Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Rebuttal to Matthew Rondeau

Generally I try to keep things around here on the neutral side of things, not discussing my own faith beliefs and such. However, over on the blog "Splanknois tou Christou", Matthew Rondeau is having a go at the Catholic Church in a series titled "Why I am not a Catholic". We're up to part 2. He posts :

I am hearing of more and more protestants who are joining the Roman
Catholic Church. As I think about this trend, I am intrigued as to what the impetus might be behind such a move.

Later, he writes about the long list of reasons why one might become Catholic, none of which I'd endorse. For instance:

Is it the magical fixation with the belief that “corpus meum est” actually refers to a piece of bread?

For one, I don't know how magical one's fixation can be. Secondly, it does, in fact, not refer to a piece of bread. That's the point.


Is it the megalomanaical [sic] lust for a single leader that the Israelites had before they were given what they asked for in King Saul?

Leaders are not, in and of themselves, bad. What the Israelites did wrong is desiring their own leadership over God's. They were subverting the authority that God had established because it did not fancy them (perhaps something to think about).

Then, in "Why I am not a Catholic (part 1)" he begins his argument against the Catholic Church. I will here give a rebuttal as one of those formerly of the Protestant persuasion who has found a home with Rome (no, my rebuttal will not rhyme....or will it?).

He states:

For instance, my presupposition, first principle, axiom, whatever you want to call it, is that the 66 books contained in the old and new testaments - commonly called the Bible - are the inerrant word of God...I am not a Catholic because I place no faith in the tradition of the Church.

I have to ask: Why? For one, where is the idea of sola scriptura in the Bible? And where exactly does he get this canon of 66 books? Can he show me where in the Bible the list is? If the Church hadn't the authority to convene a council and decide which books are Scripture, then Matthew is with a "fallible collection of infallible books", as R.C. Sproul puts it. If he has put no faith in the tradition of the Church, I would hope he would stop using their NT canon.

Also, the idea of sola scriptura is anachronistic. This idea isn't even possible until the 4th century. Why was Peter able to write an infallible book, but not able to say things that were infallible that were carried on by his disciples? Is infallibility somehow particular to writing? Can it not pertain to speech?

As I've stated in previous comments/posts, that tradition was alive and well during the Apostolic age is a Biblical idea. For instance, 2 Thess 2:15 has Paul encouraging the people to believe everything that was passed down to them, both in writing and orally. Or perhaps 2 Tim 2:2 where Paul encourages Timothy to remember "that which you have heard from me..." so that he could "entrust these (the teachings) to faithful men who will be able to teach also." Sounds a bit like carrying on traditions.

On John 3 and Baptism he writes:

Relying solely on the Bible, and reading John 3, I conclude that baptism is not even in view here, but that being born of “water” refers to the first and natural way we are born from the wombs of our mothers, and the birth of the “spirit” is what takes place the moment we have faith.

The key here is context (as always). For one, Jesus' ministry begins after St John the Baptist's, who came baptizing with water. John states in Matt 3:11 that he came "baptizing with water", but that someone was coming after him who would baptize with the "holy spirit." Who makes a reference to "water and spirit"? Also, I'm unaware of the phrase "born of water" being used idiomatically for natural birth. And it would've been a tautology for Jesus to say, "Unless you exist, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Jesus was cryptic, but not ridiculous. So, I'm skeptical that being born of water means natural birth. I think the plain reading of the text, through Christian lenses, is that Jesus is speaking of something that happens with "water and spirit", that is, Baptism. Secondly, I think 3:22-23 has some gold for us. After discussing these things with Nicodemus, what does Jesus go and do?

"After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized. John also was baptizing..."

We seem to have a real emphasis here on Baptism. This isn't without reason. John places these baptisms immediately after Nicodemus for a reason. Also, I'll refer to my friends, the Fathers, who viewed this passage as a reference to Baptism: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian of Carthage, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nyssa, etc.

We'll pick up Part 2 later.


Matthew said...

Nice to meet you Josh. I think you misunderstand the entire point of my first post. The whole point of an axiom, or a first principle, is that you can't prove it. Thus, to go to Scripture to prove sola scriptura, which is something I never claimed to do, would be hopelessly and viciously circular. We can't prove that the Bible is the word of God, but we choose by faith to believe it, just as Abraham chose by faith to obey the voice of God. My first principle is that the 66 books accepted by many church fathers is the word of God. Presumably, yours is that the magisterial traditional interpretation is the revelation of God along with the word of God. That is where you begin, by definition you can't prove it, either from Scripture or elsewhere. If you try to prove it with something, that other something becomes your first principle and it then becomes by definition something you hold by faith but cannot prove. If you don't affirm this, then you are either relying upon an infinite regress of proofs, or upon a circle. That was my point. I'm not big on reformation theology either, so don't lump me in there. I'm of the opinion that the reformation didn't reform enough.

