On Mark Bonocore's "Questions for the Bible Alone Believer"

Though the inspiration for this article comes from an essay by a Catholic apologist named Mark Bonocore, some of the principles involved reach into exchanges I have had with certain persons of late involving the question of Sola Scriptura.

I wrote an item at Link 1 below on what I called Sola Scriptura Extremis -- a behavior that leads us to ignore Biblical contextual material with at worst an arbitrary and angry dismissal of the material simply because it is "not in the Bible." My example then was the Wisdom Christology based on pre-NT Jewish documents; of late, it has also been the Semitic Totality concept (link 2 below), rejected by one letter-writer because he could not find it mentioned in the Bible.

Bonocore's commentary has the mold of an extreme in the other direction. What we have now is an argument that takes not too little, but too much, and uses false analogies to validate the process. Thus:

Do you believe that the Gospel of Matthew is the inspired Word of God? Okay. If so, how do you know that it is? How do you know that Matthew authored it? Does Matthew's Gospel claim to be inspired? Does it even claim that Matthew authored it? Does any other book of Scripture tell us how Matthew's Gospel came about? Okay, then. Why do you accept that it's inspired? Why do you accept that it's authored by Matthew and/or comes from him?

In what follows Bonocore will go on to claim that what we believe about Matthew with respect to the above comes to us via the Church Father Irenaeus (c. 180 AD), and argue, if you accept Irenaeous on this subject, why not believe him when he speaks of Mary assisting in our salvation, or of a Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Our purpose here will not be to evaluate any of these doctrines; that is beyond my scope, but suffice to say instead that Bonocore unloads a crate of oranges which he believes are apples. What is wrong with this picture?

  1. Manifestly, there is a technical problem: What about Papias? He was actually the first to testify about Matthew. More of relevance, what of simple comparison to other classical works and their attestation? The Gospels are all far and away in better shape in terms of external attestation than any other document from the ancient world. What about internal evidence? Irenaeus was far from the only mouth to my ear on this subject.
  2. How do I know it is inspired? Practically speaking, I don't know the way I know my dog is now lying beside me. I can only test it for veracity, and if it is true, it is certainly a candidate to be considered inspired; and if it is true indeed, then whether it is inspired or not makes little practical difference. The word of a person, even the author, is a circular reasoning exercise.
  3. Which leads to a certain flaw in Bonocore's method: testimony that "X authored document Y" is not in the same category-conception as, "the Eucharist contains a Real Presence of Christ". The former is tangible. The latter is theoretical and philosophical.

In the end Bonocore finds himself saying, we believe Matthew is inspired and so on, "because you trust the Church's Sacred oral Tradition on this matter." Yet who has claimed that the tradition is inerrant? Who clustered our obligations so?

As one of our Catholic readers comments, as he sees it, Bonocore's method is "a sort of Catholic fundamentalism", one which "could be used to burn us Catholics too." I am often asked if I believe in inerrancy: I do, but I do not use it as a presupposition when I operate. I simply focus on whether the Word is true, and argue from that corner, so that the results are the same.

The obvious reason for this is that in an argumentational context, one could easily be accused of assuming inerrancy to prove inerrancy (a charge that has indeed been falsely levelled by certain Skeptics). Bonocore, regrettably, could easily fall on the same account.

As I indicated in my other article linked above, Sola Scriptura cannot be believed in a vacuum. "Sola" does not give us leave to ignore or bypass contextual elements that give the text meaning. The natural result of such illogic is King James Onlyism, if we are consistent, since this would mean we cannot even use lexicons or concordances to understand the text better.

Theoretically, sacred tradition could offer such a context and could provide an authoritative understanding, the same way a lexicon could -- whether it deserves a pre-eminent place in reaching an understanding, as Bonocore seems to intimate, cannot be decided by a personal referendum on the subject any more than an intelligent belief in inerrancy can be arrived at by the same means. Either one is circular reasoning, and while that will make some people quite delighted and give them contented laurels to rest on, those who take the matter too far with end up, as we stated before, as fundamentalist atheists, or filled with cognitive dissonance which makes you an ineffective and unbelievable witness at best.

To put it simply, even Sola Scriptura does not require the text to fly solo.


It seems that Bonocore was given notice of this item and has a rather petulantly indignant response to having his orange crates opened to the public and revealed as something other than apples. Bonocore begins with a Greek proverb, "Big book, big evil" -- said to mean in practical sense, "too much intellectualism is a very misguided and dangerous thing." All at once I had to check to be sure I was reading something by Bonocore as opposed to something authored by Peter Ruckman or Mormon apologist Edward Watson. Such commentary I expect from one for whom scholarship is spelled F-E-A-R. My Catholic consult apparently was more apt in judgment than I suspected when he labelled Bonocore a sort of fundamentalist.

Bonocore wishes to stress that his article was "written for the benefit of Fundamentalist Protestant Christians" who, despite one such as myself, do take Sola Scriptura literally. That is interesting, but does not relieve him of errors in logic or scholarship.

Bonocore blatantly misrepresents my view as "pretend[ing] that 'Sola Scriptura' doesn't really mean what its name clearly implies..." I thoroughly agree that it does mean what it implies, at least as abused today; whether it meant the same thing to the original authors of the doctrine is another matter, and from Bonocore's own quote of Luther, it seems rather that Luther and I are on exactly the same page, while many modern Protestants are on another.

I am accused of "rationaliz[ing] away the unavoidable conclusions of any honest analysis of the 'Sola Scriptura' doctrine" -- a rather odd misrepresentation, since in the end, as a linked article above indicates, I don't follow the doctrine as presently and too often formulated anyway. It seems clear that Bonocore was not interested in accurately representing my position; in this regard I find him far closer to certain Mormon apologists who immediately say "anti-Mormon" lest they hear what you are actually saying.

If Bonocore had read my linked item below, he would know that I am in fact utterly indifferent to whether Sola Scriptura as a doctrine has any "objective basis". I don't care if it does or not, because truth is truth whether found in a sewer or a flower shop; whether in Bonocore's articles or Ben Witherington's.

Nor, if he had read it, would he have missed that I have no truck for faith "based solely on one's personal interpretation of the Scriptural text" (as if consultation of credentialed scholarship amounted to "personal interpretation").

I am also, practically speaking, indifferent to how the Scriptures are "known to be authoritative and inspired" -- if they are true, then "authoritative" is obvious as part of the package; and "inspired" is of only marginal relevance.

In reply to my first paragraph, and the second as far as the word "process," we have this:

Oh, on the contray, Mr. Holding. If you wish to subscribe to the dynamic of 'Semitic totality' (a very Catholic concept indeed), then you have no basis for rejecting the fact that the oral tradition of Faith was always, by Semites (like the Apostles), understood to be equally authoritative and binding with written material (i.e., inspired Scripture). This is why, needless to say, even modern Jews still accept the binding authority of both the Torah and the Mishna, which is the Mosaic oral Tradition that accompanies the Torah. Catholics live by both Scripture and Tradition just as our Jewish ancestors did --just as Jesus Himself and the Apostles did (e.g. 2 Thess 2:15, 1 Corinth 11:2, etc.). So, why have you Protestants departed from this natural condition of 'Semitic totality'?

Not one word of this has anything to do with my point in the sections replied to. I said nothing at all about "rejecting" of oral tradition in the way described. Indeed, if Bonocore were more interested in understanding what I believe, he might have inquired, or else found my item on oral tradition (link 3 below) which agrees and provides a robust defense of that notion that orality is perfectly capable of transmitting truth accurately, and was especially so among Semites.

What is true, whether in speech or in writing, is equally authoritative by virtue of being true. I have not in the least rejected oral tradition as a potential source for authoritative teachings -- indeed, the linked item above, which Bonocore apparently missed for whatever reason, places no limits of any sort of the receipt of background information.

I briefly corrected Bonocore for neglecting to mention Papias, in fact, as the first witness to Matthew's authorship (not Ireneaus); rather than acknowledge this error of his, Bonocore flies off the metaphorical handle with an irrelevant lesson on who Papias was, what exactly he said, and some idea that I "pit them against each other". Once again, simple inquiry or a very small amount of investigation would have revealed to Bonocore my quite robust defense (link 4 below) of the worth of Papias' testimony (from even a strictly secularist perspective, sound and early support for the authorship of Mark and Matthew both, far better than we have for any comparable ancient document).

To my point that the Gospels are "far and away in better shape in terms of external attestation than any other document from the ancient world":

Really? Well, that should come as a surprise to many classicists out there who take great pleasure in works like Plutarch's "Lives," or Caesar's "The Gallic Wars," or the "Dialogues" of Plato, or a great many other ancient works, of unquestionable integrity, which date from before the Gospels were writen.

It is very nice that classicists "take great pleasure" in these works, but I wonder how this manages to show us that Plutarch or Caesar or Plato here have better internal and external attestation than the Gospels. I deal in such issues in link 5 below. If Bonocore has any disagreement with what I have said within, what we should like is some equitable set of data for Plutarch's "Lives," or Caesar's "The Gallic Wars," or the "Dialogues" of Plato, whose integrity I do not in the least question (the point rather is that the Gospels, by this standard, have equitable or greater integrity and do not deserve to be questioned by critics on the points of attestation), and whose own dates of composition are interesting but irrelevant.

That classicists take "great pleasure" in these works, again, is beside the point and a non-answer. If what I say above is "ridiculous and indefensible" or "abundantly incorrect" then one wonders where the actual "correction," in the form of actual attestation data about Plutarch, et al. is from Bonocore's pen. It seems to be conspicuously missing, perhaps lost in the haze of Bonocore's own indignity at having been corrected so needfully for neglect of such simple facts as that Papias, not Irenaeus, is the first witness to Matthew's Gospel.

Rather, Bonocore dons the hat of fundamentalist atheists this time, saying that just because we have these attestations, doesn't mean they were right or true -- so much for the normal means of attesting authorship for ancient documents. One senses the need for a realization that arguments like these rooted in epistemic uncertainty are a case of cutting off one's nose to spite one's proverbial face.

Bonocore speaks rather vaguely of "those who witnessed the publicaltion [sic] of something like Caesar's 'Gallic Wars,' " being superior to Papias' witness 50 to 60 years later, though we are not given the names of these "witnesses" who saw the "publication" of the Wars, much less is any actual comparison made (as was in the linked article for Tacitus' Annals, which is certainly NOT "superior" with respect to the witness of Papias).

