If I should speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have charity, I have become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. [St. Paul: 1 Cor. 13:1]In all honesty, I had no intention of putting together any kind of response to the words of the well-known (in apologetics circles) head of a fairly prominent apologetics ministry as far as what he has been saying about Catholic author and apologist Stephen Ray as of late. (I shall refer to this individual as 'Mr. Critic' throughout the following essay.) Steve in reality should take Mr. Critic's derisions as a badge of honour since Mr. Critic tends to belittle those who embarrass him by exposing the many errors he commits in his apologetical discourses. I have seen over the years the way many apologists have interacted with him and as a result I determined that my time is best served interacting with people who do not seemingly try to constantly misrepresent those they disagree with in the worst possible light. It is very unfortunate but Mr. Critic's track record in this area is well marked and it does not read too well; however that does not mean that he is incapable of turning over a new leaf.
I do not want to come across in this critique as imputing anything to Mr. Critic that in any way misrepresents him; therefore I will criticize him based on the very words he has written and which can be found at his website - which if memory serves me is www.aomin.org. The portion I am critiquing was on the front page of his site on 7/15/00 when these opening paragraphs were written. (The rest of the essay was written in late June of 2000.) I do not want to misrepresent Mr. Critic in any way and feel that if he comes across badly it should be solely his fault and no one else’s. My reason for this is because Christians should be respectful towards one another and never presume that the disagreements that exist between them are as a result of evil intentions. We are all sinners after all and make mistakes. The difference is between those that can admit to this and those who seek to do whatever they can to cover over their errors and not admit to making a mistake.
Mr. Critic happens to fall into the latter category and while I respect his passion and recognize that he definitely has God-given talents in the field of apologetics (especially debating: give the man his due here) the problem is that he seems to presume the very worst in those whose views differ from his and seems to impute to them evil motives which is never appropriate. I do not know if this is a character flaw of his or not but as someone who was at one time a "traditionalist" Catholic, I am aware of the way that a person's pride can prevent them from giving those who are critical of their views a fair hearing. It is this that Mr. Critic seems to do regularly and while I agree with him that there are some Catholic apologists (not to mention many Protestant apologists) who are too simplistic in their approaches, this does not apply to all people of course. One of the primary problems occurs when Protestants like Mr. Critic and Mr. Critic's associates try to project their theologies back into the early Fathers. This results in a profound disservice being done to the historical record since the Fathers clearly indicate (by both what they said and what they did not say) that the theologies of Mr. Critic and his associates would be completely alien to them. However, in all fairness there are some Catholics who read more into the Fathers then is explicitly there also so not all of the criticisms of Mr. Critic and his associates against the actions of some Catholic apologists are completely bereft of merit.
The biggest problem that exists between Catholics and Protestants is the tendency of both sides at times to be critical of each other based on differences of terminology and semantics where the two sides differ. There is also the tendency of both sides to judge the views of the other by their own pre-suppositions which is of course not the way one should every seek to understand any position. The two sides speak different languages and have different conceptions that have to be taken into consideration. Further still, there is more that unites both sides then divides them and we should rejoice in our areas of common ground and from there seek to repair the tattered cloak of Our Lord which we have all ripped to shreds over the centuries. We all have had a hand in rending the garment; therefore we all need to have a hand in sewing it back together again. However, the first step in this endeavour is utilizing the basic concept of honesty. I intend to show in this critique that Mr. Critic has failed to be honest in his representation of Mr. Ray’s views, his scholarship, and his integrity: in short he has failed to show charity. However, first I must make sure that I not misrepresenting Mr. Critic in any way so here is the entire piece (that I will critique) free from comment first. I will follow up in the rest of this essay with an analysis of Mr. Critic's claims. The latter's words throughout this review will be in Courier type font and mine in regular Times font:
Stephen Ray is known to Protestant apologists as the man who argues from silence. His anachronistic attempts to turn the early Fathers into faithful followers of modern Romanism are almost the stuff of legend, and would be humorous if they were not resulting in such damage in the personal lives of individuals who are deceived by his writings. While he accuses me of disrespecting the Fathers, is it showing respect for Augustine, for example, to put words in his mouth he never spoke? Is it showing respect for the Fathers to force them into the mold of modern Romanism, replete with doctrines and beliefs they never embraced? Was it fair for Mr. Ray to present a section on Augustine that utterly ignores the vital passages that demonstrate his higher commitment to Scripture than to the opinion of the bishop of Rome? The sad but true fact is that it is Mr. Ray who is guilty of every charge he makes against me, and any fair reading of his work, Upon This Rock, bears this out. There is no attempt made by Mr. Ray to attain some level of fairness: instead, this is a sterling example of the vain attempt to create a "unanimous consent of the Fathers," something honest Roman Catholic scholars admit simply does not exist.
Who can allow the early Fathers to be....the early Fathers? Protestants can. We can allow them to teach everything they taught, not just those parts that later Roman tradition codified as doctrine or dogma. We can accept the truths they lived and taught, and reject the errors each man, as a fallible human being, embraced. We do not have to turn them into Protestants, and I have never said they were. I have said that they often expressed sentiments that are far more Protestant than Roman Catholic in today's context: Athanasius' standing on the foundation of Scripture over against councils and bishops and prelates is not the action you expect from a Roman Catholic. It is the Roman Catholic apologist who has to turn them into something they were not, and this Steve Ray does in glowing colors.
One of my favorite patristic citations might well illustrate this. Augustine said:
All things that are read from the Holy Scriptures in order to our instruction and salvation, it behooves us to hear with earnest heed….And yet even in regard of them, (a thing which ye ought especially to observe, and to commit to your memory, because that which shall make us strong against insidious errors, God has been pleased to put in the Scriptures, against which no man dares to speak, who in any sort wishes to seem a Christian), when He had given Himself to be handled by them, that did not suffice Him, but He would also confirm by means of the Scriptures the heart of them that believe for He looked forward to us who should be afterwards; seeing that in Him we have nothing that we can handle, but have that which we may read." Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series Volume VII, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 2, 1 John 212-17, section 1.Are these the words of a modern Roman Catholic who subjects himself to the ultimate authority of the infallible Magisterium in Rome? Are these the words of a Roman Catholic apologist who is often telling us about how Jesus did not command the apostles to write but instead to preach? Roman apologists are always saying that sola scriptura is responsible for doctrinal chaos, yet, Augustine taught that it is the Scriptures that make us strong against insidious errors! Remember, this man did not believe in an infallible Papacy, did not believe in such dogmas as indulgences, the treasury of merit, transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, the Bodily Assumption, etc. and etc., yet, we are asked to believe he was a Roman Catholic? One truly has to wonder if, when men like Steve Ray accuse us of misusing the Fathers, they are not really just attempting to quiet their own consciences and hide from the simple facts of history.
Okay, I have been fair to Mr. Critic by quoting him fully and in context.
Let us see just how accurately Mr. Critic is presenting Steve's position:
Stephen Ray is known to Protestant apologists as the man who argues from silence. His anachronistic attempts to turn the early Fathers into faithful followers of modern Romanism are almost the stuff of legend, and would be humorous if they were not resulting in such damage in the personal lives of individuals who are deceived by his writings.
