First, he says that I agree with his point 1a. I do. What I object to and deny is his suggestion that 1a is a reason why the so-called "loose claims" of Catholics are an "abuse." This is simply not the case.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's look at what he said in the original post. First he introduces what he intends to contradict:
The usual way this verse is abused is to make a loose claim, such as:And then he moves on to attempt to justify his claim that these claims by Catholics are "loose" and an "abuse":
a) See, tradition according to Scripture includes both written and oral components; and
b) See, oral tradition is also as binding as written tradition.
Reasons why such loose statements are abuses of the text or unhelpful to those trying to use them.(Emphasis in original)
1(a). We do not know precisely the content of the traditions mentioned is. The significance of this fact will become apparent shortly.
If 1a is supposed to be a reason why claims a and b are abuses, I don't see it. Neither a nor b require us to know the precise content of the traditions mentioned. So I'm perfectly happy to agree with 1a. It doesn't demonstrate that we have abused this passage in any way.
Moving on to 1b:
1(b). We know from the context that the general content of these traditions is the gospelTurretinfan says in his follow-up post that I "seem to grant 1(b)". Yes, with the stipulations I made about the sense of the word "gospel" that must be in view. But here again, this is supposed to be a reason why the Catholic claims he opened with are "abuses". And once again, I don't see it. Neither of those two claims require the content of the traditions to be something specifically different from the gospel. So once again, my objection isn't to the point itself, but to the use he makes of it. It doesn't do what he says.
Then he says, in the follow-up post:
RdP makes a claim of apparent self-contradictionWell, not exactly, because I don't know what he intended. What I said was:
if we take any sort of limited or specific sense of "gospel" to be in view, then it would seem that Turretinfan has contradicted himself, since he just conceded that we do not know precisely the content of the traditions in view here. [emphasis added]I didn't know at the time what sort of definition of "gospel" that he had in mind. He didn't say. This is why I took the trouble to make stipulations about the definition before I would grant 1b. If he meant something limited by it, more than likely I would have to disagree, and - in the present context, it seemed to me (and still does) that he might be contradicting himself (depending upon what he meant by "gospel"): any clear, specific sense of the word would contradict his claim about us not knowing the content of the traditions mentioned in the passage. So I didn't say that he contradicted himself; I said that it seemed to be the case if certain things were so.
He continues in the follow-up:
RdP makes a claim of apparent self-contradiction, but RdP appears to have overlooked that an area can be defined other ways than by its boundaries. We may not know the precise content of Paul's preaching that is referenced, but we know the topic and the topic is the gospel.Two things: first, my intent was to say that the sense of the word "gospel" that I would accept for the argument is: "the gospel, by which I mean the traditions of which it is constituted." If he accepts it in this sense, then we can move forward. Secondly, if he intends to press something like "the topic of the traditions is the gospel, by which I mean [a specifically Protestant definition of 'gospel']," then I'd certainly disagree, and I would say rather that it is he who is defining it by boundaries: Protestant ones, which the passage certainly doesn't imply by itself, nor require at all. "Gospel" has different senses in the NT, as Turretinfan knows. It could include information like the fact that he was descended from David (2Tim. 2:8), or the fact that God will judge the secrets of men by Christ (Romans 2:16). If we don't know the precise content of the traditions mentioned in 2Th 2:15, and if "gospel" has both more specific and more general meanings in the NT generally and in St. Paul specifically, it's invalid to impose a particular meaning in 2Th 2:15 that the passage won't bear. And (as I said in my initial response to him) the fact that the Apostle said "traditions" rather than "tradition" seems rather clearly to demand a more general understanding of "gospel", not a limited/specific one.
But let's move on. He continues, in his follow-up post:
RdP also appears to grant (2).Point 2 was this:
The "brethren" (not simply the bishops/elders) are those who received the "traditions" mentioned.Yes. And this is supposed to be a reason that our claims (see the top of this post) "abuse" the verse. Again, though, this fact doesn't show that we have abused anything. Our claims are not remotely contradicted by this fact.
