An old debate/discussion with Roman Catholic Dave Armstrong

Dave Armstrong is a Roman Catholic, and former Evangelical.  We debated for years in the comboxes of his web-site. (2004-2011, and some in 2014)   (I don’t think I interacted at his web-site in 2012 or 13, but I could be wrong. I don’t remember.)  At the link above and the reproduction of Dave’s article below ( I hope I got the colors right; I had to go back and patiently apply the right colors to the correct sections.)  I made a couple of new comments and also included a few of the combox comments that are no longer at Dave’s article. I am glad I saved this.

Dave calls me an “Anti-Catholic”, but I sincerely disagree with that label.  I am against Roman Catholic doctrine, but not Roman Catholics as people.  That label poisons discussions and seems to label people, rather than seeing Protestant Evangelicals as being against the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and their claim that only they are the true church that Jesus founded and that everyone must become Roman Catholic and submit to the Pope for salvation.  (a clear contradiction to Scripture)

Did St. Athanasius Believe in Sola Scriptura? (vs. Ken Temple)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dave Armstrong:  From an earlier discussion thread. I have edited somewhat to concentrate the subject matter and eliminate extraneous tedium. Ken Temple is a Protestant who has graciously engaged in many discussions on my blog. His words will be in green. My older, cited words will be in brown. St. Athanasius’ words will be blue, and Cardinal Newman’s, purple.

Yes, that is the apostolic deposit, the rule of faith, the contents of the kerygma, the canon of our tradition — which Ireneaus and Athanasius and Tertullian expound as a basic Trinitarian doctrine that affirms God as creator, and a basic proto-Nicean Creed — which was concurrent with the different books being brought together in all the churches — When it was oral teaching it was the apostolic deposit and they later inscripturated it, or wrote it down — go back to I John 2:20:

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” The anointing of the Holy Spirit, ( 2 Cor. 1:21-22, Acts 1:8, I Cor. 12:13, Ephesians 1:14, Romans 8:9) which he says all have and all know ( all believers that is) gives them knowledge and discernment and protection against deception and false teaching. ( v. 18, 19, 26) So, if he has the apostolic deposit ( Jude 3, I Cor. 15:1-5, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6) and the anointing of the Holy Spirit to guide him/her in interpretation along with godly teachers in the church ( Ephesians 4:11-12, I Tim. 3, Titus 1, Romans 12:3-8, I Cor. 12:28, then what does it mean about “not needing teachers” ??

. . . The passages I cited prove I am not igoring epistemology and the study of how we know what we know. Sola Scriptura believes in tradition and church and authority and teachers — just not Infallible ones.

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know, right?

Then I John 5:13 and I John 2:18-27 says lots about “knowing”, and it comes through the apostles doctrine, which became scripture and confirmed by Ireneaus and Athanasius as nothing added that is not in Scripture, and we know by the indwelling and anointing of the Holy Spirit, confirmed when godly teachers stick to the Scriptures and properly interpret the Scriptures.

. . . If you stay in the contexts of where Ireneaus, Tertullian, and Athanasius outline “the faith” or “preaching” or “rule of faith” or “tradition” or “scope”, there is nothing in those contexts or lists that contradict Evangelical protestant understanding. Athanasius defined what his “scope” is, which is usually cut off by Roman Catholic Apologists at Discourse Against the Arians 3:28 — Please read 3:29, which explains what the “ecclesiastical scope” is.

Dave A. cuts it, and avoids 3:29. “Now the scope and character of Holy Scripture, as we have often said, is this, it contains a double account of the Savior; that He was ever God, and is the Son, being the Father’s Word and Radiance and Wisdom; and that afterwards for us He took flesh of a Virgin, Mary the bearer of God, and was made man. And this scope is to be found throughout inspired Scripture, as the Lord Himself has said, “Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me.” But lest I exceed in writing . . . ” Discourse Against the Arians, 3:29

[In his paper] “The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers ( Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity”, Dave also cut “To Serapion” 1:28 before Athanasius gives us the content of “the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church” — it is all from Matthew 28:19.

[Replying to someone else] In order to prove your point, you have to show that Ireneaus and Tertullian and Athanasius held to the content of the later developed dogmas which the RCC holds to as part of the apostolic tradition AT THAT TIME. It is your understanding of “tradition” that seems anachronistic, for none of those three mention those dogmas in their listing or contexts of what the apostolic tradition or scope is. It is all, as I said before, proto-Nicean, Trinitarian, Deity of Christ, God as One Creator God both of OT and NT agains the Arians and Gnostics and Docetists and Marcionites.

Are you claiming that St. Athanasius believed in sola Scriptura?

Thanks for interacting here! If he doesn’t, he comes pretty close.

Why don’t you refute my evidences that he didn’t then, since you have been reading my papers?

You admit he taught “Material sufficiency”.

So what? I as a Catholic believe that. That doesn’t prove sola Scriptura at all. All who accept SS believe in material sufficiency, but not vice versa. That’s the fallacy often present in these sorts of arguments.

I am not trying to be “mean” to you, but you avoided the question of those two cuts that you made in your quotations of Athanasius. Deal with the quotes first, please.

I’m not gonna play your game of “Dave is trying to mislead his readers by selective citation.” I’ve had enough of that nonsense with others in the past.

If you want to seriously interact, then disprove what I have already written. I won’t waste my time going back and proving that every time I made a citation, I wasn’t deliberately trying to mislead.

If that’s what you think, then I’m not interested in interacting with you, anyway, because those types of cynical accusations do not help move the discussion along. If you retract that charge, then perhaps we can have a serious discussion about what Athanasius really believed.

If you mean in a full blown sense that was articulated by the Reformers in the period of 1517 into the 1700s, my senses tell me that I should be careful here. As I read over your papers on Athanasius and the long ones dealing with Jason Engwer’s “Catholic, but not Roman Catholic” series, (It took me a month just to print, read with understanding and look up Ireneaus and Athanasius in the ECF. There is no time to do all of them.)

I found that in Ireneaus, you also cut the quotes or avoid the parts that give the protestant, Evangelical view of the Early Fathers.

I don’t think you proved Sola Scriptura is wrong, but you did prove that SOLO Scriptura ( me and my bible in the woods with no church and no good tradition) is wrong, as Keith Mathison has pointed out. Athanasius and Ireneaus don’t articulate it in the full sense that you are wanting to hang me with, but they come pretty close. J. N. D. Kelly, as you point out, writes that it is anachronistic to ask the quesion in those terms.

Ireneaus and Athanasius of course believed in an authoritative church that is suppossed to teach the right and exegically sound interpretation of Scripture. But they never say that the Church is infallible. Athansius was exiled by Arian Emperors and Bishops (at least one Bishop of Rome, right?) and wrote, ” . . . you are meanwhile cast out from your places. For they hold the places, but you the Apostolic Faith. They are, it is true, in the places, but outside of the true faith; while you are outside the places indeed, but the Faith, within you. Let us consider whether is the greater, the place or the faith. Clearly the true faith. . . . yet without such restoration of the churches the Faith is sufficient for us . . . And they think themselves to be within the truth, but are exiled, and in captivity, and gain no advantage by the church alone. For the truth of things is judged.” ( Festal Letter 29)

. . . Please forgive me in Jesus name if I have offended you —

I am amazed that you now seem to be getting offended. I did not mean to offend you, and I am not trying to read “evil” motives in the cutting of the quotes. If you just explain why the cuts at certain places, and that Athansius does indeed explain the content of the preaching and the faith and the tradition from the Scriptures, then all will be peaceful.

