Monday, June 29, 2009

Ken Temple, Mike Liccione, and Randy on Scripture and Tradition

A robust dialogue in the combox of the Scripture and Tradition in the early Church Fathers THREAD has produced (to date) 63 comments. I am going to attempt to summarize some of the more salient points that have been made, and due to the length restrictions of the combox, I have chosen to construct a new thread to do so—I will add some of my own thoughts immediately following the individual summations. (Note: to Chris and others who have been participating—I have singled out Ken, Mike and Randy in this thread because of my interest in the relationship between Scripture and Tradition—hope you know that have appreciated your contributions as well.)

First, Ken Temple –

Ken’s reflections and arguments flow from the presuppositions that are consistent with his Reformed view of sola scriptura—i.e. Scripture is both materially and formally sufficient for determining all necessary doctrine/s. This position has been termed the “ancillary view” by A.N.S. Lane, and Ken believes that it the best candidate for the view held by the early Church Fathers. Ken attempts to defend this position in his June 26, 2009 9:18AM POST (reposted today HERE). Ken pretty much sums of his position with:

If you keep reading, following his argument, all the way down to 3:5:1, you get the ancillary view. By itself, 3:4:1 seems like the coincidence view; but when he fleshes his thinking all the way out; he says, "since we do have the faith in the churches, let us resort to that Scriptural proof, which the apostles wrote down for us"…

This shows that the Gnostics were wrong about their interpretation of the Scriptures, and their claim to have secret knowledge to secret oral tradition left by the apostles (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:8:1 ) This is the method the RCC apologists employ claiming that the apostles taught orally on Mary and transubstantiation, but it did not come out until centuries later; it was secret and oral, but not written down in the Scriptures. No evidence or proof of any such thing.

My thoughts –

Because Irenaeus urges his readers to “resort to that Scriptural proof”, Ken concludes that this constitutes evidence that he held to the “ancillary view”, rather than the “coincidence view”. Along with so many patristic scholars, I must disagree with Ken on this for a couple of reasons: first, an important aspect of the “coincidence view” is the appeal to Scripture; and second, Irenaeus’ also invokes apostolic tradition and succession which is NOT part of the “ancillary view”, but is an essential ingredient of the “coincidence view”.

Concerning Ken’s comments about “the method the RCC apologists employ claiming that the apostles taught orally on Mary and transubstantiation”, I reject the view that the apostles passed on constitutive ‘oral tradition/s’ that is/are NOT materially contained in Scripture. It is my belief that Marian doctrines, transubstantiation, et al., are consistent theological deductions that are implicit in the original deposit. I do not believe that the apostles were preaching that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven any more than they were preaching the Trinitarian reflections found in the Nicene Creed. (More on this a bit later.)

Second, Mike Liccione –

Dr. Liccione summed his position in his June 24, 2009 7:33 PM POST. From that post we read:

My own position is that Scripture alone is not materially sufficient, but that Tradition is materially sufficient if Scripture be viewed properly: as the most normative record of Tradition. That's compatible with both Trent and Vatican II, which are usually seen as being in mutual tension on the question of the sources of revelation.

Mike’s position is neither the “ancillary view”, nor the “coincidence view”, but rather, it is known as the “supplementary view”. A.N.S. Lane wrote that according “to this view tradition does not just present the content of Scripture in a different form but also supplements it.” I pointed out to Mike that many important Catholic scholars reject this view (SEE THIS THREAD FOR EXAMPLES), as do I.

Third, Randy’s position –

I will let Randy correct me if I am wrong, but in his on going dialogue with Ken, I have yet to see him weigh in on which view of Scripture and Tradition he endorses. I hope that Randy will take the time to articulate his position in the combox of this thread. (BTW, I am truly enjoying your responses to Ken—your and Ken’s charity are stellar examples of how one should conduct themselves on the internet.)

Looking forward to the continuing reflections of all who have taken an interest in this on going dialogue.

