Thursday, March 11, 2010

More discussion of the title of "heretic" for early writers

My opponent in my recently-concluded debate on Sola Scriptura, DavidW, has had some interesting things to say afterwards, and it has provoked some (what I hope are) helpful thoughts, which I'd like to share here.

I thought I'd sort of broken his spirit and will to debate any more, but it doesn't appear that is completely true, so oh well.
(That's mostly a joke, about me breaking his spirit, just FYI.)

OK, so DavidW likes to assert that I hold to some kind of great apostasy in the early church not long after the apostles died, and that I think the early church 'fathers' were heretics. I wrote this post to correct him, and then Viisaus made some very good comments in the combox and PilgrimsArbour a good one as well.
DavidW lastly left a thought-provoking comment, trying to bring the discussion to a concrete level and then accusing me of "distorting and ignoring the evidence and the historical facts".
So, here is my answer.

But were they points of controversy with respect to what the biblical position actually is? Was the biblical position represented? That's the big question.
As we've discussed numerous times before, I don't grant that "Augustinianism" didn't exist before Augustine. Paul, Peter, and Jesus all taught what I teach today with respect to soteriology, predestination, hamartiology, etc. But at least some of it was forgotten by at least some people in the early church. Since this is a difficult thing for you to remember, apparently, please note that "some" does not mean "all". Got that?

Now, as for your three:
1) A. So they were proto-monophysites, is what you're saying. That's a problem. (For you.)
B. I don't know why you think that I think that a sacramental understanding of the Eucharist is heresy. Do you think I consider Presbyterians or Lutherans heretical?
C. You know, there's plenty of reason not to grant that point to you at all. But even if I did grant it, I'd have to ask whether the writers whose writings are still extant ever wrestled with the issue as it is defined biblically. Did he have an opportunity to be corrected by someone correctly interpreting the Scripture? Remember how I made resistance to correction a big deal in the post?
D. To say nothing of the question-begging nature of such appeals to "the early church" on your part, as if you knew anything about said early church masses beyond what a handful of people said that they themselves believed and, less commonly, said what others of their time believed. If you want to substantiate your claims that "the early church" believed what you believe, show me the polling data.

2) James White has admitted that all of the Fathers held to Baptismal Regeneration

I'd like to see that quote, actually.
And obviously Clement of Rome didn't, as he held to sola fide. Further, there's reason to think that Mathetes, Polycarp, and Tertullian didn't hold to such.
It occurs to me that quoting these early writers against your assertion that they "all... held to Baptismal Regen" actually weakens my point in the post, though it's worth it as it is just one more example of how wrecked and untenable your "early church consensus" position is.

3) Not holding to Calvinistic predestination is not heresy.

OK, moving on:

and you still claim that Calvinism isn't Gnosticism?

Yes, I still claim that it is not, unless you're willing to claim that EOdoxy is Muslim, since both hold to monotheism, prophets and supernatural revelation, angels, etc. Just waiting for some non-fallacious inferences from you. Apparently I'll be waiting a while.

which would be that you are condemning yourself, your Scriptures, and the Apostles in the process?

The idea that you or I could "condemn" the Scripture or Apostles is laughable.
This further begs the question at hand, both that the early extant church writings do in fact represent unbroken and uncorrupted DOCTRINAL transmission from the apostles, and that the Scripture does a worse job than those other writings of teaching us apostolic doctrine.

The Fathers of the early Church largely sorted the Apostolic from the apocryphal in their collation of the New Testament by deciding based on whether or not it agreed with their Faith.

1) Taken in isolation, that's certainly quite commendable. Reminds me of some town in Acts 17 that begins with "Bere" and ends in "a".
2) This raises an interesting point.
Let's say I grant that the extant early church writings express more or less EO doctrine.
Given other facts, such as that the Scripture is God-inspired and sufficiently clear to communicate what it intends to communicate, and that the Scr does not teach more or less EO doctrine on these points of contention between us, I don't see why I wouldn't be fully justified in positing with certainty either that either the entire church of the time was in serious, serious error or that these men didn't properly represent the beliefs of the church at large. In the absence of any data to the contrary (such as polling data from the laity and other church leaders from the time periods in question which I've repeatedly requested and you've repeatedly been unable to provide), my position has logical consistency in affirming the latter.
Yes, I know you'd dispute the statements about the Scripture, but as we've seen over and over again, your position just can't get there, sorry. And I think you know that, which is why you slip in these little jabs at Scr's reliability, whether in affirming its errancy when you want to, or in moving away from it towards early church writers, or in doubting its clarity and ability to communicate sufficiently. Or I could be wrong; as we saw in our debate, your exegesis of most every Scr text you tried to deal with was horrific, so I guess that could be it too.

They did not have access to the same historical and archaeological methods as we do, and so this was the rule of which they made use.

1) And so much the worse for them. I thought you'd want to make arguments that help your position...
2) Though my own arguments for the Canon to which I subscribe are primarily theological.

If the Faith of the early Church was as deeply flawed as you allege that it is, your New Testament is also apparently deeply flawed.

Back to the old myth that I hold to some universal apostasy after the 1st century.

Error does not produce truth.

This is equivocation between the TEACHING and the TEACHER. We need to be more careful than that.

(Please leave any comments at the cross-post at Beggars All.)

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