Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #87

Bible Christian Society

General Comments


Again, thank you to all of those who responded so generously to my semi-annual appeal. The donations have continued to come in the last couple of weeks and I’m happy to report that we’ll be able to let my wife go back to 3 meals a day!


In all seriousness, though, the support given by those of you who receive this newsletter allows me to keep the doors of the Bible Christian Society open. Without it, I would have to seriously cut back on my apologetics/evangelization activities, if not shut them down altogether. So I am very grateful to all of you. And, as I’ve mentioned several times in the past, if we can keep growing the number of folks receiving these newsletters, and thus grow the support from subscribers, I hope to one day be able to hire a full-time administrative assistant – which would allow me to devote 100% of my time to apologetics and evangelization. Please pray that God will allow that to happen in the not-too-distant future.


Sorry for no newsletter last week, I almost didn’t get this one out this week. We’ve finalized the purchase of a radio station here in Birmingham, receiving FCC approval of the sale just yesterday, and I’ve been running around like crazy the last couple of weeks trying to put together a fundraiser, set up an office, buy equipment and do all that needs to be done to prepare to get the station on the air. So, please keep Queen of Heaven Radio in your prayers as we hope to be on the air by July 1.

Introduction


At least one of you sent Issue #85, which was my 3-part argument against the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, to Dr. Joe Mizzi, an anti-Catholic apologist from the island nation of Malta, who has been featured several times in past newsletters.


Joe sent a response to that subscriber which was then forwarded on to me. So, below is Joe’s response to my argument against Sola Scriptura. As usual, I print his response in its entirety, and then I reprint it with my comments intermingled amongst his.


As you will see, Joe’s response is not really much of a response. The example of Dr. Joe Mizzi ought to give all you folks who are not too sure about your abilities to go out there and evangelize, a great deal of confidence. Dr. Joe is obviously a very smart man, but he’s a very smart man who cannot come up with anything remotely resembling a cogent argument against any Catholic teaching. Why not? Because, as I always say, if you stick with Church teaching, you have not only Scripture on your side, but logic and common sense as well. That’s a tough combination for anyone to tackle.


Unlike you, Dr. Joe has nothing to fall back on, no weapon to fight his battles with, save his own fallible, man-made, non-authoritative opinions as to what this or that Scripture verse means. And, to be perfectly blunt, Joe Mizzi’s opinions regarding Scripture hold no more authority over me than Oprah Winfrey’s opinions about Scripture.


Joe will also, on occasion, try to fall back on “historic Protestant teaching” as his authority. But, as I mentioned in the last newsletter, he is actually a Cafeteria Protestant when it comes to “historic Protestant teaching” – believing some of it, rejecting some of it. So, his appeal to the authority of “historic Protestant teaching” rings a bit hollow when he himself rejects certain portions of it – in accord with his own fallible opinion of whether or not it’s scriptural.


So, having confidence in the Church founded by Jesus Christ and being sure of the truth of its teachings, get out of your comfort zone, stick your neck out a little bit, and see if God can’t use you, too, in order to reach more folks with His saving message – if you haven’t already done so. Just remember, the Church has your back, as long as you stick with what she teaches. And, if you’re concerned about getting into a jam by talking to folks who can quote a whole lot more chapter and verse than you can, check out my talk entitled “Apologetics for the Scripturally-Challenged” which you can find on the website (www.biblechristiansociety.com) – it might help to get you going.

Challenge/Response/Strategy


Response from Joe Mizzi:


Is “Sacred Tradition” biblical? Is the Word of God transmitted in its full purity from the apostles to our own time “from hand to hand” by tradition? Catholic authors frequently cite 2 Thessalonians 2:15 in support of this concept. For instance, a popular booklet states: “The Bible itself tells us to hold fast to Tradition, whether it comes to us in written or oral form.”


Is Paul here speaking about Catholic “Tradition” – the transmission of the Word of God by the church, and especially by Catholic bishops? Or is he referring to something entirely different? First, let’s read the verse in context:


“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15).


The Apostle Paul exhorted the believers in Thessalonica to “hold the traditions” which he had taught them. The word translated “traditions” simply means “a giving over, a handing down.” So Paul is here referring to the teachings which he had “handed down” to the Thessalonians, the truth of the Gospel he mentioned in the previous verse. He had instructed them orally when he was present with them, and by letter when he was away. Paul commands them to keep the doctrines which he had handed on, irrespective of the way they were delivered.


