Saturday, October 31, 2009

Perspicuity of Scripture Contra Bellisario - Part 4

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 Irenaeus. 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:
Then Turretin Fan turns to butcher the words of Saint Irenaeus. One has to wonder when this guy will stop. So he writes,

We have many arguments at our disposal, we might, as Irenaeus (about A.D. 130 - 200) did and take the position that the perspicuity of Scripture is self-evident, hidden only from the blind:

Since, therefore, the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels, can be clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously understood by all, although all do not believe them; and since they proclaim that one only God, to the exclusion of all others, formed all things by His word, whether visible or invisible, heavenly or earthly, in the water or under the earth, as I have shown from the very words of Scripture; and since the very system of creation to which we belong testifies, by what falls under our notice, that one Being made and governs it,—those persons will seem truly foolish who blind their eyes to such a clear demonstration, and will not behold the light of the announcement [made to them]; but they put fetters upon themselves, and every one of them imagines, by means of their obscure interpretations of the parables, that he has found out a God of his own.

- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 27, Section 2


Many arguments at his disposal? Many weak arguments. What does this prove? We all have to ask ourselves who the blind one is? The one who reads the Scriptures from within the Church or outside of it. Also once again Saint Irenaeus lived in the middle of the second century, which did not possess a universal New Testament text. So it is obvious that this Saint was not referring to the method of Scripture Alone as Turretin Fan understands it to be. It is impossible. Most likely the Saint was referring to the Gospels and the Old Testament, making light of the parables of Jesus, which are only revealed to those whom Christ had removed the blinders from so they could understand them. If anything this defeats Turretin Fan's own argument. One has to wonder if Turretin Fan has really read this Father at any length because the Saint tells us how we are to understand the Scriptures in the very same letter just a couple of books later. He tells us that they must be understood in harmony with the Church's Tradition and from within the apostolic succession of the bishops, which Turretin rejects. Turretin Fan conveniently forgot that part. A flimsy flam for sure. Lets read it shall we?

"True knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor curtailment [in the truth which she believes]; and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and 'above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts of God." -- Irenaeus, Against Heresies (Bk. 4, Chap. 33)
(He had placed bold on his quotation of Irenaeus, I've removed that bold.) I answer:

1) There is a fair amount of chaff in this particular segment of Mr. Bellisario's response. I'll just identify the comments that add nothing to his discussion, and address them as a group:

a) Then Turretin Fan turns to butcher the words of Saint Irenaeus.
b) One has to wonder when this guy will stop.
c) Many arguments at his disposal? Many weak arguments. What does this prove?
d) A flimsy flam for sure.

I think it should be apparent that these arguments require no substantive response since they make no merit-based claim. Thankfully, Mr. Bellisario does make a few arguments that go beyond simple rhetoric.

2) "We all have to ask ourselves who the blind one is? The one who reads the Scriptures from within the Church or outside of it."

It may simply be that this is another one of Bellisario's colorful rhetorical flourishes. I'm trying to give Mr. Bellisario the benefit of the doubt here, though. Who is the blind one according to Irenaeus? It is the person who refuses to believe the clear, unambiguous, and harmonious teachings of the "entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels." Nothing about refusing to interpret them within "the Church" or outside of it. "The Church" doesn't even into the point that Irenaeus is making. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. Irenaeus' point is that those writings ("the entire Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospels") speak "clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously" and that you don't need special qualifications ("by all") for this purpose. Irenaeus explains away the objection of those who misinterpret by blaming those people: not the Scriptures.

3) "Also once again Saint Irenaeus lived in the middle of the second century, which did not possess a universal New Testament text."

Actually, Irenaeus is thought to have died at the beginning of the third century (about A.D. 202). I've addressed the referenced ("once again") mistaken concept regarding the canon in the first instance in which Mr. Bellisario raised it. His objection here has a slightly different twist, though. Rather than just claim that Irenaeus didn't know what the canon was, he claims that Irenaeus did not possess a "universal New Testament text."

a) This is a strange objection. So what if he did not have a complete copy of the New Testament? Irenaeus explicitly states that the gospels speak "clearly, unambiguously, and harmoniously" regarding at least certain important things. Unless Mr. Bellisario is sticking with his straw man that our position is that everything in Scripture has to be perspicuous, it is odd for Mr. Bellisario to complain that Irenaeus had an incomplete New Testament.

