Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reginald Tries Again

I was glad to see that Reginald took another shot at the issue of important Roman Catholic bishops publicly going wildly wrong on doctrine (link). Unfortunately, he still doesn't quite get it.

First, he argues that fallibility of bishops does indeed explain why they sometimes get doctrine wildly wrong. No doubt. Again, no one suggested otherwise.

Then he goes on to say that "He seems furthermore not to understand that the gift of infallibility is a gift of the Holy Spirit." (bold in original) I do understand that this is the claim that is made, but there are two issues with this:

1) There's no reason to believe councils of bishops like Zollitsch are the kinds of councils that would have such a gift (even if any councils would).

2) If anything that is not infallibly taught by Reginald's church could be wildly wrong because it is fallible then Reginald is imprudent in not limiting his acceptance of his church's doctrines to those things infallibly defined (assuming he could somehow figure out what those things were - which is a job in itself).

But the more important bottom line is that we see that Reginald is just taking his church's say-so on faith. He not only swallows the wild errors of Zollitsch but of the Arians as well (he says so himself). It's no big deal to him that what he views as his church is not preserved from gross heresies. He doesn't think this is a problem, because he doesn't realize its implications.

He doesn't see that it may be that a heresy (or bundle of them) has actually prevailed in the church of Rome and that he is an heretical sect rather than being in a Catholic church (notice the important difference in this case between "Catholic" and "Roman Catholic").

Notice what he says: "But the gift of infallibility doesn't work like that. It extends to the college of bishops under certain conditions, and to the Pope under certain conditions." (again, the bold is his) As usual, he's missing the point (as though we don't know that his church's position is that the college of bishops isn't always infallible and that the pope isn't always infallible). But his comment is actually revealing in the point that it raises: what are these conditions and where did they come from?

We know where the conditions for the pope's infallibility came from (Vatican I), but what about the conditions for the college of bishops (this issue is a sort of logical precursor, since Vatican I was a council). Was it decided by a previous council? By a previous pope? Or is it just something that Reginald read from some fallible source that might be pulling a Zollitsch or an Arius.

Is Rome's claim to authority simply a circle - "we are authoritative because we say so" - or is Reginald willing to admit that he doesn't rely on a circular argument but on faith in his church itself (a misplaced faith if Zollitsch is any indicator). I guess we'll see.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Reginald di Piperno Misses the Point

Apparently Reginald di Piperno (a pseudonym - like my own) has missed the point (link). Reginald seems to have mistakenly concluded that I imagine the Roman Catholic position to be that individual bishops (other than the bishop of Rome) are infallible. Of course that's not what I think or what my previous post suggested (link to previous post).

No, as seems often to be the case with Reginald, he has missed the point. The point is not that the Archbishop in the story is fallible: the point is that he's dead wrong. He's wildly wrong. He's ridiculously wrong. And Roman Catholicism hierarchy has by and large approved of this guy - he holds a position of high regard within the German branch of the Roman Catholic church - and is not about to do anything regard these teachings of his.

But when he gets together with a bunch of his colleagues (and his supervisor the pope) who seem to have no problem letting him spread his errors via the public media (after all - he's still in office, isn't he?), Reginald is willing to believe that this collection of men is not only not highly likely to err but actually to the contrary is infallible!

It should be obvious to any reasonable person that when you get a bunch of fallible men who tolerate gross errors by their colleagues together, you are not going to have a body that produces infallible decisions. Unfortunately, however, Reginald (and others) simply accept the idea that their church is infallible as an article of faith and refuse to submit their teacher (their church) to the higher authority of Scripture (even denying - some of them, I cannot say whether Reginald has done this yet - that Scripture IS a higher authority).

Meanwhile, when these things are brought to their attention they tend to miss the point. They choose to attribute absurd misunderstandings to the critics, as though someone could be unaware of the fact that Roman Catholicism doesn't say that individual bishops are infallible (other than the bishop of Rome). There's nothing particular rational about either of these approaches (either taking on faith that one's own church is infallible or willfully misunderstanding criticisms of your church). Perhaps this will serve as a little goad to Reginald to refocus his attention on the real issues and away from easily defeated straw men.


