Saturday, May 10, 2008

View from the Mountain Crag

The air was clear, and I could hear the bleating of sheep beneath me. On this particular day, I had sought solace for my reading on the crag of a mountain, high enough up the side that I could enjoy a cool mountain breeze. Since it was the south face of the mountain, there was also plenty of light for my reading, and stretching out below me was a burbling brook fed (I suppose) by a mountain spring or by the melting of snow from cap of the mountain towering behind me.

I had climbed to this perch, and figured no one would interrupt my scholastic pursuits, but the air's clarity had an unexpected side effect. I could hear not only the birds chirping, but also the words of the shepherds tending their flocks of sheep on a plateau below me.

How or why they brought their flocks up to that mountain plateau, I will never know. Perhaps it was the clarity of the water, perhaps it was the greenness of the plateau pasture, or perhaps it was the convenience of a mountain-side cave into which they could herd their flocks at night. Whatever the cause, my outpost gave me a full view both of the shepherds and their flocks.

I could hear the mother sheep calling to their lambs, and the lambs bleating back. But amidst the sheep, I could hear the shepherds talking: sometimes to themselves, sometimes to each other, but often to the sheep.

In fact, it was the call "Here sheep!" (in the shepherd's native tongue) that first caught my ear. What a marvelous sight it was to see. For what appeared to be a single mass of sheep coming from the distance shortly split into the two flocks, each following their shepherd - as the shepherds moved away from the book and into the meadow.

Of course, it was not only a call that the shepherds used, but occasionally a sturdy staff (was it oak? I could not quite make out its composition) was called to bear to the rumps and ribs of wayward animals.

I could see that the shepherds were friends, for they were not fighting for the sheep amongst themselves. Thus, I was somewhat puzzled over the division. My first theory was that they simply want to split up the sheep into two flocks to better distribute the sheep throughout the meadow. Soon, however, I recognized that this was not the case. Each shepherd viewed the flock as his own.

From my vantage point I could hear the shepherds as they went around throughout their flocks, calling each sheep by name, tending to their injuries, checking their health, and assisting the ewes in giving birth. I realized that the shepherds considered the sheep their own. They took a personal interest in their sheep.

The broad meadow was itself mostly flat. But at the edges of the meadow furthest from me, there was a dreadful precipice, extending a hundred or more feet to some more gentle slopes below. I had noticed this precipice first when viewing the mountain from afar, for it served turn the brook on the plateau into a sparkling ribbon of a waterfall that seemed perpetually graced by a rainbow in the daylight hours, and into a strand of soft silver in the moonlight.

But this beauty was best admired from the foot of the mountain. From the plateau, this cliff was a danger: an accident waiting to happen for any sheep that trotted off on its own.

The shepherds naturally appreciated this danger to their flocks. From time to time I would hear them shouting out warnings to their sheep to stay away from the edge, for it was dangerous. Once in a while, I would see the shepherds tan the hides of a sheep that started walking too close to the edge.

Mindful of my purpose in climbing to my lonely perch, I turned my nose back to my books. It was not long, however, till I heard the unmistakable bleat of a falling sheep - the sound of its "baa"-ing rapidly disappearing in the distance, followed by the muffled but audible "thump" of sheep making an impact.

I saw from my vantage point one of the shepherds holding his head in hands, weeping for the sheep that had fallen. After a while, he seemed to regain his composure. Then, I saw another sheep approaching the cliff edge. This time I saw the shepherd call to that sheep by name - warn him of the danger - and even strike a few blows with his staff to try to scare him back to the flock. But this stubborn sheep refused to hear. Instead it kept going as it was going.

Soon, I was sad to hear a recap of yet another unsuccessful experiment in the field of ovine aviation. More grieving from the shepherd followed. I admit I was astonished to see it. Looking across to the other side, I noticed a similar pattern with the other shepherd. A wandering sheep would leave the herd and make its way toward the edge.

The other shepherd likewise would call to his sheep, warn it of the danger, and smack it with the stick. There was a difference, though. If it seemed that the sheep was two stubborn to heed the warning and the beatings, the second shepherd would use the crook of his stick, to grab the sheep, and turn its neck back to the flock, thus saving the sheep from a gruesome demise.

I knew that the grieving shepherd could see how the other shepherd was preserving his flock, and finally my curiosity got the best of me. I shouted down to the grieving shepherd to ask why he did not do as the second shepherd did.

It was difficult to communicate because of my own lack of familiarity with the dialect of the shepherds, but eventually I came to understand the situation. The grieving shepherd explained that it was love of the sheep that prevented him from turning their heads back to the flock. "For you see," he told me, "I cannot force them to love life. I love them too much to do that to them. If they wish to destroy themselves, I must be content with the choices they freely make."

