Friday, September 24, 2010

Bellisario Swings and Misses

Matthew Bellisario has a new post up (link to post). It purports to respond to an earlier post I provided (link to my post).

The title of the post is "Another "Expert" on Catholicism Misrepresents Church Teaching." The person he's referring to as "Expert" is me. I'm flattered! No, I jest. I'm not really flattered, because those little quotation marks are being used by Bellisario to indicate sarcasm.

But sarcasm is just the opening. The first sentence claims I'm someone "often misrepresents Catholic teaching" (no evidence provided). The second sentence calls my post my "latest rant."

You might think he'd met his quota of negative assertions with those two sentences and the title, but you'd be wrong. He's just getting started. In the third sentence, Bellisario says both that my argument "is based on pure fallacy" and then questions whether you can call my article an argument.

That third sentence is a set-up for the fourth sentence where Bellisario states: "Lets [sic] take a quick look at how this pretended "Reformer" misrepresents the Catholic Church here regarding infallibility." This sentence combines the sarcasm quotation marks, with the negative adjective "pretended," and a further negative assertion that I misrepresent "the Catholic Church" - a three-for-one special!

That concludes his opening paragraph. One might expect that he's about to unleash some demonstration of how I misrepresent his church.

But his very next sentence acknowledges that I quoted two documents from Cardinal Ratzinger from when he was prefect of the CDF and that I characterized the situation as "pretty clear." Bellisario's next sentence, remarkably, agrees that it is pretty clear!

Bellisario writes:
Yes its [sic] pretty clear, and dissent has no bearing on whether it is infallible or not. In fact, the reason why they were restating the Ordinary infallible teaching is because idiots in the Church were not following it.
At least it is nice to know that Bellisario's negative words are not reserved for us pretended reformers! And nothing that Bellisario has said here actually disagrees with what I wrote - in fact the one place it interacts, it explicitly agrees with me!

Bellisario then provides another block quote from and responds:
The document itself does not have to be "infallible" since the Church has long taught the doctrine as being infallible. In order for a doctrine to be considered infallible it does not have to be proclaimed formally by the Pope in any one given document. So a Catholic who understands how the Church defines doctrine does not care if the document itself is infallible, it merely becomes part of the same Ordinary and Universal Magisterial teaching that has always taught it as being infallible.
And, of course, nothing of what Bellisario has said disagrees with what I wrote. In theory, as Bellisario has said, something can be "considered infallible," even though no pope or council has defined it as dogma.

But, of course, the only way that these allegedly infallible teachings are known are through fallible means. In other words, someone could try to do personal research to see whether this teaching is really something that has been promulgated by the universal and ordinary magisterium, or one could rely on the CDF, but both of those techniques are fallible. One relies on private judgment, and one relies on a fallible authority. One could even rely on one's own interpretation of Scripture to conclude that male-only ordination is an infallible teaching. But one could be wrong. Neither one's private judgment nor the CDF has the charism of infallibility in Romanism.

Bellisario then provides another block quotation from me and comments:
No it is not even possible that a future Pope [sic] could change the doctrine, and only someone like Turretin Fan with limited knowledge about the Catholic Church would ever make such a statement like this. It is impossible for a Pope [sic] to come along and change Ordinary Infallible doctrines of the Church. It is not like Protestantism where teachings on contraception can change virtually overnight. The fact that there are dissidents in the Church who are active despite the Church's infallible teaching, again has no bearing on the argument at hand. There have always been dissenters in the Church despite the fact that the doctrine they oppose has been defined infallibly. We see this fact clearly with the heretical theologians who call themselves Catholic, who still do not accept the infallible teaching on Transubstantiation. No one cares, and it has no bearing on the infallibility of the teaching.
Finally, Bellisario says he disagrees with something! But note how he goes about it. First, he states the fact that he thinks he disagrees. Then, he makes a negative comment about me. Neither of these sentences is actually an argument, so we'll pass over them.