How can we apply this principle in our own time? We too must “hold the traditions” – we must learn, believe, obey and defend the apostolic doctrine, the true Gospel of God.


But what is this apostolic doctrine; how do we receive it? Is this verse teaching us that we who live centuries after the death of Paul and the other apostles, should expect to receive God’s Word directly from the mouth of an apostle, just as the Thessalonians did? No, and for a very simple reason — there are no apostles today.


At issue is not whether God’s revelation was initially passed on to the church by the apostles by word of mouth and writing. That is not disputed. Nor do we question whether Christian doctrine should be passed on from one generation to another in both written and oral forms. The Christian religion is, in fact, transmitted by both means. The most vociferous defenders of sola Scriptura, just like Catholics, teach doctrine orally (in preaching, teaching, etc) and in writing (tracts, books, etc).


The central question is this: Are church traditions necessarily identical to apostolic traditions? Is the pastor or bishop in your church as authoritative as an apostle? Are his sermons and writings “God-breathed” – the very Word of God? During the history of the church, did Christians and their leaders follow exactly the teaching and practices initially taught by the apostles? Have we reached perfection? Or are Jesus’ disciples liable to err, neglect certain doctrines, and add foreign ideas and practices?


Just like a ship needs a compass to detect any deviation from its course caused by winds and currents, even so, the church needs an ultimate standard, the apostolic message, because it is forever tossed and disturbed by false doctrines. In other words, the traditions of the church should be subject to correction. But if traditions are regarded as the Word of God, the church cannot correct and reform itself.


What then is the “ultimate rule”? The Holy Spirit moved holy men to write down the divine message in gospels, epistles and other forms of literature. The New Testament, being part of the Holy Scriptures is “God-breathed.” We do not merely possess a written record of the apostolic message; we have the God-inspired record - certain, sure, infallible, the very Word of God! From the Scriptures we can drink the pure water of life; by the Scriptures we can evaluate, and when necessary, amend our traditions.


The first century Christians received God’s Word in apostolic speech and epistle. Today the situation has changed; there are no living apostles, yet we still receive their doctrine in the inspired Scriptures even though we cannot hear them speak.


The argument for the Catholic concept of Tradition based on 2nd Thessalonians is erroneous – it is a logical fallacy of ambiguity. The same term, the word “traditions”, is used with two different meanings. In Paul’s epistle it means one thing (the Gospel message handed on by an apostle to a local church); it means something entirely different in Catholic apologetics (namely the perfect transmission of God’s Word in an unwritten form from one generation to another by the universal church). Do not be misled!


Regards,


Joe


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Joe Mizzi:


Is “Sacred Tradition” biblical? Is the Word of God transmitted in its full purity from the apostles to our own time “from hand to hand” by tradition? Catholic authors frequently cite 2 Thessalonians 2:15 in support of this concept. For instance, a popular booklet states: “The Bible itself tells us to hold fast to Tradition, whether it comes to us in written or oral form.”


Comments/Strategies:


First of all, didya notice what Joe did? When I started with my arguments against Sola Scriptura using logic and history, I included some verbiage that basically said, “There are those who will simply dismiss these arguments outright…” Some of you emailed me to say that surely no one will just summarily dismiss those arguments, so there was no need for me to include that verbiage. But, what does Dr. Joe Mizzi do? He completely ignores the arguments from logic and from history. Doesn’t even acknowledge them, much less try to answer them.


And, not only does he ignore the arguments from logic and history, but what does he do with the arguments from Scripture? He makes up his own definitions about what tradition is in Scripture and what it is in Catholic teaching and he then declares the Catholic meaning that he has invented to be at odds with the Scripture meaning that he has invented, and then pretty much dismisses the Catholic meaning (as he has defined it) out of hand. Very nice. Great way to always win an argument – define what the other guy means in such a way that it conflicts with what you declare to be the true meaning, and then authoritatively and infallibly pronounce the other guy wrong. “I, Dr. Joe Mizzi, declare Scripture to mean one thing when it mentions ‘tradition,’ but that Catholics mean something entirely different when they say ‘tradition,’ and therefore, I, Dr. Joe Mizzi, declare Catholic teaching false…so sayeth I, Dr. Joe Mizzi, authentic and infallible interpreter of Scripture.”