I did not accuse you of deliberately misleading, rather you ( and the other RCC apologists) cut “To Serapion” 1:28 ( Four letters on the Holy Spirit) and Discourse Against the Arians 3:28-29 at just the point that would contextually and exegetically show what Athanasius means by tradition, “the preaching”, “the faith” — that it is found in Matthew 28:19 (Doctrine of the Trinity) and also in the “Discourse”, 3:29, Athanasius defines what the “skope” is, “a double account of the Savior”, both the humanity and the Deity of Christ.

I am just honestly asking for interaction at those points, without jumping to another book or context of Athansius. It is amazing that you won’t even explain the connection in the context of Athanasius and I am surprised that you are starting to get offended.

I tried to be very careful and not anachronistic, and your papers and quoting of J. Pelikan, J.N.D. Kelly, Schaff, and Heiko Oberman are indeed helpful. I don’t see anything offensive in what I have written, I simply asked you to concentrate on those two quotes before we move on. I cannot prove you wrong when the software cuts it at 3000 characters.

Obviously, you do have lots of time with the Early Church Fathers — you seem to know them extensively and your 30 page papers prove that you have lots of time to research and write. This is not negative, I know you also have a another job and a family, but that should be easy for you to just explain those two contexts of those two quotes.

I thought I was being very kind and careful. I even said you did a good job of disproving “SOLO Scriptura (“Me and my Bible in the woods with no church and no good tradition”), but you did NOT prove that Sola Scriptura is wrong or un-biblical.

Fair enough. Perhaps I’m battle-weary, after being accused of these things so many times before. Whenever I see something about editing of citations, the flag goes up. I get very tired of that. The atheists do it, the anti-Catholics do, Catholic “traditionalists” do, etc.

I want to discuss the issues, not how I edited something (I still think you implied that I engaged in cynical editing, but I accept your clarification and word that you meant no offense).

Ken is, I believe, referring to my paper, “The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers (Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity)”. This is what frustrates me. I provided a very lengthy analysis of St. Athanasius’ rule of faith, from patristics scholar John Henry Newman (scroll about two-thirds of the way down). This leaves little doubt as to where Athanasius stood on these issues. Personally, I think it is very clear, and that any Protestant wishing to argue otherwise has quite the uphill battle.

So Ken, why can’t you simply pick up on Newman’s analysis (since you read this paper), that I agree with, and provide a counter-argument? Instead, I have to go and provide the next sections of citations because you think they prove that Athanasius was more Protestant than Catholic? I’ll do it, but it is “under protest.” I urge readers to simply read what Athanasius wrote. It’s clear enough.

I wrote in the same paper:

Entire books are written about the Fathers’ supposed belief in sola Scriptura, when in fact they are merely expressing their belief in material sufficiency of Scripture, and its inspiration and sufficiency to refute heretics and false doctrine generally. It is easy to misleadingly present them as sola Scripturists if their statements elsewhere about apostolic Tradition or succession and the binding authority of the Church (especially in council) are ignored. But a half-truth is almost as bad as an untruth (arguably worse, because in most instances the one committing it should know better).

In my debate with Jason Engwer on the Fathers and SS, I expanded this a bit:

. . . we’ll look to see if the person thinks Scripture is formally sufficient for authority without the necessary aid of Tradition and the Church, or if he does not, as indicated in other statements. A thinker’s statements must be evaluated in context of all of his thought, rather than having pieces taken out and then claiming that they ‘prove’ something that they do not, in fact, prove at all.

In other words, even if you find a quote where a Father seems (at first glance) to be stating something akin to SS (since he is writing about the Bible without immediate reference to Church or Tradition), one must examine what the same person believes about Tradition, Church, and apostolic succession, because the very question at hand (what is the rule of faith?) has to do with the relation of all those things. For that reason, all three (or four) have to be examined in his writing, to understand properly how he views their relationship vis-a-vis each other.

The Protestant always puts the Bible above Church and Tradition, and denies that the latter two can be infallible. Catholics and Orthodox believe in a three-legged stool, where, practically-speaking, Church and Tradition have equal authority with Scripture, because they are the necessary framework and interpretive grid through which Scripture can be properly interpreted in an orthodox sense. This is what I contend that Athanasius believes himself. Here is one proof I offered:

But, beyond these sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached and the Fathers kept.

(To Serapion of Thmuis 1:28)

You claim I cut this off so as to avoid “Protestant” implications (or some such thing). Okay, let’s see if that is true. I am using William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1 (p. 336).
The section above continues:

On this was the Church founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is nor any longer ought to be called a Christian . . .

Thus far, it only strengthens my case, since he had talked about all this authority, hadn’t even mentioned the Bible as part of it, and says that if someone follows a different method of authority, they are not even a Christian.

He then goes on to write about the Holy Trinity, using “Word” as in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, in the sense of the logos, or Jesus Christ. You must be interpreting “Word” as the Bible, but that is nonsensical in context; e.g.,:

. . . one God . . . He is over all as Father, as beginning, as source; and through all, through the Word; and in all, in the Holy Spirit.

He repeats the same formula twice more. Indeed, he makes it crystal clear that he means this, elsewhere in the letter (1:20):

. . . the Son, the living Word . . . the Word, who is confessedly from the father.

There is nothing here at all about the Bible, let alone some imagined primitive or pseudo-sola Scriptura belief, so I fail to see what your point is. I have not cut out anything in the immediate context that is relevant to the discussion, except for a remark which strengthens my case and weakens yours.

Now the second passage I provided:

We may easily see, if we now consider the scope of that faith which we Christians hold, and using it as a rule, apply ourselves, as the Apostle teaches, to the reading of inspired Scripture. For Christ’s enemies, being ignorant of this scope, have wandered from the way of truth, and have stumbled on a stone of stumbling, thinking otherwise than they should think.

(Discourse Against the Arians 3:28)

Note that the Introduction on the Christian Classic Ethereal Library website online translation mentions Cardinal Newman’s Athanasius scholarship:

The translation which follows is that of Cardinal Newman, published in 1844 (the year before his secession), in the Oxford Library of the Fathers. The copious and elaborate notes and discussions which accompany it have always been acknowledged to be a masterpiece of their illustrious author. The modern reader sits down to study Athanasius, and rises from his task filled with Newman.

Here is the whole of 3:29 (from the CCEL translation):

29. Now the scope and character of Holy Scripture, as we have often said, is this,-it contains a double account of the Savior; that He was ever God, and is the Son, being the Father’s Word and Radiance and Wisdom; and that afterwards for us He took flesh of a Virgin, Mary Bearer of God, and was made man. And this scope is to be found throughout inspired Scripture, as the Lord Himself has said, `Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me.’ But lest I should exceed in writing, by bringing together all the passages on the subject, let it suffice to mention as a specimen, first John saying, `In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was made not one thing;’ next, `And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of one Only-begotten from the Fathers;’ and next Paul writing, `Who being in the form of God, thought it not a prize to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion like a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.’ Any one, beginning with these passages and going through the whole of the Scripture upon the interpretation which they suggest, will perceive how in the beginning the Father said to Him, `Let there be light,’ and `Let there be a firmament,’ and `Let us make man;’ but in fullness of the ages, He sent Him into the world, not that He might judge the world, but that the world by Him might be saved, and how it is written `Behold, the Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call his Name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us.’

