Friday, March 23, 2007

Love-Based Discipline

Love-Based Discipline
a Scriptural Alternative to
Grace-Based Parenting

There is a movement afoot in some circles (circles that call themselves Christian) that refers to itself as "Grace-Based Parenting." This movement is evil for at least four major reasons: it perpetuates a confused view of grace, it prohibits what God commands, it adopts modernism over Scripture, and it implicitly calls God's Holiness into question.

The view of grace in "Grace Based Parenting" movement is a typical anti-Calvinist view of grace. It disassociates favor from the basis for bestowing the favor. As a result, it condemns Biblical forms of discipline (e.g. chastening and rebuke).

The error seems to spring from an unscriptural world-view in which God is portrayed as an omnibenevolent Santa-Claus who begrudgingly and with tears flowing down His cheeks punishes those who force Him to do so.

When you look to what Old Testament believers thought Scriptural discipline was, you'll see what was practiced among the Puritans. Check out, for example, Sirach 30:1-13 (in the King James Version or Geneva Bible, some of the other versions number differently). It's not the Bible, but it is a good historical view of the sense of Proverbs' child-rearing instructions that was held by historical believers.

Praise be that our Father is not loathe to chasten us!

What I propose as an alternative to so-called GBP is love-based discipline. Love-based discipline includes nipping the seed of wickedness in the bud. When a child disobeys, the child is punished. The severity of the disobedience dictates the severity of the punishment. The punishment should not be overly austere, but it should be physical and it should be unpleasant. It should not be disfiguring. As a child grows in understanding, a word of rebuke may be sufficient, but it would be foolishness to treat infants as though they are wise. Care should be taken to impose such physical instruction out of love for the child, not out of anger at the personal offense caused by the disobedience. When possible, the physical instruction should be performed by the father. Because Scripture is clear that parents are to love their children, and because Scripture is clear that physical instruction is to be an expression of that love, loved-based discipline should - in its generalities - bind the conscience, and is an appropriate basis upon which to judge whether a man, a father, is qualified for the office of bishop/elder or for the office of deacon.

1 Timothy 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

Now, let us examine the four great evils of GBP.

I. GBP Confuses Grace

GBP issues from an anti-Calvinist view of grace. Note that I do not mean to suggest that the people involved are themselves all anti-Calvinists. I means that the so-called "Grace-based Parenting" movement springs from that mindset.

The grace of God restrains the wickedness of man, and it does so using both external and internal means. The outward and ordinary means is by which the grace of God restrains the wickedness of men is fear of punishment, as taught by Romans 13:3.

Furthermore, it is not God's love per se that changes the heart: but God's regeneration.

Nevertheless, when we sin God chastens us. Paul tells us so.

Some GBP supporters claim that they are modelling God's grace, revealed in the New Testament. This is mistaken. God's grace is based on Jesus being beaten (and ultimately killed) in our place. Unless a GBP supporter is planning on receiving beatings in the place of their child, they cannot accurately model God's grace for them.

I bring up the crucifixion, because God's grace is without cost to us, but it is not free to God. Grace is on the basis of the agency and instrumentality of Christ ("in Christ" as Ephesians 1 puts it). Someone suggested that we are to model God's grace: but I doubt that they meant they will punish their first born child for the errors of all of their after-adopted children, or bear the sins of their children for the children (as Christ suffered and died in our place "for us").

Furthermore, it should be noted that it is because of the crucifixion that God treats us like children: with love spanking us - not for his own gratification or for the redemption of sins, but for our benefit and sanctification. After all, exercise of the rod teaches obedience to the fifth commandment, as Scripture teaches in Hebrews 12:9.

Indeed, a proper model of Christ's work must include the substitution of a victim for the sinner.

One GBP supporter wrote:

I don’t know what you believe, but I believe that Christ’s work on the cross paid the price for all those whom God has chosen to be his children. To even suggest that my children’s sins need to be punished when Christ has already atoned for them is heresy.