This man is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with anti-Catholic polemics. He won’t deal with the arguments presented to him, often ignoring them altogether; he will not directly answer questions asked of him; he can “validly” use a particular tactic or line of argumentation, but suddenly that same tactic or line of argumentation is invalid when used against him; he takes it upon himself to define what his opponents mean when they use particular words or phrases; and he sticks to his self-fabricated definitions even after being shown that they misrepresent his opponent’s position. As an example of this, I’ll ask Dr. Mizzi some questions at the end of this newsletter regarding Sola Scriptura – very easy questions – and what do you want to bet that he won’t answer a single one of them? Any takers?


Now, let’s look at his “arguments,” such as they are. In his first sentence he asks: Is Sacred Tradition biblical? His answer is, “No!” But, he goes on to cite 2 Thes 2:15, which Catholic apologists use to show scriptural support for Catholic teaching. And, in 2 Thes 2:15, Paul is clearly telling the Thessalonians to “stand fast” to the “traditions” they were taught whether by “word of mouth”…Sacred Tradition, or by letter…Sacred Scripture. In other words, it’s very obvious that Paul is telling the Thessalonians that the Word of God is passed along both orally and in writing. The Word of God that was taught by “word of mouth” is what Catholics are generally referring to when they speak of “Sacred Tradition.”


Scripture states very clearly that the early Christians were to hold to the Word of God as passed on both orally and in writing. This is exactly what Catholics believe. So, Dr. Mizzi has a problem. What is he to do? Well, he does what he usually does, he takes it upon himself to define Catholic teaching in such a way that he can then dismiss it by saying it is not scriptural. Let’s see what he says…


Joe Mizzi:


Is Paul here speaking about Catholic “Tradition” – the transmission of the Word of God by the church, and especially by Catholic bishops? Or is he referring to something entirely different? First, let’s read the verse in context:


Comments/Strategies: First, let’s comment on what he says here. Dr. Mizzi defines Catholic “Tradition” as “the transmission of the Word of God by the church, and especially by Catholic bishops.” Essentially, he’s gotten it right – so far. Let me give the definition found in the Catechism of the Church: “The living transmission of the message of the Gospel in the Church. The oral preaching of the Apostles, and the written message of salvation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Bible), are conserved and handed on as the deposit of faith through the apostolic succession in the Church…”


So, no problem, so far, with Dr. Mizzi’s definition regarding what Catholics mean when we say “tradition.” But, notice a couple of things he’s doing here: 1) he’s inserted the phrase “Catholic bishops” – with a very negative connotation – which he will use as a taking-off point to distort Catholic teaching, and 2) he’s beginning to define, I assume in an authoritative and infallible manner, what St. Paul meant when he used the word “traditions.”


Joe Mizzi:


“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15).


The Apostle Paul exhorted the believers in Thessalonica to “hold the traditions” which he had taught them. The word translated “traditions” simply means “a giving over, a handing down.” So Paul is here referring to the teachings which he had “handed down” to the Thessalonians, the truth of the Gospel he mentioned in the previous verse. He had instructed them orally when he was present with them, and by letter when he was away. Paul commands them to keep the doctrines which he had handed on, irrespective of the way they were delivered.


Comments/Strategies: What Dr. Mizzi says here, concerning 2 Thes 2:15, is perfectly compatible with Catholic teaching. I, as a Catholic, agree 100% with the words he has written here in relation to the passage from 2 Thes 2:15. The problem is, Dr. Mizzi is trying to present all of this as something opposed to what Catholics believe about these verses. Which, of course, would mean Catholics were a bunch of ignorant morons, or, as my good friend Bugs says, a bunch of “maroons,” because we obviously can’t understand what Paul clearly says here. So, Dr. Mizzi, by presenting this as something that Catholics do not believe, is, essentially, factually misrepresenting Catholic belief and teaching.


Joe Mizzi:


How can we apply this principle in our own time? We too must “hold the traditions” – we must learn, believe, obey and defend the apostolic doctrine, the true Gospel of God. But what is this apostolic doctrine; how do we receive it? Is this verse teaching us that we who live centuries after the death of Paul and the other apostles, should expect to receive God’s Word directly from the mouth of an apostle, just as the Thessalonians did? No, and for a very simple reason — there are no apostles today.


