Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bellisario Burying Himself in the Carcases of More Straw Men

More response from Bellisario has come in. I'll try to address it as thoroughly as possible, in the hopes that he'll carefully read it and stop attacking straw men. Surely, eventually such wanton destruction of scarecrows will cause some sort of rhetorical carbon footprint problem, and we certainly don't want that:

I had written: a) The apostles (aside from Judas) are in heaven today. They are not among us any more. So, their case is not the same as the case today.

Bellisario:
My response.

I'm not sure what the apostles being in heaven has to do with anything. My response to the later is, prove it. There is no place in Scripture that tells that their case is not the same today as it was then. And once again TF has to fall into a circular argument to prove his case. The apostles didn't practice Scripture alone, but, they didn't have to. Well prove that that changed after the apostles. It is quite clear that it never changed and the Church still is guided by the same means today as it was then. Sure we have no new Divine Revelation, but that in no way means that God changed the way the Church operated based on the fact the the New Testament was written. Next...


Having present his paragraph as a whole, let me break it down, line by line:

1) "I'm not sure what the apostles being in heaven has to do with anything."

Having prophets around is quite handy. When they go to heaven, all you have is the memory of their teachings. To make sure that we remembered their teachings accurately, the apostles left us the New Testament Scriptures. In fact, the only things we can definitively say that the Apostles taught are those things found in Scriptures.

When one stops viewing Sola Scriptura as a prohibitory rule and starts recognizing it as a practical and logical consequence of "you use what you have and you don't use what you don't have," then one sees the relevance of the fact that the apostles (and their prophetic gifts) being in heaven, not among us.

2) "My response to the later is, prove it."

Only a moron would deny it. For now, that's my proof of the fact that "their case is not the same as the case today." Should Bellisario decide to deny that not having the apostles around changes things, I will happily try to explain to him why not having living prophets/apostles is of significance. Now, someone might try to claim that things are not very different ... but that would be a different claim, wouldn't it?

3) "There is no place in Scripture that tells that their case is not the same today as it was then."

Sure it does:

2 Corinthians 5:1-8
1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. 5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

This passage proves that the case of the apostles is different now than it was then. They are now absent from the body and present with the Lord. I suppose that an exceedingly stubborn person could point out that the Bible doesn't specifically mention the death of all of the apostles - but no reasonable person thinks that the apostles (aside from Judas) are not absent from the body and present with the Lord. More importantly, Bellisario's own church acknowledges that all of the 12 apostles have passed on. If Bellisario would like to disagree, let it be with his own church.

But that's not really the issue - the issue isn't whether "their case is not the same today as it was then," but whether their case is the same as the case today. The case today is that we do not have apostles in our midst - we do not having living prophets walking amongst us. Instead, we have the Scriptures that they left us, whose purpose it was to instruct us in all things necessary for salvation.

4) "And once again TF has to fall into a circular argument to prove his case."

Nope. Another of Bellisario's breezy assertions, but nothing to back it up.

5) "The apostles didn't practice Scripture alone, but, they didn't have to."

They used what they had, just as we do. To say that they didn't practice "Scripture alone" is a bit like saying that Moses didn't accept the book of Hebrews as canonical. It's a trifling evasion of the issue through the employment of anachronism. And even if a Gerry Matatics browbeat me into providing a sound bite that "Moses didn't accept the canonicity of the Book of Hebrews," it really wouldn't change anything.

I think it is important to note the particular rhetorical ploy that Bellisario (and Matatics) have tried to employ. They want to cast the issue in terms of that word "only," as though Scripture should have to expressly say, "and when there are no prophets, you don't use them as a rule of faith," instead of identifying several rules, all of which we accept, when they are available. But we don't have prophets today - we don't have God speaking from the sky, we only have Scripture. What Bellisario seems to overlook is that even though the Apostles accepted the living prophets, Jesus himself, and visions from God, they didn't accept the "Infallible Authoritative Tradition" of alleged ability to generate new doctrines over time. We phrase our doctrine "Sola Scriptura" simply because we don't have Jesus and the Prophets among us. If we did, it would be "Jesus, Scripture, and the Prophets alone."

6) "Well prove that that changed after the apostles."

The claim is not that the "use what you have and don't use what you don't have" principle changed, but that it remained the same. The only thing that changed is that the apostles and prophets stopped providing us with prophecy, and consequently all we have today (in terms of revelation from God) is the Scriptures.

