Monday, May 25, 2015

Two Recent Debates

I recently did two very different debates:

1. Is the Father Alone Almighty God? David Barron vs. TurretinFan (link to debate page)(direct link to mp3)

2. Intercession of the Saints - William Albrecht vs. TurretinFan (link to debate page)(direct link to mp3).

I'd like to provide more comments on the debates, but I lack time at present.

-TurretinFan

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Defining "Responsibility" for Leighton Flowers

I was listening to Professor Leighton Flowers talk about "responsibility," (mp3 - around 29 minutes into the debate) and he noticed that he tried to define it as "able to respond," as in being able to respond positively to God's commands and exhortations. That definition is just fanciful.

The term "responsible" actually means "answerable" or "accountable" - in other words, it's about the fact that the person is going to have to answer or respond for what he does. It means that the person will have to face the consequences of his actions. When we say that man is "responsible," we're not talking about some hypothetical philosophical ability to do something, but instead we're talking about the fact that man will have to give an account for all his actions before the Judge of All the Earth on judgment day.

Inability to do what is right is consistent with responsibility for doing what is wrong, because "responsibility" doesn't imply some very specific kind of hypothetical philosophical ability to have done otherwise, but rather it implies that the person will be punished for his sins - unless the person has a penal substitute in the person of Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Matt Slick Errs on Textual Transmission / Textual Criticism Again

Matt Slick has again (The Bible Thumping Wingnut, Episode 61, around 30 minutes into the episode) erred on the topic of textual criticism.

Unfortunately, Mr. Slick seems to be confused about the transmission of the New Testament compared to the translation of the Old Testament. His comment about adding up numbers seems to be based on something Mr. Slick has heard about the process used by the Masoretes (and it doesn't even appear to be accurate regarding their process). It does not describe the Christian process, especially not in the early Christian period. Early Christian textual transmission was, as far as we know, not done by professional scribes and did not include letter-counting techniques (such as those later used by the Masoretes) to ensure the reliability of the copies. These facts don't undermine the reliability of the New Testament text, but making errors in this area may undermine the other valid points that Mr. Slick is trying to offer.

Additionally, Mr. Slick repeated the same error regarding how textual variants are counted (which we already corrected here).

It's great that Mr. Slick is going to be debating a Muslim on the divinity of Jesus soon, but it seems likely that these issues of textual transmission will crop up in apologetics with Muslims (as they frequently do), and it would be good for one of Mr. Slick's friends to help get him straight on these issues before then.

*** Updated 4/13/2015

By the way, Mr. Slick should probably update his own web pages once he realizes his mistake. This same repeated error about how to count variants appears on at least the following pages of carm.org :

https://carm.org/bible-text-manuscript-tree

That same page also claims "Furthermore, the New Testament is approximately 99.5% textually pure. This means that of all the manuscripts in existence they agree completely 99.5% of the time." That's also not the case.

https://school.carm.org/amember/files/demo2/bible/reliable.htm

This page claims "The copies are so accurate that all of the biblical documents are 98.5% textually pure." Even if Mr. Slick decides he has some insight into textual transmission, he should presumably harmonize his own pages.

This page also claims (similar to Mr. Slick's comments on the show): "Similarly, the Greek writers of the New Testament would copy the biblical manuscripts. By default, every letter also has a numeric value. When the copies were done, the copyists would add up the numeric values of the words copied and compare them to the original copy. If there was an error, the copy was destroyed and a new one was begun. This was done with both the Hebrew and Greek writings of the Bible. Therefore, the Bible was copied with extreme care." That's not an accurate depiction of the New Testament transmission. It seems to be taken from some information regarding the extreme care the Masoretes took in copying the Old Testament, but even then it's not quite right.

The page also mentions the accuracy of the Isaiah scroll in the Dead Sea scrolls compared to the Masoretic text. It's true that the texts were very close. Not all the scrolls share that same closeness, however, especially in Jeremiah. So, it might be good to provide some additional information and caveats regarding the reliability of the Masoretic textual transmission.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Does Religion Poison Everything?