Getting to his argument, Bellisario alleges: "It is impossible for a Pope [sic] to come along and change Ordinary Infallible [sic] doctrines of the Church." But here we see the problem - the reason why Bellisario has disagreed: he has not understood what I wrote! I didn't say that it is possible for a pope to come along and change an infallible doctrine. I said it is possible that the pope could come along and define a doctrine that is contrary to what the CDF has claimed is an infallible doctrine. After all, the CDF is fallible. Consequently, the fact that the CDF claims that something is an infallible doctrine doesn't make it an infallible doctrine, just like Bellisario asserting that something is infallible doctrine doesn't make it so.

Bellisario's next sentence is an irrelevant aside on his disturbingly favorite topic of contraception. I'll leave it aside in the interest of time.

Bellisario's next assertion is that "The fact that there are dissidents in the Church who are active despite the Church's infallible teaching, again has no bearing on the argument at hand." Part of the problem, as noted above, is that Bellisario hasn't grasped the argument at hand. Another part of the problem is that "dissidents" are the way that something avoids being universal.

Let's try to help out Bellisario with an example. If we look at the Western church from Augustine to Aquinas, excluding the heretics, one will find that almost everyone acknowledged the universality of original sin, with Christ being the one exception because of his virginal conception. Yet, nevertheless, at some point folks (you could refer to them as "dissidents" or simply as "a vocal minority" if you like) began to allege that Mary was an additional exception.

This is not something that "change[d] virtually overnight." It is something that was very gradual. It took a long time from when Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Sienna were having conflicting alleged private revelations to when Pius IX defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

It happens in Romanism - sometimes what was the viewpoint of a tiny minority becomes an allegedly infallible dogma later. That's why appeals to the "ordinary and universal magisterium" are illusory.

Bellisario provides a counter-example regarding theologians who deny transubstantiation. Suffice to say that this counter-example doesn't undermine what I've said. The dogma of Transubstantiation was defined at Trent. It's not something that's defined by the "ordinary and universal magisterium." So, even if Bellisario's characterization of the situation with them is accurate, it's not particularly relevant.

To put it another way: Bellisario has no consistent way to distinguish between a true dissident and a minority voice prior to an exercise of the extraordinary magisterium.

Bellisario concludes his post with the same kind of non-argumentation that characterized his opening:
Ordinarily I would not waste my time with such things, but pointing out this post gives us an example of how little the opposition truly understands about Catholicism. Let the buyer beware before they believe anything they read on Turretin Fan's website that pertains to Catholicism.
After seeing how Bellisario failed to rebut or refute anything that was said, spending his time arguing against a position not expressed in my article, perhaps a different moral emerges: understand what the critic of your church is saying, before you accuse the critic of not understanding your church's teaching, particularly when the critic quotes at length from your church's official documents.

Or you can just slap a lot of negative assertions together and call it a response!


Vatican Bank - Money Laundering Investigation

The press is reporting that funds have been seized at the Vatican Bank, aka the Institute for Religious Works (link to article). The chairman of the bank is apparently being investigated with respect to "a series of omissions in financial transactions," and the alleged wrong-doing is that "the Vatican bank had neglected to communicate to financial authorities where the money had come from."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bryan Cross places the Cart before the Horse, Theologically Speaking

Over at Called to Communion, in the comment box, Bryan Cross wrote:
In the first century, no one needed to confess that Christ is homoousious with the Father. But after the fourth century, to deny the homoousious is to fall into [at least material] heresy.
This is dead wrong and gets things exactly backwards. It has always been heresy to deny the Son's divinity. Arius was a heretic before Nicaea, and the Nicene council simply affirmed (with respect to Arianism) what was always the teaching of the Bible.

The church does not make up orthodoxy. When the church does its job correctly, it merely recognizes the truth that was already once delivered to the saints. There was no new delivery in the fourth century or any of the succeeding centuries.