If Mr. Critic's description of Steve Ray’s approach is as he claims it is, then how strange that Steve Ray (in a rebuttal he wrote to one of Mr. Critic's associates) says the following about the early Fathers (and how they would have reacted to the definition of papal infallibility at Vatican I) which does not match up with Mr. Critic's claims. Mr. Ray’s responses will be in Georgia font:
It would certainly be helpful if we understand how Bill (Webster) interprets the Fathers in light of history. How does Bill look at the teaching of the Fathers and the Catholic principle of Unanimous Consent of the Fathers? I bring this up here because I think that Bill pursues the Fathers with two principles in mind. First, if the Fathers don’t necessarily use the same exact terminology and expressions as used at the Vatican Councils, then the Vatican Councils must misunderstand or misrepresent the early Church Fathers. I don’t know if Bill read this in my book or not since he never mentions it, but he accuses me of frequently of thinking the Fathers taught the same thing as Vatican I and in the same terms. However, I make it abundantly clear in my book that the Fathers probably would not have stood up at Vatican I and said "We’ve always taught the Pope’s infallibility and in those exact terms!" (p. 207).
So that is one error committed by Mr. Critic. Steve claims that the
Fathers would probably not agree with the precise formulations of Vatican
I so how can he then be "turning the early Fathers into faithful followers
of 'modern Romanism'" since modern Catholics believe in the very doctrinal
formulations of VC I that Steve states that the early Fathers would probably
not recognize??? Again, taking in the context of development this is not
a problem. But Mr. Critic and his associates cannot seem to grasp this
fundamental concept and are constantly arguing from caricature. What about
Mr. Critic's claims that Steve is one without solid arguments??? To quote
Stephen Ray is known to Protestant
apologists as the man who argues from silence.
Note the tone used here. To claim someone argues from silence without
quantifying the statement is misleading. Everyone to some extent
argues from silence [most notably people who try to read Sola Scriptura
back into the Fathers ;-) ]. The question is not that Steve Ray uses silence
(since Protestants who claim that all revealed truths are contained in
the Scriptures are engaging in an argument from silence par excellence)
but HOW Steve utilizes silence as an argument. Let us let Steve tell us
how he does it shall we???:
"Sometimes silence is more eloquent than words. This is especially true in Church history. We hear so much about what the Fathers say and so little about what they do not say. This is revealing and should play a significant role in our research. William Webster has written a book that we will refer to several times in our study. Webster is an ex-Catholic who decided to abandon the Church and cast his lot with the Fundamentalist Protestants. His book is entitled Peter and the Rock and asserts that, as the blurb on the back of the book says, "The contemporary Roman Catholic interpretation [of Peter and the rock] had no place in the biblical understanding of the early church doctors." To ascertain whether or not such an assertion is true is one of the main goals of this book. BUT ALONG WITH WHAT THE FATHERS SAY, WE NEED TO HEAR THEIR SILENCE AS WELL. While reading Webster’s book, I noticed, along with his selective use of the Fathers in attempting to discredit the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Papacy, that there are no citations "revealed" in his book in which a Christian, especially a Church Father, explicitly denies the Petrine primacy or the Petrine succession. Webster collects a large number of passages that are supposed to prove that the Fathers oppose Catholic teaching, yet never is there a flat-out denial of the Petrine primacy or the primacy of Rome. This is a silence that speaks volumes! We may find differing interpretations of Peter’s primacy, which is what we should expect, according to John Henry Newman, yet we find no denial of that primacy.
The first rule of any argument is to ascertain if there is any directly contradictory evidence to it. This is 'Logic 101' and applies to not only the study of Scripture but also the study of the Fathers. It can be said actually to be an application of Our Lord’s approach that "he that is not against you is for you" (Mark 9:39).
"I wrote to William Webster and asked him if he knew of any Church Father who denied the primacy of Peter or of his successors. Mr. Webster’s response was very telling, and I wish he had been forthright about this matter in his book. His return E-mail stated, "No father denies that Peter had a primacy or that there is a Petrine succession. The issue is how the fathers interpreted those concepts. They simply did not hold to the Roman Catholic view of later centuries that primacy and succession were ‘exclusively’ related to the bishops of Rome."’ What an extraordinary admission; what an extraordinary truth. Many of the Fathers were in theological or disciplinary disagreement with Rome (for example, Cyprian and Irenaeus), yet they never denied Rome’s primacy. They may have debated what that primacy meant, or how it was to work out in the universal Church, but they never denied the primacy. The quickest way to achieve jurisdictional or doctrinal victory is to subvert or disarm the opponent. In this case it would have been as simple as proving from the Bible or from tradition that Peter, and subsequently his successors in Rome, had no primacy, no authority to rule in the Church. Yet, as even Webster freely admits, this refutation never occurred. Irenaeus may challenge the appropriateness of a decision made by Victor, BUT HE NEVER CHALLENGES VICTOR’S AUTHORITY TO MAKE THE BINDING DECISION. Cyprian may at times disagree with a decree of Stephen’s on baptism, BUT HE NEVER REJECTS THE SPECIAL PLACE OF THE ROMAN SEE, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN THE EASIEST MEANS OF WINNING THE DEBATE. The bishop of Rome was unique in assuming the authority and obligation to oversee the Churches. Clement and Ignatius make this clear from the first century and the beginning of the second. If the authority exercised had been illegitimate, or wrongly arrogated, it would have been an act of overzealousness at one end of the spectrum, of tyranny at the other. Yet no one ever stood up and said, "No, you have no authority. Who are you to order us, to teach us, to require obedience from us, to excommunicate us?" If the jurisdictional primacy of Rome had been a matter of self-aggrandizement, someone would have opposed it as they opposed other innovations and heresies in the Church. The silence is profound" (Upon This Rock (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 12-13).
So we see that yes Steve argues from silence but not silence alone [or to put it in Protestant slogan-terms: sola silencia ;-)]. In his rebuttal to a rebuttal by one of Mr. Critic's associates’, Steve claims the following (after quoting Bill Webster - a friend of Mr. Critic)::
Mr. Ray has purposefully misrepresented me in his statements. He is very aware of the fact that I deal extensively with the question he raises in a very forthright manner in my book. Mr. Ray’s main argument rests on an argument from silence, the fact that the Fathers never denied the primacy of Peter or Petrine succession. Of course they didn’t. As I mentioned in my email they explicitly affirm it. However, in affirming it they do not interpret it in the same way Rome does today. That is the point.