Again, there is not one word about sola Scriptura as the only infallible rule of faith. Zero, zilch, zip, nada. All he does is give biblical trinitarian teaching. He defined the rule of faith in the section I cited. Now he goes on to particular biblical teaching.

Your confusion here is, unfortunately, fundamental as to what is being discussed in each section. They are two different things. You see the word “scope” in each and conclude that he means the same thing in each instance. He does not.

In 3:28, St. Athanasius writes:

. . . the scope of that faith which we Christians hold, and using it as a rule, apply ourselves, as the Apostle teaches, to the reading of inspired Scripture.

In other words, faith is the rule by which we interpret Holy Scripture. “Scope” here refers to the Christian faith, not to the Bible, because it is applied to the reading and understanding of the Bible. Otherwise, you would have a logical tautology: “use the Bible to interpret the Bible.” We do that, too (Athanasius does it in this very treatise), but here the Father is speaking of the content of previously-received orthodox faith, not the Bible.

In 3:29, on the other hand, he writes:

Now the scope and character of Holy Scripture, as we have often said, is this,-it contains a double account of the Saviour; that He was ever God, and is the Son . . . And this scope is to be found throughout inspired Scripture, as the Lord Himself has said, `Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me.’

This is talking about the content of Scripture, not the rule of faith of how to properly interpret Scripture, or how the authority of the Church and Tradition is related to the Bible.  New Comment: [See my interaction with this in the combox] 

Apples and oranges. But you conclude:

. . . and also in the “Discourse”, 3:29, Athanasius defines what the “skope” is, “a double account of the Savior”, both the humanity and the Deity of Christ.

Yes; that’s what the Bible teaches about Jesus. So what? What’s that got to do with sola Scriptura or the rule of faith? Nothing. Cardinal Newman (remember, he translated this and was a patristics scholar, so I think he knows a bit more about this than you or I) properly interpreted what Athanasius meant by the “scope of faith” in 3:28:

The recognition of this rule is the basis of St. Athanasius’s method of arguing against Arianism. Vid. art. Private Judgment. It is not his aim ordinarily to prove doctrine by Scripture, nor does he appeal to the private judgment of the individual Christian in order to determine what Scripture means; but he assumes that there is a tradition, substantive, independent, and authoritative, such as to supply for us the true sense of Scripture in doctrinal matters—a tradition carried on from generation to generation by the practice of catechising, and by the other ministrations of Holy Church. He does not care to contend that no other meaning of certain passages of Scripture besides this traditional Catholic sense is possible or is plausible, whether true or not, but simply that any sense inconsistent with the Catholic is untrue, untrue because the traditional sense is apostolic and decisive. What he was instructed in at school and in church, the voice of the Christian people, the analogy of faith, the ecclesiastical [phronema], the writings of saints; these are enough for him.

. . . Perhaps the most obvious proof that what I have stated is substantially true, is that on any other supposition he seems to argue illogically. Thus he says: ‘The Arians, looking at what is human in the Saviour, have judged Him to be a creature … But let them learn, however tardily, that the Word became flesh;’ and then he goes on to show that he does not rely simply on the inherent, unequivocal force of St. John’s words, satisfactory as that is, for he adds, ‘Let us, as possessing [ton skopon tes pisteos], acknowledge that this is the right ([orthen], orthodox) understanding of what they understand wrongly.’ Orat. iii. § 35.

. . . And again: ‘Since they pervert divine Scripture in accordance with their own private ([idion]) opinion, we must so far ([tosouton]) answer them as ([hoson]) to justify its word, and to show that its sense is orthodox, [orthen].” Orat. i. 37.

. . . This illustrates what he means when he says that certain texts have a “good,” “pious,” “orthodox” sense, i.e. they can be interpreted (in spite, if so be, of appearances) in harmony with the Regula Fidei.

It is with a reference to this great principle that he begins and ends his series of Scripture passages, which he defends from the misinterpretation of the Arians. When he begins, he refers to the necessity of interpreting them according to that sense which is not the result of private judgment, but is orthodox. “This,” he says, “I conceive is the meaning of this passage, and that a meaning especially ecclesiastical.” Orat. i. § 44. And he ends with: “Had they dwelt on these thoughts, and recognised the ecclesiastical scope as an anchor for the faith, they would not of the faith have made shipwreck.” Orat. iii. § 58.

“It is hardly a paradox to say that in patristical works of controversy the conclusion in a certain sense proves the premisses. As then he here speaks of the ecclesiastical scope “as an anchor for the faith;” so when the discussion of texts began, Orat. i. § 37, he introduces it as already quoted by saying, “Since they allege the divine oracles and force on them a misinterpretation according to their private sense, it becomes necessary to meet them so far as to do justice to these passages, and to show that they bear an orthodox sense, and that our opponents are in error.” Again, Orat. iii. 7, he says, “What is the difficulty, that one must need take such a view of such passages?” He speaks of the [skopos] as a [kanon] or rule of interpretation, supr. iii. §28. vid. also § 29 init. 35 Serap. ii. 7. Hence too he speaks of the “ecclesiastical sense,” e.g. Orat. i. 44, Serap. iv. 15, and of the [phronema], Orat. ii. 31 init. Decr. 17 fin. In ii. § 32, 3, he
makes the general or Church view of Scripture supersede inquiry into the force of particular illustrations.

Furthermore, elsewhere in the same work (Discourse Against the Arians, III), we find this remark along the same lines:

However here too they introduce their private fictions, and contend that the Son and the Father are not in such wise `one,’ or `like,’ as the Church preaches, but, as they themselves would have it. (3:10)

And elsewhere:

. . . inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, . . .

(Festal Letter 2:6)

See, we are proving that this view has been transmitted from father to father; but ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiaphas, how many fathers can ye assign to your phrases?

(Defense of the Nicene Definition, 27)

For, what our Fathers have delivered, this is truly doctrine; . . .

(De Decretis 4)

Remaining on the foundation of the Apostles, and holding fast the traditions of the Fathers, pray that now at length all strife and rivalry may cease, and the futile questions of the heretics may be condemned, . . .

(De Synodis 54)

Hence J.N.D. Kelly, Anglican patristics scholar, concludes:
So Athanasius, disputing with the Arians, claimed that his own doctrine had been handed down from father to father, whereas they could not produce a single respectable witness to theirs . . .

. . . the ancient idea that the Church alone, in virtue of being the home of the Spirit and having preserved the authentic apostolic testimony in her rule of faith, liturgical action and general witness, possesses the indispensable key to Scripture, continued to operate as powerfully as in the days of Irenaeus and Tertullian . . . Athanasius
himself, after dwelling on the entire adequacy of Scripture, went on to emphasize the desirability of having sound teachers to expound it. Against the Arians he flung the charge that they would never have made shipwreck of the faith had they held fast as a sheet-anchor to the . . . Church’s peculiar and traditionally handed down grasp of the purport of revelation.