This GBP supporter is mixing the metaphor/simile. If they are modeling God's grace, they are God and their child is the sinner, but (in Isaac's words) where is the lamb? We both know the lamb is Christ, but there is no analogy to the Lamb of God in the GBP model.

My point is that they are not modeling God's grace - they are imatating the favourable treatment God gives to those whose sins are covered (which is only one part of the whole picture).

Furthermore, God still disciplines his children (even as he chastened the elect nation of Israel in the Old Testament) for their sanctification, as Paul clearly teaches. Whether we refer to that as punishment or discipline may be an important distinction, but call it whatever you like, it includes chastening/scourging according to Paul. It is not for God's satisfaction - He is satisfied by Christ's work - but for our benefit. If we want to model the grace of God, we can do so by following His example of chastening/scourging the children we love. That is why I refer to loving discipline that includes, when appropriate and as appropriate, both rebuke and chastisement.

If you check out the commentaries of John Gill and Matthew Henry (both of whose writings are freely available), I think you'll find that argue that the way grace is taught is by the law (i.e. the rod teaches children their need of grace, and is a means of grace toward them): we receive punishment for doing wrong, and it helps us recognize our depraved condition, our inability to satisfy divine justice, and our need for a Savior.

Furthermore, covenant children, as part of the visible church, ought to receive loving discipline, which is one of the blessing of the covenant.

Based on the covenant, one may have hope for one's children's salvation. Nevertheless, one must recognize that one's own faith is no absolute guarantee that one's physical children are numbered among the 144,000 (look at Abraham).

Surely the GBP supporter must have meant something else by their comment regarding whether their children have Christ as Redeemer. I am also confident that they would not charge me with heresy for suggesting that anyone who is not trusting in Christ alone for salvation should be in fear of hellfire on account of their unjustified state.

GBP Prohibits What God Commands
Also note, that I trust that the Reformed folk reading are involved are capable of reading the various Scriptural instructions on the topic of child-rearing. I have yet to see any Reformed exegete arrive at some other view than that chastening and rebuke are mandatory aspects of loving parenting.

Indeed, if fathers do not chasten/scourge their children, they are acting as though those children have some other father. This is reasonably inferred from Paul's comments. Those children are being denied the full blessings of the covenant.

Some GBP supporters make a cultural objection. These objectors seem to suggest that the "rod" comment in Proverbs may be culture-bound. However, they also typically recognize that spanking is part of our culture today (after all, that's why their movement exists, to spread what they like to term "positive discipline") . Thus, their culture-bound argument fails at its core.

In another sense, though, they may be right. I doubt many would suggest that Proverbs means we must use a rod as the implement and that - say - a belt, wooden spoon, or open hand is inappropriate; just as most would likely permit the Japanese to greet each other with a Holy bow, and us with Holy handshakes (and increasingly, I've noticed, hugs). The accidents may change, but the concept of unpleasant (to the recipient) corporal discipline remains the same.

Another GBP support noted that Islam supports bodily discipline and even discusses it at great lengths. One would assume that any Reformed person would understand that spanking is not made wrong because it is practiced (to an extreme) by some Muslims any more than that modesty is made wrong because it is practiced (to an extreme) by some Muslims.

That is not to say that the only aspect of discipline is physical instruction. If the reader comes away thinking that my position is discipline = spanking (i.e. that there is nothing else to discipline except spanking), it is only because I am responding to the error of GBP that excludes spanking from discipline. If one reads more carefully, one will see that I include other things, such as rebuke, in discipline. Furthermore, though I do not discuss it at length here, there is a priori instruction that is part of discipline. Nevertheless, the departure from orthodoxy that GBP presents is the denial that spanking is part of discipline.

GBP Is Modernism not Adherence to Scripture
I openly challenge any GBP advocate to provide either (a) anyone who viewed the Scripture this way more than 150 years ago, or (b) a consistent exegesis of Scripture that arrives at the GBP view from Scripture, instead of attempting (as a few web sites do) to impose the concept on Scripture.

