Thursday, January 17, 2008

DEBATE W/EASTERN ORTHODOX PART 3: JAY DYER'S REBUTTAL OF MY OPENING STATEMENT

I thank Josh for his response. In my first rebuttal I want to do only a few things. First, Josh has brought up a plethora of issues that cannot be dealt with in one response. Thus, I can either spend ten pages on each item he raises, or spread it out a bit, and deal with these several issues over the course of several posts. My first rebuttal will only deal with his assumption of sola scriptura, since we will continue to talk past each other with competing exegesis. I’m not avoiding anything out of fear, either: I will deal with Van Til, Apostolic Succession, predestination, and other issues. But I also think readers would rather read a rebuttal of 7 pages than have to wait another week for a rebuttal of 30 pages.

2. Sacred Tradition, and that the “Word of God” is not solely written.

Suffice it to say that Josh’s arguement, and all of Protestantism generally, rests on the assumption that only the written texts are the Word of God, and that the Word Himself is only known from these. If this fails, then so does all of that system, since this its sole foundation. My goal is to get my opponent and the readers to see the error of his most foundational presupposition, and the overwhelming evidence for mine. When we consider the history of Revelation, we note that in the beginning (Gen. 1:1-3), God’s Word was spoken, and yet nothing was written down. In fact, from Adam to Moses, a period of several hundreds of years passed with the Revelations given to Noah, Abraham, Joseph and others being passed orally. At least, we have no knowledge of anything being written. So, we see that there is nothing inherently defective with oral tradition, as Calvin seems to think in the Institutes. If God can guide the written texts, as the Protestant will admit, then He can also guide the Oral transmission as well. And, in fact, if one believes the Bible, one must affirm that from Adam to Moses the Oral Revelation was passed on faithfully and perfectly to Moses and Joshua, from whence arises the origin of the written texts.

When we survey the Old Testament, we realize that the Patriarchs, all through Genesis, operated according to this infallible Oral Tradition, when God was not giving a new Revelation, of course. When Abraham built an altar, he didn’t have a book to instruct him, He had the truths passed on from the time of Adam in the godly line of Seth, and whatever Revelations God spoke. He didn’t refer to “Genesis.” As an even better example, we can examine the formation of the temple worship of God based on Sacred Oral Tradition in 2 Chron. 29 as follows, concerning King Hezekiah:
“25 And he stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the LORD by His prophets. 26 The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets.”
But we have no written record of what David commanded concerning these things. Furthermore, it’s also clear that King David flourished some 250 years before the time of King Hezekiah! It might be argued that this was David’s “opinion” concerning worship, but we know that God doesn’t tolerate men’s opinions in His worship. Such is the irony of the regulativist principle. The next chapter makes it clear that this was the Oral Word of God,
“10 So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them and mocked them. 11 Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the LORD.”