In the meantime, Bonocore asks the questions of Papias, "[H]ow do we know his information is reliable? Why should we trust his story at all?" He follows further with rather outdated questions about how we know he refers to "the Gospel of Matthew as we have it today" (my linked article above explains how we know what he is talking about -- and how indeed it relates to Matthew as we have it today) but his answer to these and other burning questions is, "We know because the church says so in its tradition" -- oblivious to the point that it is just as easy to ask, "How do we know the church is right or truthful on this?" -- and thus revealing Bonocore as indeed the fundamentalist my Catholic consult pegged him to be.

With this sort of reasoning we may as well abandon hope and adhere to our Mormon internal witness (see link 6 below) which gives us the same epistemic problems, but at least is closer to home.

Bonocore goes on to "defy" me to "produce one ancient witness to the reliability of Matthew's Gospel who does not also subscribe to a belief in the binding authority of Apostolic oral Traditon and/or who does not hold to the present oral Traditions of the Catholic Church."

My answer is the same as before; this is apples to oranges; this as a matter of a historical issue versus a spiritual one, untestable and inscrutable. A Mormon may as well "defy" us to explain why, if Joseph Smith correctly forecast the Civil War (though I don't think he did -- link 7 below), he is not to be believed when he says that God has a body. Bonocore's clustering of data in this manner is an epistemic nightmare, one as bad as the work of any Protestant fundamentalist or KJV Onlyist who draws a circle around the Bible and refuses to admit Jewish Wisdom traditions. Bonocore's circle is perhaps wider and around different subjects but it remains equally closed.

And so it regresses, with Bonocore making the peculiar statement that "nothing in the Gospel of Matthew itself tells us that it was authored by the Apostle Matthew." Apparently the superscription, and specific characteristics associated with a person like Matthew -- which do just fine when attributing the Annals to Tacitus -- aren't to be trusted, and neither are the scholars who trust them.

We are also treated to the irrelevant statement that nothing in Matthew says it was "inspired by God." I made clear already why this is a matter of indifference; this, Bonocore calls "pseudo-intellecual poppycock" and claims that it reduces Christianity to "a purely subjective (and thus relativistic) exercise in personal discernment."

Well, you heard it here: use of scholarship is "subjective" and involves "personal discernment."

We are then told that "those who hold the Koran to be the inspired Word of God can offer exactly the same argument." No doubt they "can". Whether they succeed is another matter; if Bonocore thinks there is "ahistorical nonsense presented in the Koran," how does he know this? We hope that he did like our friends at Answering Islam do -- that he researched the facts, consulted credentialed scholars, and arrived at a conclusion. If he did not do it this way, how did he do it?

Bonocore objects that "[Holding] never tells us" what my "tests" are, what my "objective standard for determining the reliability and inspiration of the Gospel of Matthew is." They are, such as is necessary, found in the article I linked to above, and they do in fact reflect standard tests for authorship determination and historicity; this is not something new. His "objective standard" offered in place, however, is "the binding, Spirit-guided oral Tradition of the Catholic Church which, per Christ's promise, in verses like John 14:16-17, 16:13, and Matt 16:18-19, cannot err in such dogmatic matters."

He is right to suppose I do not agree that any such guarantee is found in these passages; on the other hand, one may ask how he avoids the circular exercise and the important question, "How do we know Christ was right or telling the truth?" Yes, we both acknowledge the authority of Christ; yet how can we be sure Christ has authority, aside from exercises in circular reasoning?

This is why we have apologetics for the resurrection, and the deity of Christ. This is why the apostles appealed to evidence (Acts 2) to get people to believe. If we do not have this, we have nothing. And thus my point: Bonocore's oral tradition witness is no less subject to epistemic scrutiny than any other source.

I will not say, no, that "I could be wrong" about Matthew's Gospel. I am saying that if you think I am wrong, you had best marshal your evidence and you had best do it right. If that is "subjective" or "relativist" then so apparently is all of scholarship in existence.

I made the point that there is quite a difference in epistemic verification between, "Matthew authored Matthew" and "the real presence is in the Eucharist". Undisturbed by the strictures of epistemic discernment and logic, Bonocore entitles this "twisted and incoherent" and "pseudo-intellectual babble" and then wonders of the use of "internal evidence from the Gospel of Matthew to support the reliability and authenticity of the Gospel of Matthew," as though internal evidence were indeed not of some use to scholars in determining the reliability of a document. Scholars have missed that expert judgment. In the meantime we have no answer to the point that there is simply no comparison when it comes to someone who can judge, epistemically, who wrote Matthew, and whether there is indeed a Real Presence in the Eucharist.

I have asked who said oral tradition was inerrant; Bonocore claims Paul does, though 2 Thess. 2:15 ("Stand firm and hold fast to the Traditions you were taught, whether by an ORAL STATEMENT or by a letter from us." ) and parallel phrases only say, at best, that what Paul and his cohorts said is inerrant, not that everyone's oral statements everyplace are. And even then of course, none of this logically excludes Paul from epistemic scrutiny, and it is a sound reply that Paul's trust was earned on the back of solid fact (which is what faith entails; link 8 below).

I am presented then with the challenge to show where a claim is made that "Apostolic Tradition is not inerrant." Perhaps it is not, but that does not guarantee inerrancy in transmission after the apostles. My request to know who "clustered our obligations so" is replied to with, "the Catholic Church" (which does not answer my question at all, since I still don't have any reason to think "the Catholic Church" had any authority to do this either.

In the end, Bonocore cannot see how he could be "burned" as our own Catholic consult says, and even claims that our consult (guest writer Matt Paulson) is not a Catholic at all, but a "liberal-modernist dissdent who wishes to imitate your own Protestant errors." Indeed. Matt adds his own comments below.

My statement of concern for what is true is dismissed as "irrational silliness" and it is supposed that I have "no way of knowing whether or not the Word is 'true' unless he begins with a pre-existing premise of inspired inerrancy, which in turn must be based on some external objective standard."

That is of course patently false: Our way of historical knowing is rooted in very solid epistemology, and Bonocore is no more sound in practice than atheists who ask how we can know Paul did not originally write letters denying the deity of Christ. What of Bonocore's "pre-existing premise" of the authority of the Church, or perhaps the authority of Christ? After labelling me now an "arch-heretic" in the making, Bonocore reaffirms his headlong rush into his circular exercises in reasoning and authority in Catholicized fundamentalism.

Perhaps it will do him good to ask, if he thinks that there is something to those who "were witnesses to the Resurrection," how he knows that these were not mental delusions by the Apostles; or how he does not know Jesus did not have an evil twin, or was a space alien. Absurd some of these are; yet they are real arguments from real Skeptics of various levels, and you can be sure (we hope!) Bonocore would reply with something that involves at least a semblance of reasoning prowess, even if he just says these theories are "silly".

It is outrageous to say that "one has no reason to accept the reliability or inerrancy of the NT Scriptures, or to accept Christianity at all" without the help of the Catholic Church saying one should. How does one normally accept truth? One accepts truth by evidence. Adding a layer of authority adds nothing to the truth but a broker of whatever value. That Bonocore thinks this is "no better or more rooted in reality than the choice to believe in Islam, or Mormonism, or the like" only indicates how unfamiliar he is with responses to Islam, Mormonism, "and the like". Perhaps he ought to write to some Christian scholars and apologists and tell them they are out of order.

Bonocore still has not read my linked article, however, on Sola Scriptura; it would have told him clearly that indeed, I agree with him that Sola Scriptura as used today is abused; but he is in error to say that my "contextual elements" "(if they are authentic) reside in the history and oral traditons of ancient (Catholic) Christianity".

No doubt some or many do, but they do not all do; certainly the difference between the social worlds, with respect to honor and shame, and high and low context, has not been preserved.

Bonocore then asks "how do you know" scholars will lead you "to a reliable or comprehensive understanding of the Sacred text" (even as he ironically quotes a "Catholic scholar" who hypocritically disdains "academia"). No, this does not assume that "Christian Faith is a mere academic exercise" (though it does recommend "academic exercise" as a way for the Body of Christ to be healthy); nor does it deny "Liturgical mystery" or "Covenantal heritage" or any of these things Bonocore uses to mask his irrational and circular basis for trust. We agree that "one does not become an orthodox Christian without participating in the living Covenantal Tradition of the Church" but it stands nevertheless that one does not join that covenant without being given facts and evidence upon which to make a decision.

Apostolic preaching called upon FACTS of history and evidence -- Jesus' resurrection; his fulfillment of OT prophecy; his miracles -- and expected and demanded obedience in light of these facts.

If I have "nerve" to speak of "Semitic Totality" it is nerve born of expertise that Bonocore has no reasonable hope of possessing or challenging in his current irrational state. If I have a "very unwise preoccupation with academia" then I will gladly have one; Bonocore may as well speak of a "very unwise preoccupation with evidence" by a trial lawyer.

We are told, "Sacred Tradition is more than a mere 'lexicon.' Rather, it is, as Thomas Aquinas described it, a 'sensus fidelium' --a 'sense of the faith.'"

If this is true then perhaps it is Aquinas' fault that we have been subjected to the irrational subjectivity that brings us postmodern church thought, efforts such as the Holy Laughter movement, and made The Purpose-Driven Life our most prominent textbook. I suspect it is not his fault at all. But for Bonocore to claim that being Catholic means that one "possesses a comprehensive knowledge of the Apostolic Faith" as though automatically is to lead us down the same road to disaster that caused the stumbling of today's worst apostates. (My consultant Matt Paulson adds: I noticed that in his response to you he translated the Latin "sensus fidelium" as "sense of the faith". This is wrong--the genitive SINGULAR of "faith" is "fidei"; "fidelium" is the genitive PLURAL of the ADJECTIVE "faithful" ("fidelis"). So, "sensus fidelium" does NOT mean "sense of the faith"--it means "the sense of the faithFUL (ones)"; in other words, an understanding of the belief of Christians through the centuries. He is taking classical languages at university just now.)

As for this:

At present, we have over 30,000 separate Protestant denominations ---all with the same Bible, but all intepretating it differently. Clearly, someone is doing something wrong.

Somehow it is not surprising that Bonocore fishes out this red herring, the same one that the Skeptic at link 9 below fished out. Next we will be told that those 30,000 denominations have 30,000 entirely different points of view, and that there is no disagreement between individual Catholics on any single thing.

But so it goes, around in the same circle, as we are told that Tradition is verified by "the Christ-established, Spirit-guided authority of the Catholic Church." Never mind epistemic justification of THOSE authorities; all we are told is, in essence, if you don't like it, too bad. I think enough has been shown to prove that like Humpty Dumpty, Bonocore defines "subjective" and "objective" in ways that his tastes suit him.


