Sunday, November 08, 2009

Perspicuity of Scripture Contra Bellisario - Part 12

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 concluding remarks. His own words are as follows:
This whole post by TF as far as I am concerned was the real flimsy flam. Cutting and pasting quotes out of their historical context, as well as their original intent, seems to be the only play these guys can come up with. All it takes is a bit of looking into whom the writer was addressing, and for what reason he was addressing them, to see that all of these quotes support the Catholic position, not the "Reformed" apologist. It is quite amusing to see Turretin Fan's pals going over and congratulating him on this post, all highfiving each other as if he had just defended their position successfully. In every one of these quotes that refers to the ease of understanding the Scriptures it is understood by the author to be within the Church, with valid apostolic succession. Somehow Turretin Fan thinks he is reading them from within that context that these Fathers all attest to. I beg to differ.
I answer:

We've now seen each of Mr. Bellisario's attempts to respond to the quotations presented. We've demonstrated that he failed to undermine any of the quotations provided, and that he had to resort to building straw men in order to have any success at all. Those straw men were, in some cases, defeated. Nevertheless, the original point - that the church fathers confessed that much of Scripture is clear - remains.

And we could augment our list with many more quotations:

Alexander of Alexandria:
Oh, the impious arrogance! Oh, the immeasurable madness! Oh, the vainglory befitting those that are crazed! Oh, the pride of Satan which has taken root in their unholy souls. The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them no shame, nor did the consentient doctrine of our colleagues concerning Christ keep in check their audacity against Him. Their impiety not even the demons will bear, who are ever on the watch for a blasphemous word uttered against the Son.
- Alexander of Alexandria, Epistle to Alexander of Constantinople, Section 10

Who, then, would dare to deny the oneness of Name, when he sees the oneness of the working. But why should I maintain the unity of the Name by arguments, when there is the plain testimony of the Divine Voice that the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one? For it is written: "Go, baptize all nations in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." [Matthew 28:19] He said, "in the Name," not "in the Names." So, then, the Name of the Father is not one, that of the Son another, and that of the Holy Spirit another, for God is one; the Names are not more than one, for there are not two Gods, or three Gods.
- Ambrose, On the Holy Spirit, Book I, Chapter 13, Section 132

So I, who have written these things, even if some of the words do not agree with what other speakers have said, yet say this; that those sages have spoken well, yet it seemed good to me to speak thus. And if any man shall speak and demonstrate to me about any matter, I will receive instruction from him without contention. Everyone who reads the sacred scriptures, both former and latter, in both covenants, and reads with persuasion, will learn and teach. But if he strives about anything that he does not understand, his mind does not receive teaching. But if he finds words that are too difficult for him, and he does not understand their force, let him say thus, "Whatsoever is written is written well, but I have not attained to the understanding of it." And if he shall ask about the matters that are too hard for him of wise and discerning men who inquire into doctrine, then, when ten wise men shall speak to him in ten different ways about one matter, let him accept that which pleases him; and if any please not him, let him not scorn the sages; for the word of God is like a pearl, that has a beautiful appearance on whatever side you turn it.
- Aphrahat, Demonstration 22, Section 26

This, therefore, is the word of censure upon the children of Israel, because they read Moses and yet do not understand him, and refuse to turn to the Lord; for it is He that was prophesied of by Moses as about to come. This, then, is the veil which was placed upon the face of Moses, and this also is his testament; for he says in the law: "A prince shall not be wanting from Judah, nor a leader from his thighs, until He come whose he is; and He will be the expectation of the nations: who shall bind His foal unto the vine, and His ass's colt unto the choice vine; He shall wash His garments in wine, and His clothes in the blood of grapes; His eyes shall be suffused with wine, and His teeth white with milk; "and so on. Moreover, he indicated who He was, and whence He was to come. For he said: "The Lord God will raise up unto you, a Prophet from among your brethren, like me: unto Him hearken." Now it is plain that this cannot be understood to have been said of Jesus the son of Nun. For there is nothing of this circumcision found in him. After him, too, there have still been kings from Judah; and consequently this prophecy is far from being applicable to him. And this is the veil which is on Moses; for it was not, as some among the unlearned perhaps fancy, any piece of linen cloth, or any skin that covered his face. But the apostle also takes care to make this plain to us, when he tells us that the veil is put on in the reading of the Old Testament, inasmuch as they who are called Israel from olden time still look for the coming of Christ, and perceive not that the princes have been wanting from Judah, and the leaders from his thighs; as even at present we see them in subjection to kings and princes, and paying tribute to these, without having any power left to them either of judgment or of punishment, such as Judah certainly had, for after he had condemned Thamar, he was able also to justify her. "But you will also see your life hang (in doubt) before your eyes."
- Archelaus, Acts of the Disputation with Manes, Section 43