7) "It is quite clear that it never changed and the Church still is guided by the same means today as it was then."

The church today is still guided by the Scriptures, as it was then. The apostles themselves no longer personally guide the church. So, no - it is not "the same means today" as then, at least in respect to the personal guidance of the apostles. Still, since the Apostles left behind the New Testament, and since they did so for our instruction, it is almost as if they were still here.

8) "Sure we have no new Divine Revelation, but that in no way means that God changed the way the Church operated based on the fact the the New Testament was written."

It sure looks and quacks like a change, not to have new Divine revelation. For some reason, though, Bellisario doesn't think it is a change. Or perhaps he doesn't think that the delivery of new revelation was a church operation. Regardless, the essential operations of the church are unchanged, but the church operated subservient to revelation from the start - now the only available reliable source of special revelation is the Scriptures, since we no longer have the Apostles and prophets in our midst.

In the next section, I had written: "b) To say that the 'apostles were being guided by the Church' is a bit odd. We never see any examples of the apostles saying that they believed something on the testimony of 'the Church'."

Bellisario replied:
Uhmm, they were establishing the Church, they however were members of it guided by the Holy Spirit, in which they passed down the same practices to their followers, which also by the admittance of James White himself (See his debate with Matatics) did not practice Sola Scriptura. And there is not one ounce of proof that anyone after them did either. The Scriptures of the NT themselves don't attest to it and in fact fall in line with that of the apostles telling us (the Church) to follow both the Oral and written Word of God. Keep grasping at straws...this is fun..
Again, I'll go line by line.

1) "Uhmm, they were establishing the Church, they however were members of it guided by the Holy Spirit, in which they passed down the same practices to their followers, which also by the admittance of James White himself (See his debate with Matatics) did not practice Sola Scriptura."

This is rather a run-on. Christ established his church. The apostles were simply servants of Christ. I'm glad Bellisario has abandoned his claim that the Apostles were "guided by the church." They were guided by the Spirit in two ways (as I mentioned): (i) in the prophetic gifts, and (ii) in the way in which all believers are guided by the Holy Spirit. They passed down their teachings (at least those that the Holy Spirit decided were important enough to commit to writing) to us in Scripture. The apostles had the gift of prophecy and were personally taught by Jesus, and consequently they did not rely solely on Scripture. Dr. White acknowledged that truth, as do we. If we had living prophets and Jesus himself in our midst, we also would rely on those resources. The doctrine of Sola Scriptura, after all, is a practical doctrine: you use what you have, and you cannot use what you don't have.

2) "And there is not one ounce of proof that anyone after them did either."

This kind of claim just shows that Bellisario hasn't read William Webster and David King's trilogy, "Holy Scripture: the Ground and Pillar of Our Faith," or William Whitaker's "Disputations on Holy Scripture," or William Goode's work on the same subject. In short, the only person who would claim that there is "not one ounce of proof that anyone after [the Apostles]" held Sola Scriptura, is someone unfamiliar with the mountains of proof provided.

Frankly, even if Bellisario did not read those works, he ought to have read my posts in the recent Sola Scriptura debate we had (he and I). In those posts, he would have found oodles of evidence, amounting (at a minimum) to more than a mere ounce. (Link to Debate)

3) "The Scriptures of the NT themselves don't attest to it and in fact fall in line with that of the apostles telling us (the Church) to follow both the Oral and written Word of God."

This assertion was addressed at greater length in the debate I've linked to, above. It's silly to note that the Scriptures don't attest to what happened after they were written. It's just a relevant as noting that that December 1, 2008, Jerusalem Post makes no mention of the fighting in Gaza that has taken place over the last week. Writings (aside from prophecy) generally speak about what has already taken place.

Interestingly, Scripture does speak to its own closure, though some try to dispute it:

Prophecy that prophecy will cease when that which is complete has come:

1 Corinthians 13:8-10
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Notification that the book of prophecy is completed:

Revelation 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

As for being guided by the written and oral Word of God, no one disputes that the Word of God is any less authoritative when spoken than when written. On the other hand, we don't have prophets today delivering the Word of God orally, and the only sure testimony that we have to what their oral teachings were are their written teachings (the New Testament) and the Old Testament Scriptures whose authority they confirmed and from which they taught.

4) "Keep grasping at straws...this is fun.."

Just another of Bellisario's hollow assertions. Moving on ...