Matthew said...

Josh, I thought of something else after I commented earlier. It is interesting that you note baptism in the context of John 3, but look at the immediate context. "what is born of flesh is flesh, what is born of spirit is spirit." This is the immediate context of the statement "born of water and the spirit." This is a parallelism of sorts, the flesh corresponds to the water, and the spirit corresponds to the Spirit of God. One can be born of the water from the womb, but if one wants to be saved he must be born of the Spirit. I don't see how you can miss the immediate context there. I understand what you are saying about the context of baptism, but to say Jesus is here teaching about baptism which washes away original sin is simply hermeneutical gymnastics. However, if your first principle involves a reliance upon traditional interpretation, I would say that the meaning you derive from this text is consistent with your system, and indeed it is; That is my point from above, I cannot attack your conclusions if they are consistent with your first principle, and you cannot attack mine. We must determine why your first principle is right and mine wrong, or vice versa.

Josh McManaway said...


Thanks for stopping by. I understand what you're getting at with your "first principle." What I'm saying is: It is an untenable theory. For one, you've stated that you hold no faith in the traditions of the Church, yet you said in your comment "My first principle is that the 66 books accepted by many church fathers is the word of God."

For one, which Fathers give a list of 66 books? Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Cyprian of Carthage all quote from the Deuterocanonicals (or what you might call the 'Apocrypha'). The Council of Rome in 382 decided upon a 47 Book OT and a 27 book NT. This was later ratified at Hippo, Carthage, II Nicea, etc. So, again, I'll ask: Where do you get your 66 books? You don't affirm the canon of the early Church, and I'm wondering by what authority you deny it.

On Baptism:

I took this passage as being in reference to Baptism long before I ever decided to convert to Catholicism. I would argue that Jesus, in vs. 6 is saying that if you are *just* born of flesh, you are just flesh. But if you are born of spirit, from the above passage of being born again of "water and spirit", then you enter the Kingdom. The idea is that the spiritual rebirth has a real effect on the flesh. Plus, like I said, for Jesus to say that you had to be born of water, in reference to natural birth, to enter the kingdom would've been a tautology. "You must exist in order to go to Heaven." Again, Jesus was cryptic at times, but not ridiculous. And again, the very same Fathers you say you look to for the canon interpreted this verse in light of Baptism. Why trust them on forming the canon, but not for right interpretation of Scripture?

You've also not denied that Tradition was in play during the Apostolic Age and that it continued through the Church thereafter. I'd be interested in an historical argument against Tradition.

Danny Garland Jr. said...

Matthew should also keep in mind that the 66 books of the Bible that he affirms were all born out of the Tradition in which he denies.

That's pretty shady logic to me!

Also, Matthew, your "first principles" are untenable. Anyone can make up a "first principle" and hide behind it by saying that someone can't attack your conclusions if they are consistent with your first principle.
If your "first principle" is invalid, then so are your conclusions, my friend. There is only One Truth.

Matthew said...

You guys have missed the epistemological point entirely. Please read my comments again. Josh, I never said I denied tradition, I merely said it wasn't part of my axiom. I think there is value in looking at tradition, but I always place less epistemic weight upon it. Josh, why do you trust the fathers?

Danny, this "shady logic" of which you speak is something of which we are all guilty. It is unavoidable that we have a first principle which is by nature unprovable. What is yours? It is just that I have admitted mine. You can attack my conclusions all you want, but if you want to get at the root of the problem, it is axiomatic. This is just like exegesis, it is pointless to fight over the results of exegesis if we are using two different hermeneutics. What we are really arguing over is which hermeneutic is better. And, in my experience growing up Catholic, and after years of arguing with Catholics, the disagreement is axiomatic. We have different epistemologies, thus, our conclusions are different. Please read comments more carefully and try to understand what I am saying before claiming that something is untenable or shady. Do you know what your axiom is, do you understand why you can't prove it?

James Pate said...

Yeah, that "born of water=physical birth" argument is actually pretty popular among those who deny baptism a role in salvation. Why that is so, I have NO idea.

Josh McManaway said...

This is, in no way, an epistemological debate. I'm not doubting how you know what you know, I'm arguing that your first principle is nonsense. For instance:

1) All dogs can fly
2) Fido is a dog
3) Fido can fly

Well, that's logical in that it follows good form. However, the first principle is nonsense. Of course I'm going to call shenanigans on it. Likewise, of course I'm going to call shenanigans when you list 66 (instead of the 73 that the early Church saw as canonical) books. My issue is not with inerrancy (Catholics believe in inerrancy, although a bit different), it is with the number of books. It's not epistemology, it's an historical debate. I'm asking you by what authority you edited the canon.

