Friday, March 06, 2009

Question for My Muslim Readers

Today I stumbled across an interesting question for my Muslim readers. The question is, how can Mohamed be called the greatest prophet? The question provides evidence from the Koran itself to document the idea that, even based solely on the Koran, Jesus was a greater prophet than any other prophet. Please consider reading and thinking about this question before you answer (link).

I should be quick to point out that the reason why I believe that Jesus was greater than Mohamed was not only the sorts of things laid out in the linked question, but specifically the fact that Jesus was (and is) both God and man, in two distinct natures and one person.

In terms of specific evidence, I direct you to the fact that not only did Jesus himself raise the dead, but on the third day after the crucifixion of the Messiah, God raised Jesus from the dead.


No End in Sight for Misquotation of Athanasius

After posting some updates to my original article (link), I stopped by Mr. Albrecht's video page, hoping against hope that Mr. Albrecht might have had the sense to apologize for his own (and his fellow apologists') misquotation of Pseudo-Athanasius as Athanasius. My hopes were dashed. Instead, I found a new video in which:
  • He repeats the same "King of Athanasius' quotes" nonsense.
  • He repeats the same infallible canon of Athanasius' quotes nonsense.
  • He repeats the same irrelevant argument about Athanasius knowing Coptic.
  • He repeats the same nonsense about there being no standard lists of Athanasian works.
  • He repeats the same confusion over the difference between a "Marianite" and a "Mariologist" with respect to Mr. Gambero's bias.
  • He repeats the same confusion regarding my presentation of the charitable option that the error in Gambero's English book may be simply an error of translation from the Italian original to English.

He makes further blunders as well:
  • He claims that the work is "anonymous." It is not "anonymous" - it is pseudographic. If Mr. Albrecht had read the article in Le Muséon he would have known this.
  • He claims that standard lists of the works of Athanasius (as contrasted to the dubious and spurious works attributed to him) are a "fairy tale." Ironically, I had just provided entries from two such lists in updating my original article.

Finally, and most tragically, Mr. Albrecht misses the point of the article. Aside from the English translation of Gambero, Mr. Albrecht cannot find any scholar who views this work as authentic. In other words, Mr. Albrecht has found absolutely no one to back Mr. Gambero up. Virtually all the scholarly references to this work identify it as Pseudo-Athanasius - and even the few that do not use that designation call it a "homily attributed to Athanasius" rather than trying to pass off the work as authentically Athanasian.

Mr. Albrecht has not found out why scholars don't consider the work to be authentic, and frankly he doesn't seem to be interested in finding out. Mr. Albrecht has not, as far as anyone can tell from his videos, actually tried to track down the reasons why scholars do not consider this work authentic.

Despite this, Albrecht continues to try to justify his own and his colleagues' use of this work with the attribution "Athanasius" instead of "Pseudo-Athanasius." It's absolutely amazing. It's almost as though Mr. Albrecht cannot admit he's wrong about anything. In fact, his video doesn't admit any of the mistakes already highlighted in his previous videos, and I have no hope (any more) that his future videos will apologize for the repeated mistakes of his current video.

Still, I invite Mr. Albrecht to do his homework, and when he has satisfied himself that the work is (at best) dubious, that he do what most scholars do, and cite the work as "Pseudo-Athanasius" rather than "Athanasius."


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Response to Nick Regarding Spiral Argument and Private Judgment

Nick has provided a response to my rebuttal of Karl Keating's "Spiral Argument" (link).

Nick wrote: "I think you should distinguish between private judgment and a circular argument. Each of those terms correspond to different issues."

That's true. They do often correspond to different issues. The come together, however, because the spiral argument employs private judgment.

Nick wrote: "Private judgment involves looking at some data and coming to a personal conclusion. You are right to point out that everyone must engage in private judgment."


Nick wrote: "A circular argument is when something that is trying to be proven true is in fact (re)stated as it's own evidence/witness."

That's more or less the case. It could be worded other ways.

Nick wrote: "Private judgment, at least to some degree, is necessary and alright. A circular argument, which is not the same thing, is neither necessary nor alright."

ok ...

Nick wrote: "The "spiral argument" is not circular, but does require private judgment."

I explained why it is circular in my original article. Unfortunately, your comment does not address the explanation found there.

Nick wrote: "Basing the Bible's inspiration on it's own testimony is circular and no different than what a Mormon does with the Book of Mormon."

a) The reason why the Bible says that it is inspired is so that we will believe it. Any other reason for why the Bible says it is borderline irrational. The reason that the Bible makes statements is so that they will be believed, as can be seen for example, from John's Gospel:

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

b) Believing that the Bible is inspired because the Bible says it, isn't employing a circular argument. It's not an argument at all. It's a proclamation. The Bible proclaims the truth, and it can be believed or not.

c) If one calls that a circular argument, though, then - as I pointed out in my post, it turns out that similar circularity exists within the spiral argument.

d) The comparison to the Mormons is irrelevant. We don't accept things based on whether Mormons reject them, and we don't reject things based on whether Mormons accept them. Getting into what Mormons actually believe to dispute this is a waste of time that I won't bother with, right now.

Nick: "When you said: "Rather than simply accepting the Bible as Inspired Word of God based on one private judgment, this "spiral" argument requires one to employ private judgment over and over and over again." This is a mixing of circular argument and private judgment."