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A quick, personal note

This morning’s run on the beach was quite interesting for a couple of reasons, first, it was the lowest tide of the year—a minus 2.2 ! When the tide is this low, our 28 miles long beach is well over 200 yards wide; the numerous exposed sandbars and tide-pools are quite a sight. And second, on one of the sandbars, there was a bald-headed eagle, feasting on his/her recent catch (though I have seen as many as 3 on one of my runs).

Anyway, just wanted to share…

Grace and peace,

The Beachbum

Monday, June 22, 2009

Scripture and Tradition in the early Church Fathers

Certain comments made in the last post (#37) of the PREVIOUS THREAD have prompted me to explore in a bit more depth the relationship between Scripture and Tradition in the writings of early Church Fathers. Those who have read the initial post and subsequent comments of the previous thread should now be cognizant of the reflections of at least two prominent Protestant scholars (A.N.S. Lane and D. H. Williams) who subscribe to the position that the ECFs held to the “coincidence view” of Scripture and Tradition—i.e. that Scripture and Tradition do not differ in content, and that both are equally authoritative. This position differs from the magisterial Reformers’ take (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, et al.) which is labeled the “ancillary view”. Lane articulates the differences between the two positions:

The essence of the coincidence view is the assumption not just that Scripture and tradition have the same content but also that this content is found in the teaching of the church. The error in attributing the coincidence view to the Reformers lies in the neglect of their ecclesiology. They did allow for an interpretative tradition not adding to Scripture but did not see either this tradition or ecclesiastical teaching as infallible…The Reformers’ attitude to tradition was neither the coincidence nor the supplementary view but the ancillary view. They viewed tradition not as a normative interpretation of Scripture nor as a necessary supplement to it but rather as a tool to be used to help the church to understand it. (A.N.S. Lane, “Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey”, Vox Evangelica, Volume IX – 1975, p. 43.)

Herein lies (IMHO), the most important distinctions between the coincidence and ancillary views—though each of the two allow for “interpretive tradition”, the latter position denies that this tradition both is “normative” and “infallible”.

Now, I do not believe that the current understanding of Scripture and Tradition by many important Catholic scholars is identical with the ECFs (for as with all doctrines, there have been important developments), but I do believe that the current Catholic position is much closer to the ECFs than most (all?) Protestant views.

Grace and peace,


Monday, June 8, 2009

James Swan ignores the “log” in his “own eye”.

"Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:4 – NASB)

Four days ago, our Reformed brother in Christ, Ken Temple, stimulated a significant number of comments in the James White’s 1995 essay returns thread. Just minutes ago, I responded to Ken’s most recent post, and then headed to cyberspace to pursue what has been transpiring on some of the blogs I tend to follow (many of which are known for their anti-Catholic stance). On AOMIN’s blog, I came across a new post by James Swan (posted earlier today), which is germane to the AF thread I linked to above. Apart from James’ observation/s concerning the proliferation and sales of popular apologetic literature in the 16th and 21st centuries, one finds the same, tired, old, polemic concerning Scripture and Tradition which is found in so many “popular” Evangelical treatments (including White’s essay referenced above). The primary deficiency of James’ entry does not stem from his reflections on the certain inconsistencies one finds in contemporary “popular” apologetic Catholic literature, but rather from the neglect of two important issues: first, the failure to come to grips with much of the same inconsistencies that exist within various sola scriptura paradigms; and second, the wholesale neglect of recent Catholic scholarship on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition.

Concerning the first issue, this Beachbum is still waiting for a scholarly, or even a cogent, detailed ‘lay’, response(s) to A.N.S. Lane’s insightful essay, and/or D.H. Williams’ important contributions which include:

Retrieving the Tradition & Renewing Evangelicalism

Evangelicals and Tradition

Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation

“The Search For Sola Scriptura in the Early Church”, Interpretation, October 1998, pp. 354-366.

As for the second issue, the contributions of important Catholic scholars such as Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI (Opening Up the Scriptures; Revelation and Tradition; “The Transmission of Divine Revelation” in Commentary On The Documents of Vatican II – Vol. III), Avery Dulles (“Revelation, Scripture and Tradition” in Your Word Is Truth), Thomas Guarino (“Catholic Reflections on Discerning the Truth of Sacred Scripture” in Your Word Is Truth), and Karl Rahner (“Scripture and Tradition” in Theological Investigatons – Vol. 6), to name but a few, are avoided.

