Saturday, January 02, 2010

Sola Ecclesia - A Reformation Maxim?

We normally refer to sola ecclesia as Rome's alternative to sola scriptura. Dr. Bruce Atkinson (Psy. PhD) proposes it as an addition to the five Reformation solas:
5. Sola ecclesia (through the church alone) - This newly recognized sola is needed to battle the extreme individualism and anti-church sentiment that is becoming more and more prevalent. I hear: "I believe in Jesus but I don't trust organized religion." "All the churches are full of judgmental hypocrites." "I don't have to go to church to be a Christian, I can just watch services on TV." Surely you have heard similar statements; they are very common these days. Let us examine the historical and present value of the Church for salvation and sanctification.

[I've removed the body of his argument here. The conclusion of the section follows.]

A final warning is in order for this particular sola. There is a reason why sola scriptura comes before sola ecclesia. Church authority must always be secondary to the authority of God's Word. All traditions of doctrine, worship, and human authority in the church must be tested by the Canon. In the history of the Church, we have seen how human power tends to corrupt and change things. But Jesus Christ does not change (Hebrews 13:8, Rev 1:8) and His words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). Humans (other than Jesus) can and do change, sometimes for the worse. Remember that the churches in the world are still made up of both sheep and goats, and there are some wolves in sheep's clothing at the highest levels.

Given the other sense that sola ecclesia already has, I don't think it's the best proposal, but it is an interesting one.


Arianism is Consistent with Scripture?

Phoebadius (d. @ 392): Knowing, therefore, this unity of substance in the Father and in the Son, on the authority, not only of the prophets, but also of the gospels, how canst thou say that the Homoüsion is not found in scripture? Latin text: Cum ergo hanc unitatem substantiae in Patre et Filio non solum prophetica, sed et evangelica auctoritate cognoscas; quomodo dicis in Scripturis divinis ὁμοιούσιον non inveniri? S. Phoebadius, De Fide Orthodoxa, Contra Arianos, Alias De Filii Divinitate et Consubstantialitate, Tractatus, Caput V, PL 20:41.

Sometimes the opponents of sola scriptura end up taking their position to absurd lengths. Consider the following statement from Roman Catholic Bryan Cross:
The term 'refute' means "shown an argument to be unsound". The bishops did not 'refute' Arianism; they condemned it, by defining the Faith by way of an extra-biblical term: homoousious. They were unable, by Scripture alone, to refute Arianism. The Arians could affirm every single verse of Scripture. That's precisely why the bishops had to require affirmation of the term homoousious. So if the bishops had no authority by way of apostolic succession, then their requirement of affirming homoousious would have had no more authority than its denial by the Arians. Scripture alone was insufficient to resolve the dispute, precisely because both sides could affirm every verse in Scripture. And since sola scriptura denies the transfer of authority by way of apostolic succession, therefore the Council of Nicea and the Creed, given sola scriptura, only have authority if you agree with its interpretation of Scripture.
Mr. Cross' zeal for his church has placed him out of touch with history. The fathers themselves believed that they refuted Arianism from Scripture:
If then, as you say, 'the Son is from nothing,' and 'was not before His generation,' He, of course, as well as others, must be called Son andGod and Wisdom only by participation; for thus all other creatures consist, and by sanctification are glorified. You have to tell us then, of what He is partaker. All other things partake of the Spirit, but He, according to you, of what is He partaker? Of the Spirit? Nay, rather the Spirit Himself takes from the Son, as He Himself says; and it is not reasonable to say that the latter is sanctified by the former. Therefore it is the Father that He partakes; for this only remains to say. But this, which is participated, what is it or whence? If it be something external provided by the Father, He will not now be partaker of the Father, but of what is external to Him; and no longer will He be even second after the Father, since He has before Him this other; nor can He be called Son of the Father, but of that, as partaking which He has been called Son and God. And if this be unseemly and irreligious, when the Father says, 'This is My Beloved Son Matthew 3:17,' and when the Son says that God is His own Father, it follows that what is partaken is not external, but from the essence of the Father. And as to this again, if it be other than the essence of the Son, an equal extravagance will meet us; there being in that case something between this that is from the Father and the essence of the Son, whatever that be.


This is of itself a sufficient refutation of the Arian heresy; however, its heterodoxy will appear also from the following:— If God be Maker and Creator, and create His works through the Son, and we cannot regard things which come to be, except as being through the Word, is it not blasphemous, God being Maker, to say, that His Framing Word and His Wisdom once was not? It is the same as saying, that God is not Maker, if He had not His proper Framing Word which is from Him, but that that by which He frames, accrues to Him from without , and is alien from Him, and unlike in essence.
- Athanasius, Discourse 1 Against the Arians, Sections 15 and 17

And again:
24. But He had not been thus worshipped, nor been thus spoken of, were He a creature merely. But now since He is not a creature, but the proper offspring of the Essence of that God who is worshipped, and His Son by nature, therefore He is worshipped and is believed to be God, and is Lord of armies, and in authority, and Almighty, as the Father is; for He has said Himself, 'All things that the Father has, are Mine [John 16:15].' For it is proper to the Son, to have the things of the Father, and to be such that the Father is seen in Him, and that through Him all things were made, and that the salvation of all comes to pass and consists in Him. And here it were well to ask them also this question , for a still clearer refutation of their heresy—Wherefore, when all things are creatures, and all are brought into consistence from nothing, and the Son Himself, according to you, is creature and work, and once was not, wherefore has He made 'all things through Him' alone, 'and without Him was made not one thing [John 1:3]?' or why is it, when 'all things' are spoken of, that no one thinks the Son is signified in the number, but only things originate; whereas when Scripture speaks of the Word, it does not understand Him as being in the number of 'all,' but places Him with the Father, as Him in whom Providence and salvation for 'all' are wrought and effected by the Father, though all things surely might at the same command have come to be, at which He was brought into being by God alone? For God is not wearied by commanding, nor is His strength unequal to the making of all things, that He should alone create the only Son, and need His ministry and aid for the framing of the rest. For He lets nothing stand over, which He wills to be done; but He willed only, and all things subsisted, and no one 'has resisted His will [Romans 9:19].' Why then were not all things brought into being by God alone at that same command, at which the Son came into being? Or let them tell us, why did all things through Him come to be, who was Himself but originate? How void of reason! However, they say concerning Him, that 'God willing to create originate nature, when He saw that it could not endure the untempered hand of the Father, and to be created by Him, makes and creates first and alone one only, and calls Him Son and Word, that, through Him as a medium, all things might thereupon be brought to be.' This they not only have said, but they have dared to put it into writing, namely, Eusebius, Arius, and Asterius who sacrificed.

25. Is not this a full proof of that irreligion, with which they have drugged themselves with much madness, till they blush not to be intoxicate against the truth? For if they shall assign the toil of making all things as the reason why God made the Son only, the whole creation will cry out against them as saying unworthy things of God; and Isaiah too who has said in Scripture, 'The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary: there is no searching of His understanding [Isaiah 40:28].' And if God made the Son alone, as not deigning to make the rest, but committed them to the Son as an assistant, this on the other hand is unworthy of God, for in Him there is no pride. Nay the Lord reproves the thought, when He says, 'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?' and 'one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father which is in heaven.' And again, 'Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet yourheavenly Father feeds them; are you not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?' If then it be not unworthy of God to exercise His Providence, even down to things so small, a hair of the head, and a sparrow, and the grass of the field, also it was not unworthy of Him to make them. For what things are the subjects of HisProvidence, of those He is Maker through His proper Word. Nay a worse absurdity lies before the men who thus speak; for they distinguish between the creatures and the framing; and consider the latter the work of the Father, the creatures the work of the Son; whereas either all things must be brought to be by the Father with the Son, or if all that is originate comes to be through the Son, we must not call Him one of the originated things.
- Athanasius, Discourse 2 Against the Arians, Sections 24 and 25

Another father wrote of the Arians:
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.
- Alexander of Alexandria, Epistle 1 (to Alexander of Constantinople), Section 10

And again:
4. Now concerning their blasphemous assertion who say that the Son does not perfectly know the Father, we need not wonder: for having once purposed in their mind to wage war against Christ, they impugn also these words of His, "As the Father knows Me, even so know I the Father." [John 10:15] Wherefore, if the Father only in part knows the Son, then it is evident that the Son does not perfectly know the Father. But if it be wicked thus to speak, and if the Father perfectly knows the Son, it is plain that, even as the Father knows His own Word, so also the Word knows His own Father, of whom He is the Word.