Comments/Strategies: Here, Dr. Mizzi continues his authoritative and apparently infallible interpretation of 2 Thes 2:15 by saying that this verse in Thessalonians is referring only to that teaching of Paul that they heard directly from his mouth. If it wasn’t from Paul’s mouth to their ears, then it doesn’t fall under what Paul is saying here about “holding fast” to the traditions they’ve been taught. Which means, Catholic teaching is wrong because we here in the 21st century cannot hear these traditions straight from the mouth of Paul, or any Apostle for that matter. This is pathetic. And, it’s total nonsense.


Dr. Mizzi’s assertion is that this Scripture passage is to be interpreted as meaning this: If you don’t hear it straight from the mouth of an Apostle, then it can’t be trusted and it doesn’t count as being the Word of God. Therefore, the Catholic teaching on Sacred Tradition is false because Catholics haven’t heard these traditions straight from the mouth of an Apostle – they’ve heard them from their “bishops.” Boo, bad…bishops…bad…boo! Maybe throw in a hiss or two.


Let’s look at this argument and see how ridiculous it truly is. First, this argument is predicated on the assumption that everything that Paul taught the Thessalonians orally, which he told them to hold fast to, was then written down in Paul’s two very short letters to them. Dr. Mizzi believes that the two letters of Paul to the Thessalonians contain the sum total of Paul’s oral teaching to them. Problem: the Bible nowhere says such a thing. So, where does Dr. Mizzi get this belief from? From a non-biblical pre-supposition that he is making.


Next, Dr. Mizzi is essentially saying that if someone new came into the Thessalonian Christian congregation, and they had not heard Paul himself speaking, then they were not bound by what people were telling them about Paul’s teaching. They had not heard it directly from the Apostle’s mouth, therefore it wasn’t an authentic “tradition” for that person. That’s his standard, after all, you have to hear it directly from the mouth of an Apostle, or it cannot be considered “tradition” in the sense that Dr. Mizzi defines the word. You cannot hear it secondhand or thirdhand or fourthhand, you have to hear it firsthand…straight from the Apostle’s mouth. You can’t hear it from one of the Thessalonians who had heard Paul speak, you have to hear it from Paul himself. How ridiculous is that?!


Does Paul mean what Dr. Mizzi claims he means when he uses the word “traditions?” Is Paul, by using the word “traditions,” referring only to those teachings of the Gospel that someone hears directly from the mouth of an Apostle such as himself, as Dr. Mizzi claims? Well, let’s interpret Scripture using Scripture, as I’m sure Dr. Mizzi has said on many an occasion. If we look at 2 Tim 2:2, we see Paul commanding Timothy to pass on what he has “heard” from Paul to “faithful men” who Paul foresees as teaching “others also.” In other words, Paul is commanding Timothy to pass on the oral traditions he has heard to other men so that they can then in turn teach others. Four generations of the passing on of oral tradition: Paul, to Timothy, to faithful men, to others. And, nowhere does Paul say anything about having to hear these oral traditions straight from the mouth of an Apostle. And, nowhere do we see anything that implies Paul expects this passing on of oral tradition to end with these “others.” Nowhere does Paul say the passing on of oral tradition is to end now that the Thessalonians have received his letters. Nowhere does Paul say the passing on of oral tradition is to end once the Bible is written.


In other words, Dr. Mizzi’s authoritative infallible interpretation of 2 Thes 2:15 isn’t supported by the rest of Scripture. Nor is it supported by logic or common sense. Hmm, maybe it’s not so infallible, after all. As Catholics, we believe those men, not only in Thessalonica but those taught by Timothy and others elsewhere, continued to pass along the apostolic teachings received by word of mouth to each successive generation. Eventually, most of these, if not all of them, were written down, but in the early Church they were passed along orally, for many years, side-by-side with the written Tradition that forms Sacred Scripture. Scripture very clearly supports that this indeed is what was going on.


Joe Mizzi:


At issue is not whether God’s revelation was initially passed on to the church by the apostles by word of mouth and writing. That is not disputed. Nor do we question whether Christian doctrine should be passed on from one generation to another in both written and oral forms. The Christian religion is, in fact, transmitted by both means. The most vociferous defenders of sola Scriptura, just like Catholics, teach doctrine orally (in preaching, teaching, etc) and in writing (tracts, books, etc).


