Saturday, January 24, 2009

Church Discipline and Holiness

Criticism of "Protestant" church discipline, with a positive example illustrated in this video by Dr. James White (just under 15 minutes long):

This is partly to provide balance to my criticism of Rome in these two recent posts (first post) (second post). Notice that Rome is not alone in failing to do proper church discipline. The fact that I've pointed out Rome's mistake in this error doesn't let those "Protestant" churches that do the same thing off the hook.


SSPX is Back - JP2 heading out? Implications for Unity

The so-called Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is back. Their excommunication has been lifted by Rome. This is an interesting development on several levels.

1) SSPX seems to teach that Vatican II was not infallible

From their website (link):

  • Not by reason of the extraordinary magisterium, for it refused to define anything. Pope Paul VI himself, in an audience on January 12, 1966, said that it “had avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner dogmas affected by the mark of infallibility” (Cf. the declaration of the Theological Commission of Mar. 6, 1964, and repeated by the Council's General Secretary on Nov. 16, 1964: "In view of conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so." It never did.).

  • Nor by reason of the ordinary universal magisterium, because this is not a defining power, but one of passing on what was always believed. The “universality” in question is not just one of place (all bishops) but also of time (always) (cf., Vatican I and PRINCIPLE 6).

  • Nor even by reason of the simply authentic magisterium, because the object of all magisterium is the deposit of faith to be guarded sacredly and expounded faithfully (Vatican I, Dz 1836), and not to adopt as Catholic doctrine the “best expressed values of two centuries of ‘liberal culture,’” even if they are “purified” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Gesu, Nov. 1984, p. 72. Cf. Gaudium et Spes, §§11, 44).

Before the excommunication was lifted, people scoffed at the idea that the SSPX points had any merit. As far as I know, their re-union with the Roman communion was not conditioned on their denunciation of the points above, and those points are currently (as of 24 January 2009) on their web site.

I found this comment, attributed (here) to Cardinal Ratzinger (now pope):
The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of super-dogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.

That raises the question: should we be considering those positions stated in the documents of Vatican II to be "the" Roman position, "a" Roman position, or simply the work of private theologians?

It also raises the question of whether Benedict XVI is trying to undermine the changes his former mentor John Paul II put into place. The SSPX viewed JP2 as a neo-modernist, and JP2 excommunicated them. Benedict XVI doesn't seem to be as concerned about SSPX, which makes it appear that he at least partly agrees with their criticism of JP2.

Either way, we have an interesting paradox: there is unity of communion now between SSPX and folks they view as modernist or neo-modernist heretics. There is unity of communion between the most traditionalist of the SSPX bishops and Joseph ("Joe the Vice-President") Biden - one of the highest-ranking pro-murder politicians in the world. There is organizational unity - but there is obvious lack of unity of belief (or practice) on vast number of issues.

Question for Romanist readers: do you think that it is hypothetically possible that JP2 could turn out to be, in the judgment of Rome in 100 years, an anti-pope?


Friday, January 23, 2009

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 1 of 13)

I had never heard of Jay Dyer before, but he is a non-Calvinist, ex-Protestant. He has eleven claims (source) with respect to what a consistent Calvinist must be.

At first, I thought I'd give a quick answer to each and make this a single blog post. However, the more I looked at the issues, the more I realized that there are, for most of the criticisms, three issues to be addressed: (1) What is the actual error (or conversely, doctrine) at stake? (2) How does or doesn't Calvinism correspond to the error (or doctrine)? and (3) Does this criticism fit Catholicism better? (Jay is apparently now a part of that religion, having turned away, practically at the last minute, from joining Eastern Orthodoxy last June, if my understanding is correct.) I'll address each in order, in separate (hopefully brief) posts, in the upcoming days.

Obviously, Jay's post is largely simply meant to mock and poke fun at Calvinism, rather than being a serious critique. Nevertheless, it provides an interesting platform for discussing the issues. The plan is to make this a thirteen part series in which I will consider each of his points in a separate post and then wrap up with some concluding thoughts.

