Friday, December 19, 2008

Reading Material for Mr. David Armstrong

It may be that, for some reason or other, Mr. Armstrong still pops by my blog. If so, I think he'll get get a kick out of this post (link). Mr. Armstrong's policy of labeling those who say that Rome teaches another gospel "anti-Catholics," leads to a conflation between what the author of the linked article calls "good anti-catholicism" and "bad anti-catholicism." I don't agree with the article, but I think it should provide those who are quick to apply the "anti-Catholic" label with some food for thought.


Criticism of Rome's Celibate Priesthood - Rebuttals to Objections

A while back I had blogged a post on the Married Priest Movement (link), which garnered a variety of criticism, from one guy who insists that I must use the word "dissent" the way he says his church does - to several more interesting comments that I'd like to discuss below.

The people are being addressed in reverse chronological order of when they commented, but their comments are (I hope) presented in the order in which the respective person wrote them.

Mike Burgess wrote:
TF said "There is no basis for saying that a chaste life of marriage is less holy than chaste life of celibacy from Scripture."

Untrue. See 1 Corinthians 7, particularly vv. 28-35. This is clear Scriptural warrant for the discipline, and it follows the spirit of St. Paul's inspired words: the one who is celibate seeks to be holy in body and spirit, he is concerned with the things of the Lord, and it is good to be married but "better" to remain celibate.

And, to follow up, vv 36-38 make it clear that the Bishop you quoted is correct: there is no doctrinal reason, and the Church has always allowed priests in some particular Churches to marry. She has chosen to impose a discipline for reasons of "good order," as St. Paul says, in the Latin Rite Churches of the One Church.

I presume I shouldn't need to quote St. Paul's words in full to such a biblically literate audience.
There are two main claims here:
1) Burgess is claiming that 1 Corinthians 7:28-35 (perhaps he means to through vs. 38) does teach that a chaste life of marriage is less holy than chaste life of celibacy; and
2) Burgess is claiming that 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 justifies the prohibition on priestly marriage for reasons of "good order."

First things first, let's look at the text itself. Despite Burgess' reasonable confidence in the Biblical literacy of the readership of this blog, we should still take a look at what the text says:

1 Corinthians 7:28-38
28But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. 29But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; 30And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; 31And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. 32But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 36But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. 37Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 38So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.

As to Burgess' first claim with respect to this passage, the key part of the passage would seem to be "he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better."

The very first counter-observation to be made is that the verse doesn't say "holy" vs. "more holy" but "well" vs. "better." The question is, in what way "better"? If the answer is "better in the sense of more holy," then the distinction makes no difference.

Unfortunately, Burgess doesn't provide us with much of a positive case for his position here. He seems to assume that "better" means "more holy." Perhaps his concise comment is the rational result of my policy of publishing comments slowly, perhaps because he hasn't considered the issue, either way we can evaluate the passage and determine whether it is holiness or something else that is under consideration.

The comparison of "well" to "better" is really a comparison between καλως (kalos = well) and κρεισσον (kreisson = better). Kreisson is rarely used in the New Testament. Its two other NT uses are 1 Corinthians 11:17 and Philippians 1:23.

1 Corinthians 11:17 states that when the Corinthians assemble, it is not for better (κρεισσον) but for worse, and the word for worse here is ηττον (hetton - worse), which does not seem have any particular moral significance.

Philippians 1:23 states that to be with Christ is a thing far better (κρεισσον), but that it is needful for Paul to be with Philippians, and consequently he is "in a straight betwixt two" as the King James version puts it or "hard pressed from both directions" as the NAS puts it.

Nevertheless, there are a few additional uses in the LXX:

1) In Exodus 14:12, the Israelites say it would have been better (κρεισσον) to serve in Egypt than die in the wilderness.
2) In Judges 8:2, Gideon praises the vintage of Ephraim as better (κρεισσον) than that of Abiezer.
3) In Psalm 36:16, it is said that a little is better (κρεισσον) to the righteous than great wealth is to the wicked.
4) In Psalm 62:4, it is said that God's mercy is better (κρεισσον) than life.
5) In Proverbs 21:9, it is said that it is better (κρεισσον) to live in a corner of a housetop, than to live in a plastered house with unrighteousness.
6) In Proverbs 21:19, it is said that is is better (κρεισσον) to live in the wilderness than with a militant, talkative, and angry woman.
7) In Proverbs 25:7, it is said that it is better (κρεισσον) that it be said to you "come up hither" in the eyes of your prince (than to be told to take a lesser seat)

In short, what we can infer from these uses is that the word κρεισσον doesn't have any intrinsic moral significance. It can mean simply more pleasant or more convenient. In this case, the sense of "more convenient" is one obvious sense. Why might one not agree?

Verse 37 states that "he that has decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well (καλως)," and then verse 38 adds that he who gives his virgin in marriage does well (καλως)," but that he who does not, does better. What is interesting, to me, is that there is a comparative form of καλως, namely καλλιον (kallion - better) but it is not used. I think this is significant, but at a minimum it does not support the view that the comparison between giving and not giving has to do with which one is more righteous or holy.