I had previously written: "c) The apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit in two ways. In one way they were guided just as all believers (myself included) are guided. In a second way, the apostles had prophetic gifts - they were the voicepieces of God, just like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on. That is not the case today - there are no more such prophets. Even Bellisario's own church acknowledges that there is no more public revelation."

Bellisario responded:
One thing is clear, you are not guided by anything holy. I am sorry if this offends anyone, but lets call a spade a spade here. This guy is as bad as his heroes Turretin and Calvin who were both blasphemers of the Church. Let me continue. We still have gifts of the Holy Spirit and that is self evident being that the Saints have many revelations to guide them, not in new revelation, but in hearing God and doing His will, and are given similar gifts that the apostles themselves had. So no, there are still certain prophetic gifts that have never been taken away to keep the Church teaching infallibly. And once again God never changed the way the Church operated later on after the apostles were gone and then started a new form of doctrine called Sola Scriptura. This is a pure delusional and theological fantasy that TF is living in. What kind of fool does he think he is going to convince on such a poor un-apostolic teaching that has no historical basis whatsoever, including the lacking testimony of Scripture?
Again, I'll respond line by line.

1) "One thing is clear, you are not guided by anything holy."

This is another of Bellisario's vacuous assertions, and he cannot back it up. I'm guided by the Holy Spirit and Holy Scriptures. Bellisario would be more prudent to focus on the arguments from Holy Scripture, and to avoid this kind of remark, which starts to look like blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

2) "I am sorry if this offends anyone, but lets call a spade a spade here."

I do appreciate that Bellisario does not hide his emotions, but lays them right out there. On the other hand, Bellisario's only got his emotions to back up his claims - so they are just as unfounded as his emotional responses are.

3) "This guy is as bad as his heroes Turretin and Calvin who were both blasphemers of the Church."

Those who want to be accused of making their church an idol should use exactly that expression "blasphemers of the Church." If accusing Bellisario's church of erring is equivalent to "blaspheming his church" then I am guilty as charged - and so are Calvin and Turretin (in whose company I am not worthy to be included). The question, though, is this: am I right? Bellisario doesn't seem even to be willing to consider the possibility that his church could make a mistake: even the suggestion is apparently "blasphemy," just as I would consider it blasphemy for someone to say that is possible God made a mistake. For Bellisario, then, "the Church" occupies the place that the Holy Spirit and Scripture occupy in my theology. It is the difference between the anti-Biblical doctrine of Sola Ecclesia and the Scriptural doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

4) "Let me continue."

Indeed.

5) "We still have gifts of the Holy Spirit and that is self evident being that the Saints have many revelations to guide them, not in new revelation, but in hearing God and doing His will, and are given similar gifts that the apostles themselves had."

Chrysostom says that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit had long since ceased in his day. He is considered a "saint." Does Bellisario want to accuse him of "blasphemy" against "the Church"?

Bellisario makes oblique reference to certain of the "saints" (mostly in the medieval period) allegedly having more or less private revelations from God and allegedly performing various miracles. This kind of comment is a distraction. The "Saints" teachings may be held in high regard in Catholicism, but they are recognized as fallible. Furthermore, the "Saints" who supposedly (in their lifetimes) performed "similar" miracles were generally not the ones who were most active in teaching doctrine.

Bellisario also fails to appreciate that as "self evident" as it may be to him, we don't simply accept the claims of his church that the various alleged miracles of these "saints" actually happened. Instead, we attribute a lot (if not all) of these alleged medieval miracles to legend and superstition. One should really read B. B. Warfield's, "Counterfeit Miracles," to get a more involved discussion on this matter.

More importantly, the church councils of Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II were not composed of wonder-workers. The bishops who (by majority vote) decided doctrinal matters did not have "similar gifts [to those] that the apostles themselves had." The teachings of Rome are not supported by wonders done by the teachers of Rome.

6) "So no, there are still certain prophetic gifts that have never been taken away to keep the Church teaching infallibly."

Notice that this is a non sequitur on the tail of Bellisario's last claim about the saints. The saints aren't the teachers. But Bellisario seems to be waving his hand and trying to say that "the church" has saints (who allegedly exhibit similar gifts to those of the apostles) and "the church" teaches infallibly.

But the sign gifts that Jesus and the prophets and apostles had were gifts exercised by the prophets themselves. Moses raised his staff and the Red Sea was divided by God. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Paul raised Eutychus from the dead. And so on, and so forth.

