Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Another Example of "Head in the Sand" Apologetics
09/21/2006 - James White
I have submitted several emails on the doctrine of Mary in the early Church to you, and yet you do not respond. You claimed on your radio show that nowhere in the early Church around the the time of the First Council of Nicea, was there any evidennce to substantiate the Catholic teachings on Mary. I gave you two or three concrete examples and yet you don't respond. I can defeat many of your arguments against Catholic teaching by simpily bringing the ancient liturgies of the Church as my primary source of evidence. The fact is you cannot argue with faith in the action and practice of the Divine Liturgy over the last 2000 years. I would glady debate you on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist any day of the week armed primarily with the Church's ancient Liturgies which proclaim this belief to the high heavens. The fact is that any Catholic that brings you concrete arguments you have no time for. You like to waste time bringing insulting statements on your website to give a false impression of Catholics as uncharitable. I will give you a nice written debate on the Real Presence for you to post on your website if you only had the courage to put it on and let people decide for themselves who has provided the real Truth.
This is the first e-mail I have seen from you. Where you sent the others, I have no idea, but as it is, if I had not seen your post on the Catholic Answers Forums I wouldn't have even gone looking for this one.
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Disrespect. That is the modus operandi of your compatriots these days, and you are walking in their steps. You will search in vain over nearly two decades of my writings that have dealt with Roman Catholicism where I have knowingly, purposefully criticized a writer for being ignorant of the facts on a matter while refusing to do the requisite reading in what they themselves have made available in writing and in debate! I have said strong things about some of Rome's apologists, but I have always shown them the respect necessary to honor my commitment to truth by taking the time to hear them out! My library would be much smaller if I did not invest in obtaining the many volumes being published in defense of Rome's claims. I grabbed my camera and, though my library is currently in a complete state of utter disarray, much of it still in boxes, I have crammed as many books as I can onto the few shelves I have. Here is just one quick shot of two shelves worth of books, the majority of which are Roman Catholic. You may recognize many of the titles ranging from Congar's Tradition & Traditions to the Surprised by Truth series, Newman's An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine and Apologia Pro Vita Sua, works by Hahn, Stravinskas, Sungenis, Shea, Madrid and the like. As I said, the order is currently (and sadly) random, but this was just one quick shot. And if you were to take many of these books down from the shelf you would find book marks, outlining, notes and the like. My point? It's a matter of whether you seek to honor the truth or whether you are just a devotee of a system. If you are just interested in defending your own viewpoint, you do not have to worry much about doing your homework. You don't have to strive for accuracy of citation. You don't have to worry about learning the language of the group to which you are speaking so that you can communicate with them properly. You just rail at the other side and call it good. I refuse to follow that path.
You, on the other hand, seem intent upon doing so. Why do I say this? Simple: I've written a book on the subject of the Marian dogmas. It was written back in the late 1990s. It briefly, but I believe accurately, addresses the push to have the "fifth Marian dogma" established in Roman Catholic theology, and to explain that concept to Protestants, I began with an overview of all of the already established Marian dogmas. Now, even if I had not debated Gerry Matatics twice on Marian issues, the fact that I have written a book on the subject should be sufficient to warrant, on your part, checking to see if I have addressed these issues therein (I have, of course). But beyond that, a Google search of aomin.org would have informed you that I made the same challenge in writing in a debate years ago, found here. In that opening statement I wrote the following:
The Nicene Church and the Marian Doctrines. If the Papacy is not evident at Nicea, surely the Marian dogmas that define Roman Catholic worship are even more conspicuous by their absence from the same time period. One need only consult the work of Roman Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott (hardly a liberal!) to realize this. For example, with reference to the Immaculate Conception Ott admits on page 201:Now, all of this information is generally available to anyone with the interest in obtaining it. You, obviously, have no interest in knowing what I am actually saying. You are only intent upon defending your position. That is why you have obviously missed my point.