Basil the Great:
The object of the apostle in thus writing was not to introduce the diversity of nature, but to exhibit the notion of Father and of Son as unconfounded. That the phrases are not opposed to one another and do not, like squadrons in war marshalled one against another, bring the natures to which they are applied into mutual conflict, is perfectly plain from the passage in question. The blessed Paul brings both phrases to bear upon one and the same subject, in the words "of him and through him and to him are all things." [Romans 11:36] That this plainly refers to the Lord will be admitted even by a reader paying but small attention to the meaning of the words.
- Basil the Great, Of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 5, Section 7

Clement of Alexandria:
But if from any creature they received in any way whatever the seeds of the Truth, they did not nourish them; but committing them to a barren and rainless soil, they choked them with weeds, as the Pharisees revolted from the Law, by introducing human teachings—the cause of these being not the Teacher, but those who choose to disobey. But those of them who believed the Lord's advent and the plain teaching of the Scriptures, attain to the knowledge of the law; as also those addicted to philosophy, by the teaching of the Lord, are introduced into the knowledge of the true philosophy: "For the oracles of the Lord are pure oracles, melted in the fire, tried in the earth, purified seven times." Just as silver often purified, so is the just man brought to the test, becoming the Lord's coin and receiving the royal image.
- Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, Book 6, Chapter 7

Clement of Rome:
You are fond of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation. Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.
- Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 45

Cyprian of Carthage:
Nor does the wickedness of the impious ever rise up against the name we bear, without immediate vengeance from above attending it. To say nothing of the memories of ancient times, and not to recur with wordy commemoration to frequently repeated vengeance on behalf of God's worshippers, the instance of a recent matter is sufficient to prove that our defence, so speedily, and in its speed so powerfully, followed of late in the ruins of things, in the destruction of wealth, in the waste of soldiers, and the diminution of forts. Nor let any one think that this occurred by chance, or think that it was fortuitous, since long ago Scripture has laid down, and said. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord." [Romans 12:19] And again the Holy Spirit forewarns, and says, "Say not, I will avenge myself of mine enemy, but wait on the Lord, that He may be your help." [Proverbs 20:22] Whence it is plain and manifest, that not by our means, but for our sakes, all those things are happening which come down from the anger of God.
- Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 5, Section 17

Cyril of Alexandria:
All things are plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge, as it is written, but darksome to the foolish is even that which is exceeding easy. For the truly wise hearer shuts up the more obvious teaching in the treasury of his understanding, not admitting any delay in respect of this: but as to the things the meaning whereof is hard, he goes about with his enquiries, and does not cease asking about them; and he seems to me profitably to press on to do much the same as they say that the fleetest dogs of the chase do, who having from nature great quickness of scent, keep running round the haunts of their game.
- Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, Book 4, Chapter 2, at John 6:52-53

Cyril of Jerusalem:
This is the first proof: receive now a second plain one. The Lord said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand. The Lord says this to the Lord, not to a servant, but to the Lord of all, and His own Son, to whom He put all things in subjection. But when He says that all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him, and what follows; that God may be all in all. [1 Corinthians 15:27-28] The Only-begotten Son is Lord of all, but the obedient Son of the Father, for He grasped not the Lordship , but received it by nature of the Father's own will. For neither did the Son grasp it, nor the Father grudge to impart it. He it is who says, All things are delivered unto Me of My Father ; "delivered unto Me, not as though I had them not before; and I keep them well, not robbing Him who has given them."
- Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 10, Section 9