No, it's not. It's a comment that focuses on the advantage of a "smaller circle" if a "circle" must be used and if "private judgment" is bad.

Nick: "Catholics are not deriving Church authority nor Scripture's inspiration from a circular argument, but we are engaging in private judgment."

I explained how circular reasoning is used in the original article.

Nick: "We are looking at the historical evidence and coming to a conclusion."

The Bible is itself the primary historical evidence relied upon. Why not just say, "We are looking at the Bible and coming to a conclusion"? I think it is partly because that is what "Protestants" are being faulted for.

Furthermore, the Bible (or equivalent evidence) as historical evidence doesn't lead one to the issue of infallibility/inspiration. What I mean to say is that the Bible as historical evidence can substantiate a claim that Jesus told the apostles to found churches. Even if we assume (for the sake of the argument) that the Bible disclosed Jesus founding a single, globally-scoped institutional church, that doesn't get us to infallibility/inspiration of that entity - and it cannot. The infallibility/inspiration is not, strictly speaking, a question of history.

Nick wrote: "We could be very wrong in our conclusion, either because the evidence is bad or we miscalculated, or both, but that is not at all the same as a circular argument."

No, the circularity comes in as I stated in my original article.

Nick wrote: "The real issue is who can present the stronger argument and that usually rests upon who's argument requires us to assume the least."

One real issue is whether the Bible requires an infallible interpreter in order to be reliably understood.

Another real issue is whether the Bible anywhere teaches that "the church" is infallible.

The truth of the matter is the real issue, not the "strength of the argument."

Nick: "An element of faith (private judgment) is certainly always present, but not all arguments are equal."


Nick: "A Mormon accepting the Book of Mormon on 'burning in the bosom' is not as strong an argument as a Christian looking to historical evidence that the Scriptures were preserved (among other factors)."

There is some faulty parallelism here. The historical evidence of the Scripture's preservation tells us that we know what it said when it was written. It doesn't tell us whether the Scripture is inspired or not. Since the Book of Mormon was only recently written, that's essentially a non-issue. There's no historical way to investigate the golden plates claim to any earlier authorship date than Joseph Smith's own life.

But this "strength of the argument" issue is rather subjective. Some people find one argument strong (i.e. it persuades them better) and another weak - for others it is reversed.

Certainly, we could probably agree on certain defects that make arguments less persuasive in general. If reliance on private judgment is bad or if faith is bad, we can evaluate two arguments to see whether one of the two arguments uses "more" faith or "more" private judgment.

Nick: "Moving onto a specifically Catholic-Protestant issue, the canon of Scripture, each side must engage in private interpretation."

Each person must exercise private judgment. It's not necessarily a question of interpretation, as such.

Nick: "The 'deciding issue' is which side presents a more coherent case for why one canon is accepted over another."

The deciding issue should be "which side is right." The argument is the demonstration of that issue.

Nick: "Pointing to Fathers and Councils who share a particular canon is far more of an argument/evidence from which to based your private judgment on than claiming the various books give a inner conviction of their inspiration."

The argument on the canon is virtually never "I have an inner conviction." So, again, there is faulty parallelism being employed. I assume that you intend to address "Protestant" position from the context of your comment, but your comment doesn't actually address the arguments used by "Protestants" regarding the canon.

Additionally, there is conflation of categories here. The ultimate answer to the question, "How do you know that Isaiah is canonical?" for the Reformed believer is that the Holy Spirit persuades him. On the other hand, the ultimate answer to the same question from the perspective of someone within Catholicism would seem to be, because Trent said so. But if we then pressed that issue back further, we start running into the same problem (if it is a problem), that some things are accepted by faith.

Nick wrote: "Again, a Catholic could be totally wrong when it comes to interpreting evidence, but that does not make it circular."

That was never my argument in the original article.


Steve Hays Almost Blows My Cover!

The juicy details can be found here (link).

Athanasius Misquotation Index Page

This page is designed to serve as an index for the discussion of the quotation of the so-called "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin" by various Romanist apologists. At first it will be a bit skeletal, but I hope to fill it out over time, depending on the level of response generated. I would be pleasantly surprised if it turned out to be a chronicle of those from the Roman side of the Tiber pleasantly acknowledging their error - but so far the experience has been just the opposite.

2008 Article Questioning the Authenticity of the Work
2009 Article Asserting that the Work is not Properly Considered Authentic
- Mr. Albrecht's Attempted Defense of the Quotation (link) and Mr. Ray's Support of Mr. Albrecht (link)
Response to Steve Ray/William Albrecht
- An attempted rebuttal by William (link)
Second Response to William Albrecht
- Mr. Hoffer Chimes in (link) - my response is below.
Response to Paul Hoffer
- More of the Same from Willaim (link) Answered in the Third Response, below.
Third Response to William Albrecht
- Yet More of the Same from William (link) All Albrecht's points relevant to the Athanasius question are already answered above.


Response to Paul Hoffer's Comments

Someone [Mr. James Swan] directed me to the comment box of an entry of David Waltz's blog where Mr. Hoffer has been providing some information and some misinformation (source). I'll respond to Mr. Hoffer's comments more or less line by line:

Hoffer: "One of the problems with Mr. Fan's (would he be considered a Pseudo-Turrettini since he posts anonymously?) attack is that he hasn't reviewed the actual text in question."