Comments/Strategies:


Here Dr. Mizzi is, essentially, saying that he agrees with how Catholics interpret these verses, but then he throws in that word, “initially.” In other words, he’s saying that once the written Tradition was indeed written, then oral tradition…the passing on of God’s revelation by “word of mouth”…ceased. The underlying assumption Dr. Mizzi is making is that absolutely everything which was “initially” taught “by word of mouth,” was put down in writing in the 1st century and is now available to us in the Scriptures. The problem, as mentioned above, is nowhere is that assumption taught in Scripture…nowhere! That is an assumption that Dr. Joe Mizzi believes in as if it were in black and white in the pages of the Bible; yet it cannot be found, either directly or indirectly, in the Bible that Dr. Joe Mizzi claims to go by.


So, where does that assumption come from? Well, it’s a man-made, non-binding, non-authoritative Protestant tradition that has been passed down via oral tradition…by “word of mouth”…to Dr. Joe Mizzi. Isn’t that ironic?!


Joe Mizzi:


The central question is this: Are church traditions necessarily identical to apostolic traditions? Is the pastor or bishop in your church as authoritative as an apostle? Are his sermons and writings “God-breathed” – the very Word of God? During the history of the church, did Christians and their leaders follow exactly the teaching and practices initially taught by the apostles? Have we reached perfection? Or are Jesus’ disciples liable to err, neglect certain doctrines, and add foreign ideas and practices?


Comments/Strategies: Again, the irony of his comments. In that last sentence above, he seems to be speaking of Martin Luther and his contemporaries who rebelled from the Church. First of all, let’s notice that he admits that every church has its traditions. Second, he claims that Jesus’ disciples are “liable to err, neglect certain doctrines, and add foreign ideas and practices.” I will agree with him that Jesus’ disciples are liable to err and are liable to neglect certain doctrines; however, I disagree wholeheartedly that Jesus’ disciples “add foreign ideas and practices.” When you cross the bounds into the realm of adding new “ideas and practices” to the teaching of the Apostles, then you are no longer a disciple of Jesus, rather you have made yourself the master and are out looking for folks to be your disciples. You have started your own new religion – you have separated yourself from apostolic teaching; you have separated yourself from the Body of Christ…the Church founded by Jesus Christ.


Let’s also notice that Dr. Mizzi does not apply what he says to himself. Could he possibly, even just possibly, be “liable to err” in his interpretations of Scripture? I have never heard him admit to that possibility. He really can’t admit to it, can he? Because if he ever admits that his interpretations of the Bible could be in error, then he has basically admitted that he could be wrong on Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Once Saved Always Saved, and all the other non-Catholic doctrines that he adheres to – since they are all dependent upon his own private personal interpretation of the Bible. Could Martin Luther or John Calvin been “liable to err” in their interpretations of the Bible? I’ll bet he won’t answer that question, either.


And we also need to note Dr. Mizzi’s sleight of hand here…his little bit of misdirection. Notice what he says: “The central question is this: Are church traditions necessarily identical to apostolic traditions? Is the pastor or bishop in your church as authoritative as an apostle? Are his sermons and writings “God-breathed” – the very Word of God?


What he is implying here, is that Catholics teach that all “church traditions” are “identical to apostolic traditions” and that the “pastor or bishop” is as “authoritative as an apostle” and that their “sermons and writings” are on a par with Sacred Scripture. Yet, nowhere does the Catholic Church teach such things. Once again, Dr. Joe Mizzi is putting words in the Church’s mouth.


First of all, not all Church traditions are “identical to apostolic traditions.” The Church is very clear that there are Traditions that have been handed down from the Apostles that we are bound to, as being part of the Deposit of Faith, and which cannot be changed; and there are traditions, or disciplines, which have not been handed from the Apostles and which are not part of the Deposit of Faith and can be changed according to the authority of the Church…authority given to it by Christ Himself through the Apostles.