One supporter of GBP wrote:"I also disagree with your assumption that spanking is a Biblical norm. A modern American Christian cultural norm, but not a Biblical one."

It's not, however, an assumption. There are some rather explicit instructions in Scripture, as virtually all GBP supporters know.

Furthermore, there is nothing "modern" about spanking. As I pointed out, we can confirm from Sirach that those passages were historically taken at face value (i.e. beat with a rod means spank). We can also readily confirm the practice of such discipline in the NT in Paul's writings. We can also see it in the "common law" era of England (post-Runnymeade). I'm abundantly confident that a study of medieval history would turn up the same results in the interim.

Nevertheless, my challenge for the GBP is to find a full Scriptural exegesis for bucking the traditional view of Proverbs 23:13-14.

Just because all believers everywhere for the past 2500+ years (it's a little hard to date Sirach - it claims to be written about one generation after Solomon = 27 generations before Christ) have viewed Proverbs 23 one way does not make it right. Scripture, not tradition, should be our guide.

So far, though, I haven't seen any reason to depart from the teachings of Reformed notables, such as Gill and Henry who view Proverbs 23 in the traditional way, or from Calvin who calls spanking the "common practice of men."

I'm frankly not aware of any Christian author from more than 100 years ago (Reformed or Arminian) who had a different view than that corporal discipline is proper, but should not be done in unrighteous anger, with undue violence, or in an excessively austere manner. If you respect Calvin, I can point you to Calvin. If you respect Wesley, I can point you to Wesley. Name me a respected theologian (even one whose soteriology is a bit out of whack) who has been dead for at least 100 years, and I am confident that I can show you that - if he treated the subject - he did not forbid spanking or stern rebuke.

I challenge anyone who supports the "Grace Based Parenting" movement to show that it is not a modern phenomenon.

Yes, Scripture must be our authorative source of knowledge. Nevertheless, I challenge the GBP movement to show whether there are any Reformed theologians (even today, and even marginally reformed) who support the Grace-Based-Parenting movement with any kind of Scriptural exegesis that I could evaluate and respond to.

Some objectors will point to a discussion by Charles Hodge regarding grace as alleged support for the GBP movement. The typically cited portions of CH do not make any mention of spanking. Furthermore, in CH's Systematic Theology, discussing the fifth commandment, CH points out that capital punishment for disobedient children is no longer required. This would be the perfect place for CH to mention that the historical practice of spanking was also no longer required and/or contrary to New Testament principles. Nothing of the kind can be found.

Nevertheless, we are not left only with an argument from CH's silence. In discussing punishment in his Systematic Theology, CH writes:

It is of course to be admitted, that the good of the offender is often the ground or reason why evil is inflicted. A father chastises a child in love, and for its good. And God, our heavenly Father, brings suffering upon his children for their edification. But evil inflicted for the benefit of the sufferer, is chastisement, and not punishment. Punishment, properly speaking, is evil inflicted in satisfaction of justice.

And in the section on the general offer of the gospel, CH writes:

God pities even the wicked whom He condemns, as afather pities the disobedient child whom he chastises. And as the father can truthfully and with a full heart say that he delights not in the sufferings of his child, so our Father in heaven can say, that He delights not in the death of the wicked.

Hodge speaks for himself and he is right on the money, fully on board with God-honoring love-based parenting. Far from endorsing the GBP rejection of spanking, Hodge maintains the orthodox position that chastening is an essential part of discipline. Hodge does mention other aspects of parenting, but his words should not be wrested from their original sense in attempt to back an innovative departure from orthodoxy.

Some objectors have even claims that the Westminster standards are opposed to physical instruction of children. The Westminster Larger Catechism, however, is pretty clearly pro-chastisement with the question/answer pair 129:

Question 129: What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?

Answer: It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God has put upon them.

Some have apparently disagreed that "chastisement = spanking" in the WLC. Unless such a person means only that there is not a precise identity relationship between the two terms (which is a trivial point), such disagreement is not founded on an historical understanding of the document.