That it is a matter of convenience and practicality can be seen from:

1 Corinthians 7:7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.


1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

and finally

1 Corinthians 7:28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

The point of the passage has to do with it being inconvenient to be married, thus, Paul explains:

1 Corinthians 7:32-33
32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

That is to say, single people have more time for explicitly serving the kingdom of God than married people do. Thus, he concludes the thought:

1 Corinthians 7:34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

With that in mind, it should be apparent that "better" does not mean "more holy" or "more righteous," but rather "more convenient." Accordingly, we can reject the first of Mr. Burgess' contentions, namely that the chaste single life is somehow more holy than the chaste married life.

Mr. Burgess' second contention, related to "good order" is again unfounded. The Apostle Paul occupies the field of marital restrictions by insisting that bishops and deacons be husbands of one wife. Further limitations on the marital status of bishops and deacons are consequently instances of forbidding what Scripture permits. Additionally, given that Scripture clearly teaches:

Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

Consequently, we also reject Mr. Burgess' second contention, that there is a valid "good order" reason to forbidding clergy from marrying.

From Mr. Burgess, we can turn to Mr. Greco.

Alexander Greco wrote:

Turretinfan: a) The analogy [to the idea that God is holier than angels] is distinguishable because the difference in holiness between God and angels relates to their being, not their actions. The issue here, however, is actions.
[Greco]: Good point.

Turretinfan: b) There is no basis for saying that a chaste life of marriage is less holy than chaste life of celibacy from Scripture.
[Greco]: But what do you make of Paul's words when he describes those who live the celibate life are of the affairs of the Lord, etc? (I'm not dealing with the terminology of "holy" versus "unholy")

Turretinfan: c) Leaving aside the issue of differences between beings (addressed under {a} above), "thing A is less holy than thing B" is logically equivalent to "thing A is more more unholy than thing B."
[Greco]: Would this really be the case though? The elect in heaven are not as holy as God, but would you say that God allows the unholy to exist in heaven?
(brackets show my edits for clarity)
Obviously, there is no real disagreement on (a). With respect to (b), as I mentioned in my response to Mr. Burgess, Paul is talking about the fact that single people have more time to give explicitly to the service of the kingdom of heaven. With respect to (c), this gets us right back to (a). An analogy between angels and the elect would be proper (or vice versa), but for the same reasons, the "elect are not as holy as God" comparison relates to being, not actions. The issue here is actions.

From Mr. Greco, we can turn to Mr. Douglass.

Ben Douglass wrote:
[Turretinfan:] b) There is no basis for saying that a chaste life of marriage is less holy than chaste life of celibacy from Scripture.
[Douglass:] 1 Cor 7:1-2, 7-9, 26-28, 32-40.
"So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better" (1 Cor 7:38).

[Turretinfan:] c) Leaving aside the issue of differences between beings (addressed under {a} above), "thing A is less holy than thing B" is logically equivalent to "thing A is more unholy than thing B."
[Douglass:] I deny. "Unholy" implies evil, which is a privation of good. "Less holy" implies mere absence of good. Not every absence of good is a privation, and hence not every absence of good is evil.

[Douglass quoting NatAmLLC:] According to the "insight" the Holy Ghost gave Paul, we will know the time is close to the end when we are forbidden to marry! Hmmmmmm?

[Douglass:] The Catholic Church doesn't force anyone to take a vow of celibacy. It is purely voluntary. Quoting 1 Tim 4:3 against Catholicism is one of the silliest arguments in the Protestant [repertoire].
(brackets show my edits for clarity/spelling)
As to (b), I've provided a detailed answer above, in my response to Mr. Burgess.
As to (c):

i) The difference between privation of good and absence of good is something that is not agreed by the Reformed, even if it is taught from the Vatican. Scripture commands the believer to be perfect:

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

You see, we believe that the standard of holiness that God requires is perfect righteousness. Thus, any absence of good in a person's life is identical to a privation of good. Furthermore, since we believe that perfect obedience is required, we do not leave room for works of supererogation. Thus, either a person is as good as they ought to be, or they fall short by some measure greater or less.

In other words, whether an act is more or less good depends on how close it comes to approximating the duty God requires of man. Accordingly, there is no bear absence of good in a man's life - instead it is privation. There are sins both of commission and omission, of course, but both are sins. The former involve a positive act, the latter the failure to act.

ii) Douglass quoted NatAmLLC: "According to the "insight" the Holy Ghost gave Paul, we will know the time is close to the end when we are forbidden to marry!"
Paul actually wrote:
1 Timothy 4:1-3
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

Those who impose celibacy and fasting (sound familiar at all?) are those that depart from the faith. I'm not sure what Mr. Douglass (or NatAmLLC) was trying to reference. There will be no marriage between humans in heaven:

Luke 20:34-36
34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

iii) Douglass stated: "The Catholic Church doesn't force anyone to take a vow of celibacy. It is purely voluntary."

