Friday, May 23, 2008

The 05-22-08 Dividing Line webcast.

Yesterday afternoon I began working on the thread I had promised my readers concerning James White’s use of the early Church Fathers in his book The God Who Justifies. I had just finished the post at exactly 3:59 PDT and was going to place it on the blog but thought I should tune into The Dividing Line first; I am sure pleased that I did! The first ½ hour was devoted to my blog and the D.H. Williams essay I had quoted. After listening to the program, I came to believe that it would be best to comment some of the points that James made in the Thursday broadcast (HERE) before posting the material I had typed up yesterday.

Now, before I begin to address yesterday’s program, I want to make it perfectly clear that I in no sense feel that this is a dialogue/issue that I need to “win”; rather, my efforts stem from a simple desire to “get it right”. With that said, on to the program.

DL 2:44 ff – “…those who seek to engage in this kind of argumentation generally really fall flat, even when they happen to be rather well think [?] and just sit around and dig stuff up as certain people in the web can…”

I have no insight at all as to what James is trying to convey when he refers to my blog post as “this kind of argumentation”; perhaps, he, or someone else could clarify. As for the “just sit around and dig stuff up comment in the web” comment, let me make it perfectly clear: though I do try to get in at least 4 hours of reading in each day, I certainly do not “just sit around”; and further, I did not find the D.H. Williams article on the web, but rather, came across it during my reading of Dr. Williams book Retrieving The Tradition & Renewing Evangelicalism – A Primer for Suspicious Protestants—a book I had read at least two years prior to my conversion to Catholicism in April, 2002.

DL 3:30ff – “…this D.H. Williams. And uhhh, now D.H. Williams uhh I don’t know uhhh he, he may be a Baptist. I got the article but the article doesn’t have a whole lot of information about him either, other than teaches at Loyola in Chicago, which of course is a Jesuit institution, which of course makes you wonder…”

Dr. Williams was in fact an assistant professor of patristics and historical theology at Loyola University of Chicago, back when he wrote the Interpretation article. He was also at that time (and still is) an ordained Baptist minister. However, Dr. Williams is now a professor at Baylor University in Waco, TX—which, as all know, is a Baptist institution. For Dr. Williams’ impressive credentials see HERE and HERE.

DL 5:00ff. – “..of course my response to Roman Catholicism has always been to demonstrate that it’s dogmatic definitions are not consistent with the early Church and not to try and make the early Church into Protestants; it’s just not the case…”

I will accept James here at his word; however, if such is really the case, then he certainly needs to be a bit more guarded with the type of language he uses in his writings. In his essay found in Sola Scriptura!, “Sola Scriptura and the Early Church”, we read:

For a time he even stood against the Roman See under Liberius, the bishop of Rome who gave in to the pressures placed on him. Truly it was said of him, Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” What an amazingly Protestant attitude was displayed by this bishop of Alexandria. (Page 42 - bold emphasis mine.) [More on this passage later.]

DL 6:40ff. – “…well, if this man’s a Baptist he’s probably not a very good one, uhhh one way or the other. Then we have the footnote and uhhh, I, I tracked, I looked for the article in my library; actually I just went online and downloaded it, it is available…”

Well, since I have never met Dr. Williams, it is not an easy task to comment on James’ “if this man’s a Baptist he’s probably not a very good one.” However, I have read 4 of his books, and, of course, his essay in Interpretation, and from those readings he sure seems to remain faithful to his Baptist tradition. As for the essay, I ordered a copy of the journal years ago, but have not been able to track down a link to it online so that others may read the entire essay in its full context (my cyber skills are quite poor).

DL 7:20 ff. – “…White’s essay exhibits very limited familiarity with patristic doctrinal history such that, let’s see what the examples are here, such that it claims Athanasius stood against Liberius’, bishop of Rome (p. 42), which I'll read to you in a moment, it doesn’t say that at all, but hey, just because you never got one thing right, and this other fellow just repeats it 10 years later, and you know, let’s give him a chance, you know; whereas in fact, Athanasius sought the protection of Liberius’ successor, Julius, during his exile, and he, of all the Greek fathers, remained the most intimate with Rome after Julius’ death in 352, it may all well be true, but it has nothing to do with what I said…” [Blue lettering is James quoting Williams.]

DL 18:00 ff. “…but you will note the accusation quoted by our Roman Catholic critic today, the first one being that the uhhh the example being, uhhh it claims Athanasius stood against Liberius, bishop of Rome; and what I actually said was that Athanasius stood for the Nicene Faith even when Liberius collapsed and gave proper referencing for that particular information…”

Really? I mean in all sincerity, really? Is that what James’ “actually said”? Here are his own words once again:

For a time he even stood against the Roman See under Liberius, the bishop of Rome who gave in to the pressures placed on him.

