Saturday, November 07, 2009

Perspicuity of Scripture Contra Bellisario - Part 11

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:
Continuing on through this mess is now proving to be a boring task as we can see that the quotes he uses are taken out of their proper context. What I find to be amusing is that Turretin uses a quote that defeats his own argument. I don't have to say much here, I will just quote exactly what he wrote and see if the text he quotes supports his argument, or defeats it. Does Turretin think that no one will read the text he quoted? Does he expect us to all ignore the parts where Irenaeus is clearly telling us that it is Scripture and Tradition that he appeals to? Does TF know that Irenaeus is referring to the gnostic heresy which proposed that there was a secret oral tradition which interpreted them with this esoteric philosophical understanding?

In fact Irenaeus tells us that there is an authentic Tradition and not a gnostic or secret one known only to this sect. In fact he tells us that the Gnostics are not going by apostolic Tradition, but one of their own making which denied Scripture as being a part of. It is this esoteric knowledge which Irenaeus rebels against. Also once again I point out that there was no New Testament at the time as a canon. The Scriptures Irenaeus is referring to here is most probable the Old Testament to which the gnostics were famous for butchering with their supposed esoteric knowledge which they presumed surpassed that of the Old Testament Scriptures. Let the text speak for itself.

TF writes,
But what about those folks who claim that Scripture is ambiguous and cannot be understood without tradition? We give them the following answer from tradition:

When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce: wherefore also Paul declared, “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world” [1 Cor. ii. 6]. And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself.

2. But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.

3. Such are the adversaries with whom we have to deal, my very dear friend, endeavouring like slippery serpents to escape at all points. Where-fore they must be opposed at all points, if per-chance, by cutting off their retreat, we may succeed in turning them back to the truth. For, though it is not an easy thing for a soul under the influence of error to repent, yet, on the other hand, it is not altogether impossible to escape from error when the truth is brought alongside it.
I answer:

Unfortunately, Mr. Bellisario does not understand that the quotation defeats his position, not mine. We appeal to tradition just as Irenaeus did. We don't do it because tradition is a separate source of infallible authority, but because folks like the Gnostics and Roman Catholics think that it is. We show that they hold neither to Scripture nor Tradition, preferring their own inventions to both.

Mr. Bellisario would like to read into Irenaeus a modern Roman Catholic view of tradition, but Irenaeus himself doesn't say what Rome says. Irenaeus does not claim that tradition is necessary in order to understand Scripture: he ascribes that error to the Gnostics. Irenaeus acknowledges (as we do) the reality of tradition, but does not make it infallible, as Mr. Bellisario would wish.

But what further answer is needed when Mr. Bellisario does not even present arguments as to this particular quotation? Hopefully the above explanation will suffice to show that the quotation demonstrates that Irenaeus did just what we do: show that the enemies of Scripture claim to adhere to tradition, but in fact hold to neither Scripture nor tradition.


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