Conversation with 'Athanasius' and 'Gregory of Nyssa' on Infallibility

From an Email Exchange with the "Hotmail" Fathers (Emails dated May 2000)


This was an Email discussion with some intelligent Evangelical Baptist folks with "Hotmail" accounts -- they call themselves Athanasius of Alexandria (Jon) and Gregory of Nyssa (Jim), ironically two prominent Catholic Fathers. They take a more "evidentialist" approach to Christian apologetics (along the lines of Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, etc). I include my contributions to the discussion. This exchange arose out of a response to a somewhat negative review of the book edited by Robert Sungenis Not By Scripture Alone: A Catholic Critique of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura.


Subj: A Reviewer of Not By Scripture Alone
Date: 4/22/00
To:
Sungenis@aol.com , athanasius_of_alexandria@hotmail.com

In a message dated 4/21/00 3:56:33 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Sungenis writes (quoting Athanasius review from Amazon):

Jon>> Roman Catholics really need to demonstrate that the pope is infallible to show that Sola Scriptura is false. George Salmon has already demonstrated that this position is untenable in his 1888 work The Infallibility of the Church, which still awaits a meaningful response from Rome. >>

George Salmon's old book is filled with factual errors and misconceptions:

Reply to Salmon's Infallibility

Roman Catholics do not need to demonstrate the Pope is infallible, to prove Sola Scriptura false. If the Bible does not teach SS (directly or by implication), that is good evidence SS is false (unless other arguments can be made, etc). The Eastern Orthodox reject Sola Scriptura as strongly as Catholics, and do not believe the Pope is infallible. If you want some historical evidence the Pope was considered infallible by the early Church -- and to see how White leaves out so much information in his recent web site article on this bit of history:

Rome has Spoken; the Case is Closed

Compare with Catholic Legends (Sermon 131) by White (found at his site)

Just how much of St. Athanasius of Alexandria's theology does AOA believe? What is his church affiliation? Does he reject wholly (as White and others have done) this Church Father's clear Catholic beliefs? (A point made by Blosser and others in NBSA)

Blessed Easter to all!

P

=============================================

Subj: Demonstrating Infallible Authority
Date: 5/3/2000
To:
athanasius_of_alexandria@hotmail.com , Sungenis@aol.com

In a message dated 5/2/2000 12:58:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time, athanasius_of_alexandria@hotmail.com writes:

Jon>> Imagine further that the Bible does not teach Sola Scriptura (probably not so hard for you) and a Mormon comes to your door. He points out that the Bible does not teach Sola Scriptura and that his prophetic authority is infallible. But he never demonstrates that the prophetic authority is infallible. Would you be rational to believe that now there is another infallible authority? You both believe that the Bible is an infallible authority. But in the absence of a demonstration of another infallible authority, you would be irrational to reject Sola Scriptura. >>

My question to this is always: Why do you believe Scripture is an infallible authority to begin with? Granted, we agree that Scripture is an infallible authority (or perhaps more properly, an "inerrant" authority since infallibility requires a thinking personality, pointed out by Blosser, Sungenis and others in NBSA), but the Catholic arrives at this belief because it has been witnessed to him by the Church. I know it is an old Catholic apologetics argument and you've probably heard it before: the Church came before the Bible, the Church canonized the Bible, etc and not the other way around. Catholics accept the Bible because it was given to us by the Church, the same Church that taught all those explicitly "Catholic" ideas in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th centuries, etc.... I've never heard a good response to this basic Catholic apologetic argument for the Church, and I've tried to read carefully the books by White, Geisler/Mackenzie, Salmon, etc....

On your comparison of the Mormon to the Catholic: We know of course there is a big difference between Mormon claims to infallible authority, and Catholic claims to infallible authority.