Then, I asked the other shepherd why he did not do as the first shepherd did. He also replied that love was behind his actions. He told me, "I love my sheep so much that I would die for them myself. I realize that they may not be as free as they like, but I truly believe that at the end of the day, they are happier for it. If I am willing to sacrifice myself for the lives of my sheep, is it so bad if I occasionally force them back from the cliff face?"

These reasons made me wonder, which shepherd really loved his sheep more? The shepherd who did everything in his power to preserve the sheep, or the shepherd who held back, because he was more concerned with the sheep's freedom than the sheep's life.

And you, dear reader, as you have read this fictional account: what say you? Which shepherd loved his sheep more? Why then will some claim that our loving Shepherd, who calls his sheep by name, might let some perish so that they can have something they view as freedom? Aren't we a little shocked by a shepherd who lets his sheep plunge to their deaths over an issue of "free will"? I trust we are.

Moreover, God can work more powerfully than any earthly shepherd. He has the ability to change the heart: to replace a desire to try to fly with a desire to be among the herd eating the green grass.

As the Apostle Paul explained it, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"

Now, we don't believe that the supposed "freedom" (some sort of self-deterministic autonomy from God) even exists. No, there is nothing that happens apart from the will of God - there is nothing that is "free" from divine predetermination. But suppose such freedom did exist! Suppose that man's autonomy were similar to the wooly-headedness of the sheep on the plateau pasture. Would not a loving Shepherd make every effort to save the sheep, not only appealing to its head with tender words, to its hide with the blows of a disciplining staff, but also to its neck?

Can we believe that a sheep's neck can be too stiff for a shepherd to turn it? Perhaps. But too stiff for God to soften it? God forbid! For God is the Almighty one. He does whatsoever he pleases and no one can stop him.

So then, let us recognize the love of God, which is able to overcome every obstacle and save those whom the Father has given to the son.

With Paul, "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) So then, repent of your sins, and trust in the Good Shepherd. Hear His voice, and enter into His love, dear reader.

Praise be to the Lord!


New Look for Debate Blog

In advance of the upcoming Sola Scriptura debate, Carrie (of "These are Written" & "Beggars All Reformation") has provided a new banner to improve the look of the debate blog. You'll see that it is similar in look to the banner of the blog you're reading right now. The reason: Carrie also graciously provided the banner for the "Thoughts of Francis Turretin" blog.

Carrie's taking a break from blogging for a bit, but she was kind enough to take the time to design a a banner for the blog. And I understand I'm not the first (and second) blog to receive such a boon from her. Thanks very much to Carrie for her quality graphics work!


Friday, May 09, 2008

1 John 3:16 "love of God" or just "love"?

As Dr. White mentioned in his radio program yesterday, the Authorized version (KJV) has "love of God," in 1 John 3:16, where most other versions do not, and where (apparently) few Greek texts have the words. The most popular versions of the KJV place the words "of God" in italics, which is usually used to indicate that the words have been added without explicit support in a sufficient number of Greek manuscripts.

Dr. White raised the interesting question: how did it get in there? I need to investigate the Textus Receptus. My electronic copy has the words, but sets them off (as though not in the "original" textus receptus). Scrivener's transcription of the Textus Receptus identifies the words as not appearing in the Textus Receptus, but as being found in "B" (i.e. Bezae, which appears to refer to a printed edition of the Greek New Testament by Calvin's successor made in 1565).

I have not done an exhaustive search. Nevertheless, I found the following general attestations:

Latin / Greek
Pope Sixtus V version of the Vulgate, as approved by Clement VIII (link) has the "dei."
Complutensian Polyglot has "ton theon" in Greek and "dei" in Latin. (not readily linkable, thus partial text shown below)

Rheims (from the Vulgate) (link) has "of God."
Wycliffe (from Vulgate) (link) has "of God."
Lamsa (from Aramaic) (link) has "his."
Murdock (from Aramaic) (link) has "his."

All other major English versions (aside from the Authorized version) and Latin versions seem to lack the "of God." Other English versions that have it include the "Literal Translation of the Holy Bible," the so-called "Modern King James Version," and Webster's Bible - all of which appear to be sourced at least partly in the KJV.

Other versions that have it are the Biblia Gdanska (if my reading of the Polish is correct) "Przez tośmy poznali miłość Bożą, iż on duszę swoję za nas położył; i myśmy powinni kłaść duszę za braci. " also has it. Although this version appears to have been revised in the 19th century, I would be suprised if it were simply harmonized with the KJV, although it does appear to have been based on "the Textus Receptus." It should be noted that there was a long-lasting Latin influence in Poland (note that they use Roman letters unlike most of their other Slavic brethren), and perhaps we can blame the Vulgate for this appearance in the Polish Bible. It does not appear in the Old Slavonic, as far as I can tell.

