Intro and Opening Statement
By: Jay Dyer
Introduction: Who is this jerk?
Greetings in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the consubstantial, life-giving Trinity. As Josh noted, I am formerly a Baptist Bible College and BTS student who converted to Roman Catholicism roughly 4 years ago, going the traditional, Tridentine route, and subsequently ending up in Orthodoxy. I have a degree (I’m on my last class) in philosophy and history. A more detailed version of the intellectual aspect of my journey can be found here. My real interests, however, are historical theology, biblical studies, patristics, dogmatics, liturgics, and textual studies (as in codices and canonicity). I live in a small town in Paris, TN, and presently work as a clerk in our liquor store as I, finish college (sorry, tee-totalers: please resist the temptation to use this ad hominem… lol).
Such being the case, I affirm that Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the true form of Apostolic, Biblical Christianity, and that not only the Reformed Baptists, but all Protestant denominations, though having generally valid baptisms that impart grace, are, in the final analysis, heretical and severely deficient in their peculiar doctrinal distinctives. Though I am a sinner, I believe God’s deifying grace had brought me to this truth. Such arguments, by God’s grace, have already led to the conversion of many of my learned friends from Protestantism.
1. The First and Major Error: the Protestant Canon of Scripture.
My first argument is that if the Protestant has the wrong canon, then his claim of sola scriptura is completely groundless and falls flat. Let me preface this by saying we believe in soli verbum Dei, the Word of God alone, not Scripture alone. The Divine Logos is a living Person (Heb. 4:12, John 5:39), not a book, though the written Revelation of Himself in the canonical Scriptures is inerrant and infallible. It is not, as will be demonstrated below, the sole means of knowing Christ and obtaining infallibly true religious propositions. A detailed response to the major Protestant myths concerning the DC, which is what is required, are ably dealt with in this article of mine. I cite only conservative, respected Protestant scholars of various flavors. Suffice it to say in summary that it is completely false that the New Testament never quotes the DC. For example, we see the following citations very clearly:
Ecclus. 11:31 and 2 John 10.
Ecclus. 11:18-20 compared with Christ’s parable of the wealthy farmer in Luke 12:19.
Further, Jesus’ statements about the eye making the whole body dark in Matthew 6:22 seems to clearly refer to Ecclus. 14:8-11.
Wisdom 12-13 is almost exactly parallel with Romans 1:18-32. F.F. Bruce admits this in his “Canon of Scripture,” where he writes that St. Paul obviously had this in mind when penning Romans.
Wisdom 2 and Baruch contains clear prophecies of Christ, as evidenced here.
Hebrews 11:35 refers to women and children who refused to be delivered from death (martyrdom) that they might receive a better resurrection. Now, there is nothing like this in the Protestant canonical OT (based on the Palestinian Jewish canon), where a woman refuses to have her children saved in order to merit for them a more glorious resurrection. But there is exactly that situation in 2 Maccabees 7, where the mother and her seven sons refuse to be delivered so that they might obtain a better resurrection.
Thus, we see that the NT writers clearly had no Protestant dislike of the Deuterocanon (from now on DC). I fact, it is well known that many early Protestant vernaculars contained still contained the DC Books, or at least some of them, such as the early King James and the original Geneva Bible. Who, then, is right on the canon? Who has the full written Word of God? If a Protestant cannot give a cogent account as to what constitutes canonicity, who makes that decision, and the historical events that makeup canonicity, then he continue to claim sola scriptura as a viable principle. It might simply be asked, why follow Luther in rejecting them? Luther himself admitted he had theological reasons for rejecting them. But that begs the question—to reject the DC because it doesn’t fit with “the Word of God,” as many Protestants do, is merely presupposing you already have the correct canon. But that’s what is in question. If you do not even have the correct canon, it logically follows that you are also wrong about sola scriptura.