They force anyone who wants to be a bishop to take that vow, as far as I know. Obviously, they don't force people (these days) to become bishops, but for those that do wish to become bishops, it is not voluntary or optional - it is mandatory.


UPDATE: Updated 22 December 2008 to indicate where Mr. Douglass was quoting NatAmLLC.

Same Church? We report, you decide.

Example 1
Pope John Paul II: "[It] is everyone's duty to work to ensure that the poor have access to credit on equitable terms and at affordable interest rates." (source) (1 January 1998)

Example 2
Pope Sixtus V famously declared interest to be "detestable to God and man, damned by the sacred canons and contrary to Christian charity" (secondary source, page 7) (1586)

I know some people will immediately try to distinguish Sixtus V's comments by noting that he was referring to "usury" and then applying the modern definition of "usury" as "excessive interest."

Example 3
Pope Benedict XIV anticipated this kind of attempt and wrote:
One cannot condone the sin of usury by arguing that the gain is not great or excessive, but rather moderate or small; neither can it be condoned by arguing that the borrower is rich; nor even by arguing that the money borrowed is not left idle, but is spent usefully, either to increase one's fortune, to purchase new estates, or to engage in business transactions. The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is given and returned; once the equality has been established, whoever demands more than that violates the terms of the loan. Therefore if one receives interest, he must make restitution according to the commutative bond of justice; its function in human contracts is to assure equality for each one. This law is to be observed in a holy manner. If not observed exactly, reparation must be made.
(source) (1745)

Benedict XIV argued that his position was not merely his personal private opinion or a theological innovation, and prohibited teachings against his teaching:
4. This is how the Cardinals and theologians and the men most conversant with the canons, whose advice We had asked for in this most serious business, explained their opinions. Also We devoted our private study to this matter before the congregations were convened, while they were in session, and again after they had been held; for We read the opinions of these outstanding men most diligently. Because of this, We approve and confirm whatever is contained in the opinions above, since the professors of Canon Law and Theology, scriptural evidence, the decrees of previous popes, and the authority of Church councils and the Fathers all seem to enjoin it. Besides, We certainly know the authors who hold the opposite opinions and also those who either support and defend those authors or at least who seem to give them consideration. We are also aware that the theologians of regions neighboring those in which the controversy had its origin undertook the defense of the truth with wisdom and seriousness.

5. Therefore We address these encyclical letters to all Italian Archbishops, Bishops, and priests to make all of you aware of these matters. Whenever Synods are held or sermons preached or instructions on sacred doctrine given, the above opinions must be adhered to strictly. Take great care that no one in your dioceses dares to write or preach the contrary; however if any one should refuse to obey, he should be subjected to the penalties imposed by the sacred canons on those who violate Apostolic mandates.
(same source - same date)

Was John Paul II the "successor" of Sixtus V and Benedict XIV? We report, you decide.

Nevertheless, I think a few people will recognize that JP2's view on interest (while apparently motivated by a concern for the poor) is not only different from, but expressly condemned by, Sixtus V and Benedict XIV. Popes make mistakes. Either JP2 was right or S5 and B14 were right, but they are not both right. Either taking interest on loans is a sin or it is not.

But some will complain that all this is trivial, because none of the staments involved are ex cathedra statements. Consequently, there is no impact on papal infallibility, even where (as here) popes seem to contradict one another. That kind of response (while it reveals a recognition of part of the problem) misses the thrust of the issue.

To get at the issue, let me ask a few further thought-questions for my papist readers. Do you believe you can decide who was right and who was wrong between JP2 and S5/B14? If so, what is your standard? Are you making yourself a mini-pope by deciding? If not - do you see why we are not making ourselves mini-popes when evaluate Trent or Vatican I or Vatican II? And our standard is the unshakable standard of Scripture, which is the only authenticable tradition of the apostles.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comparing John Calvin and James White

Someone ( has suggested that Calvin and Dr. White disagree about John 3:16.

I thought it would be helpful to provide some comments on the following text, which is Pringle's translation of what Calvin wrote (in Latin) on John 3:16. The particular portion of the text on which Calvin is commenting is, "That whosoever believeth on him may not perish ... ."

Calvin (according to Pringle): It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction.
White (as I imagine he might respond): As Calvin meant this, agreed. For more on this topic, see Mr. Swan's discussion (

Calvin (according to Pringle): For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us.
White (as I imagine he might respond): Agreed: that is the gospel offer.

Calvin (according to Pringle): And he has employed the universal term "whosoever," both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers.
White (as I imagine he might respond): Of course Calvin did not use the word "whosoever," that's inserted in Pringle's translation. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that the univesality of the expression "all the believing ones" cuts off every excuse from the unbeliever. He cannot say, if I were to believe, I would not be saved, for all who believe will be saved.

Calvin (according to Pringle): Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.
White (as I imagine he might respond): Again, "to be reconciled" is Pringle's gloss, for Calvin does not use a form of the Latin word "reconciliare" from which we derive our word "reconcile," but "propitium" from which we derive the word "propitious" which means "favorable." A better translation might be "yet he shows favor to the whole world," for indeed the gospel offer itself is not deserved by the world, as Calvin himself explains. And indeed, entrance by faith is nothing else than an entrance into everlasting life.


