Saturday, March 13, 2010

Scripture's Clarity Confirmed Against Smudges - 2/25

Dave Armstrong has posted a series of "25 Short Arguments on the Difficulties of Perspicuity (Clearness of Scripture for Salvation)" (link) from his book "501 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura: Is the Bible the Only Infallible Authority?" I can see that his list of arguments has received nearly a thousand views, so perhaps it makes sense to provide a response to each of these. The arguments themselves are not long - individually they are no more than smudges that aim to obscure Scripture's clarity. This is number 2/25 of my wiping away of the smudges.

Armstrong's Argument

2. [Roman] Catholics have every confidence in Scripture. What we lack confidence in, is the ability of men to "rightly divide the word of truth."

Short Rebuttal

If they had every confidence in Scripture, they would have confidence in Scripture to communicate clearly. The point of Scripture is not to impress the possessor with the beauty of the script in which it is written, or the luxurious feel of the paper on which it is written, or even the sturdiness of its binding. The point of Scripture is to communicate to the reader.

Longer Rebuttal

This argument is a very pious-sounding argument. The argument purports to honor the Word of God while humbly disparaging man. This sort of false humility is not new. The prophet Isaiah described it long ago:

Isaiah 29:9-14
Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, "Read this, I pray thee:" and he saith, "I cannot; for it is sealed:" and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, "Read this, I pray thee:" and he saith, "I am not learned."

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
The purpose of Scripture is to communicate. It is consequently written in a way that, as to the necessary things, it is clear.

John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Furthermore, we are given encouragement to read, study and meditate upon the Scriptures:

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Furthermore, God has given us his Holy Spirit, and one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into truth:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

The verse to which the argument alludes similarly undermines Roman skepticism:

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The fathers of the church also recognized this. They explained:

A sound mind, and one which does not expose its possessor to danger, and is devoted to piety and the love of truth, will eagerly meditate upon those things which God has placed within the power of mankind, and has subjected to our knowledge, and will make advancement in [acquaintance with] them, rendering the knowledge of them easy to him by means of daily study. These things are such as fall [plainly] under our observation, and are clearly and unambiguously in express terms set forth in the Sacred Scriptures.
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:27:1

For generally the servants also have their characters formed after their master's, and are fashioned after their humors, love the same objects, which they have been taught to love, speak the same language, and engage with them in the same pursuits. If thus we regulate ourselves, and attentively study the Scriptures, in most things we shall derive instruction from them. And thus shall be able to please God, and to pass through the whole of the present life virtuously, and to attain those blessings which are promised to those that love Him, of which God grant that we may all be counted worthy, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom, together with the Holy Ghost, be unto the Father, glory, power, and honor, now, and ever, through all ages. Amen.
- Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians (concluding lines)

And we could provide many more. The bottom line, however, is that the argument is an example of false humility. While lip service is paid to Scripture, it is nevertheless treated as though it cannot communicate clearly on the things necessary to salvation.

- TurretinFan

Friday, March 12, 2010

Response to Tony Byrne's Challenge

Tony Byrne (aka Ynottony) is one of the culprits behind the defamation of my friend Dr. White as supposedly being a "hyper-Calvinst." Tony has suggested, in his own defense, that one could use the following approach:
Step 1: Ask White for specific biblical proof that God desires the eternal salvation of any of the non-elect.

Step 2: Follow Robert Reymond's advice and consult John Gill's explanation of the given passage.

Step 3: Use John Gill's explanation against White's proof-text.

Step 4: Repeat step 1, 2 then 3 ad infinitum :-)

Will David [Hewitt] do it? No. He wouldn't last 5 minutes in White's chat channel. Frankly, I don't think he will get past step 1.

Let's be clear about a few things up front: none of the folks that Tony has accused are hyper-Calvinists. John Gill is one of the most eminent Baptist theologians that has ever lived. He was already proficient in Latin and Greek at age 11. There are few equals to him for scholarship and acumen. Dr. Robert Reymond is also a scholar, and has taught at Covenant Seminary for over twenty years. Both Gill and Reymond have written systematic theologies, and Gill has written a commentary on the entire Bible. Dr. White teaches at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (for nearly 15 years) and is one of the leading Reformed apologists (he hasn't written a systematic theology, although he has written a number of books).

We must also acknowledge that folks sometimes accuse Gill of either being a hyper-calvinist or having "hyper tendencies." These accusations are unfounded, and folks who make such accusations (even if they are themselves scholars) should be called to task for this. The like accusations against Drs. White and Reymond are similarly unfounded.