I’m not sure if I’m missing something here but it sounds like Bill is saying the same thing I said in my book. I certainly did not misrepresent him. Where does he tell his readers that no early Christian ever denied the primacy of Peter or that it was successive? In his "rebuttal" he wrote, "Of course they didn’t. As I mentioned in my email they explicitly affirm it." My point was, simply, why not admit that clearly in his book? If Bill states that in his book then he merely has to show me where it is explicitly stated and my argument is empty. I thought it would be helpful for his readers to have this information. I clearly stated Bill’s direct words, as seen above, that he considers them to have varying interpretations and that they did not agree with later definitions of Rome. I didn’t exclude those clarifications. It was not necessary or prudent (considering the space limitations posed by the editors) to add the whole e-mail. Many times my quotes were cut short or even eliminated to cut down the size of the book. (We’ll see later where an important footnote was removed by the publisher which would have eliminated one of Bill’s problems with my book.) The sentences following those provided added nothing significantly new and were merely amplifying what I had included of his e-mail. Is this purposefully deceptive? I don’t think so. Maybe I could have worded it differently by saying his e-mail "contained" the words instead of "his e-mail said", but that was certainly not an attempt to mislead, it was simply an attempt to relay the heart of the e-mail which I thought was the significant part.
I told a friend that Bill said my "main argument rests on an argument from silence". He responded, "Horsepucky! There is loads of positive evidence in your book." I’m not sure what Bill is trying to do here, but to say my main argument is one of silence is not only silly but damages Bill’s integrity. This is one of those things that make me wonder if he really read the book or only zoomed in on his own name in the index.
Do I use the argument of silence? Of course I do. Do I base most of my argument on silence? Ridiculous. Thumbing through the book will make one giggle at such a silly statement. Silence is a very credible argument, though it is only substantial as a subsidiary of substantial positive proof. To deny the often-resounding silence is to ignore important evidence. A good example is this: Jewish families circumcised their infant sons on the eighth day. The New Testament frequently implies that adults and children were included in the rite of Baptism. For example, when the head of a household converted and was baptized, his entire household was also baptized with him (Ac 16:15, 33; 1 Co 1:16). The inference of course, especially based on Jewish understanding of the family and covenants, would include the aged, the adults, the servants, and the infants. If the practice of Infant Baptism had been illicit or prohibited it would surely have been explicitly forbidden, especially to restrain the Jews from applying Baptism to their infants as they did circumcision. But we find no such prohibition in the New Testament nor in the writings of the Fathers — a silence that seems quite profound. Should we ignore this evidence? NO, NOT AS LONG AS IT IS USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH GOOD, POSITIVE EVIDENCE.
So you see, to read what Mr. Critic says you would think that Steve's
whole position is one of arguing from silence. Also, Steve admits that
the Fathers would not have agreed at least with the terms and the scope
of the definition at Vatican I. So how can Steve be saying (as Mr. Critic
claims that he is) that Steve is seeking to "make the Fathers into modern
Roman Catholics"??? Simple, he is not. Also, how can Steve be said to be
arguing (as Mr. Critic and his associates claim) "primarily from silence"
when his book has over 300 footnotes from different Catholic, Orthodox,
and Protestant sources??? That is not arguing from silence and Steve admits
that silence is only effective as a subsidiary of substantial evidences
for a position. Thus on these two points Mr. Critic badly misrepresents
Steve's position and his views.
While he accuses me of disrespecting the Fathers, is it showing respect for Augustine, for example, to put words in his mouth he never spoke? Is it showing respect for the Fathers to force them into the mold of modern Romanism, replete with doctrines and beliefs they never embraced?
Where does Steve say this??? In fact, he says the exact opposite.
I think I will get tired of saying,
that I agree that the Fathers did not necessarily define the primacy
of Rome in the exact words of Vatican I. Doctrines and offices develop
over time as does terminology and definitions. The presidency of the United
States looks much different today than it did at its inception, but what
is inherent and exercised today, was there all along from the beginning.
As a society and government grows and expands, the authority inherent within
expresses itself in a more comprehensive manifestation. Development
can also be seen with the recognition and determining of the canon of the
New Testament and the doctrines of the Trinity, the nature of the Incarnation,
and the Deity of Christ. These developments, which we would say flowered
over the centuries, were always latent from the beginning. Such development
is not a denial of the inherent reality of the organic reality from its
Let us look at that passage that Mr. Critic is referring to. I already
know (and you can probably guess which one it is: the one from Sermon 131).
Here is what Steve specifically noted about Sermon 131:
I want to close this section on St. Augustine with my footnote on St. Augustine’s statement "Rome has spoken, the matter is closed" (Sermons 131, 10) from my book Upon this Rock. Bill addresses this issue in his book The Matthew 16 Controversy on pages 213ff. and we seem to have a variance of opinion on this as well. And finally, after that, a hypothetical interview between Bill Webster and St. Augustine.
"These sermons were presented between 391 - 430. This sermon however, was written subsequent to the Councils of Carthage and Milevis (416 a.d.). This popular, shortened version of Augustine’s statement put to rest the contention caused by the Pelagian heretics.The full text of his statement?the exact equivalent of the shortened version above?is, "[On the matter of the Pelagians] two Councils have already been sent to the Apostolic See [Rome]; and from there rescripts [decrees from the Pope] have come. The matter is at an end [causa finita est]; would that the error too might sometime be at an end" (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers 3:28). "In matters of faith, [Augustine] says, it is the duty of all to have recourse to the Apostolic See and its pastoral ministry; for God specially directs the Pope in giving his decisions. It is true, the oft quoted phrase: ‘Roma locuta est, causa finita est,’ is not found verbally in any writings of Augustine; but its equivalents occur again and again. And this is all that is required to make him a staunch supporter of Papal infallibility" (Bernard J. Otten, A Manual of the History of Dogmas [St. Louis, MO: B. Herder, 1917], 1:336). Rome was the final appeal. "[The authority of the Apostolic See] was an authority beyond and including the authority of local councils, which, when they had done their best, referred to it for approval and ratification of what they had done. No part of the Church was more autonomous than the African; yet when 130 bishops had met under the Primates of Carthage and Numidia, and were as sure as to the truth of the doctrinal statements which they opposed to error as bishops could be, St. Augustine himself being one of them, they did not think their labours concluded until they had sent their decrees to be ratified at Rome. St. Augustine described their authority as being a rivulet when compared with the fountainhead" (Thomas W. Allies, The Throne of the Fisherman [London: Burns & Oates, Limited, 1887], 338). (From Upon this Rock, pg. 233 - 234).
Another footnote provided in my book on St. Augustine is pertinent to this topic. And, once again you will see, my fair and objective readers, that I have provided the actual words of St. Augustine numerous times in my book.
Letter of Pope Innocent I to Victorius, Bishop of Rouen 2, 3, 6 in Jurgens’ The Faith of the Early Fathers 3:179, dated Feb. 15, 404 a.d., only eleven years after the Council of Hippo formalized the canonization of the New Testament.
"Pelagianism is a heresy which strikes at the very root of the Christian attitude to God and redemption. A provincial Council in proconsular Africa (A.D. 416) decreed that Pelagius and Caelestius should be anathematized ‘unless they openly anathematize’ their errors. But the Council wrote to Pope Innocent I ‘in order that to the statutes of our littleness might be added the authority of the Apostolic See. . . .
Augustine, preaching at Carthage in September 417 about the Pelagian trouble, says: ‘On this matter [the findings of] two Councils have been sent to the Apostolic See, and answers have been received thence. The matter is ended: let us hope that the error [sc. the heresy] may soon be ended.’ Thus Augustine, the great anti-Pelagian theologian, appears to agree with Innocent that the papal determination of a controversy about the faith is final’" (B. C. Butler, The Church and Infallibility [New York: Sheed & Ward, 1954], 170-171).