Roman Catholic Archbishop on Christ's Death

Archbishop of Freiburg, Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the Catholic bishops' conference of Germany stated that Christ "did not die for the sins of the people as if God had provided a sacrificial offering, like a scapegoat." (source)

Now, I realize that conservative Roman Catholics may not agree with this statement (I'd be shocked if they did, given what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about this). But come on. Doesn't this event say something about the fallibility of your magisterium when an archbishop and top-ranking German bishop (no, not the one in the Vatican - yet) can say something like this?

I could ask: who are you going to believe, a high-ranking official in your church or your own private judgment, but I know that for a lot of my Roman Catholic readers they will exercise their private judgment and reject the public teaching of this important bishop within their church.

Now, if I could only make them see that they need not to stop there, but to put the teachings of Catholicism in Trent and Vatican I to the test of Scripture. After all, it is Scripture that is infallible, not bishops (even very significant bishops).


N.B. Yes, this archbishop is a notorious liberal. Yes, the link I have posted above is from a Roman Catholic blog that criticizes this archbishop. No, I don't think all Roman Catholics hold to this Archbishop's position. Yes, he is a Roman Catholic and - as between you and him (with very few exceptions out of the claimed 1 billion members of Catholicism), he has more authority to proclaim the teachings of "the Church" (i.e. his and your church). Yes, the bottom line (which you have figured out, perhaps?) is that having ecclesiastical authority doesn't lead one to correct doctrines. What is the one thing you can have absolute assurance about? Scripture, because it is not the product of men but of God: it is theopneustos (θεοπνευστος).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Augustine vs. Albrecht on the Bodily Presence - Round 2

This is video response to William Albrecht's two videos ( video 1 and video 2 ) responding to previous videos of mine, responding to a still previous video of his.

I continue to point out Mr. Albrecht's errors. I have 11 points:

1) The issue is bodily presence vs. spiritual presence (not real presence vs. bare symbolism).

2) The issue of the "authority of the Catholic Chruch" is a misleading red herring, because Augustine meant the universal church, not the Roman Catholic Church.

3) When Augustine speaks of "divine presence" that does not mean or imply (quite the contrary) a bodily presence, because a body is not part of the divine nature but the human nature of Christ.

4) Mr. Albrecht (not myself) is the one who seems to need to try to turn Augustine into a Roman Catholic. I just take Augustine as I find him.

5) Mr. Albrecht refuses to let the Westminster Confession speak for itself, even when it clearly and explicitly states that the position is a real, yet spiritual, presence.

6) Mr. Albrecht confuses the real Francis Turretin's rejection of consubstantiation with a rejection of the spiritual presence (although Turretin actually affirms this, even in the snippets he quotes, if you listen carefully).

7) Mr. Albrecht errs in suggesting that the Latin word for Spiritual ever means or implies, in Augustine, "corporeal presence" - quite the opposite.

8) Mr. Albrecht still does not seem to "get" that statements like "after the consecreation the bread is [or becomes] the Body of Christ" is something that is consistent with not only the view of transubstantiation, but also with the Reformed view (real spiritual presence) and even the bare symbolic view (which is why I would never try to base my argument on such passages of Augustine if I were disputing this matter with a person who holds to the odd and incorrect position that Augustine held to a bare symbolic view).

9) Albrecht had said: "The great Augustine can no longer be twisted into a pretzel because TurretinFan has run out of ways to rip him apart. Perhaps he'll resort to taking quotes away from him or mutilating what Augustine says, such as his boss Mr. [sic] White has done to advance his theological views in the past." I note that although this is untrue and analogically inconsistent (the metaphors of "twist[ing] into a pretzel" and "rip[ping] apart" are incompatible physically), nevetheless the quotation provides an illustration of the fact that somewhere deep inside Albrecht recognizes that people can use figurative language, although he does not seem to want to let Christ and/or Augustine do so, when it is necessary to press them into service for his church.

10) Mr. Albrecht claims that there are "hundreds of thousands of denominations" - a number so wildly inflated it makes the usual, grossly inflated claim of 33,000 denominations seem almost truthful (for more on the 33,000 denominations myth, see the following website (link)).