Contrast the above with Williams’ assessment:

White's essay exhibits very limited familiarity with patristic doctrinal history such that it claims Athanasius stood against Liberius’, bishop of Rome…

If Liberius was the bishop of the Roman See when Athanasius supposedly stood against the Roman See, then how could anyone construe that Athansius did not stand against Liberius?

And further, James’ references to Schaff in footnote #29 do not come to his aid as he indicated for none of the references suggest that Athanasius “stood against the Roman See under Liberius, the bishop of Rome ”. In fact, in the second volume that James referenced, Schaff actually argues for the opposite:

Even the papal chair was desecrated by heresy during this Arian interregnum; after the deposition of Liberius, the deacon Felix II., “by antichristian wickedness,” as Athanasius expresses it, was elected his successor. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 3.635, 636 – Eerdmans 4th printing of the Fifth Edition, Revised.)

Any opposition that Athanasius may have expressed against the Roman See was when Liberius had been removed as its bishop by Constantius and replaced by the anti-pope Felix.

Earlier in the same volume Schaff penned:

The schism originated in the deposition and banishment of the bishop Liberius, for his orthodoxy, and the election of the Arian Felix as pope in opposition by the arbitrary will of the emperor Constantius (a.d. 355). (Ibid. page 371.)

My oh my, how could anyone, especially a patristic scholar, not be troubled by the content and language used by James to describe Athanasius’ position...

As for Athanasius’ own words concerning the Roman See, one will find NO ammunition in his writings to support James’ claim that “he even stood against the Roman See under Liberius, the bishop of Rome”.

Last night I pulled out my heavily underlined and noted NPNF volume on Athanasius and found the following:

Now it had been better if from the first Constantius had never become connected with this heresy at all; or being connected with it if he had not yielded so much to those impious men; or having yielded to them, if he had stood by them only thus far, so that judgment might come upon them all for these atrocities alone. But as it would seem, like madmen, having fixed themselves in the bonds of impiety, they are drawing down upon their own heads a more severe judgment. Thus from the first they spared not even Liberius, Bishop of Rome, but extended their fury even to those parts; they respected not his bishopric, because it was an Apostolical throne; they felt no reverence for Rome, because she is the Metropolis of Romania; they remembered not that formerly in their letters they had spoken of her Bishops as Apostolical men. But confounding all things together, they at once forgot everything, and cared only to shew their zeal in behalf of impiety. When they perceived that he was an orthodox man and hated the Arian heresy, and earnestly endeavored to persuade all persons to renounce and withdraw from it these impious men reasoned thus with themselves: ‘If we can persuade Liberius, we shall soon prevail over all.’ Accordingly they accused him falsely before the Emperor…(“History of the Arians” Part V.35 – NPNF 4.282.)

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.)

Who that witnessed these things, or that has merely heard of them, will not be greatly amazed, and cry aloud unto the Lord, saying, ‘Wilt Thou make a full end of Israel?’ Who that is acquainted with these proceedings, will not with good reason cry out and say, ‘A wonderful and horrible thing is done in the land;’ and, ‘The heavens are astonished at this, and the earth is even more horribly afraid.’ The fathers of the people and the teachers of the faith are taken away, and the impious are brought into the Churches? Who that saw when Liberius, Bishop of Rome, was banished, and when the great Hosius, the father” of the Bishops, suffered these things, or who that saw so many Bishops banished out of Spain and the other parts, could fail to perceive, however little sense he might possess, that the charges against Athanasius also and the rest were false, and altogether mere calumny? For this reason those others also endured all suffering, because they saw plainly that the conspiracies laid against these were founded in falsehood. For what charge was there against Liberius? or what accusation against the aged Hosius? who bore even a false witness against Paulinus, and Lucifer, and Dionysius, and Eusebius? or what sin could be lain to the account of the rest of the banished Bishops, and Presbyters, and Deacons? None whatever; God forbid. There were no charges against them on which a plot for their ruin might be formed; nor was it on the ground of any accusation that they were severally banished. It was an insurrection of impiety against godliness; it was zeal for the Arian heresy, and a prelude to the coming of Antichrist, for whom Constantius is thus preparing the way. (“History of the Arians” Part VI.46 – NPNF 4.287.)

I humbly submit that Athanasius DID NOT stand “against the Roman See under Liberius, the bishop of Rome who gave in to the pressures placed on him.” Athanasius loved Liberius, even during his brief lapse, he loved the Roman See, and James’ words are certainly not a faithful representation of these facts.

I must close for now, my comments on the rest of the webcast will have to wait until tomorrow—the Lord willing.

Grace and peace,


P.S. I do want to thank James for pointing out that his clips of Steve Ray were not from a Catholic Answers radio broadcast—I have made the needed corrections.

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