I answer: Mr. Hoffer has a problem with assuming things and passing them off as facts. This is an example. I had reviewed the actual text in question between the time I first raised this issue in 2008 and the time I posted the more definitive post in 2009. It is Mr. Hoffer who has not reviewed the actual text in question, nor did he even bother to ask me whether I had reviewed the actual text, before he posted his misinformation.

Hoffer: "He is merely googling what he thinks are references to it without verifying it."

I answer: This is also not true, for essentially the reasons indicated above. The fact that Mr. Hoffer starts by posting his assumptions as though they were fact seriously undermines his criticism.

Hoffer: "For example in one of the posts that Rev. Temple mentions, Mr. Fan cited to works by both Virginia Burrus and David Frankfurter as claiming that a pseudo-St. Athanasius wrote the quote. If he had gotten Burrus' work, he would have found that she is merely an editor of a book that contains a portion of previously mentioned work by Frankfurter. So there are not two citations, but merely one and Mr. Frankfurter does not state why he believes that it was written by a pseudo-Athanasius."

It is reasonable to point out that Burrus is the editor of the work, not an independent author. I have provided an update to the original 2009 post to clarify this, as well as to identify several other editors besides Burrus who have edited Frankfurter's works with the citation as pseudo-Athanasius.

[I omit a list of authentic writings that Mr. Hoffer provides.]

Mr. Hoffer: "Now without comparing each and every one of these citations (some of which have not been translated in English that I have found yet) against the particular work, how does he know that the particular text in question is actually spurious?"

This is where it is handy to resort to scholars who deal with the works of Athanasius. Having to compare each spurious or dubious work against all the other known works can be a momentual task, particularly with some of the more prolific authors like Origen or Augustine. In this case, that has been done.

Mr. Hoffer: "Now there is one thing that Mr. Fan is correct about-the work in question is not correctly labeled. Lefort's "L'homelie de St. Athanase des papyrus de Turin" does not translate from the French into English as Saint Athanasius' "The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin." It actually translates as "The Discourse of Saint Athanasius" from (or found in) the Turin papyri (plural), the Turin reference is a reference to the great museum in Turin that has substantial holdings of Eygptian papyri spanning over 3000 years. The problem with the translation is that French does not have a plural for papyrus. One has to look at the word "des" (de + les) to see that the reference is to a plural of the word."

Leaving aside the fact that "homily" would be a favored translation over "discourse" simply because of its cognate relationship, Mr. Hoffer is right that the "des" does imply a plurality of papyrus documents. Thus, Mr. Gambero's translation of the phrase (or his English editor/translator's translation) could have more accurately used the more awkward "papyri" in place of "papyrus."

Mr. Hoffer wrote: "I hope to have my hands on LeFort's work from Le Museon amd translations of the authentic works this weekend to do the due diligence that Mr. Fan should have done before writing his piece."

As noted above, Mr. Hoffer's criticism is misplaced because he himself didn't bother to investigate his own claims before making them. As noted above, I had brought this spurious (or, at best, dubious) quotation to Mr. Hoffer's attention in 2008 when he himself tried to use it. He indicated at that time that he was going to investigate the matter. Now, over half a year later, he is finally getting around to it, only after a more definitive post has been provided.

Mr. Hoffer wrote: "I will let you know what I come up with here and on my own blog."

This was Mr. Hoffer's comment on March 3, 2009, if the blogging software's date stamp is accurate. Scrolling down through that comment box, we find, later that day another post (source):

Hoffer: "BTW, I have already gotten ahold of one of the Pseudo-Athanasius' citations and determined that it does not refer to the same work as the so-called "The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin." I anticipate being able to clear some of this up or if nothing else shed some light on the matter somewhat soon."

This is probably because a Latin name for the work is the name that scholars typically use in such lists. That name is "Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria" ("Homily against Arius, of the holy mother of god Mary").

There was also an additional comment speculating on how the document came to be in Coptic and arguing that the obscurity of the text doesn't invalidate its truthfulness or authenticity. These are essentially tangents. As Mr. Hoffer went on to admit in yet another comment, "Language that a manuscript is written in is a factor that scholars weigh in determining the work's authenticity, but it is not sine qua non of the process."

Throughout the day of March 3, Mr. Hoffer posted a couple more posts, indicating (for example) that he had found out that one of the pseudo-Athanasian works is not the same as this homily, and that Lefort translated at least one work of Athanasius from the Coptic that is thought to be authentic (of course, it is not this particular work, so that's not a real issue).

When, late in the day judging by the time stamps, Mr. Hoffer discovered that I had actually read the article, he wrote: "To all, I see that Mr. Fan has posted another article on his website and it appears that he has obtained a copy of the 1958 edition of the Le Museon where the quote is taken from. Good for him! I am very glad that he has taken the time to review the magazine. It's unfortunate that he did not take the time to do that prior to writing his earlier piece. From what he is saying, it appears that the article does not claim that the text is either authentic or spurious. I hope to see for myself and will report my findings." (source)

Again, one wonders why Mr. Hoffer just assumes things and treats them as fact. Contrary to his negative assumption, I did do that "prior to writing [my] earlier piece" (though not, of course, prior to my very first comments on the subject in 2008, where I first raise the issue).

After that, I have seen nothing either in that comment box or Mr. Hoffer's blog. Of course, perhaps Mr. Hoffer is still tracking down the article from Le Muséon, or trying to verify that the work "Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria" is the same dubious/spurious work as the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.