Another little lie that Dr. Mizzi tries to pass off is that we believe the Bishops are “inspired” in what they say and write in the same way that the Apostles were “inspired” in what they said and wrote. We do not. However, we do believe the Bishops hold the offices that the Apostles held and, as long as they stick to what the Apostles taught – whether by word of mouth or in writing – they do indeed teach with the authority of the Apostles. What Dr. Mizzi is trying to do, is make the reader think the Bishops simply “made up” what we now call Sacred Tradition, and since the Bishops are not the Apostles, then this “tradition” they supposedly made up can in no way be considered on a par with Scripture. The problem for Joe is, though, that Catholic teaching regards the Deposit of Faith as having been closed with the death of the last Apostle…an oral tradition that he also believes in (oh, the irony)…which means the Bishops cannot make up any new doctrine or dogma.


Dr. Mizzi’s arguments rely upon assumptions unsupported by Scripture or by reason. The first assumption he makes, as we discussed above, is that all of the traditions taught by word of mouth – by Paul and the other Apostles – was all included in the written pages of the Bible. Again, that is an assumption not supported by the Bible. And, not supported by reason. Paul stayed with some of the communities he later wrote to for sometimes months on end. Then they get one or two relatively short letters from him and these letters are thought, by Dr. Mizzi and others, to contain all of what he taught them orally?! Months and months of teachings completely contained in a few pages of a letter?! That is not a reasonable assumption to make.


The other assumption Dr. Mizzi makes here is this: It would be impossible for the Word of God to be accurately passed on from generation to generation through oral teaching. Does Scripture support this assumption? Absolutely not. Does reason? Absolutely not.


First of all, let’s look at Genesis. When was Genesis first written down? Well, if Moses was indeed the author, and I have no reason to doubt that he was, then Genesis was first written down around 1500 B.C. Yet, what does Genesis contain? It contains oral traditions that were passed down for thousands upon thousands of years from the very beginning of mankind! But, according to Joe Mizzi’s assumption about oral tradition, it is not possible to accurately transmit oral tradition over that many generations. Had the Hebrews, and the pre-Hebrews, “reached perfection”? Were Old Testament believers in God “liable to err, neglect certain doctrines, and add foreign ideas and practices,” as Joe Mizzi claims the followers of Christ were?


Therefore, using Dr. Mizzi’s assumptions, we have to conclude that the first few chapters of Genesis contain errors. It would have been impossible, according to him, for men to accurately pass along oral tradition for thousands of years. So, the stories of Creation, of Adam and Eve, of Cain and Able, of the Garden of Eden, of Noah’s Ark, and the rest must not be reliable, because oral tradition cannot be reliably passed on from generation to generation. Since Moses did not hear about the stories of Adam and Eve from Adam and Eve themselves, since he didn’t hear about the Great Flood from the lips of Noah, it cannot be considered reliable oral tradition…according to Dr. Joe Mizzi’s teaching..


Then, as mentioned above, we have Paul commanding Timothy to pass on oral tradition to “faithful men” who will “teach others also.” Well, according to Joe Mizzi, there were no “faithful men” amongst the Christians. And there are, apparently, no faithful men among Christians today, either. We’re all “liable to err, neglect certain doctrines, and add foreign ideas and practices,” so none of us could be considered faithful enough to accurately pass along oral tradition. All of us are “liable to err”, that is, except for Dr. Mizzi. In other words, Dr. Mizzi’s assumption that oral teaching cannot be faithfully and accurately passed on from one generation to the next is contrary to Scripture.


It is also contrary to reason. After all, Dr. Mizzi assumes that what he has in his Bible has been accurately passed on, in writing, from generation to generation. If the Protestant monks in the Protestant monasteries, who were copying the Bible by hand from one generation to the next, could accurately and faithfully pass on written tradition…Sacred Scripture…without making any mistakes, why couldn’t the Bishops of the Church, who were the disciples of the Apostles, or the disciples of disciples of the Apostles…the successors of the Apostles…have accurately passed on oral traditions as well? (Dr. Joe, those were Protestant monks in Protestant monasteries copying the Bible by hand in the early and mid centuries of the Church, weren’t they?)


Why…if oral tradition was able to be accurately and faithfully transmitted for thousands of years before Moses came along to write it down…why could it not be transmitted accurately and faithfully over a few hundred years after Christ came along? Joe Mizzi has no answer to that question. He simply declares that it could not have been; therefore, Catholics have to be wrong. Yet, as shown, both Scripture and reason refute his assumptions.