But let's get to Tony's strategy. Tony's shibboleth for hyper-calvinism is the erroneous touchstone of whether a person is willing to say that God desires, in any sense, the salvation of the reprobate. This is the wrong touchstone. The serious error of hyper-calvinism lies not in that, but in other areas, as I've previously demonstrated.

Nevertheless, even if one were to use that as the touchstone, Dr. White does and would agree that if one uses the term "desire" in the sense of something being God's revealed will, then God desires the salvation of all men, in that he commands that all men everywhere repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He might cite as support for this:

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

We should note, of course, that "all men" here refers (in context) to both Jews and Greeks, but the point is nevertheless the case that the gospel is presented indiscriminately to Jews and Greeks.

John Gill, in his commentary on the entire Bible, comments thus:
but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent; that is, he hath given orders, that the doctrine of repentance, as well as remission of sins, should be preached to all nations, to Gentiles as well as Jews; and that it becomes them to repent of their idolatries, and turn from their idols, and worship the one, only, living and true God: and though for many hundreds of years God had neglected them, and sent no messengers, nor messages to them, to acquaint them with his will, and to show them their follies and mistakes; yet now he had sent his apostles unto them, to lay before them their sins, and call them to repentance; and to stir them up to this, the apostle informs them of the future judgment in the following verse. Repentance being represented as a command, does not suppose it to be in the power of men, or contradict evangelical repentance, being the free grace gift of God, but only shows the need men stand in of it, and how necessary and requisite it is; and when it is said to be a command to all, this does not destroy its being a special blessing of the covenant of grace to some; but points out the sad condition that all men are in as sinners, and that without repentance they must perish: and indeed, all men are obliged to natural repentance for sin, though to all men the grace of evangelical repentance is not given: the Jews (a) call repentance מצות התשובה, "the command of repentance", though they do not think it obligatory on men, as the other commands of the law. The law gives no encouragement to repentance, and shows no mercy on account of it; it is a branch of the Gospel ministry, and goes along with the doctrine of the remission of sins; and though in the Gospel, strictly taken, there is no command, yet being largely taken for the whole ministry of the word, it includes this, and everything else which Christ has commanded, and was taught by him and his apostles; Matthew 28:20.
Now, nothing that Gill has said there would create any problem for what someone like Dr. White might say. Yet, perhaps Mr. Byrne would wish to insist that Gill has artfully avoided saying that anyone is commanded to believe. However, Gill was not afraid to use such terminology. Commenting on John 12:39-40 (The Cause of God and Truth, Part 2, Chapter 1, Section 2), Gill wrote:
It is certain, that the impossibility of their after believing, is to be resolved into the judicial blindness and hardness of their hearts, to which they were justly left, having contemned both the doctrines and miracles of Christ. It is of no great moment whether the he, who is said to blind and harden, be God or Christ, or whether the words be rendered, it hath blinded, etc. that is, malice or wickedness hath blinded, or be read impersonally, their eyes are blinded, etc. Since God, or Christ, blind and harden, not by any positive act, or putting in blindness or hardness, but by leaving and giving men up to the blindness and hardness of their hearts, and denying them grace; which was the cause of these Jews; so as never to be converted, or turned even by external repentance and reformation, that they might be healed in a national way, or be preserved front national ruin. All which is consistent with God’s command, and Christ’s exhortations to them to believe, which were antecedent to the judicial blindness and hardness of their hearts, and were, with the miracles and doctrines of Christ, aggravations of their unbelief; and therefore, they might he justly objected to them by the evangelist as their great crime, as it certainly was; being owing to the perverseness of their wills, and the evil dispositions of their hearts.
And Gill gets even more explicit regarding the two wills distinction in the same work, at part 3, section 2:
This argument proceeds upon God’s will of command, which does not thwart his will of purpose. These two wills, though they differ, are not contradictory; the purpose of God is from eternity: his command is in time; the one is within himself, the other put forth from himself; the one is always fulfilled, the other seldom; the one cannot be resisted, the other may; the will of command only signifies, what is the pleasure of God should be the duty of man, or what he should do, but not what he shall do. Now admitting that it is God’s will of command, that not only all to whom the Gospel is vouchsafed, but even all mankind, should repent, believe, and obey; it does not follow, that it is the determining will of God to give grace to all men to repent, believe, and obey; nor does it contradict such a will in God, determining to give grace to some, to enable them to repent, believe, and obey, and to deny it to others. Could it be proved, that either God has willed to give this grace to all men, or that there is no such will in God to give it to some, and deny it to others, the controversy would be shut up, and we should have no more to say.
Notice how Gill even uses the word "duty" in relation to the revealed will of God and the connection between the revealed law and the gospel offer. It is the will of command that all men should repent, believe, and obey. It is not the determining will of God that they shall.

