Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Response to Dave on 1 Timothy 3:15

I believe that I will only be doing one of these replies to his replies for each one of the verses he cited in his book (if that). I simply don’t have the time to do more. Also, I’ll try to make it brief and to the point.

“I find it a bit amusing, however, that S&S (being an adherent of Reformed "low church" presbyterian ecclesiology) wants to avoid the term bishop, even though that is the usual translation of the Greek words episkope and episkopos, found in 1 Tim 3:1 and 3:2.”

This is a semantic anachronism. The translation of episkopos into “bishop” is fine as long as one understands that, in the New Testament, it refers to a church elder, the office one place higher than a deacon. Under this definition, my local church pastor would be given the title, “bishop”. Also, the associate pastor in the same church would be called “bishop” as well. Thus, there could be as many as 4-5 “bishops” in a local church congregation numbering as few as 200 members. It does not mean (as it later came to mean) the head of several pastors/priests in a city or district.

The definition of “bishop” that Dave wants to read into the text is anachronistic.

“He mistranslates episkope / episkopos as elder because that is more amenable to his low-church Reformed ecclesiology.”

I did not mistranslate it since it is the meaning of the text. Of course, we’d have to go into what the Bible says about church government in order to settle this dispute, and so, he is now guilty of committing a red herring from the real issue of the interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:15 by distracting us with another issue, the Biblical form of church office. [Though the two issues are connected, whether the church has “bishops” in the RC sense is a separate issue from whether the church is declared to be infallible in 1 Tim. 3:15.]

He then goes on to the translations of the Bible which translate episkopos as bishop. Of course, they translate it this way because it has historically been translated this way since the Middle Ages (in English). Thus, if his argument is that it should mean “bishop” because it has meant “bishop” since the Middle Ages, a time period long after the term episkopos lost its Biblical meaning, then he is guilty of circular reasoning.

So, just for the record:

“The terms Presbyter (or Elder) and Bishop (or Overseer, Superintendent) denote in the New Testament one and the same office, with this difference only, that the first is borrowed from the Synagogue, the second from the Greek communities; and that the one signifies the dignity, the other the duty.
1. The identity of these officers is very evident from the following facts:
a. They appear always as a plurality or as a college in one and the same congregation, even in smaller cities) as Philippi.
b. The same officers of the church of Ephesus are alternately called presbyters and bishops.
c. Paul sends greetings to the "bishops" and "deacons" of Philippi, but omits the presbyters because they were included in the first term; as also the plural indicates.
d. In the Pastoral Epistles, where Paul intends to give the qualifications for all church officers, he again mentions only two, bishops and deacons, but uses the term presbyter afterwards for bishop.
Peter urges the "presbyters" to "tend the flock of God," and to "fulfil the office of bishops" with disinterested devotion and without "lording it over the charge allotted to them."
e. The interchange of terms continued in use to the close of the first century, as is evident from the Epistle of Clement of Rome (about 95), and the Didache, and still lingered towards the close of the second.
With the beginning of the second century, from Ignatius onward, the two terms are distinguished and designate two offices; the bishop being regarded first as the head of a congregation surrounded by a council of presbyters, and afterwards as the head of a diocese and successor of the apostles. The episcopate grew out of the presidency of the presbytery, or, as Bishop Lightfoot well expresses it: "The episcopate was formed, not out of the apostolic order by localization, but out of the presbyteral by elevation; and the title, which originally was common to all, came at length to be appropriated to the chief among them." Nevertheless, a recollection of the original identity was preserved by the best biblical scholars among the fathers, such as Jerome (who taught that the episcopate rose from the presbyterate as a safeguard against schism), Chrysostom, and Theodoret.”
-Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church 1.10.61
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc1.i.X.61.html

Even the commentary on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website explains:

“Overseers: the Greek term episkopos literally means "one who oversees" or "one who supervises," but since the second century it has come to designate the "bishop," the official who heads a local church. In New Testament times this office had not yet developed into the form that it later assumed, though it seems to be well on the way to such development in the Pastorals; see 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:7, where it is translated bishop. At Philippi, however (and at Ephesus, according to Acts 20:28), there was more than one episkopos, and the precise function of these officials is uncertain. In order to distinguish this office from the later stages into which it developed, the term is here translated as overseers.”
-Commentary on Phil. 1:1 NAB
http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/philippians/philippians1.htm#foot2

He then remarks about me being a young-earth creationist. I don’t really see what this has to do with issue at hand. I have heard that Dave can go all over the place when responding to someone, and now my faith has become sight! I may post on this topic in the distant future but not now.

