Thursday, October 29, 2009

Perspicuity of Scripture Contra Bellisario - Part 2

I'm responding to a post from Mr. Matthew Bellisario (see my first post for the introduction). In this post, I address Mr. Bellisario's response to my quotation from Cyril of Jerusalem. Mr. Bellisario has put my words in italics, and I have attempted to reproduce them as he provided them, within the quotation box below. His own words are (for the most part) in the plain font:
As Cyril of Jerusalem (about A.D. 315 – 386) put it:

Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.

- Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture IV, Section 17


Turretin Fan takes the Father out of context. What Turretin Fan fails to tell you is that Saint Cyril's work that he quotes from is a catechetical lecture based on the Scriptures, which is why this particular text is focused on the Scriptures. Saint Cyril however never tells us that Scripture alone is how the Church receives its only Divine Revelation and where it gets its only authority from. Cyril is telling his catechumens that the Gospel was not based on clever human reasoning, but that he had based his lectures on Holy Writ. Turretin has reached far beyond the context of the text. No Catholic would disagree that salvation is demonstrated from the Holy Scriptures or that the Gospel is based on human ingenious reasoning. Next.
I answer:

I. Clarifying the Charges

a) Mr. Bellisario's first charge is that I have taken Cyril's comments out of context. The context that he says I've omitted is that is from a catechetical lecture based on the Scriptures. Mr. Bellisario asserts that this explains why this particular text of Cyril is focused on Scripture. As for the context, I did point out that the quotation was taken from one of Cyril's catechetical lectures. So, Mr. Bellisario must be charging that I did not indicate that the catechetical lecture was based on the Scriptures.

b) Mr. Bellisario's second charge is that Cyril never tells us that Scripture alone is how the Church receives its only Divine Revelation and is the source of the Church's only authority.

c) Mr. Bellisario's third charge appears to be an assertion that, in effect, I have misrepresented Cyril's comment. According to Mr. Bellisario, Cyril is telling his students that the Gospel was not based on clever human reasoning, and(?) that Cyril based his lectures on Holy Writ.

d) Mr. Bellisario's fourth charge is that I've reached "far beyond the context of the text." Mr. Bellisario does not explain this charge particularly, though it seems to be connected to charge (1) above.

e) Mr. Bellisario's fifth charge is that "No Catholic would disagree that salvation is demonstrated from the Holy Scriptures or that the Gospel is based on human ingenious reasoning" by which I think he means that no Roman Catholic would, in Mr. Bellisario's opinion, either think that "the Gospel" is based on ingenious human reasoning or disagree that "salvation can be demonstrated" from the Bible. It's actually still not clear what Mr. Bellisario means by "salvation can be demonstrated" or even what Mr. Bellisario intends to convey by "the Gospel." We assume that Mr. Bellisario is just parroting back Cyril's words from the second half of the quotation.

II. Responding to the Charges

a) As for pointing out the context, I did (as noted above) point out that the quotation was taken from one of Cyril's catechetical lectures. Also, given the nature of the quotation (that people shouldn't believe anything that Cyril didn't prove from Scripture) it should be obvious to anyone that Cyril was trying to base his lecture on Scripture. So, this charge seems hollow.

b) As for what Cyril didn't say, one wonders why Bellisario thinks Cyril would have to say "Scripture alone is how the Church receives its only Divine Revelation and where it gets its only authority from." It looks like Mr. Bellisario is trying to insist that Cyril express a negative concept in a very specific way. Why? There's no good reason.

Cyril is pretty specific: "Even to me, who tell thee these things, give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures." That expression "even ... me" is a way of promoting Cyril to the top of list of sources, and "unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures" is a way of saying that they shouldn't accept "the things which [he] announce[s]" unless they are proved to them from Scripture.

How on earth is that supposed to be consistent with the Romanist position? Can you really imagine a Roman pope saying, "Don't accept even what I teach you unless you receive the proof of this encyclical from Scripture"? Can you imagine any priest of the Roman church suggesting that anything the church, through him, teaches needs proof from Scripture for acceptance?

I ask because that's what Cyril is saying. He's saying that these folks who are not yet even baptized - these catechumen folks - are not to accept what he says unless he proves it from Scripture. He's not telling them, "don't believe what I teach unless I prove it from the teachings of the church," or "believe whatever I teach, because I represent the voice of the church." No, he's inviting them to reject whatever he teaches for which they don't receive proof from Scripture.

c) Mr. Bellisario is mistaken if he thinks that Cyril is simply claiming that he based his lectures on Scripture. That's one thing implied by what Cyril says, of course, but what Cyril is saying is that the catechumen should not accept what Cyril says without proof from Scripture. It's one thing for Cyril to "based his lectures on Scripture" (though the lectures are topical, not exegetical) and quite another for him to encourage them to demand Scripture proof for acceptance.