I would think that Mr. Hoffer would reach no significantly different conclusion than I did once he has researched the evidence more fully. I hope, as he proceeds, that he will consider beginning from the more reasonable assumption that I check things first, before making claims about them.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Still Misquoting Athanasius as Steve Ray's Assistant Fails Again

This debacle began with my original article (link), continued with a first response from Ray/Albrecht (link), and now I am sad to see that rather than correct his quotation of a spurious work attributed to Athanasius, the man who Steve Ray has set forth to defend Mr. Ray's miscitation of a spurious source (Mr. William Albrecht) has continued his campaign of misinformation and insult (link to video). Mr. Albrecht spends the first two minutes of his video complaining about "poor scholarship" by Alpha and Omega Ministries and complaining about it "getting to the point that it is almost tiresome dealing with arguments that are so weak."

However tired or confused poor Mr. Albrecht must be, that is no excuse for his shoddy misrepresentation of the facts. Mr. Albrecht claims that "TurretinFan has made himself the King of Athanasius' quotes [sic], and he claims that this piece of work, that is attributed to Saint Athanasius, he claims [sic] is spurious not because any scholar or group of scholars claim it is, but because he is the Lord over Athansius' writings."

This kind of dishonesty is shameful: Mr. Albrecht should be ashamed of himself, and Mr. Ray should be ashamed of promoting this level of discourse. From the beginning I have appealed to scholars in the field rather than to any credentials of my own. I have named scholars and appealed to a broader scholarly consensus. However tired Mr. Albrecht may be, there is no excuse for his attempts to distort the facts.

And this isn't the only time I noticed Mr. Albrecht bending the truth:

  • When cornered on the issue of the fact that the manuscript wasn't discovered in the 20th century, he claims he never hinted anything to the contrary.
  • Rather than just admit that he didn't research the origin of the manuscript, he claims that there is no definitive knowledge on the subject.
  • Mr. Albrecht tries to suggest that we are arguing that there is an "infallible canon" of Athanasius' works that "all agree on."
  • Despite trying to argue that the manuscript is not in any standard corpus of Athanasius' writings, Mr. Albrecht tries to pull the "ask your opponent to prove a negative" ploy that we see so often in Sola Scriptura debates with advocates of Catholicism. He asks me to prove that the document went unnnoticed by the Coptic church through the centuries. This sort of absurd request just demonstrates Mr. Albrecht's unwillingness to defend his own position with real evidence.
  • Although Mr. Albrecht previously claimed Le Muséon says the work is authentic, Mr. Albrecht now tries to claim that I "admit" that Le Muséon doesn't take a position on the authenticity of the work.
But - since the scholars I already named aren't enough for Mr. Albrecht, I'll add one more, Mr. Angelo Gila. Mr. Gila is not only a doctor of theology, whose doctoral thesis was a study of the Marian writings of Severus of Gabala, but Mr. Gila is also a Servite friar - a friar in the order of the Servants of Mary - as well as a resident of the Turin area of Northern Italy. In a scholarly article published in the "Theotokos" (one of Mr. Albrecht's favorite words) journal, (Theotokos VIII (2000) 601-631), at page 613, Mr. Gila correctly identifies this work as Pseudo-Athanasius.

But, of course, Mr. Albrecht who apparently has no scholarly credentials and who has misrepresented the facts without spending the time to thoroughly research the issue, concludes differently. And he complains of "poor scholarship"?

Or perhaps Mr. Albrecht will try to make silly claims like the idea that Friar Dr. Gilo just tries to "erase" this work because it is inconvenient for him, or flood the friar's work with insults. As usual, Mr. Albrecht's bluster is no match for the facts.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Response to Steve Ray on the Pseudographic Papyrus of Turin


As you may recall, we recently identified a spurious quotation from Athanasius that a number of apologists for Rome had been using, including Mr. Steve Ray. Sadly, rather than correct his error and be honest with his readers, Mr. Ray has chosen to pretend the problem doesn't exist, directing his readers, once again, to the video musings of Mr. William Albrecht.

Specifically, in response to the demonstration that Mr. Ray bolsters his case with spurious quotations, Mr. Ray stated:
You may want to watch this video put up by William Albrecht. He addresses one instance in which an opponent wrongly says Catholics wrongly use the Fathers. Funny thing Fundamentalists accusing us of misusing the Fathers! Thanks William!
(link and emphasis on "us" in Ray's original post - that link is to William Albrecht's video)(source)

Notice how Mr. Ray plays the same "hide who the critic is" game that Mr. Madrid plays. On this point, I have to give Mr. Albrecht a little bit of credit. Unlike Mr. Ray and Mr. Madrid, Mr. Albrecht is not afraid to identify his critics and to direct the reader to the criticism in question.

Clearly, Mr. Ray is endorsing and promoting Mr. Albrecht's video. Did Mr. Ray watch it himself? It's hard to say. After all, Mr. Ray's very next blog entry is "We arrived in Greece." Perhaps he is just busy on his pilgrimage profiteering and did not have time to watch Mr. Albrecht's video or consider its content. Perhaps he got second-hand information. Who knows?! Either way he shows a lack of interest in the integrity of his own presentations, which relied upon the spurious source attributed to Athanasius.

So, let's examine Mr. Albrecht's video response. The link has already been provided above. It's about ten minutes long. I think the following pretty much addresses all of Mr. Albrecht's attempted arguments.