b) It should be fairly apparent that Mr. Bellisario is just speculating regarding what Irenaeus did or didn't have. All the books of the Bible had already been written over a generation before Irenaeus was born. Furthermore, Irenaeus specifically wrote against Marcion, explaining that the number of Gospels was exactly four:
It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sits upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 11, Section 8

Of course, just because Irenaeus somehow knew the number of gospels over a hundred years before Athanasius or the councils of Hippo and Carthage and a thousand years before Trent may not seem like proof enough that one doesn't need an authoritative ecumenical council in order to identify the Scriptures.

c) I don't (right now, at any rate) have time or interest in tracking down precisely which Scriptures were quoted by which of the apostolic fathers. Suffice that in the Schaff patrology, first volume of the Ante-Niceaen fathers (ANF1), the Scripture index contains quotations from all of the books of the Bible except:

Ruth
Ezra
Nehemiah
Obediah
Nahum

(and for those interested, Schaff also lists quotations from Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Baruch, Susanna, and Sirach)

Based on this Scripture index, all of the New Testament books are quoted from (or alluded to) by the combination of the apostolic fathers, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeaus (Irenaeus being chronologically last) (link to index). So, one wonders what makes Bellisario think that Irenaeus didn't have the whole New Testament? He doesn't tell us why he thinks that. (Addendum, Schaff includes an Irenaeus-specific index. In that one, there is a quotation, reference or allusion by Irenaeus to all the books of the New Testament except Philemon and 3 John, and to the Old Testament books except those identified above, and further 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, Zephaniah, and Haggai.)

4) "So it is obvious that this Saint was not referring to the method of Scripture Alone as Turretin Fan understands it to be. It is impossible."

Mr. Bellisario has again forgotten that the issue was and is the perspicuity of Scripture not the whole "method of Scripture Alone" (as he puts it). But Mr. Bellisario is wrong. One can practice Sola Scriptura even if one has (as Mr. Bellisario seems to think of Irenaeus) a wrong understanding of what books are the true Scriptures. After all, the issue of the identification of Scripture is a separate and preliminary issue: Sola Scriptura assumes that something has been identified as the Scriptura.

5) "Most likely the Saint was referring to the Gospels and the Old Testament, making light of the parables of Jesus, which are only revealed to those whom Christ had removed the blinders from so they could understand them."

a) I do like the fact that Mr. Bellisario seems to recognize the Scriptural truth that the blinders that men have must be removed by Christ if those men are to see. He's quite right in that regard. The problem is that, at least here, Irenaeus is not expressing that thought. Instead, Irenaeus is focusing on the human element: the sense of many Scriptures is plain to all, except those who blind themselves.

b) There's no good reason to suppose that Irenaeus meant only the gospels and the Old Testament. In the very preceding chapter, Irenaeus had used as his theme a quotation from 1 Corinthians, writing:
It is therefore better and more profitable to belong to the simple and unlettered class, and by means of love to attain to nearness to God, than, by imagining ourselves learned and skillful, to be found [among those who are] blasphemous against their own God, inasmuch as they conjure up another God as the Father. And for this reason Paul exclaimed, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth:” [1 Cor. viii. 1.] not that he meant to inveigh against a true knowledge of God, for in that case he would have accused himself; but, because he knew that some, puffed up by the pretense of knowledge, fall away from the love of God, and imagine that they themselves are perfect, for this reason that they set forth an imperfect Creator, with the view of putting an end to the pride which they feel on account of knowledge of this kind, he says, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth.”
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 26, Section 1

So there's no good reason to think that Irenaeus meant only the gospels and the Old Testament, though certainly Irenaeus did place a stress on the gospels in this particular chapter.

c) "making light of the parables of Jesus"

In English, "making light of" is an expression that means "trivializing." I don't think that Mr. Bellisario intended to employ that expression (though I durst not assume anything). Instead, I think he means "shining light on."

If so, then Bellisario is partly right. The basic point of Chapter 27 of Book 2 of Irenaeus' Against Heresies is that the proper way of understanding parables and other obscure parts of the Bible (after all, not every passage of Scripture is equally clear) is by turning to the more clear parts of Scripture.

This is, after all, the usual way we understand writings. We interpret the more clear by the less clear. In fact, I'm doing this same thing when I interpret Bellisario's expression "making light of" as "shining light on." It's unlikely, in context, that Bellisario is trying to say that Irenaeus is trivializing parables, so from the more clear context of Bellisario we understand the less clear expression that Bellisario used. Scripture, in that regard, is like most other writings: we under the obscure parts from the clear parts.