Ephraim the Syrian:
How strangely perplexed are all the heretics by simple things! For when He plainly foreshadowed this New Testament by that of the Prophets, those pitiable men rose, as though from sleep, and shouted out and made a disturbance. And the Way, wherein the righteous held straight on, and by theirtruths had gone forth therein, that [Way] have these broken up, because they were besotted: this they left and went out of; because they pried, an evil searching, [yea,] an evil babbling led them astray.
- Ephraim the Syrian, The Pearl, Hymn 6, Section 3

Gregory the Great:
Although all knowledge and all lore Sacred Scripture without all comparison far excels, to say nothing that it tells forth what is true; that it bids to the heavenly country; that it changes the heart of him that reads it from earthly desires to the embracing of things Above; that by its obscurer statements it exercises the strong, and by its humble strain speaks gently to the little ones; that it is neither so shut up, that it should come to be dreaded, nor so open to view as to become contemptible; that by use it removes weariness, and is the more delighted in the more it is meditated on; that the mind of him, who reads it, by words of a low pitch it assists, and by meanings of a lofty flight uplifts; that in some sort it grows with the persons reading, that by uninstructed readers it is in a manner reviewed, and yet by the well instructed is always found new; so then to say nothing of the weightiness of the subjects, it goes beyond all forms of knowledge and teaching even by the mere manner of its style of speaking, because in one and the same thread of discourse, while it relates the text, it declares a mystery, and has the art so to tell the past, that merely by that alone it knows how to announce the future, and the order of telling remaining unaltered, is instructed by the very self-same forms of speech at once to describe things done before, and to tell things destined to be done, just as it is with these same words of blessed Job, who while he tells his own circumstances foretells ours, and while he points out his own sorrows in respect of the phrase, sounds of the cases and occasions of Holy Church in respect of the meaning.
- Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Book 20, Section 1 (Anglican Translators for the Parker Edition)

Here's an alternative translation of the same thing:
Sacred Scripture so incomparably transcends all human knowledge and learning that I am reduced to silence. It proclaims the truth; calls to the heavenly fatherland; changes the heart of the reader from earthly desires to embracing higher ones. It challenges the strong with its more obscure expressions, while attracting little ones with simple speech. It is not so inaccessible that one should be frightened, nor so obvious that it becomes cheap. Familiarity with it takes away boredom; and the more one meditates on it, the more one loves it. It helps the soul of the reader with simple words, raises it with sublime meanings. In a certain sense it grows with the one who reads. The uneducated, in part, appraise it, while on the other hand the learned are always finding new things in it.
- Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Book 20, Section 1 (Dennis J. Murphy translation, transcription courtesy of StupidScholar)

Eran.— Then the Christ is only a man.

Orth.— God forbid. On the contrary, we have again and again confessed that He is not only man but eternal God. But He suffered as man, not as God. And this the divine Apostle clearly teaches us when he says "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." And in his letter to the Thessalonians, he strengthens his argument concerning the general resurrection by that of our Saviour in the passage "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."
- Theodoret, Dialogue 3

And we could go on and on, whether alphabetically (as above), or by going back to those whom we have already read:

For, what belongs to men beloved, they who love them know above all others; because they are interested in them. And this also this blessed Apostle shows in what he said to the Philippians; “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel.” (Phil. i. 7.) And so ye also, if ye be willing to apply to the reading of him with a ready mind, will need no other aid. For the word of Christ is true which saith, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. vii. 7.) But since the greater part of those who here gather themselves to us, have taken upon themselves the bringing up of children, and the care of a wife, and the charge of a family, and for this cause cannot afford to all events aroused to receive those things which have been brought together by others, and bestow as much attention upon the hearing of what is said as ye give to the gathering together of goods. For although it is unseemly to demand only so much of you, yet still one must be content if ye give as much. For from this it is that our countless evils have arisen—from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this that there are negligent lives; from this labors without advantage. For as men deprived of this daylight would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must needs be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking the worst darkness. And that this fall not out, let us hold our eyes open to the bright shining of the Apostle’s words; for this man’s tongue shone forth above the sun, and be abounded more than all the rest in the word of doctrine; for since he labored more abundantly than they, he also drew upon himself a large measure of the Spirit’s grace. (1 Cor. xv. 10.) And this I constantly affirm, not only from his Epistles, but also from the Acts. For if there were anywhere a season for oratory, to him men everywhere gave place.
- Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Argument, Section 1. (courtesy of Pastor David King)