One of the claims of the new atheists is that "Religion Poisons Everything." This has been the subject of a number of debates. Typically, the non-atheist will point out folks like Stalin and Mao were not religious and yet were responsible for enormous harm. Thus, while religious people may also cause harm, the harm of atheism are even greater, certainly on a per capita basis. Some folks will also go farther and point out that the methodology used by atheists is fundamentally flawed - they don't have any controlled comparative data upon which to make their conclusion. All of these are legitimate criticisms of the atheistic assertion - but it occurred to me that Christians are missing an opportunity or two here.

Religion affects everything. We should be willing to concede that it does, or at least should, affect everything. No, it doesn't necessarily mean that a Christian cyclist will use a different kind of brakes, but religion (especially the true Christian religion) is a worldview. It affects everything - or should. The does not mean we all try to wear the same kind of sandals and robes that Jesus and the apostles did, or the same kind of leather that Adam and Eve wore. We certainly don't dress or eat like John the Baptist regularly. Still, religion as a worldview to does touch on and affect everything.

The term "poison" is a pejorative term - a value judgment. Obviously, atheists who object to the Biblical worldview are going to see those aspects of influence as "poison," but they are wrong to view them that way. As for the things that we commonly agree are "poison," we call on the atheists to distinguish between the sinners trying to live out the worldview and the worldview and the worldview itself. It is sin that poisons everything, while the gospel begins to correct that.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

John Owen on the Theonomy Debate between Joel McDurmon and Jordan Hall

John Owen, Works, Volume 8 ("Sermons to the Nations"), p. 394:
Although the institutions and examples of the Old Testament, of the duty of magistrates in the things and about the worship of God, are not, in their whole latitude and extent, to be drawn into rules that should be obligatory to all magistrates now, under the administration of the gospel, — and that because the magistrate then was "custos, vindex, et administrator legis judicialis, et politiae Mosaicae," from which, as most think, we are freed; — yet, doubtless, there is something moral in those institutions, which, being unclothed of their Judaical form, is still binding to all in the like kind, as to some analogy and proportion. Subduct from those administrations what was proper to, and lies upon the account of, the church and nation of the Jews, arid what remains upon the general notion of a church and nation must be everlastingly binding.
I wonder if both the debaters would agree with that quotation? If so, then the resolution of their recent debate can be affirmed in one sense (i.e. the civil laws are obligatory as to their moral aspects and analogously) and denied in another sense (i.e. the civil laws are not obligatory in their Judaical form).

I note that Bahnsen himself seems to have felt that he could agree with Owen, since Bahnsen himself quoted it in his interaction with Ian Murray (as can be seen here).

-TurretinFan

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Variants and Matt Slick

I'm listening through a variety of episodes of the "Bible Thumping Wingnut." Despite the very low quality stuff on theonomy in a few of the recent episodes (I don't see the point to correct these errors - there are plenty of other folks doing that and being ignored), there are some good discussions on a variety of topics, particularly when Matt Slick addresses atheists/agnostics. However, in Episode 44, when asked about textual variants, our brother Matt dropped the ball, so I want to take the opportunity to correct this point.

Matt took the position that if an article (a word meaning "the") is dropped in a copy, and then that typo is copied by five further scribes in their respective copies, that's six variants. Matt's not right - that's not how it works. That would be a variant with six witnesses.

The reason the number of variants is so high is because of the large number of hand copies, but not because each copy of each typo is counted as a variant. Instead, it's because there are numerous possible misspellings for many words, particular for words with a "movable nu" (similar to the difference between "a" and "an" in English) and numerous variants in the order of words.

In any event, to answer the bigger question about whether we can know what the original was, there are tools for reconstructing the original text from copies containing variants. While there are a few different ways of doing this, they all yield substantially the same text at most points. (see Dr. White's excellent discussion here).