The Mormon indeed claims Jesus established the Mormon church, but then a vast apostasy occurred sometime in the 2nd or 3rd century, which then required a "restoration" in the 19th century. The Catholic claims Jesus established the Catholic Church, that no "apostasy" occurred, that no "restoration" was required, and that the very Church spoken of in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, etc centuries to the present is the very Catholic Church established by Christ. So historical continuity, along with "development of doctrine," etc is brought in: we can trace our authority back to Jesus and His Apostles. The Mormon does not even make such claims.

If you want a full-blown refutation of Mormon claims from a Catholic perspective get the book published by Catholic Answers and Isaiah Bennet: Inside Mormonism (1999). Why the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses are brought into the picture by critics of the Catholic Church (Eric Svendsen does this likewise) is beyond me. The historical claims made between Catholics and Mormons are completely different claims.

In my thinking, it is rather the general Protestant belief that is closer to the Mormon belief, since the Protestant (generally speaking) just pushes the Mormon belief in a vast apostasy to around the 4th, 5th, or 6th century, depending on which Protestant you are talking to. The Protestant (generally speaking) believes Jesus established their church (minus hierarchy, minus sacraments, etc again depending on which Protestant, etc) and then a vast apostasy occurred during the age of the Church Fathers, or sometime later, which required a "restoration" (they call it a "Reformation") in the 16th century. The question is, as with the Mormon, what is the real evidence for such a vast apostasy, and what do Christ's words mean in Matthew 16:18f; 28:18-20; John 16:13, etc where certain promises are made about His Church? Where was the "remnant" of supposed non-Catholic Christians hiding all those years?

As far as a "perfect" proof of demonstrating infallible authority, whether the Bible, the Church, or some other authority, granted it is difficult to make such an argument from pure logic or reason, since faith must enter the picture at some point.

I'll try to review Salmon's response on the supposed "circularity" of Catholic arguments but I believe B.C. Butler does a good job answering a lot of Salmon on this point (the distinction between "certainty" and infallibility, etc).

Besides, unless I am mistaken, Salmon was an Anglican, and held to apostolic succession, a hierarchy of Bishops, a sacramental worldview, so he was half-Catholic to begin with. He just couldn't accept the idea of infallibility being applied to the Church or the Pope, but accepted infallibility (inconsistently) to the Bible alone, etc.

That's my short response. Thanks for interacting with us. What is your church affiliation, and what is your real name for goodness sake. I know you and St. Athanasius of Alexandria probably have little in common. Hee hee. Do you subscribe to White's thesis that the real AOA believed in Sola Scriptura (properly defined) and had no room for the primacy of the Bishop of Rome? Read John Chapman's article on St. Athanasius and Pope Julius in his Studies on the Early Papacy. I'll probably eventually type in that whole chapter as well, but you can get a summary of Athanasius and the Papacy in some of Joe Gallegos files on his CorUnum site in response to James White. Thanks for writing, pseudo-Athanasius. Hee hee.

P

=============================================

Subj: Chain-Link Bible?
Date: 5/25/2000
To:
gregory_of_nyssa@hotmail.com , athanasius_of_alexandria@hotmail.com

In a message dated 5/25/00 9:24:11 AM Eastern Daylight Time, gregory_of_nyssa@hotmail.com writes:

Jim>> The problem for you is that the evidence for the inspiration of the Bible is overwhelmingly superior than that for the infallibility of the Church. If you have cogent, valid, sound argument for the infallibility of the Church, Jon and I would love to hear it and change our views. Best Regards, Jim Gregory >>

Jim, what is that overwhelming superior evidence for the inspiration of the Bible?

The typical Protestant-Evangelical "evidentialist" approach (championed by Norm Geisler) is to demonstrate or "prove" divine inspiration from Jesus' claims for the Bible. But Jesus said nothing explicit or implicit about writing a New Testament. So how are you going to support the inspiration and/or infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible from Jesus' claims alone? What exactly is this "overwhelmingly superior evidence" for the inspiration of the New Testament (without appealing to the Church or the Bishops as successors of the Apostles) ? I haven't been able to discern it. Granted, Jesus made statements about the "unbreakability" of the OT (John 10:35), but even given that, how do you determine what the OT or NT canon is?

