept of a difference between dogmas and “theologoumena,” or matters of theology that do not require absolute uniformity of belief. And of course there’s the undeniable fact that much of Orthodoxy on the ground is seemingly hopelessly disunited on matters of ethnic coloring of theological and disciplinary claims.

    So, the idea that many converts have, that as Protestants they were hopelessly adrift in a sea of irreconcilable diversity of thought on truly core beliefs, but then when they found The (supposedly Clear and Objective) One True Tradition, all troubles with diversity were put to rest in a sea of uniform agreement is simply nonsense. I don’t feel one bit of existential angst over the diversity of Protestantism that, according to converts, I ought to feel when I face the claims of Rome or Orthodoxy to superior “unity.” Neither the claims about Protestant diversity nor the claims to superior unity are true. Both are exaggerated, and serve a narrow apologetic agenda that collapses if one stops fearing being uncertain of “Truth” and instead becomes a wisdom-seeker aware of his own limitations and not quick to conclude that others are somehow perversely denying what is “plain.”

    Furthermore, despite the simplistic rhetoric of converts (who, at least on the Roman Catholic side, are anything but what they claim to be, i.e., “deep in history” – a claim I see also articulated by many Orthodox converts), there is actually a great deal of the faith of Irenaeus, and all of the Fathers, deeply embedded in classical Protestant thought. The Reformers were not backwoods rubes reading patristic quotebooks and thinking they were “all that” because of it. They were very serious, highly trained scholars of the Fathers, and whatever you or any Modern ex-Protestants might think of their claims, you need to make sure you are thoroughly familiar with those claims before issuing protests about “what the Fathers clearly believed” and how it is supposedly so out of step with core Protestant ideals.

    Lastly, please understand that my response on the matter of Protestant diversity was not “tortured.” As a committed classical Protestant, I don’t have any trouble saying that yes, I have often been troubled by the large number of theological disagreements amongst Protestants. The old saw of Catholics that there are “33,000 denominations…and counting” has long been shown to be a gross caricature of the actual state of Protestantism, but sure, there are an awful lot of disagreements and these can be troubling the deeper one gets into trying to resolve them for oneself.
    Nevertheless, it is not helpful to begin a discussion with an well-informed Protestant (as Kevin and I are) by asking loaded questions like “Is there no core set of beliefs that unifies?”, or portraying complicated historical matters such as the interpretation of the Church Fathers in a simplistic manner such as “Where is the faith of Irenaeus of Lyons?” Much less is it helpful to quickly assume an admission of the problems of diversity reflects a mind “tortured” by the “predicament” of a messy Protestantism. Committed and well-informed Protestants never have been surprised by the lack of uniformity, nor surprised by the supposed greater degree of “unity” in other traditions. Much of what are you saying makes me wonder how well you actually understand the Reformation itself and its various mutations through history – particularly in the American context.

    I am not trying to be rude, really, but so far, this thread has just been one more iteration of a “same old, same old” mess of caricatures that Kevin and I have encountered for well over a decade. It’s never yet shaken us, and it isn’t likely to shake us now – not because we deny what is “clear” in history or because we are somehow just biased in favor of silly and novel theories that don’t “work,” but because we are actually informed about our own tradition and have taken the time to think through the sorts of arguments you and your friends are making in great detail and in dialogue with the best historic representatives of our tradition.

    1. Tim you say: “In point of fact, as I said, there is a great deal of theological unity among Protestants.”

      Christ stated at the Last Supper, ‘This is My Body.” Christ appeared after the Resurrection to the Apostles and ate with them. Christ appeared to Thomas and Thomas touched His physical wounds. Christ ascended into Heaven in His Body. Contrary to popular belief, He did not ascend “spiritually.”

      Where am I headed with this? Protestants love to say that the Church is Christ’s Body, and we are all members. Yet as the above points out, Christ’s Body is absolutely physical. There is no denying it. It is definitely has physical properties.

      If it is the case that Christ’s Body regarding the Eucharist, the appearing to the Disciples, Thomas, and His Ascension all conclude that it is physical in Nature, then we must conclude that His Church, being His Body, is ALSO physical in nature.

      This being the case: where is Christ’s Church? If it is physical, then we should be able to point to it with absolute certainty.

      Well? Where is it?

  23. Mr. Olav,

    As for Mathison’s argument about the relationship of Scripture and the regula fide, perhaps it would behoove everyone to more deeply study the Fathers. I absolutely hate “quote wars” on the Internet, but it would not be difficult to produce a very large number of citations from many Fathers – not just isolated sentences, but sections with extensive context – that show them arguing for the superiority of Scripture over all other sources, even over “tradition.” On the other hand, it is also possible to cite Fathers who seem to argue that “tradition” is somehow hermeneutically prior to Scripture, which seems to lend support to Rome’s and Orthodoxy’s claims. But the mere fact that the other sorts of citations exist serves to show that this issue is most certainly NOT a matter of one side simply believing “what the Fathers say” while the other side perversely ignores or obviously twists it. Claims that “the Fathers believed ____” are typically exaggerated precisely because they reduce the complex mass of men who make up the category “the Fathers” to a caricature. Protestants are guilty of doing this too, of course, but then, Protestants don’t claim in the first place to make “the Fathers” normative for all theological thought after their time. We simply don’t have the same burden of proof as those who DO make that claim.

  24. David,

    I don’t claim to be able to read your heart. I can, however, read your assertions and arguments. And so far, it’s nothing that causes me alarm. For instance, your argument to Kevin about Luther “removing” books he didn’t like from the canon. Sorry, but if that is the quality of your understanding of Church history, if that’s an indicator of your grasp of the flow of ideas and the pivotal events, then I don’t have anything to worry about.

    To be charitable (for this often happens to me), maybe you’re just writing hastily because this is a blog and blogs seem to demand quick-quick-quick responses, and so maybe you can actually argue in a more responsible and informed manner than that. If so, please do. You’re not talking to a couple of Bible-thumping rubes whose motto is “Westminster said it, I believe it, that settles it,” or whose reading base consists of popular-level tracts about how awesome the TULIP is or how for 1300 years after the Apostles, everything went south until Wycliffe, Huss, and Luther rose up, de novo, took the Bible at face value, and recovered Real Christianity (© 1517).
    You should also know that in Kevin and I you’re not dealing with a couple of fanatics who think that if someone becomes Catholic or Orthodox, they have apostatized from “the Gospel” (© 1517) and must be treated like rank heathens. Kevin and I actually do understand many of the motivations that lead people to leave Protestantism, and we are in the main sympathetic to many of them. Where we diverge is in believing, nevertheless, that those reasons are ultimately inadequate when they are set in the context of a really thorough grasp of what the Reformation was about, what its central claims actually were, and what those claims mean for today.

    Now I appreciate that you’ve been a Christian for 50 years and that you were a Calvinist for 32 of those. But 32 years as a Calvinist doesn’t necessarily mean you understood the Reformation. As a matter of fact, most Protestants today – among the a great many elders and pastors – are abysmally ignorant of anything more than the pop-level treatments of historical and theological issues. Kevin and I, while not experts ourselves, have read far more widely than most of our co-religionists who frequent blogs and argue with Catholics and Protestants, and I think if you got to know us over a long haul you’d quickly find out that we can be just as sharply critical of our own Protestant brothers as we can be of our Catholic and Orthodox brothers.
    Thanks for your time, brother. If I can make it back to see further response, I will. But life is hectic for me right now, and as I often have three small children hovering around me while I’m trying to do anything on the computer, you will have to forgive me if I fail to live up to your expectations in terms of a dialogue partner.

    1. Dear Folks,

      Thank you for your lively discussion.

      I’ve written a three and half page single spaced response to Kevin’s critique of my review. I’m trying to make it succinct, three and a quarter single spaced. 🙂 My response will be posted in a few days. In the meantime keep the tone of discussion positive.

      Robert

    2. Tim,
      I’m sure we agree far more theologically than you imagine. Nor do I imagine for a moment (given the great depths of uncommon theological acumen you and Kevin bring to any discssion) that you are “Bible-thumping rubes” (the Luther blunder and Olav’s ready quotes notwithstanding). And I do promise to try to type a bit slower, if only you will grace us with your return from far more pressing things. And, of course, neither of us have any reason to be “alarmed” or need “worry”about the other! 🙂

  25. Sadly, Tim, you are correct about the “quote wars.” It even goes beyond mere “context” but to the cultural, historical, and philosophical mileu: all of which are beyond the talent and interest of any here to replicate, myself included.

    I am not touting my credentials, for I have none, but for some background (and I’ve followed your blog(s) for years now, even listening to some of your podcasts on Alfred the Great and Bede, which are quite fine) I’ve read through the Institutes–Calvin be praised– close to three times, plus dozens (hundreds?) of sytematic, historical theo. and church history books from leading peer-reviewed authors, almost all from a Reformed and Evangelical viewpoint. I got burned at RTS for not saying Greg Bahnsen, Steve Wilkins, and Doug Wilson are going to hell. I’ve read all but two or three of the leading peer-reviewed books on Maximus and monotheletism and 5,000-6,000 double-columned small print pages from the church father Schaff set.

    I speak as a fool. In any case, I agree with you all that there are better arguments against Protestantism than simply, “Well, Protestants are simply Campbellite Restorationists.” That’s true of the Trinity Foundation, but probably not of all Protestants (and I have Luther quotes–volume and page number– where he advocates excising books from the canon: James, Revelation, Hebrews, Jude. Perhaps simplistic historiography, but Luther *did* say it).

    No doubt we’ve flogged this horse to death, and given that Mr Arakaki has hinted at three more (presumably lengthy) posts on this subject, one suspects many of the questions and issues will be dealt with there.

  26. Kevin wrote,

    ***You guys are just late to the party.***

    Not really. I was commenting on Tim’s blog against Dave Armstrong years ago. Tim did a number of posts on “conversion” with which I am familiar. I’ve been in and out of debates with Jay Dyer for years now.

    I’ve had three or four thousand posts on Puritanboard for almost 8 years. I’m fairly familiar with what is going on in the Reformed/Evangelical scene (except for the past two years, in which I have stopped caring).

  27. Now that I remember, I was at AAPC during the Federal Vision Civil War, so I’m familiar with the charge that we/they were all closet-Romanists, and I got to interview a number of major FV guys. (I had forgotten about that until now).

  28. Re: Scripture & Tradition.
    (Note: this is a copy-paste from a WordPerfect document which has Tabs, and may not “take” perfectly when inserted into this blog)

    Much of the earlier part of this discussion comes from: Sid Z. Leiman, “The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture, The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence ”, The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, New Haven, Connecticut, 1976, 1991 (2nd Ed). ISBN 1-878508-04-0. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 91-72569.

    On p 131, Sid observes that:

    “In Chapter 1, the Torah and Prophets were shown to have been considered inspired and canonical by ca. 450 BC”

    Lower down on the same page he continues:

    “The biblical canon was effectively closed when it was decided that no more books could be added to the select group of books which were considered canonical and inspired. The extant evidence does not allow for a precise dating of that decision, nor does it identify the decision-making body. Nevertheless, three distinct lines of evidence converge, all pointing to a mid-second century B.C. dating for the closing of the Hagiographa, and with it, the biblical canon. These are:

    a) The literary activity ascribed to Judah Maccabee.
    b) The canonization of the present form of Daniel, which almost certainly is dateable to the early Maccabean period. There is no evidence that normative Judaism ever again considered *adding* a book to the biblical canon. Since no books were added to the biblical canon, it was colsed.
    c) The existence of the Proto-Lucianic recension of the Greek Bible in the second century B.C., which indicated that the stabilisation of the text of the Hebrew Scripture was already in process. Such activity presupposes a fixed canon.”

    # The “Hagiographa” referred-to here is the Ketubim.

    # Dot point ( c) in referring to the ‘Greek Bible’ is in fact referring to the LXX. And of the considered view in the Holy Land that the LXX was seriously defective, and in need of “improvement”, and that a version known as “proto-Lucianic” was already completed towards this end. (In fact, the LXX Daniel was so defective that it had to be replaced by Theodotion’s version!)

    # Dot point (a) refers back to p.29:

    “The Apocrypha provides another passage which may bear on canonisation. After describing Nehemiah’s literary activities, 2Maccabees continues as follows:

    ‘In the same way Judah also collected all the books that had been lost on account of the war which had come upon us, and they are in our possession. So, if you have need of them, send people to get them for you’ (2Maccabees 2:14-15).

    “The literary activity ascribed here to Judah Maccabee may, in fact, be a description of the closing of the Hagiographa, and with it, the entire biblical canon. Although literary activity is nowhere else ascribed to him, such activity by Judah Maccabee, or by other Hasmoneans under his aegis, may have been a response to the attempt on the part of Antiochus IV to destroy Hebrew Scripture.”

    “The attempt on the part of Antiochus IV to destroy Hebrew Scripture” was in fact the substitution of the Hebrew/Aramaic text by what was then available in the LXX which was made mandatory. And that the use of the Hebrew/Aramaic original had the death-penalty attached to it.

    The literary activity ascribed here to Judah Maccabee in the Canonization of Daniel (Dot point (b)), in the light of the birth of the Feast of Hanukkah (which he originated) clearly had in mind a terminus ad quem of 331BCE for literary composition, so as to forever exclude anything either originally written in or translated into Greek, so as not to pollute the Biblical Tanak with any facet or aspect of Hellenism.

    Further, for NT Canon purposes, if one examines those responsible for the Author(s)/Authorisers of the Tanak one can see a pattern when read together with Luke’s genealogy:

    The Tanak Canon Contents
    Book:
    English Name Author(s) / Compiler(s):

    Torah/Law
    Genesis Moses
    Exodus Moses
    Leviticus Moses
    Numbers Moses
    Deuteronomy Moses + [Joshua (ch34)]

    Neviyim/Prophets (Haftorah)
    Nevi’yim Rishonim Early Prophets
    Joshua Joshua + [Moses (ch13:15 34)]
    Judges Samuel
    1 Samuel Samuel
    2 Samuel Samuel
    1 Kings Jeremiah
    2 Kings Jeremiah
    Isaiah Hezekiah’s Colleagues
    Jeremiah Jeremiah
    Ezekiel the Men of the Great Assembly {1}

    Nevi’yim Acharonim Later Prophets
    Hosea authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Joel authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Amos authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Obadiah authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Jonah authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Micah authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Nahum authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Habakkuk authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Zephaniah authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Haggai authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Zechariah authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Malachi authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}

    Ketubim/Writings
    Psalms David (editor & author) {2}
    Proverbs Hezekiah’s Colleagues
    Job Moses
    Song of Songs Hezekiah’s Colleagues
    Ruth Samuel
    Lamentations Jeremiah
    Ecclesiasties Hezekiah’s Colleagues
    Esther authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Daniel authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1}
    Ezra Ezra
    Nehemiah Nehemiah
    1 Chronicles Ezra
    2 Chronicles Ezra (to his time) then Nehemiah.

    “Assembled and authorised by the Men of the Great Assembly {1} – at one stage headed by Zerubavel.”
    = the “Sanhedrin” of the Jews at the time of the Prophet / Writer.
    = the successors to the “seventy” appointed by Moses – Numbers 11:10-17 (cf Exodus 18:17-26).
    = the head of this Great Assembly over the generations is listed in Jesus’ genealogy in the Gospel of Luke.

    David (editor & author) {2}
    > includes works by Adam, Melkisidek, Abraham, Moses, Heman, Yeduthun, Asaph + the 3 sons of Korah.

    This is from the Talmud – Tractate : Baba Bathra 14b (order) & 15a (authorship)
    +++
    All this is by way of introduction to the Scripture vs Tradition debate.

    Careful study of the genealogies before Matthan (Luke 3:24) – both inside and outside Canonical Literature yields the solid fact that almost all the Tanak other than the Torah, was Authored/Authorised by someone either IN Luke’s genealogy, or at the most once-removed from it. And that the literary activity ascribed above to Judah Maccabee was in fact at the behest of these Men of the Great Assembly.

    Thus, already at this early stage, the “Scripture” that Jesus had at His disposal was none other or more than the Tanak we have today. And that this was considered binding on all parties in Judaism – including those in Jesus’ circle. Only the Hellenisers, in league with their Alexandrian colleagues, and the Sadducees begged to differ.

    Thus, also, while the various parties in late Second Temple Judaism had their own small “t” traditions, all considered the “Scripture” herein-referred-to as superior to all their traditions. Not even the Mishnah – already “stable” in Oral form had the Authority of this Scripture.

    We now proceed to the writers of the NT. What follows genealogically has the various and strategic errors and obfuscations of both the Greek and Latin ecclesiastical traditions eliminated, and where differences to these two sources exist, this depends substantially, although not completely, upon the genealogies as held by the various western European and British Royal Houses.

    The Matthan in Luke 3:24 adopted the Jacob in Matt. 1:15,16 as his son and called him “Heli”. This was the father of Joseph of Nazareth and Cleopas of Emmaus. From here, we will only trace the descent from these two that affects the authorship of the NT.

    Joseph of Nazareth had 6 Children to Salome (his first wife and before he was “betrothed” to Mary). Two of these: Yacov (James – the Just) and Yhuda (Jude) authored NT writings: James and Jude respectively. The first also wrote the Protevangelium.

    Cleopas of Emmaus had at least 5 sons, two of which were Mattiyahu (Matthew) and Yochanan (John Mark) who authored the Gospels in their respective names. It is also suspected that Matthew authored much of the Didache which was issued in its finished-form by John the Evangelist. Cleopas was married to a Mary – the sister of Mary Theotokos (see below).

    John the Evangelist had a priestly line direct back to the Hasmonean priests of the “course of Abijah” (Luke 1:5) at Modin – as was Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist. These Hasmonean priests at Modin were under the direct legal protection of the House of Arimathea (the Luke genealogy). And subsequent to the permanent exile of Onias IV and all his descendants by the Selucids on or around 175BCE to Egypt, this line of Abijah is the “backup” High Priestly Line going back to Yehezdah and Seriah (the ancestor of Onias IV) . John’s mother, Salome was the second daughter of Jehoachim (below), and thus was the nephew of Mary Theotokos. (Thus his “beloved” status in the NT.)

    Peter, the Epistles-writer was married to Perpetua, the daughter of Aristobulus – younger brother to Joseph of Arimathea (who buried Jesus in his new tomb). Perpetua’s brother was Clement – second Bishop of Rome and the author of 1 Clement.

    Now for Joseph of Arimathea. The Matthan in Luke 3:24 had at least 4 children: Esther, Jehoachim, Miriam and Joseph. Esther was the mother of Elizabeth and thus was the grandmother of John the Baptist. Jehoachim was the father of Mary Theotokos and thus was the only earthly grandfather of Jesus. Joseph bar Matthan also had a son named Joseph who was the “Joseph of Arimathea” mentioned above.

    Luke (the Gospel and Acts writer) comes into the picture as the Lawyer and Doctor to the House of Arimathea. His Gospel was thus under the direct authority of Joseph of Arimathea- the official “Visitor” to the Jerusalem Bet Din headed by James the Just. With Luke or John the probable author of the Epistle to the Hebrews – contra the speculation of Clement of Alexandria. Luke thus had a superiority to Paul in terms of “Authority” for the purposes of Canonical Literature.

    At this point, let us pause and consider where we are. (1) We just have accounted for all the non-Pauline literature in the NT! Why have I labored this point of genealogy so much? (2) I have just demonstrated that ALL the non-Pauline literature in the NT came from precisely the same Arimathean family “orbit” who authorised the vast majority of the Tanak. And who had CLOSED the Canon of the Tanak – before Jesus’ birth.

    And thus, within their Jewish context, their NT writings, in a very real sense, even as they came from the quill of their Authors ab initio already had the aura and legitimacy of “Canonical Authority” about them – without any further action by anyone regarding their “Canonization” being required. And were thus de-facto required to be regarded as NT “Canon” by the rest of the Church – without reference to any later Church activity regarding their status or “Authority”.

    As far as the first-generation, “Jerusalem Central” Church was concerned, they were thus equally required to be regarded as *above* any subsequent “NT Tradition” that would emerge, as was the earlier Tanak. The later, and well-documented trouble regarding their acceptance as part of a NT Canon was a direct function of the early resistance of the Pauline – “moderate Marcionite” – Constantinian-Imperial Church Continuum in accepting the legitimacy of “Jerusalem Central” as an antecedent, ab initio Canonical Authority.

    Thus, since Paul had a testy and souring relationship with “Jerusalem Central” (see below), the only Literature – either OT or NT, that can legitimately be regarded as *within* Church tradition is Pauline Literature! Also, as far as I can ascertain, the Jewish “Jerusalem-Central” Church, under St James the Just, held most of the Oral form of the Mishnah (already 95% stable at that time) to be of superior quality, and thus “authority” to all written Pauline Literature that would eventually emerge.

    Thus, the quadripartite schema taxonomy advanced by R.K Arakaki needs to be enlarged to form a five-fold schema:

    1: “Jerusalem-Central’ & their gentile affiliates: the British (Celtic) Church*, the Church in Ethiopia, the Church in Edessa and Persia (the users of the Peshitta) and the Church of Mar Toma in India
    *(established by Joseph of Arimathea)

    2: The Pauline – “moderate Marcionite” – Constantinian-Imperial Church Continuum – what Arakaki describes as the “Early Church”.

    3: Medieval Roman Papalism – called Medieval Catholicism by Arakaki.

    4: Sixteenth-Century “magesterial” Protestantism – called Protestant Reformation by Arakaki

    5: Protestant Fundamentalism – same as Arakaki.

    Here, Arakaki appears to have missed the first and vital member of this schema.

    The relationship between Scripture and Tradition thus needs to be put more subtly, as does their Governance Structure. Only the first member in the new five-fold schema (Jerusalem Central) will be treated, the remainder, as qualified by the above are essentially sound, and need no adjustment:

    $ Scripture – Tradition nexus:
    # “Family Canonical Literature”* – Scripture Over tradition, and
    # Pauline Literature – Writings within tradition**.

    * that is, within the “Arimathean orbit”.
    ** that is small “t” tradition.

    $ Governance Structure:
    # As per Jewish Synagogues – a “family” of inter-connected Congregations, autocephalous in local governance, but congruent in Kerygma, Didache and Praxis; linked together by intermarriage amongst the congregations – without reference to a Romanised “Diocesan” structure with its Prefect=Bishop equivalence and its inter-Episcopal linkages, and thus Episcopal “conciliarity”.

    NB1: This was behind Joseph of Arimathea’s authorizing his children to intermarry amongst the British royal families as Christianity came to the British Isles from 36CE onwards.
    NB2: This was the point made by the Nazarene “desposnyi”* to Pope Sylvester in 318 as documented by Malachi Martin.
    * the blood-descendants of Joseph of Nazareth.

    Thus, the dot-point #1 (directly underneath Arakaki’s 4-fold taxonomy) in Arakaki’s attempt to shift “authority” from Source to “authority” (i.e. governance-structure) fails at the first hurdle in that on face value (pace Arakaki’s entire article) it totally disregards the Canonization process as outlined above and as set forth more completely by Sid Z Leiman, and presumes (what he describes as the “Early Church”), namely the Pauline – “moderate Marcionite” – Constantinian-Imperial Church Continuum *must* constitute the “norm” by which all other Scripture-Tradition, and Governance-debates must be constrained.

    Thus, the Scriptural Canon, whilst certainly existing *within* the Church has to be approached with far more nuance:

    # For the Tanak and all NT non-Pauline literature:
    – for the Church, this possesses an inherent, ab initio Canonical “Authority” above any Church Bishop or Church Council, and any Church Bishop or Church Council who wishes to claim any form of “Apostolic Succession” or “Apostolic Authority” must be in abject submission to both the Tanak and all NT non-Pauline literature – he/they has/have *no* “authority” over this literature whatsoever! It is for this class of Biblical Literature that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura supra Tradition is mandatory and unaviodable.

    # For all Pauline literature:
    – as it was quite deliberately *not* written by Paul within the Arimathean “orbit” or subject to its authorisation, the Pauline – “moderate Marcionite” – Constantinian-Imperial Church Continuum can do pretty well what it likes with it, and it is thus within their competence to “canonize” or “de-canonize” it as they please – without affecting their “Apostolic Succession” or “Apostolic Authority” claims. Thus, Bishops and Church Councils do have a real sense of “authority” over this Pauline literature. [As an aside, most of the “OT ‘deuterocanonical’ literature” also falls within this category.] This class of Literature alone (Pauline and Deuterocanonical) can operate independently of the Sola Scriptura doctrine.

    Thus, the inclusion of the above Canonical narrative would both strengthen Mathison, and weaken Arakaki, and would, I suspect, force Arakaki back towards the “Source” argument he so desperately wishes to avoid. He may have something else up his sleeve in later postings, we will have to wait and see.

    With respect to his end-notes:
    #1 His “A formally defined universal and standard canon of Scripture would not come into existence until the fourth century” does not account for the above Canonical narrative, and more properly applies only to his “Early Church” category as I have qualified it above.
    #2 I note that Arakaki’s main arguments *for* a tradition-based authority from “scripture” are Pauline, and are thus circular arguments in the light of the above narrative, and need further attention.

    Peter’s comments on Pauline literature (2 Peter 3:14-16) continue to invite differing interpretations as many readers of this site are well-aware. Since Paul’s sarcastic dismissals of “Jerusalem Central” in a number of his epistles are well-known, we can be confident that the Arimathean Jerusalem Central would not have either happily or easily acquiesced with Peter’s rather unilateral declaration.

    The Pauline – “moderate Marcionite” – Constantinian-Imperial Church Continuum – both Greek and Latin, is rightly terrified of this schema as it forces them – whether they like it or (as is strongly suspected) not, back to a more Jewish form of Authority with respect to Canonical Literature in which their cherished gentile Bishops, Church Fathers and Church Councils have very little, if any say whatsoever. And where huge swathes of gentile Patristic ecclesiology *must* be set aside in favor of something more faithful to the Jewish Tradition of St James the Just, St John the Evangelist, and St Joseph of Arimathea.

    +++

    With the above Canonical narrative on board, we can now move to interact with some of the blogs:

    # Kevin D Johnson (June 7 & 9) in his points on Acts 17:11 remains untouched – even vindicated.

    # Canadian (June 8 – 03:55am) in his commentary on Acts 17:11, in stating that Paul *added* to the “Scriptures” needs to read Luke more carefully. This is the central Kerygma of the Church received directly from Jesus Himself (pace Luke 24:44-49), and thus is above any form of Tradition.

    # Canadian (June 8 – 11:23am) in his comments on schism, appears to be coming at it from a post-Constantinian perspective within a Roman form of jurisdiction I have referred-to above.

    Schism, as understood Jewishly in the first generation “Jerusalem Central” Church, was primarily based on doctrinal issues, and this was determined by reference to Jewish Canonical Literature (Tanak + non-Pauline) – in the Hebrew/Aramaic, as interpreted by the Jewish fourfold hermeneutic of PaRDeS.

    Schism, as interpreted by the Erastian, Constantinian church was defined as lack of submission to Imperial Episcopal appointees and their “tradition(s)”, with only subordinate reference to doctrine. This was precisely in line with the traditional pre-Christian pagan Roman attitude towards the official State cult of the day.

    # The narrative that I have laid out for the Tanak and the non-Pauline Canonical literature, vindicates Kevin D Johnson (June 8 – 4:39pm) in his response to David: “As for your assertion that the early Church “had no ‘new-testament scripture’ – that is just not correct. The early Church prior to the formalization of the canon had no difficulty using what we now call the New Testament and did not wait for it to have a conciliar canonical imprimatur to equate it to God’s Word and use it as such.” In fact, it may even strengthen Kevin in his approach to Scripture!