So, Joe, the central question is not whether church traditions are necessarily identical to apostolic traditions…that is a straw man you have invented…the central question is, does the Bible teach: 1) That all oral tradition taught by the Apostles was included in the Scriptures; and 2) That oral tradition cannot be faithfully and accurately passed down from generation to generation? That answer in both instances, is NO.


Joe Mizzi:


Just like a ship needs a compass to detect any deviation from its course caused by winds and currents, even so, the church needs an ultimate standard, the apostolic message, because it is forever tossed and disturbed by false doctrines. In other words, the traditions of the church should be subject to correction. But if traditions are regarded as the Word of God, the church cannot correct and reform itself.


Comments/Strategies:


A ship does indeed need a compass. But, it also needs someone who can understand the information the compass is conveying. You cannot put a compass at the wheel of a ship and expect it to guide the ship. The compass must have someone who can faithfully and accurately interpret the compass readings. Someone who is strong enough to stand at the helm of the ship and steer it in fair weather and foul. Just so the Church. The Bible cannot, on its own, steer the Church onto the right path. The Bible needs someone who can faithfully and accurately interpret the Bible readings. The Church needs someone who can stand at the helm and steer it in fair doctrinal weather and foul.


This is what Joe Mizzi seems to utterly and abysmally fail to understand. The Bible is indeed the Word of God. But, I’ve never walked into a church and seen a Bible in a chair up on the altar and everyone sitting around waiting for the Bible to begin speaking to them. Someone needs to pick up the Bible, read it, and faithfully and accurately – and infallibly – interpret the Bible so that we can steer clear of doctrinal and moral error. But who, Joe, can faithfully and accurately interpret the Bible in such a way as to keep the Church from being “forever tossed and disturbed by false doctrines?” Who? Dr. Joe Mizzi? Martin Luther? John Calvin? Any Joe Shmoe who picks up the Bible and starts reading it? Or, perhaps someone who holds the office once held by an Apostle?


I would ask Joe this: Do you consider the teachings of the Apostles to be what they are – the Word of God – and not the word of men? And, is it possible that some of the Apostles’ teachings…some of the Word of God…could be passed on orally – and accurately – from one generation to the next? And, if those Apostolic teachings were indeed passed on orally, and accurately, from one generation to the next, should we not also consider them as being the Word of God, and not the word of men?


Joe Mizzi:


What then is the “ultimate rule”? The Holy Spirit moved holy men to write down the divine message in gospels, epistles and other forms of literature. The New Testament, being part of the Holy Scriptures is “God-breathed.” We do not merely possess a written record of the apostolic message; we have the God-inspired record — certain, sure, infallible, the very Word of God! From the Scriptures we can drink the pure water of life; by the Scriptures we can evaluate, and when necessary, amend our traditions.


Comments/Strategies:


This is fascinating! What Dr. Mizzi says here speaks directly to the “perspective provided by logic” that I talked about in my previous newsletter. How does Dr. Mizzi know that the “Holy Spirit moved men to write down the divine message in gospels, epistles and other forms of literature? Because the Bible tells him so? How does he know the Bible is reliable? How does he know the Bible is the “God-inspired record – certain, sure, infallible, the very Word of God!”? How does he know this? Who told him so? By what authority does he claim it to be so? By his own authority? By the Bible’s authority? By what authority does Joe Mizzi believe these things? How does he know the books in the Bible are supposed to actually be in the Bible? Does the Bible tell him this? If not the Bible, then who?


And look at the huge blunder he makes in the last sentence of his paragraph above. What is wrong with this: “…by the Scriptures we can evaluate, and when necessary, amend our traditions”? What’s wrong is that he is admitting that Christians…Bible-only Christians…can come up with traditions that they originally think are Bible-based, but later Bible-only Christians can come along and say that they weren’t Bible-based, so they change them…they “amend” them. Do you understand, Joe, what you are saying? Bible-alone Christians come up with Bible-based (or so they believe) traditions. But, later on, other Bible-alone Christians decide that the earlier Bible-alone Christians got it wrong, and so they “amend” what was thought to be Bible-based traditions, to come up with real Bible-based traditions; at least, until someone else comes along and says that they aren’t Bible-based and amends them again.