Take note of this reformed regulativists: the most holy thing--the very worship of God, is here based on an Oral Tradition. Very similar to the way the Holy Church of God has handed down her Liturgies “from the commandment of God through Apostles.” Other examples can be given. When we read of the sons of the prophets in 2 Kings, for example, we know that there was a guild/school, of which Elijah and Elisha were the preeminent members. These “sons of the prophets” were all prophets and prophesied. But we do not have any record of all that they prophesied, but if they were prophets of the LORD, then they prophesied the Word infallibly. Similarly, Obadiah was a prophet, but his recorded prophetic text is only 21 verses. Do we seriously believe that when he preached (and the OT prophet functioned in many ways like a preacher), that he only read the same 21 verses day in and day out, as if OT prophets functioned in a modern, Protestant, sola scriptura fashion? Such a view strains credulity. I point all this out because Josh has used Isaiah 8:20-21 where we are commanded to stick to “the law and the testimony.” But the testimony is precisely the Oral Tradition. Now, when I say “Oral Tradition,” it should be recognized that that Tradition can, of course, be written down, and never achieve canonical status as a book. We see that in the New Testament with The Book of Enoch. But I want to remove from my opponent the idea that he can cite OT texts as proof of sola scriptura. Furthermore, how can you have sola scriptura in a period of ongoing Revelation? You can’t. We see the same principle of Sacred Tradition also exemplified in the following extra-canonical books/traditions quoted in the OT. Note particularly the fact that the books of those prophets listed must have contained infallibly true religious propositions since they were prophets of the Lord, and not false prophets:
1] Book of the wars of the Lord: "Wherefore it is said in the book ofthe wars of the Lord: As he did in the Red Sea, so will he do in thestreams of Amen. The rocks of the torrents were bowed down that theymight rest in Ar, and lie down in the borders of the Moabites."(Num.21:14-15)2] Book of the just:"Then Josue spoke to the Lord, in the day that hedelivered the Amorrhite in the sight of the children of Israel, and hesaid before them: Move not, O sun, toward Gabaon, nor thou, O moon,toward the valley of Ajalon. And the sun and the moon stood still,till the people revenged themselves of their enemies. Is not thiswritten in the book of the just? So the sun stood still in the midstof heaven, and hasted not to go down the space of one day." (Jos.10:12-13)"(Also he commanded that they should teach the children of Juda theuse of the bow, as it is written in the book of the just.) And hesaid: Consider, O Israel, for them that are dead, wounded on thy highplaces." (2 Kings 1:18)
3] Book of Nathan the prophet:"Now the acts of king David first andlast are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book ofNathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer:" (1 Paral. 29:29)Now the rest of the acts of Solomon first and last are written in thewords of Nathan the prophet, and in the books of Ahias the Silonite,and in the vision of Addo the seer, against Jeroboam the son ofNabat.(2 Paral. 9:29)4] Book of Samuel the seer: Now the acts of king David first and lastare written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathanthe prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer: (1 Paral. 29:29)5] Book of Addo the seer:"Now the rest of the acts of Solomon firstand last are written in the words of Nathan the prophet, and in thebooks of Ahias the Silonite, and in the vision of Addo the seer,against Jeroboam the son of Nabat."(2 Paral. 9:29)

The last one is particularly revealing, in that we are told that that prophetic text contained visions of Addo the seer against Jeroboam. Thus, a true prophet is prophesying against the evil king Jeroboam, obviously from the Lord. But where is the “written law” of this incident? Note also that the OT text itself is directing one to these books as references! On the Protestant model, we would have the infallible referencing the fallible for truths about the Lord! But this is absurd. So, again we see that they did not have a sola scriptura mindset in the OT, as Josh’s use of Is. 8:20-21 mandates. All of these prophecies were still the “Word of the Lord.” Rather, the written law and the Oral Testimony of the prophets was the Word of the Lord. And, it’s because the Word is a Person, and not a book, that some of these obscure prophesies and visions have been lost. It’s because the Person of the Word came to men (Is. 2:1) and spoke what was necessary whenever and wherever He saw fit. And in His providence, He has maintained and preserved for us today what He has seen fit in both an Oral and written form.
At this point, I move to the New Testament. Is this principle continued into the New Testament, or do the arrival of the Word Incarnate and the commission of the Apostles inaugurate sola scriptura? I believe it can be shown that the OT principle carries right on through into the New. Now, this does not mean that there are any new, public revelations that bind the Church after St. John died. Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and most reformed hold that the deposit of faith was complete with the death of the last Apostle. From what conduits that Revelation is derived is where we differ.