5. By saying these things, and by unfolding the divine Scriptures, we have often refuted them. But they, chameleon-like, changing their sentiments, endeavour to claim for themselves that saying: "When the wicked comes, then comes contempt." Proverbs 18:3 Before them, indeed, many heresies existed, which, having dared more than was right, have fallen into madness. But these by all their words have attempted to do away with the Godhead of Christ, have made those seem righteous, since they have come nearer to Antichrist. Wherefore they have been excommunicated and anathematized by the Church. And indeed, although we grieve at the destruction of these men, especially that after having once learned the doctrine of the Church, they have now gone back; yet we do not wonder at it; for this very thing Hymenaeus and Philetus suffered,[2 Timothy 2:17] and before them Judas, who, though he followed the Saviour, afterwards became a traitor and an apostate. Moreover, concerning these very men, warnings are not wanting to us, for the Lord foretold: "Take heed that you be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the tithe draws near: go not therefore after them." [Luke 21:8] Paul, too, having learned these things from the Saviour, wrote, "In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils which turn away from the truth." [1 Timothy 4:1]
- Alexander of Alexandria, Epistle 2 (General Epistle), Section 4

Of course Alexander was Athanasius' predecessor in Alexandria, and one of the bishops at the Nicaean council - the one that brought Athanasius to that council. He was the bishop who was also the bishop over Arius (or would have been: Arius was a priest in Alexandria, and Alexander was the bishop - however Arius had been excommunicated by a predecessor bishop of Alexander). So perhaps, even though this should be the best evidence on the subject, I should mention some more remote bishop, such as Augustine:
Wherefore—to being now to answer the adversaries of our faith, respecting those things also, which are neither said as they are thought, nor thought as they really are:— among the many things which the Arians are wont to dispute against the Catholic faith, they seem chiefly to set forth this, as their most crafty device, namely, that whatsoever is said or understood of God, is said not according to accident, but according to substance, and therefore, to be unbegotten belongs to the Father according to substance, and to be begotten belongs to the Son according to substance; but to be unbegotten and to be begotten are different; therefore the substance of the Father and that of the Son are different. To whom we reply, If whatever is spoken of God is spoken according to substance, then that which is said, "I and the Father are one," is spoken according to substance. Therefore there is one substance of the Father and the Son. Or if this is not said according to substance, then something is said of God not according to substance, and therefore we are no longer compelled to understand unbegotten and begotten according to substance. It is also said of the Son, "He thought it not robbery to be equal with God." We ask, equal according to what? For if He is not said to be equal according to substance, then they admit that something may be said of God not according to substance. Let them admit, then, that unbegotten and begotten are not spoken according to substance. And if they do not admit this, on the ground that they will have all things to be spoken of God according to substance, then the Son is equal to the Father according to substance.
- Augustine, On the Trinity, Book 5, Chapter 3/Section 4

In fact, it is absurd to suggest that the Arian bishops and priests lacked apostolic succession in the sense of a chain of ordination back to the apostles. In fact, the primary sense in which they lacked apostolic succession was in the succession of doctrine: they did not follow the apostolic teachings handed down in Scripture.

But here's a challenge to Mr. Cross: find even one Christian (non-Arian, if Roman Catholics are calling Arians Christians these days) from Arius' birth until 100 years after Nicaea that says that the Arians "could affirm every single verse of Scripture" or couldn't be refuted from Scripture alone. More positively, the challenge is to find some writer in that time period who appealed to apostolic succession, as such, to refute the Arians: who said that the orthodox clergy had apostolic succession but the Arian clergy did not. I think Mr. Cross will be hard pressed to meet such a challenge.

Ultimately, Mr. Cross' claim is absurd. There is abundant refutation of Arianism in Scripture. While the theological terms we use serve a valuable purpose, we affirm the use of the term ὁμοούσιος because it is being used in a Scriptural sense (not in the prior Gnostic sense). We accept the Nicaean council because it agrees with the Word of God, not because its bishops were any more or less in a chain of ordination with the apostles than the bishops at the Arian councils. The Scriptures are our rule of faith, as was the case in the time of the early church.

Orth.— Do not, I beg you, bring in human reason. I shall yield to scripture alone.

Eran.— You shall receive no argument unconfirmed by Holy Scripture, and if you bring me any solution of the question deduced from Holy Scripture I will receive it, and will in no wise gainsay it.
- Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Dialogue 1


UPDATE: I neglected to link to the source for the quotation above (here's the link). One of the folks commenting there demonstrated that the Arians are wrong from Scripture, and Bryan responded (among other things): "The Arians were able to affirm all the verses that you cite. In addition, Scripture itself does not specify which verses are the hermeneutical standard for interpreting other verses." (link)

FURTHER UPDATE: (from David King)

Alexander of Alexandria (d. 328), the spiritual mentor of Athanasius, testified of the Arian heretics in a letter to Alexander of Constantinople: They are not ashamed to oppose the godly clearness of the ancient scriptures. NPNF2: Vol. III, Theodoret’s Ecclesiastical History, Book 1, Chapter 3, or the translation of this phrase as the letter is preserved in ANF: Vol. VI, Epistle to Alexander, Bishop of the City of Constantinople, §10, “The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them no shame . . .” Greek text: Οὐ κατήδεσεν αὐτοὺς ἡ τῶν ἀρχαίων Γραφῶν φιλόθεος σαφήνεια . . . Theodoreti Ecclesiasticae Historiae, Liber I, Caput III, PG 82:904.

Dionysius of Alexandria (c. 200-265): “Even if I did not find this expression (i.e., ὁμοούσιον) in the Scriptures, yet collecting from the actual Scriptures their general sense, I knew that, being Son and Word, He could not be outside the Essence of the Father.” Athanasius quoting him in NPNF2: Vol. IV, De sententia Dionysii (Defence of Dionysius), §20. Greek text: Eἰ καὶ μὴ τὴν λέξιν ταύτην εὗρον ἐν ταῖς γραφαῖς, ἀλλ' ἐξ αὐτῶν τῶν γραφῶν τὸν νοῦν συναγαγών, ἔγνων ὅτι υἱὸς ὢν καὶ λόγος οὐ ξένος ἂν εἴη τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ πατρός. Cf. De sententia Dionysii, §20, PG 25:509.