“Other than this trivial aside, I have no beef with what S&S wrote about verses 14 and 15. It doesn't really prove anything against my position (and I wonder why S&S would think that it does do so?).”

That’s because I wasn’t giving a critique of your book yet. To make my exegesis complete, I was going through the entire chapter.

He then asks how the presbyterian (with a lower-case “p” referring simply to a plurality of elders) form of church government works. For that, he can pick up a systematic theology such as Robert Reymond’s.

But again, this is another red herring. The issue here is whether 1 Timothy 3:15 can be used as a proof-text for Roman Catholicism that supposedly “confounds Protestants”. Since it is his book making the positive claim, the burden of proof is on him to prove that this verse says what he thinks it means.

He then goes into a discussion he had with Dr. White in the past. Of course, many of his counter-arguments against Dr. White give a question begging response, and Dr. White probably got tired of Dave’s long-winded, question begging, red-herring rants. Perhaps in the later future (much later!), I’ll respond to the philosophical and historical arguments (which are mostly ipse dixits) put forward by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists.

Next, he goes into a long quote on the topic of what is usually termed “doctrinal chaos”. Of course, this gets into a philosophical argument which was never the topic at hand, and yet again, Dave has merited the red-herring award.

“S&S has also assumed certain things above without proving them; namely, that "church" here means simply all believers.”

Actually, if one reads what I wrote, I made this case in the third paragraph after my first citation of Dave’s book. I didn’t want to go into a long-winded dissertation (like Dave) on the meaning of the word, “church”, in Scripture.

“He also blithely assumes without evidence that "truth" in 1 Timothy 3:15 refers to the gospel only, not all spiritual matters. This is not at all obvious, and I see nothing in the immediate context that proves it beyond any doubt. The gospel is certainly a very important part of Christian truth, but not the sum and total of it.”

This is actually a fair criticism. The church was entrusted with and given the duty of proclaiming the whole counsel of God (2 Timothy 2:15). Of course, the gospel encompasses all these things (compare 2 Timothy 2:15 with Colossians 1:5). Nevertheless, I will make a change to my original post with a footnote and the date of the change.

He then goes on to use more RC proof-texts against my reading of 1 Timothy 3:15. I’ll get to these in later posts. [In fact, Acts 15-16 is next.]

“Fundamental to any interpretation of an author's work is an understanding of the purpose of that work…The book itself, however, made no pretense of being an elaborate commentary of biblical evidences for Catholic positions. I had done that already in my first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism. The purpose here was to examine how Protestants try to exegete verses that we Catholics believe don't fit particularly well into a Protestant framework.”

But how can you say that these verses don’t fit into the Protestant framework without showing what they mean in their context?! You could, at the very least, have given mention in one or two short paragraphs of how verses 1-14 and verse 16 fit together with verse 15. Context is everything, and a verse without a context is simply a pre-text.

“Technically speaking, I wouldn't say that the Church is the "source" of Christian truth, if by that one means “origin.””

I didn’t mean to imply that, and many of the readers understood what I meant. Perhaps I shall change that too.

“Even his crony "theojunkie", writing…”

Great. Now I’m a crime lord, and all my Protestant brethren are my ‘crony’ mobsters. [Eyes rolling.]

He then goes into the translation of hedraioma. Of course, it wasn’t so much the translation that was the issue as the extent of the theology one could derive from that translation.

He again goes into Acts 15 (which I will get to in the next post). It should be noted that he is using one disputed text in order to interpret another disputed text, and thus, commits the fallacy of circular reasoning.

“Yet I am accused of equating the "Church" with "just the clergy" as if I were not even myself part of it (if I am not, how could I be "received" into it?). This is ludicrous. Catholics believe also in the consent of the faithful or the sensus fidelium.”

As Turretinfan pointed out, this is an unworkable rule of faith since the Popes and councils are believed to be infallible and thus irreformable.

“It may very well mean that. But that doesn't let S&S off the hook, because he still has to explain how the entire mass of Christians can be the pillar and support / foundation / bulwark / ground, etc. of the truth, when Protestants cannot even agree amongst themselves on so many things.”

Again, this is a red-herring. I was giving a critique of Dave’s exegesis, and so, he bears the burden of proof of showing how 1 Timothy 3:15 proves the infallibility of the church. This goes into a philosophical argument which was not the issue under discussion.

“In OT times, the Jewish assembly was not yet given the gift of infallibility. Things change after Jesus comes and the Holy Spirit indwells believers. Is this not elementary?”

I am indwelt with the Holy Spirit but am not infallible, and all the passages that he normally cites to prove that the church is infallible don’t really prove that (I’ll get to them eventually).