What's more - there is nothing in Scripture about a prophetic gift that is going to make the church teach infallibly. It's just something that got made up as things went along. It's one of innumerable innovations that crept in over time. It's a lovely example of wishful thinking, but wishing the church would be infallible isn't the same as proving that "the church" is infallible.

7) "And once again God never changed the way the Church operated later on after the apostles were gone and then started a new form of doctrine called Sola Scriptura."

Scripture has always been authoritative. The only thing different between the apostles time and now is that we no longer have those living prophets. We use what we have. When we have the Scriptures we use them. Before there were Scriptures, people used what they had. When there were Scriptures and prophets, people used what they had.

But though the Scripture is infallible, and though true prophets when uttering divine revelation are infallible, even true prophets were judged by Scripture, once Scripture was given in part! Furthermore, while Scripture tells us that Scripture is God-breathed, and Scripture praises true prophets of God, Scripture does not tell us that teachers in the church never err, or that "the church" as such teaches infallibly.

Like the innovation of Christmas, so also is the innovation of the "infallible teaching of the church." The latter is much more serious, however, since it undermines the unique authority of Scripture.

8) "What kind of fool does he think he is going to convince on such a poor un-apostolic teaching that has no historical basis whatsoever, including the lacking testimony of Scripture?"

As far as "historical basis," see above. Bellisario's refusal to hear the fathers doesn't mean that they don't speak to the issue. Bellisario's refusal to acknowledge the practical nature of Sola Scriptura doesn't change the nature of the doctrine. Furthermore, the only sense in which Bellisario's claim makes any sense is in taking the words "Sola Scriptura" and ignoring the qualifications. If Jesus is in front of a person, Jesus' words are authoritative. If God gives a prophet revelation, that revelation is authoritative. We just don't happen to have Jesus here among us, though he will return. Also, we don't have prophets any more giving public revelation from God. And Bellisario's church admits these two things. In Scripture, the ONLY thing that has infallible authority, aside from Jesus himself and the oral revelation of God through prophets, is Scripture. There's nothing else. When Bellisario starts looking at it that way, perhaps he'll understand how it is that Scripture does teach Sola Scriptura, just not the doctrine caricatured (as though the Reformed were teaching that the Apostles should have ignored Jesus, or something like that).

I had written: "Creating new doctrines and rules that were unknown to the apostles is different from asserting the authority of Scripture (which the apostles did) and recognizing the historical fact that we don't have living prophets as they did during the apostolic times. MB's complaint here is sophistical rather than sophisticated."

Bellisario replied:
Uhh no, the apostles did not assert Scripture as the ultimate authority. That is plain, and that teaching is something the apostles did not teach, and that is obviously a new doctrine. I think even your buddy James White disagrees with you there when he readily admits that the apostles did not teach Sola Scriptura, nor live by it.


This is all addressed above. Bellisario's repetition of his assertions is just that.

Bellisario continued:
This guy isn't even using rational arguments now. It is his interpretation and he stands there screaming like a child because someone challenges him and his incorrect interpretation. I will continue later if I get a chance and go back to Saint Paul one more time in Romans 14, since TF seems to hellbent on making Saint Paul a condemner of all Holy days, in which we anyone reading the text honestly has to admit that St Paul never even addresses this and is referencing the Jews in these passages. This is a perfect example of what you get if everyone is to interpret the Scriptures to their own liking. They interpret a passage to extend way beyond what the original writer intended it to say. And so we see nothing new under the sun. The same old heresies of old.
I answer:

1) "This guy isn't even using rational arguments now."

See above, as to who is using rational arguments. I am quite happy with the record as it stands.

2) "It is his interpretation and he stands there screaming like a child because someone challenges him and his incorrect interpretation."

Presumably, the children around the Bellisario household scream by writing lengthy essays explaining the errors of their critics' papers. Either that or Bellisario just makes up stuff, because of a mental or moral deficiency of his own. I'll let the reader decide.

3) "I will continue later if I get a chance and go back to Saint Paul one more time in Romans 14, since TF seems to hellbent on making Saint Paul a condemner of all Holy days, in which we anyone reading the text honestly has to admit that St Paul never even addresses this and is referencing the Jews in these passages."

More assertions. There is some irony in his following an obviously dishonest description of the situation with an attempt to impugn the honesty of anyone who reaches a conclusion different from his own.

4) "This is a perfect example of what you get if everyone is to interpret the Scriptures to their own liking."