    # Fr. John Whiteford (June 9 11:16am) in his response to Kevin, whilst technically correct, nevertheless begs two issues: (1) Q: to whom was Donatus reacting? A: Liberal, primarily Roman and Romanised Bishops. (2) who would Fr. John rather support: an official, but traditore (and hence compromised) Bishop; or a conservative with a stronger doctrinal affinity with the first century Jerusalem Central Church, and with a track-record of strong opposition to the traditores? See also my answer to Canadian (June 8 11:23 – above) on Schism.

    On the Nicene Creed, the two Councils that finally produced the Nicene Creed did the very best with what they had to work with – namely the Greek language (itself a whole world away from the Yahwist Hebrew/Aramaic) , and an environment of speculative, paganized Greek metaphysics from Mt Olympus, Mt Parnassus, and the Delphic Oracle etc, that even affected and corrupted the Greek language itself. While the theological intent in the finalised Creed in 381 was perfectly correct – and the Councils are to be commended for it, had they done their theology in Hebrew or Aramaic, rather than in Greek (as was always originally intended by Jerusalem Central), they would not have had the Greek metaphysical linguistic tangles to consider, and thus would have said it differently, with different words, and thus be more in line with a Hebrew/Aramaic phronema.

    # David’s comments (June 8 9:57pm) in response to Kevin are generally correct. However, his notion that “the Church thought it wise to “settle” the matter” could only apply in a Pauline – “moderate Marcionite” – Constantinian-Imperial Church Continuum – both Greek and Latin. I would humbly suggest that, in the light of what I have laid out above, it was not really an issue for the Jewish-centred Jerusalem-Central orbit.

    # Kevin D Johnson (June 8 10:51pm) in response to David is both half right and half wrong.
    He is half right in his comments (methinks here he has been reading my mind): “The inability on the part of some in the Church to immediately recognize some works as Scripture and others as something other than Scripture does not invalidate the authority inherent in the books that eventually were recognized as canonical nor does it mean that the Church somehow was at a loss in terms of having Scripture as the preeminent authority over her as she continued to mature. The idea that the leaders of the Church at the time spent a good deal of time arguing about the identity of the canon “for a few hundred years” is just historically uninformed. There was largely a consensus regarding the books from the current extant data and only a few of the volumes were actually disputed heavily.”

    And in his: “The same is true (and even more so) with the Jewish compilation of the Hebrew Canon. There never was a council for that event, yet the Christian Church historically recognized what was clearly the case regarding the contents of the Hebrew Old Testament.

    “As always, additionally, somehow we leave out the role of the Holy Spirit in confirming the witness of the Word in the life of the Church. The passage ‘My sheep hear My voice’ somehow gets translated to ‘My bishops make the choice and everyone better follow them in their endorsement of what I originally said’.”

    Again, Kevin, are you mind-reading me?

    However, he is half wrong in his: “Indeed, had heresy not been an issue it is likely that the issue of the canon would never have been settled – and none of these issues kept the Fathers overall from using the books of the New Testament as we now have them as the authoritative words of God well before anyone of them thought to provide the Church with a canon.”

    In the light of my narrative above, all the non-Pauline Literature would have emerged as undisputedly “Canonical” anyway, if the “Pauline” etc. stream in the Church had not been so supported by the Constantinian State, and that ”Jerusalem Central’ been allowed to retain its Jesus-mandated original authority on these matters in the first place.

    Kevin, if you accept my narrative above – as driven by Sid Leiman, and added-to by the implications of Luke’s genealogy, you can even ride above the heresy issue that you have raised – apparently from a “Pauline etc” perspective. And confidently declare that anyone that does not accept the Tanak (no more or less than that “closed” by Judah Maccabee) plus the non-Pauline NT ab initio as fully “Canonical” is a “heretic” as far as “Jerusalem Central” is concerned. Pauline literature, on the other hand, can be treated as mere theologumena (and thus remain open to dispute).

    +++

    Finally, I would wish that all would understand my above comments in an friendly and eirenic way. As always, I would seek and strive to play the issue and not the man – even though I may quote the issue through the man.

    Mara-na-tha
    John

    1. John,

      Thank you for your comments. I would very much like to contact you via email – can you send me your address here: email hidden; JavaScript is required? I’d really appreciate it.

      Grace to you and peace,
      >>>Kevin

    2. John asked: “to whom was Donatus reacting? A: Liberal, primarily Roman and Romanised Bishops.”

      What sort of nonsense is that? “Liberal” and “Romanized” based on what standard?

      John then asked: “who would Fr. John rather support: an official, but traditore (and hence compromised) Bishop; or a conservative with a stronger doctrinal affinity with the first century Jerusalem Central Church, and with a track-record of strong opposition to the traditores?”

      This is an incredibly oversimplistic and distorted view of the donatist controversy. What started the controversy was that a bishop who had been accused of being a traditor, though he denied it. This bishop participated in the consecration of a new bishop, but the Donatists declared this consecration to be invalid. Now if you accept the premise of the Donatists, you could never know when a Sacrament was really valid, because according to them, the sacrament depended upon the worthiness of the person administering it. And so you may or may not really be baptized, married, ordained, or communed, and could only hope that the person administering the sacrament did not have some secret sin that made the sacrament invalid. That is of course nonsense. The Donatists also had a problem with the whole idea of people having a second chance at repentance.

      1. Thank you Fr John for your response. I will confine my remarks to sacramental theology.

        I sincerely hope that you are not here advocating the Roman heresy of “ex opere operato”??? Even anything near it would require the Holy Spirit to work alongside but not through these affected clergy in order to keep these sacraments “Spirit-Bearing”.

        You may have seen this elsewhere:

        # Are you going to claim any form of Holy Spirit sanction of or association with the house of the Alberics of Tusculum who provided seven Popes, three in succession, who almost without exception, and with the lavish assistance of Marioza of the Theophylact family, helped shape the notion of the Roman Papacy as “Roma Deplorabilis”?

        # Or do you want to defend the Office of the Roman Papacy and its Incumbents as being under any form of “Holy Spirit Unction” during so much of the ninth and tenth centuries, when many Official Popes were in their early twenties, and several were teenagers?

        Some lasted twenty days, or a month, or three months. Six of them were dethroned, a number of them were murdered.

        When a Pope suddenly disappeared, had he been tossed into the Tiber? Had he been throttled in prison? Was he sleeping it off in a brothel? Or had he fled, like Benedict V in 964, who, after dishonouring a young girl, took off for Constantinople with the entire treasury of St Peter’s, only to reappear in Rome when the funds ran out, and caused more havoc in Rome?
        The pious church historian Gerbert called Benedict ‘the most iniquitous of all the monsters of ungodliness’, but his judgment was premature. This pontiff was eventually slain by a jealous husband. His corpse, with a hundred dagger wounds in it, was dragged through the streets of Rome before being tossed into a cesspool.

        Without question, these pontiffs constitute the most despicable body of leaders, clerical or lay, in history. They were, frankly, barbarians. Ancient Pagan Rome had nothing to rival them in rottenness. Graced with the Holy Spirit? Hardly!

        One Pope, Stephen VII (896-7) was completely mad passim, especially in his dealings with his predecessor Formosus (891-96) and with what was called the Cadaveric Synod.

        # Or, what of the Popes installed and dethroned by both Marioza and her Mother, Theodora? According to her contemporary, Bishop Liutprand of Cremona, she had been well-coached by her mother. In less than one decade, these women created – and when it suited them, destroyed – no less than eight Popes. It started with Sergius III (904-911).

        Standing in the way to the Papal throne had been Leo V, who reigned for one month before he was imprisoned by a usurper, Cardinal Christopher. Sergius cleaned up by slaughtering both. Sergius also “tried” Formosus for heresy, now ten years dead. Sergius, who having been ordained by Formosus, should really have considered himself irregular thereby, but theological quibbles and Orthodox doctrine and practice were alien to his nature. Sergius was to die after a seven-year pontificate crammed with blood, intrigue and sexual passion.

        Theodora, had already made and unmade two popes when, in contravention of canon law, she took the hand of her favourite lover and led him from being Bishop of Bologna to being Archbishop of Ravenna and finally to Peter’s Chair as Pope John X (914-928).

        At the age of twenty, the son of Marioza and Pope Sergius became Pope John XI (931-935). He had been groomed for the papacy by a sensuous and totally immoral life. As Pope, he was able to dispense both his mother and her lover, Hugo of Provence of all impediments such as incest, and marry them in the spring of 932.

        John XI, was just one of at least two dozen Popes during this era against whom the charge of “heresy” could not be brought – there was insufficient evidence of any form of religion about them to create the basis of the charge of either “Orthodoxy” or “heresy” in the first place!

        All these were Official Popes, but were all clearly and beyond challenge, apostates! Void of any trace of the Holy Spirit! And all this before 1054!

        # Given the fact that the Roman Papacy, with only minor exceptions, showed little change since Victor until well after the 1054 Schism – even down to the days of Pius XII, precisely where would you place the near-permanent abandonment of the Roman See by the Holy Spirit? And His occasional and nostalgic return to the odd Pope or two here and there in memory of happier earlier days? 1054 is thus highly problematic!

        # Are you also going to have the insolence to connect the Holy Spirit with the vast majority of Papal Electoral Conclaves, such as in the forms within which they existed in their respective years, during this same period?

        Methinks you will require something even more that “ex opere operato” with this lot to provide your “valid” sacraments. I do not particularly care which theological squiggle you attempt to use here, the plain facts of the matter remains – the Holy Spirit would not pollute Himself by deigning to associate in any manner – including the sacramental, with this lot.

        Apostates, incapable of being charged with heresy, so congenitally evil that even the Holy Spirit himself dares not go anywhere near them? . . .

        As a final twist, Popes of this nature dared to presume to (pardon the pun) “pontificate” on the Canon and Tradition. If my eternal salvation were made to depend on this lot, I would stand less chance than that of a snowflake in hell. Independence from them is thus the only way to assure ones’self of eternal salvation – including doing one’s own home Communions. “Valid” sacraments from this lot cannot, de-facto, exist, irrespective of what the sacramental theory says about it.

        I trust that this edifies you.

        1. You seem to have an amazing ability to go all over the map with assertions. A sacrament is valid by virtue of the fact that it is done with the sanction of the Church, regardless of the personal worthiness of the person who performs it. The alternative to that would be never knowing whether you had received a real sacrament or not. If the Donatists were right, you could have received a sacrament from a pious and saintly priest, but if the bishop who ordained him, or the bishop who ordained that bishop, or any other bishop up the chain to the apostles was an unworthy person, then every ordination down the chain was not valid.

          The Church has the power to bind and to loose. If a clergyman is unworthy, there are canons that tell us how to deal with that, and those clergy can be deposed if need be.

          But even the New Testament tells us not to accept an accusation against a presbyter, except with 2 or three witnesses. Suppose there is only 1 witness, or suppose there are no witnesses, but the accusations are in fact true. According to the scriptures, you have to have the necessary evidence first, unless of course the clergyman in question admits his guilt. In any case, an unworthy clergyman who does not repent will go to hell, but the sacraments don’t come from him. He performs them on behalf of the Church, and accompanied by the prayers and faith of the faithful. He is not the wizard who does the magic by his own power or skill, he is the man who flips on a light switch… and lights come on due to no special virtue on his part, other than the fact that he was charged with flipping the switch.

    3. On your lengthy quote regarding the history of the canon, are you aware of the fact that Sid Z. Leiman is a nobody scholar, and that this view of the history of the canon is an odd ball theory that has no traction?

  29. @Kevin Johnson,

    You opened up the question of Orthodox “exclusivity”, and now you run from the question. Make up your mind. If the Creeds mean what they meant to those that wrote them, the Creed states clearly that there is only one visible Church, not just an invisible Church that is visibly divided. The idea is only ludicrous to Protestants because when you get into 6 digits worth of denominations it is hard to argue that only one of them is right… if you accept the premise of Protestantism to begin with. So do you accept the Nicene Creed as authoritative and true, and if so, do you accept it to mean what it meant to those who composed it?

    Also, the claim that the Church existed before creeds is nonsense. The Church has always had creeds. The Nicene Creed was a further development of the earlier apostolic creeds that go back to… the apostles.

      1. Fr. John,

        I’m still trying to figure out which Creed Keven professes: Filioque or Sans Filioque. Because both mean very different things!

  30. Fr. John Whiteford says:

    Kevin, I have been debating Protestants of all stripes, including Reformed folks such as William Webster and James White for years on this issue. The fact that you cannot name a better defense, but pretend to know of one is simply disingenuous. If there was one, I would have ran across it by now — unless, perhaps, if it was very recent in vintage. And the early reformers are of no real help to you here, because they wrote before Protestantism had become the undeniable mess that it has become, and before the advent of historical criticism which is a factor that has to be dealt with on this issue.

    Mr. Whiteford,

    It matters not to me that you’ve been arguing about these issues for a long time. Likely all of us have. Big deal. As usual, none of this biographical information has anything to do with the arguments I’ve made.

    Furthermore, I really have little care that you consider my remarks disingenuous. It is sad that you can’t contain yourself to actually addressing what I’ve said and instead choose to go down the hazardous road of uncharitable and ill-founded remarks.

    While I am willing to defer somewhat to Mr. Arakaki as to how discussion proceeds because this is his blog, I am not at all going to have a discussion with you where you get to define all the terms while providing us with what is and is not appropriate for discussion. That’s not a discussion, that’s just another dry boring homily that men of the cloth are famous for. I don’t need it and that I’ve already tired of similar droning a thousand times.

    The fact of the matter is that I am not going to embark on a discussion with you or anyone else and sacrifice the underpinnings or understanding of my faith in the process so you can set yourself up as the arbiter of all that is good and holy. For one thing, our perspectives are so different that ignoring the foundational issues between us by pretending we can discuss anything without mentioning them is simply not productive. I have already indicated that I’m not going to give you a book as the silver bullet for you or anyone else here to knock down (and for good reasons which I have already commented on above more than once). Doing so does not mean such books are not available or that the subject cannot be discussed (as I also stated above).

    Nor am I going to do anything other than suggest that people consider the vast array of primary source documentation available to them and do the spade work themselves. In other words, for those who are inquiring, quit relying on blind guides to buttress your own predilections. Do the hard work of actually investigating the Reformed traditions, what the Bible says, and what history outlines for yourself.

    Fr. John Whiteford says:

    On your lengthy quote regarding the history of the canon, are you aware of the fact that Sid Z. Leiman is a nobody scholar, and that this view of the history of the canon is an odd ball theory that has no traction?

    Leiman’s work is controversial, I’ll give you that. But, to poison the well about his work because you disagree with it is simply unreasonable. No amount of Jedi-Mind-Trick hand-waving is going to put aside legitimate arguments without actually arguing contra Leiman’s points. But, in point of fact, the book was seriously received in the scholarly community when it came out and here’s just a part of one review for the readers to consider:

    The solid contribution of this book is its bringing together under one cover all the pertinent texts, with translations, from the Talmuds and Midrashim (in sensu stricto). Here are all those rabbinic passages heretofore simply listed or cursorily discussed, plus others we had not imagined. It is a rich store and well worth study…One hopes that Leiman will continue his important work and broaden his horizon of it.

    J.A. Sanders. Journal of Biblical Literature. December 1977, Vol. 96 Issue 4, pg. 590.

    While Sanders does issue reserve about Leiman’s claims, clearly he treats the work as a serious contribution to the field. No doubt similar scholarly disagreement is available about your own contentions and mine. But, we are not here to believe on the basis of scholarly authority or jump on the bandwagon contra the claims some have already made above.

    Fr. John Whiteford says:

    You opened up the question of Orthodox “exclusivity”, and now you run from the question. Make up your mind. If the Creeds mean what they meant to those that wrote them, the Creed states clearly that there is only one visible Church, not just an invisible Church that is visibly divided. The idea is only ludicrous to Protestants because when you get into 6 digits worth of denominations it is hard to argue that only one of them is right… if you accept the premise of Protestantism to begin with. So do you accept the Nicene Creed as authoritative and true, and if so, do you accept it to mean what it meant to those who composed it?

    This line of reasoning is so manifestly padded with assumptions that it’s practically not worth responding to at all. Tim has already covered much of this in previous responses. I have no reason to go over it again.

    Fr. Whiteford continues:

    Also, the claim that the Church existed before creeds is nonsense. The Church has always had creeds. The Nicene Creed was a further development of the earlier apostolic creeds that go back to… the apostles.

    The Church did exist prior to the creeds and that is simply a historic fact. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Either the creeds were a product of a previously existing authority–the Church–or they weren’t. If they weren’t then you have nothing to argue about in regards to the authority of tradition or even things like Orthodox exclusivity. If the Church did exist prior to the creeds, then we may have something to discuss as to what they mean and why they are authoritative.

    But, I wasn’t limiting the context to the Church per your misguided assumption in that regard. Did Abraham require a creed to be the covenanted father of the people of God? The answer of course is, “No. Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

  31. Kevin,
    You said:
    “Nor am I going to do anything other than suggest that people consider the vast array of primary source documentation available to them and do the spade work themselves. In other words, for those who are inquiring, quit relying on blind guides to buttress your own predilections. Do the hard work of actually investigating the Reformed traditions, what the Bible says, and what history outlines for yourself.”

    Source study? Fine.
    Spade work? Of course.
    Do the hard work? Good advice.
    Investigate tradition, scripture and history? Absolutely.
    But how does all of this personal and scholarly opinion lead to normative and binding dogma of the people of God? As soon as a smarter scholar comes along and casts doubt on other positions and possibilities, does the truth change? Does the scripture’s meaning change? The Reformed and Lutherans (let alone the rest of Protestantism) have been fighting since their inception over the meaning of traditions, scripture and history. Without a Church with interpretive and living authority the preceding work leaves everything up to the individual to decide where he wants to end up.

  32. “Canadian”,

    The truth is that it is not just Protestants that have been disagreeing all these years. I would argue that a proper read of Christian history has seen both diversity in doctrine and practice on the part of creedal/biblical Christians since the times of the New Testament. Disagreement is not limited to “the Reformed and Lutherans” or the Protestants any more than it is to other groups within Christendom’s fold.

    The truth is that the Orthodox and Rome have nothing to say to Protestants about disagreements until they resolve their own chasm-like issues. As I have said, the log of 1054 AD is much greater than the splinters of the Reformation. An authoritative Church didn’t stop that from happening, didn’t stop the Avignon popes from appearing simultaneously to other claims, and didn’t stop the East/West split from occurring some thousand plus years ago (and likely helping the Reformation itself to appear).

    The truth here is that diversity seems to be a necessary component of the identity of the Church inside the bounds of Orthodoxy itself. Zizioulas has argued no less within his own context and further that such diversity is seen analogically from the very nature of the Trinity itself.

    That said, of course, what your current summation leaves out is the normative role of God’s Word, the unity found in the blood of Christ ‘to all those who believe’, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

      1. Ah. Finally we have Perry Robinson here to comment. I wondered when that was going to happen. Glad to see you’ve been reading along.

        And, a response of such brevity! I am impressed.

        Yes, my view represents a Reformed catholicism as you well know (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 22). Reformed truly is an adjective and not a noun. It really is not ironic at all–this is the nature of classical Protestantism. The word “reformed” necessarily implies that there is something to reform, but not revolutionize.

      2. I very much appreciate Kevin Johnson taking the time to read my review of Mathison’s “Shape of Sola Scriptura.” Below are my responses to his comments posted June 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm. A lot has been written since then and my response may overlap with his and others comments.

        It is my understanding that Keith Mathison’s “The Shape of Sola Scriptura” represents the best effort so far to develop an apologia for sola scriptura. R.C. Sproul praised the book as “the finest and most comprehensive treatment of the matter.” http://www.amazon.com/Shape-Sola-Scriptura-Keith-Mathison/dp/1885767749 (Does Kevin consider R.C. Sproul’s a theological lightweight?) Kevin is of the belief that there are other more serious works on sola scriptura by Reformed theologians. He is welcome to provide me with their name but I am of the opinion that the recent debate about a basis for sola scriptura is new. Scott Hahn, a Presbyterian minister who converted to Catholicism, recounts in Rome Sweet Home the utter surprise with which his seminary professors greeted his questions about the basis for sola scriptura. They had not heard the questions he was raising. While there may be a lot of Protestant theological scholarship on the authority and inspiration of Scripture, it seems that there is a lacuna with respect to the apologia for sola scriptura.

        Kevin seems to be playing games when he alleges there are more knowledgeable and serious Reformed authorities out there and if you don’t know who they are your knowledge is deficient. He seems to be playing the game: Guess what’s behind my back? My answer is: I don’t know what’s behind your back, why don’t you show me? On this point Kevin needs to put up or shut up.

        I think Kevin is letting Mathison off too easily with his claim that Mathison’s book is not a serious piece of scholarship. I think Mathison’s “The Shape of Sola Scriptura” represents the beginning of an attempt to formulate a serious defense of sola scriptura and for that reasons deserves to be taken seriously. The OrthodoxBridge was not intended for a popular audience. It is intended for an intelligent audience in Reformed and Orthodox circles who are asking hard questions about their faith and are willing to do their homework. If Kevin is willing to provide me with a title that is more scholarly in approach, I am willing to review it.

        As far as ” expecting a detailed contextual discussions regarding the history of the Fathers” being unrealistic, Kevin should keep in mind that it is Mathison who included a survey of the Church Fathers in his book. I provided the readers with the citations from the Fathers as a service to the readers. Many are probably not familiar with the Church Fathers. I want to provide them with the direct evidence rather than take my word for it. Protestants lack exposure to church history and to historical sources. I admire the zeal among many Reformed to think about their faith and I want to challenge them to think deeply about their faith. It won’t be easy but I’m sure many are willing to learn new things. For Kevin to claim that who bought Mathison’s book are “not equipped to deal with the multitude of issues surrounding the historical interpretations and understanding of the Fathers” is to have a low opinion of Mathison’s audience. It is my hope that the site’s visitors will wrestle with these deep issues in conversation with their friends not just on the Internet but at church and at their neighborhood coffee shop.

        Kevin misunderstands my complaint about Mathison when he alleges that I accuse Mathison of not laying all his cards on the table at the outset. My complaint is that Mathison did not lay out the criteria for ascertaining whether or not a Church Father supported sola scriptura. Defining terms and constructing criteria for hypothesis testing is what a good scientist would do. The criterion I proposed allows the reader to make that determination whether or not the Fathers had a Protestant understanding of Scripture and tradition or an Eastern Orthodox understanding. What I find disturbing is Kevin’s insinuation that both Reformed and Orthodox Christians have their biases and that they will present facts the way they see them. Kevin here seems to be denying the objectivity of truth and opening the door to a postmodern approach to truth. The deep streak of skepticism that runs through Kevin’s commentary has me concerned that he has moved away from the historic Christian understanding of truth as objective and knowable.

        The fact that Mathison did not give much attention to Eastern Orthodoxy in his book does not mean that it is a bad book. But the fact is many Evangelicals and Reformed Christians are seriously interested in Eastern Orthodoxy and are rejecting sola scriptura as a result of their encounter with Orthodoxy. It means there is a significant gap in his apologia for sola scriptura. If Mathison wants to successfully defend sola scriptura it is imperative that he address the issues and concerns of Orthodoxy which are quite different from Roman Catholicism. All this means is that this part of the theological conversation needs to be addressed by either Mathison or by someone else.

        The Biblical Argument

        Acts 17:11 — Kevin’s out of hand dismissal is unconvincing. He refuses to engage with the words of the Bible verse “see if what Paul said was true.” This is not an interpretation but words taken from the NIV Bible. Kevin’s airy dismissal is unworthy of a Christian who takes Scripture seriously. What Paul said was the apostolic kerygma in oral form. The Bereans were comparing Paul’s oral tradition against the written tradition that we know of as the Septuagint. The point here is that the Bereans were not operating in a vacuum but in a context: Jewish Scripture and the Christian oral tradition. In this early stage Paul’s kerygma was an extra-scriptural teaching when set against the already accepted Septuagint. Acts 17:11 is an affirmation of Scripture (the Septuagint) with Tradition (the apostolic kerygma as proclaimed by Paul). They were not operating on the basis of a self referential Scripture as Kevin seems to assume that the Bereans were doing.

        II Thessalonians 2:15 — As a former Calvinist I am very well aware that the early Reformers did not hold to the fundamentalist understanding of the Bible alone or what Mathison labels “solo scriptura.” Reformed theologians recognize the complementarity of written scripture and the oral apostolic tradition; what I question is the Reformers’ placing written apostolic tradition over oral apostolic tradition. I called into question Mathison superimposing this presupposition onto Scripture. Kevin then sets up a contradictory criterion for oral tradition; he seems to expect Scripture to bear witness of or comment on a particular verbal transmission, but this would in effect be part of written Scriptures! Certain oral tradition did get written down but not in the canonical Scriptures. Evidence of this oral apostolic tradition can be found in early Christian documents like the Didache, the letters by Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons.

        The Pragmatic Argument

        The debate as to whether sola scriptura is the cause of Protestantism’s denominational chaos has been going on for a while. Roman Catholics have raised this issue and Eastern Orthodox Christians have reiterated this criticism. Mathison is doing his job trying to defend sola scriptura. Kevin’s faulting this reviewer for not taking into the Great Schism of 1054 is not fair. The issue is not what is the source of divisions in Christendom but whether sola scriptura is capable of providing unity to Protestantism. Mathison is confident that it can, I questioned and challenged that. Kevin goes off on a tangent when he defends the Protestant Reformation pointing out the positive benefits like the Protestant work ethic and the founding of the American Republic. The issue here is sola scriptura. I believe that it does not provide an adequate basis for theological unity. It is not clear to what degree Kevin thinks a divided Christendom is a bad thing. He pleads that the causes of divisions have complex causes and shouldn’t be seen so starkly. My question to Kevin are: (1) Do you believe that sola scriptura are non-germane to the discussion? and (2) Do you think Mathison is barking up the wrong tree in seeking to defend sola scriptura against those who believe that it is the source of denominational division? I would also like to know what he sees as the cause of Christian division and how he proposes to bring about unity to a divided Christendom?

        As regards Kevin’s criticism of my alternative typology, it should be noted that typologies are essentially a heuristic, an artificial construct that aids analysis by providing a simplified model of a complex reality. Mathison did the same thing borrowing from Heiko Oberman the categories Tradition I and Tradition II. As a church history major I’m well aware of how messy church history and that is why I appreciate typologies as a way of making sense of church history. If Kevin thinks that church history is so messy that typologies are useless, he should come out and say so.

        I still stand by my associating Protestantism with denominationalism. Denominations form when leaders differ over doctrine or practice. At the 1529 Marburg Colloquy Luther and Zwingli were unable to reconcile their differences over the Lord’s Supper and so went their separate ways. The differences between the Reformed and the Remonstrants (Arminians) in the Netherlands in the early 1600s represent another early denominational difference. This leads me to believe that Kevin Johnson is wrong when he asserts that denominationalism is “a much more recent phenomena.” He needs to clarify what he considers “denominationalism” and what he considers “recent.”