He then quotes my paragraph on the perspicuity of the Old Testament and gives several quotes from his past writings. However, all of his points/Scripture citations either prove too much or too little. Also, one of the points he made in application to sola Scriptura commits the straw-man + false antithesis fallacy (see the introduction to this series, part d.). I will get to all of this when I critique the use of Nehemiah 8 in his book.

“Furthermore, the only ones who believed in "Bible alone" in Jesus' time were the Sadducees, or theological liberals.”

This is false since they rejected the rest of the Old Testament due to a pre-commitment to Greek philosophy.

“We also saw earlier how Jesus and the New Testament writers cite approvingly many tenets of Jewish oral (later talmudic and rabbinic) tradition, according to the Pharisaic outlook.”

This is incredibly false. See my post, Alfred Edersheim on Matthew 15 and Tradition.

“As I have contended above, even if we grant this invisible church, the problem remains of identifying the doctrines of this ethereal, nebulous, mysterious entity.”

Again, as I noted in my second post on the invisible church, this is a category error that plays off of a straw-man.

“The fact is that he contradicted himself: sometimes speaking of the invisible church and other times of a visible one (Lutheranism, after all, adopted a state church model and gave secular princes the power that bishops once had, and this was quite concrete and "visible" indeed).”

Again, the two are not mutually exclusive since they are different *kinds* of churches.

“It's a falsehood to say that Catholic visible authority "died" during the Arian crisis. It may have among eastern bishops, but not at Rome, which always held the correct faith and supported St. Athanasius in it.”

It was more resistant to the heresy of Arianism, but that did not prevent an Arian bishop, Felix II, from ascending the papal throne and promulgating the heresy. It also did not prevent Liberius (though under pain of torture) to profess semi-Arianism (as proven in the Collectanea Antiariana Parisina). Since Dave is fond of appeals to authority (which is not necessarily wrong, especially in the case of the many nuances of history), Klaus Schatz, a (seemingly conservative) Roman Catholic professor of church history, writes:

The further course of the Arian controversy seems to present the picture of a conflict in which Rome by no means prevailed; in fact, it appears that Rome did not even make an energetic and deliberate attempt to counteract the increasing deviation from Nicea. The Roman bishops Julius and his successor Liberius (352-366) did at first belong to the small group of those who remained true to Athanasius. Over time this certainly contributed to the strengthening of Rome’s authority, especially in the East, but we can by no means speak of anything like success at first. Even the Roman church had its weak moments: Bishop Liberius, under imperial pressure (he was separated from his community, sent into exile, and replaced by an antibishop) accepted a formula of faith that, while not expressly denying the formula of Nicea, deviated from and practically abandoned it. Liberius also broke communion with Athanasius.” (emphasis mine)
-Klaus Schatz, Papal Primacy, English trans. (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1996), p.26.

Lastly, your analysis of Sardica is overblown as Schatz also points out.

[As an as aside, one of the posters in DA’s combox, Randy, wrote:
“Even their own example of St Athanasius does not work. He is help up as a remnant but he is hardly protestant. How can your remnant be wrong about Mary, the eucharist, the papacy, etc. In fact, it was the authority of the pope that saved his bacon. So he wan't a successful remnant in spite of his belief in the pope but rather because of that belief. So how can you put him up as the small, true church and still say he was so wrong.”

Whether he was a Protestant is irrelevant since I was presenting an internal critique of Dave’s claims. Secondly, he was a Christian and part of the true orthodox catholic Church which I claim to be part of as well even though we differ in theology in some areas. So, the example of Athanasius is perfect for the point I am trying to make. Thirdly, Athanasius did not believe in many of the things that you ascribe to him in your post. This is a classic case of a patristic ananchronism, reading a modern idea into the words and deeds of the church fathers.]

“Al this is secondary. I was simply trying to show that both Luther and Calvin applied 1 Timothy 3:15 to a supposed "hidden" or "invisible" church that was to be regarded as the primary meaning of "church" over against the apostolic, patristic, Catholic visible conception.”

Again, this is the category error + straw-man that I pointed out above. Secondly, Dave did not just note their beliefs, he dismissed them as being ahistorical which both Calvin and Luther actually gave arguments that it wasn’t. I realize that he was limited in space, but he could have at least dealt with this somewhere in his book since it was a key argument for the Reformation’s dismissal of Rome’s authority.

“The contradiction, however, lies in the assertion that great men of the past "agreed with Rome on almost everything" yet were still somehow Christians. Today, the standard anti-Catholic line is that in order to be a good Christian, a man has to be a bad Catholic; i.e., dissent on any number of doctrines that Protestants don't like.”

Well, since I’m not an “anti-Catholic” but a historic Protestant, I guess this doesn’t apply.