Point 3 was this:
The "traditions" mentioned are a combination of the things preached to those brethren and "our epistle" and not between the things preached and Scripture generally.And in his follow-up Turretinfan says:
RdP doesn't seem to directly engage (3)Actually I did, but he may have missed it because the direct engagement was brief, I didn't quote it, and the direct engagement was followed by an indirect engagement that he may be referring to as "inserted dialog" and which he doesn't consider to be too important. I said:
Now Turretinfan wants to suggest, apparently, that the fact that the written part in view is St. Paul's own epistle to them (presumably 1 Thessalonians) means that this sets some sort of scope for what the content of the spoken traditions must have been. But that just doesn't follow at all.I may have been guilty of eisegeting(!) Turretinfan's post. He doesn't contradict this paragraph of mine in his follow-up, but this seems not to be his point with (3) at all. I regret the error; I guess my train of thought was briefly derailed! Upon further consideration of (3), though, I'd still have to say that this also does not show that the two Catholic claims (see top of this post) about 2Th 2:15 abuse the text. It has no bearing on those claims at all.
In his follow-up, Turretinfan says that I grant his "Impact A", from his original post:
A) The verse is not saying to hold anything taught outside of Scripture, as such.But in my first response post I did not grant this statement as such:
With regard to A: not in those words, certainly, but neither is it limited to only those things taught within Scripture. The point, however, is that the things taught - not merely written - are deemed to be of equal authority with the epistle. And it is nothing but question-begging to insist that their content is the same. Indeed, it's not just question-begging: it would be redundant. [emphasis in original]Turretinfan will be guilty of eisegesis himself if he wants to insist that the traditions of 2Th 2:15 must consist only of material that is in the Bible. Nothing about the verse, nor the context of the verse, requires this understanding. I'm willing to concede, of course, that the verse doesn't explicitly mention Sacred Tradition as such - that too would be an interpolation. But it most certainly doesn't rule it out, either.
Turretinfan says that I also granted his Impact B from his original post:
B) The verse is not saying to hold fast to something other than the gospel.And this is true enough - depending, as I said in my response, upon what he means by "gospel." And if he wants to limit "gospel" to material contained in the Bible...as I said in my response, this would be question-begging.
With regard to his Impact C ("The verse is not saying making a general statement about all teachings by every apostle"), I said that I didn't understand its relevance. Turretinfan wants to suppose that I grant it, but not until I understand what he intends by it: the opportunity for misunderstanding is too great.
Turretinfan's Impact D, again, from his first post:
D) The verse is not saying that Scripture generally fails to contain the gospel to which Paul required the Thessalonians to hold fast.Like I said, Catholics wouldn't put things this way. In part a reaction would depend upon what he means by "gospel", but the Catholic view is that God's revelation consists of both Scripture and Sacred Tradition. "generally fails to contain the gospel" is a pejorative phrasing that is inconsistent with the Catechism, and seems to me to reflect a Protestant opinion of the Catholic view. The Bible doesn't contain the whole of God's revelation. It wasn't intended to do so. That doesn't make it a "failure".
Turretinfan continues, in his response to me:
However, RdP ends his consideration of the post, with the Impacts, without getting to the three specific abuses.Yes, that's true. And that is because he introduced his points 1a, 1b, 2, and 3 as "Reasons why such loose statements are abuses of the text or unhelpful to those trying to use them." And when he said "loose statements" he was referring to this (which immediately preceded the "Reasons..."):
The usual way this verse is abused is to make a loose claim, such as:As I've said (twice now, with debilitating prolixity), I see no way whatsoever that his Reasons demonstrate that our claims in a and b are abuses of 2Th 2:15. As far as I can tell, he has not sustained his case. I will let the reader judge. But having reached this conclusion - that he hadn't demonstrated that we abuse the text by these claims - I saw no reason to continue with the "Specific Abuses" section of his post.
a) See, tradition according to Scripture includes both written and oral components; and
b) See, oral tradition is also as binding as written tradition.
There are several reasons why these are abuses, and there are several reasons why even these abuses are not particularly helpful to those who usually attempt them.
At the risk of taxing my reader's already overburdened patience, and since Turretinfan has expressed an interest in it, I will (hopefully briefly) address them.