And again Gill writes (same book, Part 3, Section 2, VI:2):
It is man’s duty to believe the word of the Lord, and obey his will, though he has not a power, yea, even though God has decreed to withhold that grace without which he cannot believe and obey. So it was Pharaoh’s duty to believe and obey the Lord, and let Israel go; though God had determined to harden his heart, that he should not let them go. However there are many things which may be believed and done by reprobates, and therefore they may be justly required to believe and obey; it is true, they are not able to believe in Christ to the saving of their souls, or to perform spiritual and evangelical obedience, but then it will be difficult to prove that God requires these things of them, and should that appear, yet the impossibility of doing them, arises from the corruption of their hearts, being destitute of the grace of God, and not from the decree of reprobation, which though it denies them that grace and strength, without which they cannot believe and obey in this sense, yet it takes none from them, and therefore does them no injustice.
Notice how Gill explicitly affirms that it is the duty of men generally to believe the word of the Lord and to obey his will.

Still further in the same book, discussing Acts 3:19 (Part 1, Section 32, 2):
Besides, as has been observed, the exhortation to repent here made, is not made unto all men, but to the Jews, on a very remarkable occasion, and was blessed to many of them, to the turning them away from their iniquities; for many of them which heard the word, believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand (Acts 4:4). If it should be replied, that though the exhortation to repentance is not here made to all men; yet it is elsewhere expressly said, that God commandeth all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Let it be observed, that as this command to repentance does not suppose it to be in the power of man; nor contradicts its being a free-grace gift of God; nor its being a blessing in the covenant of grace, and in the hands of Christ to bestow; so neither does it extend, as here expressed, to every individual of mankind; but only regards the men of the then present age, in distinction from those who lived in the former times of ignorance: for so the words are expressed: and the times of this ignorance God winked at; overlooked, took no notice of, sent them no messages, enjoined them no commands of faith in Christ, or repentance towards God; but now, since the coming and death of Christ, commandeth all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, everywhere to repent; it being his will, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached among all nations (Luke 24:47): but admitting that it has been God’s command in all ages, and to all men that they repent; as all men are indeed bound, by the law of nature, to a natural repentance, though all men are not called by the gospel to an evangelical one; yet I see not what conclusions can be formed from hence against either absolute election or particular redemption.
We see it yet again, in the same book, discussing Acts 9:18:
And again, in Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 4, Chapter 7, 5b:
Whether repentance is a doctrine of the law or of the gospel? the answer to which is, that such who sin ought to repent of sin; this God has commanded, the law of nature teaches; and so far as this is to be considered as a duty incumbent on men, it belongs to the law, as all duty does; but then the law makes no account of repentance for sin; nor does it admit of it as a satisfaction for it; nor gives any encouragement to expect that God will receive repenting sinners into his grace and favor upon it; this is what the gospel does, and not the law; the law says not, repent and live, but do and live.
Notice that Gill here is quite explicit that those who sin are commanded to repent of sin. It is a command of the gospel, not the law, but it is a command.

We see this again in the same book, Book 6, Chapter 12, 1a:
Nor is the gospel ministry an offer of Christ, and of his grace and salvation by him, which are not in the power of the ministers of it to give, nor of carnal men to receive; the gospel is not an offer, but a preaching of Christ crucified, a proclamation of the unsearchable riches of his grace, of peace, pardon, righteousness, and life, and salvation by him. Yet there is something in which the ministry of the word, and the call by it, have to do with unregenerate sinners: they may be, and should be called upon, to perform the natural duties of religion; to a natural faith, to give credit to divine revelation, to believe the external report of the gospel, which not to do, is the sin of the deists; to repent of sin committed, which even the light of nature dictates; and God, in his word, commands all men everywhere to repent: to pray to God for forgiveness, as Simon Magus was directed by the apostle: and to pray to God for daily mercies that are needed, is a natural and moral duty; as well as to give him praise, and return thanks for mercies received, which all men that have breath are under obligation to do. They may, and should be called upon to attend the outward means of grace, and to make use of them; to read the Holy Scriptures, which have been the means of the conversion of some; to hear the word, and wait on the ministry of it, which may be blessed unto them, for the effectual calling of them. And it is a part of the ministry of the word to lay before men their fallen, miserable, lost, and undone estate by nature; to open to them the nature of sin, its pollution and guilt, and the sad consequences of it; to inform them of their incapacity to make atonement for it; and of their impotence and inability to do what is spiritually good; and of the insufficiency of their own righteousness to justify them in the sight of God: and they are to be made acquainted, that salvation is alone by Christ, and not other ways; and the fullness, freeness, and suitableness of this salvation, are to be preached before them; and the whole to be left to the Spirit of God, to make application of it as he shall think fit.
We should note that Dr. White does not refuse to use the term "offer" in connection with the gospel (link to example). Consequently Dr. White would not fall prey, as Gill might appear to here, to the "offer" shibboleth that some use who wish to use the label "hyper-calvinist" liberally.