Matt Paulson also adds:

I was rather taken aback by Bonocore's response to Holding's critique of his (Bonocore's) argument pro traditio, and having read both, I offer the following brief comments. This will not be a thorough interaction with Bonocore's response, as my plate is rather full at the moment, and at any rate, I'm not certain that the tone and level of argument offered by Bonocore has risen to a level worthy of sustained interaction.

First, let me make the following clear. I am a Roman Catholic, and a theologically conservative Roman Catholic at that. I submit all of my own judgements to the authority of the Church, and if I were made aware of any claim wrongly advanced on my part--as regards matters of dogma, or even custom--I would gladly withdraw such claims, and submit to the Church.

Thus, *with* Bonocore, I accept the importance of Tradition, and that Tradition is intrinsic to Christian faith. *With* Bonocore, I reject the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. I myself have a number of reasons for this two-fold stance, principal among which are the a priori argument for the necessity of Tradition and the form of the Faith in the early fathers of the Church.

Though it is not my intention here to dwell on the Sola Scriptura/Scripture and Tradition debate, I feel it necessary here to make my own position clear because of a certain paragraph in Bonocore's response, namely,

"Well, I fail to see how any faithful Catholic could be so "burned" by adhering to the Catholic dogmatic belief in Sacred oral Tradition. Obviously, this so-called "Catholic reader" of yours is no such thing, but can only be a liberal-modernist dissdent who wishes to imitate your own Protestant errors. Very sad."

After reading Bonocore's response to Holding, and especially in light of the fact that it is rather full of claims such as the above, I was initially tempted to put my Greek and Latin texts on the shelf for a day or two, and render to Bonocore a response as sarcastic as he deserves.

*I* am the Catholic in question; it was *I* who claimed that Bonocore's argument was (and is) indicative of a mental fundamentalism. And Bonocore's response with regard to my claim only proves the point, for there is *no way* that *anyone* reading what Holding quoted me as saying could *rightly* take me as saying, or *implying* that Tradition is in any sense at fault. My point was that Bonocore's argument *for* it was, and is, poor. Thus when we see Bonocore attempt to pit the whole of orthodox Catholicism against me, to wit,

"As for his suggestion that I am a "Catholic fundamentalist," one wonders if this person would also classify the Popes and the fathers of our Ecumenical Councils as "fundamentalists" as well, since they too all uphold the dogma of Sacred oral Tradition (see the Council of Trent, Vatican I, Vatican II, etc.). Ergo, this person is clearly not a Catholic in any realistic sense of the word, but no doubt another "intellectual" relativist like Mr. Holding himself."

. . . we see clearly that Bonocore has sailed rather wide of the mark. I never once rejected, or implied, or began to imply, or began to begin to imply that I reject Tradition.

This incident with Bonocore reminds me of something that happened last winter. I had been fortunate enough to help get Richard Swinburne, perhaps the most renowned Christian philosopher in the world, to attend our university for a debate over the existence of God. Having a decent background in philosophy and logic, I was rather pleased with the debate and the strength of Swinburne's presentation. Much to my surprise, however, was the reaction of certain of my fellow Christians, who lamented the fact that Swinburne did not say that Christianity *necessarily excludes* evolution, and that Swinburne allowed the possibility of unbelievers to be saved (the fact that Swinburne was, on both points, in agreement with CS Lewis was for them little consolation, as they'd never read Lewis, and were quite sure that if this were so, then Lewis must be as wrong as Swinburne since "Scripture means Scripture"). It was obvious that the central form of Swinburne's argument for the existence of God (i.e., the positing of the simplest theory possible [the existence of the Christian God] to explain the phenomena that we experience [the universe and all things within it]) had gone completely over their heads, and furthermore, that they were (literally) in no position whatever even to recognize a good argument, were it there. After a few minutes of conversing with them, they told me what Swinburne ought to have argued: that faith is necessary and that God exists because the Bible says so.

Back to the point, the parallel I see with Bonocore and myself is this: Bonocore's position seems to me to be defined entirely by his own narrow perspective, and the *worth* of his position seems to me to be entirely *exhausted by* his engagement with rabid anti-Catholic apologists, who indeed share with Bonocore the same narrowness, which in its turn explains why they make such fitting partners in dialogue with one another. They are tone deaf to everything but that which may be applied, in debate, to the subjects upon which they share a monomania from opposing perspectives. I am every bit as Catholic as Bonocore himself, and I just as strongly affirm the doctrine of Tradition. The difference between us is that the intellectual background of my affirmation is one which is grounded in the thought of persons such as Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Bonaventure, Cardinal Newman, etc., whereas Bonocore's seems to be something like that of those who hunt down proof-texts in order to counter the proof-texts offered by equally simple-minded Protestants. I am reminded of the feeling of nausea that overcomes me when I see apologists use the fathers as though they were proof-text-bearing-trees, showing no evidence whatever of a desire to actually engage the form of their theology, but rather, taking from them only that which they can use in the context of the debate that they are engaged in (in this respect I dislike both Protestant *and* Catholic amateur apologists who, for example, have a link on their websites to the effect that: "St. Augustine affirmed the Papacy, click here!", or, "Basil of Caesarea affirms Sola Scriptura, click here!", and this followed by a string of proof texts divorced from context, followed by the apologist's commentary thereupon, which *always* indicates a complete insensitivity to the respective fathers who they summon on their behalf).

Thus it is little surprise that Bonocore has missed entirely the point of Holding's article (which did not *itself* explicitly attack the notion of Tradition, [though Holding himself no doubt does not affirm the high status of Tradition as accepted by Catholics] but, as with my own complaint, attacked simply Bonocore's *defense* of it). Had Bonocore the eyes to see it, Holding's article actually provides opportunity for engaging the possible virtue of Tradition. Yet Bonocore did not see this; rather, he took a refutation of his *argument* as a rejection of himself. And this implies, for those whose mindset is like that of Bonocore, a rejection of that which he argued *for* (i.e., "There is a one-one correspondence between Catholicism and my own perspective", etc.)

Bonocore argues that Tradition is intrinsic to the living Faith of Christianity--indeed, epistemically on par with Scripture itself. I myself fully agree. My problem is that Bonocore's argument is utterly misguided. Holding is no doubt correct to assert that the authorship of, e.g., Matthew, can be vindicated *without* relying solely on the testimony of Tradition; rather, points out Holding, let us simply assess the evidence objectively, and doing such, we will see that from the empirical evidence offered (both internal and external), the integrity of Matthean authorship is rather plausible, especially *if* one is willing to grant the integrity of merely secular sources (for which the external evidence especially is not at all comparable to that of the NT documents).

In passing I mention that Bonocore's misguided attempt to rebut this latter point of Holding's is especially unfortunate. For example, leaving aside for the moment the fact that our earliest extant manuscript of the Platonic corpus is from the Middle Ages, Bonocore is certainly wrong to suppose that the dialogues of Plato are of "unquestionable integrity"--let Bonocore compare Xenophon's apology for Socrates with that of Plato, and tell us why the latter is to be preferred to the former. The Socratic dialogue was a literary form, and any specialist in Plato knows that the dialogues cannot be read simply as "reportage" (does Bonocore intend to imply that Socrates had a conversation with Parmenides in order to present to him Plato's doctrine of Forms, and this several decades before Plato himself even existed?) Furthermore, what grounds has Bonocore for accepting that Plutarch's account of Caesar or Demosthenes is accurate? Can the "integrity" of these accounts be had *without* recourse to . . . the Catholic Church? If not, then Bonocore is a maniac and he has no right to believe anything that has not yet been issued in a papal bull--including his own mother's account of his own birth. If he *will* allow that the integrity of these works can be assessed by recourse to historical criticism, then Bonocore has accepted that historical documents can be validated according to a canon that is independent of that of the Catholic Church, and since the authorship of Matthew is at least partially an historical question, it too can be analyzed according to those canons just as much as the writings of Plutarch. This does not imply that the "jurisdiction" of the Catholic Church could be overruled by that of modern historians; rather, it implies that one need not be Catholic in order to accept as true everything accepted as true by Catholicism. If Bonocore cannot see this, then I honestly pity his readership, and recommend that Bonocore himself spend some time with the writings of the apologists of the first four centuries of the Church, and this *without* the whole time seeking proof-texts to buttress his polemics.

Back to more pressing concerns, Bonocore has demonstrated an insensitivity to scholarship. Holding's work is primarily that of an apologist, and the central context of his writing is that of one always with an eye on the defense of the faith against the unbeliever. In order for such a defense, the believer must meet the unbeliever on his own ground; if Bonocore has a problem with this modus operandi, let him also reject the writings of *St* Justin Martyr, *St* Clement of Alexandria, and the apologetic enterprise of the Cappadocians (being *Ss* Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa) not to mention *St* Augustine's _The City of God_, *St* Thomas Aquinas' entire theological enterprise (as much indebted to Aristotle), the Theo-Logic of Hans Urs von Balthasar, and the phenomenological anthropology of Pope John Paul II. In other words, if Bonocore wishes to present the claim that the affirmation of Catholic dogma necessarily implies a narrow-circled fideism sharing no common ground with the world at large, let him recognize the fact that the Catholic dogma that he affirms is more the result of his own narrow perspective than the thing itself which he claims to see.

As for Bonocore's argument itself, it can be refuted rather easily, and my claim with regard thereto (i.e., that were it consistently applied, it would be the ruin of the defense of Catholicism) can itself be justified just as easily.

Bonocore claims that a Protestant, in order to believe that the gospels are authored by those who we believe them to be authored by, must necessarily affirm Tradition. Now, Tradition itself, in this context, refers to a belief regarding the epistemic necessity of a mode of dogmatic transmission on par with the Gospels. However, in a more concrete sense, Tradition is a series of claims regarding various issues, be it the dual natures of the God-Man, the divinity of the Spirit, the efficacy of sacraments, or the authorship of this or that book. In the first sense, Tradition is a posited theological affirmation, and discussion with regard thereto must be primarily philosophical in nature; in the second case, Tradition is a series of statements which in their turn belong to what is commonly refered to as "history", and discussion with regard to *these* must be primarily *historical* in nature. And because of this intrinsically historical aspect of Tradition, the various claims that constitute it can be used in an historical enterprise to validate the question of the integrity of the gospels; in this case, the veracity of the truth of its claims will be measured by the canons of the historical sciences, regardless of theological positions. If the case offered by the apologist satisfies the requirements of *those* canons, then it is valid in *that* respect (i.e., e.g., if Holding can show that Matthew was most probably written by Matthew by the use of the historical method, then the result of this is that Matthew probably was written by Matthew, and *because* the proof was historical--not theological--it is such that it can be accepted by those who accept the methods of historical science, but not those of Christian theology.)