Athanasius (297-373): But here too the Bishops, beholding their craftiness, collected from the Scriptures the figures of brightness, of the river and the well, and of the relation of the express Image to the Subsistence, and the texts, ‘in thy light shall we see light,’ and ‘I and the Father are one.’ And lastly they wrote more plainly, and concisely, that the Son was coessential with the Father; for all the above passages signify this. NPNF2: Vol. IV, Synodal Letter to the Bishops of Africa, §6. Greek text: Ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐνταῦθα οἱ ἐπίσκοποι, θεωρήσαντες ἐκείνων τὸ δόλιον συνήγαγον ἐκ τῶν γραφῶν τὸ ἀπαύγασμα τήν τε πηγὴν καὶ τὸν ποταμὸν καὶ τὸν χαρακτῆρα πρὸς τὴν ὑπόστασιν καὶ τὸ »ἐν τῷ φωτί σου ὀψόμεθα φῶς« καὶ τὸ »ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν.« Καὶ λευκότερον λοιπὸν καὶ συντόμως ἔγραψαν ὁμοούσιον τῷ πατρὶ τὸν υἱόν· τὰ γὰρ προειρημένα πάντα ταύτην ἔχει τὴν σημασίαν. In Epistolam Ad Afros Episcopos Monitum, §6, PG 26:1040.

Phoebadius (d. @ 392): Knowing, therefore, this unity of substance in the Father and in the Son, on the authority, not only of the prophets, but also of the gospels, how canst thou say that the Homoüsion is not found in scripture? Latin text: Cum ergo hanc unitatem substantiae in Patre et Filio non solum prophetica, sed et evangelica auctoritate cognoscas; quomodo dicis in Scripturis divinis ὁμοιούσιον non inveniri? S. Phoebadius, De Fide Orthodoxa, Contra Arianos, Alias De Filii Divinitate et Consubstantialitate, Tractatus, Caput V, PL 20:41.

Augustine (354-430): In opposition also to the impiety of Arian heretics, they coined the new term, Patris Homousios; but there was nothing new signified by such a name; for what is called Homousios is just this: “I and my Father are one,” to wit, of one and the same substance. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 97, §4.

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67): I do not know the word ὁμοιούσιον, or understand it, unless it confesses a similarity of essence. I call the God of heaven and earth to witness, that when I had heard neither word, my belief was always such that I should have interpreted ὁμοιούσιον by ὁμοούσιον. That is, I believed that nothing could be similar according to nature unless it was of the same nature. Though long ago regenerate in baptism, and for some time a bishop, I never heard of the Nicene creed until I was going into exile, but the Gospels and Epistles suggested to me the meaning of ὁμοούσιον and ὁμοιούσιον. Our desire is sacred. Let us not condemn the fathers, let us not encourage heretics, lest while we drive one heresy away, we nurture another. After the Council of Nicaea our fathers interpreted the due meaning of ὁμοούσιον with scrupulous care; the books are extant, the facts are fresh in men’s minds: if anything has to be added to the interpretation, let us consult together. Between us we can thoroughly establish the faith, so that what has been well settled need not be disturbed, and what has been misunderstood may be removed. NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Councils or the Faith of the Easterns, §91.

Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): Even though the expression is not in the sacred scriptures—indeed, it is plainly implicit in the Law, the Apostles and the Prophets, for ‘By two or three witnesses shall every word be established’—all the same, it is permissible for us to employ a useful expression for piety’s sake, to safeguard the holy faith. Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide), Against the Arian Nuts, 69.72,5 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 391.

Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): It is plain that the term, “being,” does not appear in the Old and the New Testaments, but the sense of it is to be found everywhere. Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide), Against the Arian Nuts, 73.12,1 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 447.

Gregory of Nazianzus (329/330-389): Again, where do you get your Unbegotten and Unoriginate, those two citadels of your position, or we our Immortal? Show me these in so many words, or we shall either set them aside, or erase them as not contained in Scripture; and you are slain by your own principle, the names you rely on being overthrown, and therewith the wall of refuge in which you trusted. Is it not evident that they are due to passages which imply them, though the words do not actually occur? NPNF2: Vol. VII, Oration V, On the Holy Spirit, §22.

Athanasius (297-373): Since, therefore, such an attempt is futile madness, nay, more than madness!, let no one ask such questions any more, or else let him learn only that which is in the Scriptures. For the illustrations they contain which bear upon this subject are sufficient and suitable. C. R. B. Shapland, trans., The Letters of Athanasius Concerning the Holy Spirit, Ad Serapion 1.19 (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1951), p. 108. Greek text: Περιττῆς τοιγαροῦν καὶ πλέον μανίας οὔσης τῆς τοιαύτης ἐπιχειρήσεως, μηκέτι τοιαῦτά τις ἐρω τάτω, ἢ μόνον τὰ ἐν ταῖς Γραφαῖς μανθανέτω. Αὐτάρκη γὰρ καὶ ἱκανὰ τὰ ἐν ταύταις κείμενα περὶ τούτου παραδείγματα. Ad Serapionem 1.19, PG 26:573.

Augustine (354-430): In opposition also to the impiety of Arian heretics, they coined the new term, Patris Homousios; but there was nothing new signified by such a name; for what is called Homousios is just this: “I and my Father are one,” to wit, of one and the same substance. NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate 97, §4.

Augustine (354-430): What does “homoousios” mean, I ask, but The Father and I are one (Jn. 10:30)? I should not, however, introduce the Council of Nicea to prejudice the case in my favor, nor should you introduce the Council of Ariminum that way. I am not bound by the authority of Ariminum, and you are not bound by that of Nicea. By the authority of the scriptures that are not the property of anyone, but the common witness for both of us, let position do battle with position, case with case, reason with reason. See WSA, Answer to Maximinus, Part I, Vol. 18, ed. John Rotelle, O.S.A., trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (New York: New City Press, 1995), p. 282.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Catechism of Pope Pius X

Before the current "Catechism of the Catholic Church" there were other catechisms. One of those was the catechism of Pope Pius X. Here are some selections relating to the Bible (warning, this may not be what you're used to hearing from "Catholic Answers"):
28 Q. Is the reading of the Bible necessary to all Christians?
A. The reading of the Bible is not necessary to all Christians since they are instructed by the Church; however its reading is very useful and recommended to all.

29 Q. May any translation of the Bible, in the vernacular, be read?
A. We can read those translations of the Bible in the vernacular which have been acknowledged as faithful by the Catholic Church and which have explanations also approved by the Church.

30 Q. Why may we only read translations of the Bible approved by the Church?
A. We may only read translations of the Bible approved by the Church because she alone is the lawful guardian of the Bible.

31 Q. Through which means can we know the true meaning of the Holy Scripture?
A. We can only know the true meaning of Holy Scripture through the Church's interpretation, because she alone is secure against error in that interpretation.

32 Q. What should a Christian do who has been given a Bible by a Protestant or by an agent of the Protestants?
A. A Christian to whom a Bible has been offered by a Protestant or an agent of the Protestants should reject it with disgust, because it is forbidden by the Church. If it was accepted by inadvertence, it must be burnt as soon as possible or handed in to the Parish Priest.

33 Q. Why does the Church forbid Protestant Bibles?
A. The Church forbids Protestant Bibles because, either they have been altered and contain errors, or not having her approbation and footnotes explaining the obscure meanings, they may be harmful to the Faith. It is for that same reason that the Church even forbids translations of the Holy Scriptures already approved by her which have been reprinted without the footnotes approved by her.

Notice the interesting idea that reading the Bible without approved footnotes "may be harmful to the Faith." One has to wonder if the reader is supposed to think:
No wonder so few of the churches to which Paul wrote letters are still around! Had only Paul had the wisdom of Pius X, he would have included footnotes to the obscure passages, so that the obscure parts of his writings would not damage their faith. Thankfully, annotated Bibles clear up that problem and are consequently safe for the Faith.
Whatever was intended, you can be confident that you won't see a continuation of these views in the CCC or the current code of canon law. This is not the faith of modern Roman Catholicism, and it would be "gotcha apologetics" for me to suggest that Roman Catholics today actually follow Pius X teaching. They don't. This is the way it was, not the way it is. I've never heard of Roman Catholics these days even burning such mutilated Bibles as the New World Translation (authorized by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) or the LDS edition of the KJV (with its approved annotations). So please, don't get me wrong. Things have changed, and the above views expressed by the authority of Pope Pius X are not the views expressed by the current pontiff (of course, probably Q/A 28 is still the same, and maybe bits and pieces of the others remain in some form, but they are not, as a whole, the views of contemporary Roman Catholicism).