That's not what the heretics did. They argued that the right way to understand Scripture was found in oral tradition. In the very sentence after the one I included in the post to which Bellisario is responding, Irenaeus explains:
For that there is nothing whatever openly, expressly, and without controversy said in any part of Scripture respecting the Father conceived of by those who hold a contrary opinion, they themselves testify, when they maintain that the Saviour privately taught these same things not to all, but to certain only of His disciples who could comprehend them, and who understood what was intended by Him through means of arguments, enigmas, and parables.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 27, Section 2

Irenaeus then goes on, in the next section to compare his position of interpreting Scripture with Scripture building one's house on a rock and their position of interpreting Scripture according to alleged oral tradition as being building one's house on shifting sand:
But since parables admit of many interpretations, what lover of truth will not acknowledge, that for them to assert God is to be searched out from these, while they desert what is certain, indubitable, and true, is the part of men who eagerly throw themselves into danger, and act as if destitute of reason? And is not such a course of conduct not to build one’s house upon a rock [Matt. vii. 25.] which is firm, strong, and placed in an open position, but upon the shifting sand? Hence the overthrow of such a building is a matter of ease.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 27, Section 3

6) "If anything this defeats Turretin Fan's own argument."

Apparently, Mr. Bellisario means that his speculation (at least partly incorrect) regarding what Irenaeus was trying to say "defeats [my] argument." As noted above, however, a correct and contextual understanding of Irenaeus only reinforces my argument. This all is explained above.

7) "One has to wonder if Turretin Fan has really read this Father at any length because the Saint tells us how we are to understand the Scriptures in the very same letter just a couple of books later."

I would be the first to admit that the early church fathers were sometimes inconsistent. That said, even while it is possible that Irenaeus goes on to contradict something he says here, the more reasonable explanation (when someone looks for a comment from Irenaeus that is not only not in the same section or chapter but not even in the same or an adjacent book) is that Mr. Bellisario is simply attempting to divert attention from what Irenaeus is saying in the passage I quoted. For example, Mr. Bellisario does not claim "Irenaeus contradicted himself," or "Irenaeus later corrected his mistake." Instead, we have more of a request that we look over in another direction (accompanied by some sort of personal dart thrown at me). Perhaps as to familiarity with this father it is sufficient to point out that for Mr. Bellisario to say that Against Heresies is a "letter" is simply to misrepresent the nature of the substantial, five volume treatise.

8) "He tells us that they must be understood in harmony with the Church's Tradition and from within the apostolic succession of the bishops, which Turretin rejects. Turretin Fan conveniently forgot that part. A flimsy flam for sure. Lets read it shall we?"

a) "which Turretin rejects"

There is a lot of juice packed into those three words. What does Bellisario aim to say? There are several options thanks to his ambiguity.

First, he could be saying that I reject his position regarding what Irenaeus teaches. If so, we'll address that below when we get to the quotation itself and compare it to his claim.

Second, he could be saying that I reject the position he ascribes to Irenaeus. If so, he's right. I don't agree that the Scriptures must be understood in the way Mr. Bellisario has asserted. What's interesting is that Mr. Bellisario cannot show such a requirement from Scripture. As we will see below, he cannot substantiate such a requirement from the earliest tradition of the Church or the first generations of those who succeeded the apostles.

Third, he could be saying that I reject the idea of there being traditions of the Church or successors of the apostles. Here he'd be a little confused. Where I disagree is that the human traditions of the Church have equal authority to Scripture, or that the successors of the apostles have equal authority to the apostles. Of course, it is an historical fact that the apostles were succeeded by elders and that those elders were followed by other elders, etc., down to the present day. There is a chain of ordinations. There is also "church tradition" that exists in various forms. Neither this chain of ordinations nor any "church tradition" apart from Scripture has any comparable authority to Scripture.

Fourth, Mr. Bellisario could be saying that I reject his church. If so, he's quite right. But at the same time, he'd be wrong in assuming that Irenaeus was a part of his church. Such an anachronism ought to be its own rebuttal.

b) "Turretin Fan conveniently forgot that part."

Again, the quotation Mr. Bellisario is about to provide is not a "part" of the quotation provided above. It's in the same work, but it is not in the same book, chapter, or section. It's not even in an adjacent book.