What more do you NEED, Ken, for heaven’s sake? You find yourself amazed that I didn’t include two irrelevant passages in my analysis:
It is amazing that you won’t even explain the connection in the context of Athanasius . . .

Well, I am flat-out astonished that Protestants can read all this and still pretend (hope, pray?) that Athanasius believed in some sort of primitive sola Scriptura, closer to your view than to ours, regarding Bible and Tradition. This (to be blunt) is sheer nonsense. His view is exactly the Catholic view. I’m sorry, my esteemed friend and brother in Christ, but it’s simply NOT sola Scriptura, or anything remotely like it.

And most of this was already in my existing paper, which is one reason why I was frustrated at you ignoring that, and asking me to flesh out my quotes, as if what I already presented wasn’t more than sufficient to prove that Athanasius believed precisely what I argued that he believed.
I truly don’t see what else is required to prove this. Everything the Catholic needs to find to prove his case (or that a Protestant would or should demand that we produce to overcome their objections) is present here.

Athanasius is not an early Father, where different schools can put their interpretation on more basic, less-developed theological statements and believe that the person would have gone in their direction, had he lived later. His statements on this are very straightforward and clear, and leave little room for doubt.

At least that’s how I see it. If you disagree, then you have the floor to explain why.
Thanks for your patience with me. I am willing to work with you, if you will be more patient with me. One thing at a time. As to “To Serapion 1:28” (“The Letters of St. Athanasius on the Holy Spirit”, written “To Serapion”. Perhaps the Jurgens book you are using has not included the full quote of “To Serapion” 1:28, and the fact these books of Athanasius are not included in the standard Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers’ book series, nor is it on the web-site, makes our discussion go slower.
Here is the full quote of  “The Letters of Saint Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit” / To Serapion ( Translated with Introduction and Notes by C. R. B. Shapland. The Philosophical Library: New York, 1951. Book 1, verse or section or paragraph 28:

But, beyond these sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the fathers kept. Upon this the Church is founded, and he who should fall away from it would not be a Christian, and should no longer be so called. There is, then a Triad, holy and complete, confessed to be God in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, having nothing foreign or external mixed with it, not composed of one that creates and one that is originated, but all creative; and it is consistent and in nature indivisible, and its activity one. The Father does all things through the Word in the Holy Spirit. Thus the unity of the holy Triad is preserved. Thus one God is preached in the Church, ‘who is over all, and through all and in all’ – over all, as Father, as beginning, as fountain, ‘through all’, through the Word; “in all”, in the Holy Spirit. It is a Triad not only in name and form of speech, but in truth and actuality. For as the Father is He that is, also His Word is one that is and God over all. And the Holy Spirit is not without actual existence, but exists and has true being. Less than these (Persons) the Catholic Church does not hold, lest she sink to the level of the modern Jews, imitators of Caiaphas, and to the level of Sabellius. Nor does she add to them by speculation, lest she be carried into the polytheism of the heathen. And that they may know this to be faith of the Church, let them learn how the Lord, when sending forth the Apostles, ordered them to lay this foundation for the Church, saying, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The Apostles went, and thus they taught; and this is the preaching that extends to the whole Church which is under heaven.


Since then the Church has this foundation of faith, let these men tell us once again and let them make answer, Is God triad or dyad? . . .

Don’t you see that “the faith”, “the preaching”, “the tradition”, “the foundation” is the doctrine of the Trinity? To back his proofs up, Athansius quotes Ephesians 4:6 ( “over all and through all and in all”) and Matthew 28:19. So, here, we have someone who is using Scripture to show what the content of the tradition is. This is in perfect agreement with historical Protestant evangelicalism. Ireneaus and Tertullian make the same points. We all agree that the content of the rule of faith is the tradition of the church, which the apostles preached. And what was it? The Doctrines of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, Monotheism, Creator and Creation, the Cross, Resurrection, Virgin Birth, Judgment day, etc.

I am trying to be careful, I had to go to a local Seminary library and hunt down this book translated by C.R.B. Shapland because it is not available in the standard series or the web. Are you going to condemn me for that? When there is time and patience and ability to look at the full context of many of these writers, for example here, Athanasius does seem to come closer to the Evangelical Protestant view.

Since you also did not have the rest of the verse, I am assuming that you just do not have the full text available. You have Jurgens, that’s fine, but not the full “To Serapion”, right? I am not trying to be difficult, but you need to let evangelicals have the same tenacity and scrutiny that you also exemplify. If we are relentless, you are just as tenacious, and more so. That’s OK, work with me, because I don’t think you have the full quote in front of you. I admit, when some of the early fathers are not on the web or were not published in the original book series, this makes it harder to us to discuss the issues. For example, Ireneaus’ The Proof of the Apostolic Preaching is also not in the original series. We do not even have Greek or Latin for this; the only extant manuscript is an Armenian one. And I could not even learn all of this information unless I searched it out for myself and asked, “Why is this reference so hard to find?” ( in the quotes that RCC apologists make).

This is a problem for all of us,( that some books are not in the standard series) for all Evangelicals and Roman Catholics too, because as we are challenged by the RCC apologist by the Early Fathers and Newman’s theory, and yet we cannot get to the text, this makes the whole exercise slower. And if all you have is Jurgens, then that makes your work slower also. These Four “Letters of St. Athanasius on the Holy Spirit” or “To Serapion” are not in the standard series, either on the web or in the old Phillip Schaff and Henry Wace book series.

Thanks for your patience with me. Perhaps the Jurgens book you are using has not included the full quote of “To Serapion” 1:28, and the fact these books of Athanasius are not included in the standard “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers” book series, nor is it on the web-site, makes our discussion go slower. I checked out Jurgens three volume set once a couple of years ago from a local Theological library, so again, be patient with me, because I do not have it front of me. But, it is a compendium of select quotes, and my guess is that he also cut the quote too soon, ( I am not judging motives, I am merely pointing out the fact that verse 28 of book 1 of Athanasius’ “Four Letters on the Holy Spirit to Serapion” is frequently cut before Athanasius quotes Matthew 28:19. ( Tim Staples did the same thing in his debate with James White).

You wrote, “. . . so I fail to see your point”. You included more of the quote, which to at first glance, “strengthens your case”, but the quotes goes on to quote Matthew 28:19. Don’t get upset, please. I don’t think you have the full text. If you don’t have the text, that is not your fault.

I read all the other points you make, about the other passage in Athanasius (Discourse Against the Arians, 3:28-29) and Newman and, yes, I have read the whole thing, (your paper about Athansius), about the church being able to “bind” and “compeling” and “enforcing” ( because of space and time, I summarize). and I think I DO understand what you are saying.

You are saying that the rule or tradition is whatever the bishops or presbyters say ( even later) as the right method of interpreting the Scriptures. Am I right? You are saying that in seed form, because the early church taught as tradition and binding the Trinity and Double nature of Christ, then they also have the infallible authority to later add more and other things, things about Mary and the Pope, and Transubstantiation, for example, to the rule of faith. You are saying that it is the opinons or interpretations of the bishops, presbyters ( and later councils, then later, popes), no matter what, because they have authority, infallible authority.