The Spanish version known as Las Sagradas Escrituras Version Antiguaalso also has it, in italics, and I think we would discover that the LSEVA is more or less simply a translation into Spanish of the KJV.

It seems highly unlikely that the KJV translation team had the Aramaic version of 1 John available. The KJV translators may have had a copy of the Complutensian Polyglot - I'm not sure. If they did, I'd be ready to blame the insertion on that source, which they would have trusted to at least some degree.

Regardless, it appears possible that ultimately the word was derived from the Latin of the Vulgate, rather than from any Greek manuscript. My suspicion in this regard is enhanced by my belief that the Vulgate played a large role in the acceptance of the Johanine Comma in chapter 5 of 1 John, which was naturally translated by the same translation team as chapter 3.

My best guess then is acceptance of the testimony of the contempory Vulgate (as with Wycliff, Rheims, and possibly the Complutensian Greek, via a reverse translation). There's another possibility, which is conjectural emandation. The word translated "love" has an article. As certain modern Greek scholars are wont to point out, the proper translation of the article is one of the most widespread issues that modern scholarship has with the KJV. It may be that the KJV translators believed that because "love" had a definite article (την αγαπην), the words "of God" were conveyed via the article, through antecedent reference to verse 1.

Another way that the emandation could occur is simply as an aid to the reader. Although the KJV is mostly a literal translation, there are a few instances where what would today be called "dynamic equivalents" are used. Perhaps this is such a case.

I suppose it is even possible that Beza and one or more "Vulgate" translators (though apparently, according to Dr. White's comments on the radio program yesterday, not Jerome himself) made a similar emendation.

Ultimately, the sense is the same (I believe) whether we accept the words "of God" as genunine or not. I suspect that most of the major textual critics agree, which is why this particular variant is not discussed (as far as I can see) in most of the major critical editions of the Greek testament. For example, neither my NA27 nor my UBS4 has any mention of this variant, and Scrivener.


P.S. While we are speculating - there is also another way that "theos" could have crept into the text. The word immediately after "love" is a conjunction that begins with an Omicron. In the uncial manuscripts (especially those on payprus) it would be possible to mistake an Omicron for for a Theta (they differ by a single horizontal line). Furthermore, a horizontal line in the paper (whether due to the lined characteristics of papyri, or lines written to assist in writing straight, or simply a stray mark) over a Theta is an abbreviation that was widely used to denote the word for "God." There were no commas in the original, so it would be remotely possibly that a sleepy scribe could mistake hoti for the abreviation for theos plus the indefinite pronoun ti (τι).

UPDATE: My original post made reference to B as referring to Bezae, which I took to refer to "Codex Bezae," an early manuscript - and one carefully transcribed for publication by Scrivener. On further consideration, though, I think Scrivener more likely meant the 1565 printed Greek Testament published by Theodore Beza.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Gregory Thaumaturgus - The First Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary - Pseudographic?

In a previous post we investigated the possibility that a widely used quotation attributed to Athanasius may be spurious. (link) Now, at the request of my debate opponent in the upcoming Sola Scriptura debate, Mr. Bellisario, I have turned my attention to another alleged quotation about Mary. This one is by someone my average reader probably has not heard of, Gregory Thaumaturgus. The quotation is taken from a work titled: "The First Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary." Unlike the "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin," the "First Homily," has been around for a while.

And it has been identified as spurious for a while. Indeed, it is included in the list of dubious or spurious works in this edition of the Ante-Nicean Fathers (link), and is specifically identified as spurious work (see page 58, footnote 1).

At least the following Catholic encyclopedia explains that the feast of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin is thought to have emerged in the late 5th century (link), which tends to confirm the fact that a Homily on such an occasion is demonstrably anachronistic. Furthermore, the footnote referenced above notes that indeed the homily was previously set forth to try to prove an earlier date for the origin of the feast day, but that theory has evidently been discarded.

For example, EWTN states: "Both eastern and western churches celebrate it on this day, and have done so at least ever since the fifth century. This festival is mentioned by Pope Gelasius I, in 492. " (link)

As to the alleged author in general, the "New Advent" Catholic Encyclopedia states, "It is to be noted here that our sources of information as to the life, teaching, and actions of Gregory Thaumaturgus are all more or less open to criticism." (link) Likewise, Luigi Gambero states: "Tradition incorrectly attributes numerous pseudo-epigraphic Marian homilies to Gregory the Wonderworker." (link) Gregory the Wonderworker is another name for Gregory Thaumaturgus. (those interested will note that Gambero, at page 106, provides an English-language version of the (pseudo?) Athanasius quotation we discussed previously.

Again, I'm not sure whether any has tried to set forth a positive case for authenticity of this quotation, as truly being the work of Gregory Thaumaturgus. If they have, I'd be interested to see it - and particularly interested to see how the apparently settled date of origin of the feast day (March 25) is overcome.