        On June 10, 2011 Kevin writes that the Orthodox have nothing to say about unity to Protestants unless they first reconcile with Rome. If that’s the case then none of us should be talking about Christian unity! From an empirical standpoint I would agree with Kevin that there has been a plurality of doctrine from early on but I would also note that there was an apostolic witness to a shared tradition based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I would note that theologically I affirm that there was a regula fidei that provided doctrinal unity to the early Christians. I also affirm that there was “one holy catholic and apostolic church” which was unified by a common faith, worship, and episcopacy. Does Kevin affirm that there was a unity of faith in the early Church or a denominational pluralism much like today? Does Kevin affirm that there is “one holy catholic and apostolic church”? How does he understand the unity of the church? Does he locate this unity in the invisible church as Protestants believe, in the papacy as Roman Catholics believe, or in the Tradition received from the Apostles and maintained by the episcopacy as Eastern Orthodox believe? I affirm the latter position, what does position does Kevin affirm?

        Closing Remarks

        Kevin’s remarks are mostly a review of a review. He admits that he has not taken the trouble to reread Mathison. He is quite critical of my review but it is not clear where he stands with respect to Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scriptura. This is disappointing. Kevin says that he is not there to take a stand on Mathison’s book. This leaves me puzzled as to why he is such an avid commentator. The review was intended to be a critique of Mathison’s defense of sola scriptura and so it is reasonable to expect that the participants can advance our knowledge by putting forward differing perspectives and facts in our dialogue.

        Kevin needs to be more clear and affirmative in his approach. Where does he stand with respect to the Reformed and the Eastern Orthodox traditions? Which does he identify more closely with? Or is he a confessional Lutheran or a conservative Reformed Baptist? Does he affirm sola scriptura or does he have reservations about this doctrine? We know what Kevin is critical of but it would help if we know what Kevin affirms. Kevin needs to take a more positive approach both in his tone and his positions.

        I urge all visitors to be respectful in the tone of their comments, especially with respect to the other visitors. Disagreeing with each other’s position is fine, being disrespectful to another person is not. As the site’s moderator I want to keep the conversation open and am reluctant to ask visitors to revise the wording of their comments. Thank you all for your contributions! Robert

        Note: To move the conversation forward I’m going to try and post Contra Sola Scriptura Part 2 tomorrow.

    1. “That said, of course, what your current summation leaves out is the normative role of God’s Word, the unity found in the blood of Christ ‘to all those who believe’, and the work of the Holy Spirit.”

      How is the Word of God normative on it’s own unless the truth of that Word is conveyed with authority? Do not all sides of any conflict among the Reformed claim scriptural normativity? Yet how is normativity expressed and conveyed? The WCF does not claim to be normative and binding but backs out and defers to scripture after trying to persuade you what the scripture means.
      Can the Reformed identify and forbid schism in practice, as the scripture commands? Schism from who?
      The “All those who believe” you mention were in one church. And Christ prayed for “all who would believe” to have unity such as the persons of the Trinity have.
      And the work of the Holy Spirit is to lead the church into all truth and to Christ, so your subtle inference that diversity at a schismatic level is a blessing and Spirit led is unknown until recent history.

      You said: “The truth here is that diversity seems to be a necessary component of the identity of the Church inside the bounds of Orthodoxy itself.”

      Unity is not uniformity. Do you wish to equate “diversity within Orthodoxy” to diversity without? And do you wish to use the Orthodox definition of “the church” here or that of another?

  33. I would like to ask a question of all the Orthodox participants here. I have previously stated that I have studied these matters in no small detail, and from much better sources than most lay Protestants do. However, anyone who has ever attempted to grapple with any complex and large body of written materials well knows that it is easily possible, without malice of forethought, to miss some things.

    In this light, I would like to honestly ask any of you here if you can provide me with any primary Reformation source citation that announces THE key premise of all of your critiques, namely, that sola Scriptura is meant to be a criterion of theological unity. There are many thousands of pages of Calvin and Luther, let alone of later Reformed dogmatics to consider, and again, while I do claim that I’ve studied the issues in some depth I don’t claim that I have not missed something somewhere in those sources. So answer me plainly: do primary Reformation sources claim that sola Scriptura is meant to function as a criterion of theological unity? If they do, then some of your critiques may have traction. If they do not, most of your critiques fall flat, since they are based on that assumption.

    Thanks.

    1. Tim, You raised some very interesting questions. I think the questions are important enough that they should be discussed in a future blog posting, not in the comment section of a posting. Mathison addressed the issue of church division under his Pragmatic Argument section. This section is based upon the reasoning that if sola scriptura provides us with a means of determining true doctrine then we should have doctrinal unity. I urge our readers out there to start doing some research and to hold off posting a comment. It’s important that we have a coherent focused conversation going on this blog. I think the real underlying question here are: (1) What did the early Reformers understand to be the source of doctrinal unity and of church unity?; (2) What for the early Church Fathers comprised the source of doctrinal unity and of church unity?; and (3) What role does Scripture play in either tradition?

      1. We know that the source of unity for Calvin and Luther in actual practice was to “stab, smite, and slay” those who disagreed with them. They did not assume that the anabaptists were entitled to their own opinions about what the Scriptures meant.

    2. I don’t know that anyone has ever asserted that Sola Scriptura was the criterion of unity, though it is just about the only thing that Protestants have in common. But Unity is a fairly big deal in the New Testament, and it is certainly stated to be such in the Creeds. The Fathers of the Church understood it to be a big deal. Therefore, if Sola Scriptura tends to create division, that would be a pretty big mark against it.

  34. The best I can figure, Tim and Kevin are arguing that:

    1. We on this thread may not understand Sola Scriptura, we don’t know how to pick a book on the subject, and they are not going to tell us either what it means nor what book would be most suitable to review on the subject.

    2. We’re probably just a bunch of shallow converts who are simply trying to pat ourselves on the back for converting, or mislead the masses who don’t understand the truth as Tim and Kevin see it.

    3. Exposition of Scripture is multi-form, and the disunity that is Protestantism (R.C. Sproul, Joel Osteen, Rob Bell, et al) is not really the fruit of Sola Scriptura, but local communities.

  35. Robert, I don’t have access to Mathison right now (being away from home for a few weeks), and it has been probably 6 years or more since I read the book. But I am willing to bet, from what I remember, that his discussion of sola Scriptura as a criterion of doctrinal unity is based on the fact that he’s dealing with the popular caricatures of sola Scriptura that persist in Evangelicalism and which, from there, have been taken up almost without thought, by the convert-making industry of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. While I, of course, have not read every sentence on every page of every book ever written by any Reformation source, I can tell you that I cannot recall ever reading an argument in any of the sources that sola Scriptura is a method that will lead to doctrinal unity. If I can be shown Luther or Calvin or Whitaker or Turretin or some such divine saying that, then, as Socrates used to tell his opponents, I will thank you for helping me further along the road to wisdom.

      1. Because doctrinal division was a fact of Church life even under the Apostles. The big problem with this argument – which is made by both Catholics and Orthodox – that Protestants are theologically divided is precisely that we might as well ask why the presence of living Apostles couldn’t stop doctrinal division. If Paul couldn’t stop it, no wonder his purported successors couldn’t. Perhaps it just isn’t the problem that you all make it out to be.

        1. But doctrinal division was never accepted as a fact of life that should not concern us… not by St. Paul, and not by the Church. In the early Church you had schisms and heresies that came and went. With the exceptions of the Monophysites, and the Nestorians, there were none that have survived to the present day… and if you look at the Monophysites and the Nestorians the degree of divergence in faith and practice is hardly noticeable in comparison with the differences you find in Protestantism… where you have everything from Lesbian Presbyterian ministers praying to the Goddess pew jumping Pentecostals, the Amish, Charismatics with their rock concerts, High Church Anglicans, and stodgy old calvinists, and all points in between. There is no indication in the New Testament that St. Paul believed that doctrinal diversity was an acceptable state of affairs, or that St. John the Apostle considered independent denominationalism to be within the bounds of acceptability.

          1. I didn’t say one shouldn’t be concerned about doctrinal disunity, nor did I say the Apostles would approve of denominationalism. But then, I’m not your average sect-loving, history-ignorant, damn-everyone-else Reformed guy, either.

          2. At any rate, Fr. John, your remarks show again the importance of cultural and social history in analyzing doctrinal matters. Catholics think the papacy is clearly taught in such passages as Matthew 16, John 21, and Luke 22, but this is a conceit that they have because their fathers read the Bible in Latin, in a cultural milieu soaked with the assumption of “Romanitas.” Doubtless something like this is true of the Orthodox, whom I frequently see taking great pride in their “Greekness.” Indeed, the whole idea of a unified institutional structure for the Church is self-evidently a function of reading Scripture within the context of the assumption of the “oikumene,” the world-spanning order. Modern American Protestants have done the same thing by reading the Scriptures in the context of the peculiar American experiment. Much of the malaise of what converts call “Protestantism” is precisely traceable not to the Reformation itself, but to what Hatch many years ago called “the democratization of American Christianity,” and what one of the Niebuhrs called “the social sources of denominationalism.” Don’t pretend you’re any better than us on this score; I’ve seen the rancor flying between Orthodox men who are on opposite sides of some ultimately dumb and utterly ethnic coloration of theology.

            You talk of what St. Paul or St. John would or would not have approved of, but I see nothing in Scripture that says they wouldn’t have approved of the adaptation of the Faith to other local situations than the one you East and West Romans recognize.

            The bottom line is, I see no reason to grant you your rhetorical posturing about the superiority of your preferred mode of Church organization. Just because St. Paschobertus Magnus of the 105 Holy Miracles, standing in the 83rd place of tactile-ordination succession from the Apostle Andrew (or whoever) said something doesn’t mean it is true. If you want to be polemical, then I defy you or anyone of your friends to produce words from your Venerable Church Fathers to the effect that their words are to be taken with the same seriousness as that of Holy Scripture itself. If you actually do know the Fathers as you say you do, then you know that can’t be demonstrated. Scripture is superior to all the words of the Fathers, and given the fact that you have to appeal to “Tradition” the same as we have to appeal to “tradition,” it’s obvious that you aren’t in any kind of superior intellectual position. Mostly it’s just rhetoric, and easily challengeable rhetoric at that.

        2. Tim,
          You said:
          “If you want to be polemical, then I defy you or anyone of your friends to produce words from your Venerable Church Fathers to the effect that their words are to be taken with the same seriousness as that of Holy Scripture itself.”

          Scripture is not to be pitted against Tradition as if opposition is inherent there. When you read the Ecumenical Councils, how they viewed their authority cannot be denied.
          Here are the father’s of the 6th Ecumenical in its Letter to St. Agatho:
          “For as God was the mover, so God also he crowned our council. Thereupon, therefore, the grace of the Holy Spirit shone upon us, displaying his power, through your assiduous prayers, for the uprooting of all weeds and every tree which brought not forth good fruit, and giving command that they should be consumed by fire. And we all agree both in heart and tongue, and hand, and have put forth, by the assistance of the life-giving Spirit, a definition, clean from all error, certain, and infallible; not ‘removing the ancient landmarks,’ as it is written (God forbid!), but remaining steadfast in the testimonies and authority of the holy and approved fathers, and defining that……..”

          Numerous similar conciliar statements are such that they believe the authority they exert is universal, pastoral, compassionate, and of Divine origin.
          Now I know any group of dudes can claim whatever…..but this is the repeated claim of the universal Councils over hundreds of years. (Far before Rome’s lofty papal claims) Scripture makes it clear that heresies are inevitable, divisions will occur, schism is possible but none of these destroy the unity of faith of Christ’s church. The NT apostolic letters reveal that obedience is not optional and unity is expected.

          You said: “I didn’t say one shouldn’t be concerned about doctrinal disunity, nor did I say the Apostles would approve of denominationalism. But then, I’m not your average sect-loving, history-ignorant, damn-everyone-else Reformed guy, either.”

          I appreciate those comments.
          Peace

    1. Tim you say: “I can tell you that I cannot recall ever reading an argument in any of the sources that sola Scriptura is a method that will lead to doctrinal unity. ”

      I think we are confused on where doctrine comes from. Since Christ is the Head of His Church, all faithful doctrine comes from Him. Since, as the Apostle states (Col 3:11) “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all,” Christ is absolute Unity.

      All doctrine must then be unifying, save those which are another gospel. For all doctrine is faithful in unifying to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  36. Kevin D. John wrote:

    “Furthermore, I really have little care that you consider my remarks disingenuous. It is sad that you can’t contain yourself to actually addressing what I’ve said and instead choose to go down the hazardous road of uncharitable and ill-founded remarks.”

    Me: It is hard to take someone seriously who claims that there are superior treatises that defend his position… out there somewhere… but he refuses to say what they are, and suggested that only stupid people don’t see the clothes on the emperor. Well, the emperor has no clothes, Kevin. You got nothing.

    KJ: “While I am willing to defer somewhat to Mr. Arakaki as to how discussion proceeds because this is his blog, I am not at all going to have a discussion with you where you get to define all the terms while providing us with what is and is not appropriate for discussion.”

    Me: I was responding to you, and asking reasonable questions, that you evidently don’t have good answers for, or else you would no doubt have given them.

    KJ: “The fact of the matter is that I am not going to embark on a discussion with you or anyone else and sacrifice the underpinnings or understanding of my faith in the process so you can set yourself up as the arbiter of all that is good and holy. For one thing, our perspectives are so different that ignoring the foundational issues between us by pretending we can discuss anything without mentioning them is simply not productive. I have already indicated that I’m not going to give you a book as the silver bullet for you or anyone else here to knock down (and for good reasons which I have already commented on above more than once). Doing so does not mean such books are not available or that the subject cannot be discussed (as I also stated above).”

    Me: Name three books that are better than Mathison’s then. You wish to suggest that the earth is laden with them. Name a few, and then you won’t be pinned down to just one.

    KJ: “Nor am I going to do anything other than suggest that people consider the vast array of primary source documentation available to them and do the spade work themselves.”

    Me: You’re blowing smoke. Point us to just three examples… we will accept that you posit that there is infinitely more, but give us three.

    KJ: “In other words, for those who are inquiring, quit relying on blind guides to buttress your own predilections. Do the hard work of actually investigating the Reformed traditions, what the Bible says, and what history outlines for yourself.”

    Me: I’ve done the hard work. I am just less impressed. And if you are impressed by Leiman’s theory of the history of the Old Testament canon, I think you need to do some hard work in the field of Biblical Studies.

    KJ: “Leiman’s work is controversial, I’ll give you that. But, to poison the well about his work because you disagree with it is simply unreasonable. No amount of Jedi-Mind-Trick hand-waving is going to put aside legitimate arguments without actually arguing contra Leiman’s points. But, in point of fact, the book was seriously received in the scholarly community when it came out and here’s just a part of one review for the readers to consider: The solid contribution of this book is its bringing together under one cover all the pertinent texts, with translations, from the Talmuds and Midrashim (in sensu stricto). Here are all those rabbinic passages heretofore simply listed or cursorily discussed, plus others we had not imagined. It is a rich store and well worth study…One hopes that Leiman will continue his important work and broaden his horizon of it. J.A. Sanders. Journal of Biblical Literature. December 1977, Vol. 96 Issue 4, pg. 590. ”

    Me: Leiman’s work is too insignificant to be termed “controversial”. To be controversial, more than a few people have to be discussing it and disagreeing about it, and not just once in a blue moon.

    I am not sure what sort of a theological education you may have, but do I need to point out to you that just because a book may illumine the reader on the Talmudic traditions regarding the canon (as the review states), this does not establish that it is a serious book on the actual history of the development of the canon? The fact that this book is out of print is perhaps another clue here.

    KJ: “While Sanders does issue reserve about Leiman’s claims, clearly he treats the work as a serious contribution to the field.”

    Me: To the field of Talmudic studies? Perhaps. To the field of the history of the Biblical Canon? Hardly. Have you found his theory on that history treated seriously in any serious book on the subject?

    KJ: “No doubt similar scholarly disagreement is available about your own contentions and mine. But, we are not here to believe on the basis of scholarly authority or jump on the bandwagon contra the claims some have already made above.”

    Me: But we have someone who cited this scholar as is what he said proved something, and it doesn’t.

    KJ: “This line of reasoning is so manifestly padded with assumptions that it’s practically not worth responding to at all. Tim has already covered much of this in previous responses. I have no reason to go over it again.”

    Me: In the future then, I would suggest that you not open up questions you don’t which to discuss. Tim did not address my questions to you at all.

    KJ: “The Church did exist prior to the creeds and that is simply a historic fact. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Either the creeds were a product of a previously existing authority–the Church–or they weren’t. If they weren’t then you have nothing to argue about in regards to the authority of tradition or even things like Orthodox exclusivity. If the Church did exist prior to the creeds, then we may have something to discuss as to what they mean and why they are authoritative.”

    Me: The Church did exist prior to the Nicene Creed. That Creed is however based upon earlier creeds, the beginning of which you can read in Acts chapter 2, and in the other sermons in Acts that reflect the Apostolic Kerygma.

    KJ: “But, I wasn’t limiting the context to the Church per your misguided assumption in that regard. Did Abraham require a creed to be the covenanted father of the people of God? The answer of course is, “No. Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)”

    Me: When Abraham believed God, did his faith have any content associated with it? If so, what would call such content, if not a Creed? The Old Testament has a number of creedal affirmations: “Hear, O Israel…,” “We were slaves in Egypt… but the Lord…,” etc.

  37. Fr. John Whiteford says:

    It is hard to take someone seriously who claims that there are superior treatises that defend his position… out there somewhere… but he refuses to say what they are, and suggested that only stupid people don’t see the clothes on the emperor.

    This is manifestly not what I’ve claimed. I’ve said the whole tradition needs to be dealt with and not merely individual works (and particularly not more modern ones). Furthermore, contra your assertion, I’ve called no one stupid. It might do you well to accurately summarize my point of view rather than continue these blustery harangues.

    Fr. John continues:

    I was responding to you, and asking reasonable questions, that you evidently don’t have good answers for, or else you would no doubt have given them.

    I know logical thinking is hard for some, but the refusal to give an answer the way you want it does not mean that no answer exists. As a result, your assumptions are simply in error.

    Fr. John:

    Name three books that are better than Mathison’s then. You wish to suggest that the earth is laden with them. Name a few, and then you won’t be pinned down to just one.

    No. I’m not your lackey. I’ll contribute to this discussion the way I see fit and not the way you demand. If you want to have a conversation with me, we’ll do it on terms we both agree with and not merely the way you want to dictate for us all how to talk about these issues.

    Fr. John:

    And if you are impressed by Leiman’s theory of the history of the Old Testament canon, I think you need to do some hard work in the field of Biblical Studies…Leiman’s work is too insignificant to be termed “controversial”. To be controversial, more than a few people have to be discussing it and disagreeing about it, and not just once in a blue moon.

    This is coming from the man who has indicted nearly the whole of biblical scholarship on the premise that the Byzantine text is superior to the one provided by Nestle/Aland and others! The truth is that you have predefined theological commitments to your point of view that preclude you from accepting certain academic work as reasonable.

    It should be noted that nowhere above have I endorsed Leiman’s viewpoint – the mention of his work came from another contributor to this discussion. What I have disputed is your general hardened notion that other scholarly voices are irrelevant to the subject unless they are in agreement with your point of view as well as the idea that no one took Leiman’s work seriously. Clearly I have demonstrated otherwise.

    Fr. John:

    The Church did exist prior to the Nicene Creed. That Creed is however based upon earlier creeds, the beginning of which you can read in Acts chapter 2, and in the other sermons in Acts that reflect the Apostolic Kerygma.

    Thank you for substantiating that the Church did exist prior to the creeds, early or late.

    I write:

    “But, I wasn’t limiting the context to the Church per your misguided assumption in that regard. Did Abraham require a creed to be the covenanted father of the people of God? The answer of course is, “No. Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)”

    Fr. John writes:

    When Abraham believed God, did his faith have any content associated with it? If so, what would call such content, if not a Creed? The Old Testament has a number of creedal affirmations: “Hear, O Israel…,” “We were slaves in Egypt… but the Lord…,” etc.

    Abraham believed God, not a creed, which is to say He trusted God and His Word, not tradition-based doctrinal content about Him. According to the New Testament, this is a statement about Abraham’s faith, not his assent to particularities of Christian truth fundamental or otherwise. The creeds read: I believe IN God. Abraham believed God – God here functions as the personal object of Abraham’s belief and is not merely belief about him. Besides, the content of the faith Abraham did have was directly from God’s revelation of Himself. Furthermore, Abraham’s belief was not framed by anyone or any organization unlike the Orthodox assertion that visible unity must be maintained in order to be Christian. Quite the contrary–God set His love on Abraham and chose him and his descendants. Nor was Abraham’s orthodoxy or membership in the covenant due to his dependence upon proper creedal formulation or endorsement of the same. There was no creed, only a relationship between God and Abraham due to the covenant God established. Person to Person, not Person to creed or hierarchy.

    1. Kevin D. Johnson wrote:

      “This is manifestly not what I’ve claimed. I’ve said the whole tradition needs to be dealt with and not merely individual works (and particularly not more modern ones). ”

      Me: This is what you’ve claimed, and… you got nothing.

      KJ: “Furthermore, contra your assertion, I’ve called no one stupid….
      I know logical thinking is hard for some….”

      Me: You deny in one breath what you suggest in the next. The emperor has no clothes, but would have us believe that anyone who notices is stupid.

      KJ: “This is coming from the man who has indicted nearly the whole of biblical scholarship on the premise that the Byzantine text is superior to the one provided by Nestle/Aland and others!”

      Me: Kevin, have you spent any time studying the subject? I have. On the question of the Orthodox view of the text of the New Testament, I was quite clear that the Orthodox view was different than the mainstream Protestant view on the question. I know very well what the mainstream Protestant view is, and have studied it extensively, and just judging by your comments in this forum, I suspect a lot more than you have. There are reasons why I think the Orthodox view is sounder than the Protestant view, and I have pointed you to Protestant authors that are in substantial agreement with the Orthodox view on the question, based purely on the observable evidence. The Orthodox add to that a faith in the Tradition of the Church that goes beyond the bounds of Protestant rationalism.

      The Talmudic scholar that was sited as proof for an odd ball view of the history of the canon is neither supported by the Christian Tradition, nor by scholars in that field of study. And so to cite him here as an authority is without merit.

      KJ: “It should be noted that nowhere above have I endorsed Leiman’s viewpoint – the mention of his work came from another contributor to this discussion. What I have disputed is your general hardened notion that other scholarly voices are irrelevant to the subject unless they are in agreement with your point of view as well as the idea that no one took Leiman’s work seriously. Clearly I have demonstrated otherwise.”

      Me: You demonstrated he was taken seriously in the field of Talmudic studies, not in the field we were discussing.

      KJ: “Abraham believed God, not a creed, which is to say He trusted God and His Word, not tradition-based doctrinal content about Him.”

      Me: So you believe one can have a faith in God that is devoid of content. That is nonsense. You seem to think that believing God and believing God are somehow unrelated concepts. How can one believe God, without believing in God?

  38. I’m not sure why anyone would consult the Talmud on the canon. That is like asking someone who murdered your family to give you advice on taking care of a family. The Talmud posits Mary, the Mother of God, as a whore and Christ as a bastard, among dozens upon dozens of other deplorable assertions and Satanic drivel. To even consult the post-Christian “Jews” for their expertise is beyond absurd and shows pointed desperation on the behalf of Protestants who don’t really have a good reason for not accepting the Septuagint (as Christ and the Apostles did, along with the whole of the Apostolic or “early” Church) as well as the reality when it comes to the development and acceptance of the Scriptures as part of Holy Tradition. The Bible didn’t fall from the sky, and it certainly didn’t do so as a Classical Greek codex from the Middle Ages.

    It seems to me that there’s a great deal of arguing past each other and avoidance of key issues here.

    The Protestants are hung up on the fact that SS is not supposed to foster doctrinal/organizational unity within the Church, so to argue against it from that perspective is nonsensical. Who cares, though? If that isn’t its purpose, put that aside and discuss the fact that SS is a recent innovation in Church history and holds no water (especially within the Scriptures, even the modified ones of the Protestants and their Christ-hating Masoretic friends); that it has no basis in Scripture itself; that it would’ve been impossible for centuries and therefore unnecessary for the sustainability of the Christian Church; that it is more based upon the philosophical and cultural shifts of the post-Humanistic West than it is the Apostles of Christ; that it does, in fact, lead to a great deal of schism, heresy, dis-unity, dis-fellowship and madness. Stick to the real issue: that of SS being either true or false. That would be much more impressive than this skirting game.

    I hope that this blog will provide more helpful debates in the future, and not ones that provide a soapbox for people to tell one another how many sources they’ve read and how the other person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Or worse, arguments that lead to “I know the answer, but I have no reason to share it” as well as the whole “convert sickness” bullshit that characterizes much of the (online) Reformed critique of both Roman Catholicism and the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Eastern Orthodoxy). It would also be impressive to see Protestant contributors actually acknowledge the vast difference between these two groups, especially in their argumentation. There was a lot of discussion on here about Popes and other such nonsense that I doubt the OP or those from the Orthodox point of view care little about (nor does it have any bearing on whether SS is true or false).

    At the end of the day, myself and many others convert to Orthodoxy because of two primary issues: The Scriptures and the Church. It boils down to authority, authenticity and Truth. These issues, and the topic of SS is a vital one for both the Orthodox and the Protestant, because it speaks to the heart of the differences between us (at least, the starting point of those differences). It becomes nearly impossible to find common ground or dialogue about anything else with such differences, and I fear that this reality might prove more un-fruitful discussions in the future.

    Nevertheless, I am glad to be home in the apostolic Church and to know that we will be worshipping the same way for my entire life and that this is the same way that it was done a generation before me, and it is the same as it will be a generation after. The chaos of Protestantism and the vastness of change that could occur due to a new scholar’s “better ideas” was exhausting and I’m glad that my experience of God and His Church is not dependent upon the “traditions of men” that vary with every new wind (as it is in Protestantism).

    In peace,
    V

  39. Jamey writes:

    We on this thread may not understand Sola Scriptura, we don’t know how to pick a book on the subject, and they are not going to tell us either what it means nor what book would be most suitable to review on the subject.

    That is not what I’m saying. As I clearly indicated above, Mr. Arakaki is welcome to review whatever he likes. However, he is not entitled to pretend that because he’s reviewed Mathison’s work that somehow that means he’s adequately dealt with the Reformation traditions as a whole concerning sola Scriptura. Mathison’s view is merely reflective of one view and a particularly modern one at that.

    Jamey writes:

    We’re probably just a bunch of shallow converts who are simply trying to pat ourselves on the back for converting, or mislead the masses who don’t understand the truth as Tim and Kevin see it.

    It has been my experience that so-called converts have not always completely grappled with the better parts of the Reformed tradition on these issues in their examination of these things nor have they been particularly interactive on the Reformed side with those who may be able to help steer them toward a more reasonable position. And, reviews like the one above by Mr. Arakaki are not overly helpful in seeing these questions from an informed point of view that takes into account all that should be considered.

  40. “That is not what I’m saying. As I clearly indicated above, Mr. Arakaki is welcome to review whatever he likes. However, he is not entitled to pretend that because he’s reviewed Mathison’s work that somehow that means he’s adequately dealt with the Reformation traditions as a whole concerning sola Scriptura. Mathison’s view is merely reflective of one view and a particularly modern one at that.”

    Has Mr. Arakaki made such a statement? I know there are 100+ comments and I can’t recall each one. But I am curious as to whether or not such a statement that “he’s adequately dealt with the Reformation traditions as a whole concerning sola Scriptura” was made on his part.

    1. This is in response to John the Second’s question on June 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm about Kevin Johnson’s comment on June 11 at 7:02.