Of course, were Bonocore correct in asserting that Holding could affirm the Matthean authorship of Matthew *only* by recourse to Tradition, Christianity would have died off long ago, for Bonocore's argument is viciously circular. To cite one striking example, Cardinal Newman, who converted to Catholicism *because of* his intense analysis of early Christianity (*as* an Anglican and *without* presupposing outright the truth of Catholicism), would never have converted to Catholicism if purely historical inquiry were an illegitimate modus operandi for discovering truth.

But more troubling for Bonocore's narrow stance, how does he know *which* portions of Tradition to accept? Those that the Catholic Church *today* tells him to? But in that case, what right would he have for believing that the Catholic Church of *today* is that of Tradition? Let him tell us why the Orthodox believer is not justified in assuming outright the correctness of Orthodoxy, and citing as proof the correctness of refusing the Filioque the writings of *St* Photius, and citing as proof of the validity of the opinions of *St* Photius the fact that the Orthodox Tradition affirms that he is right, and citing as proof that the Orthodox Tradition is right the fact that . . . ad infinitum. Bonocore believes that Matthew was written by Matthew because Bonocore affirms Tradition; because Bonocore affirms Tradition, he is able to affirm that Matthew was written by Matthew. But what Tradition testifies to Matthean authorship? Bonocore cites Papias and Irenaeus. What, then, does he make of Irenaeus' affirmation that Jesus lived into his mid- to late- forties? Or what does he make of Papias' attribution of the saying that, "The days will come in which vines shall grow, having each ten thousand branches [. . .]", and so on, to the "elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord"? In other words, to adapt the question that Plato puts to Euthyphro through the mouth of Socrates, "Is it true because it is part of Tradition, or is it part of Tradition because it is true?" If the former, then Bonocore must be willing to accept not only the above (and then he would need to explain *why those particular claims* were not enthusiastically endorsed by the rest of Tradition), but also things such as Tertullian's affirmation that Mary was not perpetually a virgin (alongside Jerome's and Origen's affirmation of the opposite), and these alongside the *fact* that he has no canon whereby to validate or disaffirm *any* claim when it contrasts with another, which would in its turn result in the fact that two mutually exclusive portions of Tradition are both true. If the latter (i.e., that it is part of Tradition because it is true), then he must explain why Tradition does not itself contain *all* true assertions, and *how anything* can be true that is not itself part of Tradition. Either way, the result is the same: nonsense. Thus is my claim justified that Bonocore's modus operandi, were it rigorously applied, would eventuate in the downfall of Catholicism.

Were he to realize this, and come to a more sensible judgement, he'd realize not only that historical research *as historical* can offer evidence of its own, and this without presupposing the correctness of Christianity but still able to offer proof with respect to the vindication of certain of its claims, but also, he'd realize that the defense of Tradition itself must be had by recourse to a considerably more complex argument than Bonocore himself is willing to countenance. And given what I've seen from him, it is my belief that he most likely will remain perpetually unaware of such, as well as its necessity.

Before closing, let me remind the reader *not* to confuse my repudiation of Bonocore's illogic with that which Bonocore wishes to defend by the ruthless application of his illogic (the Catholic affirmation of Tradition); my claim is *only* that the *form* of Bonocore's *argument* is in error, and I have also taken issue with the rather arrogant tone whereby he has asserted his wrongness. The question of the authorship of Matthew is an historical question, and to the extent that the evidence allows, it may be investigated historically. On points such as these, *if* Tradition is correct, we should expect it to coincide with, or at least not be disproven by, the historical evidence. At the same time, let it not be imagined that I thereby subject Tradition to the historical sciences (and I believe that here I part company with Holding). I affirm Tradition because I am Catholic; and my being Catholic is my epistemic point of departure. But notice that this affirmation of mine need not be seen as being viciously circular. In the final analysis, all arguments are to some extent circular, for all arguments presuppose principles which cannot themselves be proven (e.g., have you existed for more than 4 seconds? How do you know? Because you *remember* being alive yesterday? But how can you prove that your memory is accurate *unless* you presuppose from the outset--and thus, without proving it--that your memory is accurate?) The question is not whose argument is wholly non-circular; rather, the question is whose circle can surround the most facts, and give a better account of the evidence as it presents itself to us. Any defence of Tradition will be strong only to the extent to which it can do this--but such a task is for another day.

Matt Paulson


And so it is again; Bonocore, oblivious to the brick wall he bloodies his own head against, has yet more to say, to both myself and Matt Paulson; the latter is busily engaged with school and will respond as time permits, but for now, we have a return for Bonocore's latest diatribe, entitled, appropriately, "Fundamentalist, Schmundamentalist: Why James Patrick Holding Is A Victim of His Own Pseudo-Intellectualism".

As before, there is much in the way of begging of questions, and calling of intellectualism an evil. Bonocore begins by denying that fear of intellectualism motivates his responses; in reply I will say that I must agree, for it now seems clear that Bonocore is rather too insensible to be afraid, as he ought to be; which is to say, like the chihuahua who barks up into the chest of the Great Dane, he knows no better than to fear as he ought, or to have sense as he ought.

Thus indeed he is less dangerous to himself, but also more dangerous to others, than I earlier supposed; as an article I am fond of referring to speaks of those "incompetent and unaware of it," so is Bonocore, as further points make clear.

For my own benefit, Bonocore informs me that whether I know it or not, I "also take sola Scriptura literally" but "just don’t realize it, and you rationalize away the fact that [I] do." As we well know from atheists who do much the same thing, this is merely a matter of prescribing an opponent's view for him, since the one that he does hold is rather too sophisticated to grasp and thereby refute. We are told moreover that regardless of whether one hears Holding or Luther, the result is the same: a "relativistic, totally-subjective, pick-and-choose style of Christianity" -- as noted before, you heard it here first: The use of scholarship and the pursuit of objective truth is relativistic, etc.

Rather, Bonocore reaches for the pacifier even as he repeatedly presses the panic button: "And how is a Christian to correctly (and infallibly) discern this truth, Mr. Holding???"

Dear me -- how is truth usually discerned, Mr. Bonocore? Isn't it something along the lines of, if it accords with what is, it is true; if it does not, it is not? Has this most simple understanding escaped Mr. Bonocore for so long? It is claimed that this is a "problem" that Protestantism "has consistently failed to address and/or account for"; but it is rather, a non-problem that only the panic-stricken such as Mr. Bonocore actually have.

Mr. Bonocore's head trip into Ostrichdom rides further: "I can cite a whole bevy of 'credentialed scholars' who will tell you that Jesus was/is not God and never claimed to be so. Ergo, so much for 'credentialed scholarship,'" he pouts.

Indeed. And here indeed is proof of Bonocore's fear at work: For I in turn can show you, using equitably and/or better informed credentialed scholarship, where these who claim Jesus was/is not God and never claimed to be are wrong. Does Bonocore doubt it is that simple? If so, perhaps he can succeed where atheists have failed and refute, for example, the series at link 10 below.

Why not? Perhaps he will save all of us by so doing; by getting us away from fact and into blind obedience to authority. For this is all he has indeed: He tells us we "know that the Koran is full of nonsense" not because of any objective reality or hostorical test involving the historical Muhammed and his movement, but because, "it cannot stand up to what we know from reliable history and authoritative Apostolic tradition!"

Oh? I agree on the end but not the means, which for all practical purposes, are useless: How then do we know that that history is reliable and that tradition authoritative?

And so it is that Bonocore's version of fundamentalism does not solve the problem of epistemic truth, but merely shoves it back a pace, hiding behind the wall that will fall as surely as the last one, even if those seeking its refuge are trying to squeeze their entire bodies behind a single remaining brick. Contrary to Bonocore's claims, I do not "place Christian doctrine on the same level as Islamic theology" -- because objectively, I and others (particularly those at answering-islam.org) have shown that Islamic theology is inferior, and done so objectively, not merely saying so as we pound our fists and make our faces redden as we scream from a pulpit decreeing blind obedience to some nebulous, non-informing authority. If "Apostolic tradition" demanded this sort of mouth-frothing submission, may we ask why it is that there is no sign of it in the recorded Apostolic kerygma?

Then we have this about Semitic Totality, which almost needs no comment:

Oh, please, Mr. Holding. J You again split hairs that cannot realistically be split. The point is that you do not hold oral Apostolic Tradition to be equal in authority with written Apostolic Tradition (a.k.a. the NT Scriptures). But, THAT is precisely what acceptance of "Semitic totality" requires. So, please don’t waste our time by trying to distinguish between "the way" you accept or reject oral Tradition. My point was that you do not hold to oral Tradition in the way ancient Semites would do. And that point stands quite firmly.

Beyond the assertion, the error here is profound: Semitic Totality "requires" nothing of "oral apostolic tradition"; it is an anthropological fact documented from the Old Testament (see Dahl's Resurrection of the Body) and is not in the least dependent upon any "oral tradition" for its truth. The connection made between "oral tradition" and "ancient Semites" is pure fantasy by Bonocore, the words of someone who has never looked into the topic, no doubt for fear of being told not to.

It is also pure diversion to claim, as Bonocore does, that oral tradition was "fully authoritative in ancient Semitic practice." Obviously it was -- ask the Pharisees, and ask our Lord of their own "authoritative" use of oral tradition.

The key question Bonocore avoids, as he continues to run around in circles, is, "Is what is said in that tradition accurate?" (And relatedly, "Has that tradition been accurately handed down?" which is another matter.)

Bonocore professes to agree that, as I say, "What is true, whether in speech or in writing, is equally authoritative by virtue of being true," but not able to see beyond his own epistemic forest, panics and asks, "How is one to know whether a given writing or oral tradition is authoritative? This is what you fail to address and appreciate."

What is to address or appreciate? Bonocore's tail-chasing performance and arbitrary designation of "authority" to accept what is true as true? How is one to know whether the authority-granting body is not in error? This very same problem fits the Mormon church, and it ought to disturb Bonocore to know that his own answers are the same I get from their apologists -- and merely saying, "It is true because it/they says it is!" isn't a viable answer.