I don't see this being used as widely as the Athanasius quotation, but since I was asked I've provided. Although Mr. Hoffer used it, I trust he did so with the most sincere believe that it was genuine - and I think he was simply mistaken.


Athanasius - "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin" - Pseudographic?

I've noticed that several Roman Catholic apologists have relied on a writing identified by them as "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin" and attributed to Athanasius. I wonder whether this is spuria or genuine. The name of the document is not itself frightfully reassuring. It suggests attribution to Athanasius based on a single copy (probably in Coptic-Sahaddic not Greek) from the 6th century or so. As far as I can tell, it was unknown to the Western church as part of the Athanasian corpus and has become known via the journal Le Muséon in 1958:
Le Muséon année 1958 LXXI 3-4 Revue d'études orientales (A Louvain Chez l'Association Le Muséon, fondé en 1881 par Charles De Harlez 1958, brochée grand in 8 de 190.)

Sommaire: L'homélie de S. Athanase des papyrus de Turin. Un nouveau manuscrit de la Narratio de rebus Armeniae. La vision de S. Sabak en grec. Les questions-réponses du ms. Vat. arabe. Das studium der altgeorgischen sprache in georgien. Les catéchèses de S. Theodore studite. Pseudo-Shenoute ou Christian-Behaviour. Nécrologie de Mgr Joseph Lebon et de Michel tarchnisvili. Bibliographie.
and subsequent citation by popular Roman Catholic apologists (particularly English-speaking apologists), especially because of its discussion of Mary. I'm not sure whether there is any reason to consider it be anything more than the writings of yet another Pseudo-Athanasius.

In fact, David Frankfurter appears to identify it as Pseudo-Athanasius in footnote 82 at page 35 of Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Anitique Egypt. (link)

I wonder whether any of the Catholic apologists who have been citing this work (e.g. Steve Ray, Dave Armstrong, Jimmy Akin, and [most recently] Paul Hoffer) have any defense of its authenticity. I'm guessing that each of them got the citation from some secondary source or other (perhaps even tertiary, as Lefort appears to have provided his translation in French), and did not perform any research as to the authenticity of the quotation.

Nevertheless, my guess could be wrong, and I'd be delighted to be mistaken. I don't mean this article to suggest that I've definitively proved the spurious nature of the quotation, but simply given the reader good reason to question its authenticity. If there is another side to the argument, I'd love to hear it.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Response to Armstrong's Historical Revisionism

In a post today, Dave Armstrong claims: "And Protestants continue to argue that folks can disagree on the “secondary” issues and still have unity. Nuh-uh. That ain’t a biblical view. The original Protestants didn’t argue this way at all. They felt that they had spiritual and theological truth and fought for it. It’s only when liberalism came in and continuing Protestant sectarianism, that this other worldview of acceptance of the necessary presence of contradiction and error somewhere, started being accepted." (source)

I'm not going to sit here and correct his grammar or logic. I am simply going to demonstrate from Calvin (one of the Reformers - and someone indisputably entitled to be one of "the original Protestants" by any typical Roman Catholic Standard - which normally places the start of the Reformation with Luther) that - in fact - the Reformers did believe in liberty in the non-essentials (See as well this earlier post):

Calvin, John - Institutes of the Christian Religion (presented here in Beveridge's 1599 translation), Book IV, Chapter 1, Section 12.

Heeding the marks guards against capricious separation

When we say that the pure ministry of the word and pure celebration of the sacraments is a fit pledge and earnest, so that we may safely recognise a church in every society in which both exists our meaning is that we are never to discard it so-long as these remain, though it may otherwise teem with numerous faults.

Nay, even in the administration of word and Sacraments defects may creep in which ought not to alienate us from its communion. For all the heads of true doctrine are not in the same position. Some are so necessary to be known, that all must hold them to be fixed and undoubted as the proper essentials of religion: for instance, that God is one, that Christ is God, and the Son of God, that our salvation depends on the mercy of God, and the like. Others, again, which are the subject of controversy among the churches, do not destroy the unity of the faith ; for why should it be regarded as a ground of dissension between churches, if one, without any spirit of contention or perverseness in dogmatising, hold that the soul on quitting the body flies to heaven, and another, without venturing to speak positively as to the abode, holds it for certain that it lives with the Lord? The words of the apostle are, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you," (Phil. 3: 15.) Does he not sufficiently intimate that a difference of opinion as to these matters which are not absolutely necessary, ought not to be a ground of dissension among Christians? The best thing, indeed, is to be perfectly agreed, but seeing there is no man who is not involved in some mist of ignorance, we must either have no church at all or pardon delusion in those things of which one may be ignorant, without violating the substance of religion and forfeiting salvation.