Responding to Beckwith on Aquinas

Francis Beckwith has responded to my earlier post on Aquinas and the rule of faith in a way that does not meet the challenge. But it is a response that Prof. Beckwith seems to think worth noting, so I'll provide it and a brief rebuttal:
Yikes, I thought his name was "TurnitinFan," a booster of the anti-plagiarism software. Boy, am I out of the loop. :Smile:

Oh, by the way, my friend Ralph McInerny answered TF over 14 years ago: (link)
(source - the ":smile:" was a graphical smiley and the link was a link - also note that if what I'm writing is the funniest stuff Shea has been reading this week (as he says), he should check out Dave Barry)

The entirety of Ralph McInerny's presentation, however, is to do exactly what my challenge forbade, namely to simply try to say what Aquinas was not saying. The article never explains what Aquinas meant by saying that the Scriptures are a/the rule of faith. If McInerny were actually responding to the challenge (he's not, obviously, this was written well before the challenge) we would say he failed to provide an appropriate response.

But what about what McInerny says? Are his comments as they stand accurate? Here's the most relevant part of the presentation from McInerny:
Does Thomas say that Scripture alone is the measure of our faith? The words Gaboriau has quoted are from Thomas's commentary on John's Gospel, Super Evangelium S. Ioannis Lectura, ed R. Cai, OP, Marietti: Roma, 1952, n. 2656. Thomas is commenting on John's peroration, "This is the disciple who bears witness concerning these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his witness is true. There are, however, many other things that Jesus did; but if every one of these should be written, not even the world itself, I think, could hold the books that would have to be written. Amen" (John 21: 24-25). In the paragraph Gaboriau cites, Thomas is concerned with "and we know his witness is true." Here is the text:

"It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and the like, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is what he means when he says 'we know his witness is true.' Galatians 1:9, "If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!" The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith. Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things."

It is clear that Thomas is contrasting canonical and apocryphal works and saying that only the former have credence for Christians. The issue Gaboriau is interested in simply does not arise in this passage.
Note, however, that "apocryphal works" are not something that Thomas discusses. In fact, there's nothing in the context that limits Thomas contrast to apocryphal works. It is about others in general who write "concerning Catholic truth." Given the very broad nature of Aquinas' claim, one would expect a response to be in the form of alleging that somewhere in his voluminous writings Aquinas had once referred to someone else's writing as the rule of faith.

Furthermore, note what the immediate context is:

Preceding context:

[1] It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth,
[2] there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and the like, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt.
[3] That is what he means when he says 'we know his witness is true.'
[4] Galatians 1:9, "If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!"
[5] The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith.
[6] Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things.

Note that the statement of interest is [5]. Item [1] introduces the distinction (many other write about the Catholic truth) then item [2] draws the distinction (there is no room for doubt about the content of Scripture). Then item [3] reinforces [2] by emphasis (there is no room for doubt about Scripture) and item [4] reinforces [2] by contrast (but there is room for doubt about teachers). [5] is our statement, and [6] softens the impact of the distinction by noting that we can accept the true things (impliedly measured by the rule of faith) in those other writers about the Catholic truth.

McInerny's error is an understandable one. He has mistakenly emphasized "canonical" thinking that it means "belonging to the canon." Instead, as explained in the prior post, Aquinas calls Holy Scripture canonical, because it serves the purpose of guiding and directing us into the faith and life of Christ.

With all due respect to Prof. Beckwith, his friend has misunderstood Aquinas.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Charles Hodge on Rome

David Waltz is trying to make something of Prof. Hodge's comments on Roman Catholicism (link to Waltz's post). It is worth noting that Waltz has chosen to selectively present one side of Hodge's coin. The other side is that Hodge viewed Rome as both apostate and antichristian (link to example of such teaching) and also as antichrist and a synagogue of Satan (link to example of such teaching) to which we may add the mystery of iniquity and the man of sin (link to example of such teaching).

Waltz does not explain his motivations for choosing to highlight only part of what Hodge taught, and for doing so in a way that grossly exaggerates the differences between Hodge and some of my friends at Triablogue. Yes, my friends and I may well agree with Thornwell and others that Hodge (no doubt due to the softness of his heart) conceded too much to Rome in places such as those Waltz highlights, but the difference between Hodge and us is a lot smaller than Waltz's article would suggest to the unwary reader.


Shouldn't You Be Eating Chocolate?

The always-creative adherent to the papacy, Mark Shea, seems to think that I (TurretinFan) am not much fun at parties because I spent part of Christmas 2009 in service to my Lord, demonstrating that the rule of faith of Aquinas is different from the rule of faith of Rome today (Aquinas and Formal Sufficiency & Aquinas and the Rule of Faith) while others were out, in Shea's words, "opening presents, eating too much chocolate, singing and generally making merry" (link to Shea's article).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an ascetic monk who condemns all pleasures entirely. There is a time for everything under the sun. Nevertheless, criticism for being about my Father's service by defending the faith seems odd, as though amusing oneself with merriment were more important on the 25th of December than promoting the position of the Word of God as the alone rule of faith by answering Rome's false claim of historical continuity to a different rule of faith.

Mr. Shea, however, offered no response to the merits of the blog posts. Instead, he commented:
Replying to professional anti-Catholics like TurretinFan or James White is like the world's longest game of whack-a-mole. Aside from a tiny fanbase of fellow TRVLY REFORMED types who are there to cheer for their champion as he sallies forth to do battle with the Great Whore, nobody cares about this stuff, nobody is impressed with "Look! I Quoted Thomas in the Original Latin!" It touches nobody's life and serves only to expand the egos of the Cult of White and His Acolytes to Hindenburg proportions. (And it tempts not a few young single Catholic males with a chip on their shoulder to answer in kind.) Enough!
There is an odd sort of consistency to Mr. Shea's comments. Although he occasionally throws some stones, he doesn't actually answer us on the substance of the issues. He may call us moles, but he doesn't actually whack us. And he rightly does not refer to himself as an apologist, for an apologist would have to do something more than accuse Rome's critics of being no fun at all.

Ironically (ironic in that Shea's negative post refers favorably to Catholic Answers Apologists), Patrick Madrid - an apologist for Catholic Answers - posted a quotation from Francis de Sales (a great enemy of Calvinism), parts of which seemed appropriate to the situation:
It is true, Philothea, that if we are ready to laugh, play cards, or dance with the world in order to please it, it will be scandalized at us, and if we don't, it will accuse us of hypocrisy or melancholy. If we dress well, it will attribute it to some plan we have, and if we neglect our dress, it will accuse of us of being cheap and stingy. Good humor will be called frivolity and mortification sullenness. Thus the world looks at us with an evil eye and we can never please it. ... Let us give up this blind world, Philothea. Let it cry out at us as long as it pleases, like a cat that cries out to frighten birds in the daytime. Let us be firm in our purposes and unswerving in our resolutions.

While, Mr. Shea might think that my comments on the rule of faith were my "latest punch at the false religion of Rome" he actually missed my more recent post on Vasquez' inappropriate Mariolatry. He seems to think the punch he saw was an inappropriate substitute for fruit punch and figgy pudding, and consequently did not rise to meet the challenge presented. Nevertheless, if a few hours spent on the 25th of December poring over Latin texts rather than drowning my taste buds in mulled cider will help someone see that Scripture should be honored above all other proposed rules of faith, I will consider it a worthy sacrifice to the cause of Christ. If by giving up the pleasure of a little chocolate, I may be able to help someone gain the true gospel of Christ, it was well worth it.