Please note that each of those statements for "White" are simply things that I imagine Dr. White might say, based on things I've read and heard from him, they are not his actual words.

In conclusion, the report that Calvin disagrees with White (quite an anachronism in itself) is most likely false, at least with respect to John 3:16. There are naturally points on which Dr. White and Calvin disagree, such as on topics of the relation between church and state and issues relating to the mode and subjects of baptism. On the free offer of the gospel and the fact that it cuts off the excuses of unbelievers, however, Calvin and Dr. White are (or at least appear to be) shoulder to shoulder.


Reciprocal Blog Links

You may note that on the left-hand side of this blog (under the current template) there is a section providing links back to folks who have kindly linked to this blog. As far as I know, this is a comprehensive list. Nevertheless, it would not surprise me to discover that I had inadvertently left someone out. If you have been left out, please don't hesitate to let me know, as I'd like to correct that error post-haste.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Rob Lundberg at The Real Issue has the inside scoop on how you can get the subject film for free (link).


Three Part Series on Reformed Theology

I recently came across this three-part series on Reformed Theology, specifically focusing on Sola Scriptura. I believe the speaker is R. C. Sproul. Unfortunately, the sound is not well synchronized with the video, or wasn't when I watched it.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

While I didn't catch any glaring errors in the presentation, I wouldn't suggest listening to these presentations uncritically. Hat Tip to Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen for bringing this to my attention (link).


Question to Romanists

Given the statement: "Religious minorities are entitled to be respected in their own religious convictions and practices. They are also entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule."

a) Do you agree with the statement?

b) Do you consider the Reformed churches "religious minorities"?

c) Do you consider Luther and/or Calvin to be "founding figures" of the Reformed churches, within the sense of this statement?

d) If you answered "yes" to each of (a)-(c), do you condemn the mocking of Luther and/or Calvin that is provided by so many Romanists?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

William Binnie on The Pslams: Their Teaching, History, and Use

I was happy to learn (I cannot recall from where) that Binnie's classic work on the Psalms is now available freely at (link).


Evangelicals - Could This be Your Child?

I was directed by Mark Shea to the blog of someone who Mr. Shea claims is "Another Protestant Start[ing] on the Whole 'Going Deeper into History and Ceasing to be a Protestant' Thing" (link to the person's blog) (link to Shea's blog). This person is someone who married a Romanist and is now in the process of "converting," presumably through the RCIA process.

My main question for you evangelicals is this: could this be your child?

Have you raised your children to understand what is the matter with Romanism, to understand not just that "Roman Catholicism is bad" or that "the Pope is the Antichrist" but what is wrong and anti-Biblical in the theology of Rome?

In studying Augustine with a group of believers the other day, I was surprised to hear one claiming that Augustine held such-and-such a view because of "Roman Catholic influences." The person making this statement was not young - and really should have known better than to make such a vast anachronism.

Unfortunately, I doubt that this person is alone in imagining that Roman Catholicism was around in Augustine's time. There are doubtless countless folks who are simply uninformed regarding what the early believers and medieval churchmen taught and believed regarding various doctrines.

Contrary to Mr. Shea's claim, the deeper I've delved into church history, the more clearly I've seen that "Protestant" principles like Sola Scriptura were taught and believed in the early church.

In this particular case, I'm afraid that whoever educated this person did not provide a full tool-bag of epistemology and hermeneutics to understand and evaluate Scriptural doctrine and the claims of Rome.

Let's take a few examples:

(1) In a recent post entitled "Beginning to Understand Indulgences," this person writes: "I don't claim to fully understand indulgences or why the church has chosen to make use of them, but I'm not going to reject it based on the already tenuous Protestant concept of "saved once and for all"."

The major reason to reject them is the fact that Scripture does not teach this doctrine.

But as well, the idea that we are "saved once and for all" is not just a "Protestant" concept, it is an explicitly Biblical concept:

Hebrew 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Perhaps even more relevant to the topic of this post, indulgences are an innovation. The use of indulgences was something unknown to, and unused by, the apostles. One does not arrive at indulgences by diving deeply into history, but only by walking about in the shallows.

(2) In another post called, "The Beginning of My Mental Conversion," the person addresses the issue of contraception. As this person points out, the person's views against the teachings of Catholicism on this point were "from eugenic propaganda."

Again, on this topic, the major objection is that the teachings of Catholicism on this matter are not in keeping with Scripture. Not only is it legalistic of Catholicism to insist that all artificial methods of contraception are wrong, but it is violative of Scripture for Catholicism to encourage couples to cheat one another of marital relations for the purposes of avoiding conception.

Every Christian parent should, at the appropriate age, sit down with their children and explain the meaning of:

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Having recreational intimacy with one's spouse is honorable and undefiled - having "unitive and procreative" relations outside of marriage is a heinous sin. That's the teaching of Scripture, whether one's church teaches otherwise or not.