Here, however, I have no wish to patronise even the minutest errors, as if I thought it right to foster them by flattery or connivance; what I say is, that we are not on account of every minute difference to abandon a church, provided it retain sound and unimpaired that doctrine in which the safety of piety consists, and keep the use of the sacraments instituted by the Lord. Meanwhile, if we strive to reform what is offensive, we act in the discharge of duty. To this effect are the words of Paul, "If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace," (1 Cor. 14: 30.) From this it is evident that to each member of the Church, according to his measure of grace, the study of public edification has been assigned, provided it be done decently and in order. In other words, we must neither renounce the communion of the Church, nor, continuing in it, disturb peace and discipline when duly arranged.



Tuesday, May 06, 2008

After-Splash - Paul Hoffer Responds to Holy Water Debate

Some time ago, PhatCatholic and I concluded a debate on the alleged efficacy of Holy Water (link to debate). Now, Paul Hoffer has taken up the cause in support of PhatCatholic's position.

His initial post is here (link), though I understand he plans a series of additional posts on the subject.

A few quick thoughts in response.

Mr. Hoffer describes my role in the debate as "defending the negative" and lists a few of the many arguments I presented. Mr. Hoffer appears to have overlooked that I actually took the negative position by presenting rebuttal arguments that took out the attempted arguments presented by PhatCatholic.

Interestingly, Mr. Hoffer fails to provide the arguments that PhatCatholic presented. Of course, in the absence of those arguments, the counter-arguments in rebuttal may not seem to make such sense. Mr. Hoffer, however, seems to be under the impression that I needed to prove "Holy Water," to be ineffecacious. This is consistent with his presentation of only (a few of) my rebuttal arguments, and not of PhatCatholic's attempted defense of the resolution.

Mr. Hoffer mistakenly asserted "it became clear that Turretinfan ... have no real understanding of what Holy Water is or the manner in which the Catholic Church teaches it could possibly be effective against demonic forces." In fact, I do know what it is and what the Roman Catholics teach about it. Regardless, though, whether or not I knew "Holy Water" from dishwater, PhatCatholic had the burden of establishing the actual efficacy (not "could possibly be effective") of whatever-it-is that he calls "Holy Water." In other words, my supposed ignorance was something that could only have helped PhatCatholic. I think that the objective reader can judge for himself whether any of PhatCatholic's positions and/or fallback positions had merit.

Mr. Hoffer goes on to explain that he would like to spend some time explaining Sacramentals. I have no problem with him doing so, of course. I think, though, that if he wishes to revive PhatCatholic's position that Holy Water is actually effective at stopping demonic forces, he is going to have a long creek to paddle - and that he will not get to his destination simply by explaining what they are.

At the end of the day, I think we will find that the notion of using "Holy Water" to try to ward off demons is not Biblical, but rather that such use of "Holy Water" is nothing more than a superstitious medieval invention. In fact, that it is simply a superstition that evolved over time is something that seems rather immediately apparent when an investigation into the alleged basis for the practice is made.

So, I look forward to Mr. Hoffer's series on the so-called Sacramentals. I appreciate his systematic way of thinking and his pleasing way of presenting his position. On the other hand, I do not have high expectations that the arguments in favor of the alleged efficacy will be any less leaky than those of PhatCatholic. Still, Mr. Hoffer's posts with their calm and well-planned presentation may provide benefit both for Roman Catholics and others in analyzing the issues and simplifying the differences between us. Additionally, Mr. Hoffer may provide a new position (for example that "Holy Water" is merely possibly efficacious) that will somewhat moderate the position taken by PhatCatholic in the debate.


N.B. Two items:

a) Mr. Hoffer at one point refers to me as "he/she." Just for the record, it is "he," as can be seen, for example, in my Blogger profile.

b) I note that Mr. Hoffer views this discussion of Sacramentals as more important than debating the Corban rule. I don't know whether this should be viewed as his announcement that such a debate is off the table, or only that it is to follow the discussion of the so-called Sacramentals. Since I believe that such a debate would be instructive, I hope that the latter case is what Mr. Hoffer intended.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Grinding the Grain: Responding to the Substance of Trey Austin's Arguments

Having disposed of the chaff in an earlier post (link), we may now turn to the grain portion of Trey's recent post responding to questions I had posed as to the view of my theological opponents (or are they?) regarding the atonement.

I was a little disappointed to see that Trey decided to answer only the questions upon which I had noted agreement to an affirmative answer, and not to answer those questions that I thought might possibly highlight differences between us, the series of questions beginning "Or do you mean more that" here. Those were, in essence, the softball questions to which I hoped both sides of the matter could find harmony and agreement, and (to be clear) Trey affirmed each of those unifying questions.

Trey, however, provided some further commentary on the questions which thankfully provides some basis for highlighting the distinctions between the theology he is presenting and the theology that I am presenting.