To the glory of the alone Head of the Church, namely my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,


National Repentance

Many Reformed believers are familiar with the potter and clay analogy in Romans 9, which speaks to God's absolute sovereignty. However, many Reformed believers are less familiar with the potter and clay analogy in Jeremiah 18. The two analogies are only loosely related. Jeremiah 18 also points out God's sovereignty, but with a different signification. In Romans 9, you will recall, the signification is that God can make a man into any kind of vessel he wishes. In Jeremiah 18 the point is that any nation's future is malleable in the hands of God: just because things are one way now doesn't mean they won't change.

Here is the text.

Jeremiah 18:5-17

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.

And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.

Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken? Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; to make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.

Notice that point of the passage is two-fold. On the one hand, if a nation is doing uprightly at one point, and God is blessing them, that does not mean that God will continue to bless them. In fact, if they fall into rebellion against God, God will chastise them. In other words, God is a holy God.

The other point is converse. If a nation is in rebellion against God and on the path to destruction, if they repent, they will be spared. In other words, God is also a God of mercy.

Both sides of this coin were graphically illustrated in the prophet Jonah and his ministry to Ninevah. He was a prophet of God but he rebelled and was chastised. Ninevah was in rebellion against God but repented and was spared.

This passage about nations is also applicable to individuals. We see the same theme developed more particularly for individuals in Ezekiel 18 (which I've discussed here). That's why I have felt free to illustrate God's chastisement on Jonah. I could instead have simply pointed to the time of the judges. In those days, the people of Israel repeated fell into wickedness, and God sent them chastisement in the form of oppression by neighboring kings and nations. Then, when they repented, God sent them judges to relieve their chastisement.

Yet, although this passage can be applied to individuals, its primary significance is about nations. It helps to explain why Ninevah was spared and why (as explained in more detail in Romans 11) the nation of Israel is presently under God's chastisement. The land of Ninevah repented, but the nation of Israel rebelled.

Some Christians, even those who have a Reformed soteriology, believe that part of God's character of dealing with nations as nations has ceased. I'd respectfully disagree. There does not seem to be any hint in Scripture that is not longer true that "if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them."

There are many nations presently in rebellion against God and subject to his chastisement. The United States and the United Kingdom come to mind. Now is the time for national repentance in those lands, if those nations wish to avert the judgment of God for their rebellion against Him.

And even more so, within those lands and throughout the world there are many individuals who likewise are rebelling against God. Those people ought to recognize that they are presently under the wrath and judgment of God for their sin. If they continue on their present course, God will consign them to the eternal torments of hell. But it is not hopeless. If they will repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation, they will be saved.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Of Mary, there is never enough.

The title of this post is the concluding line of this article from Arturo Vasquez (link to article). There are other interesting comments in the article as well. For example, the author concedes that:
My grandmothers have always had at least ten images in the house of just the Virgin of Guadalupe, not counting all of the other crucifixes, statues of Saints Joseph and Jude, and countless other articles of religious kitsch.
Mr. Vasquez takes a firmer line on Marian devotion than one finds from Catholic Answers. For example, Mr. Vasquez insists:
Devotion to the Virgin Mary is not "optional" -- or, to put it another way, it is not something that you can ignore.
Contrast that with Catholic Answer's Q/A:
Q:“Is it required that Catholics be devoted to Mary?”
A: Devotion is an emotional attachment, which cannot be required of anyone. All that is required is assent to those doctrines that the Church has declared to be true and binding upon Catholic consciences. As long as a Catholic gives assent of the will to the Marian doctrines, it is not required that he have any particular emotional attachment to the Blessed Mother.

That said, devotion can be developed just like emotional attachment to any person can be developed, and it is a pious action for a Catholic to develop a devotion to his spiritual Mother. One means of developing such an attachment is to learn more about the Blessed Mother through reading Marian apologetic and devotional literature.
(Michell Arnold in This Rock, Volume 17, Issue 4 - 2006)

But Mr. Vasquez gets even more extreme in his claims and in doing so demonstrates that his devotion to Mary comes at the expense of Scripture and History:
Thus, to be Catholic is not simply to become grafted into an institution in the here and now, but it is also an assent to the being of the Church as it comes down to us from history. In the experience of the Christian people, the motherhood of the Virgin Mary given to us by Christ on the Cross is not a sentimental add-on to the Faith, but part of its very essence. Mary takes care of us like any mother does. She has held back hostile armies, cured the sick, or perhaps just found us work. There is no apostolic Christianity where Mary is not present, no ancient Church where prayers to her are not said. A dream of Christianity sans Mary is like a dream of Christianity without the Cross. For without her, there would have been no Body to be offered on it for the life of the world.
Contrary to Mr. Vasquez' claims, however, we note that the motherhood of Mary was transferred at the cross not from Jesus to all of us, but from Jesus specifically to John.

John 19:25-27
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, "Woman, behold thy son!" Then saith he to the disciple, "Behold thy mother!" And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

John understood that he was personally responsible to take care of Mary as though she were his mother, and Mary understood that as well. Notice that the terms are all singular, though two other disciples (Mary the wife of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene) are also there, Jesus does not say, "Woman, behold thy children," but simply "thy son." And Jesus does not say "Behold your (plural) mother" but "Behold thy (singular) mother."

Furthermore, while many churches that call themselves "ancient" today may pray to Mary (the Anglicans would be an exception, "Article XXII. Of Purgatory.: The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."), this is a development - not the ancient and universal practice. Indeed, when one reads through the writings of the apostolic and ante-Nicaean fathers, one finds little hint of this sort of improper devotion to Mary. The first portion of the Hail Mary is adapted from Scripture, but the apostles and the early church fathers didn't pray the Hail Mary. In fact, the form of the Hail Mary that is used among Roman Catholics (including a petition to Mary) is apparently a late 15th century innovation that was more widely adopted in the 16th century due to the influence of the Council of Trent.

Vasquez' comparison between Mary and the Cross is itself pretty shocking. As we saw above, he wrote: "A dream of Christianity sans Mary is like a dream of Christianity without the Cross. For without her, there would have been no Body to be offered on it for the life of the world." One wonders, though whether Vasquez feels the same way about each of the men and women in Jesus' family tree back to Adam and Eve? One seriously doubts it. While a virgin was necessary, God's selection of Mary was gracious (indeed, she was highly favored and blessed by God) not merited. It is not as though God particularly needed Mary and could not have used another virgin from David's line.

Christ's death on the cross, however, is the ultimate sacrifice - the once for all offering that is central to the Christian faith. The cross takes the central place of focus in Paul's gospel, and in the gospel of the ante-Nicaean fathers. If we were going to draw any kind of comparison between Mary and the cross, it would be between Mary as an instrumental means of Christ's nurture and entrance into this world in the flesh, and the physical wood and nails of the cross as an instrumental means of Christ's loss of human life. A comparison between a root from the stock of David from which Jesus sprang after the flesh and a tree upon which Christ's body was hung.