One objector wrote:

What I am trying to say is that just because someone chooses not to use physical punishment or possibility any punishment at all does not necessarily mean that they do not *discipline* *chastise* *correct* *rebuke* *train* or whatever word you want to use.

I respond:

"Chastise" can only still be achieved using some kind of figure of speech, along the lines of "When Tom came back from chasing the chickens around the yard, his mom gave the little rascal a tongue-lashing." No one imagines the mom actually applying her tongue to Tom's back.

Nevertheless, that figurative sense of "chastise" needs to be recognized as figurative. As for the others, yes, there are other wrenches in the tool kits of discipline, correction, and training. Using "rebuke" for physical instruction would seem to be a figurative use in the opposite direction (and not one that I've ever seen).

The objector continued:

Those words are not synonymous with punishment.

I respond:

My point is that godly admonition has a physical component, and that if we omit that component we are not loving our children, but hating them.

The objector further stated:

I am not even trying to say that there is never a time for punishment, maybe even physical punishment but punishment is simply a tool, and far from the only tool, that parents can use to *discipline* *chastise* etc. etc. their children.

I respond:

"Maybe" even physical punishment? Is there any question at all that the verse above is talking about often using physical instruction in a loving way to sanctify our children?

It would be hard for me to imagine an honest, sober exegete answering the question with, "yes, there is doubt."

GBP Implicitly Attacks God's Holiness
When we sin, God chastens us. Paul tells us so. Those who fault chastening as unholy implicitly attack the holiness of God, who chastenes and scourges every son that he loves.

Praise be to our Father in Heaven, whose name is Holy!


Objections Answered

Objection One: Seeing Spanking in Scripture Requires Eisegesis

One objector stated: "to read chastisement in the Bible and come away with the concept of hitting a small child on the bottom and/or legs with the hand and/or implement, is doing [sic] reading our own definitions into Scripture, instead of reasoning from Scripture to come to our understanding."

This accusation is way off base.

First, what is clearly taught in Scripture is that is important to discipline children through infliction of physical pain. Any allegation that this is not clearly taught in Scripture should be laughed to scorn.

Second, that the appropriate place to inflict pain is a place that will not cause disfigurement is taught less clearly, but is still taught. Note the teaching in Moses regarding the fact that a master must free a slave whose eye or tooth is lost as a result of physical discipline. Also note that Scripture speaks of the rod being for the back (not face) of a fool.

Third, that the discipline should not be excessively austere is taught by the maximum lash count provision in Moses.

Fourth, young children are not exempt from the general provision. Although care should be taken with respect to application of force to young children (note that circumcision was postponed to the eighth day), there is nothing to suggest that a father is exempt from physically disciplining children of tender years.

An anti-Calvinist mindset might suppose that young children are incapable of actual sin, and, thus, consistently exempt them from sanctifying discipline. However, those who read the Bible will see that the wicked come forth from the womb speaking lies.

Indeed, because they lack understanding, physical discipline is especially appropriate for younger children:

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

And because we know that children are born depraved, we should realize that their hearts are initially not pure but corrupt, thus physical discipline (chastisement) is especially appropriate for them:

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Fifth, as for the implement being an open hand, a rolled up newspaper, a shepherd's crook, a pvc pipe, a brush, a razor strop, a belt, a thin flexible piece of wood, or whatever other instrument is it hand, I suspect most would view "the rod" as being metonymous for any suitable instrument, in view both of "rod and staff" in Psalm 23 and "chastens and scourges" in the New Testament.

Thus, there is no excuse for a godly man to refuse to follow God's example (and the example of all Christians everywhere prior to 150 years ago):

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:

Objection Two: Louis Berkhof taught a view of grace that supports GBP

As for Berkhof's work, given his view of common grace, I seriously doubt that I will find anything in Berkhof but support for the godly exercise of spanking when appropriate. Nevertheless, I will go back and check what he wrote, and report back.


Let me distinguish:

First) there are some who claim that is not honoring to God when we physically instruct our children. Those people have departed from the historic understanding of Scripture, and have not, as far as I have seen, presented a Scriptural defense of their condemnation of physical instruction. Their views are clearly heterodox.