      No, I have not made the claim that I have “dealt with the Reformation traditions as a whole concerning sola scriptura.” A doctoral dissertation would be a more appropriate place for dealing with that, not a blog. Having done doctoral work I am very conscious of defining the scope of the task at hand. The term “Reformation” — if one includes the magisterial Reformation and excludes the Anabaptist and the Anglican streams — means the Lutheran and Calvinist streams. The term “traditions” imply not just the two original Reformers but their colleagues like Philip Melanchton, Zacharias Ursinus, Martin Bucer, John Knox, et al. “Tradition” also imply confessional statements and sermons. Then one has to determine the time period within which one will confine one’s research. One could start with Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517 and conclude with the Westminster Assembly of 1646. My response then to Kevin’s expectation is: Is this a reasonable or even realistic expectation to have?

      Let me be clear as to what I am trying to do in the Contra Sola Scriptura series. I am presenting my research on sola scriptura touching upon various aspects of this very important theological principle. I take a strategic approach looking at key elements of Protestant theology: Scripture, Luther’s writings, Calvin’s Institutes, the Westminster Confession etc. If Calvin’s teaching on a certain point can be shown to be wrong and if it has not been repudiated by the Reformed churches then that particular teaching can be called into question and either restated, defended, or rejected. I am not dealing with sola scriptura as a foundational principle for Protestantism (including the Reformed churches), not with the Reformed understanding of sola scriptura. If sola scriptura can be called into question then the entirety of Reformed theology can be called into question. This then opens the door to a consideration of Eastern Orthodoxy.

      Lastly, Kevin’s statement “he is not entitled to pretend” is misleading and insulting. I’ve made no such claim nor did I imply such a claim. Kevin, on June 7 at 7:06 you wrote: “let’s remove the gloves….” and “let’s be concerned a little less about what’s proper….” So far I’ve seen at least one complaint about the tone of your comments. I suggest you be concerned a little more about the what is proper. Criticism of another’s position is acceptable but insults, direct or implied, have no place in this blog. I want this site to be a safe and pleasant place for people to dialogue.

      1. First, I have no idea why you would feel compelled to leave the English Reformation out of consideration when speaking of the Reformed. What an arbitrary delineation.

        >>>This then opens the door to a consideration of Eastern Orthodoxy.

        I am glad to hear you say this so openly. I would love to see you put this as a tagline at the top of the website so everyone can know this as the recruitment site it is.

        Saying you are not entitled to pretend is not the same as saying you are pretending.

        That said, complaints about my tone are noted though I would say that others here have already had the audacity to call me disingenuous, have unduly questioned my commitment to Protestant orthodoxy, and misrepresented what I’ve said or thought (for example, asserting that I’m calling people stupid). I do not expect disagreement with you, but I do expect fair treatment here. Call in your own dogs before you look to your neighbor’s.

      2. First, I have no idea why you would feel compelled to leave the English Reformation out of consideration when speaking of the Reformed. What an arbitrary delineation.

        >>>This then opens the door to a consideration of Eastern Orthodoxy.

        I am glad to hear you say this so openly. I would love to see you put this as a tagline at the top of the website so everyone can know this as the recruitment site it is.

        Saying you are not entitled to pretend is not the same as saying you are pretending.

        That said, complaints about my tone are noted though I would say that others here have already had the audacity to call me disingenuous, have unduly questioned my commitment to Protestant orthodoxy, and misrepresented what I’ve said or thought (for example, asserting that I’m calling people stupid). I do not expect agreement between us, but I do expect fair treatment here. Call in your own dogs before you look to your neighbor’s.

  41. I’m late to the discussion, but something’s been bothering me. I agree there’s a lot more unity in the Protestant world than often claimed. However, as Protestants we need to address the following difficulties. It does not do to resort to ad hominem about uninformed opponents when they raise these issues.

    1) It is very easy from inside Protestantism to grossly misunderstand the state of modern Protestantism. As an insider we see our portion of Protestantism, and discount liberals as not Protestant. However, from outside Protestantism means liberal PCUSA, ELCA and ECUSA; and then “evangelicalism”. The division here is deeper between anything in Orthodoxy, and anything approved in Catholicism, because, as Machen says, Liberal Protestantism is not Christian. (Though some post-Liberal Protestantism is becoming Christian again). As Protestants we need to reckon with the fact that by an large, Protestantism has apostasized.

    2) This leads us to the second problem. We tend to think of Evangelicals, the sort of people who might read World Magazine when we say “Protestant”. Not, of course that we would define things that way, but that when we treat Liberals as if they were not Christian, what is left is broad evangelicalism. As such, we open ourselves to all the arguments against Evangelicals. They are us.

    3) We cannot have it both ways. i) If we want to appeal to the Magisterial Protestants we have to include the ELCA etc. in what we mean by “Protestant”. ii) We can call all Evangelicals Protestant–and abandon an insistence that your opponents consider only the Magisterial Protestants. iii) Limit ourselves to a small section within Protestantism, consisting of the LCMS, the PCA, the WELS, the OPC and a few tiny Lutheran and Calvinist denominations.

    4) Moreover if we take option i) we must recognize that Orthodoxy is far more orthodox than Protestantism; and Catholicism is officially far more orthodox than Protestantism.

    5) If we take option ii) we must recognize that however much we value the fathers, the liturgy, and the Sacraments, we think they are optional and not a fundamental portion of the Christian faith. We may personally confess one baptism for the remission of sins, we may personally believe that a denial of the Sacraments is a denial of the true Protestant understanding of justification. A high view of tradition, liturgy, and the Sacrament, may define us against other Evangelicals, but it is not part of what constitutes us as Christians; and indeed it is a very secondary aspect, as we treat ourselves as closer to the Evangelicals than to the EO and Catholics–as demonstrated by our terminology. One does not “convert” to even Charismaticism.

    6) If we take the third option, we must recognize that fundamentally there is not union, but there is little to no intercommunion. Moreover, those denominations have a tendency (for whatever reason) toward heresy hunting and sectionalism. And finally, there are very few of them. There are about 6,000 LCMS congregations, and 2,000 PCA congregations.

    7) The ancient Church took schism very seriously, and thought it struck at the heart of the Church, whereas the Helvetic Consensus Formula essentially defines schism away–saying that only heresy is really schism.

  42. ‘John the Second’ – It’s not that Mr. Arakaki has to explicitly make such a statement. He addresses the topic of sola Scriptura as a whole both in the original review (cf. “If Sola Scriptura Fails…”) of Mathison’s book and throughout the comments. If he’s going to do that, his comments in that regard are fair game to be properly evaluated.

    1. I wonder, if he really thought as much then why make a four part series on the topic of sola Scriptura? It would seem as if he’s admitted that there’s more to be said here than what he has posted. That is why it appears that you are putting words in his mouth that you readily admit he has not explicitly said.

      1. ‘John the second’ – we can wonder until the cows come home regarding Mr. Arakaki’s thoughts but I’m not a mind reader. I am dealing not only with what he has explicitly claimed on the whole but also with what some will undoubtedly take from his review whether he intended such things or not.

  43. Mr. Petersen,

    You keep using the word “we” when referring to Protestants. Are you sure you really are one?

    As to your curious divisions as to what makes a Protestant and the arguments that then follow from your puzzling choices, I would only say that your labels are artificial, wholly novel, and completely leaves out the English Church among other notable groups. You might work with Mr. Arakaki to provide us with so-called “heuristic typologies” concerning Protestantism. That way you can define it however you like no matter what the actual facts may be. Wait. You already did that.

  44. I provide the following response to Mr. Arakaki. I appreciate that he took the time to respond in detail to what I outlined even if on the whole I do not agree with him. I don’t have time to respond fully to his comments and will leave him with this response and also what I’ve already written above.

    Robert Arakaki (robertrar) writes:

    It is my understanding that Keith Mathison’s “The Shape of Sola Scriptura” represents the best effort so far to develop an apologia for sola scriptura. R.C. Sproul praised the book as “the finest and most comprehensive treatment of the matter.” http://www.amazon.com/Shape-Sola-Scriptura-Keith-Mathison/dp/1885767749 (Does Kevin consider R.C. Sproul’s a theological lightweight?) Kevin is of the belief that there are other more serious works on sola scriptura by Reformed theologians. He is welcome to provide me with their name but I am of the opinion that the recent debate about a basis for sola scriptura is new. Scott Hahn, a Presbyterian minister who converted to Catholicism, recounts in Rome Sweet Home the utter surprise with which his seminary professors greeted his questions about the basis for sola scriptura. They had not heard the questions he was raising. While there may be a lot of Protestant theological scholarship on the authority and inspiration of Scripture, it seems that there is a lacuna with respect to the apologia for sola scriptura.

    A few things on these comments…

    1) I do not believe Keith Mathison’s work to be the best effort so far to develop an apologia for sola scriptura. It suffers from a modern historiographical view of the Reformation and history of the Church that comes primarily from an overly familiar read and endorsement of Heiko Oberman’s work. While we have not really discussed it here, it might have been a better strategy for Mr. Arakaki to identify places where my position (or better, the magisterial Reformed position) and his on the book might have common interest and critique.

    2) I do not believe R.C. Sproul is a theological lightweight per se, but as I stated above I do believe his work and ministry has on the whole only helped the Reformed world and those interested in it pursue a superficial doctrinal understanding of the relevant issues and carry with them a blatant disregard for real work in history and theology sufficient to handle the issues at hand. His work and witness is very American in character and so when Sproul endorses the book as “the finest and most comprehensive treatment of the matter” I can only raise a skeptical eyebrow and then roll my eyes at such marketing speak. Statements like that make books really easy to sell but demonstrating their veracity is another matter altogether. And, having read the book some years ago I can say that he is undoubtedly wrong.

    3) Scott Hahn and his experience at Westminster is only a case in point of what I describe in #2 above. The fact that he had professors who hadn’t grappled with some of the issues he might have with sola Scriptura does not surprise me in the least. Part of his statement I blame on the rabid exaggeration of a Romanist Internet apologist, but there is some truth to what he says. Protestantism today is not the bulwark it was several centuries ago and if you knew me well, you would know (as Tim points out above) that I’ve laid out many criticisms internally about our communions that hinder us from doing ‘that which the Lord requires’ (Micah 6:8).

    That said, to say that just because Scott Hahn could not find the answers or Mathison can’t provide them means there aren’t better answers to the questions brought here or elsewhere is just more windbaggery and doesn’t of necessity conform to the facts.

    Mr. Arakaki writes:

    Kevin seems to be playing games when he alleges there are more knowledgeable and serious Reformed authorities out there and if you don’t know who they are your knowledge is deficient. He seems to be playing the game: Guess what’s behind my back? My answer is: I don’t know what’s behind your back, why don’t you show me? On this point Kevin needs to put up or shut up.

    No. I will proceed as I see fit in regards to this conversation. I don’t bear the burden of proof on this website – you are the one making claims here about the inadequacy of sola Scriptura and Mathison’s book.

    Mr. Arakaki writes:

    I think Kevin is letting Mathison off too easily with his claim that Mathison’s book is not a serious piece of scholarship. I think Mathison’s “The Shape of Sola Scriptura” represents the beginning of an attempt to formulate a serious defense of sola scriptura and for that reasons deserves to be taken seriously.

    I didn’t say the book was not a serious piece of scholarship. Mathison’s book may represent a serious modern attempt to formulate a defense of sola Scriptura but the Reformed have been giving defenses of it for five hundred years now. And, Mathison’s work is not the only attempt in modern times anyway. Cf. David King and William Webster’s multi-volume work:

    http://www.the-highway.com/br_solascriptura.html

    Mr. Arakaki writes:

    The OrthodoxBridge was not intended for a popular audience. It is intended for an intelligent audience in Reformed and Orthodox circles who are asking hard questions about their faith and are willing to do their homework.

    LOL. First I am told elsewhere by one of the Orthodox commenters that this blog is not an academic journal and I should be writing on a lower level – now we get the line that this is a blog for a serious “intelligent audience in Reformed and Orthodox circles”. How about you guys make up your mind?

    Mr. Arakaki writes:

    I provided the readers with the citations from the Fathers as a service to the readers. Many are probably not familiar with the Church Fathers…Protestants lack exposure to church history and to historical sources…It won’t be easy but I’m sure many are willing to learn new things. For Kevin to claim that who bought Mathison’s book are “not equipped to deal with the multitude of issues surrounding the historical interpretations and understanding of the Fathers” is to have a low opinion of Mathison’s audience.

    Look at what you’re saying and then what I’ve said. Who really has a low view of Mathison’s readers here? I would say, realistically, it’s not a matter of having a low view of people however. We’re just recognizing the state of where things are. I’m not overly sure you disagree with me here.

    Mr. Arakaki:

    What I find disturbing is Kevin’s insinuation that both Reformed and Orthodox Christians have their biases and that they will present facts the way they see them. Kevin here seems to be denying the objectivity of truth and opening the door to a postmodern approach to truth. The deep streak of skepticism that runs through Kevin’s commentary has me concerned that he has moved away from the historic Christian understanding of truth as objective and knowable.

    This line of thinking is completely unfounded. I get done saying a hundred times that my view is classically Protestant and you come to this conclusion??? You are not playing fair here.

    This review of a review of a review is now so long I’m only going to respond to one more point!

    Mr. Arakaki writes:As regards Kevin’s criticism of my alternative typology, it should be noted that typologies are essentially a heuristic, an artificial construct that aids analysis by providing a simplified model of a complex reality. Mathison did the same thing borrowing from Heiko Oberman the categories Tradition I and Tradition II. As a church history major I’m well aware of how messy church history and that is why I appreciate typologies as a way of making sense of church history. If Kevin thinks that church history is so messy that typologies are useless, he should come out and say so.

    Yes. I happen to disagree with Oberman and Mathison. But alternative typologies have to at least have some resemblance between what is proposed and the actual history of the matter. Yours doesn’t, as I aptly pointed out earlier.

    1. So now Kevin reveals a book (or trilogy) that is superior to Mathison. I am not going to run out and buy a copy of that triology because I have spent enough time debating both authors, and rather doubt their books are better. Aside from my own experience, I have seen Protestant apologize rave about Mathison’s book. I haven’t seen much raving about this trilogy.

      Click here for a debate I had with William Webster

      And you can click here, and go to part 4 of the section “Protestant Interpretative Approaches that don’t work for my reasons for not taking contemporary Biblical Scholarship as the last word on the question

      1. Fr John, Bless!

        Thank you for sharing that debate with Mr. Webster. The amount of quotes taken out of context from the Fathers by him is staggering – but not surprising. Most humorous is the one of my patron Saint, Vincent of Lérins.

        Thank you for your faithful service to the Church.

        In peace,
        Vincent

      2. Fr. Whitehead:

        I did not at all say Webster or King’s works were superior to Mathison. Each have their strengths and weaknesses. As it is, I generally prefer to read older primary source material anyway.

  45. Kevin Johnson,

    I’m not sure how one can be confused as to whether he’s a Protestant. Last I checked I was Protestant, though I have to admit I have no idea whether I’m “really” a Protestant, or even what that means.

    Other than that I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Let’s assume we are speaking of the Magesterial Protestants. The first few points attempt to raise the issue of liberalism and evangelicalism. The third question deals with all the logical options, save accepting Liberalism and rejecting Evangelicalism.

    But I will admit I was distracted, and the first few points don’t flow so well as I meant to. Within Protestantism there are broadly these three divisions: the Evangelicals, the orthodox mainline denominations, and the liberal mainline denominations. When we talk of Protestant unity are we talking of unity within those divisions, or between them. If we take union only within the orthodox mainline denominations, there isn’t real union, and there are very few of them. If we take union only from the heirs of Luther and Calvin–that is the mainline Churches–then we must include the liberals. They are unfaithful children, but children nonetheless. On the other hand, if we take union between the orthodox mainline, and evangelicals, we jettison the very things we are arguing for in this discussion.

    Also, I didn’t ignore the Anglicans. At least in America, the Anglicans are either 1) liberal, 2) tiny denominations, whether these are the AM (formerly AMiA) with about 160 congregations, or the Anglo-Catholic diocese of Quincy (Southern Cone) or the dioceses of Fort Worth and San Joaquin (Southern Cone). Perhaps Anglicanism is your thing, and perhaps orthodox Anglicanism is a dead seed, but if it is, it takes faith to see it as such.

  46. Tim Enloe wrote:

    “I didn’t say one shouldn’t be concerned about doctrinal disunity, nor did I say the Apostles would approve of denominationalism. But then, I’m not your average sect-loving, history-ignorant, damn-everyone-else Reformed guy, either.”

    Me: On the one hand, the Apostles clearly allowed no room for doctrinal diversity, or for local churches doing their own thing independently of the rest of the Church. So in light of that, how can it be argued that the fact that Sola Scriptura has promoted both of those tendencies in a way previously unprecedented is not proof that it is fundamentally flawed?

    TE: “At any rate, Fr. John, your remarks show again the importance of cultural and social history in analyzing doctrinal matters. Catholics think the papacy is clearly taught in such passages as Matthew 16, John 21, and Luke 22, but this is a conceit that they have because their fathers read the Bible in Latin, in a cultural milieu soaked with the assumption of “Romanitas.””

    Me: Such a reading is not based on the historic Tradition of the Church.

    TE: “You talk of what St. Paul or St. John would or would not have approved of, but I see nothing in Scripture that says they wouldn’t have approved of the adaptation of the Faith to other local situations than the one you East and West Romans recognize.”

    Me: The faith was once delivered unto the saints. The Faith is not adapted. In what way do you think the faith is adaptable to culture? The Christian Faith is expressed in a culture, but the faith does not change.

    TE: “The bottom line is, I see no reason to grant you your rhetorical posturing about the superiority of your preferred mode of Church organization. Just because St. Paschobertus Magnus of the 105 Holy Miracles, standing in the 83rd place of tactile-ordination succession from the Apostle Andrew (or whoever) said something doesn’t mean it is true. If you want to be polemical, then I defy you or anyone of your friends to produce words from your Venerable Church Fathers to the effect that their words are to be taken with the same seriousness as that of Holy Scripture itself. If you actually do know the Fathers as you say you do, then you know that can’t be demonstrated. Scripture is superior to all the words of the Fathers, and given the fact that you have to appeal to “Tradition” the same as we have to appeal to “tradition,” it’s obvious that you aren’t in any kind of superior intellectual position. Mostly it’s just rhetoric, and easily challengeable rhetoric at that.”

    Me: No Father of the Church is *THE* Tradition. A Father is like a manuscript of the New Testament. It is a more or less accurate copy of the New Testament, but it is not *THE* New Testament. And if you want to read a father who puts Tradition on the same Level as Tradition, you could start with St. Paul, 2nd Thessalonians 2:15… and then read St. John Chrysostom’s commentary on that passage:
    “”Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter” From this it is clear that they did not hand down everything by letter, but there was much also that was not written. Like that which was written, the unwritten too is worthy of belief. Let us regard the Tradition of the Church also as worthy of belief. Is it Tradition? Seek no further” [Homilies on the second epistle to the Thessalonians 4:2].
    You could also read St. Basil’s Treatise on the Holy Spirit where he says essentially the same thing.

    And the problem here is not whether the fathers are on the same level as the Scriptures (because the fathers reflect, but are not identical with the Tradition), the problem is whether your interpretation of the Scriptures is on the same level as the Fathers… and it obviously isn’t.

    1. Thanks for your reply, Fr. Whiteford. A couple of things have become clear to me through this conversation.

      One is that you Orthodox folks here have stereotypical notions of what Protestants “must” believe, and none of you seem willing to question your stereotypes. To you, we’re all a bunch of quacky heretics who deny “Holy Tradition” and have no authority but our own private fancies about Scripture. It’s our duty to give up all that is important to us without an ounce of protest, come across your so-called “bridge” and simply join you on the other side; you correspondingly have no duties of Christian charity or self-critical thought to shoulder. After all, you’re ORTHODOX. You have TRADITION. Why should you have to answer to anyone else? So blindly do you cling to these notions about Protestant vices and your own supposed superior virtues that I don’t think it’s profitable for me to spend any more time talking to you. You aren’t willing to meet your dialogue partners halfway, because you already have the answers. Well, Father, if I want a sermon, I can get one at my own church. I don’t need to come here.

      A second is that, while I would never claim to be an expert on the thought of the Fathers, I believe that there’s a great deal of prooftexting of the Fathers going on here, and this just gets in the way of a really critical reflection on our common heritage. Evidently, you actually expect me to be disturbed by 2 Thess. 2:15 and Chrysostom’s comments on it. Evidently you think I’m so clueless and superstitious that the mere citation of a passage of Scripture combined with the mere invocation of a Great Man’s Name and a single isolated quote from him automatically ends the argument. It doesn’t, and I refuse to waste any time talking to anyone who so superficially uses the historical sources of our Faith.

      I’m sure you’re a good guy in real life, and I wish you well. But as a self-critical classical Protestant interested in the pursuit of wisdom, there’s nothing on this site that worries me, and I can’t spare any more time for this same-old, same-old rhapsodizing.

      1. Tim,

        This response tells me you’ve never experienced Orthodoxy outside the internet and that you, like most modern people, find objective truth unacceptable and offensive.

        In peace…

        1. Yep, you got me Vincent. I find objective truth unpalatable. Not.

          Now will any of your friends here take you to task for your uncharity, or is it just Protestants who get taken to task for that?

      2. Tim Enloe wrote:

        “Thanks for your reply, Fr. Whiteford. A couple of things have become clear to me through this conversation. One is that you Orthodox folks here have stereotypical notions of what Protestants “must” believe, and none of you seem willing to question your stereotypes. To you, we’re all a bunch of quacky heretics who deny “Holy Tradition” and have no authority but our own private fancies about Scripture.”

        Me: Tim, you seem to forget that most of the Orthodox who are posting in this discussion were Protestants, and so know it from the inside out. I was studying to be a Nazarene minister when I began studying Orthodoxy… and that study was in part a result of my actually using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to analyze theological questions. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is in short the idea that there are 4 sources for Theology: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. The problem is that this is mostly a theoretical construct that has little bearing on what Wesleyan Theologians actually do. Aside from the doctrine of the Trinity or Christology, Wesleyan Theologians use of tradition generally stopped at John Wesley. That is pretty much True of Lutherans and Calvinists… except that you generally stop and Luther and Calvin, and use St. Augustine only when he supports the aforementioned.

        TE: “A second is that, while I would never claim to be an expert on the thought of the Fathers, I believe that there’s a great deal of prooftexting of the Fathers going on here, and this just gets in the way of a really critical reflection on our common heritage. ”
        Me: There is no way to discuss what the Fathers taught without quoting them, however to substantiate the claim that we are prooftexting, you would need to show how that is.

        TE: “Evidently, you actually expect me to be disturbed by 2 Thess. 2:15 and Chrysostom’s comments on it.”

        Me: Whether it disturbs you or not is your concern. I quoted it, because it addressed you argument.

        TE: “Evidently you think I’m so clueless and superstitious that the mere citation of a passage of Scripture combined with the mere invocation of a Great Man’s Name and a single isolated quote from him automatically ends the argument. It doesn’t, and I refuse to waste any time talking to anyone who so superficially uses the historical sources of our Faith.”

        Me: By all means, study St. John Chrysostom in context. Study him thoroughly. You will inevitably come to the conclusion that he was not a Calvinist or a Protestant, if you do so.

        1. Wow, Fr. Whiteford, see, there’s your preconceptions about what I “must” believe and do again. I would not read Chrysostom to try to make him a Calvinist or a Protestant. Why would I want to do that? I honor Chrysostom and all the Fathers as my fathers in the faith, acknowledging their good and bad points, their strengths and weaknesses, and standing with them where I can. I don’t perceive the great rupture between myself and them that you seem to feel I must perceive, and so it doesn’t bother me even if you can quote lots of things from them that are distinctly un-Protestant. I don’t labor under the misconceptions about the use of historical sources that you (and your Roman opponents, who treat sources just like you) do.

          Sorry to have to be so contrary, but I am actually quite a bit more well read in Church history than you seem to assume I “must” be since I’m a Protestant. One thing that reading large, complex bodies of material (such as the Fathers, or, what I am more deeply familiar with, Western political theology) has taught me that one can rarely prove any point by short quotations thrown out as if they are self-interpreting. That’s why I hate these kinds of discussions. I have a couple of rather large files of patristic quotes, many of them with extensive context, and if I wanted to, I could follow your procedure here and simply toss around snippet citations and say Ha, I got you didn’t I. But that would get us nowhere fast. Like I said, superficiality with historical sources is not anything I want to spend any time on.

          1. Tim you say: “I honor Chrysostom and all the Fathers as my fathers in the faith, acknowledging their good and bad points, their strengths and weaknesses, and standing with them where I can.”

            “.. and standing with them where I can.” Where you can? By that do you mean that you are unable to stand with them in the fullness of the Glory of God?

            Or do you mean that you are choosing, however arbitrarily or individually, in your mind where the Father’s are right, or should I say: “agree with you?”

            Because if it is the latter (which I have only the slightest doubt that it is not) then you have openly admitted that, for you (a member of the Protestant movement) the truth is completely individual.

        2. And by the way, Fr. Whiteford, once more, I’m completely unimpressed by declarations that “I used to be a Protestant for ___ years. Why, I was even studying to be a minister.” My experiences in the pool of fratricidal theological nincompoopery that is much of American Presbyterianism has taught me that just because a man has passed seminary exams and says he’s adhered to “Reformed Theology”for ___ years does not mean he is a competent interpreter of history or theology. Credentials don’t matter; substance does.

          One reason arguments like yours and the others being presented on this site have so much traction with many Protestants is precisely because much of Protestantism today is abominably ignorant of Church history, having chosen to follow the more fanatical side of our various traditions in mining history only for negative points to make against others rather than learning to receive and learn from history. By and large, Protestants fail to positively study history and try to organically relate it to ourselves as an indispensable part of our own heritage, and so, along come you guys with all this stuff about “the unbroken faith of 2000 years” and “who has proper authority” and “who are you and what are you doing with our Bible” and so forth, and many of us just go, gee whillikers, what do I do now – guess I better convert.

          Not me, my brother, not me. I’m more knowlegeable than you think I am about history, I’m not full of anxiety about “the Gospel” like so many of my co-religionists, and I’m a lot more confident in the resources of my tradition to answer hard questions than most of them, too. You’ve yet to say anything that really bothers me, because as I’ve already said, you really don’t have any idea what makes me tick. You assume that just because I’m a Protestant, I “must” think certain things in certain ways, but you’re flat wrong.

          Now, if you want to mollify your polemical posture (which, since I know you’ve dealt with guys like White and Webster makes perfect sense to me – they are hyper polemical, and it’s all to easy to let their attitudes poison discourse) and try being more friendly and open, you might find it’s possible to constructively talk to me about your concerns. I’ll leave the ball in your court.

          1. Tim, you made a point in the form of a question, demanding to know which Father of the Church put themselves on the same level as the Scriptures, I responded by showing the fallacy of the question, and pointed to an example in which a Father clearly puts Tradition on the same level as Scripture, and you have done everything but address that point. Now if you think my quote of St. John Chrysostom is out of context, the burden is on you to show how that is so. I don’t claim to know exactly what you believe, I am just responding to what you are posting here.

          2. Tim,

            I’m impressed by your ability to be so confident in your knowledge. However, since I’m not able to study as much as someone like yourself, I’m left to simply believe in the Church and be obedient.

            In peace,
            V

      3. Tim, although I’m late to this discussion, I would hope that with our many and deep conversations in the past you wouldn’t paint me with that brush.