I happen to own this book by BC Butler and it is a marvelous refutation of the so-called "unanswered" George Salmon's work on church infallibility. (Ironically, I believe that one of Mr. Critic's sources that he uses is Salmon’s fatally flawed book.) It is actually pgs. 169-171 of Butler’s book that are being quoted but Steve's quote is taken exactly as the text reads in Abbot Butler's book — punctuation and all.
Now that I have established the fact that I did not intend to deceive; in fact, quite the opposite, I laid all the cards out on the table, I must ask this question. Why would I use this line "Rome has spoken, the matter is closed" instead of the full text of Augustine’s passage? Simple for you, fair reader, but seemingly too complicated for our critic (Ed. Note: the critic referred to here was Mr. Critic). My guess is that you, the intelligent reader will readily understand. Have you heard that phrase before? Isn’t it commonly used, part of our cultural literacy? Pick up a Dictionary of Quotations and see what you find. I will do so in a minute. Part of our daily parlance are phrases that stick in our minds. You are familiar with sayings such as "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" or "A stitch in time saves nine." These are part of our culture, phrases and sayings that pervade our daily life. I dare say if you were to say "Rome has spoken . . ." to most educated folks they would readily respond "the matter is closed." Why? Because it is part of our culture. The same goes with "Mary had a little lamb". The reader would immediately respond "its fleece was white as snow".
"Rome has spoken, the matter is closed" is part of cultural literacy, a common phrase. That, kindly reader, is why I use the phrase in my book. However, knowing there is more to the story I fully explain the actual words of Augustine several times, hardly a deception wouldn’t you agree. Yet, the subtitle of our critic’s article centers on this phrase and my "deception" in its use.
Now let’s educate our critic a bit. He already has a Ph.D. he says, but I’m sure he’s willing to admit there is more he can learn. I’m sure he will admit he can learn a thing or two once in a while, unless of course he claims omniscience (insert throat-clearing here). I hope he gets his pencil out for to be consistent he will now need to charge the editors at Oxford University Press, John Bartlett, and a host of others with willful deception. Who are these good folks and what crime have they committed? What deception have they intentionally foisted upon an unwary public? Simply this, they inform their readers that Augustine said the hideous (and non-existent) words "Rome has spoken the matter is closed."‘ Call out the guard. Arrest these rouges. What is our evidence of their subtle deceptions. Their books of course. Let’s take a look.
Let’s start with John Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations: A Collection of passage, Phrases and Proverbs Traced to their Sources in Ancient and Modern Literature [Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1980], 129. Here we read, "Rome has spoken, the case is closed." And guess what? The author does not even tell us of the actual words of the quote, only the familiar summary of Augustine’s words. Oh my, a deception for sure. At least I give my reader, even by our critic’s admittance a whole page footnote explaining the history and actual words of Augustine’s statement.
Next, the 2816-page Home Book of Quotations (New York: Greenwich House, 1967), says the same thing on page 1740: "Rome has spoken; the case is concluded."
And lastly for the sake of space, and the reader’s patience, though we could produce a bushel full, let’s look at The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1980). Here we read on page 22, "Roma locuta est; causa finita est. Rome has spoken; the case is concluded (Sermons, bk. i)." Oh my, another intentional and nefarious deception. An attempt to overthrow Protestantism and the Anglican Church. Imagine, the Oxford Press in full deceitful complicity with Bartlett, myself and Karl Keating. A conspiracy for sure, intended to subjugate the religious world.
See how silly critics can be at times.
what happens when they take things out of context or read things in the
worst possible light, allowing their pre-conceived ideas to twist their
thinking around like a rubber nose. There are many contexts that are
important: textual contexts, historical contexts, cultural contexts, etc.
Critics should be more careful before becoming judges of things they have
little knowledge of.
Chalk it up to another misunderstanding by Mr. Critic on that topic.
Yet there is more (it is always easier to criticize then to provide evidence
for an assertion and Mr. Critic has historically proven to be great at
the former [criticism] but generally poor when it comes to the latter [providing
evidence for an assertion he makes]).
Was it fair for Mr. Ray to present
a section on Augustine that utterly ignores the vital passages that demonstrate
his higher commitment to Scripture than to the opinion of the bishop of
Rome? The sad but true fact is that it is Mr. Ray who is guilty of every
charge he makes against me, and any fair reading of his work, Upon This
Rock, bears this out.
This is an example of a yes and no situation. Yes there is a consensus among the Fathers for many core doctrines rejected by Protestants today. As for the papacy (a common stone of stumbling for Protestants) there is a unanimous consensus in the Fathers for the Primacy of the See of Rome and its Bishop. This is something which even Orthodox scholars - who are not prone to give Catholic claims anything "extra" by any stretch - agree with this assessment:
Rome's vocation [in the "pre-Nicene period"] consisted in playing the part of arbiter, settling contentious issues by witnessing to the truth or falsity of whatever doctrine was put before them. Rome was truly the center where all converged if they wanted their doctrine to be accepted by the conscience of the Church. They could not count upon success except on one condition -- that the Church of Rome had received their doctrine -- and refusal from Rome predetermined the attitude the other churches would adopt. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CASES OF THIS RECOURSE TO ROME... 
We find the first direct evidence about the priority of the Roman Church in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch. Speaking of the Church of Rome, Ignatius uses the phrase 'which presides' in two passages...The Roman Church 'presides' in love, that is, in the concord based on love between all the local churches. The term 'which presides' [Greek given] needs no discussion; used in the masculine it means THE BISHOP, for he, as head of the local church, sits in the 'first place' at the eucharistic assembly, that is, in the central seat. He is truly the president of his church...This is precisely correct, yet apologists like Mr. Critic argue that Ignatius says "nothing about a monarchial bishop" in his Epistle to the Romans. Not explicitly of course but if you are familiar with what the term "to preside over" means in Eastern liturgical worship the reference is unmistakable (Ignatius was Bishop of an Eastern See remember). One strong piece of compelling evidence opposing Mr. Critic's position is the tone of Ignatius’ Epistle to the Romans and how it is 180 degrees different then his other six extant epistles. Most noticeable of all is that Bishop Ignatius issued no commands to the Roman Church. This is strange since as Patriarch of Antioch, he would have had authority to do so over a church without a monarchial bishop or a bishop of lessor rank then the Antiochian Patriarch. Since only the Roman Church (and the Roman Patriarch) outranked the Antiochian church (and Patriarch Ignatius) at the time in authority, this explains quite clearly why no commands were issued to the Roman Church as he did to the Philadelphians, Smyrnians, Trallians, etc. Also, numerous Fathers all ascribe the letter 1 Clement to Pope Clement personally (and rank him fourth in the list of popes), and not one Father disputes this claim. I ask the reader who is more credible: Fathers (such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, etc.) who were closer to Apostolic times then we are to the Revolutionary War today - saying there was a "monarchial bishop" in Rome from the beginning (and who place Clement as a successor of Peter to the See of Rome) or Mr. Critic "Th.D" living nineteen plus centuries later. (And whose credibility thus far in this examination is virtually nil.) Surely the answer to this should be obvious of course so no more needs to be said about it.