Albrecht Preface - "Blunders" Claim

Mr. Albrecht prefaces his video with a claim that various "blunders" were made. As we'll see below, he nowhere substantiates this claim. At best, he disputes some of the facts presented. I'd encourage Mr. Albrecht, who I have already praised for his courage, to consider making more reasonable claims, since he looks bad when he claims that there are "blunders" but then cannot actually substantiate blunders.

Albrecht Argument 1 - Many Lists Omit Works Discovered in the 20th Century

Albrecht's first argument is not to point out any blunder, but simply to try to weaken the fact (which he doesn't dispute) that the work in question is not to be found in any standard list of Athanasian works. He tries to weaken this fact by pointing out that older lists wouldn't have more recently discovered works.

Even leaving aside that this is just an attempt to weaken my position rather than any attempt to substantiate the authenticity of the work, there are a couple of problems with this argument.

First, the argument assumes that this work only came to light in the 20th century. Mr. Albrecht asserts that many lists don't include 20th century findings. Mr. Albrecht, however, is unaware of when this work came to light. This work was already known to scholars in the 19th century and was even published in the late 19th century. Mr. Albrecht seems to think that the publication of the work in Le Muséon was the first time the work had come to light. In fact, however, the work is one of a number of works that were earlier published. The article in Le Muséon was largely of interest because it included a French-language translation of the work.

Second, even if the article in Le Muséon were the first time the work had come to light, the Le Muséon article was over 50 years ago. By now, if the scholarly consensus were that this work were authentic, there would have been time to have the document included within the standard corpus of Athanasian works. But, of course, Mr. Albrecht is unable to identify any such corpus that identifies this homily as authentic.

Albrecht Argument 2 - Speculation Regarding Manuscript's Origin

Mr. Albrecht speculates about the origin of the manuscript, arguing that it may have come from some particular monastery. If Mr. Albrecht had spent more time doing his homework, though, he would have discovered that the reference to "of Turin" in the title of the homily ("Homily of the Papyrus of Turin") is a reference to the Egyptian Museum of Turin/Torino, Italy (link to museum's website). This is a museum in Northern Italy near the foothills of the Alps. Where they were before that, I leave to Mr. Albrecht to see if he can track down.

Regardless of the location from which the museum obtained the manuscripts, speculation regarding the manuscript's origin can hardly be viewed as an argument in favor of its authenticity.

Albrecht Argument 3 - Athanasius Knew and Used Coptic

Mr. Albrecht seemingly misunderstood my comment regarding the evidence for the authenticity of the homily. I had pointed out that the only evidence for the homily is a single Coptic manuscript. Mr. Albrecht went on at some length to point out that Athanasius knew and used the Coptic language. Mr. Albrecht, however, is missing the point. The point is that although Athanasius is a very renowned church father, this homily supposedly went unnoticed by the entire Greek-speaking church, not to mention the Coptic church. Of course, whether Athanasius spoke or used Coptic is really not relevant to the issue of whether a particular Coptic manuscript is a genuine writing of Athanasius.

On the other hand, I am very curious what makes Mr. Albrecht think that whoever wrote this particular homily, wrote it originally in Coptic, rather than in Greek. Given the rest of the inaccuracies in Mr. Albrecht's response, I think it is reasonable to presume he lacks any information on that subject.

Furthermore, as the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 explains:
Post Nicene Fathers. --The homilies, sermons, etc., of the Greek Fathers from the Council of Nicaea to that of Chalcedon were well represented in the Coptic literature, as we may judge from what has come down to us in the various dialects. In Bohairic we have over forty complete homilies or sermons of St John Chrysostom, several of St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Gregory Nazianzen, Theophilus of Alexandria, and St Ephraem the Syrian, while in Sahidic we find a few complete writings and a very large number of fragments, some quite considerable, of the homiletical works of the same Fathers and of many others, like St. Athanasius, St. Basil, Proclus of Cyzicus, Theodotus of Ancyra, Epiphanius of Cyprus, Amphilochius of Iconium, Severianus of Gabala, Cyril of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Liberius of Rome and St. Ephraem are also represented by several fragments of sermons. We need not say that these writings are not infrequently spurious, and that they can in no case be held up as models of translation.
(emphasis added)

Albrecht Argument 4 - Luigi Gambero Bias Issue

It seems even more certain that Mr. Albrecht misunderstood the issue of Mr. Gambero's bias. Mr. Gambero is a Marianist priest. That is to say, he belongs to the "Society of Mary," a religious order devoted to Mary. This, of course, explains his great interest in the topic of Mary, but it does naturally lead him to tend to be interested in identifying quotations from church fathers that praise this woman to whom he and his religious order are devoted. It's just his natural bias to accept spurious and/or questionable writing as though they were authentic if they praise Mary, just as it would be the nature of his bias to criticize (as questionable or spurious) authentic works that somehow cast aspersion on Mary.

None of this is supposed to prove that Mr. Gambero is lying or doing anything mischievous. As I noted in my original post, I am still hoping to obtain a copy of the relevant pages of the original Italian edition of the book. Perhaps in that book Mr. Gambero correctly identified the work as as pseudo-graphic, and perhaps his translator or English editor simply accidentally removed the relevant qualifier.