Neither the Greek nor the Latin Fathers explicitly teach the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
Instead, he asserts an "implicit" teaching based upon Mary’s holiness and the contrast between her and Eve. Yet, I note that J.N.D. Kelly asserts that Ireneaus, Tertullian, and Origen all felt Mary had sinned and doubted Christ (Early Christian Doctrines, 493). In any case, Ott asserts on the same page that the first explicit assertion of the doctrine as believed today is found in the British monk Eadmer at the beginning of the 12th century! Even then, he notes it ran into much opposition, including the rejection of Bernard of Clairvaux. Certainly, it’s a doctrine absent from the early 4th century and the Church of Nicea.
Likewise, the Bodily Assumption of Mary is a doctrine unknown to the Fathers of the Council of Nicea. Ott says of it, "The idea of the bodily assumption of Mary is first expressed in certain transitus-narratives of the fifth and sixth centuries. Even though these are apocryphal they bear witness to the faith of the generation in which they were written despite their legendary clothing" (pp. 209-210). What Ott does not note is that these "transitus-narratives" were deemed heretical by the Church of the day and anathematized by Gelasius, bishop of Rome! Hence, the first documentable reference to the doctrine is from a heretical source, and that at least two and a half centuries after the Council of Nicea! The doctrine, plainly, had no part in the Church in A.D. 325, and hence, again, the point is proven: the Church of Nicea was not the Church of Rome.
Please, Matthew, do you really think I am unaware of the state of development of the Marian theology at the time of Nicea? Do you really think I would be so foolish as to say that you do not share any of the beliefs of the Nicene period about Mary? I mean, obviously, the bishops at Nicea believed in the Virgin Birth, right? So do I! That would hardly be a challenge. What I said on the program, and what I have said in writing, is this: the bishops at Nicea did not believe what you as a Roman Catholic today believe de fide about the Virgin Mary. They did not believe in the Bodily Assumption of Mary. That is not even disputable and you should know that. They did not believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary as you define it today--for as anyone familiar with church history knows, as many as seven Popes taught against the concept, and it was opposed by well known writers in its current dogmatic form well into the medieval period. The fact that Jerome would take on Helvidius many decades later shows that even the Perpetual Virginity of Mary was an issue lacking unanimous consent at the time of Nicea.
So the challenge I made on the DL, and I repeat to you, Matthew, is simple: if you are going to claim modern Rome is the "same" church as that of Nicea, show me which bishops at that council believed not some of what you believe about Mary, but all of what you believe, not just freely, but de fide about Mary. When you can do that, rather than providing scattered citations about one idea here, another there, you will have fulfilled the challenge.
Finally, I would like to see what you have already written on the following citation and resultant concept in Augustine's writings:
In other words, in respect of His divine presence we always have Christ; in respect of His presence in the flesh it was rightly said to the disciples, 'Me ye will not have always.' In this respect the Church enjoyed His presence only for a few days: now it possesses Him by faith, without seeing Him with the eyes." (Lectures on the Gospel of John, 50:13)You see, Matthew, to have seriously engaged the idea of transubstantiation in differentiation from real presence you would have to have considered and given place to Augustine's own consistent teaching that the physical body of Jesus will remain in heaven until He returns so that the Church is deprived of the physical presence of Christ. How could he say this if, in fact, he believed what you believe regarding transubstantiation? To consistently read Augustine one must take those passages where he presents the reailty of Christ's spiritual presence with His people (especially in reference to the Eucharistic celebration) and instead of suppressing the rest of his views in light of the anachronistic reading of later traditions allow him to speak for himself in his own context. And when you do so, you see the consistency in what he said above about the bodily presence of Christ and what he says here about John 6:
Who is the bread of of the Kingdom of God, but He who says, "I am the living Bread which came down from heaven?" Do not get your mouth ready, but your heart. On this occasion it was that the parable of this supper was set forth. Lo, we believe in Christ, we receive Him with faith. In receiving Him we know what to think of. We receive but little, and are nourished in the heart. It is not then what is seen, but what is believed, that feeds us. Therefore we too have not sought for that outward sense. UPDATE>>(Augustine, Sermon 62:5).
This is then to eat the meat, not that which perishes, but that which endures unto eternal life. To what purpose do you make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and you have eaten already. (Augustine, John: Tractate 25:12).