Danny Garland Jr. said...

shenanigans!!! illogical, invalid, first principles filled with shenanigans! By golly, that's no way to do theology Matthew!

Matthew said...

Josh, I'm sorry, but that isn't a first principle, it is a first premise. If you are going to publish a blog article entitled against another person, you have an academic responsibility to understand that person's argument. You must first be able to state my argument as I would before you are able to defeat it. You have shown nothing but an inability to understand what an axiom actually is. You have yet to tell me what your first principles are, or do you not think you have any?

Josh McManaway said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Tatum said...

You're a red herring!! That last comment made me laugh out loud. Good thoughts here, Josh, I wish you were still close by so we could commiserate about the limits of historical critical method and JEDP theory or just shoot the breeze and compare ecclesiologies.

Andrew Tatum said...

Or just drink beer, eat pizza, and talk about sports.

Zac said...

There's some massive confusion on the comments here--and that doesn't surprise me.

The problem is that it is an epistemological debate. Romanism is a different worldview/system than Reformed protestantism. As such it always comes down to an epistemological issue.

It's certainly not a matter of just looking at the texts. For instance, a Romanist might look at a particular verse and exclaim 'See, this verse means X! And as such it supports my point!' Whereas the reformed protestant might say, 'No, you are mistaken. This verse means Y and as such it supports my point.' What is one to do? Point to other verses? Well we have just pushed the problem back one step.

Certainly whatever crowd has gathered around the debate will make up their own minds as to which interpretation is correct, but this is little more (if any more) than psychological persuasion and as such does not constitute a refutation one way or the other.

It is this that you do not understand.

Now, concerning how Matthew came to believe that the bible consists of only 66 books is a completely separate issue of how he justifies such a belief within his worldview/system.

In an axiomatic system, for instance, it is irrelevant how one came to believe their axioms. What matters is the role that they play in the system.

That is, I'm sure Matthew came to believe that the Scriptures are constituted by those 66 books because he rejected the teaching of Catholicism concerning the gospel in favor of the teaching of reformed protestantism concerning the gospel; it just so happened that reformed protestantism holds to the 66-books view.

But if you asked him now why he holds such a view (as opposed to how he came to hold such a view) then you might get two different but very related answers. 1. God revealed it to me when He revealed His Son to me, and 2. I assume it to be the case as part of my axiom.

The rather silly critique that sola scriptura is not found in the scriptures is rather irrelevant, and this for several reasons. The scriptures (in the original languages) do not come with a guide as to what word means what. This is assumed as part of one's grammar. Another reason why (or perhaps it's the same reason restated) it is irrelevant is that in an axiomatic system, one need not be able to deduce from the axioms that the axioms ought to be axioms or that these axioms ought to be the only axioms that one has within the system.

It's the job of the metalanguage to determine the object lanugage and not the object language to determine itself.

If you're interested in actually refuting Matthew you would need to understand Matthew (perhaps he is wrong--perhaps he does need to be refuted, but I do not see how you can do it without understanding him). If so, I would suggest reading some Gordon Clark. If you're not interested in understanding Matthew, then why do a post trying to refute him?

Matthew said...

Josh, that is my point, it matters not in an epistemological sense where I got the 66 books. I believe them to be the inspired canon by faith. Now, as I said before, I don't disregard tradition, it is just that in my epistemological hierarchy, tradition is subsequent to my axiom. Thus, if I began to run into a lot of tradition that made my axiom look silly, then I might question my axiom. However, the tradition I have studied on both sides of the debate leads me to believe that the apocrypha was and should be viewed as extra-canonical. That is biased, you say! Of course it is, and your view is biased by your axiom, that is my point. History is NEVER done in a vacuum, neither is hermeneutics, exegesis, or whatever you may be doing. The very way you communicate is colored by your "metalanguage" as this Zac character put it. He also aptly pointed out that the axioms in an axiomatic system need not defended from deductions from said axiom, lest, they would no longer be axioms.

Josh McManaway said...

Okay, we're getting somewhere now. What study, exactly, led you to believe that the 7 books you leave out should be left out?

Matthew said...

Sorry, not taking that bait. I'm not discussing history because it is pointless for us due to our different first principles. Suffice it to say that there are plenty of fathers who clearly viewed the apocrypha as less than the word of God. All this will do is lead to a "he said this, he said that," which is pointless. The real reason we disagree is the philosophical epistemological issue, but you don't seem to want to admit the fact. This is like a Yankee and a Rebel discussion Civil War history, it is pointless to discuss the actual history because both of them interpret it differently. Here is where we differ, I begin with the Bible alone, thats it, nothing else, no proofs, no fathers, no evidence, nothing, I accept it by faith. Now, I'm thankful that there is evidence, and that there are fathers who agree with my view, but in the epistemological world that is merely known as intrasystemic consistency. The difference is you presumably begin with the Bible and magisterial tradition, or do you know where you begin?