11) Mr. Albrecht, in wrapping up, seems still to be a bit sore about his friend Mr. Steve Ray and himself getting busted for citing Pseudo-Athanasius as though it were Athanasius.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

False Ecumenicism

In this discussion, our undercover correspondent discusses false ecumenicism with someone who tries, initially, to claim that he is not interested in making converts.
(direct link to video)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Prayers For, To, and Through the Dead

Within Roman Catholicism (and within some other churches as well) there are prayers that are made for, through, and to the dead. We, as Reformed believers, reject all three of these categories but on different grounds. In discussing these issues with Roman Catholics it may be useful to be able to understand the different categories and to explain why it is that we reject each. We should pray for the living, to the living and true God, through the merits and intercession of Christ alone.

1. Prayers For the Dead

In Roman Catholicism, there is a belief in Purgatory. Although Roman Catholics give varying explanations, a popular perception is that purgatory is a place where, through a period of suffering, the soul is purged of sin (it's worth noting that some Roman Catholics today deny that Purgatory is either an actual place or that it has actual time, but we'll leave that for another discussion).

Those within Purgatory want to be purged of their sins (in Roman Catholic theology) but they also want to get out of there and on to heaven. So people are encouraged to pray for the souls of the deceased, for relief/escape from Purgatory. After all, apparently, this suffering can be alleviated through the granting of an indulgence to the person in purgatory.

The Bible, however, teaches that the souls of believers are, at their death made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory. (See Thomas Watson's discussion, for a more detailed discussion.) Given this, prayers for dead believers are useless, since believers are already in heaven.

Furthermore, while certain folks have (from time to time) suggested that salvation is still possible in hell, it is not. Of course, this itself is not normally disputed by Roman Catholics, who recognize that there is no escape from hell itself. Thus, prayers for dead unbelievers are also useless, since unbelievers are already in hell, from which they cannot escape.

Thus, there is no third category - no third option that exists, where prayers for the deceased would have any value. Accordingly, we reject prayers for the dead as vain and superstitious, and we do not engage in such prayers.

2. Prayers To the Dead

In Roman Catholicism there are, from time to time, prayers to the dead. I would be quick to point out Mary, but this doctrine they have of the Assumption of Mary leaves it unclear whether they really consider Mary to be dead or resurrected (although, of course, as a matter of objective fact, she is dead and awaits the resurrection of the faithful). Aside from Mary, however, other saints are sometimes prayed to within Catholicism. One particularly popular saint in English-speaking countries is St. Jude (aka Judas not Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles), the patron saint of lost causes.

We, Reformed Christians, reject such prayers for several reasons. First, there is no reason at all to think that such prayers will be heard and understood by the dead. Second, not only does Scripture not encourage attempted communication with the dead, it condemns such attempts as witchcraft and necromancy. Third, the use of such prayers suggests a lack of faith in the efficacy of prayers directly to the Father. Fourth, the use of such prayers suggests a desire for the mediation of someone other than Christ, an issue that flows over into the next section, below.

This is one of those areas where Roman Catholic apologists are very eager these days to recast the issue in terms like "we're just asking our fellow believers to pray for us, are you saying that's wrong?" The answer to that question is that we do not object to asking fellow believers to pray for us. In fact, we ought to do so. James 5:16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

However, while many of the prayers to the dead are explicitly prayers that the dead would hear the person and pray to God for the person, that simply avoids the most grotesque abuses of the practice, such as when things are requested specifically from the saints or Mary, which are not theirs to give (such as success, grace, salvation, etc.). Those prayers (meta-prayers that request prayer by the saint to whom the prayers are offered) suffer from the objections as to the lack of warrant or example from the Scriptures as well as from the apparent view that these saints are to serve as mediators rather than Christ. As this is not a direct answer to the Romanist objections, I won't go on at greater length here.

3. Prayers Through the Dead

Roman Catholics sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, offer up prayers that are through the dead. For example, the "Approved Prayer for the intercession of Pope John Paul II" (link) is a prayer that is not for John Paul II (JP2) or to JP2 but it is through JP2. It is addressed to God, "O Holy Trinity," but it requests that something be granted "Grant us," via the intercession of JP2 "through his intercession ... ."

Other times the request is more indirect. For example, sometimes when Mary (or others) are entreated it is suggested (as a justification) that since "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much" that the more righteous a person is, the more their prayer will avail (although, of course, the Scriptures do not teach such any such formula). Consequently, the idea is that we are asking these creatures to intercede before God on the basis of the merits that are theirs.