Our Lord Jesus, as far as we know, never wrote anything (aside from what he inscribed in the sand). Yet St. John records in John 20:
“30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
And in John 21:
“25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.”
All those other words and actions and miracles and signs of our Lord are all infallible truths concerning Himself. And the Apostles were taught all these things, yet could not write them all down. Now surely there is an advantage to the written form, in terms of communication, but there is nothing inherently faulty with the Oral. If the Oral is inherently flawed, then Jesus would have surely written something! But, it so happens that only some of the Apostles wrote anything we know of! But they all went out teaching and preaching the deposit they had received from Jesus, which includes all that He did and said (that each particular one knew).
My opponent cited Acts 20:27, concerning sticking only with the “full counsel of God,” which he assumes means only written texts. However, this section functions as a powerful refutation of his Protestant tradition. St. Paul says that he taught day and night for three years in Ephesus (31)! Now, all we have from St. Paul in this regard is his letter to the Ephesians and the two to St. Timothy. Are we to imagine that he only repeated these written texts (as if that was all the Holy Spirit had to say to the Ephesians)? Was St. Paul like Obadiah in the Protestant view, only reciting his few verses day and night for three years? Of course not, and we can see in the Book of Acts that this is not Apostolic method. They preach the Word. As a side note, it is also in Acts 20:35 where we have the Oral Tradition recorded that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is nowhere recorded in the Gospels. Thus, all that they taught, both Oral and Written, was the Word of God. Here, my opponent may raise an objection and say that only what the Apostles taught in written form is authoritative and inspired. But where does the NT say that? From whence does he derive that principle? In fact, it says the exact opposite. We read in St. Paul:

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (1 Thess. 2:13)
This means the Oral preaching of the Apostles was infallible. My opponent was hesitant on the phone to agree to this, but we see that St. Paul clearly claims that his oral preaching to the Thessalonians was the Word of God.
And to St. Timothy he writes:
“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” (2 Tim. 1:13)
“1You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:1-2)
Again we see that the Oral preaching of St. Paul is commanded to be passed on to men after St. Timothy, along with the written. This is the same injunction of St. Paul used with the Thessalonians: 2 Thess. 2:15:
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”
Clearly the command is for both to be passed on because both are the Word of God. St. Peter agrees:
“…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God [a Person] which lives and abides forever, because,
“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-24).

Thus, St. Peter understands that the Oral preaching he did was infallible, inspired revelation from God, as much as His written texts were. James White admits this, too, in one of his debates with Matatics. Too many problems arise when we propose that the Apostles could orally teach error, and were inerrant only in written texts. And clearly the biblical evidence is otherwise. The same goes for St. Paul’s lost letter to the Laodiceans:
"Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house. And whenthis epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans: and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans." (Col. 4:15-16)
St. Paul would not have ordered that it be read in the church if it was not the Word of God! And yet, we do not have this text. But for the Orthodox, it would be no problem if it were discovered and were identified as certainly Pauline. It wouldn’t be a new revelation, but part of the original deposit. Furthermore, if the Apostles could err in their oral teaching, they could also err in their written teaching, since their written proposition that their oral is infallible would be proven false!

How do we account for all this? The answer is that all truths and all knowledge are summed up in a Divine Person: The Logos Himself, who contains all the logoi of creation, as St. Maximus says. That is why we read in John 5:
“But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
The very same thing said to the Pharisees can be said with equal weight to the Protestant sola scripturist: you search the texts because you confusedly think that they are the Word, when the written texts bear witness to Him. That’s Jesus’ theory of inspiration. And that’s really as far as you can go with the idea concerning what sense the written texts are the Word. Strictly speaking, they are not. They are merely words on a page. But just like icons, they are created images which are empowered to be vehicles of Revelation for the Word Himself. And they contain nothing erroneous. If the Protestant has no problem with me writing “God” or “Jesus,” he should have no problem with icons, since words themselves are images. And those two words are made holy by that fact.
Thus:
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His (the Word’s) sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12)

He is a living, Divine Person, not a book. And just like it is true that someone can know about me through a letter, without knowing me personally, the Protestant is devoid of true knowledge of Christ, and is just like the Pharisees who worshipped Moses, like the Protestants do St. Paul, when, in fact, St. Paul “wrote of Him.” Even St. John expresses this fact when he writes that he would rather speak in Person as opposed to writing (3 John 13)! Why wasn’t he thinking in terms of sola scriptura?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

DEBATE W/EASTERN ORTHODOX PART 2: JOSH BRISBY'S OPENING STATEMENT

I thank Jay Dyer for his opening statement. I will interact with his opening statement and focus on more specific critiques of Eastern Orthodoxy in particular in my rebuttal.