Second) There are those who simply are saying that there are lots of ways to discipline your children and that physical instruction is not the only wrench in one's Biblical toolkit of discipline. That group is well within the boundaries of orthodoxy, and it would be a rare Christian (historically speaking) who would disagree.

Third) There are a few who say that while we CAN physically correct our children, it ought to be rare and a last resort. This view is tempting, because it seems very gentle (and we Christians are gentle). However, Proverbs instructs us contrary to that:

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Betimes literally means "early" and here it conveys the sense of "often" or "immediately."


P.S. Thanks to Centuri0n, I found this timely article on the subject:

One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

One Holy Catholic (Universal, not Roman) and Apostolic Church

The earliest creeds that we know of, and many of the Reformed confessions (including the Belgic Confession and the Westminster Confession) speak of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The term creates a gag reflex among the faithful these days, because "Catholic" is so widely associated with the oxymoronically titled "Roman Catholic Church."

I think my stances on the apostacy of the Roman Catholic Church, its departure from orthodoxy, and the invalidity of its claim to be a part of the visible church of Christ (because, for one example, of its claim via Vatican II that Muslims worship the same god as the Roman Catholics) are sufficiently well known that no one will get the wrong idea from reading this post.

One pseudo-Reformed web site recently posted an article entitled "Is Independency Possible," and stated that the author has asked independent Christians how they know that they are part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The web site was, fundamentally, targeting a Reformed preacher in northern Idaho, who was ordained in an irregular way.

The answer that an Independent should give is the same answer that Presbyterians should give. We are part of the Church Universal and Apostolic, because we believe the gospel taught by the apostles and prophets in Scripture, and we associate with others who do the same.

The visible church is the congregation of the outwardly faithful.

We do not appeal to an unbroken succession of bishops/elders as the Roman Catholics vainly attempt. Nor do we assert that there is a sacrament of ordination in which the Apostolic authority is transmitted mysteriously to our bishops/elders by those who went before.

Although ordination by other elders is the ordinary, Biblically exemplary, and best way for elders to be ordained, and although ordination by a presbytery of elders is an excellent implementation of that Biblical principal, there is nothing to prevent a body of Christians in suitable circumstances (for example, if all the elders have been martyred) from ordaining men from among their midst to serve them. The body of Christians (the local church) has been provided by Paul with the guidelines for selection.

For a group, like the website in question, to adopt a sacramental view of ordination is to take a step on the road to Rome. To all such folks, I exhort: Return to the principles of the Reformation! Do not be lifted up with the vanity that corrupted and destroyed the church of Rome - a congregation whose faithful adherence to Scripture was renowned for centuries.

Yes, Independency is possible. There are arguments against independency, but the idea that Independents are outside the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is pseudo-papist propoganda, and nothing more.

Praise be to our glorious King in allegiance to whom the elect everywhere are all united in faith!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

A response to the internet poster, "ExaminingCalvinism" regarding Failure

Is the deity
of the Anti-Calvinist
a Failure?

ExaminingCalvinism (EC) has a web page that acknowledges one typical Calvinistic complaint against those who claim that God desires and wants (not in a merely outward sense, but wholy and completely) the salvation of each and every person.

EC quotes Dr. White as saying: “…the Father can seek the salvation of each individual, the Son can die to secure it, and the Spirit come to bring conviction of sin, and yet the entire desire and work of the triune God collapse because of the unwillingness of the sovereign creature, man? Yes, this is indeed Mr. Hunt’s view, and I simply do not understand its appeal to the person who boasts only in the Lord.” (Debating Calvinism, p.332 [emphasis and reference thereto omitted])

EC then begins EC's response with a quotation from Mr. Hunt: “Only Calvinists would say that if His love is rejected, God fails.” (Debating Calvinism, p.332)

EC continues in EC's own words:

Only a Calvinist would be swayed to believe in a doctrine out of pure emotional “appeal.” For the Arminian, the only “appeal” is what the Bible says. God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants. If God wanted to be the author of sin, and enact Deterministic Decrees, then, as God, He has full right to do so.