Rather, I affirm that Scripture itself directs us to Sacred Tradition. We also know for a fact, as Protestant scholars on this issue admit (as I showed in my above linked article), that the NT writers, for the most part, used the LXX (the Septuagint). Everyone knows it contained the DC. This explains the NT writers’ numerous allusions and citations (and there are many more than I listed). And, it is the LXX that passed into the early church as their OT “Bible.” This is why the claim of many Protestant Apologists is completely false, when they imagine that the early church, both apostolic and post-apostolic, “didn’t recognize the DC.” In fact, it’s the exact opposite, and it’s far more complex than that. The history of the canon evinces a long, flexible, progressive formation, as any student of this issue knows. However, sticking to the main point, it’s quite easy to demonstrate that the early church used them and cited them as they do the rest of the canonical texts:
"You shall not waver with regard to your decisions [Sir. 1:28]. Do not be someone who stretches out his hands to receive but withdraws them when it comes to giving [Sir. 4:31]" (Didache 4:5 [A.D. 70]).
St. Clement of Rome
"By the word of his might [God] established all things, and by his word he can overthrow them. ‘Who shall say to him, "What have you done?" or who shall resist the power of his strength?’ [Wis. 12:12]" (Letter to the Corinthians 27:5 [ca. A.D. 80]).
St. Polycarp of Smyrna
"Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood [1 Pet. 2:17].
. . . When you can do good, defer it not, because ‘alms delivers from death’ [Tob. 4:10, 12:9]. Be all of you subject to one another [1 Pet. 5:5], having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles [1 Pet. 2:12], and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed [Is. 52:5]!" (Letter to the Philadelphians 10 [A.D. 135]).
"Those . . . who are believed to be presbyters by many, but serve their own lusts and do not place the fear of God supreme in their hearts, but conduct themselves with contempt toward others and are puffed up with the pride of holding the chief seat [Matt. 23:6] and work evil deeds in secret, saying ‘No man sees us,’ shall be convicted by the Word, who does not judge after outward appearance, nor looks upon the countenance, but the heart; and they shall hear those words to be found in Daniel the prophet: ‘O you seed of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust perverted your heart’ [Dan. 13:56]. You that have grown old in wicked days, now your sins which you have committed before have come to light, for you have pronounced false judgments and have been accustomed to condemn the innocent and to let the guilty go free, although the Lord says, ‘You shall not slay the innocent and the righteous’ [Dan. 13:52, citing Ex. 23:7]" (Against Heresies 4:26:3 [A.D. 189]; Daniel 13 is not in the Protestant Bible). "Jeremiah the prophet has pointed out that as many believers as God has prepared for this purpose, to multiply those left on the earth, should both be under the rule of the saints and to minister to this [new] Jerusalem and that [his] kingdom shall be in it, saying, ‘Look around Jerusalem toward the east and behold the joy which comes to you from God himself. Behold, your sons whom you have sent forth shall come: They shall come in a band from the east to the west. . . . God shall go before with you in the light of his splendor, with the mercy and righteousness which proceed from him’ [Bar. 4:36—5:9]" (ibid., 5:35:1; Baruch was often considered part of Jeremiah, as it is here).
"The whole canon of the scriptures, however, in which we say that consideration is to be applied, is contained in these books: the five of Moses . . . and one book of Joshua [Son of] Nave, one of Judges; one little book which is called Ruth . . . then the four of Kingdoms, and the two of Paralipomenon . . . . [T]here are also others too, of a different order . . . such as Job and Tobit and Esther and Judith and the two books of Maccabees, and the two of Esdras . . . . Then there are the prophets, in which there is one book of the Psalms of David, and three of Solomon. . . . But as to those two books, one of which is entitled Wisdom and the other of which is entitled Ecclesiasticus and which are called ‘of Solomon’ because of a certain similarity to his books, it is held most certainly that they were written by Jesus Sirach. They must, however, be accounted among the prophetic books, because of the authority which is deservedly accredited to them" (Christian Instruction 2:8:13 [A.D. 397]). "We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place" (The Care to be Had for the Dead 1:3 [A.D. 421]).
I have spent 6 years now in the Phillip Schaff Church Fathers Set, and there are literally too many of these to cite. More examples, for quick reference, can be found here. We see, then, that if 2 Macc. 12 is part of the written Word of God, then suffrages for the dead are laudable and praiseworthy religious actions. Therefore, to deny them, is to reject part of the written Word of God, and it then follows that the very origins of Protestantism’s conception of the canon (Luther’s dislike of the DB) are shown to be a serious heresy and a mere tradition of man: ironically, the very thing Protestants harp against Orthodox.