        In large, I think your critique is right. Most English speaking Orthodox have largely been concerned to take up the mantle of Catholic polemics about the metaphysical instability of Sola Scriptura as first principle. However, it does not answer, in my mind the far more profound question: the doctrinal disunity experienced in the time of the apostles was solved by what mechanism? If one is honest, regardless of one’s current ecclesiastical affiliations, it is solved by appeal to the apostolic authority, to the authority of those left in charge by the apostles (think Apollos in Galatia) and excommunication. Certainly, the Apostles use the scriptures in their arguments, but when it comes down to it, those who profess different theology do so in opposition to the ones who “birthed” them. That this principle is followed by Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and the whole host of fathers that follow them is inescapable as the consensus patrum. And it is strengthened by the fact that the scriptures are *universally* (even among the famed, but often overstated, “literalism” of the Antiochians) interpreted typologically: that is the locus of the interpretive act is the episcopos.

        1. Taking my above point, the strongest argument for the Protestant acceptance of Sola Scriptura as first principle of communion is simply this: though they had the ability to maintain the episcopacy (there were at least 3 bishops that converted with Calvin and Luther; the total number is probably closer to 10-20) the Protestants quickly allowed the episcopacy to lapse and practiced presbyterial “ordination” in parallel to their living bishops. This represents a historic shift in the raison d’etre of church order.

        2. Nathaniel,

          If we grant your supposition for the moment, how do we know that the idea that doctrinal unity is to be solved by appeal to apostolic authority is something unquestioningly normative throughout the life of the church to now? Whatever your theological loyalties in that regard, isn’t this clearly an assumption that cannot of necessity be proven?

          1. That’s actually quite easy to demonstrate. We know the name and dates served of every Orthodox patriarch in every Orthodox church from AD 33 down to the present day. There’s no doubt for the Orthodox how our faith was preserved by the Holy Spirit.

          2. Kevin, to refute the Protestant ordo, I don’t have to prove its “unquestioningly normative” state throughout the whole life of the church, only that such a state was normative within the immediate apostolic and post-apostolic age. Considering that it is the normative approach of the apostles (Galatians 1; or Corinthians 1) and the normative approach of Clement, Ignatius and Irenaeus and that any arguments to the contrary are arguments from silence, I think it pretty safe to assume that it was normative in this period.

        3. Having read Roman Catholic and Orthodox polemics on this subject extensively, there are fundamental differences in the way the Orthodox approach this question. Obviously, there are many points we would agree upon, but the Roman Catholic Church’s approach to Tradition was best summarized by Pope Pius IX, who said at the First Vatican Council, as they were debating the dogma of Papal infallibility “I am Tradition!” They also believe in Dogmatic development, and since Vatican II have taken the Protestant approach to Biblical scholarship as a given. We believe the faith was once delivered unto the Saints, and do not accept the results or methods of Protestant Biblical scholarship uncritically.

  47. Robert and others
    Please help me to understand. I’m not in this discussion but I’m trying to follow both sides as best I can. I’m just curious: in the end re: Orthodoxy is the NT and OT scriptures the ‘supreme’ tradition by which the rest of/later Orthodox tradition is judged? I ask this because a Bishop I spoke with once defined it like that to me. But reading both sides in this discussion I’m not sure I understand what the Orthodox position is towards the NT/OT with respect to the rest of tradition?

    My apologies, I’m not a theologian or a christian theology student just a layman and a Greek philosophy undergrad.

    1. Yorgo, Great question! And great timing! Take a look at my most recent posting: “If Not Sola Scriptura Then What? The Biblical Basis for Tradition” (Part 2 of 4). In it I argue that Scripture is an integral part of Tradition, and that the various components of Tradition mutually inform and support each other. Hopefully that will answer your question. If not, just raise the question again.

    2. The phrase Prima Scriptura is often used among the Orthodox as a helpful explanatory reference.

      Scripture is highly revered, and is to be venerated and held in great honor.

      It is, however, at the same time one part of the “mind of the Church” and the revelation of the Holy Spirit to us, and not all parts of Scripture are held as having the same authority and thrust (e.g. the Holy Gospels have prominence among the Scriptures).

      In peace,
      Vincent

  48. In my discussions with Protestants about the authority of the Church vs. the authority of Scripture, I am often met with the argument that what the Church does needs to be aligned with ‘the Word of God.’

    The concept that ‘the Word of God,’ is the Scripture, (and similarly that ‘the Gospel’=Scripture) is one that is not only anachronistic, but also in error.

    Comments such as these: “That said, of course, what your current summation leaves out is the normative role of God’s Word, the unity found in the blood of Christ ‘to all those who believe’, and the work of the Holy Spirit,” are disturbing because they completely misrepresent what God’s Word actually is.

    God’s Word, contrary to popular belief, is not paragraphs, sentences, books, chapters, and verses. God’s Word is Jesus Christ. I argue that neither is Scripture the Gospel. The Gospel is also Jesus Christ.

    When the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (6th century BC) used the term “Logos” it meant that which bound everything together. It did NOT mean words. Similarly when the Gospel of John was translated into Chinese it was translated thus:

    “In the Beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God.” Vs 14 “And the Tao was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

    The ‘Word of God’ much more closely resembles the concept of ‘the Tao’ rather than what Protestants (especially Evangelical ones) claim that it’s the books in the Bible. The Books in the Bible are NOT the Word of God. The Word of God is Infinite, Begotten of the Father, and the Savior of the World.

    Conflating the two is serious error.

  49. Robert graciously sent me an email inviting me to respond to his review. About a year and a half ago another critical review of the same book appeared on a different website, and they invited my response. I made the mistake of promising one. A few weeks later a pipe broke in our kitchen wall, flooding a good part of our house. One delay after another kept me from completing my response in a timely manner. It took over a year. In short, I don’t want to promise anything here.

    What I can try to do is deal with a few of the major points Robert raised. Regarding the section of my book on the church fathers, it appears (if I am reading Robert correctly) that the main issues he has with that section of the book have to do with the small amount of space devoted to such a complex topic (“superficial”) and the use of the Tradition 1 and 2 categories when talking about the early fathers (“anachronism”).

    Regarding the amount of space devoted to the church fathers, I recognized that it was impossible to do an exhaustive study in the amount of space I had. I said as much in the first paragraph of the chapter on page 19. A thorough study of the early church on that subject would require at least one full length volume (such as those written by R.P.C. Hanson, Ellen Flesseman van Leer, and Yves Congar). It’s deliberately intended to be a brief summary. The real question is whether the summary is accurate, and that leads to the second point.

    Regarding the use of Oberman’s taxonomy (Tradition 1 and 2), of course no early church father would have described their view in such terms, so there is some anachronism. The taxonomy is simply a model intended to help grasp complex issues. Not even all Protestant scholars would agree with Oberman’s classification, however. A.N.S. Lane has a different taxonomy, which I mentioned in footnote 13 on page 86. I doubt any set of neat and clean categories will perfectly represent the views of the different men involved. History is never as neat and clean as the models created by historians.

    Regarding my understanding (or misunderstanding) of the Orthodox view, the book I found most helpful in describing it was the little book Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View by Georges Florovsky. Is his view not within the mainstream of Orthodox thought on the issues involved?

    1. I am very happy to welcome Keith to our discussion. I appreciate his gracious tone and his providing us with sources to read and study. I agree with him that taxonomies are just models for dealing with complex realities. But there is a burning question that needs to be dealt with in the course of Reformed-Orthodox dialogue and that is: Was the early Church Fathers approach to Scripture more like that of the Protestant Reformers or the Eastern Orthodox? The point I tried to raise in my posting was that Keith’s model couldn’t answer that question so I proposed an alternative taxonomy for reading the Church Fathers. Hopefully, Keith or someone will revisit the issue of the Church Fathers and write something that will advance our understanding.

    2. Thanks Keith,
      Welcome Keith,
      And thank you for your response. A gracious Christian gentleman who gets straight to the point without any hint of uncharitable assumption. Makes his point succinctly and offers references without any pretense, condescention, bluster or insult. How refreshing. Look forward to your reaction to Robert’s critique.

    3. It’s good to see you have joined the discussion Keith.

      As Protestant books go on this subject, as I said above, I think you have done the best job that I have seen, but your treatment of the views of the Fathers on this subject is flawed because you do not address the obvious evidence that runs contrary to your thesis that the earlier Fathers ascribed to Sola Scriptura, but that at the time of St. Basil some shift occurred. The biggest problem with that is that St. Basil’s appeal to Tradition in his treatise on the Holy Spirit has undeniable parallels with Tertullian’s line of argumentation in his treatise “De Corona” (ANF, vol. 3, p. 94f), who predated him by nearly two centuries. Also, it has been awhile since I read you book, but if memory serves, you did not address St. Irenaeus’ appeals to tradition, which run contrary to your thesis — namely:

      “As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this Faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believed these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the Tradition is one and the same. Neither do the Churches among the Germans believe otherwise or have another Tradition, nor do those among the Iberians, nor among the Celts, nor away in the East, or in Egypt, nor in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But just as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the Truth shines everywhere and enlightens all men who desire to come to a knowledge of the Truth. Nor will any of the rulers in the Churches, whatever his power of eloquence, teach otherwise, for no on is above the Teacher; nor will he who is weak in speaking subtract from the Tradition. For the Faith is one and the same, and cannot be amplified by one who is able to say much about it, nor can it be diminished by one who can say but little” [Against Heresies 1:10:2].”

      “When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the Truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the Truth, and everyone whosoever wishes draws from her the drink of life. For she is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers. That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them, while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the Traditions of Truth. What then? If there should be a dispute over some kind of question, ought we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches in which the Apostles were familiar, and draw from them what is clear and certain in regard to that question? What if the Apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of Tradition, which was handed down to those whom they entrusted the Churches?” [3:4:1].

      St. Irenaeus did not just argue Scripture with heretics. He argued that they were wrong because they did not agree with the Tradition of the Church. He also said plainly that if the Church lost the Scriptures, Tradition would be sufficient to guide it.

      Another issue that I think your book should have dealt with is the fact that one of the results of Protestant scholarship over the past 200 years has been to come to recognize the role that Tradition played in producing the Scriptures in the first place. For example, the book of Genesis was clearly based on Traditions that were well over a thousand years old before pen was ever put to papyrus. If the Holy Spirit could preserve those traditions infallibly over the millennia in the Old Covenant, why would that not be true in the New Covenant? And since there obviously was not a moment during the time period that the NT was written that the Scriptures were complete, and everything in them was available to the Church… (because that could only have occurred sometime after the last book was written, not to mention the canonization process), how can Sola Scriptura be said to have a Biblical Basis when it could not possibly have functioned even for a second in life of the Church that is recorded the New Testament?

    4. I forgot to address your last question: “Regarding my understanding (or misunderstanding) of the Orthodox view, the book I found most helpful in describing it was the little book Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View by Georges Florovsky. Is his view not within the mainstream of Orthodox thought on the issues involved?”

      Me: Fr. Georges Florovsky is certainly an important contemporary theologian, but I would suggest that to understand the Orthodox view of Scripture you first have to have an over all understanding of Orthodox Theology and practice, you especially need to understand Orthodox ecclesiology, how we view Tradition, and then read some of the apologetic writings by Orthodox authors that have been produced that specifically address the Protestant view of Scripture.

      There are a number of general books and essays I could recommend, but to be short, I would say start with what is here:

      Orthodoxinfo.com, Introduction

      On Orthodox Ecclesiology:

      The essays on the Church listed here. Especially, Alexei Khomiakov’s “The Church is One” ; St. Hilarion Troitsky’s “Christianity or the Church” ; and St. Cyprian of Carthage’s “Treatise on the unity of the Church” .

      On the Orthodox view of Tradition, I would put the book by Florovsky in that category. I would also suggest the stuff here:
      http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/inq_tradition.aspx

      And for Orthodox Apologetic works that answer the Protestant view, I would suggest the stuff listed here, as well as “Holy Scripture and the Church, by St. Hilarion Troitsky.

      I would also recommend “The Way”, by Clark Carlton.

      Maybe some other folks have some recommendations, but that is what comes to mind before my first cup of coffee this morning. 🙂

      1. Fr. Whiteford,

        I was just in the Houston area last week on the way home from San Antonio. Had I known we would be having this discussion, I could have called you, and we could have had the discussion face to face (much more enjoyable than these internet discussions, IMO 🙂

        [JW] As Protestant books go on this subject, as I said above, I think you have done the best job that I have seen, but your treatment of the views of the Fathers on this subject is flawed because you do not address the obvious evidence that runs contrary to your thesis that the earlier Fathers ascribed to Sola Scriptura, but that at the time of St. Basil some shift occurred.

        [KM] My treatment of the fathers was hampered by space constraints, but be that as it may, I used Oberman’s categories as a tool to help grasp a hugely complex and immense amount of information. I also recognize that Oberman’s categories are contested. I mentioned Lane in the post above who disagrees with Oberman. In his study Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey, Lane takes Oberman to task and suggests an alternative set of categories. He argues that the early fathers held what he terms the Coincidence view (Oberman’s Tradition 1). Later fathers held the Supplementary view (Oberman’s Tradition 2). The Protestants held the Ancillary view (Lane’s main difference with Oberman), and many later Roman Catholics have held the Unfolding view. Some Roman Catholic authors, of course, argue that the early fathers held to what Lane calls the Supplementary view. The only point I’m making here is that categorizing such a large group of authors is not easy and is prone to oversimplification. If I was guilty of that, I’m certainly open to correction.

        [JW] St. Irenaeus did not just argue Scripture with heretics. He argued that they were wrong because they did not agree with the Tradition of the Church. He also said plainly that if the Church lost the Scriptures, Tradition would be sufficient to guide it.

        [KM] The question for me, and an obvious area of disagreement, is whether the situation we have with the church today is comparable to the situation with the church in Irenaeus’s day. I believe you would say yes, while I would have some serious doubts.

        [JW] Another issue that I think your book should have dealt with is the fact that one of the results of Protestant scholarship over the past 200 years has been to come to recognize the role that Tradition played in producing the Scriptures in the first place. For example, the book of Genesis was clearly based on Traditions that were well over a thousand years old before pen was ever put to papyrus. If the Holy Spirit could preserve those traditions infallibly over the millennia in the Old Covenant, why would that not be true in the New Covenant?

        [KM] We agree that God preserved inspired divine revelation prior to the writing of Scripture (e.g. the messages of the OT prophets was often delivered orally before it was committed to writing). But is that analogous to preserving material He did not intend to be inscripturated in the canon? Of course, I’m assuming a qualitative difference between divinely inspired revelation and non-inspired words of men.

        [JW] And since there obviously was not a moment during the time period that the NT was written that the Scriptures were complete, and everything in them was available to the Church… (because that could only have occurred sometime after the last book was written, not to mention the canonization process), how can Sola Scriptura be said to have a Biblical Basis when it could not possibly have functioned even for a second in life of the Church that is recorded the New Testament?

        [KM] I don’t think the issue is really written vs. non-written as much as it is inspired prophetic/apostolic vs. non-inspired post-apostolic. They were in a different situation because they had access to living Apostles. We do not. The question, as I understand it, is whether there is any kind of qualitative difference between the divinely inspired revelation found in Scripture and non-Scriptural material. In other words, is there any qualitative difference between the Word of God and the Word of the Church? The Confession of Dositheus that Robert mentioned, seems to indicate that the answer is no (Decree 2) since both have the same author, same authority, and same infallibility. That, it seems, is where the main point of disagreement would be.

        [JW] I forgot to address your last question: “Regarding my understanding (or misunderstanding) of the Orthodox view, the book I found most helpful in describing it was the little book Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View by Georges Florovsky. Is his view not within the mainstream of Orthodox thought on the issues involved?” Me: Fr. Georges Florovsky is certainly an important contemporary theologian, but I would suggest that to understand the Orthodox view of Scripture you first have to have an over all understanding of Orthodox Theology and practice, you especially need to understand Orthodox ecclesiology, how we view Tradition, and then read some of the apologetic writings by Orthodox authors that have been produced that specifically address the Protestant view of Scripture.

        [KM] Thank you for the reading recommendations. I have read some (not all) of those.

        Grace and peace,

        Keith

        1. Hello Keith,

          If you find yourself in Houston again, I would enjoy meeting you.

          KM: “The question for me, and an obvious area of disagreement, is whether the situation we have with the church today is comparable to the situation with the church in Irenaeus’s day. I believe you would say yes, while I would have some serious doubts.”

          Me: What do you see as the fundamental difference?

          KM: “We agree that God preserved inspired divine revelation prior to the writing of Scripture (e.g. the messages of the OT prophets was often delivered orally before it was committed to writing). But is that analogous to preserving material He did not intend to be inscripturated in the canon? Of course, I’m assuming a qualitative difference between divinely inspired revelation and non-inspired words of men.”

          Me: We know that in the early Church the Scriptures were part of the public proclamation of the Church, but that they also would not allow the non-baptized to even be present when they celebrated the Eucharist, and that they had a tradition of not-writing down the traditions about such things prior to the end of the persecution of the Church in the Roman Empire. Why would we assume that Traditions that they held so sacred as to not allow the n0n-baptized to witness or even read about were not essential aspects of the Apostolic Tradition.

          KM: “I don’t think the issue is really written vs. non-written as much as it is inspired prophetic/apostolic vs. non-inspired post-apostolic. They were in a different situation because they had access to living Apostles. We do not. The question, as I understand it, is whether there is any kind of qualitative difference between the divinely inspired revelation found in Scripture and non-Scriptural material. In other words, is there any qualitative difference between the Word of God and the Word of the Church? The Confession of Dositheus that Robert mentioned, seems to indicate that the answer is no (Decree 2) since both have the same author, same authority, and same infallibility. That, it seems, is where the main point of disagreement would be.”

          Me: The New Testament provides us with very little on the worship of the Apostolic Church. Why would we assume that the Liturgy of the Early Church was based on uninspired, unreliable, and/or unapostolic Tradition?

  50. Blah . . blah . . blah. I am reading the comments by Protestants here (after 500 years you still need to whine about Rome, and the conversation is still always Protestants vs Rome, especially in popular Protestant literature) and again shaking my head. As a former Calvinist Baptist Pastor of 20 years, I have come to the simple conclusion (yes, it is beautifully and wonderfully simplistic) —- that unless Protestants acknowledge (like I was forced to when reading primary sources of the first 1000 years) that our Lord Jesus can and did keep his promises (Math 16:18), and the Spirit is really Sovereign enough to accomplish and preserve what Jesus promised and prayed (John 17) for 1500 years before Luther – they will NEVER get it. For them, it will always be a 16th century argument of the “intellect” and about who “can argue best” wins (Unfortunately this is displayed as a sole purpose with many Orthodox converts also). I am not saying that an Orthodox Christian should be ignorant or dumb (Fr John Whiteford is a heavy weight Orthodox for example) and I enjoy a good debate, but when I became Orthodox, I was liberated from all this Protestant nonsense that I taught, preached, and argued effectively for 20 years. To be able to come and rest in the fact that the Orthodox Christian Faith was basically complete in 787 after the last Ecumenical Council, and that no Baptists or Calvinists or Reformed were ever present . . . . is very liberating. And to see that these essential truths have never changed in the Orthodox Church for 2000 years is humbling. These were my thoughts as I read the back and forth comments that really got no where in the end. And Robert, I appreciate and admire your intent and really love your blog . . . but a bridge needs to be traveled both ways and I am not seeing Protestants wanting to do this in their comments (and in the overall Protestant world with few exceptions). Bottom line is that for them to travel over the bridge would undermine and discredit their whole “Reformation.” May the Lord bless your efforts and forgive me if I have spoke out of line. I will now await to be mocked and ridiculed by the “smart” Protestants here.

    1. PS. I should have said “not seeing Reformed wanting to do this” and not “Protestants” in general ; I meant to refer to those faithful to Luther or Calvin, not really the post-modern messed up and confused Protestantism we see today.

      1. A bridge can also be a half-way point where two sides can meet and converse. It can be scary to cross over to the other side. But there are some Reformed Christians who want to get to know Orthodoxy better, this Bridge is for them!

        1. Well, again, let’s just be clear here and note that this website represents a bridge that only goes one way: toward Orthodoxy. There is no indication that you would offer the sort of open ecumenical dialog sufficient to allow informed folks to traverse back and forth and realize the good faith contributions of both sides to Christianity.

          This isn’t a bridge really but more akin to a finely crafted catapult from one side to the other. There are some of us on the Reformed side that do appreciate elements of Orthodoxy, but it’s unreasonable to suppose that in order to discuss such things we have to get in the basket of the catapult and let you pull the switch prior to discussing them. But, that’s the nature of this sort of recruitment effort. Too bad. Because you’re missing out on more important ecumenical dialog as a result.

          But, let’s do away with the notion that this is any sort of meeting place where we come together as equals. Let’s just call a spade a spade, gentlemen, and speak the truth about what’s really going on here.

          1. Kevin seems to enjoy spending time on the Bridge! So far it looks like we’ve been having a lively conversation from both sides. If Kevin thinks there’s a need for a more balanced site he’s more than welcome to set up his own site. We need to have more dialogue going between the Reformed and Orthodox Christians.

          2. Kevin,
            That’s not entirely fair. Robert’s tone has seemed reasonable and of course is inviting engagement with his Orthodox view. And I can remember from your ReformedCatholicism site, which I enjoyed for some time, a number of your vociferous rants.

          3. I think it would probably surprise you to know that I just started a theology book club site with an Anglo-Catholic friend of mine to discuss a book by an Orthodox nun/scholar not so long ago. The discussion is not polemical but will focus on what we have in common. We are not the least bit interested in moving anyone anywhere. It is unfortunate that a site like this exists under the pretense of a bridge between us but really exists to bring Reformed folks to Orthodoxy. I don’t fault Mr. Arakaki for his tone – he seems quite amiable. But, again, this is not a site where we meet and politely discuss things, learn, and then go home to our respective communions. There is a clear objective here to present one view over and against another and with the intent to see folks move to Orthodoxy from Reformed communions. I sympathize with ‘Yorgo’ below and don’t think we should be trying to move anyone anywhere but instead be used where God has us in our respective ecclesial contexts.

          4. Kevin said:
            “There is a clear objective here to present one view over and against another and with the intent to see folks move to Orthodoxy from Reformed communions.”

            Ok. But your position is somewhat neutral in this regard partly because your communion makes no exclusive claim to be the fullness of the Christian church as Orthodoxy does (and as the Councils did). If an atheist, or Mormon or Buddhist comes for discussion to your site, will you not at some point reveal Christianity’s exclusive claims on him and will he not have to deal with your inference that the ultimate outcome for him must be a movement from his position? Now, you could refrain from making that exclusive claim, and you may not develop a site to specifically attract that kind of discussion, but why would it be offensive to you when someone does desire to present the exclusive claims of Orthodoxy? You may disagree that anyone has exclusive claims to be the fullness of Christ’s church, but the evidence seems immense that the Church has always assumed this to be true. Yorgo’s sentiments below are admirable in their desire for unity. But what does that look like? The NT forbids schism and divisions, which means the church will always be preserved in her unity of faith and can identify WHO schism is from. The apostles exerted authority universally and ordained others to teach and continue their authority. The authority of Persons was never destroyed by the authority of holy writ.
            Thank you for your interaction here.

          5. ‘Canadian’,

            I have no problem with someone setting up a site to promote the claims of Orthodoxy. The problem comes in when people try to pretend that a site like this is any less or more than that. Typically, this is done by saying ‘We’re interested in dialog between perspectives’ as if we are equals but in reality it’s not true dialog–it’s one perspective over and against the other.

            What’s being presented here at Orthodox Bridge is not dialog but rather rhetoric designed to poach and persuade Reformed Christians to become Orthodox. A full hearing of the Reformed point of view on these things is not or has not been granted, nor is there even an acknowledgment that the Reformed position has anything to add to Orthodox concerns or practice.

          6. ‘Canadian’ writes:

            Yorgo’s sentiments below are admirable in their desire for unity. But what does that look like? The NT forbids schism and divisions, which means the church will always be preserved in her unity of faith and can identify WHO schism is from. The apostles exerted authority universally and ordained others to teach and continue their authority. The authority of Persons was never destroyed by the authority of holy writ.

            Well, again, it’s very easy to claim these things but quite another to demonstrate them. I don’t think Yorgo is exactly too far off track in pointing out that institutional unity may not be the same as biblical unity. It is not clear to me that the unity of John 17 for example between Jesus and His Father was all that visible to those around Him (except by faith). I’m sure you feel otherwise, but merely stating and restating that such is the case is no convincing argument for any informed classical Protestant. As Tim ably pointed out, it’s absolutely of no bother to us.

            Also, I asked above somewhere in this thread how we know that apostolic authority is the deciding factor in maintaining unity and all I got back as an answer was question-begging. Perhaps you can do better. As for whether or not the church can always identify “WHO schism is from”–that also I’m not sure is completely accurate given the historical record the New Testament and the early Church provides. Schism in the New Testament was not about WHO but WHAT in terms of fidelity to the Gospel. Read Galatians, especially the first chapter where Paul quite clearly says that even if an angel from heaven or himself–an Apostle–should teach something contrary to the Gospel he is to be accursed. The apostolic witness of Paul here is not exactly the standard you’ve laid out for us.

    2. Well, RAS,

      Firstly, I acknowledge that I said a number of things above in a less than charitable tone. I’ve been down these roads you guys are walking too many times with too many others, and it frustrated me to see yet another site billed as a place for respectful discussion (like the Catholics who run “Called to Communion”) yet filled with all the usual caricatures and insults against those supposedly being asked to help build a “bridge.” That said, I’m sorry, my brother, but you have simply confirmed for me what is wrong with most such conversations as these. Your post reads like exactly like a pulpit-pounding sermon of a Calvinist Baptist – except yours was given by an ex Calvinist-Baptist who has adopted all the opposite extremes of the ones he held before.

      It would be easier to carry on discussions like this if guys like you wouldn’t portray these complex issues in stark dualistic terms like, “unless Protestants acknowledge (like I was forced to when reading primary sources of the first 1000 years) that our Lord Jesus can and did keep his promises (Math 16:18), and the Spirit is really Sovereign enough to accomplish and preserve what Jesus promised and prayed (John 17) for 1500 years before Luther,” and “To be able to come and rest in the fact that the Orthodox Christian Faith was basically complete in 787 after the last Ecumenical Council, and that no Baptists or Calvinists or Reformed were ever present . . . . is very liberating. And to see that these essential truths have never changed in the Orthodox Church for 2000 years is humbling.”

      Yes, you’re right. We Protestants just simply don’t believe what Jesus said in John 17, and we just simply don’t believe that the Spirit can keep His promise. We also don’t have a clue how to handle the idea that no Baptists or Calvinists or Reformed were present before the Reformation. Given what you’ve said here, RAS, it seems to me that you were a victim of one of the worst anti-intellectual kinds of Calvinist-Baptist thought, and, since your former views had no intellectual resources to handle the sorts of questions you noted above, you were simply bowled over and adopted the opposite extremes.

      Just compare your rhetoric when you were a Baptist to what it is now. I bet the two are simple mirror images of each other. And that ought to tell you something about the maturity of your understanding. It certainly tells me something about the maturity of your understanding, but rather than mock you I just pity you. I’m sure you love the Lord and are doing the best you can to serve Him faithfully, and I respect that. But your story, as you’ve put it forth above, is nothing that need cause any serious, informed Protestant any concern at all. Again, the mere fact that you can describe matters in such stark, dualistic terms proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that your understanding of Protestantism when you were in it was extremely poor, and that your understanding of Orthodoxy now that you’re in it is basically propagandistic, and not a mature exercise of faith seeking reason. I hope you’ll try better in the future.