In other words, Bible-based traditions turned out to not be Bible-based traditions and needed amending. Which is an admission on Joe’s part, that Bible-only believers can get it wrong when it comes to interpreting the Bible! Bible alone theology is not error free – Joe proves the point for me! How can you go by the Bible alone, when from one generation of Christians to another, or even within generations of Christians, traditions that are based on the Bible alone can change? Joe has admitted that the Bible alone is not the sure compass for guiding the Church that he spoke of earlier. If Bible alone traditions can change – in other words, if Bible-alone Christians have wrongly interpreted the Bible to get their traditions – then why can’t Bible alone doctrines change? Whose to say that the same folks who wrongly interpreted the Bible when it comes to their traditions, didn’t also wrongly interpret the Bible when it comes to their doctrines? Thank you, Dr. Joe Mizzi, for admitting that people who go by the Bible alone can wrongly interpret the Bible and thus necessitate the need for changes in beliefs – thus proving my point that, from a logical perspective, Sola Scriptura makes no sense whatsoever!


Think about it. If one group of Christians comes up with traditions that they believe are based on the Bible alone, but Joe admits that they actually may not be based on the Bible and therefore could change, then how can we trust anything that any group of Christians comes up with that is based on the Bible alone? Shouldn’t traditions based upon the Bible be unchanging? But Joe says they may need to be “amend[ed]” from time-to-time. Joe just shot Sola Scriptura through the heart.


Also, did the Holy Spirit not also move “holy men” when they were preaching the Word of God as well as writing it? Joe seems to want to ignore that fact. Again, he is engaging in misdirection.


Joe Mizzi:


The first century Christians received God’s Word in apostolic speech and epistle. Today the situation has changed; there are no living apostles, yet we still receive their doctrine in the inspired Scriptures even though we cannot hear them speak.


The argument for the Catholic concept of Tradition based on 2nd Thessalonians is erroneous – it is a logical fallacy of ambiguity. The same term, the word “traditions”, is used with two different meanings. In Paul’s epistle it means one thing (the Gospel message handed on by an apostle to a local church); it means something entirely different in Catholic apologetics (namely the perfect transmission of God’s Word in an unwritten form from one generation to another by the universal church). Do not be misled!


Regards,


Joe


Comments/Strategies:


Again, Joe is back to claiming that if you don’t hear it straight from the mouth of an Apostle, then it can’t be considered an apostolic tradition and that it would have been impossible for Apostolic Tradition to have been passed on orally within the early Church. Claims that have already been shown to be contra Scripture and contra logic. Do you see how far off the trail he has wandered? How he came up with his own definitions of tradition – for Scripture and for Catholics – and then, based on his definitions, not on actual Catholic teaching, proceeded to claim Catholics to be wrong?


There is no ambiguity in Catholic teaching. And, the only logical fallacy here is from Joe Mizzi – pretty much everything he has written is contrary to logic. Do not be misled, indeed!


Okay, Joe, here are my questions for you:


1) Could the Holy Spirit, through the universal Church (which is the Body of Christ), have enabled believers – particularly the Bishops (the successors fo the Apostle), in the first few hundred years of the Church, to faithfully and accurately pass along the traditions Paul taught by “word of mouth”? Yes, or no?


2) Are you infallible in your interpretations of Scripture? Was Martin Luther infallible in his? Or John Calvin? Yes, or no?


3) Is the canon of the Bible infallible? In other words, does the Bible contain exactly the number of books, and the correct books, that it should contain? Yes, or no?


4) If you answered, “Yes,” to #3, then by what authority do you believe this to be so? The Bible, or oral tradition?


5) If I were to deny that the Letter of James was inspired Scripture, by what authority would you declare me to be wrong? Does the Bible say James is “God-breathed?” Yes, or no?


6) If Bible-only Christians can get it wrong when it comes to their interpretation of the Bible in regard to traditions, as you stated can be the case, then can they get it wrong when it comes to their interpretations regarding doctrines? Yes, or no?


Very easy questions to answer…let’s see if he answers any of them. (Of course, I need one or more of you to email him this issue.)

In Conclusion


As I mentioned earlier, please keep Queen of Heaven Radio in your prayers. We have a lot of work to do if we are going to get on the air by July.

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Apologetics for the Masses