Many will respond that the Palestinian Jewish authorities [!] of the first century should be our model, since most of them (not all, however), rejected the Hellenized Jewish practices, one of which was the Diaspora use of the LXX. From whence does the Protestant derive this principle? Who determined that the Palestinian Jews must be followed? Didn’t they crucify Christ? Why would they determine our canon? Does the Bible teach that we should follow the Palestinian Jews? Weren’t they a Synagogue of Satan (Apoc. 2:9, 3:9)? In fact, Origen makes a compelling case that apostate Palestinian Jewish leaders purposely omitted and/or changed texts, in this letter. I highly recommend reading it, as it shows, first, that Protestant apologists such as James White are false in stating that Origen rejected the DC, and second, it illustrates the complexity at hand, and the inadequacy of the Protestant approach to this issue of canonicity. Note also that Origen, as did St. Augustine in Bk. XVII of the City of God, touted the Church’s acceptance of the LXX. Further, it exposes the foolishness of thinking that Christ-rejecting Jews have anything to do with defining the Holy Church of God’s canon. It is also well known that the Jews in Palestine fixed their non-LXX canon due to the fact that so many Christians cited the DC prophecies of Christ!
Moving on, we also see the difficulty for the Protestant when we examine St. Jude. We read there the citation from the Book of Enoch, which undoubtedly also prophesies Christ in many places. Protestants may try to take refuge in the argument that only 1 Enoch 9 is cited, so only 1 Enoch 9 is inspired. The problems with this are manifold. St. Jude is not merely accepting that only verse 9 is inspired, inasmuch as the reference here is to the return of Christ Himself. St. Jude is then also presupposing that the author, whoever he is, is correctly transmitting an oral tradition (that was eventually written) from the time of Enoch, since Enoch is explicitly said to be its author in St. Jude 14. Thus, you must affirm that Enoch said this, if you believe in inerrancy. Clearly there is an extra-canonical OT tradition that has been handed down, being subsequently written, so that even if one rejects that Enoch actually wrote it, it’s generally considered to be a text that originates prior to the Advent of Christ. But on what authority does the Protestant say that only verse 9 is inspired? Does the Bible say that? What about the rest of the book, where Christ is spoken of in many places? Furthermore, this is outside the realm of merely quoting a pagan poet for effect, as St. Paul certainly does on two occasions. This is, in fact, understood by the Apostle as a prophecy of Christ Himself!
My point is not to argue for Enoch’s canonicity, but to show that the Apostles obviously did not have the Protestant sola scriptura mindset. Many other examples could be given, such as the story of St. Michael and Lucifer arguing over the body of Moses in St. Jude 8-9, which most scholars believe is from the pseudepigraphical Assumption of Moses, as the notes to the Reformation Study Bible admit. More examples can be given, but the point is, I think, clear. There are infallibly true religious propositions that exist outside the actual canonical texts, and this is a lucid example of Sacred Tradition. And, only one clear example is enough to prove sola scriptura false, since it’s an unequivocal, universal claim.
Another example of this problem from a different avenue is the question of textual authorship. All admit that Matthean authorship, for example, is crucial to its canonicity, yet no one possesses the autographa of St. Matthew himself. Our author does not neatly conscript himself as “I, Matthew, who was the disciple of Jesus, wrote this letter.” There is only one way we know this is part of the written Word of God, and that is through Sacred Tradition. The editors of the Reformation Study Bible are forced to admit this:
"Although this Gospel [Matthew] does not name its author, some earlymanuscripts have an inscription "according to Matthew," and Eusebius(260-340) tells us that early Church Father Papias (60-130) spoke ofMatthew as arranging the "oracles" about Jesus. Subsequent traditionis unanimous that the disciple Matthew, also called Levi (9:9-13,Mark 2:13-17), was the author of this Gospel, and not until theeighteenth century was this tradition doubted...other objections toMatthew's authorship are more speculative...but these objections[liberal, higher-critical doubts] do not disprove the tradition thatMatthew was the sole author..."-New Geneva/Reformation Study Bible, pg 1503.