Vasquez continues:
Being a Christian means being part of a family; it means being taken into a way of life that has been going on for centuries. To use another Augustinian axiom: Unus christianus, nullus christianus (one Christian is no Christian). No greater sign exists of this than Mary herself, the most important member of God's own family and the icon of the Church Universal.
Poor Augustine would be rolling over in his grave if he could hear this. But there is worse error in Vasquez' comment than the misapplication of Augustine's words. Notice Vasquez' claim: "Mary herself, the most important member of God's own family ... ." But recall Jesus own words:

Luke 11:27-28
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

Matthew 12:47-50
Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Mark 3:31-35
There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

Matthew 18:1-4
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mr. Vasquez offers only a brief response to criticism:
Indeed, more love for Christ's mother seems only ever a good thing. And to all those who think it distracts too much from the devotion that we should have to her Son: I am sure He doesn't really mind.
Perhaps the reason that Mr. Vasquez thinks that God doesn't mind is that Mr. Vasquez is unaware of Scripture. One of God's names is Jealous, and God wishes to be served alone. I realize that Mr. Vasquez may think that God is quite willing to be served along side or together with Mary, but almost everyone can recognize that there comes a time when the devotion to Mary is excessive, where it elevates her to the position of a goddess, even though the word is not used.

Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

1 Samuel 7:3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.

Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Deuteronomy 4:23-24
Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 5:8-10
Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

Deuteronomy 6:14-15
Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

Joshua 24:19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.

Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

Matthew 4:10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.


Lutheran Response to Arminianism

Steve Hays recently pointed me to a Lutheran response to Arminianism (link to response). While I am not Lutheran (I am Calvinist, which is virtually anathema to certain Lutherans), I pass this on as being "of interest" to my Arminian readers (as well as my Lutheran readers, few though they may be).


Aquinas: Rule of Faith ("sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei")

Thomas Aquinas' expression, "sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei" at first glance sounds a lot like the Reformation maxim that the rule of faith is only the canonical scripture.

Here's an English translation of the relevant portion:
It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and others of this kind, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is his meaning when he says ‘we know his testimony is true.’ Galatians 1:9, “If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!” The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith. Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things.
Latin text:
Notandum autem, quod cum multi scriberent de catholica veritate, haec est differentia, quia illi, qui scripserunt canonicam Scripturam, sicut Evangelistic et Apostoli, et alii huiusmodi, ita constanter eam asserunt quod nihil dubitandum relinquunt. Et ideo dicit Et scimus quia verum est testimonium eius; Gal. I, 9: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit. Cuius ratio est, quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei. Alii autem sic edisserunt de veritate, quod nolunt sibi credi nisi in his quae ver dicunt.”
And here's the citation: Thomas Aquinas, Lectures on the Gospel of John, ed. P. Raphaelis Cai, O.P., Editio V revisa (Romae: Marietti Editori Ltd., 1952) n. 2656, p. 488.

This is not an attempt to construe Aquinas as a modern-day Reformed believer (or even a "Protestant" as unhelpful as that category is). Such an allegation would be anachronistic. However, this citation does show that it is equally (if not more-so) anachronistic to view Aquinas as sharing the beliefs of modern-day Roman apologists. In short, his view of Scripture may not be precisely the same as ours, but it is also not the same as that of Rome, in an important way.

The usual response to this sort of citation from Aquinas is exemplified by the response provided by Phil Porvaznik (link) who deflects from the text in question to another place in Aquinas' writings that he thinks is inconsistent with Sola Scriptura. While such an approach may help to prove what we already concede (namely that Aquinas is not simply a modern-day Reformed Presbyterian), it does not answer the crucial question, what did Aquinas mean by "sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei" ("only canonical scripture is [the/a (Latin lacks articles)] rule of faith")? Can any of the Roman Catholics reading answer that question positively (i.e. by refraining from telling us what Aquinas is not saying but rather by telling us what Aquinas is saying)?

What is interesting is that this is not the only time Aquinas speaks of the rule of faith. Here's another place, first an English translation:
Or, wanting to show those speeches that are completely outside of the Scriptures, it said: If they will say to you: Here, and in the desert, do not depart from the rule of the faith.
Latin text:
Vel eos sermones qui sunt omnino extra Scripturam ostendere volens, dixit si dixerint vobis: ecce in solitudine est, nolite exire, de regula fidei.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Commentary on the Gospels, at Matthew 24:23-38 (Lectio 6 in Matthew 24), quoting (apparently with approval) from Origen.

Additionally, we may note another such reference (again English first):
Objection 1. It would seem that it is unsuitable for the articles of faith to be embodied in a symbol. Because Holy Writ is the rule of faith, to which no addition or subtraction can lawfully be made, since it is written (Deuteronomy 4:2): "You shall not add to the word that I speak to you, neither shall you take away from it." Therefore it was unlawful to make asymbol as a rule of faith, after the Holy Writ had once been published.


Reply to Objection 1. The truth of faith is contained in Holy Writ, diffusely, under various modes of expression, and sometimes obscurely, so that, in order to gather the truth of faith from Holy Writ, one needs long study and practice, which are unattainable by all those who require to know the truth of faith, many of whom have no time for study, being busy with other affairs. And so it was necessary to gather together a clear summary from the sayings of Holy Writ, to be proposed to the belief of all. This indeed was no addition to Holy Writ, but something taken from it.
Latin text:
Ad nonum sic proceditur. Videtur quod inconvenienter articuli fidei in symbolo ponantur. Sacra enim Scriptura est regula fidei, cui nec addere nec subtrahere licet, dicitur enim Deut. IV, non addetis ad verbum quod vobis loquor, neque auferetis ab eo. Ergo illicitum fuit aliquod symbolum constituere quasi regulam fidei, post sacram Scripturam editam.


Ad primum ergo dicendum quod veritas fidei in sacra Scriptura diffuse continetur et variis modis, et in quibusdam obscure; ita quod ad eliciendum fidei veritatem ex sacra Scriptura requiritur longum studium et exercitium, ad quod non possunt pervenire omnes illi quibus necessarium est cognoscere fidei veritatem, quorum plerique, aliis negotiis occupati, studio vacare non possunt. Et ideo fuit necessarium ut ex sententiis sacrae Scripturae aliquid manifestum summarie colligeretur quod proponeretur omnibus ad credendum. Quod quidem non est additum sacrae Scripturae, sed potius ex sacra Scriptura assumptum.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 1, Article 9

Here's another:
1. It seems that you should not combine the articles in the symbol. In fact all the faith is taught in a comprehensive manner with Sacred Scripture. So it was unnecessary to compose the symbol.

2. The symbol is proposed as a rule of faith, whose action is consent. Now, only the Apostles and Prophets must be granted this honor, which is that all they have said is believed to be true, as St. Augustine asserts. So after the Apostles' Creed one should not draw up other symbols.


Reply to 1. It was necessary to collect in a single text the various truth transmitted in various places of the Sacred Scriptures so that the faith would be more readily at hand.

Reply to 2. The Fathers who have published other symbols after the Apostles have not added anything of their own, but added what they excerpted from the Holy Scriptures. Now, since in that symbol of the Apostles there are some difficult things, the Nicene Creed was published, which exposes more fully the faith about certain items. Since then some truths were contained in those symbols in implicit form, it was necessary to give an explanation upon the rise of heresies, and so was added the symbol S. Athanasius, who especially set himself against the heretics.
Latin Text:
Ulterius. Videtur quod articuli non debuerunt colligi in symbolo. Quia tota fides sufficienter per sacram Scripturam instruitur. Ergo superfluum fuit symbolum condere.

Praeterea, symbolum proponitur ut regula fidei, cujus actus est assentire. Sed, sicut dicit Augustinus in epistola 19 ad Hieronymum, solis apostolis et prophetis est hic honor exhibendus, ut quaecumque dixerunt, haec ipsa vera esse credantur. Ergo post symbolum apostolorum non debuerunt alia symbola fieri.


Ad primum ergo dicendum, quod oportuit ea quae in diversis locis sacrae scripturae tradita sunt, in unum colligi locum, ut fides magis in promptu haberetur.