Likewise, Mr. Gambero could simply have assumed that the work was authentic without looking into the matter. We simply don't know why he cited it. Nevertheless, his bias is against critical investigation of his sources, and in favor of his acceptance of questionable and spurious sources as authentic, whether or not that bias actually came into play.

Albrecht Argument 5 - Other Things Athanasius Said or Didn't Say

Mr. Albrecht goes off on a tangent when he tries to bring up other things that Athanasius allegedly said, such as things relating to the concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Perhaps Mr. Albrecht is confused about my contention.

My contention (and what I have demonstrated) is that apologists for Catholicism cite a spurious work as though it were Athanasius. It is not a claim that Athanasius was one of the Westminster divines or that he was a drinking buddy of Martin Luther's. My contention is not that he agreed on every point with "Protestants" (an absurd notion given the variety within "Protestantism") nor even was my point in this case that Athanasius disagreed with even one thing that Rome teaches today.

In other debates I have addressed some issues about what the church fathers actually believed. There are plenty of inconvenient facts of history for those who wish to imagine that what their church teaches is "what was always taught from the beginning." But that is not this argument. This argument is that Rome's apologists are using a source that they shouldn't use, if they wish to be considered honest.

Albrecht Argument 6 - The Title of the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin

This particular homily is called the "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin." It is not called "In Praise of the Blessed Virgin." Mr. Albrecht tenaciously insists that he did not err in calling the homily by the latter title. This is just ridiculous. I know exactly where he got that "title" from, but it is not the title of the work. It is just a "tag line" that Mr. Gambero put above the quotation to tell the reader what the quoted section of the homily is about.

Mr. Gambero himself would not make the silly mistake that Mr. Albrecht has made. Mr. Gambero does use that tag line over the section of the homily that Mr. Albrecht read in his previous video. On the other hand, however, Mr. Gambero uses the tag line "Mary Greets Elizabeth" as the tag line for the quotation from the same homily on the immediately preceding page. The same technique can be seen on page 31 of Mr. Gambero's work and in every "readings" section at the end of each chapter of his book. At page 31, the tag line is "Ignation Profession of Faith" but the work is Ignatius' Epistle to the Ephesians.

Given Mr. Albrecht's fascination with Ignatius, one hopes that Mr. Albrecht would have the sense to realize that Ignatius' Epistle to the Ephesians (whether or not genuine, in whole or in part - and when I say "whether or not" I mean I'm not addressing that issue here) is not called "Ignation Profession of Faith" as a title.

Albrecht Argument 7 - Le Muséon is a Reputable Journal

Le Muséon is a reputable journal, no doubt. It is not our intention to suggest otherwise. It was with great pleasure that I leafed through volume 71 of Le Muséon to read (and read about) this particular homily. That's not really the issue.

Mr. Albrecht asserts that Le Muséon claims that the work is authentic. This simply isn't true. I frankly have no idea where Mr. Albrecht got the idea that Le Muséon even took any opinion on the authenticity of the homily.

Le Muséon, after all, is the journal. The fact that an article is published in a journal doesn't mean that the journal itself endorses the content of the article, or stands behind it. Part of the purpose of journals is to put out information so that it can be reviewed by academic peers of the articles' authors.

I suppose, in some instances, a journal could explicitly adopt the position of a particular article published therein. In this case, Le Muséon has not taken such an approach. Le Muséon simply published an article by Mr. Louis-Théophile Lefort.

Of course, and it seems probably Mr. Albrecht was unaware of this, Mr. Lefort was the director of Le Muséon from 1921 until his death in 1959. So, it is almost as though Le Muséon were speaking when Mr. Lefort speaks.

Regardless, Mr. Lefort does not himself (in the article) insist on the authenticity of the piece. Indeed, he concurs with the comment in my previous post that the authenticity of the work is not to be established on the basis of the fact that work has Athanasius' name at the top. This is, of course, due to the fact that there numerous works that are attributed to more famous writers.

I find it highly unlikely that Mr. Albrecht had bothered to look up and read through the article in Le Muséon to see what it said about the supposed authenticity of the work. Had Mr. Albrecht done so, he would (no doubt) have discovered in one of the first lines of the article an indication of the prior publication of the homily in the 19th century.

Albrecht Argument 8 - Reasons Given to Doubt

Mr. Albrecht suggests that we have given him no reason at all to doubt the authenticity of the work. In fact, things are just the opposite of what Mr. Albrecht suggests. The weight of the scholarly consensus is that the work is spurious, and Mr. Albrecht has given us no reason to doubt that consensus. Le Muséon itself did not insist that the work was authentic. Why do Rome's apologists? We had hoped that it was by accident, because they simply didn't investigate their sources.

However, when Rome's apologists try to defend their spurious works with irrelevant, inaccurate, or misleading argumentation, one wonders whether they even care about the truth. One hopes that Mr. Albrecht's video post can be chaulked up to youthful zeal rather than a malicious wish to mislead his viewers. Likewise, we can presume that Mr. Ray simply doesn't take his own work's integrity seriously enough to defend his citation of a spurious work, instead directing his readers to a video that we can be sure he did not fully research for accuracy.


The response of Rome's apologists so far has been disappointing. Mr. Albrecht has been the only one brave enough to try to set forth a detailed response, but sadly he has fallen short. Rather than simply admitting his mistake and appropriately correcting it, Mr. Albrecht has dug himself a deeper hole, and Mr. Ray has joined him there by recommending his video.