[Neither] You, nor Newman prove that Athanasius ( nor Irenaus nor Tertullian) taught that. Rather than the rule being the Trinity, and Deity of Christ, you are implying that Ireneaus and Athansius and Tertullian are teaching that the bishops and presbyters IN THE FUTURE can NEVER go wrong. They never say anything about the future and they never outline or define ANY distictive dogma or doctrine that Evangelicals have issue with in their scope or tradition or rule of faith.

To me, [neither] Newman, nor you PROVE this. Newman just assumes it and develops it, and runs with it. He doesn’t prove it.

Yes, he was much much deeper and more religious, and more pious and more knowledgeable than me, (and very difficult to understand much of the time); but I honestly don’t see him proving his point.

Newman is a little tricky ( to me) when he writes he is quoting Athansius, that Athanasius proves the Arians wrong by quoting John 1:1 and 1:14 and then writes, “and then he goes on to show that he does not rely simply on the inherent, unequivocal force of St. John’s word, satisfactory as that is, for he adds, “Let us, as possessing [ton skopon tes pisteos], acknowledge that this is the right ([orthen], orthodox) understanding of what they understand wrongly.”

He does not translate the Greek phrase, ton skopon tes pisteos. It is “the scope of the faith”. I do know Greek; I am no expert, but I can work with it, with Dictionaries and Grammars, etc. and review. ( I admit I have forgotten a lot.)

The scope of the faith is the Deity of Christ and the Humanity of Christ, not infallible authority to add other things to the rule of faith later in history. You and Newman assume that the rule of faith is the churches authority to take any other doctrine and develop it or add to it later in history, just because that person later is a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.

J.N.D. Kelly’s quote is fine, and it does not contradict Protestantism nor Sola Scriptura. If you pressed him to think he means that later, the leaders in the church did not go wrong — later developments — he, as an Anglican, would disagree with you, and he would agree that the Roman Catholic Church LATER went wrong on their interpretations. (But not on Trinity or double-scope Deity and humanity of Christ.) All these from Athanasius show is that the rule or scope or method of interpretation is the understanding of the Trinity as the rule of faith and the double skope of the 2 natures of Christ as the eccelsiastical scope. Don’t say, “So what?” None of these passages you cite include anything about infallibility, Mary’s Immaculate conception, Mary’s sinlessness, Bodily Assumption, popes, Transubstantiation, etc.

You have only proved that the tradition of the Trinity and 2 natures of Christ was taught orally at first ( even to the Barbarians, that Ireneaus says, don’t have pen and ink); and that this tradition was also written down later, therefore he writes, “since the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the church, and is permanent among us, let us revert (or resort) to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel. . . “.(Against Heresies, 3:5:1) I also know about all the other passages about the apostolic succession in the churches and that the church of Rome has a “potent principality” and that the other churches in the Empire reflect her doctrine. (Against Heresies, 3:3:1-2)

That faith, rule of faith, content, canon, tradition, preaching, catechism, foundation was passed on and existed concurrently, at the same time. After persecution was over and chaos was settled by Constantine and Theodosius, the church had time and peace to examine all the extant documents and collect the ones that were already in existence, the “Theopneustos” ones ( God-breathed).

Again, we are at a place where you are not interacting with my material point by point and considering it on its own merits. Dialogue is not merely giving your opinion on what the other guy did and going on and on, as you tend to do, introducing all sorts of extraneous subject matter into the discussion in the process. You have to interact with opponents’ arguments.

I spent several hours last night (when I really didn’t feel like it) painstakingly answering your questions, only to find that you are doing the same thing that you have in the past (at least with me): not interacting, but rather, basically preaching and simply stating your position over and over, as if that proves it.

I’m not mad or “impatient” or trying to be harsh or whatever; I’m just stating the facts of the matter. You have not responded to my material, and I have reason to believe that you either don’t understand my argument, or that you do and refuse to deal with it directly.

That being the case, again, there is nowhere to go with this. I won’t spend even more time, when my arguments are virtually ignored. That’s not dialogue; it’s mutual monologue, aka “ships passing in the night.”

If you want to better understand exactly what I mean by both “dialogue” and dealing with opposing arguments, see my paper:

“Good Discussion”: The Preferability of Socratic Back-and-Forth Dialogue Over “Mutual Monologue”.

Show me where I deviated from the subject. What do you say about the full text of “To Serapion 1:28-29” ?? It is you who seem to be avoiding. Why don’t you just easily answer that and then I will be glad to move forward. Why do only you have the right to control what we focus on? Seems unfair.

I will admit I am not as organized or gifted or knowledgeable as you. Your web-site is amazing in the volume, content, research, connections, and prolific nature, giftedness in arguing your case, etc. I am totally sincere that you have high quality web-sites that seek to provide comprehensive answers for Roman Catholicism. You believe your church and doctrines and you are zealous. I disagree with the RCC distinctives against Sola Scriptura, but you are a passionate spokesperson for your view and a heavy weight. But bowing out now does not become you.

I am very surprised that you don’t want to even explain “To Serapion 1:28-29”. This should be easy for you. Who is avoiding? Did I not reference Shapland’s book and provide the full text in all sincerity and honesty????

I am a nobody and perhaps I am a little scattered and not organized and wordy and repetitious. But now you bow out without any comment on the full text of “To Serapion 1:28-29”. Why do you seem to be afraid to deal with that text?

Every thing I wrote about was all directly related to your article on Athanasius and I did try to answer your points. You however, are still avoiding the full text of “To Serapion 1:28-29”.

You want me to jump to the conclusion of your paper, rather than focus on two texts, which I discovered have more material that point to the historical protestant position in the ECF. I am willing to proceed to more of your conclusions, if you will answer me “point by point”. ( Same thing you want me to do) ( To Serapion 1:28-29 and Discourse against the Arians 3:28-29) What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You also should easily be able to answer those two points.

I did interact with your material where you quote Newman. Again, at the end of the long quote, Newman writes, “. . . and then he goes on to show that he does rely simply on the inherent, unequivocal force of St. John’s words, satisfactory as that is, for he adds, “Let us, as possessing [ton skopon tes pisteos], acknowledge that this is the right ( orthen, orthodox) understanding of what they understand wrongly.” Oration against the Arians, iii. Section 35.”

This is from your paper on Athanasius. Newman admits that Athanasius uses St. John’s words, which are Scripture ( John 1:1-5, 14) and says, “satisfactory that this is”, but then assumes that the “scope” means something like “the Churches right to say one’s private interpretation is wrong”. Private interpretation is wrong, if it goes against the Trinity or Diety of Christ or humanity of Christ, because the “scope” of Scripture teaches the Trinity and Deity and Humanity of Christ. But in iii, section 35, Athanasius goes on to quoting Scripture after Scripture. In 3, section 58, where Athansius writes about the “ecclesiastical scope” as an anchor for the faith, both the preceding context and the material following shows Athanasius is talking about the “double account of the Saviour”. His humanity: “He was troubled”, “He got tired”, “He got thirsty”, “He wept.”, etc. All Athanasius is saying is that the church’s scope follows the pattern in Scripture, either the Trinity or the 2 natures of Christ. I think it is Newman who is trying hard to make the “skope” more than what Athanasius actually says.