To the glory of God,


Continue to Part 2

Rick Warren's Prayer

At Obama's inauguration, Rick Warren gave a prayer. I've heard a few Christians up in arms about the prayer, and they generally focus on three things:

1) It was pretty empty.

This is a legitimate criticism. There wasn't much substance to the prayer, and some of the time was spent on "preaching to the choir." On the other hand, one shouldn't expect a prayer to be a sermon. I'm not trying to defend Rick Warren, but I think that some people's expectations would not have been met unless Warren had given a 30 minute prayer-homily.

2) Warren referred to God using this sentence: "And you are the compassionate and merciful one."

The criticism is that this sounds like it is taken from the Koran. It does sound like that. On the other hand, the true God is merciful and compassionate. Scriptures say so. It is not wrong for us to describe God that way, and it may be valuable for Muslims to see that the true God is merciful and compassionate - that such a teaching is not uniquely Koranic, but is borrowed from Christianity.

Psalm 145:8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

Psalm 86:15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

3) Warren referred to Jesus as "Isa."

The criticism is, again, that this sounds like it is taken from the Koran. It does sound like that, and if context is not provided, it sounds very suspicious, particularly when coupled with (2) above. In context, however, Warren's sentence was:

"I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray: [full length version of Lord's Prayer]."

In context, Warren was simply giving the Arabic name for Jesus in a list among the Hebrew name, the Spanish name, and the English name. In context, Warren is positively affirming that Jesus taught his disciples to pray like Christians, not like Muslims - although he is using the name for Jesus that is familiar to Muslims.

I am not a fan of Rick Warren, and I am not praising his prayer. The fact that he prayed in Jesus' name is great, but that's sort of a minimal bar. There are many ways his prayer could have been improved. On the other hand, I don't think that the claims that Warren was trying to be "ecumenical with Muslims" is valid - or at least cannot be shown from his prayer.

Now, I am not familiar with a large body of what Warren has said elsewhere. So, perhaps, viewed in light of the remainder of what he has said, these seemingly reasonable references could be viewed as inappropriate concessions. No one that I have seen criticize Warren, however, has brought forth that kind of evidence.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pharisees and Jesus - A Study in "Arminian" Logic

First Caveat: I'm using "Arminian" here to refer to a broad range of non-Calvinists - and specifically to refer to those representative of the population of non-Calvinists that regularly criticize Calvinism. I realize that there are Arminians out there who take a very different approach. This is not directed to them.

Spurred on by Triablogue's amusing posts "Prominent Arminian Blogger Denies that Jesus is Human" (link); "Why Freewill Theism makes God the author of Evil" (link); and "Why Jesus was a Sinner" (link), I thought I'd throw my own variant of their theme onto the stack.

Did you know that all the Pharisees followed Jesus? Yes, it is a little known fact.

1) World means World (This is an important tenet of "Arminianism.")

2) John 12:19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. (Bold added to assist one's vision.)

3) Therefore, by "Arminian" logic, it follows that the Pharisees were saying that they themselves followed Jesus!

Remarkable, eh? And totally bogus.

Second Caveat: Yes, it is totally bogus. This post is satire (as were the Triablogue posts), trying to humorously show how the argument that "World means World" like the argument that "All means All" is easily abused. The "world" in John's gospel doesn't necessarily mean (and perhaps rarely if ever means) "each and every person on the face of the earth considered as individuals."


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Catholicism's Double Standard

Officially, Rome is opposed to abortion. Unofficially, prominent pro-abortion politicians are permitted to continue to commune with Rome. Case in point, America's first papist vice-president, who not only takes communion but receives a standing ovation (link). Nota Bene: he is now the VP, but the communion-taking and standing-ovation-receiving were 2 days before, when he was only a senator and the VP-elect.

One of the marks of a true church is whether godly discipline is being handed out.


