Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summary of the White/Beckwith Exchange

For those who tire over the exchange between Drs. White and Beckwith, I'll summarize it.

Dr. Beckwith offered that the canonicity of Scripture is a truth that transcends scripture itself and that this is through the consensus of church authorities (Bishops) as they are engaged in confession and penance.

Dr. White observed that the Old Testament was recognized as authoritative by Jews prior to Christ and asked Dr. Beckwith if any doctrine of church consensus could be true since the Bishops at Nicea (where the canon of scripture was officially codified in the Church of Rome) didn't believe as Dr. Beckwith himself believes. His point is that their consensus isn't authoritative.

Dr. Beckwith countered that the doctrines held by the Bishops at Nicea were still being developed. He offered a couple of examples.

Dr. White addressed the flaws in Dr. Beckwith's examples demonstrating a superior understanding of the canons and pointed out that Dr. Beckwith's answer doesn't answer the intent of the question.

Dr. Beckwith reiterated his answer believing that what the Bishops believed in Nicea are merely philosophically less mature versions of what is believed today.

Dr. White pointed out this error by observing that there is no documentation that demonstrates any connection between what the Bishops believed and what the church believes today. He further pointed out examples of things the Bishops believed that Rome does NOT believe today - and connot in any way be supposed to have fostered what they believe today. He concluded by observing that if apostolic succession is important, then it should be a succession of truth rather than persons. The implication is that the RCC has been a succession of persons, but the people have changed the truth over time.

Frank ignored this and instead elaborated on a minor bone of contention where Dr. White had assumed that Dr. Beckwith had never read the Council of Trent until this year based on a statement that Dr. Beckwith had made earlier. He claimed to have read it earlier but had only this year become better acquainted with it. His contention with this is that Dr. White was uncharitably wrong. At this, he begs out of the discussion.

Dr. White pulled further quotes from an interview Dr. Beckwith gave which would indicate that if Dr. Beckwith had read the document before, then he clearly did not understand it until now.

Dr. Beckwith chimed back in with one more point. He had read the Council of Trent earlier when he lacked the training to understand it and only this year read it again with a better trained mind.

My observation of this is that Dr. Beckwith never answered the question. He couldn't. The question itself points out the flaw in the apologetic for apostolic authority in the RCC. The Council of Nicea didn't establish what was in the Christian canon of scripture. They recognized what was already established as the canon of scripture. It was established by truth and recognized as authoritative by the early church, I suggest even as the canon was being written. Furthermore, the odd contention over the reading of the Council of Trent is useless. Dr. White's point is that Dr. Beckwith isn't well studied on the council of Trent. This is certainly evident in the exchange and it's not uncharitable for Dr. White to point it out. In fact, I think it would have been uncharitable for him NOT to have pointed it out. It's something that Dr. Beckwith needs to study more thoroughly before debating its merits effectively.

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