I also tried to get you focus on one or two points, but you refused. I clearly and sincerely provided the full text of “To Serapion 1:28-29a”, and I give you the benefit of the doubt that you do not have the full text in front of you, that Jurgen’s also may have cut the quote before Athanasius quotes Matthew 28:19, or even Ephesians 4:6. These texts of Scripture shows that Athanasius believed the tradition, the preaching, the faith of the church was outlined or backed up by Matthew 28:19. If Matthew was written in 55-68 AD, then the Scriptures came before the ECF. Yes, the oral preaching was going at the same time, and later became in-scripturated in more epistles and the rest of the NT. Of course “the preaching” started in the book of Acts, in 33 AD to 70 Ad and beyond and existed simultaneously with the process of writing the gospels and epistles. Ireneaus, Tertullian, and Athanasius all agree on the content of what the “tradition” or “teaching” or “faith” or “rule of faith” is. They at times also in other places talk about other things like the Eucharist and Mary as the second Eve, and baptismal regeneration, but they do not include those distinctives in “the rule of faith”. At least, I do not know where they do, on the issues of baptism. They talk about it, in other contexts or other books or other writings, but I don’t see them saying that that interpretation is part of the rule of faith or “the tradition”.

I was sincerely asking the same thing you are asking me — to focus on that one text and explain how “the tradition” or “the faith” that Athanasius writes about is anything other than the Doctrine of the Trinity or in the other passages where he talks about “scope”, in “Discourse Against the Arians” 3:28-29, he explains the scope as a “double account of the Savior”, His humanity and His Deity.

Thanks for your kind words. I’m not bowing out; I simply want my opponent to directly deal with my arguments. The opponent must stay on subject, and understand and deal with opposing arguments, for dialogue to have any worth at all. It’s not rocket science. Let me give a brief summary again, of the difference between mutual monologue and dialogue. The first is this:

Dave: x
Ken: y

Dialogue, however, is this:

Dave: x

Ken: point-by-point refutation of x (preferably by citing it in its own words) by examining its fallacious logic, factuality, or lack of biblical support, followed by a presentation of y, where it is argued that it is superior in one or more of these respects than x; therefore worthy of belief over against x. [and a refusal to introduce all sorts of other variables not directly related]

Dave: further defense of x against counter-critique (according to the above method), and refutation of y by examining its fallacious logic, factuality, or lack of biblical support.

Ken: further defense of y, and response to counter-critique . . .


I dealt with both texts. Serapion was examined here; And Discourse Against the Arians, III, here, and here (part II). As to Serapion, as mentioned, I was using Jurgens. He provides all of 1:28 (I think, but I’m not absolutely sure), but not 1:29. There seems to be some confusion, however, as to what is 1:28 and what is contained in 1:29. More on that below.

Your original complaint was that the citation cut off the relevant next important point of Athanasius. I showed that he moved onto discussion of the Trinty, not how authority works (sola Scriptura, Church, Tradition, etc.).

So even though I didn’t have 1:29, I noted how at least the immediate context of all of 1:28 (I originally had cited only the first sentence) does not indicate that anything changes by considering a larger context.

Moreover, what I have from Jurgens (here’s the confusing part) includes citation of Matthew 28:19, and Ephesians 4:6, all in 1:28. It’s true that I should have dealt with that before; I’ll grant you that (I was too hasty and overlooked his citations, because I couldn’t cut-and-paste and I was too lazy to type out the whole thing); yet it doesn’t change anything in my argument, or the result of the inquiry at all.
These texts of Scripture shows that Athanasius believed the tradition, the preaching, the faith of the church was outlined or backed up by Matthew 28:19.

Sure it was. It always is. So what? The Bible backs up the Tradition of trinitarianism in the Church. Catholics supposedly don’t believe this? This is some bombshell that we didn’t already know? It has nothing to do with the rule of faith, and how Church, Tradition, and Bible are related to each other. The subject was the Trinity, and so he showed how the Bible backed that up.

When a Catholic (and Athanasius in particular) appeals to Scripture to back up his argument, it does not reduce to sola Scriptura. I explained this in my own case, because I was accused of doing the same thing by an Orthodox, since I appeal to the Bible constantly in my own apologetic (as you well know, I’m sure: one knows by the titles of my website and books):

Dialogue on Whether Extensive Use of Biblical Arguments Reduces to a Quasi-Sola Scriptura Position? (Development of Doctrine, Tradition, and Implicit vs. Explicit Biblical Proofs. The Papacy as a Test Case)

The Fathers do that all the time. But they also ultimately appeal to the [earlier] Fathers and the received Tradition. That’s their final court of appeal. And that is because the Arians (among many heretics) were making many solely “biblical arguments.”

They had no history of doctrine to back them up, so they were more or less forced to do that. But they interpreted wrongly. Thus, we are right back into matters of orthodoxy and Tradition and an authoritative Church and apostolic succession, which proves what is heretical and what is orthodox and truly biblical.

The Catholics responded with counter-biblical arguments and then the slam dunk of appeal to the consensus of the Fathers and the Church. The Arians (like Protestants in many areas, including this issue, and as with Luther, right from the start) had no such appeal on their side, so they had to appeal to Bible Alone. What else could they do?

It looks to me like you are simply assuming what you are trying to prove (as so often in this discussion, from the Protestant side). It’s a form of special pleading. I am including the elements in Athanasius (his view of Church, Tradition, and apostolic succession and how binding they are) which must also be considered, in order to conclude whether he accepted sola Scriptura or not. He did not, of course. But you haven’t dealt with these other crucial elements.

When Athanasius cites Eph 4:6, he is simply supporting trinitarianism (over against the Arian heresy). Catholics and Protestants agree on that; it is not under dispute. We both utilize Scripture to prove the doctrine. I just posted a paper doing that very thing, on this blog. But it has nothing directly to do with the Bible and Tradition dispute.

Later, he cites Matthew 28:19, the trinitarian baptismal formula:

And because this is the faith of the Church [the Trinity, from the preceding context], let them somehow understand that the Lord sent out the Apostles and commanded them to make this the foundation of the Church, when He said: ‘Go out and instruct every people, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

In other words, the Holy Trinity and baptism are foundations of the Church, in terms of theology. They are fundamental (Catholics and Protestants and Orthodox all agree on that). But this tells us nothing about sola Scriptura, or how authority works, which is the question under consideration. That has to be found elsewhere in Athanasius. I have provided those quotes, and you have either ignored them, or dismissed them out of hand, and gone back to these texts, repeatedly.

Your problem remains: how to incorporate all the relevant elements of Athanasius’ thought in this regard into a coherent interpretation of his overall thought. Typically, according to a certain Protestant method (the old “proof text” routine), you are simply emphasizing beyond all proportion two passages which you think prove your case (but they really don’t) and then trying desperately to fit them into a sola Scriptura grid.

This is what Protestants who try to “Protestantize” the Fathers invariably but futilely attempt to do, unfortunately. Jason Engwer is notorious for doing that. William Webster and David T. King have almost made a career out of it. James White (to the extent that he deals with the Fathers at all) does it, too.

When they are opposed they flee for the hills (I have refuted all four of them, and that’s what happened each time). This is because their “cases” cannot withstand the scrutiny of close examination. They appear strong until a Catholic systematically dismantles them. That’s easy to do because the facts are on our side in this discussion. The Fathers were primitive Catholics, not primitive or “proto”-Protestants. And St. Athanasius is “Exhibit A” in that respect.