Mr. Bellisario is also mistaken in trying to limit the quotation simply to a denial that the message Cyril is teaching is a message based on bare reason. He's contrasting two things: (1) ingenious reasoning and (2) demonstration from Scripture. He's denying (1) and affirming (2). Cyril is not just teaching that the salvation he teaches does not depend from ingenious reasoning, but but that it does depend on demonstration from Scripture. Cyril is conveying the rule of Christian faith to the catechumen.

Cyril's words parallel those of the apostle Peter:

2 Peter 1:16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

But notice the difference: Peter was an eyewitness, and Cyril was not. Therefore, Cyril relies on Scripture, whereas Peter learned directly from Jesus.

Notice that, contrary to Mr. Bellisario's insinuations, this not just Cyril's lectures that are based on Scripture, but the dogmas of the faith: "this salvation we believe." These catechetical lectures are the transferring of the faith to the catechumen, teaching what is to be believed for salvation. Thus, while (of course!) the comment is immediately applicable to the teaching of the faith being imparted by the catechetical lectures, it is broadly applicable to the doctrines of the Christian religion being imparted through the mouth of Cyril as a spokesman for the Church.

d) This is already answered above.

e) The claim that "No Catholic would disagree that salvation is demonstrated from the Holy Scriptures or that the Gospel is based on human ingenious reasoning" misses the point. Even leaving aside Mr. Bellisario's apparent grammatical errors and the ambiguities of his comment, the issue is not whether the true doctrines can be demonstrated from Scripture.

Notice that Cyril doesn't just say that they can be proved from Scripture: Cyril invites the catechumen to exercise private judgment and not accept any teaching of Cyril's that is not just based on Scripture, but proved to the catechumen from Scripture. The statement: "this salvation which we believe depends ... on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures" is about as clear a statement of the fact that Scripture is the rule of faith as one could hope for, short of using those exact words. Furthermore, while that phrase doesn't explicitly use the word "only" the previous sentence including "even ... me" and "not ... unless" conveys the same sense in different words.

- TurretinFan

Addendum: Mr. Matthew Bellisario has added some commentary suggesting that even if we are right about the quotation above, Cyril says something different and more helpful to the Romanist position in section 1 of Lecture 17 (link to Bellisario's comment - and clarification). Specifically, Mr. Bellisario provided the following quotation:
"1. In the preceding Lecture, according to our ability we set before you, our beloved hearers, some small portion of the testimonies concerning the Holy Ghost; and on the present occasion, we will, if it be God's pleasure, proceed to treat, as far as may be, of those which remain out of the New Testament: and as then to keep within due limit of your attention we restrained our eagerness (for there is no satiety in discoursing concerning the Holy Ghost), so now again we must say but a small part of what remains. For now, as well as then, we candidly own that our weakness is overwhelmed by the multitude of things written."
- Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 17, Section 1

The very first thing to note that is that Mr. Bellisario has left off the last sentence of the section. Those sentences are:
Neither to-day will we use the subtleties of men, for that is unprofitable; but merely call to mind what comes from the divine Scriptures; for this is the safest course, according to the blessed Apostle Paul, who says, Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual [1 Cor. ii. 13.]. Thus we act like travellers or voyagers, who having one goal to a very long journey, though hastening on with eagerness, yet by reason of human weakness are wont to touch in their way at divers cities or harbours.
- Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 17, Section 1

What then is Mr. Bellisario's apparent argument? His apparent argument is that "remain out of the New Testament" is a reference to extra-Scriptural revelation. That's not what Cyril means. Cyril is pointing out that his previous lecture (Lecture 16) was based on the Old Testament, and now he is going to be presenting the remaining proofs from the New Testament.

This is confirmed by the sentence that Mr. Bellisario omitted - a sentence that simply drips Sola Scriptura: "Neither to-day will we use the subtleties of men, for that is unprofitable; but merely call to mind what comes from the divine Scriptures; for this is the safest course, according to the blessed Apostle Paul, who says, Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual [1 Cor. ii. 13.]." Notice that Cyril has taken the position that the safest course is merely to call to mind what comes from the Scriptures. Incidentally, we are going to see a similar discussion of 1 Corinthians 2:13 when we come to Irenaeus.