Note as well how only a second ago, Mr. Bellisario was claiming that I must not have read much of Irenaeus. Now he is suggesting that I read it and forgot it. This sort of inconsistent rhetoric is self-defeating.

c) "A flimsy flam for sure."

Again with this "flam" usage. See the first post in this series regarding that odd usage issue.

d) "[Irenaeus] tells us that [the Scriptures] must be understood in harmony with the Church's Tradition and from within the apostolic succession of the bishops"

The only support for this claim is Mr. Bellisario's quotation of a few paragraphs from Irenaeus. Let's carefully consider what Irenaeus is saying and see whether it says that the Scripture must be understood in harmony with the Church's Tradition and from within the apostolic succession of the bishops.

The first thing to do is to present the text as it appears in Schaff's patrology, as it appears that Mr. Bellisario's quotation is an edited version of that appearing in Ante-Nicaean Fathers, Volume 1 (Bellisario doesn't specifically identify his source). The unedited quotation is as follows (omitting only the footnotes):
True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God].
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 33, Section 8 (all brackets in Schaff's edition)

Looking at the quotation, the first and most indisputable fact is that the comment "[the Scriptures] must be understood in harmony with the Church's Tradition and from within the apostolic succession of the bishops" is not a quotation from Irenaeus. I don't think that even Mr. Bellisario would try to claim that Irenaeus uses those words.

The second fact is that Irenaeus does use the words "the successions of the bishops" (notice that pluralization) and does say "they have handed down" which is the verbal form of "tradition" ("tradition" as a verb means "to hand down"). The term "Scriptures" is also mentioned in the text. So, Mr. Bellisario's characterization has at least some connection to the text.

That is about the limit of the connection that Mr. Bellisario's characterization has with the text. The text doesn't suggest that the successions of bishops are a necessary context in order to understand Scriptures, nor that a distinct body of tradition is required for us to understand what Scriptures teach.

The thrust of the section is the identification of "true knowledge." In order to appreciate what "true knowledge" meant to Irenaeus, one needs context that Mr. Bellisario omitted. The immediately preceding section sets the stage for the discussion:
He [the spiritual man] shall also judge all those who are beyond the pale of the truth, that is, who are outside the Church; but he himself shall be judged by no one. For to him all things are consistent: he has a full faith in one God Almighty, of whom are all things; and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things, and in the dispensations connected with Him, by means of which the Son of God became man; and a firm belief in the Spirit of God, who furnishes us with a knowledge of the truth, and has set forth the dispensations of the Father and the Son, in virtue of which He dwells with every generation of men, according to the will of the Father.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 33, Section 7

That provides the reference to "knowledge of the truth" that serves as the antecedent basis for the reference to "true knowledge" in the beginning of section 8. The expression about judging all things but being judged of no man is taken directly from Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

Furthermore, the discussion of the Father and the Son that make up the core beliefs of this spiritual man who judges those beyond the pale of truth (i.e. outside the Church) are taken from another verse of the same book:

1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

And, in the same context of discussing that the spiritual man judges all things, yet is judged of no man, 1 Corinthians 2 acknowledges that it is the Spirit that furnishes us with a knowledge of truth:

1 Corinthians 2:10-13
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

You can see as well in this passage the basic principle that Irenaeus is making regarding the Spirit revealing the Father and the Son. We also see that Irenaeus ascribes a subordinate role to the Spirit much like that of the Son that we see in John's Gospel:

John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

After pointing out that it is the Spirit that provides us with knowledge of the truth, we encounter what has been designated as section 8. The section is divisible into two parts in the English translation:

"True knowledge is"

Part 1: "[that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and"

What is Irenaeus affirming about the true knowledge here? One alternative is that (as with the dubious quotation from Cyril that we discussed previously) Irenaeus is indicating a correlation between the Church and orthodoxy. It could also be aspirational: that is to say, it could state what ought to be, as opposed to what actually is. The translators of this section noted (in a footnote that Mr. Bellisario did not provide, perhaps because he used the NewAdvent source):
The following section is an important one, but very difficult to translate with undoubted accuracy. The editors differ considerably both as to the construction and the interpretation. We have done our best to represent the meaning in English, but may not have been altogether successful.
Thus, let's reserve some judgment regarding what the possible sense of this part of the discussion is, until we have seen the other half.

Before we get to the second half, though, there are a couple of interesting points to note. First, the "true knowledge" here is most plainly the "doctrine of the apostles." Thus, this is not a situation in which we are dealing with new doctrines defined by a living magisterium.