Danny Garland Jr. said...

PLenty of Fathers?!! Name them then! That is an outright lie! The historical issue important. If you say there are plenty then the truth of the historical fact will reveal them. You know that it won't so you hide behind your whole first principal thing. The fact is that the early Church at the Councils of Carthage and Hippo decreed that the canon consisted of 72 books, not 66!! That is an historical fact. Even with your shady first principals you can a little historical research and see for yourself.

Another fact is that the way the Council and the Fathers declared what books were canonical was if they were traditionally read in the Liturgy or not. What Liturgy would that be? The only Liturgy around at the time----that of the Catholic Church! What Council declared that those 66 books you hold as canonical are in fact canonical? The Councils of Carthage and Hippo, both Councils of the Catholic Church! If you reject the authority of the Catholic Church and you reject Tradition, then you have to reject those 66 books you believe to be canonical, all 66 which were written out of the oral Tradition and then declared canonical by the authority of the Catholic Church!

Also Zac's argument about the original languages not coming with a guide about what means what is lame. If you know the original languages you know what they mean! No where in the original languages does it say that one is to go by the Bible alone.

The burden of proof is on you who say that the plenty of Fathers held for 66 books. Produce the Fathers I say!! Produce them or admit you don't have a clue about what you are talking about!

Zachary said...

Also Zac's argument about the original languages not coming with a guide about what means what is lame. If you know the original languages you know what they mean! No where in the original languages does it say that one is to go by the Bible alone.

I would encourage you to reread my comments and then to think upon them. Of course it's not a problem if you already know the meaning of the words, but the problem is twofold:

First, one must explain how one learns the meaning of the words. Second, the point was that included in the text of the Scriptures, for instance, is not the meaning of 'head' or whatever, and yet we have no problem assuming certain things (e.g., the meaning of 'head') in order to understand the Scriptures.

One can view sola scriptura in this way. Of course this is what I spoke of in regards to axioms. One need not look in the Scriptures for some verse that states 'Sola Scriptura is true' if one's system is built such that one accepts only revelation and accepts that the scriptures as the only revelation of God. One would not need a verse that stated sola scriptura if sola scriptura is part of one's definition of scriptures.

Matthew said...

Danny, what is an historical fact? This is where the true shadiness lies. History is often written by men who have hanged heroes, and in this case there is a lot of history written by men who have pillaged the poor to build sanctuaries filled with idols. Why would you trust history? I'm not saying ignore it completely, I'm just saying that you interpret all history in light of something more epistemically secure, the Bible. This is the bane of humanity in which we all find ourselves, namely, unavoidable subjectivity. How will you get out? You claim these church councils. Well, I claim the Holy Spirit. I don't say this pridefully; rather I say it to expose the pride of claiming a human council as a body which would decree anything about the word of God. Councils don't decree the word of God, God gives it to His people through His Holy Spirit, both in inspiration and interpretation. What gives you such great faith in the fathers? Yeah, they sometimes stumble upon truth, but they have no more claim to truth than you or I. I ask again, what is an historical fact, what epistemic weight does a statement from a man carry?

Danny Garland Jr. said...

Now we see Matthew trying to back out of his historical claim by saying that history is false. He tells us "plenty of Fathers" hold for a 66 book canon. When called to put up or shut up, he says that it doesn't matter what the Fathers say because history is misleading. WOW!!! Do you listen to yourself? Do you realize how asinine you sound?

Also those councils of men are guided by the Holy Spirit, of whom Christ said would lead the Church into all truth. What Church did He mean? He meant the Church which he founded, the Catholic Church, not Protestant denominations that left the Catholic Church! Christ also said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. If you say that the Catholic Church is not guided by the Holy Spirit then you make Christ out to be a liar!

p.s. excuse my rather harsh polemic in arguing. You see, unlike you it seems, I have been reading the Fathers for the past two years and I seem to have developed their arguing style of not putting up with nonesense (as in your arguments make no sense!) when responding to people who go against the teachings of the Catholic Church (the Fathers would call them 'heretics'), which are the very same teachings handed down (also known as Tradition) from Christ to the Apostles and so on.

Jacob Paul Breeze said...

Hey Josh,

Read this? http://inhabitatiodei.wordpress.com/2007/09/11/on-remaining-protestant/

Sorry, a little behind on the post. :)