And Gill says the same thing again, with respect to the command to repent, in the same book, Book 1, Chapter 4, 3b2:
Men of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, are the subjects of repentance; for all are under sin, under the power of it, involved in the guilt of it, and liable to punishment for it, and God has commanded "all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). During the time of John the Baptist, and of our Lord’s being on earth, the doctrine of repentance was only preached to the Jews; but after the resurrection of Christ he gave his apostles an instruction and order "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47), in consequence of which the apostles first exhorted the Jews and then the Gentiles to repent, and particularly the apostle Paul "testified both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God", as well as "faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).
Now, allow me to make one final important distinction. If Tony means to insist that God's general desire with respect to salvation should be understood not as to man's duty, but rather as to God's desire for his own action, we must insist that it is blasphemy to assert that God desires to save the reprobate and cannot do so. It is the pleasure of God that it is the duty of men who hear the gospel to believe it.

As Gill explains, The Cause of God and Truth, Part 3, Section 3, II (second II):
It should be proved that there is in God a general will that all men should be saved, or that he anywhere wishes for and desires the salvation of all the individuals of mankind. For God to will or wish the salvation of all men, and intend the death of Christ for that purpose, and yet not save all men, is inconsistent with the perfection of his nature and the immutability of his counsel. Nor is this argument, that God wills not what he sees not fit to execute, attended with those dreadful consequences as are suggested; as "that God is not willing any should obey his will who doth not obey it; and that he is not unwilling any one should sin whom he restrains not from it; and that he is not willing any one should repent who doth not repent." Since God commanding and approving will is one thing, and his determining will another, in the former sense God wills what he does not see fit to execute; it is what he commands and approves of, that men should obey his will, abstain from sin, and repent of it, when he does not see fit to give them grace to enable them to do these things; but God never wills, that is determines, any thing but he sees fit to execute, and does execute, it. Besides, it is one thing for God to will and wish, that is, command and approve, what is entirely man’s duty to do, though he does not see fit to give him grace to execute it, which he is not obliged to do; and another thing to will and wish the salvation of all men, which entirely depends upon himself, and which, if he did wish, he would surely see fit to execute.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another Consequence of Forbidding Marriage to Clergy

We have previously noted that one consequence of forbidding marriage to clergy is that one gets a higher ratio of homosexual clergyman (link to brief discussion). Another consequence is that priests do to nuns the kinds of things that Maria Monk reported (link to Vatican's acknowledgment that this happens). The report makes Steve Hays' satire (link) seem not so far from the mark.

These abuses take place in part because of Rome's unscriptural policy of mandatory clerical celibacy, as Roman Catholic priest and former theologian, Hans Küng, agrees (link). Such a policy is a serious error and is contrary to Scripture, though we acknowledge that it is not an error as to an essential doctrine. If this were the worst error that Rome has, she would still be a true church.

There are, however, many other and worse errors in Rome's teaching. While Rome's gospel that involves subjection to the Roman Pontiff and veneration of Mary may not injure the bodies of its nuns, it is something that does far more serious damage - it harms their souls. The way of salvation is through trust in Christ alone for salvation.

(Update: Cardinal Schönborn appears to agree with Hans Küng and this blog)


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rule of Faith and Life

A reader (who I'm not naming to protect the reader's privacy) wrote the following comment, to which I will respond, line-by-line:

"Turretinfan, you have espoused the view that for an act to be considered immoral, we must find the condemnation of such an act in Scripture."

This seems like an accurate description of my position, although (as discussed below) certain implications you have drawn from this are not correct.

"Scripture is not only your rule of faith regarding theological positions, but moral ones as well."

The moral law is one important branch of theology. We say that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are our supreme (and the only infallible) rule of faith and life. We see this same sentiment in the fathers as well, especially those who preceded the scholastics.