Let's examine the fundamental issue before taking apart EC's response.

The fundamental issues are this:

1) Is God's entire desire and work to save each and every human being?

The typical Anti-Calvinist's answer would be "yes" if the Anti-Calvinist will give a straight answer. More often then not, the Anti-Calvinist will hem and haw, seeking to avoid answering the question. One tactic is not to respond with a "yes" but simply to quote I Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 5:15 or I Timothy 2:5-6. The response to such quotation is: "is that a yes or a no"? After all, if we Calvinists agreed with the Anti-Calvinists regarding the sense of those passages, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

2) Does God's entire desire and work to save each and every human being result in the salvation of each and every human being?

The typical Anti-Calvinist's answer would be "no" if the Anti-Calvinist will give a straight answer. Here they are typically more willing to boldly deny universalism.

Conclusion: God's entire desire and work did not succeed, but failed (at least partially).

If an Anti-Calvinist answers questions one and two with "yes" and "no" respectively, then the conclusion logically follows. It is the enescapable logical conclusion.

As for EC's individual claims:

- "Only a Calvinist would be swayed to believe in a doctrine out of pure emotional “appeal.” "

As illustrated above, the issue is not "pure emotional 'appeal.'" Even if it were, both Calvinists and anti-Calvinists can (and sometimes are) unduly swayed by emotions.

Query: Is EC saying: "Yes God failed, but so what?"

- "For the Arminian, the only “appeal” is what the Bible says. "

It should be that way: but is a deity failing consistent with the clear Biblical teaching regarding God's omnipotence? If so, what the Bible says should make the anti-Calvinist question whether his understanding of the Bible is correct.

- "God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants."

If the anti-Calvinist believes this, and the Anti-Calvinist believe that God does "want" in that sense to "do" the act of saving each and every person, then the result is universalism, not Arminianism or Huntism.

- "If God wanted to be the author of sin, and enact Deterministic Decrees, then, as God, He has full right to do so."

God enacted the Deterministic Decree that Christ be crucified. If that makes God the "author of sin" in EC's definition of the term, so be it. It does not make God the "author of sin" in the traditional sense of the term, or in any sense that matters.

Praise be to God who has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass,


Objections Answered

One anonymous poster reponded:

To say that "God has failed" is looking at Arminianism through they eyes of a Calvin. When free-will is applied, it is not a matter of succeeding or failing. God desires all to be saved, and God always makes the first move. At that point, it is man's choice to accept or deny...So, it is not God who has failed, but man.

I respond:

I am well aware of Arminian ideas of libertarian free will, and the Arminian idea of LFW does not change anything in the simple logical conclusion expressed above.

The question is: Does God succeed or fail in getting what He desires?

In a non-universalist anti-Calvinist world-view, the god who wants each and every person to be saved fails to get what he wants. WHY he fails to get what he wants is an important question (and it is one that is answered implicitly in the above objector's comments). The "WHY," however, is subservient to the "THAT."

This objector's works-salvation is showing itself: note how this objector indicates that God makes a first move and then it is man that fails or succeeds. That is a great definition of works-salvation. It is to be contrasted with a salvation in which God is both the author (first mover) and finisher (last mover) of our faith.

Praise be to the Author of our Salvation!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007


E8 may sound like a geopolitcal phenomena or a Battleship turn, but in the world of Mathematics, it has a different sense. What is E8? To be frank, unless you majored in Mathematics, Electrical Engineering, or Physics, it is unlikely that any explanation I could provide in a few minutes could explain it to you.

If it helps, the most concise, clear explantion of E8 (that I know of) is "in the context of linear algebra, E8 is ... the group of symmetries of its own Lie algebra." I hope that gives you a sense of the futility of my presenting a more detailed explanation here.