Between you and the Bible stands the historic Church (what we would call the Catholic Church today), which gave us the New Testament. That is a fact. Why deny or ignore it?

The typical Catholic-Evangelical evidentialist approach (championed by myself and St. Thomas Aquinas hee hee) is to go from Jesus' claims about Himself, to the Church he founded, to the inspiration of the Bible. This is a much more reasonable approach to demonstrating or proving the inspiration of the New Testament, since Jesus did found a Church (Matt 16:18f), and gave His authority to His Apostles (Matt 18:17-18; John 20:21-23; Luke 10:16; etc), and it is clear that authority continued on through history with the successors of the Apostles. There was no "apostasy." This argument is more reasonable since it doesn't ignore the "fact" of the historic Church which gave us the Bible. It is true both Catholics and Protestants appeal to "faith" in these kinds of arguments (for example, who can try to answer all the supposed "absurdities" and "mistakes" in the Bible or Church history), but the Catholic "evidentialist" approach is far superior in my opinion, and any argument or demonstration for the infallibility or inerrancy of the Bible, can likewise be applied to the Catholic Church.

Some links from the Internet Infidels to ponder: Biblical Errancy

You guys have tried to make a distinction between authority and infallibility, but as Bob Sungenis noted, the only authority that really counts in this particular debate is infallible authority, since any other "authority" can ultimately be rejected or overuled (as is the case with all fallible "authority" in Protestantism, whether pastors, teachers, interpretations of the Bible, etc).

My questions would be: What is this "overwhelming superior evidence" for the divine inspiration of the Bible? Can you really argue for the inspiration of the Bible WITHOUT appealing to the authority of the Church? And if you leave the Catholic Church out of the argument, how do you account for the "fact" of the historic Church giving us the Bible?

P

=============================================

Subj: Re: Confusing Infallibility with Certainty
Date: 5/27/2000 3:29:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:
gregory_of_nyssa@hotmail.com

Phil,

I think if you refer back to my reply to Frank on the 25th, you will see that we have the same understanding about the difference between infallibility and certainty. My only point in this matter was to demonstrate that both Prots and RCs only have a fallible knowledge of the Canon, etc. We both can be certain of our conclusion. This certainty depends on evidence and arguments; the stronger the evidence, the more certain the conclusion. What is your argument for the infallibility of the Church? You are certain that the Church is infallible. How did you reach this conclusion?

Also you wrote:

Phil>> In response the challenge could equally be made: Do you have an infallible knowledge that God or Christ is infallible? Please explain how you have that infallible knowledge. This confuses certainty with infallibility. >>

My response to the skeptic would be:

1. By definition, if God exists he knows everything and cannot be wrong.

2. Since 1 is merely a definition it cannot possibly be false

3. Therefore, I infallibly know that if God exists, he is infallible.

4. Using the Thomistic Cosmological Argument, I can start with an undeniable (thus infallible) premise--I exist--and argue transcendentally to God exists.

5. Since God exists, acts of God are possible.

6. The NT docs are historically reliable.

Note: At this point my argument becomes inductive and I cannot have an infallible conclusion--but if the argument is strong and cannot be refuted--I can be certain of the conclusion.

7. This historical record demonstrates that Jesus claimed to be God.

8. This historical record demonstrates that Jesus performed Acts of God.

9. One of these Acts of God was His resurrection from the dead, which proves that He is God.

10. God, by definition, is infallible (See 1-3).

11. Therefore, I am certain that Jesus is God and is therefore, infallible.

Jim

=============================================

Subj: Proving Infallibility
Date: 5/27/2000
To:
gregory_of_nyssa@hotmail.com , athanasius_of_alexandria@hotmail.com

In a message dated 5/27/00 3:29:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time, gregory_of_nyssa@hotmail.com writes:

Jim>> 10. God, by definition, is infallible (See 1-3).