Of course, Romanists have to put the cart before the horse, because they've added to the gospel. If they tried to claim that it was always heresy to deny the Immaculate Conception, they'd have to treat Augustine, and the Augustinians down through Aquinas as heretics. So, they place the cart before the horse and say that it is only heresy to deny the Immaculate Conception after "the Church" makes that doctrine part of the gospel.

The absurd result is the one that Bryan Cross has illustrated above, where the Son's divinity becomes something that it was ok to deny before 325 A.D.

Amazing - absolutely amazing.

- TurretinFan

Test Case of the Infallible Magisterium: Ordination of Women

Here's the Official Roman Catholic position on the ordination of women:
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
November 8, 1995

The publication in May 1994 of the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was followed by a number of problematic and negative statements by certain theologians, organizations of priests and religious, as well as some associations of lay people. These reactions attempted to cast doubt on the definitive character of the letter's teaching on the inadmissibility of women to the ministerial priesthood and also questioned whether this teaching belonged to the deposit of the faith.

This congregation therefore has judged it necessary to dispel the doubts and reservations that have arisen by issuing a responsum ad dubium, which the Holy Father has approved and ordered to be published (cf. enclosure).

In asking you to bring this responsum to the attention of the bishops of your episcopal conference before its official publication, this dicastery is confident that the conference itself, as well as the individual bishops, will do everything possible to ensure its distribution and favorable reception, taking particular care that, above all on the part of theologians, pastors of souls and religious, ambiguous and contrary positions will not again be proposed.

The text of the responsum is to remain confidential until the date of its publication in L'Osservatore Romano, which is expected to be the 18th of November.

With gratitude for your assistance and with prayerful best wishes I remain,

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger


Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

October 28, 1995

Dubium: Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.

Responsum: In the affirmative.

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published.

Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger

Tarcisio Bertone
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli


It's pretty clear. Ratzinger (then prefect/puppeteer of John Paul II) was alleging that the Roman Catholic Church's position on the ordination of women is an infallible, irreformable teaching, despite the fact that there is presently (or at least certainly was) dissent within the heirarchy as to whether the failure to ordain women is proper.

Ratzinger, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the group formerly known as the Inquisition), and Bertone (Emeritus Archbishop) clearly are teaching this doctrine. Ratzinger is now pope. Furthermore, Ratzinger alleges that John Paul II approved this document. So, it virtually has the approval of two consecutive popes.

But here's the rub.

The document itself is not an exercise of papal infallibility. The document merely alleges that the teaching is something "set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium." But this document itself is not the ordinary and universal Magisterium. This document is fallible.

So it is possible (whether or not it is likely), that some future pope's prefect may decide that Ratzinger erred. The practice of non-ordination of women is just something culturally conditioned and a long-standing discipline ... and hey-presto, this document ceases to have any authoritative weight against the new document.

Worse yet (for the traditionalists), some future pope may infallibly define that both women and men may be properly ordained. If he does, what will be the use of this document!

As many folks know, the women priests movement continues to be active despite the opposition of the current papacy (link to recent example article).


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vincent of Lerins on "Development of Doctrine"

Sean Patrick, under the nick Blogahon, wrote:
Unfortunately for Mr. Mathison, the blessed John Henry Newman was not the first to posit doctrine of the development of doctrine.

St. Vincent Lerins wrote on it extensively in the fifth century. ...

Lastly, it is puzzling to always see Protestants kicking the development of doctrine, as if their particular doctrines are explicitly and fully present from the very earliest Christian testimony.