Who can allow the early Fathers to be....the early Fathers? Protestants can. We can allow them to teach everything they taught, not just those parts that later Roman tradition codified as doctrine or dogma. We can accept the truths they lived and taught, and reject the errors each man, as a fallible human being, embraced.
Again who determines what is and is not an error among the Fathers’
teachings??? The answer of course is whatever he (Mr. Critic)
disagrees with is "error" and whatever he agrees with is
"truth." Or if he defers to some confessional statement or organization
then they are his "Magisterium". For this reason, Mr. Critic is highly
inconsistent here in claiming that he "rejects" the errors that each man
embraced since he is pre-supposing that the areas where the Fathers differed
from him (or from the confessional statements that
he chooses to hold) that they are "erroneous". This is a classic example
of an argument (or in Mr. Critic's case a whole theology) that begs the
We do not have to turn them into Protestants, and I have never said they were. I have said that they often expressed sentiments that are far more Protestant than Roman Catholic in today's context
Hardly. Mr. Critic only says this because he caricatures Catholicism
and then claims the Fathers do not fit the caricature he sets up (or "straw
man" if you will). The idea that the Fathers expressing devotion to Scripture
and praising it highly makes them "more Protestant then Catholic" is one
of several examples of Mr. Critic's flawed historical outlook. (And the
idea that Catholics have less regard for Scripture is an old worn out and
easily refuted canard.) Another is the use of the artificial - and purely
arbitrary - "either/or" dichotomy. I could mention several others but this
will suffice for the moment.
Athanasius' standing on the foundation of Scripture over against councils and bishops and prelates is not the action you expect from a Roman Catholic.
And where did Athanasius ever display such a dichotomous mindset as this??? Simple, he never did. Athanasius never set Scripture "over against" councils and bishops, the very concept is one that Mr. Critic invented himself based on tearing a passage from Athanasius’ writings where the Bishop of Alexandria is exalting Scripture. Athanasius spent his entire bishopric defending the homoousian which was defined at Nicaea (whose decisions were ratified by Pope Sylvester I). Later at a plenary synod at Sardica (which Athanasius referred to as "that great council" in his history of the Arians), the council vindicated Athanasius and also emphasized the ancient protocol of appealing to the Bishop of Rome in settling controversial matters. Athanasius was defended after Sardica when the Arians who drove him from his See sought approval from Pope Julius I and were condemned by the Bishop of Rome whose letters restored the Patriarch to his See. Later on, Pope Liberius (before his imprisonment) informed the Emperor (through a messenger who was sent to bribe him) that he could not condemn Athanasius who was vindicated by two councils (Nicaea and Sardica) and by his predecessor (Pope Julius I) in the Apostolic See. Liberius also told the Emperor (through the same messenger) that if they wanted Athanasius condemned then the Emperor should allow a council to convene away from his jurisdiction and without oppression, etc. (see Athanasius’ work 'History of the Arians’) which of course implies that there would have been no forthcoming condemnation. Athanasius stood on Scripture certainly (as all Christians should do) but as determined by Nicaea on the matter of the Trinity (his overwhelming emphasis from the time he succeeded St. Alexander to the Patriarche of Alexandria in 328 till his death 45 years later). Athanasius was not at all dichotomous in his thinking and Joe Gallegos has demonstrated this already in an essay which can be found at the following link: http://www.cin.org/users/jgallegos/athans.htm"
It is the Roman Catholic apologist who has to turn them into something they were not, and this Steve Ray does in glowing colors.
An accusation without evidence of course and I have already shown Steve explaining exactly his position. Now would you claim that Mr. Critic is really being honest here??? Steve has not sought to turn the Fathers into 20th century Catholics but in fact has stated the opposite. Steve utilizes development in his rationale of course but this is akin to looking for the wings on the caterpillar: they are potential as a caterpillar and realized when the latter becomes a butterfly. Mr. Critic may disagree with this position but he should not seek to misrepresent what Steve is saying. But then old habits die hard for most people I guess (which is a shame since the joint statement that Mr. Critic made with Robert Sungenis looked so promising. Too bad he cannot behave himself when speaking with others as he has agreed to with Robert).
One of my favorite patristic citations might well illustrate this. Augustine said:All things that are read from the Holy Scriptures in order to our instruction and salvation, it behooves us to hear with earnest heed….And yet even in regard of them, (a thing which ye ought especially to observe, and to commit to your memory, because that which shall make us strong against insidious errors, God has been pleased to put in the Scriptures, against which no man dares to speak, who in any sort wishes to seem a Christian), when He had given Himself to be handled by them, that did not suffice Him, but He would also confirm by means of the Scriptures the heart of them that believe for He looked forward to us who should be afterwards; seeing that in Him we have nothing that we can handle, but have that which we may read." Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series Volume VII, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 2, 1 John 212-17, section 1.
Are these the words of a modern Roman Catholic who subjects himself to the ultimate authority of the infallible Magisterium in Rome? Are these the words of a Roman Catholic apologist who is often telling us about how Jesus did not command the apostles to write but instead to preach? Roman apologists are always saying that sola scriptura is responsible for doctrinal chaos, yet, Augustine taught that it is the Scriptures that make us strong against insidious errors!
"For if those believed only because they held and handled, what shall we do? Now, Christ is ascended into heaven; He is not to come save at the end, to judge the quick and the dead. Whereby shall we believe, but by that whereby it was His will that even those who handled Him should be confirmed? For He opened to them the Scriptures and showed them that it behooved Christ to suffer, and that all things should be fulfilled which were written of Him in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms. He embraced in His discourse the whole ancient text of the Scriptures. All that there is of those former Scriptures tells of Christ; but only if it find ears. He also "opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures." Whence we also must pray for this, that He would open our understanding." After this point he goes into the importance of being in communion with the Church through sections 2 and 3 of this homily. Notice also that Mr. Critic is only telling one side of the story again (as usual). Yes the Scriptures make us strong against insidious errors but as Augustine noted later in the same paragraph (conveniently ignored by Mr. Critic) "All that there is of those former Scriptures tells of Christ; BUT ONLY IF IT FIND EARS. He also "opened THEIR understanding that THEY might understand the Scriptures." Whence we also must pray for this, THAT HE WOULD OPEN OUR UNDERSTANDING." In other words, the Scriptures make us strong PROVIDED THAT GOD OPENS OUR UNDERSTANDING!!! The Catholic would claim that He does this through the teaching of the Church when it comes to settling issues of controversy from time to time and if you have ever read the Decrees from any of the General Councils [including the "infamous" Trent] you would notice that they are filled with copious passages of Scripture using as much as possible the very words of Scripture in their formulations. The Mass is about 90% either words from Scripture or ideas/themes that can be shown to be drawn from Scripture. So yes modern Catholics can talk in the very same manner as could their ancestors (of the ones that could read of course).