There are also the contributions by yours truly under the SOLA SCRIPTURA LABEL which include numerous quotes from the literature referenced above, along with some personal reflections.

So much for what does NOT appear in James’ post. Now, a brief critique of something that IS in the contribution—James wrote:

Others refer to Tradition as interpretation, yet until a dogma is infallibly defined, Roman Catholics are granted freedom to privately interpret. The history of Roman Catholic theology is replete with multiple private interpretations on virtually every aspect of theology. Even after an infallible definition, Roman Catholics are granted freedom to interpret infallible pronouncements, as long as they do not contradict that infallible pronouncement. Therefore, in terms of certainty, Tradition does not provide what her apologists claim- they are not reproducing a body of truth from the apostles, but rather are invoking anachronism by claiming her recent developments were held by the apostles, when in fact they are the result of the movement of private interpretation within the church.

So, “Traditon does not provide certainty”? I have come across this statement (or its equivalents) numerous times. It is not difficult to demonstrate that such assertions lack substance—for instance, Arians and Socinians are able to mount significant challenges to the full Deity of the Son of God, and the doctrine of the Trinity via sola scriptura; however, the clarity of Tradition, via the Nicene Creed, the Chalcedonian definition, Trent, et al., allows no room for doubt on these important issues. (See HERE and HERE for further reflections.)

Grace and peace,


July 02, 2009 update: earlier today, James Swan posted a NEW THREAD that is related to this one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The “one God” of Novatian

I finally have some ‘free’ time to return to my series on subordinationism in the Ante-Nicene Fathers. Back on January 19th, 2009 I provided quotations from Novatian which clearly demonstrated that he held to a subordinationistic doctrine of the Trinity. Though he claimed that Jesus was God, he did so with certain qualifications, and reserved the title “one God” for the Father alone (as does the Bible and the rest of the ECFs).

The following quote from the final chapter of, A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity (I will be using Robert Ernest Wallis’ English translation as found in Volume V of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Roberts and Donaldson.), succinctly sums up the relationship between God the Father, who alone is the “one God”, and His Son/Word, who is “God proceeding from God”.