      1. And yet again, you fall back to the “you’re just not smart enough” line.

        Faith isn’t always about an informed decision, but obedience. Like a child.

      2. Tim,
        I understand your point of our tendency to idealize wherever we find ourselves…..Truly Reformed…..Catholic…….Lutheran….Orthodox etc and then do the same if/when we change our view. We often come across that this is “the plain and clear truth” yet not so long our old view was “the plain and obvious truth”. That’s fallen human nature, and we all want to assure ourselves. We all do it, Lord have mercy.
        Because you have intricately studied the messy historical truth and don’t find squeaky clean ecclesiology (or personal living) does not mean that the church started by Christ is not to have one faith without schism. If you lived in the 4th century, Nicea was authoritative with no options except schism and heresy. If you lived in the 5th century Chalcedon was authoritative unless you chose schism. By what authority do the Calvinists (I was one) reject the authority of the 6th Council that condemns monenergism (and in turn monergism)? By what authority is Nicea ll rejected?
        Now, in real life with brutally slow communication and all the cultural shortcomings you referred to, these Councils took time to be known, accepted, and understood….BUT THEY WERE and still are. Our scholarly human opinions are not divine revelation and do not trump Christ’s church because they provide no excuse for schism. The NT is full of ecclesial disaster, sin, messyness, and strife, but no writer ever admonishes schism and division but condemns them. Orthodox conversion is not like switching denominations, as you know, it is submission to authority and a relinquishing of the right of the individual to authoritative interpretation. We do not covet dead and blind guides to lead us, we desire to live a liturgical life in union with Christ and with his church who knows the meaning of the scriptures as she is organically connected to Christ her head.
        Peace.

        1. Canadian, you write that “Because you have intricately studied the messy historical truth and don’t find squeaky clean ecclesiology (or personal living) does not mean that the church started by Christ is not to have one faith without schism.”

          So, can you show me that one Church started by Christ that does NOT have schism? Not Orthodoxy, that’s for sure. The perfectionistic desire to have no schisms, combined with a perfectionistic reading of the history of dogma, leads only to begged questions about the definition of “orthodox” and “schismatic.” You are that Church because you say so, period. Funny thing, is the Romans claim the same thing, and both of you present your equal and opposite perfectionisms to us Protestants as if we have only two choices. But we say you’re both wrong. Christ’s Church exists DESPITE the presence of schisms, and the overcoming of schisms is an eschatological reality, not a present-day one.

          1. Tim,
            Thanks for the reply.
            I have not said (I hope) that there are no schisms or that there would not be. I am saying that
            scripture and Tradition identify schism as sinful. There should be no schism in the body!
            If Orthodoxy has schismatics depart from her, how does that destroy the church or her unity? What
            I am challenging is the idea that God promotes, accepts, and winks at schism. Just because there are
            schisms does not mean the church ever thought it should be so. If schism is something to be repented of,
            how would a Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic, etc go about repenting of that? There must be somewhere
            to go as an act of repentance for it. Jurisdictional issues exist between churches that are in communion. And some are not in communion, but have the same faith. Repentance is needed where it is actual schism or where personal
            sin/hatred/bitterness exist.
            The church lives an eschatological reality now because of her union with Christ. No inherent impediment
            precludes the joining of all schismatics to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church.

          2. Canadian, I didn’t say or imply that schism is alright, or that God winks at it. I only said it is a reality we must admit and deal with, not one we can perfectionistically wave away by claims to have some perfect method of unity that makes US non-schismatic and everyone else schismatic. That’s what both Rome’s and Orthodoxy’s polemics do: “We’re right because we say we are, you’re wrong because we say you are. Period.” It is possible, and quite reasonable, however, to conclude that both sides are wrong, that both sides are equally in schism as anyone else, and that EVERYONE needs to repent, not just those outside the Magisterium of Rome or those outside of whatever passes for an authoritative voice in Orthodoxy.

          3. Tim, this seems to be begging the question. You begin with a metaphysical church and end with one. You have assumed that there is a mystical church which exists across schisms and then argue that because there have been schisms from the Orthodox Church which are still in the mystical church that therefore the church exists across schisms. Your definition defines your result.

            Because of this you are largely equivocating on “church.”

            The question I have is this: when Paul says in Galatians 1:8 that angels who preach false doctrine are to be accursed, are these angels part of the church? Note that this is something he does indirectly: he ascribes to the Galatian church the power to excommunicate. There are at least 5 other examples in the NT of this that I can think of off the top of my head, so we aren’t talking about an isolated event.

            There is no triumphalism in this point, only that one must take great reserve.

            And as regards your question about a Church founded by Christ that has had no schism, the Jerusalem Church meets that criteria I believe. It has never believed heresy and never schismed. The closest you can get is is the Latin Jerusalem Patriarchate which was appointed by Rome in parallel to the Greek Patriarchate. The Latin claim was:
            1. Imposed by a foreign patriarch
            2. Only really had influence among Latin crusaders
            3. Lived for only a short time

            Does that meet your qualification?

          4. Nathaniel,

            Right, I beg the question, but Rome and Orthodoxy – both of whom trade on reified definitions of historical models of authority – don’t? I can’t assume what you call a mystical Church that transcends all our past and present divergences, but you and Rome can assume an unbroken apostolic succession as normative for all ages of Christians everywhere? At least an eschatological (mystical) overarching Church has biblical support, since we’re all moving toward that in terms of the “city whose builder and maker is God.” I see no biblical warrant for assuming that a particular governmental arrangement that characterized Late Antiquity is metaphysically, doctrinally, or even pragmatically necessary to the very definition of “the Church.”

            I don’t understand your Galatians argument. Where are there “angels” in the text, and where are they “excommunicated,” even implicitly? I also have no idea what you’re talking about re: the Jerusalem Church. Sorry.

          5. Well, that was a dumb mistake, asking about where are “angels” in that text. I was thinking about something else when I wrote that. Mea culpa.

          6. Tim, prima facie we have examples in the NT of appeals to apostolic authority, appeals to the authority of those the apostles left in charge, we also have a clear pattern in the immediate post-apostolic age that it is the personal authority of the bishops to settle theological matters and that schism is always schism from the Church (Clement, Ignatius, and Irenaeus) and further we have a list (dyptichs) of the “handing down” to each generation. I’m not one for triumphalism, but having read even the sharpest critiques of the “official” history, I’ve found most all of them to be nothing more than insinuations and speculation. That is, not one of them manages to assemble even the slightest of actual evidence to unseat the prevailing view: that apostolic succession was in fact the universally held opinion by those who possessed apostolic succession. And yes, I’ve read Bauer (his Edessene argument is his strongest, but proves nothing as regards his Roman theories).

            In short, while I agree with you that many Orthodox triumphally uphold AS without knowledge of its history and subtlety, I find just as much that Protestants call it into question with no knowledge of the period in question. Further, among Protestants who do study the period of earliest Christianity, the vast majority are heretics of some sort (who was the last PTS professor you’d want teaching at your church? Even the “old Princeton” school had significant problems). I do not say this with joy or triviality, but it is the simple fact that Protestantism has “gone liberal” (to use the phrase of one of my Evangelical friends) precisely because its denial of AS was accomplished first by those seeking to escape Rome, but secondly by those seeking to escape Nicea.

            Thus , while one is free to question whether or not AS is the normative practice, or constitutive principle of the Church (its not, BTW), it is impossible to question the pure history: the earliest heresies (both apostolic and post-apostolic) were *in fact* (not supposition) resolved by appeal to apostolic authority and succession respectively. This is a matter of historical fact, not philosophical opinion.

            And here we come to the crux of the issue, if I may wax metaphysically for a moment. Sola Scriptura is noetically “unstable,” not as it is often claimed because of a multiplicity of interpreters, but because
            without a doctrine of tradition you can never “close the case” (so to speak) on a theological issue. It is always open for debate. It thus doesn’t matter that Calvin put Servetus to death for his heresy, the heresy itself never dies. It doesn’t matter that Purgatory was “resolved” at Florence, or that synergy was upheld at Orange, or that Christ’s divinity was upheld at Nicea. None of these debates are ever closed. And in fact Servetus was made ideologically possible by denying the AS of Hippolytus and Callistus. If you want a contemporary example, take for instance the modern rehabilitation of Nestorius by reformed authors too numerous to count.

            The resurgence of heresies in our modern age is directly attributable to the idea that the ancient condemnations of heresy were infallible only insomuch as they agreed with the scriptures. And while you argue for a far more subtle version of Protestantism (which I agree early on was quite a bit more subtle), your fellow communicants are not arguing for such things and are instead arguing for pretty much everything except the regula fidei.

            In short, you can suggest that Orthodox and Catholics need to prove that AS was normative. I’d argue that the shoe is on the other foot: we have lots of examples of AS, but all the arguments against it are from silence. Where is the document that says that Irenaeus is wrong for using AS against the gnostics? Or that Ignatius is flawed for using it in nearly all of his epistles? Or that Clement is wrong for deploying it at Corinth? And if the three of the luminaries is wrong for using it, why trust their typological interpretation of the scriptures versus their opponents’ interpretation of the same? Romans 8:29 does say “firstborn of creation” afterall…

          7. Tim, you said: ‘I see no biblical warrant for assuming that a particular governmental arrangement that characterized Late Antiquity is metaphysically, doctrinally, or even pragmatically necessary to the very definition of “the Church.”’

            This is the very point I am trying to address. There is *lots of evidence* both within the NT and the post-apostolic Fathers. You are insinuating that there is not, but (and you admit this) your area of expertise is not this period of Christianity. If the Apostles are casting people out of the Church in the NT, then there is at least some relationship between the eschatology vision and the ekklesia. It is precisely your failure to deal with this evidence that I find suspect. Your entire argument hinges on an insinuation that we “assume too much” from the evidence we have, and yet you don’t discuss this evidence even when handed to you.

            Are there angels in the eschatological gathering? Absolutely! Are they all there? Absolutely not! Paul at least implies (it really is quite explicit: “let them be accursed”) that angels can be condemned by the Church. In 1 Corinthians 16:22 we get the same statement. But the most interesting is Romans 9:3. Here St Paul sets up a dichotomy of salvation: he would be accursed if only his brethren would be saved. He can mean nothing else here than he would sacrifice his own salvation for another’s. It is quite clear here that we see nothing else in Paul’s usage than if you are cast out of your local community than you are outside that “eschatological vision.”

            You can get hung up on later reification all you like, but it is this principle, that excommunication from the community of the church is nothing other than exclusion from the heavenly kingdom, that is the foundation on which AS is built. “Whatever you bind on earth…” and all that. The later reification is, in one sense, nothing more than determining who it is that is granted the proper authority to declare excommunication in corner cases where the Apostolic instructions weren’t clear, mainly due to the spread of heresy made possible by the pax romani. In the case of a doctrinal defect within a single local community, the NT instructions are clear: those left in charge by the apostles have the authority to ordain new leaders and to excommunicate heresy. This is AS, plain and simple. It is the structure outlined in the NT.

            So in short, while you see no connection between the biblical text and AS, I see an explicit and direct connection and that connection is made by evidence which you imply isn’t there.

          8. Nathaniel,

            There’s “apostolic succession” as in successive ordination, and there’s “apostolic succession” as in a reified scheme of HOW the successive ordination works. I’m not opposed to the former (who could be, having read the Pastorals), and neither are historic/classical Protestants. It’s the latter that’s troubling to us, and I’ve never seen any compelling reason to accept the idea that just because Irenaeus and Chrysostom did it this way, everyone world without end has to do it that way. The source of authority is not the persons, but the Truth.

            While we Protestants often do some really dumb things appealing to “the plain meaning of Scripture,” even the Fathers recognized that Scripture is quite plain on all the main things necessary to be a Christian, and that someone who “only” has the Scriptures has enough to become a Christian and live a decent Christian life. What you guys, and the Romans do, is to reify a Late Antique scheme of HOW apostolic succession works, and this leads you all into some polemical arguments that inevitably subordinate Scripture, the very written Word of God, to mere human beings who take the title “Apostolic Successors.” The simple fact is (arguing from within Christian assumptions) that Christ’s sheep hear His voice, and they do not need bishops standing in Apostolic Succession to tell them where Christ is, or what the basic meaning of the Scriptures is. The Bishops are not a special class of human being, more enlightened or more spiritual than others, whose mediation is required for someone to find and cling to Christ.

            I quite agree with you that history shows that the way conflicts were resolved by appeal to apostolic succession and authority. This is not troublesome to a classical Protestant, because we do not hold that “sola” Scriptura means there is just this Book sitting on the pulpit, and that’s all the authority there is. Rather, we also believe that human beings play a necessary role in interpreting Scripture and in applying it to life. Since you concede that apostolic succession is not the esse of the Church, you’ve basically made room for the classical Protestant view of ministerial authority. Thanks!

            I also continue to fail to be convinced that this business of “you can never close the case on anything” is really the problem you all make it out to be. People are sinners. They will always do sinful things, no matter what kind of authority structure is in place. There simply is no way to eliminate the possibility or likelihood of people taking matters into their own hands, questioning the creeds and councils, rehabilitating ancient heretics, and hiving off to do their own thing.

            I refuse to get all anxious about this and pretend that there is a foolproof solution to it (i.e., the Late Antique version of apostolic succession). You guys have made a problem out of something that is just human nature, and have proposed a solution to it that is no solution at all, but just a top-down, question-begging assertion of authority resting in a special class of people.

            As for Reformed people rehabilitating Nestorius, I’ve seen some of those attempts. I don’t know the issues well enough myself to comment, except to say that they often bring out some interesting things about Cyril’s political ambitions and manipulations of the council. I’m not going to say God can’t work through a scheming bishop to uphold His truth, but surely looking deeper into the historical circumstances of this or that council is not necessarily a bad thing?

          9. Nathaniel said:
            “The resurgence of heresies in our modern age is directly attributable to the idea that the ancient
            condemnations of heresy were infallible only insomuch as they agreed with the scriptures.”

            Yes. And also you have the picking and choosing from the Councils–only what is agreed with.

            Tim, you said:
            “It is possible, and quite reasonable, however, to conclude that both sides are wrong, that both
            sides are equally in schism as anyone else, and that EVERYONE needs to repent”

            It may be possible to conclude this, but it is certainly not reasonable, considering the promises of Christ
            to his church–with her till end of age, lead her into all truth, gates of hell not prevail etc. Schism is
            an irrelevant term if it has no definitive body to divide from. If all are in schism, who and what are
            they in schism from? And I ask again–how would someone in schism go about repenting of it?
            The father’s and the Councils could address these issues with authority, not nebulous musing or
            hand-waving dismissals.

          10. Nathaniel,

            I’m not sure what you think I’m objecting to. I already said there is clearly a kind of “apostolic succession” in the NT, particularly in the Pastorals. I thought I made it pretty clear that the Protestant objection (classically speaking) is not to episcopacy per se, but to the assumption that episcopacy is the norm for Christians in all times in all places. What evidence are you saying I’m not dealing with? I’m quite aware that the Fathers hold to the normativity of episcopacy, but I don’t take the word of the Fathers as being determinative for all time. My question is, why do you? They were just men, after all.

            At any rate, this post and its comments have gotten way too long. To continue posting on this thread seems excessive. But I will ask you if you are familiar with Calvin’s treatment of apostolic succession in Book IV of the Institutes. Most of what you and others are objecting here was, I believe, adequately covered there.

          11. Tim, I’m not sure we can make any progress if you have no interest in discussing the evidence. I’ve tried my best to outline the case, and yet you have returned and merely restated your position. For instance, I specifically said I was not talking about reification, but you returned to this point. Why? It is precisely because that is a Protestant “talking point.” If our dialogue is only going to consist of you restating the Protestant position and not actually interacting with my points than I’m afraid we are at an impasse.

          12. Tim, I did not see your latest post before I posted my last comment. Specifically, you are failing to interact with the twofold prerogatives of the leaders established by the apostles: to ordain and excommunicate. Regardless of the meaning of the term presbyter in the NT, these prerogatives have in every place and in all times been the exclusive purview of the bishop. The reformed often argue that the bishop is a sort of “super-presbyter.” However, this is based in a word/meaning fallacy: that presbyter in the NT means the same thing as in Ignatius. In fact, numerous Fathers point out this word meaning change. IMHO, the office of (what we now call) the presbyter emerged out of a need to have a consecrated Eucharist when the bishop was not present. If the office of the presbyter developed, that is it was not an apostolic institution, it emerged the same way the office of the diaconate emerged: there was a need and an office was established by the duly appointed authority (the apostles) to address that need.

            In short, presbyters have never had the authority to ordain or excommunicate. For them to assume so is to commit a schismatic act. Clement clearly defines, in the first century no less, the apostolic instructions for what happens when a person assumes authority that was not duly appointed to him.

            In short, all “reification” (certainly a Protestant myth) aside, AS is nothing more than the duly appointed authority exercising his apostolically granted prerogative to ordain and excommunicate. This isn’t a “development” nor “reification” but is the explicit instruction of the Apostles in the NT. Even if you toss away all the post-apostolic canons regarding proper episcopal consecration (for instance: hands in triplicate), it remains the bare fact that the Protestant churches saw no need to maintain this authority even according to the Church’s pre-canonical practices. The Protestant churches essentially said that when a presbyter was ordained, he received the episcopal prerogatives. And yet, this understanding was entirely without precedent, but was justified by “the plain meaning of the scripture” which, as I have already discussed above, was an extremely dubious interpretation.

            I think we should be frank: no Orthodox or Catholic can ever except the Protestant orders or eucharistic consecrations as valid. This is not due to reification, middle age canons or theological invention, but to the simple fact that they were not duly appointed with the authority to ordain and excommunicate, an apostolic, NT mandate, not the reification of antiquity.

        2. Nathaniel,

          Well, I’m not trying to be obtuse, really. I’ll review what you’ve written and see if I have, in fact, failed to address your substantive remarks. But as I said, this thread is way too long (183 comments and rising!). Perhaps the blog owner might be persuaded to start a fresh post just on Apostolic Succession?

          1. Despite my repeated notes on how long this thread is, I just have to say something about your last, Nathaniel.

            First, in attempting to address the Reformed argument that presbyter and bishop are the same thing, you seem indirectly to prove my point about the reification of a particular mode of AS. That is, you say that the word presbyter in the NT means something different than it does in Ignatius. My understanding, which could be wrong as I am not a Greek scholar, is that the presbuteros and the episcopos were the same thing in the NT: both terms defined people who “oversaw” the churches. So basically what you’re saying is that the Fathers found it necessary to create a separate office deemed the presbuteros, which had no official binding and loosing authority. So the Fathers developed a different idea of the episcopos than the one that is in the NT – yet you then claim that we can’t possibly have valid orders because we don’t follow the patristic idea. Well, I’m going to turn the authority question back around on you: is your final authority the God-breathed words of the Apostles in Scripture, or is it the merely man-breathed words of the Apostles’ successors? I hate playing quote games, but if it becomes necessary, I can cite many, many passages of Fathers who claim that the final authority is not to be found in men, not even bishops, but in the Scriptures. Perhaps I should just dump all this evidence in here, and then see how many of you care to engage it, and how many of you are just blowing smoke based on an exaggerated and uncritical concept of “Holy Tradition.”

            Second, I guess it’s time to bring to bear on this discussion some important but little known facts about Western political theology. Basically, what you guys are failing to understand is that in the West, thanks to many centuries of papal abuse, the notion of what “authority” is and what are its limitations was intensively discussed well before the Reformation, in dialogue with Scripture, the Fathers, and classical antiquity. I can’t speak with any great knowledge of the history of the East, but what little I know seems to indicate to me that “authority” matters were not discussed in this kind of detail in the East, but rather just statically maintained from the apparently artificial cut-off point of the last Ecumenical Council. Believing as I do that church polity is not a matter of divine ordination, but can, in God’s providence, take different forms in different cultures, I have no problem allowing for a great, and honorable Christian tradition (the East) to construct and maintain its own peculiar notion of authority. Where I will have a problem is with that tradition’s failure to reckon with how God has worked in other cultures, like the West. We have no mandate from God or history to accept a static Eastern concept of “authority” – indeed, our own history makes that impossible (except for Rome, which is too obtuse to have so far learned much of anything from anyone else).

            I was just re-reading Calvin yesterday on AS, and he has no problem with the idea of ordained authority passing down from the Apostles. But Calvin, standing in a long line of critical thought in the West about “authority,” plainly says that the authority of Church officers comes only from their faithfulness to the office with which they are charged. They are charged basically with preaching the Word, which means they are subject to the Word, not the Word to them. This is my paraphrase of Calvin, based on my own intensive studies of said Western debates: if those who claim “authority” fail to discharge the obligations of their office, they are no better than ordinary laymen, and need not be heeded. This is not a stab at the mere idea of AS; it is a stab at the foolish and ungodly notion that men can have “authority” merely because they claim to.

            The history of the West, which is so much different from that of the East, makes it impossible for me to accept your rendering of what the early history means. If you wish to call that failing to engage the evidence, that is your business. But I think I’m engaging it quite well, and that it’s you and your friends who insist on merely question-begging constructions of key terms and arguments. And again, if you want patristic support for the idea of the supremacy of Scripture, it can be produced in spades. The problem is basically that I have found that patristic “quote wars” on the Internet generally go nowhere productive, and so I generally refrain from engaging in them.

          2. Tim,
            As Nathaniel pointed out, the difference between bishop and presbyter also lies in the fact that bishops ordain. Bishops had an authority above presbyters in that they ordained presbyters in vast areas, whereas those they ordained did not have this same ability. Presbyters were needed for every church, bishops were not. Bishops were free to be itinerant accross large areas, presbyters were concentrated on the local church. Titus 1:5, Acts 14:23

          3. I’ve run out of time to reply more thoroughly, unfortunately. However, you seem to be spouting the traditional reformed mythology, especially regarding “reification,” and you don’t appear to have any experience with the scholarly works on this topic. I cannot recommend Felix Cirlot’s “Apostolic Succession: Is it True?” enough. Let it suffice to say that I think the late medieval Western “clarifications” on church order are largely lacking in any sense of how we got the church order we have. This is mostly due to, in my mind, two facts. The first is the lack of familiarity with Greek, and in particular the nuances of Ignatius. The second is the assumption that St Denis was an apostolic writer.

            It is your lack of familiarity with this period that makes you say things like “presbuteros and episcopos were the same thing in the NT.” Presbyteros had a slightly different meaning in the NT than in Ignatius, however, that does not mean it merely is identical with episcopos. You need to read a scholarly work on this matter. Further, my point is that if any “reification” occurred between the NT and Ignatius (any proposed evidence for this is extremely dubious) or Nicea (this is more likely), it was “downward reification.” That is, AS of the episcopacy was assumed and the offices of the presbuteros, chorepiscopos, reader, and other numerous offices were created to ease the burden of the bishops as the church grew (this is precisely why the deaconate is created in Acts). It is this point, that the reification was “downward” not “upward” until Nicea and later, that ultimately undoes Presbyterian ecclesiology. There is no way to understand the rise of presbyterian polity apart from a willful usurping of the episcopal prerogatives by the protestant presbytery against every norm established by the apostles and every father from Clement. When you combine this with the fact that the 16th century saw drastic changes not only to polity, but also the canon of scripture, the canon of the Mass, the catechism, the hymnody, the iconography, etc, one must conclude that this period was nothing less than a re-invention of Christianity. Was there precedent in the late medieval West? Yes, mostly from the rise of the post-schism franco-germanic church. But even taking this into consideration, it was nothing compared to the sheer scale with which the reformers drastically re-imagined church life.

          4. Nathaniel,

            I believe the first time you and I spoke, when you came around my old blog, I did the best I could to admit openly my limitations. Unlike a lot of my Reformed brethren, I’m not a polemicist at heart. I don’t like all the bitching about “sound doctrine,” and I don’t care for the gratuitous assumptions that most of my brethren make about “the Gospel” in its technical Reformation-era constructions. I am very interested in listening to other claims, in trying to give them a fair hearing, and I only get “uppity” myself when someone I’m talking to gets that way first.

            Further, I have never claimed to be an expert on the Fathers, and it seems a particular curse I have that I attract either people more ignorant than I am (and who just want to rant) or people far more learned than I am (who often just want to rant, but often rather pretend that I ought to read 20 or 30 extremely expensive books written by super-specialists in exquisitely-fine tuned areas of theology before I ever say anything). I can’t seem to find people who aren’t threatened in some way or another by outsiders, who aren’t interested only in endlessly justifying themselves against others, who just want to TALK like reasonable fellow travelers on the road to wisdom. I’m sick to death of people on all sides who only want to preach, which is mostly what I’m seeing here on this site, even from you.

            Be that as it may, I don’t think you understand what I mean by “reification,” as you keep calling it simply a myth that doesn’t fit the history. I am talking about matters of the cultural adaptation of God’s truth, which is, contra your huffing and puffing, quite easily established from the scholarly literature. Have you read Ullmann on the influence of “Romanitas” on the Fathers? Tierney or Nederman on the influence of Aristotle on Western political theology? How about Rankin on how Cyprian adapted the Christian idea of the relationship between bishop and laity to the prevailing Roman notions of the patron/client relationship? Oh no, my friend, I am most definitely NOT making this up, and it is definitely NOT a myth. Perhaps you are the one who needs to read more, or at least think harder about these things rather than being so rudely dismissive.

            Again, you yourself provide the clue to where I’m coming from on “reification” when you claim that the Fathers altered the NT meaning of episcopos; your subsequent almost rude claim that I just need to read scholarly works on the subject only confirms that I’m onto something with the idea that the Fathers, as good as they were, were in fact no better than anyone else: they were men of their age, not always cognizant of their assumptions, not always consistent in their theology (though sometimes perhaps TOO consistent), and certainly not infallible guides to the meaning of the Scriptures. They deserve to be listened to with VERY serious ears, but they do not deserve – nor would they themselves claim this for themselves. I’ve read enough of their works, both Western and Eastern, to have seen many, many times when they ascribe final authority to the Scriptures, and not to anything they or their fellows say.

            The Orthodox and Rome seem to me to get this exactly backwards, basically claiming that men have authority just because they claim to and / or because someone else who claimed to touched them while muttering some Grand Official Words about transference of authority. I will in no way apologize for pointing this out when all I get from any of you is huffing and puffing about the need to read scholarly works so I don’t put forth myths designed merely to justify my stupid schism from what is just so OBVIOUSLY the truth of history – or, worse still, polemical caricatures recycled, it seems, from Roman Catholic apologetics and adapted to Orthodox concerns. I don’t know what you do for a living (it sounds like you’re some sort of scholar), but I wasn’t born yesterday and I’m not going to simply accept these grandiose claims you and your friends make.

            If you want to talk like a reasonable fellow traveler, I’m here. If all you want to do is justify your own present beliefs or try to make a convert, I’m not interested in talking to you at all.

          5. Tim,
            I respect your position and your seeming openness to these things. But I think you underestimate how the ancient church viewed herself. When she speaks with penetrating and verbiose language regarding the scriptures, we rejoice; when she speaks in similar fashion about icons, we rejoice; when she speaks similar about her universal ecclesial authority, we rejoice.
            You said: “and certainly not infallible guides to the meaning of the Scriptures. They deserve to be listened to with VERY serious ears, but they do not deserve – nor would they themselves claim this for themselves.”

            Not as individuals, but here again is the 6th Ecumenical Council in it’s letter to St. Agatho:

            “Thereupon, therefore, the grace of the Holy Spirit shone upon us, displaying his power, through your assiduous prayers, for the uprooting of all weeds and every tree which brought not forth good fruit, and giving command that they should be consumed by fire. And we all agree both in heart and tongue, and hand, and have put forth, by the assistance of the life-giving Spirit, a definition, clean from all error, certain, and infallible; not ‘removing the ancient landmarks,’ as it is written (God forbid!), but remaining steadfast in the testimonies and authority of the holy and approved fathers, and defining that….”