To highlight those points, let me comment on a few (I hope, representative) things Trey says:

"This [i.e. "that Christ’s death was really and actually sufficient here and now not only for the elect but also for many more and anyone else"] can’t be true if, as some people explain, God put on the crucified Christ the particular sins of particular people and no others. "

This is a point where we differ. The intrinsic infinite value of Christ's death is dependent on its nature: i.e. the fact that Christ was the God-man, the fact that Christ was innocent, and the fact that Christ's death was voluntary. We can derive this knowledge from the Old Testament sacrificial system, in which animals were selected based on certain intrinsic attributes. Christ is the "lamb without blemish" and so forth, that has - by virtue of his nature as victim - infinite sufficiency.

Imputation is an application of that sufficiency.

To provide an analogy, suppose that you have a priceless Monet painting and you are in a bazaar seeking to buy food. There are a few corndog stands, a few cabbage vendors, and some folks selling rice by the bag. Whether you apply the value of painting to purchase a single corn dog, or whether you apply the value of the painting to buy all the food for sale in the bazaar, the painting has the same intrinsic value.

It would be improper to judge the entire value of the painting by that for which it was traded, just as it would be improper to evaluate the entire sufficiency of Christ's death by the sins of the particular people for whom Christ died. The bartered-for item sets a lower bound on the value, but not an upper bound. Christ's death is super-sufficient: it is intrinsically sufficient not only for those whose sins were imputed to Christ, but as well for those whose sins were not imputed to Christ.

"Note: you can hold to limited atonement without holding to limited imputation; and that’s the heart of this debate"

Part of the debate certainly is whether it is proper to call a view "limited atonement," if the view encompasses unlimited imputation. Trey, however, does not set forth what he fully intends by this statement (in fact, it appears as a parenthetical), and consequently there's little space to rebut its underlying unexpressed contentions.

"how could Christ’s work be really and truly sufficient for any person who is not elect, if their sins were never “paid for” in any sense, even provisionally"

I've omitted the question mark, because Trey seems to think this is a rhetorical question. The problem is that, as illustrated by the painting above, the sufficiency of the ransom is not determined by the thing ransomed. Christ's death is sufficient to set all mankind free, though it was not applied to that end.

To ask, "how could Christ's work ... be sufficient ... if their sins were never paid for," is to ask "how could the painting be sufficient if it were not used to buy that bag of rice of there but only the corn dog?"

To add the qualification "even provisionally," causes one's eyebrows to arch, but Trey doesn't trey to explain how something can be "provisionally" paid for, and so we need not explore that odd avenue at this time. Who knows but that we might find it not odd at all, if he explained it.

"And thus, as the one who is offering Christ sincerely, he [God] must have a real substance by which to say, “If you come, you will be saved.” If there were nothing in Christ for the non-elect, nothing of his work applicable to them, then when God offers salvation to the non-elect through his ministers, he would be lying. "

I've left of Trey's rhetorical negation. Nevertheless, Trey seems to insist that God ground the conditional offer of salvation one way (by over-imputation, as it were) rather than another (by grace). The statement, "If you come, you will be saved," is a true statement if everyone who comes is saved. That is so, quite regardless of whether Christ's work is applicable in any way to people who don't come.

This is rather elementary: what makes the statement, "If you come, you will be saved," is a sincere intent on God's part to save everyone who comes. It has really nothing whatsoever to do with the way that God accomplishes that salvation.

What Trey seems to have overlooked is the "grace" side of the picture. No one comes, unless Father draws him. The gospel offer is not a statement that everyone has the ability to come, or that Christ has provided salvation for the reprobate. The gospel offer is a conditional statement, and is true if God intends to honor his promise.

"had there been nothing in Christ or what he did for them or that was applicable to them, then they rejected nothing"

They rejected the command of God. The refused to turn from their sins. They refused to come to Christ. The rejected the way of salvation.

"I think we both agree that God has decreed to apply Christ’s redemptive work to the elect alone and to no others; that is not in disbute [sic] at all." (italics carefully preserved)

Well, perhaps that is the case. Nevertheless, there seem to be suggestions from Trey's side (perhaps not from Trey himself) that God decreed to "provisionally" apply Christ's work - or that God decreed to actually apply Christ's work in such a way so as to impute the sins of both elect and non-elect to Christ. That looming question-mark was the reason for the unanswered questions I posed in my original post. (incidentally, not every question-mark means that there is heresy lurking behind - it just means something is unclear)

"Take dogs, for instance. Dogs aren’t answerable for failing to come to Christ, and they accrue no guilt for rejecting him. That’s ridiculous example, you might say. I know; it is—not only because dogs aren’t rational beings, but also becasue [sic] they’re not willful sinners. But the point still remains that Christ died in *NO* sense for dogs. "

That's certainly Trey's point, but it is not the relevant point. Dogs are not commanded to repent and seek salvation. No one is commanded (as such) to be saved by Christ's blood. Instead, men are commanded to avail themselves of repentance and faith - and without the grace of God, they refuse, thereby increasing their condemnation as rebels.

