Monday, December 29, 2008

Bellisario Swings Again

Bellisario is at it again. Let's go through his latest post (link to the post):

MB: "Recently the un-identifiable one released an all out attack at the Catholic Church for mandating Christmas as an obligatory Holy day."

TF: A couple of blog posts equals an "all out attack"? Does that seem melodramatic to anyone? His "un-identifiable" nonsense has already been addressed previously, no sense in beating that dead horse further.

MB: "He says over and over in his diatribe against me that the apostles didn't teach it."

TF: I think it is pretty clear which of the two of us uses the "diatribe" method of writing. But yes, again and again, I have pointed out that the doctrines of his church are not apostolic. This is an important point, for a variety of reasons. It is hoped that with enough repetition, the fact will eventually sink in.

MB: "The apostles didn't need it."

TF: Because of the style in which Bellisario's post is written, it is a little unclear whether he is trying to repeat what he thinks I was saying, or whether he is trying to argue that his church is really free to make up all sorts of things that the apostles never taught.

MB: "The apostles didn't teach any of these things that Rome is teaching, then he comically appeals to Sacred Scripture of the New Testament and twists it to his own liking to refute the Catholic Church's position on the subject."

TF: If you delete the opinionated portions of that sentence, you're left with: "The apostles didn't teach any of these things that Rome is teaching, then he appeals to Sacred Scripture of the New Testament and uses it to refute Rome's position on the subject." Now, what on earth would be wrong with that? Nothing. That's a clue that Bellisario is just blowing smoke, to put it nicely.

MB: "He rattles off like a parrot that the apostles didn't do it, yet what he is doing is also unknown to the apostles; that is appealing to Scripture alone for his doctrines."

TF: Again, we have to apply a rhetoric filter to Bellisario's banter. After we do so, we're left with, "He says that the apostles didn't do it, yet what he is doing is also unknown to the apostles; that is appealing to Scripture alone for his doctrines."

a) I'm glad he acknowledges that I am, in fact, appealing to Scripture alone for my doctrines.

b) I guess his implicit argument is that if it is wrong to do things that the apostles didn't do, then I myself am doing something wrong. This argument has superficial appeal, but it's wrong, because he's selectively characterized my position.

c) My position is better expressed as, "You use what you have." Today, the only revelation we have from God is Scripture. In the days of the apostles, they had those with the prophetic gift in addition to the Scriptures. For a time, they had Jesus himself in their midst. We don't have that today. Jesus is in heaven, and his apostles have joined him there (except, as noted above, the son of perdition). We do have, however, what the apostles left for us - their "memoirs" as Justin Martyr put it.

MB: "The apostles were being guided by the Church and the Holy Spirit, which is still the case now."


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.

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."

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.

MB: "It happens to be the same Catholic Church then as now, and Scripture would at a later time, when it was written down, attest to that very fact."

TF: This is why things like "holy days of obligation" are so significant. Bellisario claims that his church is the same church as the church of which the apostles were a part, but his church teachings things (such as "holy days of obligation") that are not only things the apostles didn't teach, but things contrary to what the apostles taught. It is one thing to claim to be the same Catholic Church, but it is another thing to prove it . The early church didn't have a pope. The early church at Rome didn't elect new bishops of Rome by a college of cardinals. There was (naturally) no teaching of papal infallibility in the early church, and so on and so forth. There are a myriad of differences between the doctrines and practices of modern Catholicism and the doctrines and practices of the early church. And yet we are told that it is the same church ... I suppose we could just accept his claim on faith, but the Scriptures warn us that there will be false teachers. Furthermore, the Scriptures command us to discern the spirits, whether they are of God. If we refuse (as Mr. Bellisario does) to scrutinize our church in view of Scripture, we are refusing to obey Scripture.

MB: "Yet the un-identifiable one uses a means and professes a doctrine that the apostles never did (Scripture Alone), and then he condemns the Catholic Church for doing the same."

TF: 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.

MB: "This is par for the course with this guy who knows not when he falls into a logical fallacy."

TF: It's somewhat ironic that Bellisario would make this claim immediately after employing the fallacy of equivocation.

MB: "But lets go back to the real issue at hand. Romans 14."

TF: ok ... lets...

MB: "He continues to misuse Saint Paul in Romans 14."

TF: Another claim by Bellisario (have you noticed how he makes a lot of claims but backs them up with the weakest of arguments - if at all?), but let's investigate whether he backs it up.

MB: "It is obvious that none of the Fathers are interpreting this passage of Scripture like he is doing claiming religions [sic] liberty[.]"