INTRODUCTION

I have the privilege of defending and earnestly contending for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints. But what is this faith? Indeed, the debate topic for us asks whether Reformed Baptist Christianity or Eastern Orthodoxy is the true faith. Many denominations and branches of Christianity, including the cults, claim to be the one and true faith handed down by the apostles. To verify whether they are true or not, many offer different claims as proof. Some appeal to "apostolic succesion"; some claim that only they are living in right practice; still others claim that their "translation" of the Word of God is the only correct one. How did the apostles and Jesus Himself view this? "To the Law and to the Testimony."

WHY I AM A REFORMED BAPTIST

I will briefly outline why I am a Reformed Baptist in my theological and philosophical convictions. These will be mainly described as follows:

(1) Philosophically, only Reformed theology allows for the preconditions of intelligibility. That is to say, only it makes sense of the world around us.

(2) Theologically, Reformed theology alone makes sense of the Scriptural revelation.

(3) Practically, only Reformed theology in all its fullness delivers the whole counsel of God and therefore brings about proper Christian living. Specifically, Reformed Baptist theology sees the glory of the New Covenant, which is a far better covenant, with Christ Himself as its very essence.

PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING

Philosophers have always asked questions about the nature of reality, the nature of good and evil, the nature of knowledge, and the nature of beauty. These are of course only a few of the questions that philosophy asks. But philosophers are rightly not content to be satisfied with only a few questions answered. They want to know what is the truth.

Cornelius Van Til was a Christian philosopher and theologian who the Lord used to bring glory to Christ by demonstrating that only Christ Himself and the Christian theistic worldview, particularly in its Reformed presentation, is the only worldview which makes sense. The presuppositions of the Reformed worldview help us to critique other worldviews themselves. Let us look at a few examples of these presuppositions:

(1) God exists as the absolute sovereign Ruler of the universe, governing all aspects of His creation. This is an important presupposition, because, although other Christians will affirm this to some degree, when they are really pressed, we Reformed find that they do not really understand the word "sovereign" in its true sense. For example, a "sovereign" nation is one that is self-governing, and only influenced by itself when it comes to its laws and reign. We Reformed would say the same about God. God is sovereign in the sense that He has absolute free reign over His entire creation. There is nothing that anyone can do to influence Him. He is a Law unto Himself. In fact, not even man's so-called "free will" can stop His plans, because God Himself has even ordained our free acts themselves. Many Christians do not believe that God has really ordained all things. They most certainly don't believe that God has ordained the Fall of man into sin. More than that, they don't dare believe that God has predestined who will be saved and who will be lost. But this is what the Bible teaches. See Romans 9; Proverbs 16:4; Lamentations 3:37-38; Ezekiel 14:9; Ephesians 2:1-10; etc.

If someone does not affirm that God has ordained all things, we can simply break it down and ask them what they mean. So does an event happen because God just thought it would happen or knew it would? Then it was still certain. But some have gone the heresy road and deny God's foreknowledge at all. We can ask them, then, how God planned the redemption of mankind. There is simply an unraveling of the faith unless one upholds God's absoute and sovereign decree.

(2) Although God is absolutely transcendent, yet He stoops down to us and is immanent as well. He has revealed Himself to us in the Person and work of Christ and in Holy Scripture, as well as by way of covenant. Eastern Orthodoxy will say that God's Word is mainly Christ, Who they say is the Icon of God. This is only half the story. How do they know about Christ except by the propositional revelation which is Scripture itself? When we view Scripture, we see that God revealed Himself by way of covenant to the people of Israel, who He used as is even presently using even in their casting away temporarily to bring the gospel to the Gentile nations. God's covenants with Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant are all related and supplement one another. Reformed theology calls this the unity of the covenant of grace. That is to say, that in these covenants there underlies a unity and a fundamental purpose, which is God's plan of salvation for the human race, and the bringing about of the glory of His dear Son.

Dispensationalism, which is the most popular form of thought in American evangelicalism today, sees God's purposes for Israel and the Church as entirely distinct and separate from one another. This gave way to the rise of premillennialism and pre-tribulationism, and a truncated ecclesiology and soteriology. The dispensational view of the holiness of God is very low; it is a focus on His immanence at the expense of His transcendence. Eastern Orthodoxy, likewise, I argue, focuses on God's transcendence (hence apophatic theology and the "negative way") at the expense of His immanence. Both are extremes. It seems to me that only Reformed theology keeps the balance.

