Sunday, February 21, 2010

What Webster and King don't want you to know

Jnorm, one of my co-conspirators at the Society for Orthodox Apologetics, posted links to these two pages from a Roman Catholic apologetics website a few months ago at his blog Ancient Christian Defender. I've been intending ever since then to share them here, but I have a terrible memory. So, a little late but just as great, here they are:
  1. St. Athanasius on Scripture, Tradition, and Catholic Doctrine - Exposing just a few of the things that the great Athanasius of Alexandria had to say -- and William Webster and David King forgot to mention (oops, right?). Here's a sample:
    "Tradition is recognised [by Athanasius] as authoritative in two ways: (1) Negatively, in the sense that doctrines which are novel are prima facie condemned by the very fact (de Decr. 7, note 2, ib. 18, Orat. i. 8, 10, ii. 34, 40, de Syn. 3, 6, 7, and Letter 59, §3); and (2) positively, as furnishing a guide to the sense of Scripture (see references in note on Orat. iii. 58, end of ch. xxix.). In other words, tradition with Athanasius is a formal, not a material, source of doctrine. His language exemplifies the necessity of distinguishing, in the case of strong patristic utterances on the authority of tradition, between different senses of the word. Often it means simply truth conveyed in Scripture, and in that sense 'handed down' from the first, as for example c. Apol. i. 22, 'the Gospel tradition,' and Letter 60. 6 (cf. Cypr. Ep. 74. 10, where Scripture is 'divinae traditionis caput et origo.'). Moreover, tradition as distinct from Scripture is with Athanasius not a secret unwritten body of teaching handed down orally, but is to be found in the documents of antiquity and the writings of the Fathers, such as those to whom he appeals in de Decr., &c ....Connected with the function and authority of tradition is that of the Church....But Athanasius was far from undervaluing the evidence of the Church's tradition. The organ by which the tradition of the Church does its work is the teaching function of her officers, especially of the Episcopate (de Syn. 3, &c.). But to provide against erroneous teaching on the part of bishops, as well as to provide for the due administration of matters affecting the Church generally, and for ecclesiastical legislation, some authority beyond that of the individual bishop is necessary. This necessity is met, in the Church as conceived by Athanasius, in two ways, firstly by Councils, secondly in the pre-eminent authority of certain sees which exercise some sort of jurisdiction over their neighbours...
    The page's primary focus, though, is the dozens of quotes it features from Athanasius' writings; these must have just slipped the minds of Webster and King. Here's a few:
    See, we are proving that this view has been transmitted from father to father; but ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiaphas, how many fathers can ye assign to your phrases? Not one of the understanding and wise; for all abhor you, but the devil alone; none but he is your father in this apostasy, who both in the beginning sowed you with the seed of this irreligion, and now persuades you to slander the Ecumenical Council, for committing to writing, not your doctrines, but that which from the beginning those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word have handed down to us. For the faith which the Council has confessed in writing, that is the faith of the Catholic Church; to assert this, the blessed Fathers so expressed themselves while condemning the Arian heresy; and this is a chief reason why these apply themselves to calumniate the Council. For it is not the terms which trouble them, but that those terms prove them to be heretics, and presumptuous beyond other heresies. (De Decretis 27)

    For who was ever yet a hearer of such a doctrines? or whence or from whom did the abettors and hirelings of the heresy gain it? who thus expounded to them when they were at school? who told them, 'Abandon the worship of the creation, and then draw near and worship a creature and a works?' But if they themselves own that they have heard it now for the first time, how can they deny that this heresy is foreign, and not from our fathers? But what is not from our fathers, but has come to light in this day, how can it be but that of which the blessed Paul has foretold, that 'in the latter times some shall depart from the sound faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, in the hypocrisy of liars; cauterized in their own conscience, and turning from the truth?' (Discourse Against the Arians 1.8)

    The blessed Apostle approves of the Corinthians because, he says, 'ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you' (1 Cor. xi. 2); but they [the Arian heretics], as entertaining such views of their predecessors, will have the daring to say just the reverse to their flocks: 'We praise you not for remembering your fathers, but rather we make much of you, when you hold not their traditions.' And let them go on to accuse their own unfortunate birth, and say, 'We are sprung not of religious men but of heretics.' For such language, as I said before, is consistent in those who barter their Fathers' fame and their own salvation for Arianism, and fear not the words of the divine proverb, 'There is a generation that curseth their father' (Prov. xxx. 11; Ex. xxi. 17), and the threat lying in the Law against such. They then, from zeal for the heresy, are of this obstinate temper; you, however, be not troubled at it, nor take their audacity for truth. For they dissent from each other, and, whereas they have revolted from their Fathers, are not of one and the same mind, but float about with various and discordant changes. And, as quarrelling with the Council of Nicaea, they have held many Councils themselves, and have published a faith in each of them, and have stood to none, nay, they will never do otherwise, for perversely seeking, they will never find that Wisdom which they hate. I have accordingly subjoined portions both of Arius's writings and of whatever else I could collect, of their publications in different Councils; whereby you will learn to your surprise with what object they stand out against an Ecumenical Council and their own Fathers without blushing. (Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 14)
  2. St. Athanasius vs. William Webster: The Ground and Pillar of Whose Faith? - A debate between Webster supporters and detractors (that is, between those who would bastardize the writings of Athanasius and those who would allow the man to speak for himself), in which the truth of the situation becomes very clear (that, his supporters get pwned). A short extract:
    Another clear way to demonstrate what I have been saying... Does St. Athanasius mean by the following:

    Quote: "But after him [Satan] and with him [Satan] are all inventors of unlawful heresies [the heretics], who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power." (from Festal Letter 2.6)

    SUBSTITUTE "hold such opinions as the saints have handed down" with "hold to the Scriptures as the apostles have handed down" as Webster and you guys are suggesting and we have....

    Quote: "But after him [Satan] and with him [Satan] are all inventors of unlawful heresies [the heretics], who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold to the Scriptures as the apostles have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power." (revised Webster version of Festal Letter 2.6)

    The key phrase is "receiving them as the TRADITIONS OF MEN...." If the above is the correct understanding as you guys insist, my only question is: Did the heretics (for example, the Arians) receive the Scriptures as "THE TRADITIONS OF MEN?" Did they reject the Scriptures as FALSE? Yes or No? Historically, the clear answer is NO.

    Even St. Athanasius acknowledges the Arians believed the Scriptures were true, that they were "inspired of God." Where they differed was over the correct interpretation of Scripture. THAT -- the orthodox or correct interpretation of the Scriptures -- is what was handed down in the Church by the "saints" (orthodox Fathers). THAT -- the orthodox or correct interpretation of the Scriptures -- is what was rejected by the heretics as the "traditions of men" NOT the Scriptures themselves or the apostles! Hence, Webster is incorrect and Gallegos nailed another one!
Make sure you check these out. I've added links to them in my "Favorites sites & pages" section in the sidebar, too; excellent resources -- I see myself using them in the future.


  1. BTW, I was listening to Webster's series on Roman Catholicism quite some time ago, before the Orthodox Church was even on the radar screen. He was talking about the ECF's at one point and said that they all unanimously taught the same teaching on Baptism but that they were wrong. Then he proceeded to say that we need to make Scripture our guide, thereby implicating the ECF's and dismissing them as being misled. Little did he know that a seed had been sown. Right then I started thinking, do I trust Webster on this or the Early Church Fathers? :)

  2. Oh, is that where you got the "James White says the early church writers taught Baptismal regen unanimously?" statement?


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