Onward, Bonocore admits to no personal confusion over his misreading of my note about Papias; it is rather my fault for bringing it up at all, and despite any word I have, my "intention was to undermine Ireneaus as a primary witness to Matthew’s Gospel," so there too. And it is said:

Yet, as I illustrated in my response to you, a) Papias does not mention a Gospel of Matthew as we have it today, but merely refers to the Apostle setting down “the oracles of the Lord.” What this refers to is obscure and requires the witness of Ireneaus in order to verify that it is the present Matthew’s Gospel that is being referred to; and b) Papias and Ireneaus were both speaking out of the common Asian Apostolic tradition; and so one is not ‘forgetting’ or ‘excluding’ Papias (as you accused me of doing) by citing Ireneaus as a primary witness to the origin of Matthew’s Gospel.

And as I illustrated in a linked article Bonocore completely ignored, Papias' words can mean nothing other than some earlier form of our current Matthew; this is not in the least obscure to those who do their research, but alas, Bonocore is still scribbling away with his first assignment and insists that Papias "requires the witness of Ireneaus in order to verify that it is the present Matthew’s Gospel" -- as though it were some other document containing oracles of Jesus, written also by Matthew; there must have been hundreds of documents that qualify with that description.

In any event, it remains that Irenaeus as a witness is of the same value, objectively, as Tertullian is a witness to the authorship of Tactitus' Annals -- this is a matter of objectively-ascertainable truth and evidence, not blind designation of persons we like as "authorities" we will listen to come Hades or high water.

Bonocore nevertheless persists in his argument that we do not "have better documentation for the New Testament Scriptures than for other ancient documents" -- while yet again, providing not one shred of evidence otherwise, telling us rather to find our ourselves, for it is not his burden as the original claimant to prove what he claims. Amazingly, Tacitus' Annals are shrugged off as "one (relatively minor) work of ancient Latin literature," which bespeaks mightily of Bonocore's non-knowledge of classical literature -- as if indeed his refusal/inability to substantiate his claims about attestation did not do so already.

Onward it goes, with an artificial dichotomy erected between "academic pursuit" and "the dynamic of God-given, Spirit-guided Church authority" -- when Matt Paulson replies, we may well see some of Bonocore's patronizing comments about education replied to; in any event, the same dichotomy is supported as well by Charismatics and Mormons, such that we have yet to see a solution that works from Bonocore's. My request for names of those who "witnessed" the publication of the Gallic Wars is shrugged off with non-details; no names, no dates, just bland assurances that it is so because it is so. The flaw in my position, at any rate, is so described:

Well, it is certainly not surprising that a misguided pseudo-intellectual Protestant like Mr. Holding would see an objective standard of truth (such as the infallible authority of the Catholic Church) as a mark of “fundamentalism.” …Because, for the pseudo-intellectual, there of course can never be a simple or definitive answer ---a final authority which cannot be disputed.

So in essence, Bonocore's answer is that Church authority "cannot be disputed" -- er, why not? Just because the Church says it can't? Because Bonocore says it can't? What wondrous sport this is; yet it is said, when I noted that Mormons can say the same:

Only one difference, Mr. Holding. Unlike with the Mormons, the “internal witness” of Catholic Christianity is over two-thousand years old, consistent, and comes directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh!

Oh! Well, unlike Bonocore, I am aware that Mormons would simply and ably refute this majestic assertion with the point: "Our witness is actually 2000 years old, consistent, and also comes directly from the Lord Jesus Christ." And that's why we have them with books like Richard Hopkins' Biblical Mormonism, and Barry Bickmore's Restoring the Ancient Church.

The reader knows of course that I find the works of both of these men seriously lacking in merit, and one of Catholicism's seasoned apologists, Karl Keating, would agree. Yet Mr. Keating certainly did not just refute Mormons with a simple, "because the church says so." He did his homework as I did to refute them. And here again is why our own Matt Paulson, not Bonocore, represents an authentic and respectable form of Catholicism; for the same reason that evangelicalism is better represented by Ben Witherington than Benny Hinn.

We are further informed that "the 1st Century Church also conducted itself according to an 'internal witness' –-indeed, the SAME 'internal witness' that this SAME Church of Jesus Christ lives by today. For, as 1 Tim 3:15 says, WE are 'the pillar and foundation of Truth.'"

How an "internal witness" is derived from this passage is not explained. Perhaps Bonocore received a burning in the bosom that told him so.

As before, no real answer is given to my point that one cannot logically authenticate all that i.e., a Papias says merely by culling it all under the category of "tradition"; this is a logical fallacy, and Papias' appeal to how he listened to what apostles said when he could, does not in the least refer to "Apostolic / Ecclesial authority" as Bonocore would imagine it. It refers to authority in the same way one would say that a follower of the late Martin Luther King would be a better authority for understanding the man and his words than, say, a janitor down at the A and P -- in other words, it seeks truth from the most pertinent sources.

This is not any sort of magical "authority" jive; the words are binding because they are true, and they are true because they come from reliable sources. If steps of authority were all there were too it, then Bonocore ought to consider becoming a Marcionite -- since they claimed the same steps of authority.

My point about the superscription of Matthew attesting to authorship of his document is fumed off: "A reference to a character does not make this character the author, Mr. Holding." Apparently Bonocore does not even know what a "superscription" is; it is where the Gospel says, "the gospel according to Matthew," and that most certainly does provide the necessary evidence; and it is the deep burden of the doubter to explain why not, and if Bonocore is going to resort to creative explanations worthy of Skeptics ("it could just as easily mean that the Gospel was written by some followers of Matthew") he will need to show that such superscriptions were used in other works to refer to someone who was merely a follower as author, or give us some reason to say it was merely chosen at random by someone -- not just say so.(By "superscription" it becomes later apparent, he somehow thinks I am referring to a part of Matthew where Matthew speaks of himself as a tax collector!)

This is the very error of atheists and other critics of the Gospel; likewise Boncore's retort, "Are you willing to apply Apostolic authorship to apocryphal Gospels which happen to focus on these apostles too?" Any person with a smattering of education in this area would know that the evidence for these works being authentic is appallingly bad, and disgracefully worse than the evidence for the canonical Gospels; if Bonocore doubts it, let him answer one of his own, Philip Jenkins, author of Hidden Gospels. We suspect he will not, because he can not.

It is asked, As for the Gospel not saying that it is inspired, why is that an "irrelevant" statement? This has already been answered once: Truth is truth whether inspired or not. Hence it is an irrelevant appeal. We move past yet more dismissal of scholarship; we have the usual panic button of "over thirty-thousand SEPARATE Protestant sects ---all with the SAME Bible, but all INTERPRETING it differently" (as if there were not such fracturing among individual Catholics).

And is Mr. Holding saying that a believing Christian must “consult scholars” before he can justly reject Islam? My, how “open minded” of him. ..But how very unChristian.

My, how "closed minded" of Bonocore -- and how very misinformed. Oh indeed: a believing Christian can reject Islam without consulting scholars; but if they do, they had best not pretend to be qualified apologists able to make a worthy argument against it. In other words, if you reject Islam this way, well and good -- just don't try arguing that you have done so on a rational basis. So likewise with Bonocore's continued screed against objective truth: If he wants to live with his head in the sand, as an easy-chair disciple with no qualified readiness to give a reason for the hope that is in him -- let him do so. But let him also stay out of the way of those of us who know what our job is.

Yes, the circle closes. How do we know Christ was right? "Because Jesus promised that His Church always would."

But how do we know Christ was right about that? Because, uh, the church is "2,000 years old [and] subscribing to a continuous and unbroken body of formal Apostolic Tradition." (Time to become a Hindu, then, I suppose, or a Confucian.)

Uh, but how do we know that it was continuous and unbroken, and how do we know what it transmits is accurate? Bonocore dodges the seminal question like a flea in a Fry Daddy; we are told further that "Catholics/Christians" do NOT "have apologetics for the resurrection, and the deity of Christ"; as for my point that the Apostles appealed to evidence in Acts 2, this outlandish answer is given:

First of all, the Apostles do not appeal to any “evidence” Acts 2. Rather, what they employ (and it is principally Peter who does it) is exegesis from the Old Testament to show how Jesus’ Resurrection was the fulfillment of these prophecies –a very Jewish thing to do. But, belief in the Resurrection itself is a matter of Apostolic testimony and a personal decision to accept or reject this OBJECTIVE STANDARD of truth. In other words, one either believed in what the Apostles saw (i.e., Jesus alive again) or one did not. No “evidence” or “apologetic” is offered for this.

First of all, the "exegesis from the Old Testament" was 100% worthless unless Jesus did indeed do what it is claimed he fulfilled -- in other words, the FACTS of Jesus' life and deeds had to correspond with what was alleged of those prophecies; and indeed, as Bonocore would know if he had any real conception of Jewish methods of exegesis, the deed called out the prophecy (see link 11 below), so that the evidence of Jesus' life and deeds automatically lies behind each appeal.

Second, that "Apostolic testimony" (which includes appeal to the empty tomb, which Bonocore forgets to mention) IS "evidence" and IS "apologetic" (by definition, a defense as given in a court of law -- e.g., testimony to facts!). The matter does not in the least rest merely on the "Apostles and their Christ-given authority" -- it rests on appeals to Jesus' life and deeds, his miracles, and his empty tomb -- all of it objective, scrutable evidence by which the apostles made their forensic case.

No, because some of scholarship leads to objectively discernable conclusions which all must accept, Mr. Holding. The earth DOES revolve around the sun; and we can show that it does. Likewise, Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence, and we can show that he did. But, what we cannot show to everyone’s satisfaction is that a former Jewish tax collector named Levi bar-Alphaeus (a.k.a. the Apostle Matthew) authored the Gospel that we have today.

So some malcontent's "satisfaction" is what does it, then? Well, then I'll simply say I am "dissatisifed" with the conclusion that Tom Jefferson did indeed sign the Declaration; after all, it could be a forgery in his name, perpretated secretly by the other Founders. And maybe they gave him hush money to keep quiet about it later. Or maybe they killed him and replaced him with an evil "Jefferson twin". Whatever Bonocore thinks he can "show," I can just as easily "rebut" using the same methodology he employs.

In the end his method is just, "trust and obey" -- or rather, "shut up and obey," with the label "objective" applied just because -- well, just because, now shut up! There IS no difference in validation of "Matthew authored Matthew" and "the presence is in the Eucharist" -- because the authority says there isn't, so be quiet!

To my point that 2 Thess. 2:15 applies only to what Paul and his cohorts said, not everyone's oral statements everyplace, Bonocore escapes the logic, and makes an appeal to "Semitic totality" -- though what this has to do with the fundamental unity of a person's body and mind, is not said. Apparently Bonocore does not even know what the concept means, and supposes it to somehow suggest that if Paul speaks to his own people that way, Peter and others did the same, which still does not answer the matter of who deserves recognition as authorities to speak this way and why -- much less does it say why we ought to even believe Paul when he says what he does.