Response to Scoffer

I am glad to see that at least one scoffer has found my blog. He provided the following comments, which I have redacted and edited to either omit or restrain the blasphemy and to standardize the syntax/spelling/etc.:

Unless he punishes all sin in the individual who actually commits it, and does so in proportion to the sin, then who cares about this unjust [god]?
Unless everyone burns in hell for each of their sins in proportion to its magnitude, then la-di-da.
If you really get and eternity in hell for each sin, no matter how mild, then why not just commit them all and often?
Since you're getting the exact same punishment whether you steal a candy bar at 2 years old or rape a 2 year old at 50?
Your God is [something bad], Turretinfan. He's not just at all.

I answer:

The general objection here is that if every sin deserves eternal punishment, there is no distinction between sins and consequently God is unjust. This argument assumes something, though, namely that every person in hell for eternity receives the same punishment there.

Although the duration is the same (unending), there is no necessity that the degree of suffering be the same. Dante Alighieri (in the 14th century) proposed a view of Hell in which there are many levels, ranging from the most severe (specifically reserved for Satan) to the least severe, for those with relatively less heinous sins. This view of Hell demonstrates that it is possible for all sinners to receive eternal punishment, even while some receive a more severe punishment than others.

Jesus himself endorsed the idea that there is differentiation in hell. He stated:

Matthew 10:15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Matthew 11:22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

Matthew 11:24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Mark 6:11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Luke 10:12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

Luke 10:14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.

There's also a minor objection: "If you really get and eternity in hell for each sin, no matter how mild, then why not just commit them all and often?"

a) Me personally? I don't like sinning. It doesn't please me. I prefer to honor my God.

b) There is a bit of a false dichotomy here: the two paths are not "sin a little and go to hell forever" vs. "sin a lot and go to hell forever" but rather between "go on in sin" and "repent of your sin and trust in Christ for salvation."

c) There seems to be a hidden view behind the words that maybe God punishes sins, but there's just no way he could punish them forever.

But, Jesus clearly declared that the punishment for those don't follow Him is everlasting fire:

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Mark 9:43-48
43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Hell is a fearsome reality. I can appreciate that it is not a pleasant prospect: it is not supposed to be. God is not some omni-benevolent Santa Claus that will be patient with your sins forever. He has given you time to repent and believe. If you see your sins, and seek mercy rather than justice, pray to God the Father, asking Him for mercy for the sake of Christ.


Does God Punish Sin?

Wes White provides an excellent and thorough answer to the question, "Does God Punish Sin?" in this recent post (link). The answer, of course, is yes.

God punishes every sin. Either he punishes you, or he punishes Christ. Put your trust in Christ and He will bear the burden of your sins for you.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Parowan Prophet = False Prophet

The so-called Parowan Prophet predicted that Obama would not take office, due to some disaster. As of about 2 hours ago, this prediction was proved false. Therefore, we can know that this so-called prophet is a false prophet, and not a prophet of God. (link to report regarding supposed prophecy) See, something good has already come of President Obama's presidency - one false prophet exposed.


Hat Tip to Kim Riddlebarger for reminding me about this false prophet (link).

The real Turretin on: The Self-Authentication of Scripture

Mark Koller at Daily Reformation, has provided a concise but meaty quotation from the real Francis Turretin on the self-authenticating property of Holy Scripture (link). Every world view has some presupposition - ours is Scripture.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Debate Begun!

I have begun a new debate on the atonement. I think a few folks will be surprised, though, to see that it is not with an Amyraldian or quasi-Amyraldian, but with someone loyal to the Roman bishop. Here's what's up so far:

1. Debate Introduction

2. Affirmative Opening Essay

3. Negative Opening Essay

(generic link for all posts for this debate)


The New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses

I happened to come across some recordings of Dr. James White being interviewed on the program Issues, Etc. regarding witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses. This discussion may be very handy for those of us who wish to try to share the gospel with the followers of this particular group.
The New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses Part 1, with James White on Issues, Etc. (The segment from Dr. White starts aroudn 40 minutes into the file.)
The New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses Part 2, with James White on Issues, Etc. (The segment from Dr. White ends around 24 minutes into the file.)

To the glory of God,