(3) Our understanding is darkened unless God renews us and regenerates us by His Holy Spirit. False understanding and idolatry is expressed in all non-Reformed worldviews. I realize that this is a grand statement to make, and a sweeping one. But I have yet to see any worldview that is not Reformed (and I argue, baptistic as well) keep from falling into internal contradictions or practical contradictions from its own claims. One example dealing with Eastern Orthodoxy will suffice. The East says that apophatic (negative) statements about God are really the best way to know God; yet Jesus Himself says in John 17 that "this is eternal life: that they may KNOW You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent." Now, if eternal life is knowing God, then surely it is more than negatively! If I know my wife, I know BOTH positive AND negative things about her. EO claims to accept Scriptural revelation, but not only does it have problems here epistemically, but it also fails to account for the fullness of divine revelation.

THEOLOGICALLY SPEAKING

This brings us to why I am a Reformed Baptist theologically speaking. I believe that the best expression of the faith once for all delivered unto the saints is the London Baptist Confession of 1689 (although I would amend one part to say that the Pope is AN antichrist, although not THE Antichrist). We do not have time to exposit the Confession now, but every section is replete with Scriptural proofs. Only the Reformed faith makes sense of the strong Scriptural language dealing with the depravity of man (Jer. 17:9; Ro 9:16; Ro 8:7-8; John 6:44ff; etc.). It is probably safe to say that every other branch of Christian thought is semi-Pelagian, if not fully Pelagian. This is ironic as well, because, although I would not view the church councils say the way Rome or the East would (the East holds to seven, Rome to twenty-one), nonetheless, Pelagius was the heretic condemned by the most church councils in all of church history. Yet, his thought is alive and well in Eastern Orthodoxy today (as well as Rome, and also in evangelicalism).

Only the Reformed faith makes sense of the strong Scriptural language when it comes to God's election of individuals unto salvation, and even reprobation (which Lutherans do not accept). I honestly do not have time to list the *numerous* Scriptures on this subject.

The Reformed faith has a very high view of Christ's atonement, His propitiation and expiation. Eastern Orthodoxy does not even like to speak in those categories, since it sees the Resurrection as more central than the cross (because our main purpose, according to them, is theosis and not necessarily judicial justification). We Reformed are very concerned and disturbed by a so-called "atonement" that does not really propitiate and expiate. Further, we see that atonement itself has always and only been designed for only those within the covenant community. Israel's sacrificial system was never designed to remit the sins of those outside of the theocracy and state of Israel. Likewise, Christ's atonement was never, indeed, could never be, designed to take away the sins of anyone except God's elect people.

The Reformed faith has a high view of the Spirit's calling and regeneration. But more than that, the Reformed Baptist faith has a high view of baptism (as well as the Lord's Table). We have been saved, as Titus says, by the washing of regeneration. We have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God. The reason we are born of water and the Spirit is because baptism historically before the third century was always seen as the culmination of the conversion experience. "Arise and wash away your sins." But Peter is clear that baptism does not save merely by the water, but by "the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Christ." It is God's way of testifying to us that we truly have been born again. When the Spirit calls us, there is a clean break with sin. Before that, we are dead in our sins. Even as the lion has the "free will" to choose to eat the vegetables or not, and it never will, our "free will" is bound in sin and will always choose to reject the gospel offer. "Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard change its spots? Neither can you who do evil do good." "The hostile mind is not subject to God's Law, nor indeed can be; those who are in the flesh CANNOT please God." (Ro 8:7-8) "No one CAN come to Me unless the Father Who sent me draws him . . . and I will raise him up at the last day." (Jn 6:44ff.)