11. Therefore, I am certain that Jesus is God and is therefore, infallible. >>

All right, you're right on track. Keep going, and we have....

12. Jesus established one Church, a visible, sacramental, hierarchical authoritative Church he called "My Church" with the authority to teach in His name (Matt 16:18f; 28:18-20; Luke 10:16; etc, and the clear witness of the early Fathers, St. Ignatius, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, etc).

13. Since God is infallible, and Jesus is God and therefore infallible, the teaching of His visible, sacramental, hierarchical authoritative Church must be infallible, since it teaches with His authority guided by the Holy Spirit of truth (John 14:16f; 16:13f; these statements taken from the NT as a reliable historical record of his words), etc.

14. That Church is the Catholic Church today by identity and historical continuity, etc since no other Church existed, no other Church today fits the description of the original Church, and there was no "apostasy", etc.

Your statement:

Jim>> This certainty depends on evidence and arguments; the stronger the evidence, the more certain the conclusion. What is your argument for the infallibility of the Church? >>

Now how much argument and empirical verifiable evidence do you require that the Catholic Church is the original Church established by Christ? There was no other Church in existence for 1,500 years (leaving aside the Catholic-Orthodox split) and Jesus promised one Church would exist until He returned (Matt 16:18f; 28:20). Granted, the argument above is not "perfect" for the Church's infallibility (since the Holy Spirit teaching in the Church is something taken by faith in Jesus' promises for His Church), but on what basis do you move from your steps (10) and (11) above to Sola Scriptura? I would like to see this.

Will you admit at least that no one believed in "Scripture alone" until Luther and the later Reformers (see Joe Gallegos massive documentation in Not By Scripture Alone), and that there were plenty who believed in the infallibility (although that term was not necessarily used) of the Church as a given? It was taken for granted that the teaching of Christ's Church (for example the Bishops as successors of the Apostles in an Ecumenical Council) had divine and final authority (thus infallible). Why? Because this was the teaching of Christ and His Apostles and therefore was binding on the whole Church. For example....

"Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, those who as I have shown, possess succession from the Apostles; those who, together with the succession of Bishops, have received the CERTAIN GIFT OF TRUTH, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in SUSPICION others who DEPART from the primitive succession of the succession, and assemble themselves....But those who cleave asunder, and separate the unity of the Church, [shall] receive from God the same punishments as Jeroboam did." (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4:26:2, c. 180 AD)

"The Church's preaching has been handed down through an orderly succession from the Apostles and remains in the Church until the present. That alone is to be believed as the truth which in no way departs from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition." (Origen, First Principles 1:preface:2, c. 220 AD)

"The confession arrived at Nicaea was, we say, more SUFFICIENT and ENOUGH BY ITSELF, for the subversion of all irreligious heresy, and for the security and furtherance of the doctrine of the Church" (St. Athanasius, Ad Afros 1)

"But the WORD OF THE LORD which came THROUGH the Ecumenical Synod at Nicaea, abides forever" (St. Athanasius, Ad Afros 2)

"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 understandings 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 eyewitnesses 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..." (St. Athanasius, De Decretis 27)

Did these early Christian Fathers and ecclesiastical writers believe in the infallibility of the Church? I think it is clear, Yes they did (although they might not have used that exact word). Why did they believe this? Because they believed in the infallibility of the Holy Spirit, and the Church of Christ was not a human invention but was established by Christ Himself to proclaim His gospel and His teaching (Matt 28:18-20).

My previous questions were: What is this "overwhelmingly superior evidence" you mentioned earlier for the inspiration of the Bible? And how do you account for the "fact" of the historic Church giving us the Bible? And how do you account for these explicitly Catholic ideas showing up so early on the authority of Scripture/Tradition/Church, on the nature of the Church, on the sacraments, on the primacy of Rome, etc. This seems to me to be "overwhelmingly superior evidence" for the establishment of the Catholic Church by Christ as the original Church, not as evidence for the divine inspiration of the Bible, much less for Sola Scriptura.