Thus God the Father, the Founder and Creator of all things, who only knows no beginning, invisible, infinite, immortal, eternal, is one God; to whose greatness, or majesty, or power, I would not say nothing can be preferred, but nothing can be compared; of whom, when He willed it, the Son, the Word, was born, who is not received in the sound of the stricken air, or in the tone of voice forced from the lungs, but is acknowledged in the substance of the power put forth by God, the mysteries of whose sacred and divine nativity neither an apostle has learnt, nor prophet has discovered, nor angel has known, nor creature has apprehended. To the Son alone they are known, who has known the secrets of the Father. He then, since He was begotten of the Father, is always in the Father. And I thus say always, that I may show Him not to be unborn, but born. But He who is before all time must be said to have been always in the Father; for no time can be assigned to Him who is before all time. And He is always in the Father, unless the Father be not always Father, only that the Father also precedes Him, — in a certain sense, — since it is necessary — in some degree — that He should be before He is Father. Because it is essential that He who knows no beginning must go before Him who has a beginning; even as He is the less as knowing that He is in Him, having an origin because He is born, and of like nature with the Father in some measure by His nativity, although He has a beginning in that He is born, inasmuch as He is born of that Father who alone has no beginning. He, then, when the Father willed it, proceeded from the Father, and He who was in the Father came forth from the Father; and He who was in the Father because He was of the Father, was subsequently with the Father, because He came forth from the Father, — that is to say, that divine substance whose name is the Word, whereby all things were made, and without whom nothing was made. For all things are after Him, because they are by Him. And reasonably, He is before all things, but after the Father, since all things were made by Him, and He proceeded from Him of whose will all things were made. Assuredly God proceeding from God, causing a person second to the Father as being the Son, but not taking from the Father that characteristic that He is one God. For if He had not been born — compared with Him who was unborn, an equality being manifested in both — He would make two unborn beings, and thus would make two Gods. If He had not been begotten — compared with Him who was not begotten, and as being found equal — they not being begotten, would have reasonably given two Gods, and thus Christ would have been the cause of two Gods. Had He been formed without beginning as the Father, and He Himself the beginning of all things as is the Father, this would have made two beginnings, and consequently would have shown to us two Gods also. Or if He also were not the Son, but the Father begetting from Himself another Son, reasonably, as compared with the Father, and designated as great as He, He would have caused two Fathers, and thus also He would have proved the existence of two Gods. Had He been invisible, as compared with the Invisible, and declared equal, He would have shown forth two Invisibles, and thus also He would have proved them to be two Gods. If incomprehensible, if also whatever other attributes belong to the Father, reasonably we say, He would have given rise to the allegation of two Gods, as these people feign. But now, whatever He is, He is not of Himself, because He is not unborn; but He is of the Father, because He is begotten, whether as being the Word, whether as being the Power, or as being the Wisdom, or as being the Light, or as being the Son; and whatever of these He is, in that He is not from any other source, as we have already said before, than from the Father, owing His origin to His Father, He could not make a disagreement in the divinity by the number of two Gods, since He gathered His beginning by being born of Him who is one God. In which kind, being both as well only-begotten as first-begotten of Him who has no beginning, He is the only one, of all things both Source and Head. And therefore He declared that God is one, in that He proved Him to be from no source nor beginning, but rather the beginning and source of all things. Moreover, the Son does nothing of His own will, nor does anything of His own determination; nor does He come from Himself, but obeys all His Father’s commands and precepts; so that, although birth proves Him to he a Son, yet obedience even to death declares Him the minister of the will of His Father, of whom He is. Thus making Himself obedient to His Father in all things, although He also is God, yet He shows the one God the Father by His obedience, from whom also He drew His beginning. And thus He could not make two Gods, because He did not make two beginnings, seeing that from Him who has no beginning He received the source of His nativity before all time. For since that is the beginning to other creatures which is unborn, — which God the Father only is, being beyond a beginning of whom He is who was born, — while He who is born of Him reasonably comes from Him who has no beginning, proving that to be the beginning from which He Himself is, even although He is God who is born, yet He shows Him to be one God whom He who was born proved to be without a beginning. He therefore is God, but begotten for this special result, that He should be God. He is also the Lord, but born for this very purpose of the Father, that He might be Lord. He is also an Angel, but He was destined of the Father as an Angel to announce the Great Counsel of God. And His divinity is thus declared, that it may not appear by any dissonance or inequality of divinity to have caused two Gods. For all things being subjected to Him as the Son by the Father, while He Himself, with those things which are subjected to Him, is subjected to His Father, He is indeed proved to be Son of His Father; but He is found to be both Lord and God of all else. Whence, while all things put under Him are delivered to Him who is God, and all things are subjected to Him, the Son refers all that He has received to the Father, remits again to the Father the whole authority of His divinity. The true and eternal Father is manifested as the one God, from whom alone this power of divinity is sent forth, and also given and directed upon the Son, and is again returned by the communion of substance to the Father. God indeed is shown as the Son, to whom the divinity is beheld to be given and extended. And still, nevertheless, the Father is proved to be one God; while by degrees in reciprocal transfer that majesty and divinity are again returned and reflected as sent by the Son Himself to the Father, who had given them; so that reasonably God the Father is God of all, and the source also of His Son Himself whom He begot as Lord. Moreover, the Son is God of all else, because God the Father put before all Him whom He begot. Thus the Mediator of God and men, Christ Jesus, having the power of every creature subjected to Him by His own Father, inasmuch as He is God; with every creature subdued to Him, found at one with His Father God, has, by abiding in that condition that He moreover “was heard,” briefly proved God His Father to be one and only and true God. (Chapter XXXI - ANF 5.643, 644.)

Grace and peace,