A similar concept seems to be conveyed by "ancient constitutions." These are not something new, recent, or organic. These are something ancient.

There is something that is not just ancient: "the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place." The concept "distinctive manifestation" is a bit obscure - but it is clear that there is a reference of the successions of the bishops by which they handed down "the Church which exists in every place." It's interesting to note, in passing, that it is not one succession, but a plurality of successions.

The distinctive manifestation becomes a bit more clear when we see the two aspects:

1) "being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and"

2) "neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]"

Notice that, as to the second part, this is a fixed quantum of truths. As to the first part, the system is very complete and there is no forgery of Scripture. The sentence structure seems to suggest that the "forging of Scriptures" would be the way in which there would be addition, and a lack of "guarding and preserving" is what would lead to a curtailment. In short, it looks as though what is being guarded are the canonical Scriptures.

This is confirmed when we turn to the second half of the discussion of what true knowledge is:

Part 2: "[it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]."

Notice that it consists in reading the Scriptures without falsification. The fact that this second part is joined to the first with an "and" can have two possibilities: it can be an additional aspect of the knowledge or it can be a restatement of the knowledge from a different perspective.

Notice as well that it consists in exposition in harmony with the Scriptures. This is essentially the reverse of what Mr. Bellisario had indicated in that this true knowledge is something that is to be read in harmony with the Scriptures, not vice versa. Thus, even assuming that the "true knowledge" were extra-Scriptural tradition (something Mr. Bellisario seems to have assumed rather than demonstrated) the relation to Scripture would be the inverse of what Mr. Bellisario had described.

The statement continues: "both without danger and without blasphemy." This would seem to describe the result of reading in harmony with the Scriptures, although the relation of this phrase the sentence is not particularly clear.

The final comment of the passage really shows the main point of the sentence: it has all been building up to this: Love. Irenaeus says: "and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]." This kind of comment tends to undermine the idea that Irenaeus is saying that (as Bellisario claims) "the Scripture must be understood in harmony with the Church's Tradition and from within the apostolic succession of the bishops."

In fact, that love was the focal point we can see from the section that follows:
Wherefore the Church does in every place, because of that love which she cherishes towards God, send forward, throughout all time, a multitude of martyrs to the Father; while all others [FN: i.e., the heretics.] not only have nothing of this kind to point to among themselves, but even maintain that such witness-bearing is not at all necessary, for that their system of doctrines is the true witness [for Christ], with the exception, perhaps, that one or two among them, during the whole time which has elapsed since the Lord appeared on earth, have occasionally, along with our martyrs, borne the reproach of the name (as if he too [the heretic] had obtained mercy), and have been led forth with them [to death], being, as it were, a sort of retinue granted unto them. For the Church alone sustains with purity the reproach of those who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, and endure all sorts of punishments, and are put to death because of the love which they bear to God, and their confession of His Son; often weakened indeed, yet immediately increasing her members, and becoming whole again, after the same manner as her type, [Comp. above, xxxi. 2.] Lot’s wife, who became a pillar of salt. Thus, too, [she passes through an experience] similar to that of the ancient prophets, as the Lord declares, “For so persecuted they the prophets who were before you;” [Matt. v. 12.] inasmuch as she does indeed, in a new fashion, suffer persecution from those who do not receive the word of God, while the self-same spirit rests upon her [Comp. 1 Pet. iv. 14.] [as upon these ancient prophets].
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 33, Section 9 (all brackets in Schaff's edition, some as footnotes in Schaff)

This section casts a lot of light on the previous section. We see that Irenaeus is comparing churches with the churches of the heretics. When we shine that light back on the previous section, we get the following result:

"True knowledge is [that which consists in]" => What our church teaches, as opposed to what the heretics teach.