TF: His first supposed proof that I am misusing Romans 14 is that (according to him) "none of the Fathers" interpreted it to refer to religious liberty. Of course, he's already provided the evidence that shows he's wrong, for Chrysostom used the passage to advocate religious liberty from the Mosaic law, which was attempted to be imposed by the Judaizers. Moreover, in the same homily, commenting on verse 5, Chrysostom wrote:
Here he seems to me to be giving a gentle hint about fasting. For it is not unlikely that some who fasted were always judging those who did not, or among the observances it is likely that there were some that on fixed days abstained, and on fixed days did not.(5) Whence also he says, "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." And in this way he released those who kept the observances from fear, by saying that the thing was indifferent, and he removed also the quarrelsomeness of those who attacked them, by showing that it was no very desirable (or urgent, perispoudaston) task to be always making a trouble about these things.

As you can see, Chrysostom makes cross-reference to the verse that speaks of each person being fully persuaded "in his own mind," and calls the regarding of days a thing indifferent. Short of using the words "religious liberty," Chrysostom could hardly have been more clearly supporting the explanation I provided.

MB: "He ignorantly insists that this passage is referring to the Church as well as the Jews."

TF: Who is ignorant, I will leave the reader to judge, but "Judaizers" were those within the Church that insisted that to be saved one had to follow the ceremonial law (generally referenced by the metonymy of "circumcision"). They weren't Jews who rejected Jesus, but Jews (or their followers) who tried to insist on continued relevance of the ceremonial law despite its fulfilment in Christ. So, when Chrysostom mentions the Judaizers, he is talking about people in the Church, not outside it. Furthermore, as already pointed out to Bellisario (and ignored - even while being quoted! - by him) the book of Romans is to the Romans - you know, those in the Church at Rome.

MB: "He also makes his ignorance well known in that he doesn't even know why Saint Paul is writing the letter to the Romans, nor to whom he is primarily aiming the letter at, nor who he explicitly targets in the letter at different times."

TF: Another of Bellisario's bilious claims, and again, nothing to back it up. Paul is writing, as already explained numerous times, to the Romans. And by Romans, he means Romans, not Jews. Thus, for example, he states in Romans 1:

Romans 1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

So, we can see from Paul's own words that he was, in fact, writing to the Romans and he really meant it.

MB: "I pointed out how Paul was talking about the Jews in Roman's 14:4-6, and their works of the law at the time."

TF: Actually, what MB said was not limited to that. He said, "He is clearly telling the Jews that it must not be a work of the law." Presumably, MB has realized that such a position is indefensible, and is attempting to hedge. My own previous words hit the nail on the head, and MB quotes the below, so just read on.

MB: "Yet he insists on stretching the text beyond its original intent."

TF: Actually, that's not true. Romans 14:4-6 does not mention the Judaizers specifically, even though they were (we believe) the primary (or perhaps only) group advocating legalism. Romans 14:4-6 is worded generically. It does not, for example, say that whoever regards Yom Kippur does so to the Lord, and whoever does not regard Yom Kippur to the Lord he does not regard it. No, to make a general point, Paul uses general language. Rather than accepting the full breadth of the original intent, MB seeks to limit its application to the Judaizers, who are not explicitly mentioned in the chapter.

MB: "He writes,
TF: The legalism of the Judaizers was the primary error being addressed, doubtlessly. Nevertheless, it is not only Judaizing legalism that is condemned by Paul's words - he does not limit his comments on diet and days to the Jews, but words his liberating doctrines generically.

TF: Plainly aimed at them, perhaps, and yet not limited to them. In fact, as noted above, the Jews aren't specifically mentioned in the chapter. What is truly absurd is to suppose that the Old Testament laws given by Moses with respect to days and meats are not binding but that brand new laws are binding! How bizarre! The former had the authority of God, the latter have only the authority of man. If observance of the former is not mandatory, much less so is the observance of the latter

TF: It wasn't written primarily for the Jews of the time, it was written primarily for the Romans, see the Title of the Book, or verse 7 of the first chapter of Romans, from which the title of the book was perhaps obtained. Furthermore, although it was primarily addressed to the immediate problem of Judaizers trying to impose those holidays, the explanation provided provides a shield against the modern legalism of Rome, which tries to imposes fasts and holidays on its members, in violation of this passage.

TF: I assume Bellisario just cut and pasted these, so I haven't gone through to check to see if he changed anything. Nevertheless, it looks like what I wrote.

MB: "So we can see that he admits that Saint Paul is really primarily talking about the Jews of the time, yet he doesn't cease in his intention to make the text say something that is never does."