Confused by the technical philosophical discussion,

P

=============================================

Subj: Proving Infallibility Again
Date: 5/28/2000
To:
gregory_of_nyssa@hotmail.com , athanasius_of_alexandria@hotmail.com

In a message dated 5/27/00 11:39:46 PM Eastern Daylight Time, gregory_of_nyssa@hotmail.com writes:

Phil>> 12. Jesus established one Church, a visible, sacramental, hierarchical authoritative Church he called "My Church" with the authority to teach in His name (Matt 16:18f; 28:18-20; Luke 10:16; etc, and the clear witness of the early Fathers, St. Ignatius, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, etc). >>

Jim>> I just re-read the passages cited and find no statements declaring that Christ's church would be "a visible, sacramental, hierarchical" church. I, of course, maintain that Christ established an invisible church based solely upon each persons confession of faith. >>

Confession of faith in what? An "invisible church" is really no "church" at all. Its not just those passages I listed, it is the thrust of the New Testament and the Church that immediately followed the Apostles (the Church of St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, St. Cyprian, St. Gregory of Nyssa your namesake, etc). If what you say is true, this "invisible church" disappeared in the 2nd century since the Church was clearly visible (led by bishops), sacramental (heavy emphasis on the sacraments as instruments of salvation), hierarchical (with bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons). There was no distinction between an "invisible" (meaning in Evangelical theology those who "really" believed in Christ and were "really" saved) and the visible Church (meaning the community of all the baptized Christians under the leadership of their local bishop in union with the Pope -- when you move to Orthodoxy I'll let Mark Bonocore discuss the Papacy with you, hee hee).

Now WHERE was this "invisible" church through the centuries (you can't possibly locate it since it is by nature invisible), and WHAT HAPPENED to Jesus promises (such as the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church) ? Were all these folks WRONG about the nature of the Church? When all these Bishops were meeting in Council after Council, did they not believe they were speaking for the Church? The "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church" mentioned in the Creeds was clearly a VISIBLE, SACRAMENTAL, HIERARCHICAL Church. Why dispute it? Read the Fathers and the Councils.

Now the question comes back, were all these folks wrong? Was there a complete apostasy of Christ's Church immediately after the Apostles established this so-called "invisible" church you speak about? You seem to say, "Yes, and it doesn't matter."

Phil>> 13. Since God is infallible, and Jesus is God and therefore infallible, the teaching of His visible, sacramental, hierarchical authoritative Church must be infallible, since it teaches with His authority guided by the Holy Spirit of truth (John 14:16f; 16:13f; these statements taken from the NT as a reliable historical record of his words), etc. >>

Jim>> This doesn't follow at all. Why must a church be infallible if it is authoritative? The promises of Jesus in John 14:16f, 16:13f were to the apostles; there is nothing in the context that says that any infallibility could be or would be passed down to any successors. >>

Actually the context implies a future promise since the Holy Spirit of truth is promised to be with them "forever." That is a long time. Presumably that would include their successors. But this is beside the point.

Why must a church be infallible if it is authoritative? All right, what kind of "authority" is it to say, "This [fill in the blank] is the teaching of the Church, but you can choose to believe it or not. Read your Bible and decide for yourself." As I said, the only "authority" that counts is one that says, "This is the teaching of the Church, period. You must believe it." This is indeed what was claimed not only by Christ and His Apostles, but by their successors in the Christian faith, the early Fathers, Bishops, and Councils of the Catholic Church. The Bishops claimed to be the direct successors of the Apostles who inherited their Apostolic authority. No one disputed this. Now were they all wrong? If you say "Yes" then I ask again: Was there a complete apostasy from the teachings of Christ and His Apostles?

In doctrinal matters, any other authority other than an "infallible authority" (meaning an authority that is divine and final, not subject to err), is not an "authority" ultimately to be obeyed. Please admit this: there is no such thing as any real "authority" in Protestantism other than the individual and his interpretation of the Bible. Phil Blosser demonstrates this clearly in his excellent chapter in Not By Scripture Alone.