Now, I don't agree with Vincent (as I explained in much greater detail when rebutting a similar argument for development that tried to utilize Vincent), but what Vincent was arguing for was virtually the exact opposite of development:
Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. That is truly and properly 'Catholic,' as is shown by the very force and meaning of the word, which comprehends everything almost universally. We shall hold to this rule if we follow universality, antiquity, and consent. We shall follow universality if we acknowledge that one Faith to be true which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is clear that our ancestors and fathers proclaimed; consent, if in antiquity itself we keep following the definitions and opinions of all, or certainly nearly all, bishops and doctors alike.
You can't really have innovation if you only hold things that were universally held by the ancients. Vincent's rule would rule out:
  • Papal Infallibility
  • Conciliar Infallibility
  • Purgatory
  • Indulgences
  • The Bodily Assumption of Mary
  • The Immaculate Conception of Mary
  • ... and so forth.
Vincent's rule would stifle development (in the sense of Newman), because one must find a universal acceptance of the doctrine among the ancients in order to accept a doctrine.

"Protestants" are opposed to the "development of doctrine," in the sense of doctrines emerging without a Biblical basis. We require that all doctrines of the church be supported by Scripture, not merely by widespread acceptance among the ancients.

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ergun Caner - Values Voter Summit 2010

Ergun Caner spoke at the Values Voters Summit again this year (see discussion and link to video here).

Here are some interesting comments from Dr. Caner:

(2:29) She [referring to his wife] has trained me, and taught me, and raised me. She taught me "high cotton." So if you can understand what I'm saying it's because of her.

(17:09) I lost my family, I lost my father, I lost my home, I lost my culture, I lost -- you know, you lose what you lose -- and I gained a family known as the body of Christ. (applause) Being disowned is a pittance compared to what takes place around the world.

(19:35) And in a town of 115 people [referring to Wood, NC], where my grandmother found faith in Jesus Christ, where both of my brothers have worshiped, where my youngest brother served as pastor after I did. One little town changed my family. One boy reached my soul. One country gave me the freedom to stand in front of people like you and to beg you not to stop.

It's interesting. Caner's final comment suggests that his grandmother came with him to Wood, NC where he went to serve as a minister. That does not sound like a young man who has lost his family and his home, does it? Yet Caner says he lost his family and his home in the second comment. I think we may generously assume that Caner did not mean to suggest that his wife taught him English, but rather that she taught him Southern-isms.


Revised Wesminster Standards vs. R2K

The radical separation of church and state proposed by some folks that I would designate as "R2K" rather than "2K," is contrary to the Westminster Standards. Practically everyone knows that such positions are contrary to the original Westminster Standards (and, of course, to the Standards as modified by the RPCNA testimony), but these positions are also contrary to the standards as amended by the Americans.

Westminster Confession of Faith (American Revisions)

Chapter 23

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

Chapter 31
4. Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.

Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition (which is, Thy kingdom come), acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate; that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.

Q. 118. Why is the charge of keeping the sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors?
A. The charge of keeping the sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone ofttimes to hinder them by employments of their own.

Q. 124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?
A. By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.

Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.

Q. 130. What are the sins of superiors?
A. The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them, an inordinate seeking of themselves, their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; counseling, encouraging, or favoring them in that which is evil; dissuading, discouraging, or discountenancing them in that which is good; correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath; or any way dishonoring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behavior.

(these are from the revised Westminster Confession of Faith and the revised Westminster Larger Catechism, as adopted by the OPC)

The Westminster standards, as revised by the Americans, do not have some of the stronger language regarding the civil magistrate's duties, but even the American revisions have language that specifically calls for the civil magistrate to be involved in maintaining piety and justice, protecting the church of the Lord, disapproving and removing false worship, enforcing the sabbath, and providing things necessary for the souls of the populace. Likewise, the Westminster standards permit the churches, as synods, to petition the civil magistrate in extraordinary cases.

That does not mean that the American revisions of the Westminster standards require a reconstructionist view, nor does it mean that the American revisions require the views of 17th century Massachusetts. On the other hand, it does mean that those who are teaching that the civil magistrate is not called to maintain piety in the land, is forbidden to enforce the external provisions of the first table of God's law, or is not required to observe justice, are outside the confessional bounds.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Easily Dismissed Propaganda from Hart

Hart has a new post up arguing that 2K is confessional (link to post). He tries to characterize the matter this way: "critics of 2k have repeatedly claimed that two-kingdom theology is outside the bounds of Reformed confessionalism," referring readers to a comment box at Greenbaggins (link to box).