Appeal now is also made to 1 Thess. 2:13:

“…in receiving the Word of God from hearing us you received not a human word, but, as it truly is, the Word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.”

Bonocore somehow imagines this to be a refutation of fact-based belief, but it says nothing of the sort -- Paul merely indicates the nature of his source, and says nothing at all about the rejection of epistemic scrutiny. Indeed in the same letters to the Thessalonians, he tells them to "test everything." Now why were the Bereans praised for checking up on things? It's the Word of God they were given, so according to Bonocore, they ought to have been told to sit down and shut up.

Then we have this set of forced logic, based on this from Thessalonians:

“For you, brothers, have become imitators of the churches of God that are in Judea in Christ Jesus.”

By Bonocore's application, this, because it is to the "same Thessalonian church to which 2 Thess 2:15 is addressed" means that 2:15 applies "to ALL the city-churches". Never mind that the counsel to imitate is one letter away, in 1 Thess. 2:14; never mind as well the context that follows: "For you suffer the same things from your compatriots as they did from the Jews..." (!)

Not, "For you have equal ability, automatically, to transmit and receive truth with 100% accuracy, just as we Apostles do." Forget about epistemic truth; revel rather in the nebulous "organic Tradition and Divine Mystery". The palpable misguidance of Bonocore's position is that he yet again absues "Semitic Totality" (again, it has not a thing to do with grouop dynamics, as he claims) to claim:

For, it would never even enter the Semitic mind that the organic Tradition of a people (the Church as the New Israel) would or could fail to be inerrant …especially when that people is guided by the promised Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit.

So it seems that all of those OT accounts of Israel falling into apostasy and sin are just fantasies then. Maybe they didn't really get it wrong when they set up Asherah poles in the Temple. It continues to escape Bonocore that while there is always a set of propositions which are called "true", the guarantee that it will be preserved and followed simply doesn't follow -- and to bark, "Authority! Authority!" doesn't answer the question of how we know that it is indeed that authority that did the job.

Appeal to Matt. 16:18-19 is no answer -- we still have no evidence from it that Jesus had the authority to make a declaration of Peter (even if we accept the full range of Catholic views on that verse). We are left with nothing at all from Bonocore but the same old "shut up and obey" canard in which "how do you know" is asked of everyone justly except those we are told we are not allowed to ask. Again, scholarship is waved off as subjectivism; the panic button of "what about those people who might not agree with you" depressed with the defiantly obedient spirit of a misinformed marker.

Bonocore, in any event, as much as admits he has no counsel for those of us who wish to be responsible disciples and answer the real questions of real people. I ask how he would answer those who claim that those who "were witnesses to the Resurrection," did not have mental delusions, and so on; no answer is given but "shut up and obey" and it will speak much for itself:

Please allow me to give you a bit of advice. You have spent far too much time debating with secular skeptics, and so have created a mental “template” geared to dealing with such as these –i.e., the realm of tiresome intellectual gymnastics. However, permit me to drag you back into the context of our initial conflict, if I may. I wrote an article for BELIEVING CHRISTIANS.

So in essence, Bonocore admits that his article offers no provision for providing responsible answers to the real questions being asked today; if the issue is indeed "consistency" as Bonocore claims, then where is his "consistent" form of answer to those who make these very real objections? It is, of no surprise, as useless as a hearing aid at a pantomime show:

My response to such secular skeptics would be that there is nothing in ancient Apostolic Tradition that talks about “evil twins” or “space aliens,” and my faith is in the teaching and witness of the Catholic Church. Also, if those who witnessed the Resurrection were insane or mentally deluded, then the doctrines of Christianity (which come to us from these same men) are the products of lunatics; and that places humanity in a sad state indeed, since almost everything that modern civilization thinks of as good or virtuous comes from the Christian Faith.

And there you have it: Not one iota of factual reference; not one logical point made or arrived at; just another form of "Shut up and believe!" and, "Well, gee, we sure are in trouble then, huh!" Not even Barney Fife would produce an apologetic this ineffectual, but exceeding all expectation, Bonocore has achieved the complete collapse of Christianity, all by himself.

Making further unwitting sport of himself, Bonocore joins atheists in declaring John 20:31 an example of "blind faith" (see correction at link 12 below; there is yet more of the same chasing of the ceremonial tail of authority in a circle, coupled with the ritual pressing of the epistemic panic button.

I say: Bonocore still has not read my linked article, however, on Sola Scriptura; it would have told him clearly that indeed, I agree with him that Sola Scriptura as used today is abused; but he is in error to say that my "contextual elements" "(if they are authentic) reside in the history and oral traditons of ancient (Catholic) Christianity". No doubt some or many do, but they do not all do; certainly the difference between the social worlds, with respect to honor and shame, and high and low context, has not been preserved.

Bonocore retorts with some banal question about whether I am "referring to medieval feudalism", giving conclusive evidence that he indeed has no idea what I am talking about, and thereby verifiying my very point that the "tradition" has NOT preserved these contexts, for otherwise, he would have immediately known what I was talking about.

It is then alleged that "heresies are born" of academic exercise; never mind that the two examples given -- Marcion and Arius -- were of the most unscholarly bent in their approach: Marcion simply dismissed the OT and certain of the NT based on an arbitrary value-equation, while Arius was blithely ignorant of the Jewish Wisdom background that defined Trinitarianism.

Bonocore wants to know where "academic exercise" as a way for the Body of Christ to be healthy is recommended in Scripture; I suggest he look after the example of the Bereans, as well as that the bulk of the NT was written by three persons who had the highest forms of education their world could offer -- Matthew, Paul, and Luke -- and which they clearly made use of in composing their materials.

Bonocore responds to my note, that one does not join that covenant without being given facts and evidence upon which to make a decision, by asking the question, "Really? And does your denomination Baptize retarded people, Holding? Can retarded people be saved? Can they join and become full members in the Covenant of Christ? Well, how is that possible if one cannot 'join a Covenant without being given facts and evidence'??"

Bonocore's insulting estimation of the comprehension capabilities of the retarded aside, it remains indeed that they are given what facts and evidence they can absorb; even if it is only a simple testimony. The same is true for small children; though if such are not even able to comprehend facts and evidence to any degree, nor in fact do they "join" the church -- they are baptized into it by their superiors. In any event it is tempting to ask if Bonocore is himself pursuing the academic level of the retarded as a way of making his faith more sound, but I hesitate to do so lest the retarded themselves be offended.

I leave aside comment on Aquinas, as Matt corrected Bonocore on that; Bonocore merely excuses away his abusive error by saying he wanted to "illustrate my intended point," the actual meaning of Aquinas be eternally and justifiably damned. It does remain that Bonocore's description of "presence and living participation IN the Church" just as well justifies cults who would say the same, and equitably validates the likes of the Holy Laughter movement if used by itself, and is not barred by the likes of the Mormons and JWs who will just say, to his claim to have 2000 years behind him, "so do we, so there too."

True Catholics are those who hold to all the dogmas of the Catholic Church. People who do not hold to these dogmas are not Catholics, plain and simple.

So then to throw the matter back: How does one know who a "true Catholic" is? How is this decided? Who gives anyone authority to decide? These are real questions asked today by real persons, and just saying, "Christ Himself does not [need epistemic justification], because He IS the Truth" isn't an answer, but a grossly begged question that is of no use at all. And amazingly, Bonocore agrees with me: "if you don't like it, too bad" is said to be, "EXACTLY what Catholics believe"!

I think that speaks for itself in close, with this final thought, as I am told:

Cute, Holding. However, you, I’m afraid are the one standing on shifting sand. I, by the grace of God, happen to be standing on a Rock.

Standing on a rock indeed -- which reminds me, along with Bonocore's willful redefinition of "objective" and "subjective" according to the I-say-so rule, of the line attributed to the Cheshire Cat in the Disney version of that story:

...Can you stand on your head?


Matt Paulson replies...

I find Bonocore's reply to both myself and J.P. to be so inept that I believe to engage him in dialogue is a waste of time, and therefore this response on my part will not only overlook the vast majority of his latest, but it will also be my last interaction with him. By his own words he makes a fool of himself, and if he should respond to the following in the future, I trust that he will more than vindicate any charge that I bring against him.

Bonocore sayeth,

"However, what is someone like myself to conclude when you are cited as a "consultant" for a blatant Protestant relativist like Holding in an article attacking a very sound illustration of the reality of our Sacred Traditions?"

As an aside, perhaps if I make something clear it will become apparent to Bonocore why I esteem JP Holding so highly--why I'm quick to defend him, and see myself forever in his debt. When I was lost in a sea of bewildering agnosticism several years ago, it was Holding who was my greatest help. He was always there with every question I had; his arguments were always well-reasoned, and his practical advice was always sound. Thus Holding was one of the chief influences in my life when I chose to be baptized and become a Christian. I was baptized into a Lutheran church (my Christianity was Lewis' "Mere Christianity"), and it is worth mentioning to Bonocore that when I had begun to study the early fathers of the Church and to feel the "charm" of the Catholic Church, when I told Holding that I was rather seriously considering conversion, he in no way attempted to dissuade me from such. He mentioned certain objections that he had, but told me that, on the whole, Catholicism is Christian, and if I felt so called, he in way would wish to stop me. And since my conversion, our friendship has remained, and we are bound not only by a common sense of humor, but also by an "enormous common ground" of orthodox Christian doctrine, and the desires to defend that common ground--that Gospel truth--against our contemporary secular culture, and to elucidate that common ground for all Christians who adhere to the "basic" doctrines of Christianity, such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, the bodily resurrection of the Son of god, and the integrity of Scripture.

Returning to the point, what we see in the above from Bonocore is a clear indication not only that Bonocore is rather blind to reality, but also, and connected to that, that he holds his own apologetic efforts in far too high a regard. To call Holding a "blatant relativist" would be like calling Bonaventure a "pantheist," or Sean Hannity an "environmentalist." Indeed, I honestly wonder whether or not Bonocore knows what the word "relativist" means--if this is the case, it would not at all surprise me given what I've seen of his masterful use of Latin. (In passing, I note that on the homepage of the Catholic Legate website, it is written that readers are to consult Bonocore's article in order to see why Bonocore, who quite obviously is better disposed to receiving compliment than correction, is "one of the top Catholic Apologists today."[!] In light of this--mirabile visu--I note that it is indeed unfortunate that valuative claims are not brought before a public court before they may be posted on the internet.)