(This particular post also addresses the issue of infant baptism. The person ties in the rejection of once-for-all for salvation to the rejection of believers-only baptism, so I must say that the reasons this person had for rejecting the sola-credo view were not entirely the right reasons.)

(3) In a third post, entitled, "Then who, Luther? You?" the person provided some comments on reading about Luther. The person wrote:
Luther tells Eck, "I give St. Peter the highest honor, but not the greatest power. For he does not have the power either to create, to send forth, to govern, or to ordain the Apostles." From the context, he seems to be talking about appointing successors to the apostles.

My immediate reaction to this is to say, "Then who has this power, Luther? You?"
But this belies a category error. Luther's answer would not be that Luther had such a power, but simply that no mere mortal has such a power.

The person goes on to argue:
Christ is gone until he returns at the end of time. Eleven men ordained by Christ did not reach all the Earth with their teachings before they died. Those of us who have come after need guidance. I have often heard Luther's assertion that Christ is the head of the church even now defended by saying the Holy Spirit is our liaison with Christ, and the Bible is the sole authority because people are unreliable. Honestly, every unreliable person depending on their own individual understanding as opposed to that of a structured, trained, and blessed leadership seems a lot more flawed.
The problem with this argument is that the Apostles did provide guidance to be handed down, namely the New Testament. Another problem is that it is simply a matter of fact that humans are unreliable. We see popes and councils erring when we study church history. Finally, the comparison between each person being on their own compared with a "blessed leadership" is a doubly-false dichotomy. The choice is between a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit and leaders that claim to be blessed. And even that believer is not on his own. While humans are not infallible guides, they can be of assistance. Thus, the Holy Spirit does provide the church as an invaluable aid to believers.

(4) Finally, a post entitled, "So I married a Catholic," provides the context that explains part of the reason for this change of views. The Scripture teaches:

1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

We need to teach our children to be careful about how and with whom they communicate. This particular person evidently was attracted to the Romanist now-spouse for what probably seemed very good reasons: the now-spouse was defending a theistic position against an atheist/agnostic. The problem is this, the now-spouse (whether or not a Christian) is and was a part of a church that rejects the authority of Scripture, placing itself (as a result) against the Word of God.

We can be friends with and friendly towards members of an apostate church, but we must be aware of the person's allegiances. A Christian young person needs to recognize the importance of choosing a spouse who is willing to submit his/her beliefs to the authority of Scripture.

Furthermore, Christian parents need to encourage their children not to view those within Catholicism as potential spouses, and why that is the case. I cannot say whether this person's parents provided such instruction, but it does not appear to have "taken," as this person never considered that a factor.

In this case, it seems that the person got married to a very dogmatic and insistent papist, and has been influenced by the spouse to adopt many of the doctrines of Catholicism. This is not the result of getting deep into history, but rather of failing to be grounded in a proper understanding of our source of knowledge about God and the way to obtain that knowledge.


I've tried to use this particular person (brought to the public light by Mr. Shea) as an example, not to pick on this particular person or the person's parents, but to serve as a warning to Evangelicals who are raising their children in a religious diverse world. While your children are young, you may be able to shelter them from the world and worldly religions, but there will come a time when they have to go out into the world, whether that is in college, in a job, or whatever it may be. Prepare your children now to understand what the Scripture teaches about itself, about God, and about man. Catechize your children well, so that they understand both what they believe and why they believe it.

As Scripture says:

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.


A Sad Metaphor - Church Stolen But No One Noticed

Russian church stolen by thieves (link). Unfortunately, while it can happen that an entire church building can be taken by thieves without anyone noticing, it can also happen that a church hierarchy can be taken by thieves without people noticing.

The remedy in the first case is vigilance and attendance at the church building.

The remedy in the second case is vigilance and attendance on the Word of God found in the Holy Scripture.

John 10:1-18
1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. 17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

This also ties in with my previous post on the voluntary nature of Christ's death.


Christ's Voluntary Death

I greatly enjoyed the following video by Dr. James White, explaining to a Muslim antagonist the voluntary nature of Christ's death on the cross:

I would add that there is more revelation that declares that Jesus' sacrifice was voluntary, namely in the prophecy of that great prophet, the prophet Isaiah (prophecying of Jesus the Messiah):

Isaiah 53:7-8
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

It Jesus who was slain for the transgressions (sins) of the elect. And the prophecy continues:

Isaiah 53:9-10

9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

You see, Jesus was an offering for sins, by which obtained his seed - his children purchased by his blood. And still the prophecy continues:

Isaiah 53:11-12
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

It was not an easy thing to do, but He did it and was satisfied. Through his knowledge (love) many are justified, by his bearing their iniquities (sins). He poured out his soul unto death, it was his choice, and yet he is great by virtue of this humiliation.

The sins of the elect were imputed to Christ, and he bare those sins, and now makes intercession for the elect in heaven.

He is our God and our hope for eternal life. He is the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy.