Scripture itself teaches this:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Deuteronomy 5:33 Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.

Proverbs 4:4 He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

Proverbs 2:20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

Psalm 143:8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

The Westminster Confession puts it this way:
Under the name of holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the Books of the Old and New Testament, which are these: [list of 66 book canon is presented, but I have omitted it] All which are given by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.
- Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Section 2

Augustine similarly speaks of the rule of life (vitae regulam).

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):
The man, then, who is temperate in such mortal and transient things has his rule of life confirmed by both Testaments, that he should love none of these things, nor think them desirable for their own sakes, but should use them as far as is required for the purposes andduties of life, with the moderation of an employer instead of the ardor of a lover.
Latin text:
Habet igitur vir temperans in huiuscemodi rebus mortalibus et fluentibus vitae regulam utroque Testamento firmatam, ut eorum nihil diligat, nihil per se appetendum putet, sed ad vitae huius atque officiorum necessitatem quantum sat est usurpet utentis modestia, non amantis affectu.
Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 21 (Section 39)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):
What of justice that pertains to God? As the Lord says, "You cannot serve two masters," [Matthew 6:24] and the apostle denounces those who serve the creature rather than the Creator, [Romans 1:25] was it not said before in the Old Testament, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve?" [Deuteronomy 6:13] I need say no more on this, for these books are full of such passages. The lover, then, whom we are describing, will get from justice this rule of life, that he must with perfect readiness serve the God whom he loves, the highest good, the highest wisdom, the highest peace; and as regards all other things, must either rule them as subject to himself, or treat them with a view to their subjection. This rule of life, is, as we have shown,confirmed by the authority of both Testaments.
Latin text:
Quid de iustitia quae ad Deum pertinet? Nonne cum et Dominus dicat: Non potestis duobus dominis servire [Matthew 6:24], et Apostolus redarguat eos qui creaturae potius quam Creatori [Romans 1:25] serviunt, in Veteri Testamento prius dictum est: Dominum Deum tuum adorabis, et illi soli servies [Deuteronomy 6:13]? Sed quid opus est hinc plura dicere, cum sententiis talibus ibi plena sint omnia? Hanc ergo iustitia vitae regulam dabit huic amatori de quo sermo est, ut Deo quem diligit, id est summo bono, summae sapientiae, summae paci libentissime serviat ceteraque omnia partim subiecta sibi regat, partim subicienda praesumat. Quae norma vivendi, ut docuimus, utriusque Testamenti auctoritate roboratur.
Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 24 (Section 44)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):
This discipline, then, which is the medicine of the mind, as far as we can gather from the sacred Scriptures, includes two things, restraint and instruction. Restraint implies fear, and instruction love, in the person benefited by the discipline; for in the giver of the benefit there is the love without the fear. In both of these God Himself, by whose goodness and mercy it is that we are anything, has given us in the two Testaments a rule of discipline. For though both are found in both Testaments, still fear is prominent in the Old, and love in the New; which the apostle calls bondage in the one, and liberty in the other. Of the marvellous order and divine harmony of these Testaments it would take long to speak, and many pious and learned men have discoursed on it. The theme demands many books to set it forth and explain it as far as is possible for man. He, then, who loves his neighbor endeavors all he can to procure his safety in body and in soul, making the health of the mind the standard in his treatment of the body. And as regards the mind, his endeavors are in this order, that he should first fear and then love God. This is true excellence of conduct, and thus the knowledge of the truth is acquired which we are ever in the pursuit of.
Latin text:
Haec tamen disciplina de qua nunc agimus, quae animi medicina est, quantum Scripturis ipsis divinis colligi licet, in duo distribuitur, coercitionem et instructionem. Coercitio timore, instructio vero amore perficitur eius dico cui per disciplinam subvenitur, nam qui subvenit, nihil horum duorum habet nisi amare. In his duobus Deus ipse cuius bonitate atque clementia fit omnino ut aliquid simus duobus Testamentis, Veteri et Novo, disciplinae nobis regulam dedit. Quamquam enim utrumque in utroque sit, praevalet tamen in Veteri timor, amor in Novo; quae ibi servitus hic libertas ab Apostolis praedicatur. De quorum Testamentorum admirabili quodam ordine divinoque concentu longissimum est dicere et multi religiosi doctique dixerunt. Multos libros res ista flagitat, ut pro merito, quantum ab homine potest, explicari et praedicari queat. Qui ergo diligit proximum, agit quantum potest ut salvus corpore salvusque animo sit, sed cura corporis ad sanitatem animi referenda est. Agit ergo his gradibus, quod ad animum pertinet, ut primo timeat deinde diligat Deum. Hi mores sunt optimi, per quos nobis etiam ipsa provenit, ad quam omni studio rapimur, agnitio veritatis.
Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 28 (Section 56)