  51. I’ve enjoyed reading both sides on here and but I would like to say –you folks are stuck with each other — as brothers in Christ. And I believe you are all brothers of in Him whether you be Protestants or Orthodox or Roman Catholics etc because its not an understanding of “perfect theology” or theological perfection that saves you but Christ who saves you. And is able to do so because I notice that you all trust in Him.
    It is a bit painful to me to read the debate on here on one level because I feel I belong to both camps but I am impressed that overall both sides are actually talking to each other.

    Also Robert (again full disclosure) I understand your reasons for making this site but personally I would not want Reformed to become Orthodox or vica versa. Honestly I don’t think its necessary (again my opinion). I don’t believe you have to have full theological agreement to have true Christian unity. I know it sounds “crazy” from the human perspective but I think God will sort it on in the future yet I have no idea how. I think the Reformed side makes some valid points and so do the Orthodox.

    Because of my personal eschatological bent I think that in the future all three branches will be brought together rather than fail, but brought together in such a way that the purity of what each has to offer will not be compromised. After all what is impossible with man is possible with God.

    @KEITH MATHISON
    PS to Keith Mathison: are you Keith A. Mathison the author of “Postmillenialism: An Eschatology of Hope”? Just wanted to say: that book saved my sanity. Thank you so much for writing it sir!

    When I was a young teen the whole dispensationalism belief system did a real number on myself and a friend of mine (a Baptist) . It was your book that got me out of the funk/fear that that kind of belief system creates. Oh the stories I could tell of my friends who thought the world was going to end “this summer”. God bless you for writing that book.

    1. Yorgo, I’m glad you’re following our discussions. Reformed and Orthodox Christians have a lot in common but they also differ on some major issues. I would encourage you keep learning about both sides. As far as your dream of the three branches being brought together, that’s the dream of the convergence movement and the Charismatic Episcopal Church. The CEC recently saw a number of their priests and congregation move to Eastern Orthodoxy. See .

    2. Yorgo,

      Thank you for the kind comments about that book. Glad you found it encouraging.

      Grace and peace.

      1. You’re more than welcome sir.

        Many of those I consider teachers are either amil or premil but in terms of eschatology I consider yourself and a few others (Kenneth Gentry, Eusebius) my teachers. ‘postmil’ as its called seems to be the only form that fits into the victorious message of Christ logically. I eventually learned the early Byzantines were ‘operationally’ postmil (romans from all walks of life started converting and eventually the old Roman Empire in its eastern half became converted–a story many secular universities including my own tend to avoid telling or offering courses in. Humanists after all, don’t like it when Christians are successful). Courses, even survey courses, in the Byzantine Empire are rare at the U of Toronto though we have old pagan Roman, Hellenic and as they call them western middle ages courses galore.

  52. Hi Robert Thanks for the link –that’s an interesting story. I wasn’t referring to institutional unity though. I’m not sure how God will work it out personally, but I’ll keep reading. You (and the commenters on here) are putting in a lot of work in your responses. It’s alot of food for thought.

    I keep thinking of the seperation of Paul and Barnabas when I read about differences among God’s children.

    1. Yorgo,
      Differences among God’s children will always be. We are commanded to do the most difficult thing…..love. The easy thing is to divide. But in all of the NT “divisions, dissentions, controversies” etc, there is no permission to start another church or ignore
      the scriptural admonition to “submit to those that have the rule over you.” Unity must be a unity of faith, not a dictatorial
      institutional unity as Rome proffers. Without a source body with authority, we have nothing to measure unity against, schism then could not even be repented of as the scripture commands.

  53. As we argue & discuss/debate…Thought these might help prevent…Murder! 🙂

    Rule for Discussions & Debates:

    1)Humble yourself; you know FAR less than you think.
    2)Repeat #1. (What you DON’T know…is likely more salient that what you do!)
    3)Humble yourself: your partner/debater likely knows more than you think.
    4)Expand pigeon-hole categories by 10Xs…there are MORE than you think!
    5)Repeat #1 again.
    6)NEVER boast your “reading, depth, knowledge…” NO ONE’s impressed. We laugh!
    7)Stick to the point and issue at hand…with grace and deference.
    8)No, you do NOT “know” as much about “those types” as you think…Stop assuming.
    9)Kindness and gracious deference to others wins debates…and friends.
    10)Snotty, pompous and condescending remarks DESTROYS your credibility.
    11)NO ONE reads what you copy & paste! Be as SUCCINCT & to the point as possible.
    12)Include a limited number of helpful link references…NOT everything you googled!

    Perhaps this will help…IF we do it. 🙂

    1. LOL. In terms of dialog – what ought to be respected first and foremost is the truth and not how it comes to us. Get that right and you’ll be ahead of the game. After all, God spoke to Balaam through an ass. He may very well use the same method with you. The question is whether or not you’ll actually take the time to listen and then obey as He commands.

      ‘He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…’

      1. You do have a point Kevin…God has no doubt spoken to me via an ass, maybe even recently! LOL (Sadly, I’ve too often been the ass speaking!) Seem I do recall the Apostle saying something about “Speaking the truth…in love.” And the “he who does not love his brother…do NOT love God.” He who has ears…otherwise we become just “sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”

  54. David. It would do you well to examine the context of the passages you’re quoting. For one thing, Paul had no problems being very direct and for another the Bible quite clearly lays out that rebuke and strong words are most certainly appropriate if the situation requires it. Such things are seen as acts of love in the Bible, twenty-first century politically correct definitions of love notwithstanding.

  55. If I may be so bold: I think if discussions were to get anywhere then people on both sides need to argue from common ground. I realize the Reform people on here believe Sola Scriptura and I know as noted above many Orthodox believe in Prima Scriptura
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prima_scriptura

    As far as I can tell then we do have common ground. If you have one side saying ‘by scripture alone’ and the other side saying ‘scripture is the first/above all source’ we can argue based on the OT/NT alone. I for one (with all brotherly respect to my fellow Orthodox on here) think that the Reform are solidly within the faith enough that we are brothers in Christ. I do read the Greek fathers but I would be lying if I did not say that I do not read some great Reform minds and have been blessed by them.

    Also I’ve had lots of friends of various Protestant denominations who once saying that I am serious about the faith have asked me to join their denomination! I felt a mixture of flattery and insult to be honest and that is how I imagine some on here must feel when the others say ‘join us now, its the only way’ . Flattery because they see me as a brother to let me into their church and insult because they don’t see my church as enough! Its a strange feeling that.

    Now I understand on here I’m probably the lest in Christ among you advanced theologians but cannot apostolic succession come directly through Christ via history (ie Orthodox church in history) AND directly from Christ in later history?

    Here is one of my favorite teachers, an Orthodox priest, the Rev. Archimandrite, Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Eusebius A. Stephanou, and a fellow fan of St. Symeon the New Theologian:

    (quote):

    “The bottom line is that now I could believe that Orthodoxy in its present twenty-first century dress did not fall from the sky in the upper room on the day of Pentecost! It became safe for me to recognize that apostolic succession, for example, is not necessarily a hallmark of Orthodoxy. I single this one point out, because one convert shared with me recently it was one item that drew him to Orthodoxy.

    I can think of some non-Orthodox that do not claim any apostolic succession in the sense we do, as “tactual succession,” that is, succession of ordinations traceable to one of the original apostles. Yet they display far more apostolic zeal and fire than we Orthodox do. They truly have succession of apostolic power. Their apostolic succession lies in the succession of a life-changing impact on souls and on the unregenerate world at large.

    I don’t have any problem with Orthodox claims to apostolic succession. I attach very much importance to it, but when you stop and reflect, St. Paul, by today’s standards, surprising as it may seem, had no apostolic succession, as we conceive of it. He received no commission nor special grace from the eleven disciples. As a matter of fact he gives extra emphasis to the fact that after his encounter with Christ on the Damascus way, he did not go to Jerusalem to present his credentials to “the pillars of the church,” Peter, John and James.

    Following his encounter with Christ, Paul was ministered to by a simple layman, Ananias, about whom we know nothing. “I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16) he said with no apologies. He considered himself as an apostle equal to the eleven.

    Could anyone dare today to question that he indeed is an apostle of Christ in the full sense of the word, that is, absolutely equal in authority to the apostles Peter, John, James and the other original ones?

    Free to Verify Authentic Orthodoxy

    Would it be all that strange for a lay believer today in the Church or a new convert to legitimately claim to have been called by God to be an apostle by virtue of a special personal experience of the Risen Christ?

    St. Paul records in the epistle to the Galatians: “…James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me” (Galatians 2:9).

    Layman and ex-persecutor Paul was gladly received into the company of the eleven apostles. They had the inner, unfailing witness of the Holy Spirit that Paul was unquestionably called by God. There was no need to catechize him in the faith and to give him time to prove that he had a genuine calling.

    Their acceptance of St. Paul’s ministry was unconditional, not because he passed some required exam nor because he spent a designated period of time as a disciple at the feet of the apostles, the eye-witnesses of the Risen Christ. The apostles operated totally in the supernatural dimension of the Holy Spirit, that is, in the power of Pentecost.

    I think we need more of that kind of Apostolic Succession today. St. Paul was not required to be ordained by the apostles. They knew that they knew that he was ordained by Christ directly from heaven without a human intermediary. But today’s Orthodox hierarchy would protest that to follow this kind of pattern would be subversive of established Orthodox practice!

    In 21st century Orthodoxy to accept that a simple layman can be called and anointed by Christ immediately for evangelism and the ministry of the word is unthinkable. This is however a caricature of true apostolic Orthodoxy. It is unmistakable evidence of legal clericalism that has infected the Body of Christ and masquerades today as “holy tradition.” It accounts for the absence of the lay ministry.”

    from: http://www.stsymeon.org/archive/thedeadendofconvertinfatuation.htm

    I’d like to know what each of the sides here thinks of the above stance. Its not my words but I think they are good words. Robert I don’t quote it to anger you –converts from Reform/Protestant traditions are usually very Orthodox. You are more Orthodox than me that’s for sure. But I would like to respectfully point out that many “cradle” orthodox (I hate that term but it’ll do for now) such as myself are seeing a movement among themselves as expressed in the above quote. The priest is a Greek like me from Greece and when I visited my old stomping grounds in Sparta (yeah I’m a Spartan) I found that this type of Orthodoxy was not unusual at all. And I think I know why. In the modern era where Christians of all churches are surrounded by the atheists, humanists and every other kind of dog, zeal for Christ is respected even if its not from the Orthodox church proper.

    Do you think its wrong to say that perhaps the Holy Spirit visited the first Reformers when the time was ripe with a new movement to free them the chains of dead roman catholicism not because catholicism initself was evil but it had become corrupted to that point that the Lord brought a fresh movement of the Spirit to correct them. I personally think he would have used Orthodox people but Orthodoxy was (in my opinion) being under God’s chastisement in Greece/Asia minor because the end of the Byzantine empire gave way to humanism (the beginning and the middle were different and God let the empire thrive for about 1000 years because Christianity was taken very seriously during those times). case in point: I believe its the 50 million+ evangelicals and whatever number of millions of serious Roman Catholics and Orthodox are in the US that God has not let the American Empire fall. (But if Lot leaves….)

    (Personally I hope that never happens I love the US!)

    Again I’m wincing as I right this because I don’t want to anger either side or create problems but I’ve meet to many Spirit filled reformed believers to think that they must join Orthodoxy to be complete (join in an institutional way). I hope you don’t condemn me as a heretic but I intend to keep on reading good protestant writers as I do Orthodox (I am not giving up my study of Spurgeon!)

    1. Thanks for that, Yorgo. As a Reformed person, I greatly appreciate your ACTUAL attempt to build a bridge, as opposed to the merely VERBAL attempt of your friends here.

      Maybe it takes ordinary laymen to build a bridge. The professional theologians and apologists are too hidebound in their convictions about superior distinctives to even try.

      1. Hi Tim, you’re welcome brother. Pardon my not responding sooner but I really shouldn’t even be on here with the amount of work I have to finish this summer. These discussions can go on for quite long after all. Anyway I don’t want to as americans say “rain on the parade”–or in this case “rain on Robert’s parade” This is his blog after all. But I am concerned when Christians of any historic church (who are conservative and obviously believe in the basic christian principles of who Christ is and what he came to do ) dont accept each other as “real christians”. I’m not saying that’s what Robert believes. I think he feels that Orthodoxy is a more full version of the faith than Protestant expressions of it.–not that Protestants are heathen that “need to be saved”.

        However I’ve been a Christian for 35 years now and the more I wait on God the more I see that “Christian fullness” is a matter of fruits one bears as a believer–the ‘fuller version ‘ of the faith in the end is a heart matter (for the Kingdom of God is within you).

    2. Excellent thoughts all, Yorgo, and the Orthodox here would do well to consider what you’ve outlined. Your comments reflect a real bridge between both worlds and while we might quibble on particulars I am more than happy to work on discussion and agreement in the main the way you present it here. As I said above, there are some things about Orthodoxy that I very much appreciate and that it would do Protestants well to consider. The same is true in reverse as you have just ably pointed out.

      The expressed need here by others to pull folks out of Protestantism into a jaded Orthodox world by means of a one-way “bridge” in order to truly become Christian is just more misplaced partisan wrangling. I’m glad, Yorgo, that you’ve demonstrated a better way.

      1. Thank you sir. Are you a reverend or a pastor? If so I will calll you by your title unless you request otherwise. As far as Im concerned a father or a reverend or a bishop etc should be given the respect due to them for they will be judged more than the rest of us as the scripture says.

        As for the Orthodox world being jaded. Honestly I would say all the major Christian bodies are jaded in some way or another. Coptic, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Anglican all seem to have their special struggles. I believe in the future Christ is going to put them to work together somehow but in the Spirit all true sheep are already one who hear his voice. That’s why I refuse to codemn a Protestant who I see believes in the same basic historical christian principles as me and in addition is not merely a hearer of the word but a doer of it. For who am I to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. And if He is able to make him stand I should be careful least I make myself an enemy of Christ.

  56. PPS also correction: “Also I’ve had lots of friends of various Protestant denominations who once THEY SEE that I am serious about the faith…” again apologies.

  57. Yorgo,

    Apostolic succession is not just about the laying on of hands from one generation to the next. It is also about the preservation and safe guarding of teaching from one generation to the next. And so it’s both. Uhm, there were alot of people way back in the day that had zeal, but zeal alone isn’t enough. The ancient Montonists had zeal. The Donatists and Novationists had zeal, and in our day and time many Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons have zeal, and so zeal alone isn’t enough!

    Now in saying this I don’t want to associate the Reformed with the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. I don’t want to do that for they are clearly different, but I just wanted to let you know that zeal alone isn’t enough.

    Also, it might be best for you to put the Calvinistic Baptist preacher (you were reading) down for a few years. When I became Orthodox 4 years ago I was advised to put my reading(something I was doing for about 7 years prior to becoming Orthodox) of Saint Augustine on hold so that I could spend more time grasping the Orthodox tradition without hindrance or confusion.

    Also there are a number of things you said about the Apostle Paul and modern times that I would like to address.

    1.) Did the Apostle Paul teach the samething as the other Apostles or did he teach something totally different? If he taught the samething then your example doesn’t work for the Reformed are not teaching the samething as us, nor did they always teach the samething as the Evangelicals(The Lutherans), the Radicals(The Anabaptists who broke away from the Reformed), and the Puritans (mostly 3rd generation English Reformed protestants) who wanted to purify the Church of England for they thought it wasn’t protestant enough.

    The various families of the Reformation were divided from the very beginning, and so in order for your example to work, the Apostles would all have to be divided from the very beginning with 12 or 13 different denominations not in communion with each other.

    2.) Was he embraced by the other Apostles? If so then your example doesn’t work for when the Lutherans tried to talk to us the conversation had to cease for we were not in agreement. And when the Calvinists tried to make us Reformed in the 17th century that too didn’t work out to well for we rejected it by giving our own response to the issue. And when the Non-Juror Anglicans tried to talk to us, well, that conversation had to end as well for we were not in agreement on the issue of the Eucharist and Icons.

    We do embrace groups, but we have to be in agreement first. We embraced the majority of those from the Evangelical Orthodox Church, we embraced a good portion of those from the African Orthodox Church. We embraced many from the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and we embraced individual Lutheran and Anglican Parishes.

    3.) Did he start a brand new church separate, independent and not in communion with the church plants started by the other Apostles? If not then you can’t use your example.

    When we look at Jesus’s prayer in John chapter 17 we see visible unity between Jesus and His Disciples along with visible unity between Jesus, His disciples, and all those who would listen to them. The modern Reformed and evangelical traditions tend to lean towards Ecclesial Docetism. They developed Saint Augustine’s view to the point of the visible Church having no real meaning at all. They want to believe in a spiritual union only type of view. The Biblical view is both! It’s not one or the other.

    If I was mean or rude in any way please let me know. It is not my intent to hurt anyone’s feelings

    1. Jnorm Your post seems to mix up my words with the words of Rev.
      Archimandrite Fr. Eusebius A. Stephanou from whom the lion’s share of
      the post was taken. Surely you see where I write ‘ (quote)’ and then
      start off with asterixes and end the huge quote with asterixes again and
      the link to the original post. Though I agree with the words of Fr.
      Eusebius I will not claim them as my own.
      It was Fr. Eusebius who said (and again I quote): “they display far
      more apostolic zeal and fire than we Orthodox do. They truly have
      succession of apostolic power. Their apostolic succession lies in the
      succession of a life-changing impact on souls and on the unregenerate
      world at large.”

      You say: “hm, there were alot of people way back in the day that had
      zeal, but zeal alone isn’t enough. The ancient Montonists had zeal. The
      Donatists and Novationists had zeal, and in our day and time many
      Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons have zeal, and so zeal alone isn’t
      enough!”

      But what did Fr Eusebius say? Did he say only or merely zeal? If you
      are to respond to my post please actually respond to what was posted not
      to what you want to have been posted otherwise it looks like you are
      setting up a ‘straw man’ argument. Fr. Eusebius said (quote): “Their
      apostolic succession lies in the succession of a life-changing impact on
      souls and on the unregenerate world at large.”
      So its not merely or ONLY zeal but obviously a Spirit powered zeal that
      actually has the Holy Spirit of the God of Israel because it has a LIFE
      CHANGING impact on souls and on the UNREGENERATE WORLD AT LARGE. Do you see what the venerable Rev. Archimandrite is saying? He is referring to zeal THAT SHOWS GODLY RESULTS.

      You became Orthodox 4 years ago? Friend do you know me? Do you know
      how long I’ve been Orthodox? I was born into Orthodoxy (that’s what
      cradle Orthodox means), 40 years ago. I was baptized as an infant and
      I’ve been a conscious Orthodox Christian for 35 years (I don’t count the
      first 5 years because I don’t recall them). I’ve studied the Greek
      fathers and the Philokalia. I’ve poured over the ladder of Divine
      Ascent and sought the help of spiritual fathers for over 35 years. I have studied scriptures in Greek and practiced hesycha 3 times a day every day. I’ve fasted both regular Orthodox fast and strict water monastic fasts until my stomach felt it would fall out. I’ve prayed and read and cried and followed
      after God and read and studied all my life. So please don’t
      advise me what to read and what to put down. Until your experience
      matches at least mine in the Orthodox faith or that of my 70+ year old
      spiritual father who forgotten more theology then most know and who risked his life smuggling chinese bibles into china for years, please don’t advise me.

      As for Augustine. Why on God’s green earth would I put down or put away
      one of the great Saints of the Church? Does one take the picture of a
      friend from his wall and put it away. Or if that friend calls say “sorry
      friend I cannot talk to you for you are no good for me, your friendship is leading me astray?”

      My spiritual father knows what I read and when I told him about Spurgeon
      he said “I know what you have learned and I have taught you what I know
      therefore read him in that light and the light of scripture and if there
      is gold take it my son!”

      Now about your points:

      1) You said: “Did the Apostle Paul teach the samething as the other
      Apostles or did he teach something totally different? If he taught the
      samething then your example doesn’t work for the Reformed are not
      teaching the samething as us,”

      You misunderstand. The real question is not whether the Reformed is
      teaching the same thing “as us” or if we are teaching the same thing “as
      them” but whether US AND THEM are teaching what the scriptures teach
      since we both claim loyalty to the God who wrote them via human hands.

      2) you say: “Was he embraced by the other Apostles? If so then your
      example doesn’t work for when the Lutherans tried to talk to us the
      conversation had to cease for we were not in agreement”

      And are we Orthodox always pure, always right, without flaw or blemish without error of any kind? I don’t believe that. Besides we have not ‘ceased’ in speaking with the Lutherans. We are still speaking with the Lutherans and have come to agreements between higher official levels of each of our churches.

      http://www.helsinki.fi/~risaarin/lutortjointtext.html

      highlight quote from the above link: ” Lutherans and Orthodox both understand good works as the fruits and manifestations of the believer’s faith and not as a means of salvation.” (however the whole page should be read to see how the orthodox and Lutherans are still conversing and fruitfully so)

      3)It was never Luther’s intention to start a whole new church but the Papists gave him no choice. I will not begrudge a man running from a burning house that he did not take his finest linen (tradition) with him. He took his bible. We can build from there with them.

      You take the phrase “visible unity” is the most flat and shallow way
      do you realize? Who has more visible unity: two friends who look the
      same but do different things (one is a fornicator and whore monger and
      the other chaste) or two who look different (one is black and one is
      white) but do the same things (are both chaste)? And what are the same
      things but to do the will of the Father : to help the poor, to remain
      untouched by the world system, to preach Christ crucified, to treat
      others as you want them to treat you.

      Anyway whenever I speak with monks they never seem to trip over “protestant” or “orthodox” they go right in and ask about Christ.
      Here is an example: Father Lazarus a Coptic Orthodox monk (and a true Anchorite desert monk) talking about overcoming spiritual problems (and what is the problem between churches if not ultimately a spiritual one?): notice near the end of the video where he starts to answer the question with “whether you orthodox, protestant, roman catholic…” He then answers the question. May it be the question we ask ourselves before we judge others.

      starting at 11:30 mins (of course the whole video and documentary is worth watching too). —>

      1. Yogi said:
        “”Jnorm Your post seems to mix up my words with the words of Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Eusebius A. Stephanou from whom the lion’s share of the post was taken. Surely you see where I write ‘ (quote)’ and then start off with asterixes and end the huge quote with asterixes again and the link to the original post. Though I agree with the words of Fr. Eusebius I will not claim them as my own.””

        Jnorm said:
        You either agree with the quotes or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways.

        Yogi said
        “It was Fr. Eusebius who said (and again I quote): “they display far more apostolic zeal and fire than we Orthodox do. They truly have succession of apostolic power. Their apostolic succession lies in the succession of a life-changing impact on souls and on the unregenerate
        world at large.”

        Jnorm said:
        You either agree with this or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways.

        Yogi said:
        “”But what did Fr Eusebius say? Did he say only or merely zeal? If you are to respond to my post please actually respond to what was posted not to what you want to have been posted otherwise it looks like you are setting up a ‘straw man’ argument. Fr. Eusebius said (quote): “Their apostolic succession lies in the succession of a life-changing impact on souls and on the unregenerate world at large.” So its not merely or ONLY zeal but obviously a Spirit powered zeal that actually has the Holy Spirit of the God of Israel because it has a LIFE CHANGING impact on souls and on the UNREGENERATE WORLD AT LARGE. Do you see what the venerable Rev. Archimandrite is saying? He is referring to zeal THAT SHOWS GODLY RESULTS.””

        Jnorm said:
        You obviously agree with the quote, and so you can’t have it both ways. Have you ever met a Mormon, Jehovah Witness, or a Oneness Pentecostal before? I have and most of them can put most evangelical protestants to shame when it comes to evangelism, morality, zeal, and what you quoted as “a LIFE
        CHANGING impact on souls and zeal THAT SHOWS GODLY RESULTS”. So why won’t you believe the same about them? Also, protestants didn’t always evangelize. It took time for that to happen. Look, I disagree with your quote. I was raised protestant most of my life and so I disagree. You obviously agree with the quote.

        Yogi said:
        “You became Orthodox 4 years ago? Friend do you know me? Do you know how long I’ve been Orthodox? I was born into Orthodoxy (that’s what cradle Orthodox means), 40 years ago. I was baptized as an infant and I’ve been a conscious Orthodox Christian for 35 years (I don’t count the first 5 years because I don’t recall them). I’ve studied the Greek fathers and the Philokalia. I’ve poured over the ladder of Divine Ascent and sought the help of spiritual fathers for over 35 years. I have studied scriptures in Greek and practiced hesycha 3 times a day every day. I’ve fasted both regular Orthodox fast and strict water monastic fasts until my stomach felt it would fall out. I’ve prayed and read and cried and followed after God and read and studied all my life.

        Jnorm
        I appreciate and respect your ability to fast and pray, but if you read the Greek Fathers then why don’t you believe them? For the things you are saying on here goes against them. So why do you dislike the Greek Fathers? Why do you dislike Orthodoxy? You say you love Orthodoxy, but I don’t think you do. For if you did then why must you remind us over and over again about how much you love it ….shortly before trashing it with your words? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your cake and eat it too! You can’t say you love Orthodoxy when everything you say seems to suggest that you dislike it. Why do you dislike the Faith? Why do you dislike the Eastern Fathers?

        Yogi said:
        “So please don’t advise me what to read and what to put down. Until your experience matches at least mine in the Orthodox faith or that of my 70+ year old spiritual father who forgotten more theology then most know and who risked his life smuggling chinese bibles into china for years, please don’t advise me.”

        Jnorm said:
        I’ve been protestant most of my life and I know that what you’re reading now isn’t good. It’s actually spiritual poison. I would prefer if you read John Wesley or someone closer to Orthodoxy. Just know that there are better protestant authors to read from.

        Yoni said:
        “You misunderstand. The real question is not whether the Reformed is teaching the same thing “as us” or if we are teaching the same thing “as them” but whether US AND THEM are teaching what the scriptures teach since we both claim loyalty to the God who wrote them via human hands.”

        Jnorm
        I don’t think I miss-understand, I said what I said for a reason. Do you believe Saint Ignatius to be an anti-Christ? Back when I tried to join a PCA church in 2001(I never joined) I read in a manual that very thing. They saw him as an Anti-Christ for the Episcopal form of Church government. Yoni, the Bible is not an isolated document that fell from the sky and onto our lap. And the Apostles taught something that they past to the next generation of believers. The Reformed are at odds with much of what was past on. Who better to understand Scripture than the ones that sat at their feet? Why should we trust those that came 15, 16, or 18 hundred years later? And so it is about us not agreeing with them and them not agreeing with us. Ultimately that is what it comes down to. To say it in the way you did is to assume that the next generation of believers all had amnesia or something. Or that no one was able to understand what the Apostles wrote until John Calvin, Zwingli, and your best friend “”Charles Haddon Spurgeon”” came on the scene.

        Yogi said:
        “And are we Orthodox always pure, always right, without flaw or blemish without error of any kind? I don’t believe that. Besides we have not ‘ceased’ in speaking with the Lutherans. We are still speaking with the Lutherans and have come to agreements between higher official levels of each of our churches.”

        Jnorm said:
        No we are not perfect, but the Reformed lack something that most ancient churches have. To be honest, I think the Lutherans are closer to us than the Reformed, and you know as much as I do that in order for full communion to happen, we have to be in agreement. Is it a good thing that we have found some agreement with the Lutherans? Yes! The same process should happen with the Reformed and Roman Catholics or any non-Orthodox group.

