Saturday, February 20, 2010

Closing statement

I want to begin by thanking Rhology for taking part in this debate with me. I hope that it has been as fruitful for him as it has for me.

I want to express that whatever in my posts was good and true was from God, and I thank him for whatever work he's done through me, a sinner. Whatever in my posts was ignorant or malicious came from me; for this I humbly apologize. I'm young, I have a bad temper, I'm sarcastic and often disrespectful, and I'm a Soldier -- I've got a million excuses, but no good reason other than to say that I feel deep sorrow for those who willfully reject Christ, and sometimes I allow this sorrow to express itself as frustration and mockery. For that I ask forgiveness from Rhology and all who've been following this debate.

I apologize to Rhology for all of the many ways I have fallen short in love and knowledge. Rhology, I want you to know that you have been and always will be in my prayers. It's been a privilege to participate in this debate with you.

It's a privilege for which I'm eternally thankful. I've learned many things during the course of this debate. I more clearly understand my own position and the reasons I hold it and more clearly understand the position I disagree with and why I disagree. The things I've learned in this debate about both positions have significantly strengthened my conviction in my position, or, rather, the Church's position.

I'll now recap some of the reasons I reject Sola Scriptura, then I will discuss some of those things I've learned during the course of this debate.

I think that I've successfully shown that SS cannot stand up on history, logic, or Scripture itself.

SS
fails historically because it would've been impossible for early Christians to practice it; there's got to be Scriptura, all the right Scriptura and none of the not-Scriptura, in order for SS to work, and these conditions were not met until 367, and, then, only in a small part of Christendom. If the early Christians, including the Apostles, couldn't and didn't practice SS, they couldn't have taught it. Therefore, it's not part of the "faith once for all handed down to the Saints" which Scripture tells us to "cling to" (Jude1:3).

SS also fails historically because it disregards the reasons we have a canon of Scripture at all. Even a cursory reading of the various canon lists of early Christians reveals that the library of Apostolic writings called the "New Testament" wasn't intended by those who compiled it to be an exhaustive exposition of the Faith. It wasn't intended to include everything Christians believed and did; it was intended to be a library of authentic Apostolic writings, compiled and given approval by the Church, standing against the pseudographic heretical writings of groups like the Gnostics. The early Christians' primary means by which they determined whether a writing was authentically Apostolic was that it agreed with the Faith as taught by the Church; if it didn't agree with the Apostolic Faith as preserved in the Church they said it wasn't Apostolic.

SS falls logically in its strange assumption that the Apostles wrote down everything they wanted preserved. This is, of course, in stark contrast to an actual reading of the New Testament, in which one discovers that the Apostles wrote to churches in order to correct misunderstandings and encourage them in the faith they had already received.

Finally, SS falls flat on its face in the light of Scripture itself. The New Testament continually tells us to remain faithful to the Apostolic Faith -- both those parts of it that were written down and those parts that were delivered by word of mouth. In the end, to embrace SS and trim down the Apostolic Faith to only what was recorded on paper by the Apostles is to betray and abandon that Faith entirely.

Now I'd like to discuss the things that I've learned during the course of this debate.

First, I've learned that tradition is an inevitable reality. In a dictionary published by Princeton University, tradition is defined as "an inherited pattern of thought or action." Calvinists have their "inherited pattern[s] of thought" about Scripture just as much as the Orthodox. We can't avoid it -- we learn to interpret the words and passages in a certain way and that's how we read it.

Nobody really adheres to SS in a strict sense. Nobody comes to the Scriptures tabula rasa -- it's impossible, as human beings are not blank slates; when we come to the Scriptures we bring with us all of the baggage acquired over a lifetime telling us how those Scriptures should be interpreted.

The issue in our debate hasn't been one of "Scripture alone" versus "Scripture and Tradition." It's been one of "Scripture with a Calvinist thought pattern" versus "Scripture with an Orthodox thought pattern." The real question now becomes: whose thought patterns are the correct ones? I think the best I can do here is to point my finger in the direction of the Fathers -- men who didn't sit idly behind computer screens in their safe homes and post to a blog as I'm pitifully doing, but spent their lives suffering for the Faith and often had those lives ended for the Faith.

Rhology has dragged their name through the mud throughout this debate, ridiculously claiming they didn't agree on much more than monotheism and even calling them heretics. Apparently, Rhology has forgotten that if it weren't for these holy men and their extraordinary dedication to Christ, the Gospel would have disappeared hundreds of years ago. These are the men who compiled the Scriptures Rhology holds so dear. If it weren't for men like Irenaeus, Polycarp, Ignatius, Athanasius, and Justin, there'd be no Bible and no Christianity today.

These men loved the Lord and his Gospel more than I ever could. To believe that these men who were so ready and willing to suffer and die for Christ would in any way distort his message as it was delivered to them by the Apostles is too terrible a thought for me to entertain for long without feeling sick.

I admit that I've made a mistake in this debate in referring to Holy Tradition as "extra-biblical Tradition." Holy Tradition is not extra-biblical at all, even if certain aspects of Holy Tradition are not to be found explicitly (or even implicitly, in some cases) in Scripture. Father Georges Florovsky wrote, on how the Fathers (specifically St. Vincent of Lerins, whom we've discussed in this debate) viewed Tradition: "Tradition was, in fact, the authentic interpretation of Scripture. And in this sense it was co-extensive with Scripture. Tradition was actually 'Scripture rightly understood.' And Scripture for St. Vincent was the only, primary, and ultimate canon of Christian truth."

In a sense, Orthodox Christians are the real followers of "SS." Rhology has spoken in previous discussions with me about allowing Scripture to speak for itself -- I wasn't sure what to say then, but I now know the proper response: exactly!

Irenaeus, writing against the Gnostics, told a parable concerning what heretics do to Scripture. He compared the Scriptures to a beautiful mosaic of a great king. The heretics, he said, then take the stones of this mosaic and rearrange them into the shape of a dog, not even a very good depiction of one at that, and proclaim that this is the "real" picture of the king. This is exactly what Calvinists and other Protestants do to Scripture.

They take the beautiful writings which God gave us through the Apostles and Fathers, which contain the Words of Christ, the words of salvation ... and they make it into a picture of a dog. This is accomplished through their "traditions of men" (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.) by which they "make the word of God of no effect" (Mark7:13).

The only answer to these distortions of Holy Writ is to "cling to the Faith which was once for all handed down to the saints," the Faith uniquely found in the Church founded by the Apostles.

Rhology, you've told me that you once considered conversion to Orthodoxy, and yet you do not seem to have understood the Orthodox Faith at all. I don't say this to insult you, but with hope it will encourage you to investigate Orthodoxy again, making a more informed decision. I encourage you, and everyone reading, to learn about Orthodox faith, practice, and history on Orthodoxy's terms rather than obfuscating it with presuppositions and comparisons to Roman Catholicism. I also encourage you and everyone reading to read the writings of the Church Fathers for yourself rather than relying on liars like White and Webster. But these two desires are the same thing; the Orthodox Faith is indeed the Faith of the Fathers, found in its fullness only in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church -- the Orthodox Church.


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