Augustine (writing in A.D. 387):
But why say more on this? For who but sees that men who dare to speak thus against the Christian Scriptures, though they may not be what they are suspected of being, are at least no Christians? For to Christians this rule of life is given, that we should love the Lord Our God with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind, and our neighbor as ourselves; for on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Latin text:
Sed quid hinc plura? Quis enim non videat eos qui contra Scripturas christianas haec audent dicere, ut illud non sint quod homines suspicantur, certe tamen non esse christianos? Nam christianis haec data est forma vivendi, ut diligamus Dominum Deum nostrum ex toto corde, ex tota anima, ex tota mente 91, deinde proximum nostrum tamquam nosmetipsos 92. In his enim duobus praeceptis tota lex pendet, et omnes prophetae 93.
Citation: Augustine, On the Morals of the Church and the Morals of the Manichaeans, Two Books, Book 1 (On the morals of the Church), Chapter 30 (Section 62)

"Therefore, the God given faculty of rational thought which separates man from beast cannot in any way condemn an act as immoral unless it has scriptural warrant to do so."

This does not follow. One's innate knowledge of God's law may lead one to condemn certain things as immoral without being taught from Scripture. However, of course, all those who understand original sin must also see the danger of treating one's conscience as though it were infallible. One conscience is, therefore, a bound on what one is permitted to do, but it does not serve as a rule by which we are to condemn others. To condemn others, we need a higher authority than our own conscience.

"Is this your position?"

Not quite. See the distinctions above.

"Why is homosexuality immoral?"

Why it is wrong may be different from how we know it is wrong. It is wrong because it contrary to the moral law of God. Whether God's nature necessitated that or whether it was a voluntary law is an interesting question that's not really germane to our discussion.

We know it is wrong both from Scripture and (for many of us) from conscience.

"Is it simply because the Bible condemns it as such?"

See above. We know it is wrong from the Bible. The reason that it is wrong is the moral law, which is revealed to us clearly through the Bible and less clearly through the light of nature.

"If the Bible were silent on the issue of homosexuality, would it have been moral to engage in it?"

It wasn't moral prior to Scripture being written. Scripture reveals God's law to us - it is not itself the basis of morality. Rather Scripture is the revelation of God's law. The Bible would have been silent on the issue of homosexuality, if it were a matter of indifference. It speaks against the sin because one of the purposes of Scripture is to show us the way we ought to live.

"Why has God condemned homosexuality; is this something that He has communicated to us?"

We might argue over whether God has communicated the reason for his condemnation clearly. It should be apparent that God created Eve (not Steve) for Adam. Consequently, we might reasonably infer that one reason for the prohibition on homosexuality is is contrariety to the Creation ordinance of marriage. This looks like a voluntary law (as opposed to a natural law), but again whether it is or not is not really germane to this discussion.

"What are the inherent principles involved?"

I don't know what this comment refers to.

"My position is that the natural law is the rational agent’s participation in the eternal law."

It looks like the commenter's position is borrowed from Aquinas: "It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature's participation of the eternal law." (Summa Theologica, 1st part of the 2nd part, Question 91, Article 2)(link)

I do not know whether the commenter would also agree with Aquinas:
Article 6. Whether the law of nature can be abolished from the heart of man?
I answer that, As stated above (4,5), there belong to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men's hearts. But it is blotted out in the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Question 77, Article 2). But as to the other, i.e. the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Romans 1), were not esteemed sinful.
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1st part of the 2nd part, Question 94, Article 6 (link)

Such an admission tends to undermine the use of "natural law" standing alone as a rule for others, even if it is an individual's participation in the eternal law (whatever that is supposed to mean). The light of nature leaves the individual without excuse, but it can be obliterated (variously) as to many details, and consequently is not an infallible authority from which to build a system of morality by which we condemn others.

"Please explain your position."

Hopefully the explanation above suffices.

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Comments Policy Silliness

I noticed that there seems to be some well-intentioned silliness in R. Scott Clark's new blog commenting policy (link to his discussion of his policy). The new policy requires those commenting to provide their real names, so as to take responsibility for their comments.