I am constantly quoting the Scriptures and the Fathers plentifully when in apologetics as many Catholics do. We do not need to jump on our Hotline to the pope [011-39-JOHN-PAUL-II if you are interested and he DOES answer his own phone ;-)] for the "correct" interpretation of a verse. I am properly catechized (as is Steve and many other Catholics are) and thus with that foundation we CAN better understand the Scriptures and indeed the Scriptures DO provide exactly what Bishop Augustine noted that they do: protection against perfidious errors. But then Augustine was giving this homily to other people who were catechized also (or were undergoing Church catechizing). Therefore it needs to be looked at in context for proper understanding and not taken out of context (as Mr. Critic has done) and applied arbitrarily to either himself or others today who claim the ability to interpret Scriptures apart from the Church. Mr. Critic is engaging in an anachronistic error here which is common to the way many Protestants approach the Bible by claiming that certain sections are addressed to them without any justification for this view whatsoever except to PRESUME that it is so. Your neighbours mail is not addressed to you right??? Therefore why would you presume that a letter to the Hebrews, Romans, or one of the other Epistles (or the Gospels, etc.) are either addressed to you personally or the message is somehow applicable to you??? Strange that I have never once received a coherent answer to this question from any Protestant who argues in this manner.
Remember, this man did not believe in an infallible Papacy, did not believe in such dogmas as indulgences, the treasury of merit, transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, the Bodily Assumption, etc. and etc., yet, we are asked to believe he was a Roman Catholic? One truly has to wonder if, when men like Steve Ray accuse us of misusing the Fathers, they are not really just attempting to quiet their own consciences and hide from the simple facts of history.
Now if I was reading these words from virtually any other Protestant I could pass them off as the person not understanding the nature of development but not with Mr. Critic. He has been around far too long and been exposed to far too much not to have looked into these matters by now. The Assumption was as explicitly present in the early Church before the late fourth century as Mr. Critic's beard was present in his fifth grade school pictures: it was potential and not actual in the very earliest of times. His refusal to engage these issues in the matter that Catholics understand them is to be guilty of painting people with the brush of caricature: 1.) Augustine most certainly believed that the judgment of the Bishop of Rome was final in settling doctrinal issues (See Sermon 131 for one such example). 2.) Augustine believed in the sacrament of Confession of which Indulgences are a development from 3.) Treasury of merit applies to indulgences and is a recognition of remitting temporal penalty for sin committed which would have to be endured in purgatory (the latter I might add Augustine did believe in without the slightest shred of doubt). 4.) So what if he did not believe in "transubstantiation"??? He no more believed in "transubstantiation" then Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, or Dionysis of Alexandria believed in "homoousian." Again ignorance of development permeates Mr. Critic's comments. 5.) Augustine DID believe in the Immaculate Conception in a more primitive form (he believed Mary was sinless but not necessarily that she was conceived that way: this can be said to be a step towards the Immaculate Conception theologically since the latter also denotes sinlessness too albeit differing in degree). 6.) The Assumption is a logical corollary of the Immaculate Conception and requires for the former to be established for the most part. I will get to that in a minute. Mr. Critic makes six points here but I only need to establish four to rebut what he is saying. I will address these assertions in order:
St. Augustine and Pope Zosimus from St. Peter and the Popes by Michael Winter (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1960), I hope our critic [Ed. Note: This is Mr. Critic again] and Webster have no problem with me quoting from Winter since Webster quotes him as a trusted authority repeatedly in his work. Our critic says the facts are clear (maybe in his head they are remembering what Martin Luther said, "There are now as many theologies as there are heads" (paraphrase).
From St. Peter and the Popes: "The heresy of Pelagius was the only truly theological dispute in the early history of the Western church. The movement, of which Pelagius was the figurehead more than the instigator, taught as its fundamental principle that divine grace was not absolutely necessary for the salvation of the soul. The movement was not confined to Africa, but it found there its most determined opponents. When the Donatists were no longer a peril, St. Augustine devoted the whole of his energies to writing and preaching against the Pelagians, and the rest of the African bishops were no less zealous for the defense of the traditional belief. In the year 416 two important councils were held at Milevis and Carthage, where the Pelagian doctrines were condemned. Both councils wrote to the Pope requesting that ‘,the impiety of Pelagius should also be condemned by the authority of the Apostolic See.’ At the same time Augustine, and four other bishops, addressed a further letter to the Pope dealing with the same matter. ‘For we do not pour back our little stream for the purpose of replenishing your abundant source; but in the great temptation of these times . . . we wish to be reassured by you, whether our stream, though small, flows from the same head as your abundant river.’
"In seeking papal approval of their decisions the Africans were anxious that they should acquire the universal effectiveness which only the Roman See could give them. In the following year the Pope replied to them by the three letters dated January 27th, 417. The content of all three is much the same. THE LETTER TO CARTHAGE CONTAINS AN IMPORTANT DIGRESSION ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE BISHOP OF ROME, AND IT IS HERE QUOTED IN FULL, SINCE IT INDICATES THE HIGHLY DEVELOPED STATE OF THE PAPAL THEORY AT THAT DATE.
"‘In making inquiry with respect to those things that should be treated with all solicitude by bishops, and especially by a true and just and Catholic council, by preserving as you have done, the example of ancient tradition, and by being mindful of ecclesiastical discipline, you have truly strengthened the vigour of our religion, no less now in consulting us than before in passing sentence. For you decided that it was proper to refer to our judgment, knowing what is due to the Apostolic See, since all we who are set in this place desire to follow the Apostle from whom the very episcopate and whole authority of this name is derived. Following in his steps, we know how to condemn the evil and to approve the good. So also, you have by your sacerdotal office preserved the customs of the fathers, and have not spurned that which they decreed by a divine and not human sentence, that whatsoever is done, even though it be in distant provinces, should not be ended without being brought to the knowledge of this see, that BY ITS AUTHORITY the whole just pronouncement should be strengthened, and that FROM IT all other churches (like waters flowing from their natal source and flowing through the different regions of the world, the pure streams of one incorrupt head), should receive what they ought to enjoin, whom they ought to wash, and whom that water, worthy of pure bodies, should avoid as defiled with uncleansable filth. I congratulate you, therefore, dearest brethren, that you have directed letters to us by our brother and fellow Julius, and that, while caring for the churches which you rule, you also show your solicitude for the well-being of all, and that you ask for a decree that shall profit all the churches of the world at once . . .’
"After this dignified reminder of the papal authority, the letters go on to approve the decisions taken in Africa, and in particular Pelagius and his associate Celestius are excommunicated. Since the sentence was from Rome, its effect was universal and final. A few months later St. Augustine preached a sermon which gave rise to the adage Rome locuta est Causa finita est (Rome has spoken, the matter is settled). What he really said was: ‘For by now two synodal letters have been sent on this dispute to the Apostolic See; from that see in turn replies have come. The matter is settled (causa finita est]: would that the error, too, might end at last.’
