TF then moves on to Saint John Chrysostom to try and prove that the Scriptures are easy to understand. He writes,I answer:
One wonders whether Mr. Shea is even aware of what John Chrysostom (A.D. 347 - 407) spoke about the perspicuity of Scripture:
What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain. But because ye are hearers for pleasure’s sake, for that reason also you seek these things. For tell me, with what pomp of words did Paul speak? and yet he converted the world. Or with what the unlettered Peter? But I know not, you say, the things that are contained in the Scriptures. Why? For are they spoken in Hebrew? Are they in Latin, or in foreign tongues? Are they not in Greek? But they are expressed obscurely, you say: What is it that is obscure? Tell me. Are there not histories? For (of course) you know the plain parts, in that you enquire about the obscure. There are numberless histories in the Scriptures. Tell me one of these. But you cannot. These things are an excuse, and mere words. Every day, you say, one hears the same things. Tell me, then, do you not hear the same things in the theaters? Do you not see the same things in the race-course? Are not all things the same? Is it not always the same sun that rises? Is it not the same food that we use? I should like to ask you, since you say that you every day hear the same things; tell me, from what Prophet was the passage that was read? from what Apostle, or what Epistle? But you cannot tell me—you seem to hear strange things. When therefore you wish to be slothful, you say that they are the same things. But when you are questioned, you are in the case of one who never heard them. If they are the same, you ought to know them. But you are ignorant of them.
- John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on 2 Thessalonians
Did TF learn why the great Saint was writing this or in what context? I think we have a case of cut and paste here. Lets look at what the great Saint is talking about here. First of all this is a homily on 2 Thessalonians 9, 10 “Who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His might, when He shall come to be glorified in His Saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed.” In it the Saint is disappointed by those coming to Church who think that the Gospel is only something that is coming from him. He is upset that they are not taking the reading of the Scriptures in the Liturgy to heart as the word of God, so he scolds them for it telling them to study the Scriptures because that is where he is getting his information from that he preaches on. This of course is the custom of the Church, to preach on the Scripture of the liturgical day. He is upset that they are not paying attention to the readings, rather they pay more attention to the writings of secular rulers. This understanding from the perspective of Saint John comes with faith within the Church. In reading the text before and after the cut and paste that Turretin Fan used, we can see that he understands the Scriptures to be plainly understood in the context of laboring to understand them in faith and in the Liturgy. Lets look at some of the text before the text quoted, leading into part of it.
They think when they enter in here, that they enter into our presence, they think that what they hear they hear from us. They do not lay to heart, they do not consider, that they are entering into the presence of God, that it is He who addresses them. For when the Reader standing up says, “Thus saith the Lord,” and the Deacon stands and imposes silence on all, he does not say this as doing honor to the Reader, but to Him who speaks to all through him. If they knew that it was God who through His prophet speaks these things, they would cast away all their pride. For if when rulers are addressing them, they do not allow their minds to wander, much less would they, when God is speaking. We are ministers, beloved. We speak not our own things, but the things of God, letters coming from heaven are every day read.
Tell me then, I beseech you, if now, when we are all present some one entered, having a golden girdle, and drawing himself up, and with an air of consequence said that he was sent by the king that is on the earth, and that he brought letters to the whole city concerning matters of importance; would you not then be all turned towards him? Would you not, without any command from a deacon, observe a profound silence? Truly I think so. For I have often heard letters from kings read here. Then if any one comes from a king, you all attend; and does a Prophet come from God, and speak from heaven, and 388no one attend? Or do you not believe that these things are messages from God? These are letters sent from God; therefore let us enter with becoming reverence into the Churches, and let us hearken with fear to the things here said.
What do I come in for, you say, if I do not hear some one discoursing? This is the ruin and destruction of all. For what need of a person to discourse? This necessity arises from our sloth. Wherefore any necessity for a homily? All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain.
Here Saint John is clearly upset that those who are attending are not paying attention and are living in sloth. They are not listening to the Scriptures in a state of grace, but of contempt. Saint John is merely pointing out that for those who are attentive, and those who believe, they will understand the Scriptures. In fact just after this passage he closes by urging these people to labor at understanding the Scriptures because they are guilty of being lazy and not applying themselves to the Scriptures. It is clear that Saint John believes that the Scriptures are only easy to understand to those that really believe and have faith, not just anyone who decides to read them.