A Challenge for Reformation Scholarship

While many important Reformation works were printed, there remains much handwritten material. There are several projects that have taken on the challenge of converting handwritten material to printed and/or electronic form. For an example of the challenge involved, check out this recent post at Evangelical Textual Criticism (link) and try your hand at transcribing this short (half page?) note apparently by the famous textual scholar Tischendorf.


Excellent Recent Posts on Calvinism

Here are some excellent recent (well, they were recent when I first drafted this post - they still seem pretty good) posts on Calvinism.



Leo X on Luther

Do people still believe what Leo X said about Luther. Mr. Bellisario (editor of the "Catholic Champion" blog) has republished part of an English translation of one of Leo X's writings against Luther. (link).

What's interesting is that the the decree Mr. Bellisario cuts and pastes from here (link) makes reference to an earlier bull, Exsurge Domine, also by Leo X, in which Leo X says:

Moreover, because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther, we likewise condemn, reprobate, and reject completely the books and all the writings and sermons of the said Martin, whether in Latin or any other language, containing the said errors or any one of them; and we wish them to be regarded as utterly condemned, reprobated, and rejected. We forbid each and every one of the faithful of either sex, in virtue of holy obedience and under the above penalties to be incurred automatically, to read, assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or defend them. They will incur these penalties if they presume to uphold them in any way, personally or through another or others, directly or indirectly, tacitly or explicitly, publicly or occultly, either in their own homes or in other public or private places. Indeed immediately after the publication of this letter these works, wherever they may be, shall be sought out carefully by the ordinaries and others [ecclesiastics and regulars], and under each and every one of the above penalties shall be burned publicly and solemnly in the presence of the clerics and people.

Indeed, the bull pasted by Bellisario makes reference to this particular section, noting: "in several states and localities of the said Germany the books and writings of the said Martin were publicly burned, as we had enjoined."

The document concludes (in a style normal for papal bulls): "X No one whatsoever may infringe this our written decision, declaration, precept, injunction, assignation, will, decree; or rashly contravene it. Should anyone dare to attempt such a thing, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."

I've asked before, and I'll ask again: who has infringed this written decision and/or contravened it? Did they do so with a greater authority than that of Leo X?

I've heard people claim that "canon law" has done away with the penalty announced by Leo X for reading Luther, but I have not seen how they propose to use canon law to overcome, infringe, or contravene a papal bull.


Monday, December 15, 2008

The real Turretin on: the Atonement

In a post that, like the last one I just linked to, I cannot fully endorse, Dr. James Galyon provides an interesting discussion of (and commentary on) the historic Reformed position of the atonement in contrast to the multi-intention view (source).


The real Turretin on: Omniscience

Jason Barnhart (link) has an interesting post in which he argues that three aspects of the Reformed view of God's omniscience are actually a pagan inheretance. I don't endorse his post, and if I had more time, I'd consider addressing his thesis.


Galileo - Heretic or not?

A recent article (link) suggests that further attempts are being made at trying to rehabilitate Galileo. Almost all papists today would agree that Galileo was right and the Vatican was wrong. Most, however, would argue that the Vatican doesn't claim any infallibility in areas of science. Here's the problem, Galileo was tried not for science errors, but for heresy. So, was Galileo's teaching heretical or not? Was the Vatican right then or now (assuming that they are now willing to acknowledge that Galileo's views are/were not heretical)?


Update: News article entitled, "Pope Praises Galileo" (link).

Responses to Response to Twilight/Molinism Post

Both Steve Hayes and TheoJunkie (TJ) have responded to my previous post (link) on the movie Twilight and Molinism.

TJ wrote:
But what would Joe the Plumber think?

You gave a basic premise statement regarding Molinism... can you provide a corresponding direct basic premise statement regarding Calvinism? Your post hints at it, but does not come out and say it.

You said that the basic premise of middle knowledge is that God knows what a particular person would do in a particular situation, prior to God's decision as to what the future will be...

It seems clear that you would not state the Calvinistic premise in exact opposite terms from the Molinist premise, i.e.: that God knows what a particular person would do in a particular situation, AFTER God's decision as to what the future will be. For this statement falls somewhere between nonsense and the fatalistic "floppy string" idea.

Your post suggests that the basic premise of Calvinism is that God knows what a particular person will do in a particular situation, because God decided that is what the person will do in that particular situation (which of course is informed by God's decision as to what will occur in the future).

However, this statement-- without elaboration-- appears to affirm the accusations of "puppetry" that some levy against Calvinism.

We know the bible says God directs a man's steps. Yet we observe that those steps are the steps we choose to take.

Do you consider that God directs the will in each decision, or is it possible that God directs circumstances (the particulars of a particular situation) in order to bring about the steps he has chosen for the man in advance? Or would you agree it is a little of both (or either/or depending on what needs to be done in the moment)?

Is it even possible to incorporate that into a basic premise statement?
I answer:

Calvinism teaches that God's knowledge, which is truly simple, is viewed for analytical purposes under two aspects. First, there is natural knowledge. Second, there is free knowledge. Natural knowledge is the knowledge of all possible things - all things that are logically possible. Free knowledge is the knowledge of all things that arise from God's exercise of his will.