I hasten to add that I don’t think you are deliberately trying to distort historical and patristic fact. No; as I almost always assume, I think your bias is profoundly affecting the way you look at and interpret the facts before us. Strong bias can easily mutate into special pleading, and if you special plead enough, you eventually fall into sophistry.

But none of this need be deliberately dishonest at all. You believe what you do just as sincerely as I believe what I do. I simply think that the actual facts are fatal to your case. One can be sincerely wrong. One can have only the best intentions and the most sincerity and passion for truth in world history and still be dead wrong. We’ve all done this at one time or another.

It isn’t fatal to Protestantism if Athanasius was far more Catholic than “Protestant,” since you don’t grant the Fathers the authority that we do in the first place (i.e., patristic “consensus”). If in fact he believed what I say he believed, all you have to do is say “he is fallible, so he was wrong on this matter.” That’s all there is to it.

But I think that Protestants such as yourself really want to see Athanasius (and even more so, and above all, Augustine) come out “smelling more like a Protestant,” because then you have some sense of historical continuity that Protestantism sorely needs. So you are passionate about this and cannot grant anything to our case, lest you are in danger of “giving up the store.” Just a speculation, mind you, but based on long experience in these sorts of historical discussions.
Why do only you have the right to control what we focus on? Seems unfair.
You brought up the two passages, and I dealt with them in depth (and have again today, at least with one), even thought I didn’t feel like it, and didn’t think it was necessary. But I did it. I showed courtesy and respect towards your argument by devoting several hours of my time responding to it.

It is not “control,” therefore, to simply ask that you show me the same courtesy by dealing directly with my counter-arguments. As it is, you have basically briefly dismissed them again and demanded that I again deal with your two texts. So I have done so again, with at least one of them, and admitted that I did overlook one thing.

Yet you claim I am trying to “control” the conversation like some kind of arbitrary dictator. I submit that if anyone is trying to do that (which is different from asserting that this is in fact the case), it is you.

Discussions go where they must go if indeed both parties are committed to getting to the truth of the matter. But one must stay on topic (we don’t bring in Mary and the pope and the kitchen sink and everything else in the universe) and one must DEAL DIRECTLY with opposing arguments.

I go through this all the time. Please don’t feel like I am trying to single you out. Folks aren’t taught how to properly engage in discussion, even in college. So what they think is a “dialogue” is not at all, according to classical standards (Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume, Pascal, etc.).

Some people may think I am overly-dogmatic or demanding on this “true dialogue” business (and no doubt, I am at times), but at bottom, all I am striving for is constructive discussion, with a sensible form, so that something can be accomplished, rather than both parties spinning their wheels and getting frustrated.

I believe that both further understanding and some kind of resolution is able to be obtained in all these discussions. But to do that, some rules and formats will have to be followed, to have any hope at all of achieving those desirable ends. I submit that classic Socratic dialogue is one way to do that. If someone has something better to suggest, please do so.

Thanks Dave. That was a nice post!

I am willing to continue this after next Friday( almost a week away), as God allows, because I am going out of town and I have to get ready and I have already spent too much time on this, but I have enjoyed it and it sharpens me and forces me to think. I appreciate your patience.

[This was written on 10-1-05. The present paper was compiled on 10-24-05, and though I asked Ken if he was going to reply further, as of yet he has not. In the meantime, he found time to post very lengthy comments on my blog concerning the perpetual virginity of Mary (which he denies). If he does ever add to his arguments above, and reply to all of mine, another “Part II” paper will be posted – so that if it is not also on my website or blog when you read this, Ken never replied further]

I am not giving up; I just am not good enough in all of this material to keep up with you at the speed that you do, because this is not my full time job, nor even my second job. Maybe I should never have started trying to enter these discussions in the first place.

Your last post was very good!

I was afraid that you were going to get mad at me and give up just because I don’t know or follow your Socratic method of staying focused on your particular point. You finally acknowledged all of “To Serapion 1:28”, with the quotes from Matthew 28:19 and Ephesians 4:6; so I am happy for now.

Why is that so important? Because it shows that there was written scripture behind what Athansius was “binding” (to use your wording and argumentation in your paper on Athanasius) upon the Tropici. And in the Arian contexts, yes, he talks about church and tradition, and the Nicean council, but they are backed up with specific texts of written scripture.

Sola Scriptura does not mean “no other authorities” to help us determine the meaning of something or interpret the text of Scripture.

Your papers prove that SOLO scriptura is wrong ( me and my bible in the woods with no church and no tradition) (Keith Mattison), but they still do not prove that Sola Scriptura is wrong or Unbiblical.

I will print out your post and try to think through and meditate on what you are trying to get me to stay focused on and come back some other time.
Glad you liked it. I have to disagree that I have only disproven solo Scriptura. I recently did a two-piece critique of Keith Mathison (Part I / Part II), and have dealt with this solo vs. sola bit many times. Both are equally self-defeating, and ultimately indefensible from both the Bible and history, but sola is far more respectable because it is not immediately goofy and dimissible. One has to work a lot harder to refute it, but in the end, it collapses just like solo, as untrue and unworkable.

Hope you enjoy your travels, wherever and whatever they are.
And in the Arian contexts, yes, he talks about church and tradition, and the Nicean council, but they are backed up with specific texts of written scripture.
Well, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? You act as if every time someone makes an argument from Scripture, that they must be some sort of Protestant, and accept sola Scriptura (you seem to assume that anyone who highly values biblical argumentation must be quasi-Protestant, or an inconsistent Catholic or Orthodox, as if it were oil and water for Tradition and Scripture to both be used in argumentation). Neither follows at all.

The Catholic includes all these things, whereas the Protestant usually disregards Church and Tradition alike if he feels that a compelling case can be made from Scripture alone. With the Trinity, I feel that this is probably the case (by and large), but remember, all the Christological heretics built their case on supposed biblical proofs. They continue to do so today.

They interpreted Scripture one way, and thus emphasized certain proofs much more than others, and Catholics did another way. But the Catholics had apostolic Tradition and succession behind their views, so they were correct. Moral of the story: Scripture alone cannot solve these theological conflicts.

New Comment: Then there were some comments that I saved, that are no longer at Dave’s article:

