Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I am beginning to wonder if there are two separate individuals who post under the name “TurretinFan” (hereafter TF). There is the TF who is calm, collected, articulate—the TF that produced the indexes of online Church Fathers collections, and substantive reflections on Reformed theology; then there is the tempestuous, agitated, confused TF—the TF who produces all the anti-Catholic mischief…I dedicate the rest of this post to the latter TF.
Earlier today TF responded to my November 2, 2009 thread with this emotional post.
Roman Catholic David Waltz has chimed in with his two cents on the exceedingly minor issue of whether or not Athanasius might have been mocking Liberius when he (Athanasius) mentioned "the eunuchs of Constantius" (link to Waltz's piece). I had even stated in my original post, "But that's an aside." (link to my original post). I take the time to respond because Waltz's post raises some further tangential issues that are worthy of note.
TF is certainly welcome to his opinion as to what constitutes an “exceedingly minor issue”, but I personally believe TF has gone beyond the realm of something “exceedingly minor” when he attributed St. Athanasius with the charge of “mocking Liberius”.
Waltz's main point is probably correct, while his approach thoroughly disreputable. He titles his piece "TurretinFan thinks that Athanasius was mocking Liberius" despite the fact that my actual comment in the aside was merely "it is not unreasonable to think that Athanasius is actually using this passage to mock pope Liberius." The fact that Waltz feels compelled to change my position to a stronger claim regarding Athanasius and Liberius, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s reflect a bit on the above assessment: is it “unreasonable to think that” TF actually believes “Athanasius was mocking Liberius” when he himself makes the claim that “it is not unreasonable”? Is it irrational to come to such an assessment? Does the title of my thread actually make “a stronger claim regarding Athanasius and Liberius”? IMO (H omitted for TF), the answers are clear on these questions.
Rather than beginning his article by addressing Athanasius and Liberius, Waltz immediately attempts to change the argument again to being about whether Athanasius accepted Sola Scriptura, something we've already demonstrated from Athanasius' own writings even on those rare occasions when Waltz has attempted to venture out of the secondary sources (scholars who agree with the conclusion Waltz favors become for the moment "patristic scholars of the highest caliber") into the primary sources.
I have chosen to use secondary sources on the issue of whether or not “Athanasius accepted Sola Scriptura” because it is all too apparent that TF has NO respect for my 25 plus years of study into the Church Fathers. And for the record, the patristic scholars (Jaroslav Pelikan, Philip Schaff, Richard Bauckham, and D. H. Williams) that I cited IN THIS THREAD are certainly of a higher caliber than King, Webster, and White. And let us not forget the respected, though non-patristic, Evangelical scholars (Albert Outler, J. I. Packer, Robert D. Preus) I also cited who are in agreement with Pelikan, Schaff, Bauckham, and Williams. (But perhaps, TF is of the opinion that his own patristic scholarship exceeds them all.)
Eventually, Waltz actually gets around to discussing the matter.
Indeed, after a whopping 1 ½ sentences, I finally get to the point!!! [GRIN]
On the whole, I think Waltz is correct in believing that the editor wished to suggest that the "confession of Peter" might be an allusion to Liberius, rather than suggesting that Liberius was one of Constantine's eunuchs. The reason for thinking this is actually not the reasons that Waltz gives, but from the fact that at this point in the history of Liberius, Liberius had not yet Arianized. That came a few sections later (see Arian History, Part V, Section 41).
Notice that we have NO quote(s) from what I actually wrote in my post—there is a good “reason” for this: I gave NO reason(s) why I believed that the editor “wished to suggest that the ‘confession of Peter’ might be an allusion to Liberius, rather than suggesting that Liberius was one of Constantine's eunuchs.” TF pulled this one out of the air.
However, Waltz's argument itself is quite unconvincing. He refers the reader to section 36 of the history, which praises Liberius prior to Liberius' lapse. The fact that Athanasius praises Liberius at one point doesn't preclude him from mocking Liberius latter.