The connection between the two can be seen in this prayer to God pleading the merit and intercession of Rita of Cascia:
O God! who didst deign to confer on St. Rita for imitating Thee in love of her enemies, the favor of bearing her heart and brow the marks of Thy Love and Passion, grant we beseech Thee, that through her intercession and merit, we may, pierced by the thorns of compunction, ever contemplate the sufferings of Thy Passion, who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
(emphasis added - source)

See this similar prayer to God through Mary:
Prayer to Our Lady of Light

O radiant beam of celestial clarity,
O spotless Mother of infinite purity,
O seat of Wisdom and divine reliquary
of the Word Incarnate,
Hear my prayer,
O Queen of Light!
O Blessed Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You glorified my Mother, Mary,
as Queen of heaven and earth
and gave to her the gift of holding
Your Omnipotence in her holy hands,
Graciously grant what I seek
through her merits and intercession.
(emphasis added - source)

This can be further seen within the writings of Roman Catholicism. For example, Pious XII quotes with approval from a writing attributed to Eadmer (circa A.D. 1060 to circa A.D. 1124) as follows: "just as . . . God, by making all through His power, is Father and Lord of all, so the blessed Mary, by repairing all through her merits, is Mother and Queen of all; for God is the Lord of all things, because by His command He establishes each of them in its own nature, and Mary is the Queen of all things, because she restores each to its original dignity through the grace which she merited." (Ad Caeli Reginam (To the Queen of Heaven) section 36 - link)

It also can be seen in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" section 956:
956 The intercession of the saints. "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness.... They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."
(emphases and elipses in original - footnote omitted - source)

This is the point at which the Roman Catholic position comes into direct conflict with the unique mediatorial role of Christ (despite the contrary claim - anticipating this assertion of ours - that you see in CCC 956). Only by Christ's merits can we come before God. The merits of a mere man (like John Paul II, even assuming he were a godly man) are of infinitesimal value compared with the righteousness of Christ.

It is by Christ and by Christ alone that we have access to the Father - not by Mary, not by the saints. Even when we ask our fellow believers to pray for us, we do not (or at least we certainly ought not) ask them to do so on the basis of their own merits, but alone on the basis of Christ's merits.

We give token of this when we conclude our prayers, "in Jesus' name, Amen." That expression "In Jesus' name" is asking that God consider our prayer on the basis of Christ's merits, not our own. However, when someone prays the approved prayer for JP2's intercession, they are praying for God to consider JP2's merits. The same is the case (in general) with any prayers that are made either through or to the deceased in the Roman Catholic schema.


Prayers are to be offered through the merits of Christ and in the name of Christ. We are exhorted and encouraged to do so by Scripture:

John 16:23-27
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.

John 14:12-14
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Ephesians 3:11-12
11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Hebrews 10:19-22
19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

So let us pray in the name of the Lord to the Lord God Almighty, for the living, eschewing the superstition of praying for the dead, for it is written:

1 John 5:16-17
16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

Hebrews 4:7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Psalm 95:7-11
7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

Revelation 22:11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

Isaiah 38:18 For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.

If you are an unbeliever reading this, seize the day to repent of your sins and turn to Christ. Today you have life and hope, but tomorrow you may be in the grave, and in that grave no prayers will save you. So, if you do not trust in Christ alone for salvation, turn from your sins and set aside all other hope, placing it in Him alone for there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved.


UPDATE: I note that Steve Hays has added some interesting points regarding prayers for the past (link). I should clarify that when I say that prayers for the dead are vain, I mean only to say that prayers for the dead as such are vain, without weighing in on the interesting, but more speculative, question of whether prayers for past events are appropriate (e.g. praying that one's loved one did not board a plane that you have just heard has crashed).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Aquinas - Catena Aurea - Index Page

Catena Aurea, commentary on the four Gospels; collected out of the works of the Fathers, translated by John Henry Newman (toward the end of his Protestant days).