Before I get to the silliness, let me acknowledge that there are small number of vocal folks who abuse what they perceive to be the web's anonymity. That is to say, there are a number of folks who post anonymously to harass, annoy, inflame, or otherwise act as trolls. This is irritating and it leads to blog-owners requiring some additional barriers to commenting to deter these trolls.

Nevertheless, imposing a policy that says those commenting must provide their real names fails to make people responsible for their comments. First, the current policy only requires that a part of the person's name be provided. There's no requirement that the whole name be provided. Unless someone has a rather unusual (for the blogosphere) first name (yes, Thabiti, I'm thinking of you) then even using a real name wouldn't help. Same, though perhaps a little less so, for family names. Even when we combine first and last names, there are still many common combinations. Adding a middle initial or perhaps a full middle name would be helpful in further reducing the number of possible people a particular might refer to.

Such measures, however, fail to provide full responsibility for two reasons. First, as the tax folks know, there are plenty of cases of people with identical names. Second, even if your social security number of passport number were provided (we have to keep the blogosphere international, after all), simply identifying a person's name doesn't tell you much that permits you to hold that person responsible. We would also need an address, some sort of physical description (several people can live at the same address), and for church discipline purposes, membership information.

Furthermore, in the U.S. and South Africa, as well as some other places, gun ownership is rather common. Thus, if we really want to keep folks who comment on blogs responsible, we need some ability to get to them. Thus, they would need to be required to post some sort of bond with a neutral third party (such as a bank), that the blog owner could seize if the blog commenter violated the bounds of proper behaviour - at least as an initial form of responsibility. Hostage giving by blog commenters would be another way: who is going to write mindnumbing screeds in your comment boxes if you have their firstborn child?

And, of course, not only is the mechanism proposed by my dear brother in Christ, R. Scott Clark, not enough to ensure responsibility, it is a way that's easily foiled. I would not be shocked if Clark started to see a lot of the John Smiths and Jane Does of the Internet start commenting (in surprising volume) on his blog.

In fact, the only people who Clark's policy will adversely affect are those morally upright folks who don't want to reveal their real names. They are the only ones who will not intentionally violate Clark's policy (some may unintentionally violate it, based on not carefully reading the policy, or not noticing that the policy exists), while the unscrupulous will easily beat his safeguard.

When pseudonymous comments are outlawed, only outlaws will comment pseudonymously.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Scripture's Clarity Confirmed Against Smudges - 1/25

Dave Armstrong has posted a series of "25 Short Arguments on the Difficulties of Perspicuity (Clearness of Scripture for Salvation)" (link) from his book "501 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura: Is the Bible the Only Infallible Authority?" I can see that his list of arguments has received nearly a thousand views, so perhaps it makes sense to provide a response to each of these. The arguments themselves are not long - individually they are no more than smudges that aim to obscure Scripture's clarity. This is number 1/25 of my wiping away of the smudges.

Armstrong's Argument

1. The Bible is only clear to the extent that various Protestant factions agree on any one of its teachings.

Short Rebuttal

The argument confuses subjective clarity for objective clarity.

Longer Rebuttal

The idea that Scripture is only clear to the extent that people agree seems to assume that the different opinions of people come from ambiguity or lack of clarity in the text of Scripture. In fact, however, sometimes the different opinions come from other sources.

For example, tradition can be a powerful influence on one's views. If someone has grown up in a community in which the Scriptures are interpreted in a particular way, that can exert an influence on the person's perception of the text. For example, people will think that Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 because they have so often heard that, although the text doesn't actually say that.

In another example, one's sin can influence one's views. Those who insist on various forms of sexual immorality will find ways, in their own mind, to justify their behavior despite Scripture's clear prohibition of their deeds.

We could go on and on with examples, but perhaps we should simply state what Scripture says:

The light is light, even though the darkness doesn't understand it.

John 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

The darkness doesn't embrace the light because of sin.

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Wicked men wrest both the difficult sayings of Scripture, as well as the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

One way that men obscure Scripture is through Scripture-invalidating Tradition:

Matthew 15:6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

But in contrast, the Scriptures are clear to those who love God and seek His instruction:

Proverbs 8:9 They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.