To simply assume that “Matthew” is the Apostle Matthew, begs the question. All the false gospels ascribe their origins to Apostles as well, such as the blasphemous Gospel of Thomas. The same goes for the question of the authorship of St. Mark’s or St. Luke’s Gospel. Again, Sacred Tradition is clearly inescapable. To ignore all this is to be dishonest, when confronted with the facts. Other examples could be given, such as Lent. We know from the writings of St. Polycarp that Lent was celebrated in the first century, along with Easter. How else would St. Victor threaten to excommunicate the Easterns and have his famous dispute, in which St. Irenaeus refers to the time of St. Polycarp (roughly 90-100 A.D.) where Easter in the East was celebrated on a different day. How is it, my dear regulativist pals, that the church had almost totally apostatized so early? How was it that Lent and Easter were celebrated so early and so widely in the Holy Churches which the Apostles established? On the genuineness of this, see J.N.D. Kelly’s Oxford History of the Popes, under the entry for Pope St. Victor. Didn’t God promise to raise up for His Church, His very Body, holy and wise men to lead and guide Her through the presence of His Spirit (Eph. 4:9-14)? Where were these men until Luther? Where was the Holy Spirit, in terms of keeping faithful sola fide-ists preching and teaching for that aeon? Over 1,000 years of no one teaching sola fide! See A. McGrath’s Iustitia Dei on this.
Another example of Sacred Tradition often missed by Protestants is the ancient Liturgies. The Liturgies factor in prominently in the discussions of the Ecumenical Councils, and give testimony to the very heart of the Church’s Tradition itself-the worship of God. How is it, that from Apostolic times, Sacred Liturgies have been passed on in the major sees and bishoprics of the Church, that teach all those “Catholic” things? In fact, unbeknownst to many of Protestant thinkers is the fact that inclusion of certain books in the canon was intimately tied to the use of certain verses or texts in the Liturgies! It’s never a hard and fast either/or on these issues, as many Protestants want to make it. Liturgy was involved in the canon, and vice versa. So was Oral Tradition, as were creedal, canonical and conciliar statements-all aspects of either Sacred Tradition or holy ecclesiastical traditions. For example, let us look at the Ancient Liturgy of St. Mark, used by the God-bearing Fathers such as Ss. Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria, which in its present form dates to probably the third century. But wait you say: “that’s not Apostolic, if it’s from the third century!” Then neither would be the NT Scriptures, since most of the 5,000 or so ancient texts we presently have date from the same period.
What do we find present in the Divine Liturgy of Saint Mark? We find priesthood, Bishops, Real Presence, invocation of the Holy Angels, incense, One Visible Church, the sign of the Cross, sacrificial Eucharistic offering, epiclesis, consecration, etc. All those “blasphemous idolatries” so hated by Protestants. We see the same practices in the West as well, very early on, when St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, and St. Hippolytus describe their respective liturgies that contain all these same elements. So, when the Protestant says he wishes to have the “mind of the Church,” yet rejects virtually everything ecumenically confessed by the “mind of the Church” for the first 1000 years, it’s difficult to understand how this is supposed to work. How can he rightfully oppose the hyper-preterist, for example, when he tries to fend such heretics off with “Tradition,” such as the Nicene Creed (and what else is the Creed but our Sacred Tradition?)? He may refrain from using the term ‘tradition,’ to the “mind of the Church,” but undoubtedly the mind of the Church is expressed in her ecumenical Creed! The Fathers who composed that Creed undeniably meant by “one, holy, catholic, apostolic,” what we Orthodox alone have maintained: one visible institution with the presence of the Holy Spirit in her sacraments alone, that spreads across the nations and through all ages, being founded on Apostolic Teaching & Succession.” To profess this Creed, and redefine the terms to fit one’s theological fancy to appear in line with the Church of all times is simply dishonest.
Such is my opening statement. In the follow ups and rebuttals, I will move on to other key topics: more essential biblical evidences for Sacred Tradition, the proper conception of the Word of God Incarnate & the Eucharist, Apostolic Succession, justification, the filioque heresy, and other key issues, such as problems with Van Tillianism, icons and relics, with attending responses to whatever Josh poses.
Ss. Peter, Paul, Athanasius, Cyril, & Augustine, Michael and Raphael, and the Holy Theotokos, pray for us.