Jim>> Even if every single church father believed that the church was infallible--this does not make it so. I believe that the fathers were godly men, who did the best with what they had, but they were not infallible--either individually or in total. I don't think that they thought they were either. >>

What does this mean? "They did the best with what they had" ? The question is: Were they ALL WRONG to believe the decisions of the Church were final? You talked about "overwhelmingly superior evidence" earlier. If this is not "overwhelmingly superior evidence" for the claims of the Catholic Church, I'm not sure what is. What kind of evidence would convince you the Catholic Church was established by Christ?

You seem to be saying again, "Yes, there was an apostasy, and it doesn't matter." Then what happened to Christ's promises?

On the subjects of Eastern Orthodoxy, the atonement as a ransom to Satan, and other issues I'll let others answer you. I'm doing the best I can with the non-philosophical mind I have. Hee hee.

P

=============================================

Subj: My Background and the Hot Fathers
Date: 5/27/2000
To:
athanasius_of_alexandria@hotmail.com , gregory_of_nyssa@hotmail.com

In a message dated 5/23/2000 6:53:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time, athanasius_of_alexandria@hotmail.com writes:

Jon, I noticed I never replied to this. Thanks for the picture of your beautiful baby. Aren't they all? Hee hee.

Jon>> My point is, don't believe that Rome is infallible because you think it is unfathomable that God could leave the Bible on the earth without an infallible interpreter because that would result in disagreement. It may be that God would rather have us seek him ourselves and put effort into determining what the Bible says for ourselves. >>

I think it would be unfathomable that God sent his Son into the world, gave that world a revelation from Him, but no one knows what that revelation means since there is no ongoing living God-ordained authority to teach and clarify that revelation. Read the Church Fathers for yourself. You won't find this kind of Christianity in them, a "Christianity" that is "left up to the individual to determine."

Logically, if everything in Christianity is "up for grabs" so to speak, this would entail not only what the Bible teaches on the so-called "essentials" of the Christian faith (and who says what is "essential" anyway), but also what the Bible IS. Let's say someone doesn't agree that 2nd Peter or Revelation should be in the NT canon. Can we toss them? Or how about including some later books like the Gospel of Thomas? I think this "figuring out for ourselves" idea of "Christianity" ignores the stress on doctrinal and spiritual unity found in the New Testament (for example Eph 4:5) and would be unthinkable to the Fathers of the Church (such as St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa, or any other Hotmail Father you can come up with hee hee). Some quotes for ya from my article on "Scripture and Tradition" --

"For, what OUR FATHERS have delivered, THIS IS TRULY DOCTRINE; and this is truly the TOKEN of doctors, to CONFESS THE SAME THING with each other, and to vary NEITHER from themselves nor from their FATHERS...Thus the Greeks, as not witnessing to the SAME doctrines, but quarreling one with another, have no truth of teaching; but the holy and veritable HERALDS OF TRUTH AGREE TOGETHER, and do not differ...preaching the same Word harmoniously." (St. Athanasius, De Decretis 4)

"We are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor did the Fathers hold this." (St. Athanasius, Epis 59)

"But what is also to the point, let us note that the very TRADITION, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning was preached by the Apostles and PRESERVED by the FATHERS. On THIS the Church was founded; and if anyone departs from THIS, he neither is, nor any longer ought to be called, a Christian." (St. Athanasius, Ad Serapion 1,28)

"Let [Eunomius] first show, then, that the Church has believed in vain that the Only-begotten Son truly exists, not made such through adoption by a Father falsely so-called, but existing as such according to nature, by generation from Him Who Is, not estranged from the nature of Him who begot Him....It suffices for the PROOF of our statement that we have a TRADITION coming down from the FATHERS, an inheritance as it were, by SUCCESSION from the Apostles through the SAINTS who came after them." (St. Gregory of Nyssa, C. Eunomius 3[4])

Many more statements could be provided showing these Church Fathers clear Catholic beliefs on the nature of Baptism, the Eucharist, Confession/Penance, an overall sacramental worldview, the authority of Bishops through apostolic succession, etc.... Some of their most important excerpts are compiled in the 3-volume The Faith of the Early Fathers edited by William Jurgens. For the full context there is the 38-volume Protestant edition of the Fathers edited by Philip Schaff and others. James White or William Webster are pulling the wool over your eyes if you think any of these Fathers resembled modern Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism. Look into it carefully yourself.