E8 has now been "solved" - i.e. resolved into a theoretically comprehensible matrix (its a very, very, large matrix). In any event, E8 arguably has applications in certain areas of physics, particularly special relativity and string theory. We should expect either to hear that the solution was flawed, or - more probably - hear that the solution "proves the Big Bang" or "demonstrates the validity of string theory."

Of course, it does neither. It is mathematical tool for describing the beautifully designed world in which we live. Like any other tool it can be put to good and evil uses.

While E8 may be, no is, quite difficult to comprehend, its complexity, yet orderliness, confirm the expectations of every presuppositional Creationist: the world has order that reflects the simplicity of its author, our Creator, God.

Mathemeticians and Physicists: you are out of excuses when it comes to Lie algebra, for E8 shows the Power and Godhead of the Creator:

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Praise be to Him who created all things of nothing, by the Word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good,


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Justin Martyr Discussing the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper

Justin Martyr
Discussing the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper
From Justin's First Apology

An Internet poster with the handle Agomemnon quoted Justin Martyr thus:

"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

Justin Martyr has been quoted to attempt to support the Roman Catholic doctrines of transubstantiation and the "real absence" of the bread and contents of the cup.

In this case, the translation itself - while it may not be optimal - is not the issue. Schaff similarly translates Chapter 66 of the First Apology:

And this food is called among us ******* (Greek font is not working) [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them,which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.
The bull whose horns need to be grabbed here is the comparison: "in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."

The Roman Catholics read this comparison as suggesting the doctrine of transubstantiation.

However, let's look at the comparison:

"in like manner as Jesus ... had flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise ... the food which is blessed ... is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."

This is a repetition of the same metaphor used in Scripture - it is not a transsubstantial explanation.

But some Roman Catholics may insist that we make the comparison not between the flesh and blood of Christ being compared with elements but rather:

"in like manner as Jesus ... having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood ... so likewise ... the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word ... is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh."

This is not the comparison that is being made. We can deduce this several ways. One way we can deduce it is from considering that if this is the intended comparison then (primarily) the first verb should be parallel in its conjugation to the second verb and (secondarily) the prepositional phrase should have the same or a similar object. In other words, the sentence would be worded:

"just as Jesus was made flesh by the Word of God, even so the food is made flesh by the word of God in the blessing."

If Justin was trying to say that with what he said, he chose an exceptionally clumsy way to do so.

One way we can deduce that Justin was not clumisly trying to describe a Roman Catholic concept can be seen from the immediate context and the extended context.

In the immediate context, Justin begins by saying that the "food" is called "Eucharistia" [the Eucharist] and that consumption of the food is restricted to those who have professed faith and been baptized, because the food is not treated as "common food" but as the flesh and blood of Christ.

Justin's point is to distinguish this food from ordinary food, much like the shewbread was distinguishable from ordinary bread. Justin claims that this distinction is based on the teachings of the Apostles: the written teachings recorded in the gospels.

For the extended context, we should also read the 65th Chapter of Justin Martyr's Apology ("Administration of the sacraments"):

But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, ring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to ******* (Hebrew font is not working) [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

Notice how even after the presiding brother has consecrated the bread and water/wine, what the deacons bring to the people is still called "bread and wine mixed with water."

A few less sophisticated Roman Catholic apologists will sieze on the phrase: "from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished." But this phrase, in context, proves exactly the opposite of what they wish to claim. For Justin is speaking of the digestive process whereby the bread and wine nourish us as food nourishes us. But the nourishment that the body and blood of Christ provide is not physical nourishment, but spiritual nourishment. Thus, Justin explains that the practice was to restrict this symbol to those who are - to outward appearances - already feeding by faith on Christ: i.e. those who believed and were baptized.

The bottom line is that Justin Martyr describes the consecration of the bread and drink to serve and be regarded as the body and blood of Christ: not to have a change of substance into the physical body and blood of Christ. Likewise PVI's doctrine of "real absence" is entirely absent from Justin's knowledge.

Praise and Glory be to Him Who has sat down at the right hand of the Father!