"In the eyes of the Africans the whole affair both of the doctrine and the actual excommunication of Pelagius had been satisfactorily concluded. The local councils had been given approval by Rome and the decisions had thus acquired universal force. It has been suggested that, the settlement was regarded as the joint effort of both parties, as if two equal partners were contributing to the final decision. THE CONTEMPORARY WITNESSES DID NOT THINK SO. A record of the affair was written by St. Prosper of Aquitaine, the disciple of St. Augustine: ‘At that time the Pelagians, who had already been condemned by Pope Innocent, were being resisted by the vigour of the Africans and above all by the learning of Bishop Augustine.’ Elsewhere he records the matter more poetically: ‘They fell dead when Innocent of blessed memory struck the heads of the deadly error with the Apostolic sword.’ Marius Mercator records the matter in greater detail: ‘Celestius and Pelagius were not then for the first time condemned by Zosimus of blessed memory, but by his predecessor Innocent of holy memory . . . [He refers to the examination of the books of Pelagius] . . . These books were sent together with the letters to the fathers and bishops in Africa, where the books were read at the three councils which were assembled. From thence reports [relationes] were sent to Rome, together with the books; the Apostolic sentence in reply to the councils followed, which deprived Pelagius and Celestius of ecclesiastical communion. It is clear that these fifth-century writers envisaged a subordination of authorities.
"In the whole of the career of St. Augustine there is no other instance of his having recourse to Rome as he did in the Pelagian affair. In various of his writings he indicates several sources of guidance which are complementary rather than exclusive of each other. In his treatise on baptism he advises that if one were in doubt as to the procedure to follow (over rebaptizing) guidance should be sought from the practice of the universal church, whose attitude could ultimately be ascertained from local or ecumenical councils. He refers to the ecumenical council because he was under the impression that the rebaptismal controversy had, in fact, been settled by a general council. The apparent contradictions in his attitude have been clarified by Batiffol on the basis of his applying different criteria in different situations: ‘Against the Donatists he preferred to invoke the authority of the universal church; for the question of baptism the authority of an ecumenical council. In the controversy against the Pelagians, Augustine regarded the Roman church as judge in matters of Faith. In the whole of Augustine’s ecclesiology he manifests a preference for considering the church as a whole. However, this preference is not incompatible with the position of the papacy. In the last analysis communion with the universal church and communion with Rome have the same result. Augustine gives greater emphasis to the former, but the extent to which the two aspects harmonize can be judged from the letter to Gloriosus: ‘Carthage . . . had a bishop of no mean authority, who could afford to ignore the hostile group of enemies, since he perceived himself to be joined by letters of communion, both to the Roman church, in which the authority of the Apostolic office [apostolicae cathedrae principatus] always persists, and to the other regions of the world whence the gospel came to Africa.’ IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT THE PELAGIAN AFFAIR WAS THE ONLY TRULY THEOLOGICAL HERESY OF HIS PERIOD, THE INFREQUENCY OF HIS APPEALING TO ROME CANNOT RIGHTLY BE REGARDED AS AN ANOMALY. What is truly significant and relevant in the Pelagian dispute is the spontaneous way in which the two councils, and Saint Augustine, referred to Rome for approval and confirmation.
"There the matter should have ended but for the intrigues of the Pelagians and the impetuosity of Pope Zosimus. Zosimus succeeded Innocent in March, V7, and was soon approached by Pelagius and Celestius with the request that their case should be reopened. Without giving much thought to the matter, Zosimus declared his willingness to give them a hearing. Although the matter did not proceed very far, it is well to bear in mind that there was never a question of revising Innocent’s doctrinal decision, but only of examining the justice of the personal sentences against Pelagius and Celestius. Nevertheless the Africans took alarm, and a council at Carthage in November, 417, protested in favour of the previous decisions. Zosimus wrote to the Africans to calm their anxieties and also to affirm his competence in the matter. The first part of this letter, ‘Quamvis patrum traditio’, is, like that of Innocent to the Africans, a detailed statement of the nature of the papal authority. Since it emanates from the Pope, it is of value in showing how the papal function was understood:
"‘Although the tradition of the fathers has attributed to the Apostolic See so great authority that none would dare to contest its judgment, and has preserved this ever in its canons and rules, and current ecclesiastical discipline in its laws stiff pays the reverence which it ought to the name of Peter, from which it has itself its origin, for canonical antiquity willed that this apostle should have such power by the decisions of all; and by the promise of Christ our God, that he should loose the bound and bind the loosed, and an equal condition of power has been given to those who with his consent have received the heritage of his See. For he himself has care over all the churches, and above all of that in which he sat, nor does he suffer anything of its privileges or decisions to be shaken in any wind, since he established it on the foundation firm and immovable, of his own name, which no one shall rashly attack but at his peril. Since, then, Peter is the head of so great authority, and has confirmed the suffrages of our forefathers since his time, so that the Roman church is confirmed by all laws and disciplines, divine or human; whose place we rule, and the power of whose name we inherit, as you are not ignorant, my brethren, but you know it well and as bishops you are bound to know it; yet, though such was our authority that none could reconsider our decision . . .’ "Documents such as this letter and that of Innocent quoted above show how complete was the Roman appreciation of the papal power not only in practice but also in theory. The appeal to the Petrine text of Matthew had been characteristic of the Popes since St. Stephen, [Either Pope Callistus I in 220 or Pope Victor I in approx. 190 may have been the first popes to appeal to the Petrine text — Ed.]and expositions such as the present letter show how fully they had worked out the consequences of Peter’s superiority being transmitted by succession.
"In May, 418, two hundred African bishops met in Carthage and again championed the previous decision of Innocent. By the end of that month Zosimus, too, had reached the same decision, which he announced in the Tractatoria. By then he had come to realize the insincerity of Pelagius, but it is undeniable that he was assisted in his decision by the firmness shown in Africa.
"In addition to the affair of Pelagius, the year 418 is famous on account of the case of the African priest Apiarius. The event itself was of little consequence and the records are sadly incomplete, yet the question has become notorious, thanks to the interest which it aroused among the Gallicans.
"It appears that the priest Apiarius was excommunicated by his bishop, Urbanus of Sicca, on account of certain crimes, and that he appealed to Rome for exculpation. In the same year the council of Carthage forbade appeals from Africa to higher courts ‘across the sea’ (ad transmarina). It is not certain whether this was prompted by the appeal of Apiarius, but it would seem likely. The reference could possibly be an allusion to the journeys to seek support at the imperial court such as the Donatists were in the habit of making, but it seems more likely from the sequel that it was politely directed against Rome. Pope Zosimus reacted by sending legates to Africa to protest. This was an innovation in the practice of the Apostolic See, inspired no doubt by the imperial executores, but envisaged in theory as early as the council of Sardica. THESE LEGATES UPHELD, AMONG OTHER MATTERS, THE RIGHT OF BISHOPS TO APPEAL TO ROME. Having declared the principle, they made the fundamental mistake of basing this right, not on the inherited prerogatives of St. Peter, nor on the tradition of the church, but on the authority of the council of Nicea. The reason for this claim was the fact that in Rome, at that date, the official records of the councils of Nicea and Sardica had become amalgamated, so that the canons of the latter were assumed to have emanated from Nicea. Hence the legates in Africa were unwillingly referring to the provisions which the council of Sardica had laid down with respect to the procedure of appeal to Rome. Aurelius, the Bishop of Carthage, was ignorant of such provisions in the acts of the council of Nicea, but he agreed to allow the appeals pending an examination of the Eastern collections of the canons of Nicea. This decision was adopted by the council of Carthage in May, 419, and for the moment the matter rested in this state of compromise.