If someone is trying to say that we need to permit some "tradition," because this verse says so, we need to ask ourselves (and them, if they'll answer) three questions:Question 1 is vague: what does he mean by "gospel"? However, broadly speaking Sacred Tradition most certainly does transmit the gospel. So the answer is "Yes, it is."
1) Is the tradition that they want us to permit the gospel preached by Paul to the Thessalonians, or something else?
2) Is the tradition they want us to permit something that they can demonstrate Paul taught to the Thessalonians at all?
3) Is the tradition they want us to permit something that they can demonstrate that any of the apostles or prophets of the apostolic age taught to the Thessalonians?
If the answers are "something else," "no," and "no" (as is usally the case) then it should be apparent that their reliance on this verse is completely in appropriate.
Question 2 is irrelevant, since nothing in the passage requires that we be able to demonstrate it. There is no documentary evidence showing the full content of St. Paul's preaching in Thessalonica, so he cannot demonstrate that distinctively Catholic traditions were not taught there.
Question 3 is irrelevant, since nothing in the passage requires that we be able to demonstrate this. There is no documentary evidence showing the full content of every apostle's and prophet's teaching in Thessalonica, he cannot demonstrate that distinctively Catholic traditions are excluded from what they taught there.
Likewise, if someone is trying to use this verse to suggest that we must consider as infallibly authoritative something in addition to Scripture, we need to ask ourselves (and them, if possible) three questions:Question 1 is irrelevant, since nothing in the passage proscribes Sacred Tradition as being the content of the traditions that were preached - traditions whose referents we do not know, as he has conceded.
1) Does the verse contrast Scripture and oral traditions or "our epistle" and other "things preached"?
2) Does the verse say that the Thessalonians had been preached extrascriptural doctrines?
3) Does the verse explain anything about the "things preached" beyond that they were the "truth" and "the gospel"?
If the answers are "the latter," "no," and "no" then it should be apparent that the verse cannot stand for the proposition for which they are attempting to use it.
Question 2 is irrelevant, since the verse also doesn't say that they had been taught things solely found in Scripture.
Question 3 doesn't exclude Sacred Tradition, which is certainly true and transmits the gospel, so the fact that the verse doesn't spell things out is irrelevant.
Finally, if the verse is provided as an argument that the magesterium of the church has been entrusted with oral teachings that are passed down orally for long periods of time, but which must be accepted when finally revealed to the public, we must ask the following questions:This section seems to be partly based upon a misunderstanding of Sacred Tradition, which isn't "hidden" from anyone: that would be Gnostic, not Catholic. The fact that there is no codex labeled SACRED TRADITION containing it all doesn't mean that any of it is "secret."
1) Is there any reason to think that Paul taught things in secret, especially from this verse?
2) Is the verse directed to the leaders of the Thessalonian church or to the brethren?
3) Does the verse specify that the "things taught" were not things that were committed to writing?
If the answer is "no," "brethren," and "no," then it should be apparent that the verse is being abused by the person citing it.
Question 1 is irrelevant, since the fact that Sacred Tradition wasn't written doesn't mean it was secret.
Question 2 is misleading, since the fact that the bishop or presbyter(s) of the Thessalonian church taught them oral traditions doesn't change the fact that oral traditions were taught, and consequently the Catholic understanding of this passage represented by Turretinfan's two claims (see the top of this post) do not abuse the passage: he cannot demonstrate that what was referred to as "taught" here must be found only in the Bible.
Question 3 is irrelevant, since the verse also does not say that they were written down.
I've read through Turretinfan's "concrete examples" in his follow-up post, and I give him credit for the amount of work he has put into this. But I don't see anything in them that would change my mind about what I've said, either (and I'm going to have pity upon my poor reader by passing over them without extended comment).
I think that he and I might be able to agree on one thing: 2Th 2:15 is not by itself a foundation for the entire Catholic understanding of what Sacred Tradition is. It doesn't have to be. But it most certainly does not contradict the fact that God's revelation has been preserved in Sacred Tradition.
[2008-04-04: minor corrections made to eliminate certain unintended potential conflicts in what I said with CCC 80-83; thanks to Martin for the tip!]