And again:
For those without----philosphers, rhetoricians, and annalists, not striving for the common good, but having in view their own renown----if they said anything useful, even this they involved in their usual obscurity, as in a cloud. But the apostles and prophets always did the very opposite; they, as the common instructors of the world, made all that they delivered plain to all men, in order that every one, even unaided, might be able to learn by the mere reading. Thus also the prophet spake before, when he said, "All shall be taught of God," (Isa. liv. 13.) "And they shall no more say, every one to his neighbour, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest," (Jer. xxxi. 34.) St Paul also says, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech, or of wisdom, declaring unto you the mystery of God," (1 Cor. ii. 1.) And again, "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," (1 Cor. ii. 4.) And again, "We speak wisdom," it is said, "but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world that come to nought," (1 Cor. ii. 6.) For to whom is not the gospel plain? Who is it that hears, "Blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart," and such things as these, and needs a teacher in order to understand any of the things spoken?
- Chrysostom, Four Discourses on the Rich Man and Lazarus, Discourse 3, Section 3

Or especially by going to those who are among the first few generations of the church:

Justin Martyr:
And Trypho said, “Prove now that this is the case, that we also may agree with you. For we do not understand you to affirm that He has done or said anything contrary to the will of the Maker of all things.”

Then I said, “The Scripture just quoted by me will make this plain to you. It is thus: ‘The sun was risen on the earth, and Lot entered into Segor (Zoar); and the Lord rained on Sodom sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and overthrew these cities and all the neighbourhood.’ ” [Gen. xix. 23.]
- Justin Martyr, Dialog with Trypho, Chapter 56

We could even look to Mr. Bellisario himself who has stated (of Hebrews):
I believe I have worked through the text. You are reading into the text. It is plain that the sacrifice of Christ is being compared to the Old sacrifices. Read the whole text.

And again:
Saint Augustine did not teach strict predestination. You must follow the correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture and not make up your own. It is plain in sacred Scripture that whole households were baptized. The whole early church practiced this. This is a fact. To argue against infant baptism is denying reality.

or to John Paul II:
It is interesting that the Athenians, who recognized many gods (pagan polytheism), should have heard these words about the one God, the Creator, without raising objections. This seems to confirm that the truth about creation constitutes a meeting-point between those who profess different religions. Perhaps the truth about creation is rooted in an innate and fundamental way in diverse religions, even if they do not have sufficiently clear concepts, such as those contained in Sacred Scripture.
- John Paul II, General Audience, 15 January 1986

In fact, everyone can see that much of Scripture is plain, and apologists tend to recognize this more than others. For the Romanist apologist, as has been pointed out for hundreds of years, Scripture is always plainly teaching this or that until it becomes convenient to attempt to deny the perspicuity of Scripture.

This, therefore, concludes our rebuttal of Mr. Bellisario and his attempt to avoid the plain truth that Scripture is full of plain truth.

- TurretinFan


Viisaus said...

Bellisario is a typically dishonest Roman apologist. He is like a lawyer defending a guilty client (the RCC) - even if he were otherwise honest in his personal life, his profession forces him to deny the truth.

p. 179

"Mr. Gladstone's lifelong Roman Catholic friend, the late Lord Acton, once wrote to him: "Ultramontanism inculcates distinct mendacity and deceitfulness. In certain cases it is a duty to lie.""

Turretinfan said...

I don't know whether Bellisario is consciously dishonest in the defense of his religion. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he's just been deceived into believe the lies of the RCC.