        Yogi said:
        “3)It was never Luther’s intention to start a whole new church but the Papists gave him no choice. I will not begrudge a man running from a burning house that he did not take his finest linen (tradition) with him. He took his bible. We can build from there with them.”

        Jnorm said:
        False, Luther just didn’t take the Bible with him. He also took a huge chunk of Roman Catholic tradition with him as well. The Reformed, less so. Also, you are making it seem as if Rome was wrong about everything. Oh no, I don’t think she was.

        Yoni said:
        “You take the phrase “visible unity” is the most flat and shallow way do you realize? Who has more visible unity: two friends who look the same but do different things (one is a fornicator and whore monger and the other chaste) or two who look different (one is black and one is white) but do the same things (are both chaste)? And what are the same things but to do the will of the Father : to help the poor, to remain untouched by the world system, to preach Christ crucified, to treat others as you want them to treat you.”

        Jnorm said
        In regards to the Church, What do we see in Scripture? Isn’t it “visible unity”? What do we see in the Fathers? Isn’t it visible unity? So why are you trying to change the rules now? Don’t you know that muslims give to the poor and to good deeds? Don’t you know that Mormons give to the poor and do good deeds too? So why not say the samethings about them?

        Yogi said:
        “Anyway whenever I speak with monks they never seem to trip over “protestant” or “orthodox” they go right in and ask about Christ. Here is an example: Father Lazarus a Coptic Orthodox monk (and a true Anchorite desert monk) talking about overcoming spiritual problems (and what is the problem between churches if not ultimately a spiritual one?): notice near the end of the video where he starts to answer the question with “whether you orthodox, protestant, roman catholic…” He then answers the question. May it be the question we ask ourselves before we judge others”

        Jnorm said:
        Yogi, it’s one thing to be nice and kind, but it’s another to go beyond that line by suggesting things you shouldn’t suggest. You are stressing one thing and ignoring another. Yogi, do you believe that there is such a thing as heresy and schism? Do you know what the Bible says about that? Do you know what the Fathers say about that? Is Jesus spirit only? Or is He both “Visible and Invisible”? If He is both then shouldn’t we stress both? If one is united to Christ then shouldn’t it be both “Visible and Invisible”? If so then why are you only stressing the “invisible”? As if the “visible” don’t really matter? What was one of the errors of the gnostics? Wasn’t it that the “visible” doesn’t really matter? Well, they went beyond that. They actually thought that the “visible” was evil. So why are you down playing the “visible”?

  58. For me, it looks like the Orthodox here (Robert in particular) have been more than kind and gracious to us Protestants. I never imagined it to be an “equal opportunity” Bridge without an Orthodox bias. Indeed, he is intentionally targeting & critiquing Protestant “issues” from an Orthodox perspective…and inviting comments, conversation — dialogue he, of course, hopes persuades Protestants to cross over. Despite some good give and take, I doubt anyone has been persuaded yet. Who knows?

    But rather that continuously whine and gripe that an Othodox Blog has an Orthodox bias — why don’t you show him how to do it better? Start your Protestant-Orthodox Bridge Blog. Boldly post your own reviews openly of say Bishop Ware’s _The Orthodox Church_ & _The Orthodox Way_ along with Clarke Carloton’s books or others. Put your own stuff out there and invite the Orthodox to see and invite them to dialogue, discuss and cross your Bridge. Who knows just how many you will persuade to cross over…or what kind of kind and gracious dialogue you might stir up?

    1. David,

      We aren’t interested in ‘converting’ anyone and we’re not going to start a blog trying to convince people of how right we are so we can have them join our side. Plain and simple. We have made efforts in the past to engage in constructive ecumenical dialog and we likely will continue (as well as provide additional remarks where necessary–such as this site). But, please don’t continue to press a burden on us that neither fits with who we are or what we consider important.

  59. Jnorm said:

    “You either agree with the quotes or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways.”

    answer: What are you talking about? I did NOT say I don’t agree with ALL the blessed Archimandrite

    said. I SAID do not attribute his words to me. Because if you don’t make it clear he said those good

    words you are saying I am saying them. If I am saying them then it means not only I agree but I TAKE THE

    credit for them. Do you understand? My point was I will not commit plagarism. Of course I agree with all

    the words. But I will not steal his words and say they are mine.

    That is the point! So your response shows you did not understand me.

    ————-

    Jnorm said:
    “Jnorm said:
    You obviously agree with the quote, and so you can’t have it both ways. Have you ever met a Mormon,

    Jehovah Witness, or a Oneness Pentecostal before? I have and most of them can put most evangelical

    protestants to shame when it comes to evangelism, morality, zeal, and what you quoted as “a LIFE
    CHANGING impact on souls and zeal THAT SHOWS GODLY RESULTS”. So why won’t you believe the same about

    them? Also, protestants didn’t always evangelize. It took time for that to happen. Look, I disagree with

    your quote. I was raised protestant most of my life and so I disagree. You obviously agree with the

    quote.”

    my answer: have it both ways? What are talking about. I never said I agree AND DISAGREE with him (ie

    “having it both ways”). I am saying I AGREE WITH HIM BUT I AM NOT THE AUTHOR OF THOSE GOOD WORDS (I wish

    I were). That’s the point. In other words: when you use his words —yes I agree with them– but you

    must give the blessed Archimandrite THE CREDIT! (that’s all–Im NOT saying I dont agree with him! )

    Im sorry my friend but you are not paying attention to what I wrote.

    Also, please do not assume I have not met Mormons (here in Toronto!) There are many. And also JWs.

    But even their most rigteous deeds are not GODLY because they believe that the Trinity are 3 gods and Jws

    believe Michael died in the place of Jesus.

    Again the point is GODLY result not merely rigteous. That’s why the post writes GODLY. There is a

    difference.

    And the VAST MAJORITY of evangelicals and traditional protestants have in common with us BASIC

    CHRISTOLOGY on who Christ is AND on the fact of putting trust in Him as Savior. Thats the point.

    ———-

    Jnorm said:

    “I appreciate and respect your ability to fast and pray, but if you read the Greek Fathers then why don’t

    you believe them? For the things you are saying on here goes against them. So why do you dislike the

    Greek Fathers? Why do you dislike Orthodoxy? You say you love Orthodoxy, but I don’t think you do. For if

    you did then why must you remind us over and over again about how much you love it ….shortly before

    trashing it with your words? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have your cake and eat it too! You

    can’t say you love Orthodoxy when everything you say seems to suggest that you dislike it. Why do you

    dislike the Faith? Why do you dislike the Eastern Fathers?”

    my answer: It goes against them? Really? Have you READ all the Greek fathers? For you to SEE if I

    agree with them or not –you must have read in your 4 years ALL the fathers I read IN GREEK in my 35

    years. How can you say they disagree unless YOU TOO HAVE READ THEM ALL?

    What I have quoted from the blessed Archimandrite I agree with him. If you say ***I *** Yorgo disagree

    with the Greek fathers than you are saying the blessed Archimandrite is disagreeing with the Greek

    fathers also! Do you now no more than me, my spiritual father AND Blessed Archimandrite? I did not know

    I was talking with the Patriarch!

    Jnorm said: “You say you love Orthodoxy, but I don’t think you do. For if you did then why must you

    remind us over and over again about how much you love it”

    my response: I said it “OVER AND OVER” again? Did you READ what I said? I said it ONCE. Also WHO ARE

    YOU TO TELL ME THAT I DISLIKE ORTHODOXY.

    YOU ARE A LAYMAN LIKE ME. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO SAY THAT I DISLIKE ORTHODOXY.
    ARE YOU A BISHOP? IF YOU UNDERSTOOD ORTHODOXY OR THE GREEK FATHERS YOU WOULD SEE THAT WHAT YOU ARE

    SAYING IS NOT IN YOUR RIGHT TO SAY IT!

    Also if you read the Greek fathers (do you know what the ladder of divine ascent is?) –you would know

    that to say that to me is SIN.

    And Jnorm said: “You can’t say you love Orthodoxy when everything you say seems to suggest that you

    dislike it.”

    Again you have either not understood what I said or you do not understood Orthodoxy yet. Orthodoxy IS

    christianity. And Christianity is about treating others as you want them to treat you. Protestants are

    human beings. But the way YOU talk about them you act like they are devils. Protestants are CHRISTIANS

    LIKE US SAVED BY THE SAME CHRIST. EVERYTHING I HAVE SAID IS IN KEEPING WITH THE PROPER HUMILITY OF AN

    ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MINDSET TOWARDS BORTHERS IN CHRIST WHO ARE SEPERATED FROM US BUT ARE STILL CHRISTIANS.

    Jnorm said:
    “I’ve been protestant most of my life and I know that what you’re reading now isn’t good. It’s actually

    spiritual poison. I would prefer if you read John Wesley or someone closer to Orthodoxy. Just know that

    there are better protestant authors to read from.”

    AND IVE BEEN ORTHODOX ALL MY LIFE and am not a orthodox of 4 years only! And I know what is poison and

    what is not. POISON is to treat other Christians like they are not real Chrisitans becaue they are not

    Orthodox!!

    With all due respect my brother you must show some humility here. I have NOT said Orthodoxy is wrong

    (read EVERYTHING blessed Archimandrite said again). Also I NEVER said I disagree with him I said I AGREE

    but I do not want to get credit that I wrote it (ie I do not want to STEAL his good words and say they

    are mine!)

    Yes I am aware of Wesley and read him last year.
    ——————–
    Jnorm said”
    “I don’t think I miss-understand, I said what I said for a reason. Do you believe Saint Ignatius to be an

    anti-Christ? Back when I tried to join a PCA church in 2001(I never joined) I read in a manual that very

    thing. They saw him as an Anti-Christ for the Episcopal form of Church government. Yoni, the Bible is not

    an isolated document that fell from the sky and onto our lap. And the Apostles taught something that they

    past to the next generation of believers. The Reformed are at odds with much of what was past on. Who

    better to understand Scripture than the ones that sat at their feet? Why should we trust those that came

    15, 16, or 18 hundred years later? And so it is about us not agreeing with them and them not agreeing

    with us. Ultimately that is what it comes down to. To say it in the way you did is to assume that the

    next generation of believers all had amnesia or something. Or that no one was able to understand what the

    Apostles wrote until John Calvin, Zwingli, and your best friend “”Charles Haddon Spurgeon”” came on the

    scene.”

    my response: I think you DO MISUNDERSTAND. You misunderstand so much you didn’t even SPELL the word

    misunderstand correctly!

    There are Orthodox authors who say protestants AND roman catholics are Anti-Christ! So what? ALL SIDES

    (orthodox, roman catholic, protestant) have good people and bad people and people who are inbetween!

    Also, I know what Reform believe. But the basic point of the blessed Archimandrite is that they are

    Christians also with the power of Christ. Did Barnabas and Paul agree? When they split up it NEVER says

    they got together again. Just because a brother is younger in age (15-18 hundered years) does not mean

    he is not a brother.

    NOTICE I DID NOT SAY YOU ARE NOT ORTHODOX. BUT YOU ACCUSE YOUR OLDER BROTHER OF “not likeing orthodoxy”

    which is the same as saying I am not orthodox! You judged as if you are
    CHRIST or the Bishop. You do NOT have that right!

    But I did NOT judge you! ORTHODOXY is about humility. I SHOWED YOU HUMILITY BECAUSE I SAY YOU ARE A

    BROTEHR IN ORTHODOXY but you do NOT SHOW ME THE SAME RESPECT OR CHRISTIAN CHARITY.

    The evidence is even in your writing of my NAME! I called you by the name you have posted “Jnorm” But

    you HAVE SEEN MY NAME “YORGO” but have called me TEN times “Yogi” and THREE times Yoni ! You don’t even

    show basic christian respect by at LEAST using my own name!

    When a friend of mine tried to buy a car from a salesman , my friend said ‘my name is Tony”. The

    salesman called him Tony first time and then TOMMY. Because the salesman had NO RESPECT for my friend.

    You show me less respect even then you would show an atheist neighbor. Do you understand my name is

    YORGO.

    If you read the Greek Fathers than you wouuld not make a mistake about one of the Great saints of the

    Orthodox Church, the Dragon Slayer himself! This is my real first name please show me at LEAST the

    respect you would show anybody brother and use my real name.

    Do not call me “Yogi” or “Yoni”. This shows me you did not pay attention and you do not show me even

    basic Christian charity.

    I believe you are a brother in Christ. BUt you do not believe I am a brother in Christ. If you do then

    you must show it. I HAVE SHOWN IT TO BOTH ORTHODOX AND PROTESTANTS.
    ———————–
    Jnorm said:

    “No we are not perfect, but the Reformed lack something that most ancient churches have. To be honest, I

    think the Lutherans are closer to us than the Reformed, and you know as much as I do that in order for

    full communion to happen, we have to be in agreement. Is it a good thing that we have found some

    agreement with the Lutherans? Yes! The same process should happen with the Reformed and Roman Catholics

    or any non-Orthodox group.”

    my response: if you agree we are not perfect then why do you not show it? You act like Roman Catholic

    Pope does when he issues one of his ‘bull’ statements. Also Orthodox DO TALK and have much agreement

    with Reform and roman catholics. You said: “The process SHOULD HAPPEN with Reformed and roman Catholics

    and any non-Orthodox group” If you were acting in humility you would HAVE RESEARCHED this and SEEN

    that this PROCESS HAS ALREADY HAPPENED not merely “should happen.” Did you know that the Roman Catholic

    church and the lutherans have even issued a joint statement of agreement about the justification belief

    and they now AGREE about it? ITS IN WRITING.
    ————–

    Jnorm said:
    “False, Luther just didn’t take the Bible with him. He also took a huge chunk of Roman Catholic tradition

    with him as well. The Reformed, less so. Also, you are making it seem as if Rome was wrong about

    everything. Oh no, I don’t think she was.”

    No what is FALSE is an attitude of arrogance against our Protestant brothers in Christ. Luther did NOT

    want to start another church. Did you read his biography??

    Also the things you call “Roman Catholic tradition” are simply Orthodoxy as well (many are common read

    the JOINT STATMENT I LINKED please).

    Roman Catholics DO NOT have claim over what Orthodoxy has in common with Lutherns.
    ———————-

    Jnorm said
    “In regards to the Church, What do we see in Scripture? Isn’t it “visible unity”? What do we see in the

    Fathers? Isn’t it visible unity? So why are you trying to change the rules now? Don’t you know that

    muslims give to the poor and to good deeds? Don’t you know that Mormons give to the poor and do good

    deeds too? So why not say the samethings about them?”

    my response: Muslims give to the poor in the name of their pedophile founder and their dark god.

    christians give in the name of Jesus. THATS THE DIFFERENCE THAT COUNTS. If you do not think that it is

    a big enough difference then you need to take that up with Christ.

    Visible unity in the way you want is not the most visible unity! The most visible unity is doing good

    but LIKE I SAID IN MY POST–ITS DOING GOOD IN THE NAME OF CHRIST. Mormons do good in the name of their 3

    gods and muslims in the name of their god.

    THATS THE DIFFERENCE.

    Also the lesser visible unity may come out eventually in Christ’s good timinig but acting like our

    protestant brothers are not christians (OR THEM acting like we are not christians) will NOT bring it

    about. Thats the point of the blessed Archimandrite. Do you know what an Archimandrite is? For him to

    have gotten that title his beliefs were scrutinized by a council of Orthodox scholars and at least one

    bishop! Do you now know more than him too?

    If you read the Greek fathers then you know charity of spirit when dealing with “weaker” brothers in

    Christ is ABOVE all righteous ritual.

    ————–

    Jnorm said
    “Yogi, it’s one thing to be nice and kind, but it’s another to go beyond that line by suggesting things

    you shouldn’t suggest. You are stressing one thing and ignoring another. Yogi, do you believe that there

    is such a thing as heresy and schism? Do you know what the Bible says about that? Do you know what the

    Fathers say about that? Is Jesus spirit only? Or is He both “Visible and Invisible”? If He is both then

    shouldn’t we stress both? If one is united to Christ then shouldn’t it be both “Visible and Invisible”?

    If so then why are you only stressing the “invisible”? As if the “visible” don’t really matter? What was

    one of the errors of the gnostics? Wasn’t it that the “visible” doesn’t really matter? Well, they went

    beyond that. They actually thought that the “visible” was evil. So why are you down playing the

    “visible”?”

    my response:

    No you have not understood what I am saying about visible unity just like you have not understood what my

    name is!! You cannot even get my name correct which I was baptised with and you want me to accept your

    other words?

    First get my name correct: YORGO not Yogi or Yoni etc etc. please.

    Secondly, yes Christ is truly man and truly God. AND ALL MAINSTREAM protestants (MAINSTREAM !!!!! I

    said)
    accept this. What is the most visible garment that shows we are christians to each other? do you know?

    Also you have not understood the implications of what the good monk meant if you can respond the way you

    do.

    Again my name IS YORGO. IT IS THE NAME I WAS BAPTISED IN, AND IN THE CHURCH OF THE SAME NAME! look it

    up in toronto–its the biggest Orthodox church in my city! he was a great saint!

    Again: I do NOT judge you. And I SAY YOU ARE an Orthodox Christian. But you judge me like you are

    Christ or a Bishop. And you act like I am not Orthodox or Christian! You have NO right to bring a

    railing judgement against my Orthodoxy. You do not even show me the basic respect of calling my by my

    christian name but you say “Yogi” and “Yoni” over and over again! This hurts me that you cannot even call

    me by my name.

    I forgive you in Christ my brother (and I am not mocking you —–>I do forgive you as God is my witness). Even if you don’t accept me as an Orthodox Chrisitan or as a Christian I still forgive you.

    AND I ACCEPT YOU AS AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN AND A CHRISTIAN EVEN IF YOU DO NOT ACCEPT ME AS NEITHER.

    My heart is right with Jesus.

    Christ bless.

  60. *****************************************************************
    ******************************************************

    Dear little brother Jnorm, Christ is my judge you cannot judge my Orthodox Christian faith for I have already been judged and christ has nailed it to the Cross. (“nailed it to the Cross” —–> this *IS* Orthodoxy, we Orthodox knew this long before there were any Protestants; if you do not know that brother
    you do not know Jesus–> BUT I am confident THAT YOU DO know him even if you believe evil against me (that I do not know him or love Orthodoxy!) I am your older brother in Orthodoxy whether you like it or not, my friend!

    I am confident that your accusation against me will be revealed to you in Jesus’s own good time once you have been orthodox for a lot longer than merely “4 years”!! For you are a babe in Orthodoxy and you seem to hate your older brother in Christ. I do not hate you but love you in Jesus’ name.

    You disagree?

    But I DO love you in Christ and will light candles and pray for all you my friends Orthodox and Protestant at the retreat I am leaving for.

    Please do not be offended since I will not be posting a reply to what you say from here onwards. The retreat will not have any internet! And other gadgets are not allowed! You may now indulge your spiritual pride (I know you want to have the last word in our discussion –so here is your chance little brother!) and write whatever you want against me for as long as you want on Robert’s site. As they whipped Jesus you may whip me with your words (enter your reply below with as many of your words as you
    like). But remember they were wrong to do it and so are you.

    I encourage you to ACTUALLY read the Greek Fathers for you have shown me you have learned little from them –only some of their words–and none of their love! Otherwise you would not accuse me of not loving my Mother Church of which you have no right to do . Can you say love me your older brother in the Orthodox faith (for you don’t even believe I love Orthodoxy –you have already declared your judgement against me and shown me you do noot!) It does not matter because in Christ I love you.

    PPS Yes Yorgo is my real name on my certificate of baptism and on my driver’s license written as is, as a

    transliteration. If you still have not figured out its GEORGE in translation but I use my legal name as

    we use it in Greece YORGOS. Afterall, I was born there but baptized here. My heart belongs to Greece and Canada.

    FROM HERE ON I CANNOT RESPOND BECAUSE I AM LEAVING TODAY. PLEASE UNDERSTAND.
    ———————————-

    1. Yorgo,

      I’m sorry for getting your name wrong, and no I never said you weren’t Orthodox. All I said was that it seems as if you dislike Orthodoxy by the things you say. And yes you do disagree with the early church fathers and witnesses. I’ve been reading them longer than 4 years. I started to read them way back in my protestant years. And so it’s been 14 years now. I am a former protestant, and I respect my protestant past. I also have alot of respect for a number of protestant groups and authors, but I will never go as far as you are willing to go because being in “full-communion” should actually mean something. And so you and I will have to agree to disagree.

      I hope you have a safe trip!

  61. @Robert thanks for letting me post these last long final posts. Please also read the farewell post at Contra 2 of 4 thread. I have to get going ! I think you are a sweet soul Robert –God bless you brother!!

  62. As I write this my car is here. My ride is here early and like I said in the other post he is waiting . bye bye

  63. Mr. Arakaki,

    Thank you very much for this post. I was raised fundamentalist Baptist but I’m seriously considering Eastern Orthodoxy. Can you recommend any books/resources that deal with
    1. The government of the early church (especially the episcopacy)
    2. The relationship between Scripture and tradition within the early church
    3. The shape of soteriology in the early church

    Also, do you know of any useful post that can address the contention that sola fide (at least as the Reformers defined it) was a 16th Century novelty, and never found in the early fathers.*

    Best regards

    *Even if justification by faith alone is found among a few of the early fathers (e.g. Clement of Rome) I do know that the Protestant conception of sola fide is alien to the history of the church before 1517. Remember, the Protestant position is not simply ‘salvation by faith alone’ but ‘salvation by believing the doctrine of justification by faith alone.’ There’s a huge difference. The former does not exclude from salvation those who hold to a combination of faith and works; the latter does. As far as I can see, the latter definition appears nowhere till Martin Luther.

    1. Burckhardtfan,

      I like your questions! You are asking some very important questions about the basic premises of the early Christian faith. If you are not well acquainted with the early church fathers I recommend Becoming Orthodox by Peter Gillquist. It was written by a former Campus Crusade for Christ staff worker who converted to Orthodoxy. Gillquist explains Orthodoxy in terms that Evangelicals can understand and relate to. If you have some theological training then I recommend: Jaroslav Pelikan’s five volume The Christian Tradition, JND Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines, and Alister McGrath’s Iustitia Dei.

      If you want a general overview I recommend my various blog postings. If you want to do more in depth research, I recommend you either purchase the books I recommended or go to the Internet sites that have these texts. The more in depth approach, while it will require much time, energy, and perseverance, will prove very rewarding. As your reading progresses you might want to discuss your findings with a local Orthodox priest.

      Re. early church government, I recommend the letters by Saint Ignatius of Antioch. He is an early second century church father who has a lot to say about the role of the bishop. If you pair Ignatius’ letters with Irenaeus of Lyons’ Against the Heretics and Eusebius’ Church History you will come away with an appreciation of the key role played by the bishops in the preservation of the Apostolic Faith. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library is an excellent Internet resources.

      Re. the relationship between Scripture and Tradition in the early Church I recommend “Contra Sola Scriptura (2): If Not Sola Scriptura Then What? The Biblical Basis for Holy Tradition” and “A Response to Tim Enloe’s ‘An Interesting Defense of Sola Scriptura.” As far as books/resources go, first of all I recommend you reread the Bible in light of my article Contra Sola Scriptura (2). I also recommend you read Irenaeus of Lyons’ Against the Heretics, a theological classic written by a second century church father.

      Re. Sola fide as a 16th century novelty, you might want to read my posting” “Response to Theodore – Semi-Pelagianism, Sola Fide, and Theosis.” I also wrote: “Response to Michael Horton.” In the Horton article I cited Alister McGrath’s Iustitia Dei and JND Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines. You can use the references to the book titles and page numbers to find your way through these excellect works of scholarship.

      Robert

      1. God bless you, sir! Thank you for your help. I have just read your second posting on Sola Scriptura, and I will start the third part soon. In fact, I want to read as many of your postings as possible!

        Intellectually I have already decided to convert to Orthodoxy. The great difficulty I now face is my parents, who are staunch Evangelicals; one is a Pentecostal and the other is a fundamentalist Baptist who believes the King James Version is the only inspired Bible and the English is to be trusted over the original Greek/Hebrew text (oh dear!). Do you have any advice on how to break this news to them – after I have done my homework, of course?

        1. Burckhardtfan,

          You might want to read Letters On Orthodoxy for ideas on how to break the news to your parents.

          I’m glad to hear that you want to become Orthodox. But my advice is to take things slowly because this will be a life changing commitment. Have you been to an Orthodox Liturgy (Sunday worship service)? And have you met with an Orthodox priest yet? If not, my advice is to find an Orthodox Church that does the Liturgy in English, all English if possible.

          As for the KJV, I have a 1611 version republished by Hendrickson Publishers. One thing that many Evangelicals don’t know is that the original KJV contains the Apocrypha that modern so-called KJV leaves out. I don’t know how modern Evangelicals can claim to be real Protestants if their Bible leaves out the Apocrypha! 🙂 The Apostles and the early Christians used the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) which contained the Apocrypha. In other words the Bible Evangelicals use today is quite different from the Bible used by the original Protestants and by the first Christians! The Orthodox Study Bible has the New Testament which uses the NKJV and the Old Testament which is a translation of the Septuagint. You will find the study notes very helpful.

          Regarding your question about Clement of Rome, where is that passage? References are very useful when discussing passages like these. Thanks.

          Robert

      2. Just another thing: what do you think of my little footnote at the end? You see, we Evangelicals believe that anyone who hold believes that faith in itself is not sufficient to guarantee eternal life is a heretic who is not saved. Hence my point about believing in a particular doctrine of salvation, rather than believing Christ alone is sufficient for salvation.

        Another question: what does Clement mean when He says:

        “And we too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men.”

        Protestants use this to argue that sola fide goes back to the earliest fathers. However, even a cursory reading shows that faith in Christ, not in a particular doctrine of how Christ accomplishes salvation, is what is stated here. So what is Clement REALLY saying that we are justified by faith and not by works or love?

        1. Burckhardtfan,

          I think what Clement is trying to get across is that we are saved by God’s gracious initiative and that we respond by faith to God. You noted correctly that Clement is not teaching that we need to believe in the doctrine “faith alone” to be saved. And others have noted that this passage teaches “justification by faith” but not “justification by faith em>alone.” What I like about this passage is that Clement understands justification by faith as a universal principle for salvation across the dispensations, not just for one particular time period.

          I think the fundamental problem with Protestantism’s sola fide is that it insists on a pure faith untainted by any good works or actions. But that leads to a disembodied faith. I like how Paul integrated faith in Christ with concrete action in Romans 10:9 — we believe in Christ in our hearts, we confess Christ as Lord with our lips. Our Christian discipleship needs to be expressed in terms of our life in the church and our diligence in doing good to our neighbors. Clement teaches this in chapter XXXIII:1-2: “What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we be slothful in well-doing and cease from love? May the Master forbid that this should happen, at least to us, but let us be zealous to accomplish every good deed with energy and readiness.”

          A commenter at Puritan Board wrote in defense of sola fide that Clement was ruling out pre-conversion works. I thought he was over complicating what faith in Christ is. The main thing is that God reaches out to us through Jesus Christ and that if we respond in faith to Christ the personal relationship that was severed in the Fall is restored; and once we are in a relationship with Christ we are no longer lost but saved because salvation is being relationship with Christ, and this in turn leads to life in the Trinity (see John 14:23).

          Robert

  64. Reformation has nothing to do with the verb reform.The word Protest within itself bears the consequences of it.

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