"Before very long the consultations
with the major Eastern churches revealed that the council of Nicea had
not been the origin of the canons in question. As a result of this discovery,
it might have been expected that Africa would have put a stop to all appeals
to Rome, yet in fact nothing of the kind happened. Appeals still went from
Africa to the Pope. A well-known appeal of this period was that
of Antonius of Fussala, which involved St. Augustine. It is clear that
Augustine and his contemporaries did not object to the principle of appeal
to Rome, and Augustine’s letter on the subject indicates that it was a
Point 1 has been eliminated on the basis of doctrinal development. There is no question that Augustine recognized that Rome’s decision was final and this harmonizes nicely with the notion that Rome could not err in making a definitive decision to the Universal Church. (And Innocent's condemnation and Zosimus’ ratification of the decrees from Carthage were definitive and to the Universal Church.) "Infallibility" as a word was never used but there is no question that Augustine believed that the Church could not err in a universal context (condemning doctrine and setting forth authentic doctrine, etc.) and also that the decisions of the Apostolic See were final and irrevocable. It is not too far of a step from there to claim that universal decisions were protected by the Holy Spirit from error.
All of Mr. Critic's arguments in light of the concept of development
fail badly. Consider points 2 and 3 for a textbook example (much like point
1 was but more subtle perhaps). Indulgences and the treasury of merit are
connected with Confession and the remission of sins. What did Augustine
believe about confession of sins to a priest???:
All mortal sins are to be submitted to the keys of the Church and all can be forgiven; but recourse to these keys is the only, the necessary, and the certain way to forgiveness. Unless those who are guilty of grevious sin have recourse to the power of the keys, they cannot hope for eternal salvation. Open your lips, them, and confess your sins to the priest. Confession alone is the true gate to Heaven. 
"And was carried in His Own Hands:" how "carried in His Own Hands"? Because when He commended His Own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, "This is My Body." 
As for Augustine not believing in the Immaculate Conception (Point 5),
how does Mr. Critic square what he says with the words of Augustine:
We must except the Holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin." 
Augustine did not hold the dogma of the Immaculate Conception since he was dead when it was defined — 1520 years removed from earth actually. However, he did believe the Mother of God was sinless: that is all I have to show since that is the core of the dogma right there — that St. Mary was free from sin. Point 6 requires point 5 to be sustained before it can be since the latter is derived predominantly in a logical manner from the former (although Rev. 11:19ff-12:ff could be said to be implicit Scriptural proof). The former has been solidly sustained so point 6 also adheres (bearing in mind the concept of developing doctrine) and all 6 of Mr. Critic’s objections fail.
One truly has to wonder if, when men like Steve Ray accuse us of misusing the Fathers, they are not really just attempting to quiet their own consciences and hide from the simple facts of history.
Actually, I have shown here in detail why every point Mr. Critic makes
is so far of target that he can hardly even be taken seriously. If anyone
needs to quiet their consciences and hide from history it is him.
"What Catholic apologists are guilty of is believing history is going somewhere, that God has a plan, that the tree is growing, that the Holy Spirit is still at work developing and giving substance and growth to the Body of Christ as it develops into a mature Bride, a completed Temple, the full tree. They don’t believe that the Holy Spirit was taken back, withdrawn into heaven at the end of Acts 28. They believe Christians moved from worshiping in the Temple (Acts 5:12), to private homes (Col. 4:15), to worshiping in church buildings (even though there is no biblical precedent for worshiping in special "church" buildings). In looking back on the history of the Church, Catholic apologists try to read the end into the beginning, seeing the oak in the acorn. This is not a bad thing if understood properly in the whole course of Church history. We have the marvelous advantage of seeing the oak after it is a tree, whereas the Fathers saw only the sprout and the sapling.
The Apostles and the Fathers extended the reality of a spiritual event or even person into the future or viewed current situations as extensions of the past. How else could John the Baptist be referred to as Elijah? Or the Church as Sarah? Or Jesus as the seed, when we know that was not the literal meaning of the word seed as used in Genesis? This is not just thinking about what the Apostles wrote, but learning to think like the Apostles. Can it be abused? Certainly. But allegorical interpretation is an accepted method of interpretation (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 115 - 119). The Apostles and Fathers taught us how to do it, but it can be abused as we see in Origen (more on him later), just as the literal-only view of interpretation (held by most Fundamentalists) can be abused. Occasional abuse does not invalidate the method. [Steve Ray: Response to William Webster]
Yet another example of Steve Ray professing a belief in the concept
of doctrinal development. He clearly does not make the claim
that twentieth century Catholicism would be recognized in all of its particulars
to the early Fathers. Thus Mr. Critic's assertions are flat out false.
One truly has to wonder if, when men like Steve Ray accuse us of misusing the Fathers, they are not really just attempting to quiet their own consciences and hide from the simple facts of history.
Every point of Mr. Critic's entire section fails and fails badly. He quite clearly misunderstands and misrepresents both Steve Ray and the Catholic Church’s positions on doctrine and Patristics evidence. In this light, I find his last statement to be a rather sad coda to an otherwise error-ridden commentary. It is another example of someone seeking to tell other people what they believe when they have not the slightest idea what they are talking about. Mr. Critic owes Mr. Ray an apology for bearing false witness against him as he has done. If he refuses to do this then he has no business calling himself a Christian. That might sound rather harsh but I am serious. Accidents happen and certainly this could be an oversight on Mr. Critic's part. But I have read far too much of Mr. Critic's work over the years (tracts, debates, and even listened to a few of his audio debates) to chalk this up to an "accident" but instead I believe it was both deliberate and malicious. It is up to Mr. Critic now to show that in light of Steve's own words as I presented in this post that he misunderstood Steve and apologize. Bearing false witness is a serious sin (when it is deliberate) and God is not mocked.
 Fr. Nicholas Afanassief: "The Church Which Presides in Love" Chapter 4 of the compilation The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church edited by John Meyendorff, pg. 128ff (c. 1992)
Most of the material from Steve Ray was obtained at the following link: http://www.catholic-convert.com/webster/index.html Since many of ‘Mr. Critics’ criticisms were likewise espoused by his associate William Webster, the responses of Steve Ray to Mr. Webster are adequate to refute the assertions of ‘Mr. Critic’ on many points.
The citations of Fr. Nicholas Afanassief were taken from the compliation "The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church" edited by John Meyendorff - St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, (c. 1992)
The citations from St. Augustine of Hippo not marked with a * were obtained at the New Advent site at the file of writings on the Church Fathers: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/
The citations of the Church Fathers marked with a * symbol were obtained at Joe Gallegos' Corunum Apologetics web-site which specializes in Patristic studies: http://www.cin.org/users/jgallegos/contents.htm
©2000, "The 'Tinkling Cymbal' of 'Mr. Critic'", written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.