Ad secundum dicendum, quod patres qui alia symbola post apostolos ediderunt, nihil de suo apposuerunt; sed ex sacris scripturis ea quae addiderunt, exceperunt. Et quia quaedam difficilia sunt in illo symbolo apostolorum, ideo ad ejus explanationem editum est symbolum nicaenum, quod diffusius fidem quantum ad aliquos articulos prosequitur. Et quia quaedam implicite continebantur in illis symbolis, quae oportebat propter insurgentes haereses explicari; ideo additum est symbolum athanasii, qui specialiter contra haereticos se opposuit.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Commentary upon [Lombard's] Sentences, Book 3, Distinction 25, Question 1, Answer 1, Quaestiuncula 3, arguments 1-2 and answer to arguments 1-2

And again:
4. In the symbol, the faith must be exposed that extends to all believers. But, not all believers have come to believe in God, but only those who have a formed faith. Therefore he seems to say badly: “I believe in a single God,” and because he has a shapeless faith, saying this, sins by lying.

Reply to 4. In the symbol is propounded to us the rule of the faith, to which all must come. But they do not have only to reach the action of shapeless faith, but also the action of formed faith. However, he who, having shapeless faith, recites the symbol, does not sin, because he says this in the person of the Church.
Latin Text:
Praeterea, in symbolo debet exponi fides quantum ad omnes credentes. Sed non omnibus credentibus convenit credere in Deum, sed tantum habentibus fidem formatam. Ergo videtur quod male dictum sit: credo in unum Deum; et quod habens fidem informem, hoc dicens peccet mentiendo.


Ad quartum dicendum, quod in symbolo proponitur nobis regula fidei, ad quam omnes debent pertingere. Non autem debent pertingere solum ad actum fidei informis, sed etiam ad actum fidei formatae, et ideo ponitur in symbolis actus fidei formatae. Nihilominus habens fidem informem, dicens symbolum, non peccat: quia hoc dicit in persona Ecclesiae.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Commentary upon [Lombard's] Sentences, Book 3, Distinction 25, Question 1, Answer 2, Argument 4, and reply to 4

And here:
3. The Sacred Scripture is the rule of the faith. But, in the Scriptures of Old Testament the Trinity was not explicitly mentioned. Therefore it was not necessary [to believe in the Trinity] in order to believe.

Reply to 3. Since it was not necessary that all be explicitly known in the Old Testament, the mystery of the Trinity was not formulated manifestly, but veiled, so that the wise can understand.
Latin Text:
Praeterea, sacra Scriptura est regula fidei. Sed in Scriptura veteris testamenti non fuit mentio expressa facta de Trinitate. Ergo non erat necessaria ad credendum.


Ad tertium dicendum, quod quia non erat necessarium ut explicite omnes cognoscerent, ideo non fuit positum mysterium trinitatis manifeste in veteri testamento, sed velate ut sapientes capere possent.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Commentary upon [Lombard's] Sentences, Book 3, Distinction 25, Question 1, Answer 2, Quaestiuncula 4, Argument 3, and reply to 3

Finally, again, first in English:
Objection 3. Further, Athanasius was not the Sovereign Pontiff, but patriarch of Alexandria, and yet he published a symbol which is sung in the Church. Therefore it does not seem to belong to the Sovereign Pontiff any more than to other bishops, to publish a new edition of the symbol.


Reply to Objection 3. Athanasius drew up a declaration of faith, not under the form of a symbol, but rather by way of an exposition of doctrine, as appears from his way of speaking. But since it contained briefly the whole truth of faith, it was accepted by the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, so as to be considered as a rule of faith.
Latin text:
Praeterea, Athanasius non fuit summus pontifex, sed Alexandrinus patriarcha. Et tamen symbolum constituit quod in Ecclesia cantatur. Ergo non magis videtur pertinere editio symboli ad summum pontificem quam ad alios.


Ad tertium dicendum quod Athanasius non composuit manifestationem fidei per modum symboli, sed magis per modum cuiusdam doctrinae, ut ex ipso modo loquendi apparet. Sed quia integram fidei veritatem eius doctrina breviter continebat, auctoritate summi pontificis est recepta, ut quasi regula fidei habeatur.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 1, Article 10

Recall again that the challenge to the Roman Catholic reader is to tell us what Aquinas meant by saying that the canonical scriptures alone are a/the rule of faith.

To make the Roman Catholic's job easier, here are some important negative points that I'll present so that the Roman Catholic can focus on the positives:

1. Aquinas wrote in Latin, so while we might be tempted to insert "the" before "rule of faith," the sense of "the" can only be implied.

2. In the first quotation above, the Scriptures are not being contrasted with the proclamations of ecumenical councils or ex cathedra papal statements (the latter category wasn't really yet in existence in Aquinas' time). Thus, Aquinas is not specifically and directly speaking to the supremacy of Scripture over conciliar and papal documents, as such.

Finally, here are some additional quotations from Aquinas, which - while they don't expressly use the expression "rule of faith" -- help to inform the discussion.

First, some explanation of what the expression "canonical" with reference to Scripture meant to Aquinas:
If you wish to know whether a doctrine be erroneous, he shows this by three things. First, if it be against ecclesiastical doctrine. And therefore he says, If any man teach otherwise, namely, than I or the other Apostles. Gal. 1:9: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema. For the doctrine of the Apostles and prophets is called canonical, since it is like a rule for our intellect. And therefore no one ought to teach otherwise. Deut. 4:2: You shall not add to the word that I speak to you, neither shall you take away from it. Apoc. 22:18: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book.

Regarding the second he says, and consent not, etc. For the Lord Jesus came to give testimony to the truth. Jn. 18:37: For this I was born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. And therefore He was sent by the Father as a doctor and teacher. 1 Mach. 2:65: Give ear to him always, and he shall be a father to you, etc. And therefore whatever does not conform to their words is erroneous. 1 Kg. 15:23: It is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey. And he says, sound, because in the words of Christ nothing is corrupt, nothing false, or perverse, since they are words of divine wisdom. Prov. 8:8: All my words are just, there is nothing wicked nor perverse in them. They are right to them that understand, and just to them that find knowledge.
Regarding the third, it says in Prov. 6:20, My son, keep the commandments of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother. Whence he says, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, namely, ecclesiastical doctrine. This godliness is through the worship of God. Tit. 1:1: According to…the acknowledging of the truth, which is according to godliness.
Latin text:
Si vis scire, quae doctrina sit erronea, hoc ostendit ex tribus. Primo si sit contra doctrinam ecclesiasticam. Et ideo dicit si quis aliter docet, scilicet quam ego et alii apostoli, quantum ad primum. Gal. I, 9: si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit. Doctrina enim apostolorum et prophetarum dicitur canonica, quia est quasi regula intellectus nostri. Et ideo nullus aliter debet docere. Deut. Iv, 2: non addetis ad verbum quod loquor vobis, neque auferetis ex eo. Apoc. Ult.: si quis apposuerit ad haec, apponet deus super illum plagas scriptas in libro isto.
Quantum ad secundum dicit et non acquiescit, etc.. Nam dominus iesus venit, ut testimonium perhibeat veritati. Io. Xviii, 37: in hoc natus sum, et ad hoc veni in mundum, ut testimonium perhibeam veritati. Et ideo missus est a patre sicut doctor et magister. i mac. Ii, 65: ipsum audite semper, et ipse erit vobis pater, etc.. Et ideo erroneus est quicumque non acquiescit sermonibus eius. I reg. Xv, 23: quasi peccatum ariolandi est repugnare, et quasi scelus idololatriae nolle acquiescere. Et dicit sanis, quia in christi sermonibus nihil est corruptionis, nihil falsitatis, vel perversitatis, quia sunt sermones divinae sapientiae. Prov. Viii, 8 s.: iusti sunt sermones mei, non est in eis pravum quid neque perversum. Recti sunt intelligentibus, et aequi invenientibus scientiam. quantum ad tertium, prov. Vi, 20: conserva, fili mi, praecepta patris tui, et ne dimittas legem matris tuae. Unde dicit et ei quae secundum pietatem est doctrinae, scilicet ecclesiasticae. Haec pietas est per cultum dei. Tit. I, 1: secundum agnitionem veritatis, quae est secundum pietatem.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on 1 Timothy, Chapter 6, Lecture One.