Finally, the Reformed faith has a high view of the saints' perseverance. If there is one verse which refutes all self-righteousness, all works-based views of salvation (I include among that the so-called "Federal Vision" troubling Reformed circles these days), it is this: "If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself." Hallelujah! Our perseverance does not depend upon ourselves. This is hope for the sin-sick soul. The gospel is truly good news. But in Eastern Orthodoxy, the gospel is not good news at all. Michael Horton rightly noted that he has never been attracted to Rome or Orthodoxy, because "there's just not enough of the gospel there." I agree. In fact, the only gospel I know of is what Charles Spurgeon said: "It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else." This may seem like a strong statement, but he made clear that he could not (and nor can I) comprehend a "gospel" that depends upon man's so-called free-will, or a "gospel" which has Jesus "loving" and "dying for" Judas in the same way that He "died for" Peter, or a "gospel" which allows man to thwart God's ?perfect? plan, or a "gospel" which lets saints fall away after they are "called."

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

This leads us to the practical reasons why I am a Reformed Baptist. I have recently wrestled, as many of my blog readers know, with the baptism issue once again, but as I have had time to reflect on this, as well as all of the related issues when it comes to ecclesiology, I am beginning to see the claims of the traditional Reformed Baptist view of the New Covenant. Any kind of Christianity that wants to claim Christianity needs to deal with Jeremiah 31:31-34 in its essence right now. Dispensationalism cannot deal with it because of its stark separation of Israel and the Church, and if it says that the New Covenant is here now in any sense whatsoever, it ceases to be dispensationalism, because here we now have the Church receiving the promises of the New Covenant! Reformed paedobaptist theology cannot really tell us what is "new" about the New Covenant, since it flattens out the covenant of grace to the extreme to the point where there is almost no difference at all. (I realize that paedos will contest this; I am merely speaking from the way we Reformed Baptists see it with our concerns.) Could it be that infant baptism gave rise to the Federal Vision? Could it be that the Federal Vision is kind of a halfway house to Rome or the East? Could it be that all of this is because Reformed paedobaptist theology flattens out the covenants so much that it has a Judaizing element to it, notwithstanding the fact that, to its credit, it does uphold justification by faith alone? This is why I am a Reformed Baptist. Christ Himself is the glory of the New Covenant! As my pastor told me: preaching through the book of Hebrews made him even more of a Baptist. I now see why, praise God!

CONCLUSION

I will do more extensive and specific critiques of Eastern Orthodoxy as well as interact with Mr. Dyer's opening statement in my rebuttal to his opening statement. I again thank my debate opponent for interacting with me and the claims of Reformed Baptist theology.

Mr. Dyer, you now have the floor for your rebuttal to my opening statement.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

DEBATE W/EASTERN ORTHODOX PART 1: JAY DYER'S OPENING STATEMENT

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]).
St. Irenaeus
"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).
St. Augustine
"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.

Jay Dyer

UPCOMING BLOG DEBATE: ME VERSUS EASTERN ORTHODOX

Hello readers,

I am pleased to welcome an Eastern Orthodox man by the name of Jay Dyer to my blog. He contributes to http://www.nicenetruth.com/ . Jay is formerly Reformed and formerly Tridentine Roman Catholic who came to the Eastern Orthodox religion in 2006. I have spoken with him over the phone as well and he is very enjoyable and cordial to speak with. I welcomed him to a debate on my blog. He will be posting it on his blog as well.

Jay will have an introduction of himself so you can all get to know him.

The debate topic will be in the form of a question: "Is Eastern Orthodox or Reformed Baptist Christianity the True Faith?"

The format will be as follows:

Part 1: Mr. Dyer's Opening Statement
Part 2: Mr. Brisby's Opening Statement
Part 3: Mr. Dyer's Rebuttal of Mr. Brisby's Opening Statement
Part 4: Mr. Brisby's Rebuttal of Mr. Dyer's Opening Statement
Part 5: Mr. Dyer Cross-Examines Mr. Brisby (Six Questions)
Part 6: Mr. Brisby Cross-Examines Mr. Dyer (Six Questions)
Part 7: Mr. Brisby's Closing Statement
Part 8: Mr. Dyer's Closing Statement
Part 9: Blog Readers' Q & A (to either blog writer)

Once again I would like to welcome Jay to The Reformed Oasis. It should be a good debate. Thanks Jay, and welcome to The Reformed Oasis!