"If the strict particularists are correct (i.e., like those whom Dabney opposed, who said that, had God elected more, Christ would have had to suffer more for those in particular; their scheme being a “so much for so many” kind of commercialism), "

I'm not convinced that "strict particularists" is necessarily an adequate description of those whom Dabney opposed by opposing "so much for so many." While certainly some few strict particularists would hold such a view, the view is more common among inconsistent universalists, who make arguments such as that Christ must have "paid for" each and every actual sin or the atonement was not sufficient for such sins. In fact, it is a "commercial" mentality "so much for so many" that seemingly underwrites the objection that if certain sins were not imputed to Christ, that Christ's death was not sufficient to purchase forgiveness of those sins.

Regardless, though, of whether Dabney stands on my side of the aisle (for the time being), we do reject the "so much for so many" formulation. I reject it, and I know that Dr. White rejects it. In fact, even Dave Hunt rejects such a formulation. Apparently, Trey rejects it as well - which is good, and I'm glad of that.

Nevertheless, though it was not a "so much for so many," Christ's work was a payment, and a particular payment for particular people. It was (and is) a sufficient price for more than was purchased - and for more than could have been purchased (since its intrinsic sufficiency is much greater than the combined sinfulness of all humanity). Nevertheless, it is a ransom: Scripture says so.

"Clearly Paul makes a distinction between Christ being savior of all men and being savior for all who believe, but even while he makes that distinction, there is obviously some overlap in the core of his meaning, which is to say that it is a difference in degree of salvation (i.e., available as savior as opposed to being an effectual savior), not a difference in kind of salvation (i.e., temporal “salvation” vs. eternal salvation)."

I don't think Trey could make out an exegetical case for the idea that it is a difference in "degree of salvation," as opposed to a difference in "kind of salvation." The idea of someone being saved from hell to some "degree" and not to the uttermost is a puzzling concept on its own. Trey, however, has not attempted to provide an exegetical explanation, and perhaps he really meant something other than "degree" in such a sense as 50% is a degree half way between "not at all" and "fully." I've addressed this verse elsewhere, such as at item (23) on this list. For now that brief explanation should suffice.

Trey notes that another view of the same verse is "they ["many" early Reformers] in fact favor of interpreting it as an affirmation that Christ is the only Savior available to men through whom they might be saved"

This interpretation is not so entirely implausible that we would want to break fellowship over the difference. Indeed, it is a true statement that Christ is the only Savior available to men through they might be saved. Nevertheless, considering the verse within the context, and more carefully analyzing the Scriptural use of the terms involved, we have come to realize with (as Trey seems to admit) many of the Puritan scholars that the view of the verse as distinguishing between salvation merely of the body, and salvation of both the body and soul is what is best understood to be under discussion.

As I best understood, from the discussion in the chaff portion of Trey's post, we should not expect to see any follow-up from him on this. Nevertheless, I hope he will thing again of his position of non-interaction, in favor of constructive dialog, debate, and explanation.

After all, since we are both writing in public, even if the other of us is not edified, perhaps those who read will be edified. Perhaps also, Trey might considering answering the more difficult questions that were posed in the original post, the series of questions beginning "Or do you mean more that" here, questions where we may (or perhaps not?) part ways. The object is not to divide, but to explain. After all, it would be a shame for merely semantic difference to divide Christian brethren.

To God be the glory,


Chaff Removal

Trey Austin begins his latest post with more personal antipathies - not against Dr. White, this time - but against this present anonymous author.

Trey writes:

"It has taken me a while to post this, primarily because i [sic] have decided not to pursue further interaction with TurretinFan."

The fact that this purported resolution of Trey's is the lead-in to a lengthy response to questions I posed is odd. Nevertheless, this sort of parting-shot mentality is something I'd steer my readers clear of. It has gotten other e-poligists in trouble in the past, especially when they post their next round of response to the folks they are supposedly ignoring.

"His anonymity is very problematic."

My anonymity, of course, is problematic for people who want to make the debate personal. It is problematic for people who want to debate the other person, rather than the other argument. All that they can do is latch on to the anonymity itself as some sort of excuse for not addressing the issues. It is also problematic for those who think that there is justifiable jihad, or who simply want to take debate to the level of fisticuffs.

It is also somewhat problematic, one might argue, for the anoymous person. It limits the ability of the anonymous person to attach his personal positives to his arguments. Instead, it forces the arguments to stand on their own strength. It makes the writings speak for themselves.

"He can say or so [sic - perhaps "do" was intended?] anything he desires, and there is no way for anyone wronged to see [sic - perhaps "seek" was intended?] recourse and correct his behavior other than trying to contact him through his blog."