Jon>> If we really love him, we will read his Word, and if we have to, modify our prior belief system. How many people have you seen ignore the obvious meaning of the Scriptures for their own pride's sake? Maybe God wants to give people the opportunity to freely accept what he said, or reject it. I'm not saying that this is what God did. What I'm saying is that it is possible that He did that. This may go against your prior inclination, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. So what's your background. >>

My background is similar to yours, I got started in apologetics around the same age as you. I discovered John Ankerberg and Walter Martin in 1988 (when I was 23), and William Lane Craig later (the live 1993 debate on Moody Radio with famed atheist apologist Frank Zindler) and seriously considered "leaving" the Catholic Church for some "Bible church." That was before discovering "Catholic apologetics" in 1992 -- Catholic Answers, Scott Hahn, Gerry Matatics and other converts were major influences in helping me understand the biblical basis for Catholic beliefs, etc. When I discovered the Church Fathers it was all over for Evangelicalism (at least for me). I appreciate White and Webster and other Protestant apologists who try to interact with the Fathers, but in my opinion they are being dishonest in not presenting the whole case (they quote very selectively).

If you guys want philosophy and sainthood, the biggest minds and greatest Saints have come from the Catholic Church. I am just beginning to tap the reservoir there. At the rate you guys are going (your interest in the Fathers, in philosophy and rigorous logic) I'll see you two on The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi shortly. Hee hee.

BTW, if you are a big fan of Norm Geisler, I got some John Ankerberg shows where Dr. Geisler appeared several times (in debate with humanist philosopher Paul Kurtz, with Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner, and another discussion on the problem of evil). Geisler praises St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas (he has a book on both) highly, and was always very friendly toward Catholicism which is why I like him. I appreciate his fair book Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Baker Books, 1995) even though I have found mistakes here and there. I deal with some of the book at my AOL site.

P

=============================================

Subj: Visible vs. Invisible
Date: 5/29/2000
To:
Gregory_of_Nyssa, Athanasius_of_Alexandria

In a message dated 5/28/2000 2:36:33 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Gregory_of_Nyssa writes:

Jim >> Phil, A few quick questions. 1.) Does Church (capital C) refer to all who are truly Christians (i.e. the elect)? >>

Answer: No, a purely "invisible church of the elect" was new with the Protestant Reformers. The "Church" (capital C) includes the elect but is not limited to the elect. Jesus said both the "wheat" and the "tares" would be in the kingdom (a reference to the Church, John 3:3-5; Matthew 13; etc) until the end when the final sorting out takes place. Again, there was no distinction for 1,500 years between the "invisible church" of the elect and the visible Catholic Church of all baptized Christians under the leadership of their Bishops. However, there are "spiritual" aspects of the Church, no need to deny that. For elaboration, see my article

Discussion on the Nature of the Church

Jim >> 2.) If the Church is visible and identical to the RCC, how can Prot. and Eastern Orthodox people be Christian? >>

Answer: They are "Christian" if one defines a Christian simply as a follower of Christ. I don't deny that many Prots and Orthodox follow Christ to the best of their knowledge or ability. Their valid sacramental Baptisms also make them "Christian" and in some sense unite them (imperfect communion) with the one visible Church (the Catholic Church). For elaboration, see my article

Are Protestants Christians?

My part in this discussion with the "Hotmail" Fathers shall be made available at my site.

P


Back to Apologetics Articles

Back to Home Page

About | Apologetics | Philosophy | Spirituality | Books | Audio | Links