This series is a translation of Aquinas' Catena Aurea (Golden Chain), which provides quotations attributed to various of the church fathers with whom Aquinas was apparently familiar. It can be enlightening, especially regarding passages such as Matthew 16:18, where none of the fathers that Aquinas identifies interpret the passage as Peter being the Rock. John Henry Newman is, apparently, the translator of the work. Thus, one should note that it is possible that apologetic bias may have entered into the translation, and (as with any translation of the fathers) one should be cautious before either hanging one's hat on an alleged patristic quotation or regurgitating the material found in the work. has more or less complete sets of several editions of the work. The entire series was put out initially during the tractarian controversy, in which Newman was involved. The last volume on John's Gospel was released in 1845, the year that Newman left the Church of England for Rome.

Additional editions were also printed in the 1860's and 1870's, and I have tried to sort those out below. I have included a few links to Google's collection for the 1874 edition, although I haven't attempted an exhaustive search of Google. There was also a reprinting of this series in 2007, which is available with a limited preview at Google Books (link).

1874 Edition ("A New Edition")

Matthew - Volume 1

Chapters 1-10 - Part 1
Chapters 11-28 - Part 2

Mark - Volume 2

All Chapters

Luke - Volume 3

Chapters 1-10 - Part 1 (missing from (Google 1)
Chapters 11-24 - Part 2 (Google 1)

John - Volume 4

All Chapters (Google 1)

1864-5 Edition

Volume 1 - Matthew

Chapters 1-10 - Part 1

(Remaining parts missing from

Volume 2 - Mark

All Chapters

Luke and John missing from

1841-5 Edition

Volume 1 - Matthew

Chapters 1-10 - Part 1 (Copy 2)(Copy 3)
Chapters 11-21 - Part 2
Chapters 22-28 - Part 3 (Copy 2)(Copy 3)

Volume 2 - Mark

All Chapters (Copy 2)

Volume 3 - Luke

Chapters 1-10 - Part 1

Chapters 11-24 (Copy 2)

All Chapters (Copy 2)

Volume 4 - John

Chapters 1-10 - Part 1 (Copy 2)(Copy 3)(Copy 4)

Chapters 11-21 - Part 2 (Copy 2)(Copy 3)

All Chapters


I should note that I have also found this same work in other formats, such as in a web page format at Catechetics On-line.



Middle Knowledge - Video Series

I have now concluded the series on Middle Knowledge and specifically of Turretin's treatment of it, in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology. I should note that a summary of the section that I addressed has been created and can be found at the following link (link). I didn't consult this list specifically in the preparation of my videos, but I hope you will find it agrees fairly well with them.

Should you wish to play all the videos in the Middle Knowledge series together, here you go (nothing new in this, just the six videos of the series played one after the other):

If you would like to see a critique of Middle Knowledge from a slightly different perspective (although he does find his way to Turretin around pp. 29-30), Travis Campbell has provided an interesting article, which one can find at the following link (link). I should point out that he seems to give rather more attention to Bruce Ware and Terrance Tiessen than they deserve on this topic and seems to conclude with them that there are "true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom" - a significant and (in my view) unnecessary concession to William Lane Craig, one of the leading Molinists today (although I should qualify this comment by noting that there are some latent ambiguities in the terminology that Mr. Campbell uses, which may actually place him closer to the position I hold than it would at first appear).


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Middle Knowledge - Part 6

This is the sixth and final section on Turretin's discussion of Middle Knowledge. This section delves into the philosophical arguments that undermine the concept of middle knowledge, demonstrating that the concept of middle knowledge leads to inevitable self-contradictions.

1. Two categories of knowledge are all that are required, because all true objects of knowledge are things possible or things actual (in Turretin's terms, "future").

2. Untrue things cannot be foreseen as true. In other words, unless it is true that a man will do "X" in situation "Y", God cannot foresee such a thing as true.

3. If divine providence is comprehensive (if it extends to men's acts) then men's will cannot be said to be indeterminate.

4. God's knowledge cannot be said to be uncertain. Therefore, if God foresees "X" as certain, then it cannot be said to be uncertain.

5. Middle Knowledge removes God's sovereignty over the creature, because it suggests that God is in essence depending on man's fortuitous cooperation in obtaining the ends he wishes.

6. Middle Knowledge removes God's freedom to base decisions solely on his own good pleasure, thereby contradicting the view of God presented in Romans 9.