One might argue (and probably a Molinist would argue) that hypothetical questions (for example: "If I stay in the city, will the men of the city deliver me into the hands of my enemy?") raise a third category of knowledge. This apparent third category, however, disappears upon further examination.

A hypothetical question, properly framed, hypothecates something (the hypothecand) and asks for a consequence of that hpyothecand. There are a number of possible forms of hypothetical questions.

1) Questions as to abstract ideas.
Example 1: If the conclusion does not follow from the premises, is the syllogism valid?
Example 2: If three is divided by pi, is the quotient less than one?

These questions would be answered from natural knowledge. Both relate to matters of definition and/or logic. These are not the sorts of hypothetical questions that Molinists are interested in.

2) Questions as to Factual Things
Example 1: If Christ is raised, will we also be raised?
Example 2: If I am a man, do I have authority over all women?

In both of these example, the hypothecand is factual. Christ is raised, and I am a man. These questions would normally be answered from free knowledge. God has decreed that we will be raised with Christ - and God has not given me authority over all women.

3) Questions as to Logically Impossible Things
Example 1: If up is down, ...
Example 2: If nothing truly exists, ...

In these cases, the hypothecand is logically impossible. The rest of the question does not really matter, because the question is predicated on something incoherent. This category of hypothetical questions is also not interesting to the Molinist.

4) Questions as to Factually Untrue Things
Example 1: If Abraham Lincoln had not been shot, would Reconstruction of the South progressed differently?
Example 2: If I die tomorrow, will I go to heaven?

I don't really know whether the hypothecand in Example 2 is factually untrue yet. Let's just assume it is not true for the sake of the argument. These are the sorts of questions to which Molinists typically appeal, referring to them as "counterfactual" statements.

These questions raise some interesting epistemological issues. Is any answer to these questions totally speculative, are there "true" and "false" answers to these questions, or is there some other available category? I believe the best answer is to specify a third category.

The third category is that the question should not be interpreted as looking for a "true" or "false" answer with respect to history. After all, in the first example, one recognizes that historical hypothecand did not take place, in the latter example, one has no way of knowing whether the future hypothecand will take place.

Accordingly, the question is looking for an answer that has a speculative component, but not simply a speculative component. If we provide a third example, we can see how this might be:

Example 3: In a game of War, Mike played a Queen. If I had played a King, would I have beaten Mike? (Or, "Mike has played a Queen. If my next card is a King, will I beat Mike?")

Those people who know the rules of the card game, War, can readily answer the question in the affirmative. After all, that's what the question is really getting after: what are the rules? (You could also phrase the question such that you are saying, "Mike has played a King, will my next card beat Mike's?" which is really asking about what card is next in your stack of cards.)

Example 2, above, has a similar object. It is asking less about the existence of a situation in which the hypothecand is true, and more about the rules of salvation, as it were. When a preacher asks you, "If you died right this minute, would you go to heaven?" he is asking about whether you are justified - right with God. If you are right with God, then the answer would be in the affirmative. If you are not justified, then the answer would be in the negative.

Example 1, above, is a bit more complex. Ultimately, though, what it looks like is that the questioner is asking about is a cause/effect relation. Obviously, there is some speculation, but the answer will typically revolve around the differing attitudes of Lincoln vs. Johnson towards the South, as well as the psychological impact of the assassination.

The underlying presupposition to such a question is that humans behave an orderly, generally predictable way. If we say that Reconstruction would have been kinder and gentler, then we are really saying something about the softer character of Lincoln. Alternatively, if we say that it would have been more severe, we may be saying something about the terror that the assassination had on Johnson.

To take a Biblical example:

1 Samuel 23:12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.

The LORD here is saying something about the character of the men of Keilah: their fear of Saul was greater than their loyalty to David. Had David stayed, this aspect of their nature would have resulted in their handing David over to Saul. God doesn't answer David either, "They might or might not - depends what I decree," or "They might or might not - depends what they choose." Instead, God reveals something to David about the hearts of men of Keilah, something that God could see, though David could not see.

So, to answer, your question: no, there's not a corresponding statement in Calvinism, because Calvinism rejects a third category of knowledge called "middle knowledge." Instead, Calvinism addresses hypothetical questions asked now, in time, as relating either to natural or free knowledge, depending on the situation, as illustrated above.

You also asked: "Do you consider that God directs the will in each decision, or is it possible that God directs circumstances (the particulars of a particular situation) in order to bring about the steps he has chosen for the man in advance? Or would you agree it is a little of both (or either/or depending on what needs to be done in the moment)?" God works all things together - so that the operate according to his infinitely perfect plan. How God does this is not always clear. God seems to have set in place "laws of nature" (for example) that dictate how matter moves and acts, and God also seems to have set in place certain sociological or psychological laws that dictate how human beings move and act. The study of economics, for example, is possible because of the general predictability of humans, which suggests underlying laws of behavior. Nevertheless, it is not always clear in any given case how God directs such-and-such a person to decide on such-and-such a course of action. One thing we deny: that God does violence to man's will in the ordinary course of life.