The section from Athanaius’ pen that gave rise to the supposed “not unreasonable” suggestion from TF that Athansius “mocked Liberius” occurred before the temporary lapse of Liberius. As such, TF’s above construct is nonsensical.
What might change Athanasius' attitude? the less-than-praiseworthy actions of Liberius.
A misreading of what St. Athanasius wrote might accomplish the trick..
In fact, Waltz doesn't make reference to the important fact of Liberius' lapse, something that would have seemed helpful to his case, had he been aware of it. The quotation we are addressing is in section 38, after the praise of Liberius in his first state, but before the actual lapse of Liberius in section 41: "But Liberius after he had been in banishment two years gave way, and from fear of threatened death subscribed." (Athanasius, Arian History, Part 5, Section 41)
Nice try; but, in addition to reading parts V and VI of “History of the Arains” Monday morning, I have read volume IV of A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church – Second Series, cover-to-cover, twice now, and I have also come across the attempted misuse of Liberius’ temporary lapse in at least a dozen anti-Catholic books that I own, and have read. With that said, I fail to see how in any sense the temporary lapse of Liberius “is helpful” in defending St. Athanasius against the charge of “mocking Liberius”.
Why doesn't Waltz mention Liberius' lapse?
First, it is such common knowledge among those who have spent even a tiny amount of time on this issue, and/or period of the Church, that I felt no need to bore my readers. Second, I linked to, and urged my readers to read all of V and VI (which contains the temporary lapse) in my post.
It's hard to believe that Waltz is unaware of it, after studiously researching the context of the quotation provided.
Indeed, and yet it sure seems that is what you would like your readers to believe; hmmmm…what’s up with that?
A more likely explanation is that Waltz is invested in a theory that Athanasius never opposed Liberius (see his prior comments here), and consequently Waltz does not want to acknowledge Athanasius' opposition to Liberius. After all, in the present post Waltz states: "This appears to be yet another ill-conceived attempt to portray St. Athanasius as an opponent of Liberius ... ."
Let’s be very clear on this matter, though I do not believe that St. Athansius was ever in opposition to Liberius, I have VIRTUALLY NOTHING AT STAKE that would preclude me from changing my position on this matter if there existed solid evidence to the contrary—I am not a professional apologist.
What makes Waltz's argument worse is that Waltz actually provides a quotation from Athanasius that proves that Athanasius was not a papist: that Athanasius was not someone who viewed the pope as the universal head of the church...
My oh my TF, have I ever said that St. Athanasius “viewed the pope as the universal head of the church”? I suspect that you know that I have not, at the very least you know that I did not do so in the post of your current polemic. Bad form TF…
What is the jurisdiction of the Roman bishop according to Athanasius? Is it the whole church? No, it is "Romania," that is to say the Roman empire (not the country we call "Romania" today).
St. Athansius held to pretty much what most Eastern Christians still affirm to this day: Rome held a jurisdiction/position of honor—first among equals.
So, while we thank Waltz for bringing some additional light to the matter of Liberius' lapse and Athanasius' opposition to that lapse…
Other than your personal opinion, we have seen nothing in your post that suggests St. Athanasius actually opposed Liberius (let alone “mock” him).
I do not wish to bore my readers, but I think TF needs to read for himself what St. Athanasius actually wrote about Liberious’ temporary lapse:
But Liberius after he had been in banishment two years gave way, and from fear of threatened death subscribed. Yet even this only shews their violent conduct, and the hatred of Liberius against the heresy, and his support of Athanasius, so long as he was suffered to exercise a free choice. For that which men are forced by torture to do contrary to their first judgment, ought not to be considered the willing deed of those who are in fear, but rather of their tormentors. They however attempted everything in support of their heresy, while the people in every Church, preserving the faith which they had learnt, waited for the return of their teachers, and condemned the Antichristian heresy, and all avoid it, as they would a serpent. (“History of the Arians” Part V.41 – NPNF 4.284.)
Now, TF, can you honestly read the above and still maintain that St. Athanasius was opposing Liberius?
Grace and peace,