-TurretinFan

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Innocent X vs Sound Doctrine

In 1653, Innocent X released the constitution "Cum Occasione" (May 31, 1653)(full text here). In that document, there were errors said to have been extracted from the Augustinus of Cornelius Jansen. These are also printed Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma (1957)(Dz. 1092-1096)(link)
1. Some of God’s precepts are impossible to the just, who wish and strive to keep them, according to the present powers which they have; the grace, by which they are made possible, is also wanting.

Declared and condemned as rash, impious, blasphemous, condemned by anathema, and heretical.

2. In the state of fallen nature one never resists interior grace.

Declared and condemned as heretical.

3. In order to merit or demerit in the state of fallen nature, freedom from necessity is not required in man, but freedom from external compulsion is sufficient.

Declared and condemned as heretical.

4. The Semipelagians admitted the necessity of a prevenient interior grace for each act, even for the beginning of faith; and in this they were heretics, because they wished this grace to be such that the human will could either resistor obey.

Declared and condemned as false and heretical.

5. It is Semipelagian to say that Christ died or shed His blood for all men without exception.

Declared and condemned as false, rash, scandalous, and understood in this sense, that Christ died for the salvation of the predestined, impious, blasphemous, contumelious, dishonoring to divine piety, and heretical.
The condemnation of these five statements was then affirmed by Alexander VII (Constitution, "Ad sacram beati Petri Sedem," October 16, 1656 and Constitution "Regiminis apostolicis," February 15, 1665)(more discussion and links here)

It is interesting to note that Innocent X appears to be affirming perfectionism (contra 1), denying irresistible grace (contra 2 and 4), denying compatible free will (contra 3),and denying limited atonement (contra 5), and on each of these points appears to err, since Scriptures teach that we continue to struggle with sin in this life, Scripture teaches irresistible grace, Scripture teaches that free will is compatible with divine necessity, and Scripture teaches that Christ died specifically for the elect.

- TurretinFan

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Actually, Jesus Did Ask Someone to Write a Book

About 43 minutes into episode #6838 of Catholic Answers Live, Patrick Coffin, the host of the show, stated: "Jesus never wrote a book, didn't ask anybody to write a book, or you know - put on kind of memo on the fridges of Nazareth, but he did found a church."

I've previously addressed this "Jesus Didn't Write a Book" Objection (link to previous treatment). While I stand by that response, let me provide some further response Mr. Coffin's assertions here, since Mr. Coffin is guilty of a redemptive history error, a trinitarian error, and a simple factual error (not even to get into his ecclesiastical error).

1. Redemption History Error

Mr. Coffin's characterization, by focusing on the form of the revelation of Jesus Christ misses the place of revelation in the history of redemption. It is by revelation that the church was founded. The revelation of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church that Jesus founded. That's why Jesus said to Peter:
Matthew 16:17-19
And Jesus answered and said unto him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Jesus focuses on the fact that Peter's confession was something revealed to him by the Father. It is on that confession of faith - revealed by God - that the church was to be founded.
That's why Irenaeus says: "For we learned the plan of our salvation from no others than from those through whom the gospel came to us. They first preached it abroad, and then later by the will of God handed it down to us in Writings, to be the foundation and pillar of our faith" and again a little later on "the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel" (Against Heresies, Book 3, Sections 1 and 8).
And Irenaeus is being Scriptural:
Hebrews 1:1-2, 2:1-4, 4:2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; ... Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? ...
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
You see the foundation of the church is the revelation of Jesus Christ - not the other way around. Even if the assembly of Jesus' followers (i.e. the church) can be said to have begun before the writing of the New Testament Scriptures - still they are a record of the revelation that preceded and founded the church. They are the cause of the church - not the effect of the church.

2. Trinitarian Error

Mr. Coffin's comments invite the listener to divide Jesus from the person of the Spirit, to the extent that one considers the plain and inescapable fact that the Spirit did command people to write a book. Even assuming it were true that Jesus didn't personally command the writing of Scripture, the Spirit did, and that's not any more or less authoritative than if Jesus himself did it. The Spirit is not a lesser deity.