Steve Hays of Triablogue also has provided some comments (here). His thoughts are mostly not directly directed as critique on what I wrote but as relating to science fiction stories regarding time travel. I have enjoyed at least one of Steve's short stories on time travel (I have this one in mind), and obviously my post shouldn't be interpreted as any sort of condemnation of those stories.

Steve mentions, "5. Finally, I’m not entirely sure if I agree with Turretin Fan on the coherence of prophecy. The potential problem is this: if a prophecy is too detailed, it generates a dilemma. For it thereby invites its own failure." Steve mentions that a very detailed prophecy could still be fulfilled even if it were communicated in great detail to a person, but he states that "However, Calvinism traditionally rejects such a coercive model of fulfillment." I think it is fair to say that Calvinism generally does reject the idea that God normally operates coercively with respect to man's will. Of course, though, God is not limited to using coercive means to bring about his end. On the other hand, the story of Jonah provides something of a counter-example. Ultimately, though, I agree that God does not bring about the fulfillment of prophecy in a fatalistic way. Thus, if the prophecy about Cyrus' name was communicated to Cyrus' mother, God also arranged that this woman would enjoy fulfilling the prophecy.

Ultimately, any thought there is need for fatalistic measures lies in a limited view of the extent of God's arrangement of things. In other words, God could arrange it so that He would not be revealing the future to uncooperative people (I think this corresponds - at least roughly - to the restrictions that Steve places on prophecy in his article). If God communicates the future, he does so for a reason - perhaps even the reason of bringing about the future. I found it interesting to observe in the recent Disney film, "Kung Fu Panda," that the Kung Fu master is depicted as a type 2 seer, seeing the unavoidable future. In an interesting plot device (*spoiler alert*), the fact that the prophecy cannot be avoided is foreshadowed by a cryptic comment by the senior master. The prophecy relates to the escape of a particular prisoner. The junior master, not realizing that the escape is inevitable, sends his messenger to warn the prison. While at the prison, the messenger drops an item (a feather) that enables the prisoner to escape, thereby leading to the fulfillment of the prophecy.


Pseudonymity and the Calvinists

In this particular venue, I publish under a pseudonym. That does not go over well with lots of people. It is particularly amusing, though, for me to hear "Calvinists" complaining about my use of a pseudonym.

Calvin apparently wrote under at least three pseudonyms:

(1) Alcuinus

(2) Charles d'Espeville

(3) Martinus Lucanius

(see here for more detail)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Airport Philosophy and Sola Scriptura

“Life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

Steve Ray (a Romanist) responds to the above airport signage, with the follow:
All of life is a profound journey but with very definite destinations: Heaven or Hell! If you’re on the travel through life ONLY for the thrill of the trip you’re in BIG trouble. You better set your sites on the ultimate destination — heaven! Nothing is more important. And remember that entrance gate to heaven is very narrow so plan well!

There's a bit of irony in Steve's comment, because Steve is leading folks on vacation/pilgrimage tours. Tours are really about the journey, since one's destination is the same as one's starting point: home (although obviously one could view a tour as made up of many little journeys to many little destinations).

There's a more subtle and important layer of irony, though. Ray is right about life being a journey toward one of two destinations, Heaven or Hell. And Ray is right that we should be preparing in advance, and that the entrance to heaven is very narrow. But Ray has left out the most important part, the Guide!

Who shows us the way to Heaven? It is God in His Holy Word!

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

How do we understand the Word of God? By the ministry of the Holy Spirit!

Psalm 119:18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

God is more than just a cosmic tour-guide, of course. The gate is so narrow that a camel has a better chance of squeezing through the eye of a needle than even a rich man has of being saved.

Luke 18:25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (see also Matthew 19:24 and Mark 10:25, which say basically the same thing)

So then, how can anyone be saved? The answer is the grace of God, which gives life to the dead, which opens the eyes of the blind.

What is the way to heaven? The answer is Jesus, and him alone. Jesus declares, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)

Certainly men are an important mechanism to help in this journey:

Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

But not every preacher preaches the true gospel. There are many false teachers, blind guides of the blind. The scribes and Pharisees were such, with their human traditions:

Matthew 23:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

And that was not the end of such false teachers, as Simon Peter the fisherman/apostle declares:

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

Thus, the Apostle John likewise warns:

1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

How then can we tell whether a teacher is from God? We can follow the advice that Jesus gave to the men of his day, regarding his own ministry:

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Any teacher, whether he calls himself a pope, a minister, a sunday-school teacher, or whatever title he may adopt, if he will not allow his doctrine to be examined from Scripture, he is not acting as Jesus' disciple, because the disciple is not greater than his master. If Jesus was willing to be examined by Scripture, and if Luke declares of the Bereans:

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Then, we should have an enormous red flag rise in our minds when our spiritual leaders insist that we have not only no duty but no right to question their doctrines. So take courage and stand up for the Word of God:

1 Peter 3:13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?