Bonocore goes on to call his original article "a very sound illustration of the reality of our Sacred Tradition." No, it is not sound; it is nowhere near sound. In point of fact it is awful, and this is why Holding is justified to take it to task, and why I feel not only permitted, but required to register my own complaints against it. And while the efforts of Holding, and the lesser efforts of myself, most likely have convinced others of the complete ineptitude of Bonocore as an apologist, from his latest I have no reason to believe that Bonocore himself is even capable of being shown his wrongness.

Referring to my calling his handling of the fathers indicative of a sort of fundamentalism, Bonocore, in an attempt to justify his inaccurate caricature of myself, alongside the recurring hostile tone that he adopts to me, sayeth--

"And I would submit that that was prejudiced and premature on your part. Or would you disagree?"

And my answer, rigorously confirmed by his latest efforts, is, "No." Bonocore is an archetypical fundamentalist, in the bad sense of the word. That is, Bonocore's reasoning is viciously circular, his thought is shallow, his attitude is arrogant, and he is as incapable of being on the receiving end of a dialogue as a brick is of being a dartboard.

For proof of this, I refer the reader to Bonocore's own writings.

Boncore goeth on,

"My objection and criticism was directed to your assertion that holding to the Catholic Traditions of the fathers can "burn" us."

In light of his masterful ability to get out of my words everything *but* what I said, I honestly wonder how safe the meaning of Scripture, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is in his hands. Again, I *did not ever* say that "holding to the Catholic Traditions of the fathers" can "burn" Catholics; what I said was that the simplistic form of argument adopted and ruthlessly applied by Bonocore can burn Catholics, and this because poor reasoning can burn *anyone* who uses it to defend *anything at all*. It is not without reason that Origen attacked the doctrines of muddle-headed Christians, for Origen had to defend the gospel against the likes of Celsus.

And this indeed is the problem that I have with Bonocore--his reasoning is in a very real sense *not catholic*, that is, it is not capable of *universal* application. His logic is bad and he constantly gets his facts wrong (and, when these mistakes are pointed out to him, he backpeddles and attempts to excuse himself rather than admit his error, which only makes him look all the more ridiculous). What Bonocore *does* have, and this unmistakably so, is passion. He is a grown man with a four year-old's understanding of the faith, and he holds on to that faith with the grip and pugnaciousness of a rabid bulldog.

And I cannot resist the following from Bonocore, "I too sit at the feet of Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Bonaventure, and Cardinal Newman; and, with respect, I almost certainly have a deeper (and far more familiar) appreciation of them than you yourself do."

In the first place, I invite Bonocore to consult Irenaeus' _Against Heresies_ and tell us how large a role the "Rome says it's so! Rome says it's so!" line of argumentation plays in his polemic against the various forms of gnosticism against which he fought? Or, for that matter, in what way did Origen go about seeking the original words of Scripture when compiling the Hexapla--by seeking an edict from Rome, or by doing historical-critical research, and putting himself under the tutelage of a Jew that he might learn Hebrew? In Athanasius' _Orations Against the Arians_, how many times does he appeal to the Roman Church in order to *prove* that the Son of god is eternal, and not a creature? And when Augustine is compiling his proofs that the Son and Spirit are verus deus in the first few books of his _De Trinitate_, how often does he cite the declarations of the Roman Church in order to *prove* his point?

Whatever it is that Bonocore adores in the fathers, and whatever it is that he is gotten from them, it is certain that their spirit has totally evaded him, and rest assured if St. Augustine had consulted such a one as Bonocore rather than Ambrose during the pivotal days of his quest for truth, he would have remained outside the Church for a good while longer, if not permanently.

As concerns my own regard for the fathers, or who between Bonocore and myself is better fit to comment on their writings, may God and the saints judge between us.

Concerning my dislike of the proof-text method of fundamentalist apologetics, Bonocore doth say,

"What's more, there is a profound difference between providing quotes from Augustine that support the Papacy vs. quotes from Basil the Great which supposedly support sola Scriptura. Why? Because, even though they may be proof texts, the ones used to support Catholicism always (with very few exceptions) fit within the comprehensive framework of that father's theological or ecclesial position. The Protestant proof texts do not, but, at best, use Protestant-sounding terminology out of historical or textual context."

This is a remarkable claim, and very telling. While I of course do not disagree that the theology of the fathers was Catholic, the *problem* with this assertion by Bonocore is that his hypothetical proof-texter can *prove* that his *interpretation* of the fathers is indeed *coincident* with the fathers *themselves* only by either rigorous historical-critical analyses, or philosophical argument. A simple appeal to the Papacy for proof of the point to someone who disagrees based on evidences would be worthless, for the Papacy itself is what is in question.

So *how* do we know that the Catholic interpretation is right, and the Protestant one wrong, without presupposing from the outset the correctness of Catholicism? Even *if* Bonocore were to cite on his behalf the authority of the Church, the question could then be asked, "Is it so because the Church says that it is so, or does the Church say that it is so because it is so," in which case "authority," whatever dignities may belong to it, at best is on par with simple "truth," and at worst cannot serve as a means of *proving* anything at all.

Thus in the final analysis, were Bonocore to do his job rightly, he'd find himself doing much the same as Holding and myself do. That is, he would find himself using catholic reasoning that is universally applicable, or appealing to empirical evidences that all sound minds lacking Montaigne's epistemic suffocatoin (which I believe Bonocore to have) could agree to. Let Bonocore procure a copy of Newman's _Essay on Development_, and note how he *begins* his case for Catholicism by appealing to disinterested analogies, how he carefully treats the writings upon which he builds his case, and how that case itself rests not on a principle presupposed from the outset, but rather, upon one that is *discovered* because the *evidence* led him there.

Perhaps it would do us well to consult Bonocore's comments on what *I* have written *to him* in order to gain a fair estimation of his exegetical prowess. Earlier, I had said regarding Bonocore,

"Bonocore argues that Tradition is intrinsic to the living Faith of Christianity--indeed, epistemically on par with Scripture itself. I myself fully agree. My problem is that Bonocore's argument is utterly misguided."

To which Bonocore responds,

""Fully agree" .."utterly misguided." These statements don't seem to go together very well, Paulson. J"

The smile (= the "J" above, which on Bonocore's site appears as a smiling emoticon) appended to the end of this sentence is priceless. For some reason, the confidence of the brothers in "Night at the Roxbury" is coming to mind. At any rate, how is Bonocore able to read a contradiction or anamoly into what I wrote? I fully agree THAT "Tradition is intrinsic to the living Faith of Christianity," and I think that BONOCORE'S ARGUMENTS FOR IT are misguided. The only thing that didn't "go together well" regarding this claim of mine was Bonocore's mind with its meaning, which is absolutely clear and, unless Bonocore is under the delusion that his rational prowess is infallible, utterly incapable of being read as incoherent in any sense at all.

Concerning my claim that Holding was right to say that the authorship of Matthew can be justified empirically, Bonocore sayeth,

"Well, what can I say, Paulson? Like Holding, you too confuse the issues of academia and authority here. Perhaps this is because you are at university at the moment."

This is a rather lame attempt to avoid the issue on Bonocore's part. I "confuse" the "issues" of "academia and authority"? Academia and authority are "issues"?? Perhaps Bonocore himself should make a trip to academia and find out, alongside taking some classes on English Comp. and grammar while he's at it.

At any rate, it goes without saying that, epistemically (look it up, Mark), "authority" and truth (which is the object of "acedemia's" quest) are on equal footing. Bonocore moans that Holding hasn't any *real* justification to believe that Matthew wrote Matthew, and this because his belief rests not on an "authority" that tells him that it is so, but rather, on empirical evidences which are not subject to absolute verification. But the problem here is Bonocore's for being too much like the Protestant Lessing (look him up, Mark--try putting his name together with "Kierkegaard" in a search engine if you lack the vigor to go to the library) rather than Holding's for being too much in accordance with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says,

"In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current." (110)

I here refer the reader also the the Second Vatican Council's _Verbum Dei_, which clearly advocates the employment of the historical-critical method for gaining an understanding of Scripture, and this *while* simultaneously affirming Tradition and the dignity of the Magisterium. I'm not here attempting to make any claims on behalf of the historical-critical method *over-against* Tradition; I personally have little taste for it, and am much more comfortable with de Lubac in hand than James Dunn. The point is simply that the basic form of Holding's modus operandi is countenanced by the Catholic Church. And on this point, the book of Hebrews can help to illustrate what I'm getting at. Let Bonocore tell us who wrote it, who the early fathers thought wrote it, who the fathers of the Middle Ages thought wrote it, and the Catholic Church's stance on the matter--insofar as it has one--*today*; let him also tell us the consensus on this point as regards contemporary mainstream Catholic exegetes, and furthermore, let him compare it to the consensus of earlier ages. Let him also tell us *how* such a consensus came to be held by Catholics in full communion with the Church, *if* it is the case that this consensus is at odds with what was commonly held in prior generations? Why did they bother to investigate the matter *at all*?, for if Bonocore's method of non-scholarship is indeed Catholic, what possible reason could scholars have to do so, and how could they be justified in coming to their conclusions, were it not the case that the Catholic Church itself recognizes the capacities of scholarship?

These matters aside, Bonocore goes on to justify the soundness of his original article thusly:

"Ergo, my initial article, in which I asked the very valid question: Why do otherwise professed sola Scriptura believers accept this particular Catholic Tradition without question, while rejecting others from the very same Apostolic deposit? And, again, my initial point stands."