Moreover, the Spirit was united in Jesus' revelatory mission:
John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
That leads us to a third category of error:

3. Factual Error

Mr. Coffin has forgotten about the fact that the Bible itself tells us that Jesus commanded John to write a book:
Revelation 1:1-3, 11, 19 and 21:5
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. ... Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. ... Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; ... And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
I understand that the book of Revelation is excluded from the readings of Scripture in the Roman liturgy, but even Trent had to admit that it is canonical and authoritative Scripture.

I suppose I could add to the above that Mr. Coffin's conception of Christ founding a church is way off. Mr. Coffin has in mind a hierarchical structure of authority, whereas when Christ talked about founding his church on the rock of Peter's confession, he was talking about followers united by faith. While God did appoint a structure of authority within the church, that was not the primary sense in which he founded a church. Perhaps we can get into that more in another post.

-TurretinFan

Christ is what's Better about the New Covenant

What's better about the New Covenant? Christ. That's the point of Hebrews. My beloved Reformed Baptist brothers seem to have missed this.
Baptism is not better than circumcision - the Lord's Supper is not better than the Passover. Instead, Christ's blood is better than the things that point forward or backward to it.
There is a distinction between the bloody forward-pointing signs and the bloodless backward-pointing signs, but it is not that the latter are more effective or better than the former.
Baptism is not "circumcision of the heart" - regeneration is. Both Baptism and Circumcision pictured that.
We feed on Christ by faith - not by our teeth chewing bread or chewing a lamb.
We are saved by the sprinkled blood of Christ - not that of the passover lamb nor by the water of baptism.
There is still a distinction between the outward physical signs and the inward spiritual reality. There is still a difference between the congregation/assembly of those who profess faith and the actual inward reality of profession of faith.
The difference between the New Covenant administration of the Covenant of Grace is Christ. That's what Hebrews says a ton of times. My RB brothers - I think you agree with me 90+% on this - why not that last 10%?
(previously posted on facebook)

Monday, February 09, 2015

Three Observations on Acts 2:39

"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:39) Three observations:
1) Notice that the promise is monergistic - it is to those whom the Lord calls - that's how the promise is phrased. It's not to "even as many as shall work really, really hard."
2) Paedobaptists sometimes quote this passage incompletely as though it just say "unto you and to your children." It says more than that, and the "even as many as the Lord our God shall call" is definitely key.
3) Still, I haven't heard my Reformed Baptist brothers provide an adequate explanation for the reference to children, if not to suggest that God is going to continue dealing with families as families. This looks like the kind of thing we see several times in the Old Testament - now with an expansion to those who are not Jews. That's not the central point of the verse, but it seems to be the most obvious reason for the reference to children - a passing reference to the fact of familial treatment that God applied up to this point both with respect to Israel and the nations.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Catholic Answers - Mary as Alternative to God

Around 45 minutes into episode #6824 of "Catholic Answers," Vicki Thorn stated: "You know, I also want to say to our listeners, that sometimes when we're beginning to heal, especially women, God is really sort of frightening to us, because we're so afraid of judgment. The blessed Mother - this is Mary's work. ... This is Mary's work - and so if God seems a little - you know - too scary, turn to Our Lady and ask her to help, because she'll lead you."

By contrast, the Scriptures always exhort us to turn to the mercy of the Lord:
Psalm 89:1 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 69:16 Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.

Psalm 25:6 Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
We are not to come in reliance on our own merits (or the merits of our fellow sinners, such as Mary), but solely on the mercy of God:
Daniel 9:18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.
Indeed, we can approach the Father through Christ, specifically because it is through Christ that the Father of mercies has given us mercy:
2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
Rather than turning to any form of idolatry, including the religious veneration of Mary, turn to Jesus:
James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
The Lord's is full of compassion and He is the only Mediator between God and man, as it is written: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" (1 Timothy 2:5) - therefore with Paul let me entreat the reader who is trusting in Christ to be reconciled to God by Christ - not by anyone else:
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.