Several responses here:

a) This isn't really a problem for someone interested in dialogue, discussion, or even debate. It is a problem for someone who gets somehow personally injured by something that is said. Notice, however, that Trey doesn't make any claims to falling into such a category. If he does think that something I've said somehow injures him, he really ought to contact me.

b) Which brings us to the second part of the issue, namely that not only can one contact the present author through the blog (such as by leaving a comment); but also by email (my email is available through my Blogger profile). In fact, many people have contacted the present author by email, though (at least in my memory) none has contacted the present author about a matter of personal injury, without receiving satisfaction. If there are any out there who feel they have been injured by something I wrote, I encourage them to please hurry to take advantage of the opportunity to resolve this with me privately, if possible.

c) Finally, of course, there is a further way for the matter to be remedied, namely publicly. If, for example, I were to say, "Trey believes in sacrificing goats in the New Testament era," on my blog, Trey could set the matter straight by denying that on his own blog. Now, one would hope that I wouldn't make things up about people, but if I did do so, and in public, there's a public way to respond to those sorts of things.

As a continuation of (c), I encourage all my critics to use public fora like their own blogs to address what they perceive to be my public errors. More than one person has tried to sieze the opportunity to do so, and I am willing to let the record speak for itself. Put your response somewhere where the search engines like "Google" can see it, and anyone who is wondering can find the answer. On top of that, I normally do not delete links to the posts that I make, though I suppose I could, which makes it even easier for people to find your rebuttal.

"My personaly [sic] view is that this kind of hiding behind false names does not lend itself to open debate and discussion."

"Hiding behind" false names (or behind no name at all) has a very long history of promoting open debate and discussion. Surely Trey is aware of that fact. In fact, I recently posted a discussion on the maxim "in the essentials, unity - in the non-essentials, liberty - in all things, charity." As I noted there, the maxim first appeared in what is believed to have been a pseudonymous work.

And of course, in this day of 6+ billion people, simply a name (whether true or false) is almost equivalent to anonymity, until more details are provided. The Chinese are starting to really feel the burden of this problem as a small handful of family names dominate their population. Similar problems exist in the "Smith" and "Jones" clans in the English-speaking world.

Apparently, in the imagination of my theological opponent (or is he? more on that when we get to the grain of his post) open debate and discussion must be between people who have some way of tracking the other person down. If that kind of mentality bothers you, you and I are not alone.

"Children of light not not seek the darkness as a place to hide while they discuss the things of God."

I wonder whether this was first penned by a pope who was unaware of a certain former monk's whereabouts, or by Saul when he sought David's life. I wonder if it was penned against those in the catacombs. Regardless of who penned it, it is absurd.

I present arguments in the light of the Internet. As far as I know, my arguments are more open to the light than arguments have ever been before in the history of mankind. I write in English, a language comprehensible to the vast majority of the Internet-equipped world, even where it is not their primary language - and a language from which many machines can translate into other languages for those who do not read English.

The arguments are open to the light. I don't whisper heresy in secret: I proclaim the truth openly. If my arguments are bad, there errors are evident to the world. Indeed, given the media I use I cannot speak out of two sides of my mouth to two different people: instead I have to be consistent, using the same arguments defending the faith against Muslims as against Mormons and Papists.

"It also does not seem to me that TurretinFan is at all interested in learning anything at all, but only with “proclaiming” his view, cursorily “refuting” the other person’s (with whom he disagrees), and claiming that he has summarily answered it and done battle for the Kingdom of God."

This sort of motive-questioning doesn't deserve a detailed response. The short response is that the very post to which Trey goes on to respond is a post full of questions. Perhaps Trey which is to impugn my motives, but he could have placed his false claims in a more persuasive context!

"Well, that’s not what i [sic] call doing work for the Kingdom of God."

No further comment.

"Bludgeoning people with your views is not what any Christian is called to do—and it would be ridiculous to call that 'standing for the truth.'"

While that word "bludgeoning" is quite colorful, one sees the metaphor start breaking down when it comes out that my instrument of spiritual warfare is not the cudgel of "[my] views" but the sword of the Spirit, namely the Word of God: Scriptures.

"Thus saith TurretinFan," would be an absurd cudgel. It's shadowy weight would damage no heresy, nor leave the slightest scratch in the anti-Christian messages that exist. Throwing the force of the fact that I believe something to be true is like adding the most infintessimal antenna of the tiniest species of ant at the gates of the castle.

I suppose I could try to add some weight to my views by setting forth my name, credentials, etc. - but that would take away from the point of my presence here, which is to proclaim the Word of God, and the true doctrines of the church of the Living God.

To which end, may God give me grace,


P.S. I hope to turn shortly to the "grain" portion of Trey's post.