TF: That's not an answer to the issues raised in my comments, just opinion commentary on them. It's, of course, not my intention to make the text say anything particular. Unlike Bellisario, I am not bound to find some particular answer in this text. I am free to read the text for what it says, and if it condemns my church for legalism, so be it. Bellisario cannot make the same claim, and unfortunately is unable to see that I'm not approaching the text with the same disregard for its authority as he must to be faithful to Romanism.

MB: "Mainly he insists that we all have religions liberty and that there are no mandatory Holy days."

TF: Yep. That's what Paul insists, though MB means me by "he" not Paul.

MB: "This is what this guy is trying to get from these passages."

TF: Nope, that's what the passage says. Consequently, that's what I get from the passage. If it didn't say it, I wouldn't believe it. But, unfortunately, because of Bellisario's commitment to Romanism - though the text says it, he cannot accept it, but must try to find some way to ignore the broad scope of Paul's comment on religious liberty with respect to days and meats.

MB: "It is truly amazing to see this guy trying to get something from the text that is simply not there."

TF: Another of Bellisario's bellicose claims, and again he cannot back it up. The text says what it says, which is what I said it says. Bellisario hasn't been able to show otherwise, and consequently his claims (while exhibiting exasperation) don't didactically dispute the matter of meaning.

MB: "Saint Paul is talking not primarily, but directly to the Jews of the time."

TF: No, he is not talking to the Jews, he's talking to the Romans. In this passage, he doesn't "directly" mention the Jews. Furthermore, while the Judaizers are the most likely primary reference (since they were the legalists of the day), Paul's words are not limited to Jewish dietary restrictions or Jewish holy days. He speaks generally and should be understood as he wrote: generally.

MB: "This is what Saint Chrysostom says, and lets just look at another source. Undoubtedly though this guy will dodge it in favor of his own hackneyed interpretation of Saint Paul."

TF: That's misleading at best. Chrysostom does certainly apply the teachings to the Jewish converts of Paul's day. In the portion of his homily on the first verses of the chapter, Chrysostom says:
I Am aware that to most what is here said is a difficulty. And therefore I must first give the subject of the whole of this passage, and what he wishes to correct in writing this. What does he wish to correct then? There were many of the Jews which believed, who adhered of conscience to the Law, and after their believing, still kept to the observance of meats, as not having courage yet to quit the service of the Law entirely. Then that they might not be observed if they kept from swine's flesh only, they abstained in consequence from all flesh, and ate herbs only, that what they were doing might have more the appearance of a fast than of observance of the Law. Others again were farther advanced, and kept up no one thing of the kind, who became to those, who did keep them, distressing and offensive, by reproaching them, accusing them, driving them to despondency.
But does Chrysostom say that this liberty of conscience understood by the most advanced of the Jewish converts is the limit of Christian liberty as to meats and days? Of course, he does not. In fact, on the contrary, toward the end of the homily, discussing verse 13, Chrysostom begins to make application of the passage to his own congregation:
This does not apply to one less than the other: wherefore it may well fit with both, both the advanced man that was offended at the observance of meats, and the unadvanced that stumbled at the vehement rebuke given him. But consider, I pray you, the great punishment we shall suffer, if we give offence at all. For if in a case where the thing was against law, yet, as they rebuked unseasonably, he forbade their doing it, in order that a brother might not be made to offend and stumble; when we give an offence without having anything to set right even, what treatment shall we deserve? For if not saving others be a crime (and that it is so, he who buried the talent proves), what will be the effect of giving him offence also?
Granted, he does not apply the passage to the legalism of making profanation of holy days of obligation a "mortal" sin, but it's anachronistic to ask Chrysostom to foresee that abuse.

MB: "Here we see the great biblical Scholar Haydock state the following in reference to this particular passage of Roman's."

TF: Before we provide the comments from Haydock's commentary, it's worth noting that Haydock was more of the compiler/editor, than the author of the comments. Also, it's worth noting that this commentary was compiled and published by the papists after the Reformation. So, when reading it, we should be cognizant that this commentary is not of the Early Church Fathers, or anything of the sort.