The fathers of the church also recognized this. They explained:

Alexander of Alexandria:
Oh, the impious arrogance! Oh, the immeasurable madness! Oh, the vainglory befitting those that are crazed! Oh, the pride of Satan which has taken root in their unholy souls. The religious perspicuity of the ancient Scriptures caused them no shame, nor did the consentient doctrine of our colleagues concerning Christ keep in check their audacity against Him. Their impiety not even the demons will bear, who are ever on the watch for a blasphemous word uttered against the Son.
- Alexander of Alexandria, Epistle to Alexander of Constantinople, Section 10

Cyril of Alexandria:
All things are plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge, as it is written, but darksome to the foolish is even that which is exceeding easy. For the truly wise hearer shuts up the more obvious teaching in the treasury of his understanding, not admitting any delay in respect of this: but as to the things the meaning whereof is hard, he goes about with his enquiries, and does not cease asking about them; and he seems to me profitably to press on to do much the same as they say that the fleetest dogs of the chase do, who having from nature great quickness of scent, keep running round the haunts of their game.
- Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, Book 4, Chapter 2, at John 6:52-53

And we could provide many more. The bottom line, however, is that the argument fundamentally confuses the objective clarity of Scripture with the subjective obscurity, the latter being caused by a variety of factors, such as sin and human tradition.

- TurretinFan

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Caner Materials

Some folks have suggested that Ergun Caner's critics are getting their material from a Muslim "hate site." To those folks, I'd like to provide links to Ergun Caner himself speaking or writing, or to general or Baptist press reports of what he has said.


November 2007 NW Baptist Convention (Number 1)(Number 2)

Sermon: "The Greatest Day in Church" (CD for sale, streams for free)

Transcript of "Christian Jihad" interview on CBN (link)

Transcript of "What Do Muslims Believe" (four part series on the John Ankerburg Show)(link to pdf)

Interview for SBC Today (link)

Prestonwood Sermon (link)

Two Sermons from each of Ergun and Emir (link)

Three Ergun talks (link)

Pastor Lloyd interviews Ergun Caner (link)


Living With Joy Radio - "Ergun Caner: From Islam to Christianity"
Part 1 - November 2, 2009
Part 2 - November 3, 2009
Part 3 - November 4, 2009

Interview on "For Faith and Family" (August 27, 2007)

FRC Action Speech (September 2009)(you have to scroll almost to the bottom of the speakers to find Caner)

Discussion on Islam in Seattle (not sure the date)
Islam 101
Islam 201
Islam 301

Zola Levitt Appearances (dates are the first dates of airing - I don't know whether they aired live or were pre-recorded)

Episode: “Behind the Veil” with Ergun Caner
Part 1 - April 18, 2004
Part 2 - May 2, 2004

Episode: “Dr. Ergun Caner: An Arab-Christian”
Part 1 - June 23, 2002
Part 2 - June 30, 2002

Signs of the End 2001: “Now a Christian” (Ergun Caner)
November 4, 2001 [Update: 3/8/2010 - I'm having trouble with this link]

Episode: “The Darkness That Nearly Engulfed Us”
October 21, 2007 [Portion of the episode with Caner begins about 19 minutes into the clip.]

Craig von Buseck Interview (at CBN)

Pat Robertson Interview (on the 700 club) "Islam Unveiled"
Transcript Another? interview transcript

John Ankerberg Show
"Is Islam Opposed to Democracy and Christianity?" (May 30, 2004)
"Former Muslims Testify About Islam" (2003)

Undated/Unsourced Video of Caner (link) [Caution: some of the ads on the hosting site are unsavory.]

July 6, 2002, Associated Press Article

Baptist Press article regarding "What the Media Get Wrong About My People Every Time," by Ergun Caner (June 16, 2004)

Former Muslim Discuss Conflict In the (July 30, 2006)

When Worldviews Collide : ‘We either adapt or die’ (August 16, 2006)

How Muslims Become Christians - John Ankerberg Show (not sure what date)

What The Qur'an Says About Non Muslims? - John Ankerberg Show (not sure what date)

What Do Muslims Believe? (12 part series - not sure what date)

Caner's Old Biography Photo Page(apparently captured in 2004)

Caner's Old Biography Page (apparently captured in 2005) (Another version of Caner's Old biography)

WayBack Machine Archives for main page (various times)

(thanks to Fusion! for the three links above)

WayBack Machine Archives for all material at (various times)

Caner's Glossary of Arabic Terms (apparently as of 2005)

Caner's Topical Index of the Koran (apparently as of 2007)

Caner's Article titled, "Dirty Little Secret" (apparently as of 2005)

Photo Allegedly of Ergun and his Father (retrieved 2004)

Photo Allegedly of Ergun in a Mosque with a Rifle (retrieved 2004)

Churchhouse To Jailhouse - Ergun Caner (part 1)(part 2)(part 3)(part 4)(audio set to a slideshow of still images)

The Threat of Radical Islam - Ergun Caner (part 1)(part 2)(part 3)(part 4)