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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mr. Webster's understanding that the Fathers appealed to Scripture alone is simply a fantasy

As seen from Corunum Catholic Apologetic Web Page

"Mr. Webster's understanding that the Fathers
appealed to Scripture alone is simply a fantasy.

In support of Mr.
Webster's novel idea that St. Irenaeus and Tertullian embraced sola Scriptura he
cites Ellen Flessman-Van Leer, a non-Catholic scholar. Mr. Webster offers this
cut and paste of Van Leer.

"Irenaeus and Tertullian had to contend with
the Gnostics who were the very first to suggest and teach that they possessed an
Apostolic oral Tradition that was independent from Scripture. These early
fathers rejected such a notion and appealed to Scripture alone for the
proclamation and defense of doctrine. Church historian, Ellen Flessman-Van Leer
affirms this fact:
'For Tertullian Scripture is the only means for refuting
or validating a doctrine as regards its content...For Irenaeus, the church
doctrine is certainly never purely traditional; on the contrary, the thought
that there could be some truth, transmitted exclusively viva voce (orally), is a
Gnostic line of thought...If Irenaeus wants to prove the truth of a doctrine
materially, he turns to scripture, because therein the teaching of the apostles
is objectively accessible. Proof from tradition and scripture serve one and the
same end: to identify the teaching of the church as the original apostolic
teaching. The first establishes that the teaching of the church is this
apostolic teaching, and the second, what this apostolic teaching is'
Flessman-van Leer, Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church(Van Gorcum, 1953,
pp. 184, 133, 144)."[1]
Unfortunately for Mr. Webster, Ellen Flessman-Van
Leer has written in depth and without equivocation on St. Irenaeus' and
Tertullian's understanding of Apostolic Tradition. Mr. Webster wants to leave us
with the impression that Van Leer and the Fathers embraced sola Scriptura.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

"For Irenaeus, on the other
hand, tradition and scripture are both quite unproblematic. They stand
independently side by side, both absolutely authoritative, both unconditionally
true, trustworthy, and convincing."
Tradition and Scripture in the Early
Church, p139
Notice the contrast of the use of the word independent between
Mr. Webster and Van Leer. In one fell swoop Van Leer destroys Mr. Webster's
novel understanding of St. Irenaeus' rule of faith.

Elsewhere Van Leer
comments on Tertullian:

"Tertullian says explicitly that the apostles
delivered their teaching both orally and later on through epistles, and the
whole body of this teaching he designates with the word traditio...This is
tradition in the real sense of the word. It is used for the original message of
the apostles, going back to revelation, and for the message proclaimed by the
church, which has been received through the apostles...[I]n the first case
regula approaches a confession of faith, and in the second case the revelation.
And the fact that these are two nuances, hardly to be differentiated, proves
that for Tertullian the revealed truth and the confession of the church coincide
for all practical purposes...The regula is also normative for the right exegesis
of scripture...And only as so long as the rule is kept intact and within its
ibid.,pp. 146,147,168
Van Leer concludes:

"Irenaeus and Tertullian point to the church tradition as the
authoritative locus of the unadulterated teaching of the apostles, they cannot
longer appeal to the immediate memory, as could the earliest writers. Instead
they lay stress on the affirmation that this teaching has been transmitted
faithfully from generation to generation. One could say that in their thinking,
apostolic succession occupies the same place that is held by the living memory
in the Apostolic Fathers."
ibid., p.188
Clearly, Mr. Webster has not
understood Van Leer, St. Irenaeus and Tertullian."

To read the rest please visit Corunum Catholic Apologetic Web Page



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