The above paper looks like the entire paper, but it is missing a few parts, so be sure to click on “Tolle, lege!” to get the whole thing. I had trouble uploading it.
Dave Armstrong | Homepage | 10.24.05 – 3:13 pm | #
I like Ken personally. He is certainly more challenging to dialog with then certain shall remain nameless anti-Catholic trolls who post here.Anyway I forgot to mention another mistake of Ken’s. His claim Athanasius only made one reference to the PVM by calling Mary Ever-Virgin. He then went on to imply Ever-virgin was an interpolation/corruption of his writings. Actually the true is Athanasius made at least three other EXPLICIT references to the PVM in his treatise ON VIRGINITY.I like Ken but he really needs to weed himself off of Webster’s & Svensen’s crappie substandard scholarship.
BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) | 10.24.05 – 3:39 pm | #
Dave,Have you dealt with William Webster’s/David King’s series of books on “sola scriptura in the early church” (I put it in quotes because the idea itself is such a joke). I am pretty sure that if any serious Catholic apologist wanted to, he could go through all that material and refute it easily. The problem is, almost everybody knows beforehand that an attempt to “Protestantize” the Fathers will end up in shoddy scholarship, and so nobody will think it worthwhile to interact with these materials. And unfortunately, there are many Protestants out there who dont read the Fathers on their own, and will simply soak up this poor scholarship.
Charlie | 10.24.05 – 3:40 pm | #
About Webster: I find it hard to think that a man who studied for the priesthood, could be so abysmally ignorant about certain areas of Church theology. I’m not condemning him; I’m just making an observation.
The Inquisitor | 10.24.05 – 7:10 pm | #
Inquisitor,I think many of these Protestants have a very distorted view of Catholicism precisely because their hearts are hardened against the Church. These people really do believe that we believe that we are saved by works, and not by grace. Their entire Reformation was based upon that false belief (of course, they also made the horrendous mistake of confusing imputed righteousness with sola gratia). Now, since they want to defend the Reformers, they ipso facto must adopt the same beliefs the Reformers did.Indeed, if Protestants ever acknowledge that we do indeed believe in Sola Gratia (or Sola Fide, properly understood), then their entire reason for existence is called into question. The Protestants broke from Rome because the Church taught pelagianism; and now when Protestants are confronted by the fact that Catholics aren’t semi-pelagians, they instinctively panic.This is where the obstinancy on the part of some Protestants come from. I once (foolishly) thought I could go into the aomin chat room to educate people on what the Church really teaches as regards grace and predestination. They wouldn’t hear any of it. James White, supposedly a prominent evangelical apolgist, told me that “Catholics believe that God’s grace can fail in its mission.” I was dumbstruck by the sheer ignorance. You just can’t reason with these people. It isn’t that they are necessarily ignorant; it is that their hearts are hardened.
Charlie | Homepage | 10.24.05 – 8:46 pm | #
Yeah, that’s true, certainly. But with Webster himself, he doesn’t have as much excuse as someone like White. At least he is sincere in some level. It’s the William Webster’s of the world that make me shake my head. How can someone with so much seminary training go so wrong? T It just puzzles me that someone who studied in such a faith-filled environment could go astray.My father actually went to the seminary for a while, before he met my mother. He once said to me that those that come out of the seminary training either become really holy, or really bad. I guess that is true in his case.
The Inquisitor | 10.24.05 – 9:02 pm | #
Charlie,Naw, no plans to. I’ve refuted Webster twice, King once, and similar material from Jason Engwer.
>Now, since they want to defend the Reformers, they ipso facto must adopt the same beliefs the Reformers did.I reply: The irony here is modern Protestants have left the Reformers (who believed in PVM) in favor of the obscure novel belief of a fourth Century Arian heretic & or third century Montanist heretic.Calvin would not have approved.BTW the Odes of Solomon, the Proto-Evangelen & the Apocalypse of Isaiah are not gnostic but early Jewish Christian. They have DEFINITE semitism that are hard to ignore. Scolars who think they are gnostic most likely think the Gospel of John was influence by greek gnosticism when in fact the Dead Sea Scrolls show us John’s imagry was quite Jewish.
BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) | 10.25.05 – 9:52 am | #
It is mid-night, and I just noticed that you put up our back and forth on Athanasius and Sola Scriptura.Very good, Dave! You inclusion of most everything was very fair. I read it fast and it looks good! Thanks for a good job — I know that was a lot of work.It will take me a while to work through it though, again. I am not too fast, nor too smart, just a plotter. I leave again for out of town ( “leaving the wife” for a short term ministry — LOL — this is a reference to some of Dave’s points on the PVM post and Luke 18:29. We evangelical ministers do that too, and also obey I Cor. 7:3-5.  Other passages that show Athanasius believed in a kind of Proto-“Sola Scriptura”:1. “Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith’s sake, for divin Scripture is sufficient above all things . . .”
Athanasius, De Synodis, 6
Ken Temple | 10.26.05 – 12:17 am | #
Four more references from Athanasius, that point to a belief in the sufficiency of Scripture, because of time and space, I include the reference for you to read the content.2. The Life of Anthony, 16
3. Ad Episcopos Egyptiae, NPNF, series II, IV:225
4. On the Incarnation of the Word, 56, ibid, IV:66
5. De Decretis, 32, ibid, Series II, IV:172
Ken Temple | 10.26.05 – 12:24 am | #
Yes, I agree with you Ben Yachov — that supossedly Athanasius makes 3 references to the PVM in the work “On Virginity” — that is IF Athanasius wrote it. That is debated by scholars.Beyond that, there is only one other reference in Athanasius, with no explanation, only the little Greek suffix added to “parthenos” to make it “aie-parthenos”. ( Discorse Against the Arians 2:70) Scholars are skeptical of it and the “On Virginity” book as actually coming from the pen and mind of Athanasius. Just an observation. This is fleshed out in the introduction to Athanasius on p. lxv, NPNF, Series II, volume IV.
Ken Temple | 10.26.05 – 10:52 am | #
Charlie wrote:
“James White, supposedly a prominent evangelical apolgist, told me that “Catholics believe that God’s grace can fail in its mission.” I was dumbstruck by the sheer ignorance.”  OK, help me understand, please. I am willing to hear your explanation.”On that statement that James White made, it seems like a reasonable conclusion, given that the RCC teaches and believes that you can acutally have justifying, saving grace by infant baptism, and then later, by mortal sin, loose that grace forever and go to hell burning for all eternity, if not repented of, or if one does not do all penance deeds of satisfaction required, etc.Is this true?If it is true that one can loose God’s grace, that is, God’s grace can possibly fail to bring the person home to heaven, if the person does not keep it up by penance, etc. from mortal sin.If it is not true, then please explain and enlighten our ignorance.
Ken Temple | 10.26.05 – 11:01 am | #
Dave wrote:“This is talking about the content of Scripture,”[Yes, but more than that, not just the content, but the “scope” (way of viewing Christ in the Scripture-dual nature) — he writes, “this is the scope” or “rule of faith” — a double account of the Savior. Seeing that double account, both his humanity and Deity, is the rule of faith, the method of interpreting who Jesus is. He does not say, “The rule of faith is the church’s right to interpret the Scriptures as she sees fit with final, infallible authority.”Dave: “. . . not the rule of faith of how to properly interpret Scripture, or how the authority of the Church and Tradition is related to the Bible. Apples and oranges. But you conclude:”. . . and also in the “Discourse”, 3:29, Athanasius defines what the “skope” is, “a double account of the Savior”, both the humanity and the Deity of Christ.Yes; that’s what the Bible teaches about Jesus.[Athanasius does NOT only say, “that is what the Bible teaches”, rather he writes, “this is the scope”, “this is the scope and character of Scripture”, or in other words, “the rule of faith” ( in “To Serapion” 1:28-29 and there he outlines a Trinitarian doctrinal creed.) , — “Now the scope and character of Holy Scripture, as we have often said, is this, – it contains a double account of the Savior . . . ” Dave: “So what?
quit dismissing this ! It is clear “scope” means “seeing the double account of the Saviour, humanity and Deity all through Scripture”.What’s that got to do with sola Scriptura or the rule of faith? Nothing.”NO. lots! It shows that the final infallible court of appeals is to the Scripture. Athanasius, yes, believes in Nicea and church council to pronounce the Arians wrong, but he says the reason they can do this is because Scripture says.
Ken Temple | 10.26.05 – 12:20 pm | #

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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