Tuesday, May 19, 2009
This week’s first thread was to be on Calvin and his take on Michael the Archangel as the pre-incarnate Christ; however, a post I have recently read from the ‘pen’ of James White has lead me to create a thread in response to his musings. In his 05/16/2009 BLOG POST James wrote:
Years ago in a written debate on the claims of Roman Catholicism I pointed out the bankruptcy of the constantly repeated slogan that states that Rome is the church of the past 2,000 years. The fact that Newman had to create his development hypothesis proves that the claim is empty: the early centuries did not embrace, as part of their faith, so much that defines modern Roman Catholic dogma. I have often pointed to Nicea as a convenient and important date in church history and asked which of the bishops there embraced, as part of the Christian faith, such concepts as transubstantiation, purgatory, the thesaurus meritorum, Papal Infallibility, the Marian dogmas, etc. and etc. Now, we do not have an exhaustive record of every sermon preached by every bishop who was at the Council of Nicea. In fact, we don't even have an exhaustive list of their names, for that matter. But remember, it is Rome's claim that she is the church, the same church, that has existed since Pentecost. She, uniquely, bears Christ's authority. Is this not the claim? So, if it is, then it should follow that this claim could garner positive documentation, correct? We should be able to discern these beliefs in the surviving sermons and records of that period, should we not?
The actual claim is that the same Church our Lord established in the first century, is the same Church we find in communion with the Bishop of Rome today. This does not deny that doctrine develops, for ALL must admit that it does. The doctrine of the Trinity clearly took centuries to develop; the Evangelical “Gospel” took nearly 1500 years to develop! To state that every doctrine that the Catholic Church now embraces was not ‘developed’ by the time of Nicea is a fact all knowledgeable Catholics affirm—the issue that is being avoided is that NONE of the unique doctrines embraced by Evangelicalism can be found prior to Nicea; and in reality, prior to Luther (Wycliffe may be a possible exception), including sola scriptura which James attempts to defend via a selection from an old treatment published back in 1995; James continues his post with:
How can a challenge that notes the evolutionary nature of Roman dogma over time, which stands at complete odds with the claim that Rome is the same church over 2000 years of history, be based upon sola scriptura? We are not told. But we are told that those bishops would have rejected sola scriptura! Really? So when I quote Athanasius not only asserting the sufficiency of Scripture, but demonstrate that he consistently argued for the deity of Christ upon that bedrock of truth, and point out that his actions in opposing the entire ecclesiastical structure of his day (including the bishop of Rome) are utterly incompatible with the modern Roman understanding of scripture and tradition and magisterium, what will be the response? "He's just one theologian" possibly, as Gerry Matatics was want to do in such situations? It is hard to say. But compare the shallow sounding mockery of the sufficiency of the Scriptures found in the last lines with the words of Psalm 119. Compare such Roman-inspired error with Jesus' own view of Scripture. Such empty mockery rings very hollow when compared with the biblical testimonies to the Word's sufficiency.
But let us allow Athanasius, himself at Nicea (though not yet a bishop), to refute this cavil against divine truth. I am grateful to announce that the work on scriptural sufficiency that originally came out in 1995 is coming out again! This work, with chapters by R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Sinclair Ferguson, addresses many facets of this vitally important topic. I contributed a lengthy chapter on the early church's view, and I focused a good bit on Athanasius, starting with the best Rome has to offer in citations from him, then, having provided the relevant context, moving to the positive testimonies he provided. In celebration of the re-release of that book in the near future, I provide that material. Let the reader compare the shallow triumphalism of Rome with a sober discussion of what this early writer actually said, and what he actually meant.
James then provides a somewhat lengthy quote from the 1995 work, but did not give the title: Sola Scriptura! – The Protestant Position on the Bible (James’ essay in the book is, “Sola Scriptura and the early Church”, pp. 27-62).
I have previously dealt with this essay in two older threads here at Articuli Fidei: The 05-22-08 Dividing Line webcast and The 05/22/08 Dividing Line webcast - part 2. James’ DL program seems to have been prompted by a quote from the Baptist patristic scholar D.H. Williams, that I had provided in THIS PRECEEDING POST.
One will notice from the comments sections of the above threads that virtually no response has been given to my reflections; I sincerely wonder if the silence will continue…
Grace and peace,