Perhaps Bonocore would be better off by asking why Ray Brown--nearly every work of whom was given the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur--*rejected* the authorship of Matthew, or why Hans Urs von Balthasar--Pope John Paul II's favored theologian--seems to have doubted the authorship of certain books in Scripture? At any rate, if Bonocore thinks that the above vindicates his argument, he is to be pitied. In the first place, aside from testimonial reliability, what does it matter whether or not Matthew wrote Matthew? One can be a Christian without believing that Paul wrote Hebrews, and one can accept the Wisdom of Solomon without believing Solomon to have written it. And in the second place, *given that* Holding's own affirmation of Matthean authorship was not arrived at by a simple enough means to allow itself to be touched by Bonocore's argument, why does he not meet Holding on his own ground, rather than labelling Holding a "modernist" for not being stupid? For if Bonocore is right that Protestants are bound by no official Creed or institution, is not Holding simply being *Protestant* in having relied on his own ability to discover the truth and trusting his ability to do so? If such is *not* Protestant, then Protestantism is a good deal more unified and objective than Bonocore would have us believe, for one cannot be accused of breaking the rules of that which has no rules. And finally, would Bonocore honestly have us believe that whatever Protestants he has in mind *actually* accept Matthean authorship *because* they received this belief from the Church's Tradition? If not, then Bonocore has simply gone off on a pointless tangent, for his conclusion would not then follow. If, however, they believe Irenaeus because of his proximity to the first Christians, then their trusting in his testimony is historically based, and must be met on that ground if it is to be disputed. In any event, Bonocore has given a Protestant no more reason to affirm the necessity of Tradition than I have cause to believe that Romulus was taken into heaven at the end of his life in a cloud because Livy--an author whom I consider to be reasonably reliable on many points--said so. And if Bonocore is going to pester a Protestant because his faith is based on empirical evidence that, admittedly, cannot be *absolutely* verified, then what is to stop Bonocore himself from falling into solipsism? Did he exist 7 seconds ago? Does the world exist? How does he know? He trusts his memory? How is he certain that his memory can be trusted? The Church tells him that God made the world, and made man with reliable cognitive faculties? In this case, Bonocore would either have to reject this assertion, for he cannot be *certain* that the Church--which exists in an outside world whose existence itself is in doubt--even exists; or, if he is willing to grant this claim, then its basis has the capacity to allow Holding to conduct his studies and trust his results.

Bonocore then, in an attempt to take the force away from my claim that Plato's dialogues are not historical documents, goes on to establish another non-point by informing us that,

" [. . .] the Platonic codices that we have are direct copies of the nine tetralogies compiled by Thrasyllus in the 1st Century A.D. For, they can be traced back with complete certainly to at least the time of the Gospels. .which, of course, overturns Holdings rash assertion that the Gospels possess unequaled attestation. [. . .]"

In the first place, Plato wrote in the 4th century b.c., not the 1st century a.d.; in the second, well before Thrasyllus' day the authenticity of many of Plato's dialogues were hotly disputed (Athenaeus in the 3rd century b.c. rejected _II Alcibiades_; later on, even Proclus rejected _Epinomis_, the epistles, _Laws_, and even the _Republic_); in the third, we have nothing directly from the hand of Thrasyllus, and thus no certainty that our tetralogies are identical with his--if, that is, we subject ourselves to Bonocore's epistemic prerequisites.

Winding our way through Boncore's superhuman efforts to vindicate himself and his anti-intellecutualism, we find him saying, for example,

"This is why, for example, Ireneaus and others tell Christian heretics (who are already believers .at least imperfectly) to check the common Tradition of the various city-churches to see how there is no hint of Gnostic doctrine among them. This, of course, is an appeal to authority, Paulson; and it is this which you and Holding consistently downplay in application to this issue."

I wrote a 120 page monograph on Athanasius last year, and this year I'm presently engaged in what is appearing to be an even longer work on Irenaeus. I'd recommend to Bonocore some good secondary sources on Irenaeus that could help him on this point if I had any reason to believe that he'd read them. At any rate, Irenaeus' appeal to which Bonocore here refers is historical, and not one from mere authority. The gnostics claimed there own secret Traditions, and Irenaeus refutation of them was not simply, "The Tradition disagrees!", but rather, "Our claims can be publicly verified by a wide variety of congregations in various places, and with written records and oral traditions that stretch back to the time of the apostles, who believe the same as we. Your claims, on the other hand, have no such public backing." Were a simple appeal to "authority" sufficient without recourse to empirical, public evidences--which is indeed Bonocore's own position the very moment such things don't obviously and immediately serve the purpose of backing his personal views--then the gnostics were as right as Irenaeus.

Later, Bonocore goes on to say,

"I never said that purely historical inquiry cannot be a modus operandi for discovering truth. I merely argue that pure historical inquiry is subjective in nature and requires something more to be infallible."

The claim that historical inquiry is "subjective in nature" deserves no response whatever--one might as well talk of the empiricism of Plato or the rationalism of Hume. And that historical inquiry requires "something more to be infallible", is an argument with no force whatever. Let Bonocore read George Santayana's _Scepticism and Animal Faith_ and then tell us how "infallible" his belief in the computer screen that he's looking at at this moment is.

Bonocore then goes on in what appears to be an attempt to make it look as though I'm on his side in this regard:

"This is a glaring difference between yourself and the approach of Holding; which, again, is the very thing that I was referring to -i.e., the authority of the Catholic Church as our accepted and infallible objective standard of orthodoxy."

Yet this difference between Holding and myself is grounded in a belief on my part that was the consequence of historical inquiry and theological reflection. As I mentioned above, I was baptized Lutheran, and I converted to Catholicism *because of* the evidence. And though I myself tend to be more of a rationalist (as in, having the style of Plato), and Holding more of an empiricist (as in, having the style of Aristotle), the road that I travelled on to get to the Church is a road whose signposts I found *while* employing the scholarly habits and customs that Holding himself uses, and which Bonocore himself unwittingly employs, thereby proving my point, when illustrating why the Orthodox are wrong to reject the Filioque, to wit: "Secondly, the popular Byzantine rejection of Filioque is a matter of regional thelegoumenon, not an aspect of Apostolic Catholic (universal) Tradition. Clearly, the Eastern Orthodox are hard-pressed to explain why nearly every Latin father (and a number of Greek ones .e.g. St. Maximos the Confessor) is on record as promoting or defending the theology of Filioque, and this during periods in which East and West were solidly in communion with each other."

While I think that he quite overstates the case with regard to the Filioque (see my article here, http://www.tektonics.org/guest/filoque.html , for a more careful approach), the point is that the method he appears to be employing to arrive at it is correct--bring forth written documents accepted by both sides, and draw your evidences therefrom.

Moving along, we find Bonocore saying,

"In regard to Ireneaus supposedly claiming that Jesus was in His forties, . That is a very common misreading of Ireneaus, which I will not address in detail here. Let us simply say that Jesus' precise age is not Irenaus' point; and if you wish to understand what Ireneaus is really saying, please check out my article at http://catholic-legate.com/qa/jesusage.html."

This is amazing, but fitting. Every childish and misplaced show of confidence on Bonocore's part comes back to bite him squarely in the rear. Yes, Mark, I have read your article--indeed, I read it long ago, and have never since lost my initial impression of it: that it is ridiculously far-fetched. (And, regarding what I'd said earlier concerning proof-text apologists, who is Bonocore's article written in response to?) The reader is advised to consult my own article (http://www.tektonics.org/guest/irey50.html), and the literature cited therein (especially that of Behr) for a more responsible treatment of the matter.

At any rate, Bonocore goes on to affirm us of the soundness and intellectual respectability of his own views by assuring us that OF COURSE the portions of the fathers' writings which he takes as part of Tradition, unlike those which he rejects, are the "Catholic" portions. In his own words:

"I (along with all other rational Catholic intellectuals) am able to distinguish between UNIVERSAL Traditions held by the early Church and mere regional theolegoumena, such as the early belief in Millenarianism [. . .] Ireneaus is very much a reliable witness for those oral Traditions which WERE held universally by the rest of the ancient Church; and 1) Mary as the New Eve, 2) the primacy of the church of Rome, and 3) the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist [. . .]"

Again, Bonocore is running furiously on a treadmill and getting nowhere. *How* is he sure that it was *universally* affirmed that Mary was the New Eve? Clement of Rome does not mention such, nor does Ignatius of Antioch. Justin Martyr (who, previously, we were told not to look for the finer points of theology in the works of by Bonocore) merely contrasts the two; the other apologists (Tatian, Theophilus, Athenagoras) show no evidence of being aware of such. The belief that the Son of god is the OT Angel of YHWH had, at the time that Augustine developed his arguments against the notion and almost banished it entirely from Catholicism in consequence, far greater a claim to universality than this. My point, of course, is not that these fathers denied that Mary was the New Eve or held views antithetical to such an affirmation; rather, it is that Bonocore has yet to step outside of the circle that he is arguing in. At any rate, Bonocore is right to accept the Tradition that he accepts, he tells us, *because* it is universal and catholic *unlike* those portions of tradition that are not. What, then, of the Immaculate Conception of Mary? Again, my point is not that this doctrine of the Church is wrong or that I doubt it; rather, it is that Bonocore's attempt to step outside of the circle that he spends most of his intellectual time in fails utterly, which proves that one needs more than proof-texts and a brick-like cognitive disposition to have an intellectually responsible faith. Were Bonocore a respectable scholar, he'd be in a library struggling with his questions, and trying to see how one thing fits in with another. Instead, he arrogantly presumes his rightness, argues badly on its behalf, and runs into a brick wall the moment he steps off of his yellow brick road.

The vindication of Tradition cannot be had on the cheap, regardless of whether or not Bonocore will fly into a temper tantrum because of this fact. A Christian apologist is one who defends truth by means of reason and evidences, and not one who perpetually vindicates his own emotionally immature grasp of his faith in spite of them.

In bringing this interaction with Bonocore to a close, I cite the following from him:

"The only "nonsense" here is Paulson's faulty approach to the phenomenon of Sacred Tradition itself, which he approaches academically (like a Protestant) vs. organically, as a Catholic would. [. . .] the primary medium and custodian of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is HIS CHURCH ITSELF -a living Covenant People with a comprehensive, organic understanding of the Apostolic Faith [. . .]"

And so on. Of course, I have no problem with Bonocore's affirmation of Tradition, nor with the fact that the Catholic Church is his epistemic ground. All of this is fine and good, and I would have a good deal more respect for Bonocore did I not believe that his apologetic efforts give evidence of the form of reasoning employed in arriving at, and defending these affirmations. It is perfectly possible for a true conclusion to be derived invalidly from premises. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Or, to switch the metaphor, if one is at sea, it is more important that one know how to fish than to have--at the moment--fish enough for three meals. Let Bonocore keep his *manner of arguing* for the truths of Christianity and Catholicism along with his self-praise where they belong--outside of the public domain, and in his own mind. Bad reasoning is as indifferent to what it corrupts as a disease is to who it infects, and in this regard, Bonocore's style of apologetics is comparable to the public dissemination of the intellectual plague. I honestly *hope* and will *pray* that no Catholics or Christians will come to spiritual harm because of having learned the arrogant and bad principles of reasoning evident in his articles. In my eyes, Bonocore has so thoroughly discredited himself through his own words that I'm forever done with dealing with him, and will not be giving any attention to anything that he may right in the future. Should Bonocore reply to this, I'm confident that the reader need do no more than read his reply in order to discover the rightness of Holding and myself on the points at issue between us and him.

Links

  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here
  • here