8 comments:

GeneMBridges said...

“The contradiction, however, lies in the assertion that great men of the past "agreed with Rome on almost everything" yet were still somehow Christians. Today, the standard anti-Catholic line is that in order to be a good Christian, a man has to be a bad Catholic; i.e., dissent on any number of doctrines that Protestants don't like.

No, what we do is draw a distinction between:

1. A saving profession of faith and credible profession of faith. We @ Triablogue have been over this many times.

2. And we draw distinctions between levels and types of error.

3. In Protestant historiography, we sometimes draw a distinction between the Church in infancy and the Church as it matures. We don't expect new Christians to be able to articulate the Westminster Confession or Turretin's Institutes, just as we don't expect first graders to be able to read the latest in Quantum Mathematics.
The same sort of thinking applies when we speak of the way the Church's understanding of theology has developed over the centuries. This shouldn't be a problem for those who affirm the "development of doctrine." What they must show is that the Protestant turn is illegitimate.

orthodox said...

G: What they must show is that the Protestant turn is illegitimate.

O: Which protestant turn? There are more turns in protestantism than a bowl of spaghetti.

G: We don't expect new Christians to be able to articulate the Westminster Confession

O: Just as well since it took 1600 years for some folks to come up with the WC. Although we've seen precious few of the protestant invisible elect following the WC, let alone articulating it.

Turretinfan said...

O: Just as well since it took 1600 years for some folks to come up with the WC.

I respond: They must have had pretty grey hair by the time they finished.

S&S - keep up the good work, despite the mockery.

-Turretinfan

GeneMBridges said...

As we can see Orthodox still cannot engage the opposing position - and notice how he continually changes his own position.

On the one hand, he perpetually attacks the Protestant position without differentiating between Lutherans, the Reformed, etc. and yet he claims that "the Protestant position" has taken many turns.

Further, he himself has elsewhere affirmed the development of doctrine.

Finally, as we all know, Orthodox's answer to variations within his own communion is to regularly claim that they (whomever they may be) don't really represent Orthodoxy or that he only needs a minority of Orthodox representatives to agree with him.

Turretinfan said...

Brother Gene:

That's one ironic weakness of "Tradition": nobody (no single person) can explain it without entering the realm of personal private interpretation.

-Turretinfan

Josh said...

Like it or not, Orthodox has a good point when he says "Just as well since it took 1600 years for some folks to come up with the WC." The doctrine that forms the basis and foundation of the WC came exclusively from Augustine who clearly brought it over from Manicheanism, specifically the idea of inherited guilt. Tertullian taught that infancy was "the innocent period of life" and Chrysostom in one of his homilies on John 9 speaks with amazing perplexity at the error of the disciples' misguided question, and he asks "How can a man sin before birth?" He quotes Ezekiel 18 that the son bears not the guilt of the father, and he explains the visiting of iniquity to the 4th generation in the law as being a result of following in the steps of bad fathers, not of inherited guilt. Tertullian (west) and Chrysostom (east) both totally deny inherited guilt. The WC and RCC are based wholly on the non-biblical concept of inherited guilt that Manicheanism (a Mormonish, JWish, heresy) conceived and that their double agent, Augustine, infiltrated the church with. Now, the Eastern Orthodox church is clearly infected with all manner of superstition (prayer ropes, Mary worship, infant baptism, etc.) and I do not defend it. But at least it doesn't teach that men are born spiritually dead in opposition to Roman 7:9 where Paul says "I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died." Rather than the WC, what men need to follow is the Bible. Away with those Protestant confessions of faith that have enshrined the false doctrines of Roman Catholicism so they can bow down to adore them. All of what came from the fictions of the "fathers'" brains must be laid aside and pure Scripture followed. Until a man rejects the concept of inherited guilt and infant baptism, he has no right to mutter the words "Sola Scriptura."

pilgrim said...

Ah, the old Manicheanism argument--showing how little you understand the Confession.

Try again.


Then-"Rather than the WC, what men need to follow is the Bible." Of course men need to follow the Bible, but the Westminster Confession is not antithetical or novel when it come to scripture. It breathes scripture. It has secondary status, but when I compare it to scripture it is a true summary of biblical teaching.

As for Romans 7, Matthew henry lays it out well, and it is not Manicheanism-
"In his own case the apostle would not have known the sinfulness of his thoughts, motives, and actions, but by the law. That perfect standard showed how wrong his heart and life were, proving his sins to be more numerous than he had before thought, but it did not contain any provision of mercy or grace for his relief." He goes on from there, but that is the gist of it.

Lvka said...

Have You ever read Clement the Roman, or the Teaching? If not, then what are You waiting for? :-)