I continue to exhort the apologists of Rome to engage in a higher level of discourse. Obviously, here, I am specifically picking on Mr. Ray and Mr. Madrid - two men who seem to be unwilling to let the church fathers be the church fathers, trying instead to make them a part of the religion of modern Roman Catholicism.


P.S. As I was bringing this article to a close it came to my attention that Mr. Albrecht had posted a link to his video over at Mr. Madrid's forum (link), where it received a warm reception by those who apparently simply take William's word for it, rather than investigate. The ever-vicious Art Sippo (a medical doctor and lay apologist for Rome) even chimes in calling someone the "son of lies" (I'm not sure if he intended that for me, since he probably didn't even bother to check out who at Alpha and Omega Ministries had written the post) and praising Mr. Albrecht. Of course, Mr. Madrid's forum moderator (Patti) will presumably continue her policy of preventing this response from coming to the attention of the readers of her forum, since it has been her past policy of editing out references both to the Team Apologian Blog and Thoughts of Francis Turretin on the forum.

Fellow Limited Atonement Advocate

Today I happened to spot the blog of a fellow advocate of Limited Atonement. Mr. Josh Walker of the Bring the Books blog has a number of interesting posts on the Atonement.

1. Demonstrates one (of several) problems with the theory that Calvin held universal atonement.

2. Demonstrates that Charles Hodge held to Limited Atonement.

3. Quotes John Murray on Limited Atonement.

4. Identifies Dabney's refutation of Amyraldianism.

5. Even identifies that (at least at one time) even Doug Wilson held (or holds) to Limited Atonement.


Monday, March 02, 2009

No Escape from Circularity for Karl Keating

One common attack used by the apologists of Rome is to assert that a Protestant's ultimate authority is private judgment or, as they sometimes pejoratively label as being "protestant personalism" or a person being his own "mini-pope." Supposedly, this problem of private judgment is solved by referring to an infallible magisterium. In fact, however, the recourse to the infallible magisterium is just further application of private judgment.

This argument against private judgment can take various forms. One form of the argument is a syllogism in the form:

1. If God gave us a way to know the truth, that way would give us knowledge of the truth with reasonable certainty.

2. Private judgment doesn't provide reasonable certainty, because reasonable people differ in the application of private judgment.

3. Therefore, private judgment is not the way God gave us to know the truth.

There are several problems with this argument. The number one problem is that it employs the fallacy of skepticism. The way that it employs the fallacy of skepticism is in establishing the minor premise, i.e. private judgment doesn't provide reasonable certainty.

This is a logical fallacy for a couple of reasons. The most obvious reason is that private judgment is necessarily used to deny that private judgment provides reliable conclusions. If the conclusion is correct (i.e. that private judgment does not provide reliable conclusions) then the conclusion itself is not reliable since it obtained by private judgment.

Second, this is a logical fallacy in the sense of simply being a universal denial of knowability of information. That is to say, this argument lacks uniqueness. It is not particularly a criticism of the "Protestant" position. It is a modus tolens argument that can be applied mutatis mutandis to any epistemology.

Specifically, this same argument can be applied to the epistemology of Catholicism, because Catholicism too requires, at some link in the chain, one to use private judgment. This is illustrated in the attempt of certain of Rome's apologists to escape the apparent circularity of Rome's epistemology.

The apparent circularity is this:

1. The Bible is right because the Church says it is.
2. The Church is right because the Bible says it is.

There, the circularity is obvious. It is bigger than the circle of:

1. The Bible is right because the Bible says it is.

... but it is still a circle.

To try to escape this circle, some apologists for Catholicism use what they call a "spiral argument" that was apparently developed by Karl Keating, one of the more prominent apologists for Catholicism (although I cannot recall him debating anyone from the Reformed side of the Tiber river in a long time).

Here's one presentation of the argument:

A Spiral Argument
Note that this is not a circular argument. We are not basing the inspiration of the Bible on the Church’s infallibility and the Church’s infallibility on the word of an inspired Bible. That indeed would be a circular argument! What we have is really a spiral argument. On the first level we argue to the reliability of the Bible insofar as it is history. From that we conclude that an infallible Church was founded. And then we take the word of that infallible Church that the Bible is inspired. This is not a circular argument because the final conclusion (the Bible is inspired) is not simply a restatement of its initial finding (the Bible is historically reliable), and its initial finding (the Bible is historically reliable) is in no way based on the final conclusion (the Bible is inspired). What we have demonstrated is that without the existence of the Church, we could never know whether the Bible is inspired.
(link to source) (Notice how, unlike Mr. Patrick Madrid, we're not afraid to let the reader see the writings to which we're responding.)

Let's assess this argument. The core of the argument is:

1. [W]e argue to the reliability of the Bible insofar as it is history.
2. From that we conclude that an infallible Church was founded.
3. And then we take the word of that infallible Church that the Bible is inspired.

We could reasonably expand this argument to the following:

1. The Bible is an historically reliable document.
2. The Bible records the founding of a church.
3. The Bible indicates that this church is infallible.
4. This infallible church is the church headed by the pope.
5. This infallible church teaches that the Bible is inspired.

It could probably be expanded even further, but this is enough for the purposes of illustrating the problems with this supposedly spiral argument.

Problem 1: Private Judgment Vastly Multiplied

Rather than simply accepting the Bible as Inspired Word of God based on one private judgment, this "spiral" argument requires one to employ private judgment over and over and over again.