Here is the block quotation he provides:
"Between day, &c. Still observing the sabbaths and festivals of the law. (Challoner.) --- And another judgeth every day. That is, thinks every day to be taken away, that was to be kept, merely because ordered under the Jewish law. And now since both they who keep days, or do not keep them; and they who eat, or who abstain, do these things which a regard to God, and according to their conscience, let no one judge, or condemn the one party, nor the other; in these things, let every man abound in his own sense. It is without grounds that some would pretend from hence, that Christians cannot be bound to fast, or abstain from flesh on certain days. The apostle speaks only of the distinction of meats, called clean and unclean, and of fasts or feasts peculiar to the law of Moses. It does not follow from hence, that the Catholic Church hath not power to command days of fasting, and abstaining, for self-denial or humiliation. (Witham) --- The apostle here treats only of the subject in hand, viz. the Mosaic distinctions of clean and unclean meats: and in this he allows, for that present time, each one to follow his own private judgment. St. Chrysostom observes that St. Paul did not wish the weak to be left to their own judgment in this, as in a point of no consequence; but that they should wait for a time. [The converts were not immediately prohibited their accustomed practices, but they were tolerated in them for a while, till fully instructed. This we see in many of the converts at Jerusalem, who were still observers of the Mosaic ordinances; this was tolerated, that the synagogue might be buried with honour. (Estius)]"
(I've supplied the omitted portion of the commentary myself, using brackets.)

Surely, everyone who has read those comments reaches the same conclusion: the authors of the comments want to reach the same conclusion that Bellisario wants to reach, but all they have to offer (at least in the forum provided by Haydock) is a bare assertion that nevertheless the Roman church has the power to force its members to observe feasts and fasts. They don't tell you why, they just insist that the text is limited (though the text itself doesn't say it's limited).

MB: "It is complete fabrication for the un-identifiable one to use this passage as he is using it, that is very clear at this point despite the mangled rhetoric he continues to put forth."

TF: More of Bellisario's badgering assertions, but nothing to back it up. Rather than show that it is a "complete fabrication," Bellisario has given the impression to the reader that all he can do is make conclusory assertions like those of Witham and Estius, even while ignorantly thinking that they come from Haydock, and all the while riddling his post with insults.

MB: "The fact is Saint Paul is speaking only to the Jews in this particular reference to feasts."

TF: Yes, Bellisario, Whitham and Estius think so, but they cannot produce reasons why - and the text itself is not so limited. For someone so insistent on the word "only" appearing in Scripture regarding "Sola Scriptura," Bellisario is remarkably eager to claim "only" when the text doesn't say it. There is a rather obvious reason why: if the text is to be understood broadly (the way Paul wrote it), then Bellisario's church is wrong, is legalistic, and is preaching another gospel than that which Paul preached.

MB: "This is a fact, say what you will."

TF: One can almost imagine Bellisario sticking his fingers in his ears at this point, in order to have to avoid answering the objections to his method of "claim it early and often."

MB: "It never says anything about the Church, the liturgical calendar, nor the authority of the Church."

TF: Chrysostom recognized that the text was directed to the church, and interpreted verse 1 as showing that the passage was explaining how to deal with new converts. Even Estius reusing Chrysostom realized that the text was directed to the church, though he thought it was only to give a decent burial to the synagogues. Of course, it does not mention the liturgical calendar - such a concept hadn't been innovated yet. And it does place a limit on the authority of the church: "let us not therefore judge one another any more," includes not only Paul's Roman readers but Paul too! But even if the church's authority were not addressed explicitly, it is certainly addressed implicitly, in that if Christians are free to eat or fast, to regard one day or another, then that prevents the church from requiring (as a condition of salvation) fasting or holy day observation by its members.

MB: "He is speaking to the Jews here and the Jews only."

TF: No. Not even Estius and Witham go that far. He was obviously talking to the Romans. Furthermore, he does not limit what he says to Jewish fasts and feats, but uses general language. Bellisario has no answer for this, and if Witham and Estius have an answer, Haydock didn't see fit to provide it.

MB: "It is not a "shield" against Rome's, or the Church's authority to proclaim Holy days as this guy claims."

TF: It's really more of a sword that cuts through the bonds of legalism proclaimed by Rome against the Gospel of Paul and Christ. Bellisario's remark reminded me of another passage of Paul's:

Ephesians 6:13-20
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.


P.S. Upon further reflection, let me summarize the issues:

1) The primary group that Paul probably had in mind with respect to Romans 14 were the Judaizers.

2) Many commentators, from Calvin to Chrysostom, note this probable reference.

3) Nevertheless, Paul intentionally expresses himself in general language rather than in language that would only be applicable to Judaizing legalism.

4) Consequently, it is improper to say that the verse only prevents the church from enforcing the Jewish laws and customs on the consciences of its members.

5) Indeed, it is absurd to think that it was wrong to impose God-given dietary laws and calendars, but it would be right to impose man-made dietary laws and calendars.

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