"the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world," => We teach the same thing that was taught by the apostles, but the heretics have departed from the apostles

"and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us," => our church didn't come from nowhere, like the heretics, it is the result of the apostles evangelizing and appointing elders, and those elders evangelizing and appointing other elders, and so forth down to the present time, we (Irenaeus included) being the latest generation of this process

"being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine," => The "true knowledge" of our church is guarded and preserved by a complete system of doctrine, doctrines that do not require forged Scriptures, whereas the heretics have incomplete systems of doctrines and rely on apocryphal scriptures

"and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes];" => We are not adding or removing truths like the heretics are

"and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification," => We read Scriptures exegetically, not eisegetically, like the heretics

"and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy;" => We avoid danger and blasphemy by comparing Scripture with Scripture

"and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]" => We have a true love for God, whereas the heretics do not (that love being shown in martyrdom)

In short, not to impose too systematic a structure on Irenaeus, we could say that "true knowledge" is:
1) Ecclesiastically, to be connected to the apostles by being under those who were under those who were under those who were under the apostles;
2) Doctrinally, to derive one's teachings from the Scriptures by comparing Scripture with Scripture, not fabricating either Scripture itself or the sense thererof; and
3) Practically, to love God, even to be willing to die for his Name.

While (1) may seem to favor supposedly "ancient" churches like Rome, that's a rather different issue from the issue we are discussing. In point of fact, on doctrine (item 2), we find Irenaeus pointing us to Scripture, suggesting that our doctrines must harmonize with Scripture, not the other way 'round.

We find further confirmation of this reading of section 8 not only from section 9 but also from looking back to section 7. I've already discussed the second half of section 7, but let's look now at the first half:
He shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, [positively] destroy it,—men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel. [Matt. xxiii. 24.] For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 33, Section 7 (all brackets in Schaff's edition, some as footnotes in Schaff)

Notice how well that fits with the explanation just given. The schismatic is one who breaks with the church over some improper reason (something trifling or arbitrary). Doing so shows a lack of love for God: while they act as though they are straining out some gnat of error, they swallow a camel (an enormous error). The only possible justification for schism is reformation, but such men as this are dividing over minor or arbitrary things, such any reformation that they theoretically could produce could not justify their actions.

As for the remaining part of section 7, as we saw above, it speaks of the Scriptural faith of the spiritual man and the fact that all things are consistent to him. Thus, we see the same three points in section 7 phrased one way, and section 8 phrased another way. However, no matter how we look at it, even the light most favorable to Rome, it doesn't say what Mr. Bellisario contends.

-TurretinFan

1 comment:

natamllc said...

For some silly reason, in passing last night, I caught a glimpse of the movie "Forest Gump" on the T.V.. Some years ago I happened to be visiting a friend who rented the movie after it was first released for video as a side entertainment for my visitation. So then I watched the full movie. Last night, in passing, I caught just a passing portion of it. In the movie Gump is on a bus bench recalling events of his life. Last night the sequence I saw he recalls the event of being shot when a soldier fighting in Vietnam. You are taken to it as it actually happened. Quite a technique of the screen writer. You are listening to him as he is speaking, sitting on the bus bench recounting the event and then you are taken back in time to what he is recalling.

Anyway, he was shot in the buttocks. In this sequence he is carrying a wounded soldier out of harms way and is shot and as he tells it, "something bit him", or something like that? After the sequence, you are back at the bus bench and the man who was listening to him at the bus bench at that time said, "it was a bullet" or something to that effect?

Long way to say this about that initial bit from Mr Bellisario at the beginning of this article, part 4:

"....Then Turretin Fan turns to butcher the words of Saint Irenaeus. One has to wonder when this guy will stop....".


AAAh, my response:

Anyone ever heard of the saying, "not until hell freezes over"?

There simply is no retreating or surrendering when our God is God, Our Triune. We are in this battle on earth until our own physical death.

As for those before His actual resurrection, God was known and is known only as the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". Now that Christ has come in a body, we "know" Them as Our God, God, Our Heavenly Father, God, the Lord Jesus Christ and God, the Blessed Holy Ghost, these Three Who are One; "I Am Who I Am".

What it seems to me Mr. Bellisario has missed and God has not told him is there is now a transfer of "knowing" Them. Here, it seems to me, is what the papacy is all about. This is that falsehood that confuses so many. The papacy no longer want you seeing God through the faithful exploits of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but now, as they want you to believe, you "must" only see God, God, Our Heavenly Father, God, the Lord Jesus Christ and God, the Holy Ghost through their "Pope's" eyes only and through the eyes of that system. This falsehood, needless to say nullifies the Word that, "we all shall know Them".

Heb 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Heb 8:11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
Heb 8:12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."



Let the Church rise up now and finish the task given:::>

Psa 149:1 Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Psa 149:2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Psa 149:3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
Psa 149:4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
Psa 149:5 Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.
Psa 149:6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
Psa 149:7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,
Psa 149:8 to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
Psa 149:9 to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!