First, one uses private judgment to answer the question of historical reliability.

Second, one uses private judgment to decide the meaning of Scripture as to whether a single, institutionally unitary church or many institutionally separate churches were founded.

Third, one uses private judgment to decide that this single church is taught as being infallible rather than as being fallible.

Fourth, one uses private judgment to identify this single church as the Roman Catholic church instead of, say, the Eastern Orthodox church or the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Fifth, one uses private judgment to decide that the Roman Catholic church teaches that the Bible is inspired, as opposed to teaching that the Bible simply contains God's word.

This is a vast multiplication of private judgment over, for example, simply accepting the Bible on historical grounds and then accepting that the Bible says that the Bible is inspired, or simply accepting the Bible's claim of inspiration as true in the first and only step of the process.

If private judgment is inherently bad, the "spiral argument" uses more of it.

Problem 2: Bootstrapping Error

The Spiral argument attempts to avoid the obvious "jump" from nothing to accepting the Bible's claim of inspiration by steps. But each (or at least several) of the steps are "jumps" in themselves.

There is a jump from nothing to accepting the historical method as providing reliable conclusions.

There is a jump from using the historical method to confirm the general reliability of the Bible, to accepting a particular historical account in the Bible.

There is a jump from accepting an account as historical to accepting the doctrine taught in the event as truth.

There is a jump from accepting the general idea that a church was founded to accepting that a particular church is that church.

If making jumps is bad, breaking up a big jump into several smaller jumps doesn't solve the problem, it just distributes it.

Problem 3: Inspiration Smuggled Back In

In fact, the "spiral argument" is circular, because inspiration is smuggled into step 3 of my expanded formulation of the argument, or step 2 of the original formulation of the argument. That is to say, the teaching of an "infallible church" is accepted allegedly because the Bible as a historically accurate document is accepted. But the claim of infallibility is a theological claim, not an historical claim, and it is accepted either because of the authority of the Bible or the person speaking in the Bible.

Problem 4: Church Infallibility Smuggled Back In

Furthermore, the "spiral argument" has a second circularity, in that the infallibility of the church is smuggled back into the argument twice. It is smuggled back once in telling people which church to accept as "the church," and again (more importantly) in interpreting Scripture as teaching an infallible church in the first place.

Specifically, the claim that the Scriptures disclose the founding of "an infallible church" requires loads of eisegesis - of reading into the text, rather than of obtaining teachings from the text.

Problem 5: Scripture Promotes Private Judgment

Worse (for Catholicism) than the issue simply being a matter of silence, Scripture actually encourages the use of private judgment. For example, the Scripture many times and in various ways encourages people to apply personal judgment to arrive at the truth. For example, the Bereans are commended for using private judgment and Scripture to judge Paul, and Paul tells Timothy that the Scriptures are able to make one "wise unto salvation." Furthermore, John tells us that his gospel was written so that we would believe it and have life through faith in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.


So, next time a person tries to tell you that the difference between Protestant interpretation and Romanist interpretation is that the Protestant makes himself his own ultimate authority, be prepared to challenge that deceptive claim. Everyone uses private judgment. If private judgment is inherently untrustworthy, the Roman position is actually worse off than the "Protestant" position.

Furthermore, while it might be nice to hand over one's brain to the church, so that one doesn't have to think about the meaning of Scripture, that's just not how God ordained things. The fact that it would be convenient or handy doesn't make it so.

Instead, God provided fallible churches with fallible elders over them. These fallible teachers are to teach the Scriptures to their people, but the unchanging Scriptures serve as the rule and measure of the Christian faith, with the fallible churches serving as guides.


"Catholic Nick" Index Page

So far, Nicholas (aka "Catholic Nick") and I have just one debate (and it is still in progress). Nevertheless, I figure it is time to start an index page of our interactions so that it will be easy to locate our discussion. I don't know much about Nicholas, as his website doesn't give out much information and I haven't asked for more (it would be a little odd for someone in my position to pry). So, I am assuming that he is a layman within Catholicism that has taken up a defense of his church/religion.

Atonement Debate

1. Debate Introduction

2. Affirmative Constructive Essay (TurretinFan)

3. Negative Constructive Essay (Nick)

4. Affirmative Rebuttal Essay (TurretinFan)

5. Negative Rebuttal Essay (Nick)

6. Affirmative Cross-Examination Questions/Answers

- Question 1 (TurretinFan)
-- Answer to Question 1 (Nick)

- Question 2 (TurretinFan)
-- Answer to Question 2 (Nick)

- Question 3 (TurretinFan)
-- Answer to Question 3 (Nick)

- Question 4 (TurretinFan)
-- Answer to Question 4 (Nick)

- Question 5 (TurretinFan)
-- Answer to Question 5 (Nick)

7. Negative Cross-Examination Questions/Answers

- Question 1 (Nick)
-- Answer to Question 1 (TurretinFan)

- Question 2 (Nick)
-- Answer to Question 2 (TurretinFan)

- Question 3 (Nick)
-- Answer to Question 3 (TurretinFan)

- Question 4 (Nick)
-- Answer to Question 4 (TurretinFan)

- Question 5 (Nick)
-- Answer to Question 5 (TurretinFan)

8. Negative Conclusion Essay (Nick)

9. Affirmative Conclusion Essay (TurretinFan)