But it appears that while this post was being prepared, Mr. Swan made a similar note to Mr. Bellisario and persuaded him (to some extent) regarding this lecture (Mr. Swan's comment, pointing out that the last section [section 32] of Lecture 16 is: "And indeed it were easy to collect very many texts out of the Old Testament, and to discourse more largely concerning the Holy Ghost. But the time is short; and we must be careful of the proper length of the lecture. Wherefore, being for the present content awhile with passages from the Old Testament, we will, if it be God’s pleasure, proceed in the next Lecture to the remaining texts out of the New Testament. And may the God of peace, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, count all of you worthy of His spiritual and heavenly gifts: - To whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.")(Mr. Bellisario's acknowledgment). However, Mr. Bellisario pointed to the next lecture, averring that Cyril has something contrary to Sola Scriptura in that lecture. Specifically, Mr. Bellisario provided the following quotation (Mr. Bellisario providing the quotation):
Now then let me finish what still remains to be said for the Article, "In one Holy Catholic Church," on which, though one might say many things, we will speak but briefly.
23. It is called Catholic then because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to come to men's knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly ; and because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of mankind, governors and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals the whole class of sins, which are committed by soul or body, and possesses in itself every form of virtue which is named, both in deeds and words, and in every kind of spiritual gifts.
- Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 18, Sections 22-23

The very attentive reader will note that Mr. Bellisario's quotation has an unusual punctuation issue after the word "earthly" - namely there is a space before the semicolon. The reason for that artifact is probably that Mr. Bellisario got his text of the lecture from newadvent.org - a helpful website that unfortunately removes many of the footnotes in their reproduction of the Schaff edition. In this case, the footnote states:
Bishop Lightfoot (Ignatius, ad Smyrnæos, viii.) traces the original and later senses of the word “Catholic” very fully. “In its earliest usages, therefore, as a fluctuating epithet of ἐκκλησία, ‘catholic’ means ‘universal,’ as opposed to ‘individual,’ ‘particular.’ In its later sense, as a fixed attribute, it implies orthodoxy as opposed to heresy, conformity as opposed to dissent.” Commenting on this passage of Cyril, the Bishop adds that “these two latter reasons, that it (the Church) is comprehensive in doctrine, and that it is universal in application, can only be regarded as secondary glosses.”
What is the significance of this comment? The significance is that Mr. Bellisario is relying on a portion of Cyril that is not, according to Lightfoot, not authentic.

More importantly, even if it were authentic, it is simply an indication of correlation between the church that is spread throughout the world and a complete set of doctrines. There is no suggestion that the church has a complete set of doctrines because she is the church, as opposed to being the church because she has a complete set of doctrines. Given the other places where Cyril makes plain that the church derives its doctrines from Scripture, this sort of correlative comment is not only uncompelling, it is essentially irrelevant.

-TurretinFan

2 comments:

natamllc said...

Foregoing the addendum, I would parse a couple of phrases:

"....(2). Cyril is not just teaching that the salvation he teaches does not depend from ingenious reasoning, but but that it does depend on demonstration from Scripture. Cyril is conveying the rule of Christian faith to the catechumen.
...".


"....Notice that Cyril doesn't just say that they can be proved from Scripture: Cyril invites the catechumen to exercise private judgment and not accept any teaching of Cyril's that is not just based on Scripture, but proved to the catechumen from Scripture....".

Ok, to the first quotation above noted and cited, I would go a bit further with Cyril.

This is pure speculation but I sense with his writing there could be something to add to that line of reasoning and it is this:::>

Rom 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience--by word and deed,
Rom 15:19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God--so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;


and

1Co 2:3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
1Co 2:4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
1Co 2:5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

and finally with this first parsing:::>

Php 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Now, what we have learned here with the Apostle's reasonings, [the Wisdom of God Himself], is he used poetry and prose of the day and made reference to as much in his writings on teaching the Salvation made possible because of the work of Christ, already.

What it seems to me from those three citations of Paul, [Scripture], it lends to me at least that Cyril also, "with his own writings" would rely upon the "The Spirit and Power of God" as well as the Scriptures? The Apostle Paul said as much here and it seems because Cyril relied upon the Scripture himself as much as he did he too would have all the Biblical citations in the forefront of his mind too:

Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.


As can be seen from all the citations, and I note "especially" Philippians 4:9, that in each case Paul and Cyril were/was saying, "don't just rely upon what I am saying, rely upon this with what I am saying, "the God of Peace will be with you"! He will back up and vindicate my teachings to you?

To the point then, he, [Cyril], is "demonstrating" with his own writings that Scripture allows for God "Himself" to "validate" his dogma and doctrines taught by him and those coming after him who receive them for what they are, as he most certainly grappled with the errors floating around in the minds of men of his day?

As for the second quotation from Cyril, I diddo it with the first.

MaximosMagnus said...

Where does St. Cyril teach Sola Scriptura here? Does St. Cyril teach that only the Scriptures are the only Revelation from God to man? No. What St. Cyril is saying is that all statements of faith must be consistent with the scriptures, and not contradictory to the Scriptures. I know of no Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant sectarian who would deny such a thing. There is no denial of Church authority here, but more importantly nothing speaking to the absence of authority.