Thomas Aquinas similarly asserts that Scripture's ultimate effect is to lead men to perfection, by teaching men not only the things necessary for salvation but also for supererogation (see, there's an example of Thomas not being a Reformed theologian, we deny that there are such things as works of supererogation). The text is interesting at least from the standpoint of material sufficiency:
Its ultimate effect is that it leads men to perfection. For it does good not in whatever manner, but it perfects. Heb. 6:1: Let us go on to things more perfect. And so he says, That the man of God may be perfect, since a man cannot be perfect unless he is a man of God. For something is perfect which lacks nothing. Therefore, then is a man perfect when he is furnished, that is, prepared, to every good work, not only for those which are necessary for salvation but also for those which are of supererogation. Gal. 6:9: And in doing good, let us not fail.
Latin Text:
Ultimus eius effectus est, ut perducat homines ad perfectum. Non enim qualitercumque bonum facit, sed perficit. Hebr. C. Vi, 1: ad perfectionem feramur. Et ideo dicit ut perfectus sit homo dei, quia non potest homo esse perfectus, nisi sit homo dei. Perfectum enim est, cui nihil deest. Tunc ergo homo est perfectus, quando est instructus, id est, paratus, ad omne opus bonum, non solum ad ea quae sunt de necessitate salutis, sed etiam ad ea quae sunt supererogationis. Gal. Cap. Ult.: bonum autem facientes, non deficiamus.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on 2 Timothy, Chapter 3, Lecture three.

Finally, Aquinas that while other arguments from probability can be made, the proper authority for holy teaching is the canonical Scripture:
Yet holy teaching employs such authorities only in order to provide as it were extraneous arguments from probability. Its own proper authorities are those of canonical Scripture, and these it applied with convincing force. It has other proper authorities, the doctors of the Church, and these it looks to as its own, but for arguments that carry no more than probability.

For our faith rests on the revelation made to the Prophets and Apostles who wrote the canonical books, not on a revelation, if such there be, made to any other teacher. In this sense St Augustine wrote to St Jerome; Only to those books or writings which are called canonical have I learnt to pay such honour that I firmly believe that none of their authors have erred in composing them. Other authors, however, I read to such effect that, no matter what holiness and learning they display, I do not hold what they say to be true because those were their sentiments.
Latin text:
Sed tamen sacra doctrina hujusmodi auctoritatibus utitur quasi extraneis argumentis et probabilibus. Auctoritatibus autem canonicae Scripturae utitur proprie, ex necessitate argumentando. Auctoritatibus autem aliorum doctorum Ecclesiae, quasi arguendo ex propriis, sed probabiliter.

Innititur enim fides nostra revelationi apostolis et prophetis factae qui canonicos libros scripserunt, non autem revelationi, si qua fuit, aliis doctoribus factae. Unde dicit Augustinus in epistola ad Hieronymum; Solis eis Scripturarum libris qui canonici appellantur didici hunc honorem deferre, ut nullum auctorem in scribendo errasse aliquid firmissime credam. Alios autem ita lego ut, quantalibet sanctitate doctrinaque praepolleant, non ideo verum putem quod ipsi ita senserunt.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8

Any takers for the challenge? (Remember, the challenge is to tell us what Aquinas does mean, not what he doesn't mean.)


Mountain Cast Into Sea

One of the more challenging sayings of Jesus relates to prayers that a mountain be cast into the sea. The expression of a mountain being cast into the sea is sometimes presented by teachers as though God were saying that if someone prayed in faith, God would toss any old mountain into the sea, much like a child might through a stone in the lake, just for the fun of it.

However, in both the Old and New Testaments, casting a mountain into the sea is a fear-inducing calamity and sign of judgment, much like an earthquake.

Psalm 46:2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Revelation 8:8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;

The passages (there are two synoptic accounts of this saying of Jesus) in which we find Jesus mentioning the prayer about the mountain are sometimes interpreted, as I noted above, as simply a trivial exercise of God's power. Other times, ministers attempt to spiritualize this by suggesting that the mountain of our sins will be removed if we pray to God for that (appealing perhaps to Micah 7:19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.). While such is a true doctrine, I do not believe it is the true sense of this passage.

In the context of the passages, Jesus has been interacting with the scribes and chief priests (Matthew 21:11-15; Mark 11:9-18). They are critical of him because he is receiving the praise of children, who call him the Son of David and the Prophet of Nazareth. It seems that Jesus and his disciples are visiting the temple on essentially a daily basis, returning at night to Bethany.

In both passages we are told as well about a fig tree. From the passages we learn that Jesus came on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem and found a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit, and he cursed it. On the following day, returning along the same path, the disciples noted that the cursed tree had completely withered, and they marveled.

It is upon this occasion, the marveling at the withering of the fig tree, that Jesus made his saying:

Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

Mark 11:23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Notice a word that is frequently overlooked. Jesus does not say simply, "say unto a mountain," but "say unto this mountain." What mountain is he speaking of? There is the possibility that it is any mountain between Bethany and Jerusalem, but in the context of both accounts, the very next thing that Jesus does is to enter into Jerusalem and specifically the temple (Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:27).

Thus, it is reasonable to view Jesus' remarks as being directed toward the mountain to which they were approaching, namely Jerusalem, and especially the temple mountain. With this in mind, what Jesus is speaking of is of the destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem, and especially the temple mount was complete. As prophesied in Matthew 24:2, even so it was carried out:

Matthew 24:1-2
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

Mark 13:1-2
And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

That Jesus is speaking of the judgment of Jerusalem in our present passages is also demonstrated from the picture of the fig tree. The fig tree represents, it appears from the context, the hypocritical Jewish leadership. They had a zeal for the law, at least outwardly, and consequently from a distance resembled a fig tree full of leaves. However, upon examination, they are not found to have fruits, and consequently they were judged.

In the case of the fig tree, the the fig tree withered, but in the case of Jerusalem, the whole mountain was destroyed, cast into the sea as it were, by the Romans. Indeed, the Jewish historian Josephus tells us that following the destruction of Jerusalem, "[General Titus] then went down with his army to that Cesarea which lay by the sea-side, and there laid up the rest of his spoils in great quantities, and gave order that the captives should he kept there; for the winter season hindered him then from sailing into Italy." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VI)

This passage should remind us of the fearful judgment of God on hypocrites. Let us careful examine ourselves lest we be found to be fruitless fig trees ripe for judgment. Do not delay, for while we do not know when the Lord will return, we do know that none of us will live for ever. We will all then appear before the Lord our maker, to be judged. If you, dear reader, are trusting in the rock of mount Jerusalem, or of the seven hills of Rome, or of the Swiss alps, rather than trusting in the Rock alone of which it is written:

Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Then this day turn in repentance from your sin, place your trust in Christ alone, and humbly beg him that he would bring spiritual fruit into your life through the operation of His Most Holy Spirit, who together with the Father and the Son is God Almighty, to whom be glory and praise both now and until the ages of ages.