"This state of things is worthy of lamentation—of lamentation and complaint: for the coiner coineth but in vain. For this you ought more especially to attend, because they are the same things, because we give you no labor, nor speak things that are strange or variable. What then, since you say, that those are the same things, but our discourses are not the same things, but we always speak things that are new to you, do you pay heed to these? By no means. But if we say, Why do you not retain even these? “We hear them but once,” you say, “and how can we retain them?” If we say, Why do ye not attend to those other things? “The same things,” you say, “are always said”—and every way these are words of sloth and excuse. But they will not always serve, but there will be a time when we shall lament in vain and without effect. Which may God forbid, and grant that having repented here, and attending with understanding and godly fear to the things spoken, we may both be urged on to the due performance of good works, and may amend our own lives with all diligence, that we may be able to obtain the blessings promised to those who love Him, by the grace and lovingkindness, &c."
This is not the ace in the hole Turretin thought he had found. This is an exposition on the problems that Saint John had with people being lazy not paying attention or taking the Scriptures seriously. Saint John is not saying that the essentials are in the Scriptures alone, nor that they never need to be explained. We can see this in his continued homily on 2nd Thess 2:15 where he clearly appeals to the Church and Tradition as well as Sacred Scripture.
“So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours.”
Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther. Here he shows that there were many who were shaken.
Right off the bat, notice how Mr. Bellisario attempts to redirect away from the perspicuity of the necessary to the things back to the straw man of the perspicuity of Scriptures in general.
Mr. Bellisario expresses some initial concern that I might be unfamiliar with the context. His concern is unfounded, but it is nice to see that in this case Mr. Bellisario at least attempts, on some level, to interact with the context of what Chrysostom is saying. Of course, nothing that Mr. Bellisario says is going to overthrow the fact that Chrysostom states: "All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain." Nevertheless, let's examine Mr. Bellisario's contention.
Mr. Bellisario contends that Chrysostom is concerned because people are not paying adequate attention to the reading of Scripture during the worship service. He provides a quotation, which demonstrates that Chrysostom felt like the people were treating the readings from Scripture as though they were merely the teachings of the church rather than the very word of God. So far, we see no real problem with what Mr. Bellisario is saying.
Eventually, however, Mr. Bellisario makes a puzzling shift. First he makes the reasonable comment, "In fact just after this passage he closes by urging these people to labor at understanding the Scriptures because they are guilty of being lazy and not applying themselves to the Scriptures," but then he follows this by the assertion: "It is clear that Saint John believes that the Scriptures are only easy to understand to those that really believe and have faith, not just anyone who decides to read them." Such an assertion is not at all "clear." In fact, it is not supported by any of the discussion that Mr. Bellisario has provided. Chrysostom does not provide any such qualification on his statement.
After providing the quotation again, Mr. Bellisario again notes that this was directed to the lazy members of Chrysostom's church and then asserts: "Saint John is not saying that the essentials are in the Scriptures alone, nor that they never need to be explained." This claim of Bellisario is odd, because it is not targeted toward the argument that we had used. We agree with Mr. Bellisario's characterization, and simply note that it is irrelevant to the argument.
The final portion of Mr. Bellisario's response is to refer us to another homily from Chrysostom. In this other homily, we find the following lines:
Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther. Here he shows that there were many who were shaken.- Chrysostom, Homily 4 on 2 Thessalonians, at 2 Thessalonians 2:15
Of course, this has nothing to do with perspicuity. It does, however, make reference to "unwritten" traditions that are "tradition of the Church" and are worthy of credit. What Mr. Bellisario cannot do is identify what this "unwritten tradition" is. Chrysostom does not identify it, and we can reasonably understand Chrysostom to be referring to traditional practices, not a separate body of oral teachings. What Chrysostom is certainly not referring to is the idea of an evolving body of developing tradition - an infallible magisterium producing new authoritative dogma.