On the heels of that last comment, of course, this makes no sense. Either the Scripture is clear (in which case no honest person can reach another conclusion) or it is not (in which case it can be interpreted lots of different ways). There's a reason for Bellisario's inconsistency - his position is logically indefensible, so he just piles on the rhetoric. The problem is that the rhetoric itself has meaning. In this case, the rhetoric creates contradictions within Bellisario's own essay.

5) "They interpret a passage to extend way beyond what the original writer intended it to say."

This is an assertion. Bellisario is full of them, as we've demonstrated. Notice how we demonstrate and Bellisario asserts. That's the biggest difference between our two positions.

6) "And so we see nothing new under the sun."

Again, the rhetoric ends up resulting in conflicts. One minute, Sola Scriptura is a novelty, the next minute there is nothing new. Poor Bellisario! If only he could set aside the rhetoric and try to deal with matter rationally!

7) "The same old heresies of old."

This assertion is very interesting. I wonder if Bellisario wouldn't mind pointing to the council or pope that first condemned the supposed heresy of arguing that Christians are free not to celebrate holy days? I wonder if Bellisario wouldn't mind pointing to the council or pope that first condemned the supposed heresy of Sola Scriptura? Anyone want to take a bet as to when that happened?

Bellisario continued:
I will add one other fact in before I conclude. Isn't it amazing that all of these ancient churches, all over the world for over 1300 years or so celebrated these Holy days, and they obviously were not reading Saint Paul in the same way that TF is doing were they? If TF is right, then why does every Church in existence celebrate Christmas until the "Reformation" and then even only a handful of those rebels were crazy and delusional enough to try and abolish these Holy days? I think that speaks for itself doesn't it? TF is certainly in the minority of even his Protestant Scripture Alone brethren, let alone the churches in existence before his.
I answer:

1) "I will add one other fact in before I conclude."

Notice that Bellisario just blithely assumes that his assertions are facts. He hasn't actually established facts, just made a pile of assertions, but now he wants to "add one other fact." Let's see what it is:

2) "Isn't it amazing that all of these ancient churches, all over the world for over 1300 years or so celebrated these Holy days, and they obviously were not reading Saint Paul in the same way that TF is doing were they?"

Bellisario seems to think that I'm arguing that this passage forbids Christians to celebrate Christmas. Well, either he mistakenly thinks that, or he's just brought up an irrelevant assertion! How so? Even supposing churches all over the globe celebrated Christmas, that's not problematic.

If Bellisario wanted to make an argument from the consensus of church history, what he'd really need to try to do is find some evidence that "all these ancient churches" held that failing to go to a Christmas "mass" was a "mortal sin" that caused a person to fall from grace - i.e. that celebration of Christmas by attending a "mass" is necessary for salvation.

Does anyone have any expectation that such evidence will be forthcoming? Not I. I wouldn't be surprised to see lots of fresh assertions though.

I would add this: the 1300 year number is apparently based on assuming that because the earliest references to celebrations of Christ's birth occur in the 200's (A.D., of course), that consequently the celebrations were immediately globally practiced and then continuously maintained until a few mavericks shook things up in the 1500's. Can Bellisario really document the 3rd-8th century practices of Christianity in the Eastern portions of India? Has Bellisario examined when Ethiopic churches began their celebration? It may well have caught on quickly (initially it would have provided a valuable teaching aid for reminding people of the life of Christ), but the reader should catch on to the fact that what Bellisario says is often not well supported by evidence, though boldly asserted.

-TurretinFan

1 comment:

natamllc said...

Again, this is a long one.

But I have read the first portion and wanted to make one point hopefully heard and understood?

These are the Words of Jesus:

Mat 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Now, using Bellisario's logic, I will interpret that verse this way:

But seek first the Pope, any known Apostles and Prophets, Bishops and Cardinals and their righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

Hmmmmm, the Greek word here for "kingdom" is:

βασιλεία
basileia
bas-il-i'-ah
From G935; properly royalty, that is, (abstractly) rule, or (concretely) a realm (literally or figuratively): - kingdom, + reign.

Well then, I would ask Bellisario, based on that definition of "kingdom" to cite Scripture that shows any other "human" other than Christ that has their own realm, kingdom or reign?

We know, because Jesus said so, that His "kingdom" is not of this world.

I would point here then:

Heb 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
Heb 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Heb 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Heb 1:4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

This whole idea points to no one else in heaven or on earth, other than "His Majesty on high"!