Actually, though, if you look through the comment box, the claims about something being outside of the bounds of Reformed confessionalism are about R2K, not 2K. In fact, some of the comments specifically make it clear that R2K is at issue, not 2K. So, sadly, it turns out that the very framing of the issue by Hart is misleading.

But after framing the matter in terms of the discussion at Greenbaggins, Hart then states:
The argument about the confessional status of 2k can take several forms. One is that 2k is not the position of the original Westminster Confession, or of the other Reformed confessions for that matter. Another is the idea that the Bible calls the magistrate to uphold both tables of the law. And with this duty comes the magistrate’s responsibility to punish blasphemers and idolaters since the first table clearly forbids these sins and since God instructed the Israelites to execute those guilty of such sins.
This characterization is again misleading: The second form is not an argument about confessional status at all. The first form is one way of measuring confessional status, but it is not one that was presented in the comment box. Again, sadly, Hart's characterizations do not honor the truth.

Hart then states:
The problem with this argument is that American Presbyterians revised (see all the revisions here) the original Westminster Confession and churches such as the PCA and the OPC continue to accept the revisions from 1787-1788.
Well, that straw man is soundly defeated to the extent that the right way (or at least, "a right way") to measure Reformed confessionalism is by the American revisions.

Hart then identifies the changes and goes on to characterize the American revisions this way:
Not to be missed is that the revision not only drops entirely the magistrate’s responsibility for suppressing heresy and blasphemy, but it raises the stakes by forbidding laws that would prefer any denomination and insisting that magistrates protect the good names of all people no matter what their religion or their infidelity. It is an amazing change.
It may be amazing. It is a change. It's not a contradiction (as we've already demonstrated).

Hart then goes on to say, in a longwinded fashion, that the RPCNA has (as of 2004, and perhaps before, though he does not say when) removed the same portions of Chapter 23 of the Westminster Confession that the American presbyterians did in the 18th century. Specifically, the RPCNA states that it "rejects" that portion of the chapter (see this pdf).

DGH claims that "This means, for the confessionally and grammatically challenged, that even the logic of national covenant no longer sustains the idea that the magistrate has authority [to do what WCF 23:3 says]." Logic doesn't change, people do.

DGH further claims that: "For the literacy challenged, that means that critics of 2k who insist 2k is outside the bounds of the confession would not even find a home in the RPCNA under the very Blue Banner at least on this point." With whatever respect is due Hart, this claim is pretty vapid. All it means is that the RPCNA does not hold to WCF 23:3, after the colon, and that consequently that portion could not be applied against "2K" or presumably against R2K, in the RPCNA. I don't expect to see a wave of R2K folks heading for the RPCNA, for a variety of reasons - mostly that whole "establishment of religion" thing that is still part of their confession.

But the historical reality is that in the last 20 years, the RPCNA has altered its positions on a variety of things for which it was historically known. I remember when RPCNA ministers had to abstain from alcohol, for example. Are the RPCNA folks radical liberals? Of course not. Have they changed a lot in the last 20 years, definitely.

DGH concludes:
Now some have tried to say that the revisions still assert the magistrate’s duty to suppress blasphemy and heresy. But given what the American divines said and did not say, and given that the Covenanters no longer insist on magisterial responsibility for punishing idolatry, this argument is even less believable than the one about George Washington being an orthodox Protestant.
That's a link back to my post, but that's a claim I never made. I brought this issue to Hart's attention before posting, but we'll have to wait and see whether he posts any sort of retraction.

I cannot figure out whether Hart did not read the post, read the post and did not understand it, or is lying about the post. I'll leave it to Hart to clarify.

What I said there was the revisions do not contradict the original position. They do not state the original position, nor do they deny the original position. The American revisions were a move to broaden the confessional tent. And the American revisions did broaden the confessional tent, in most respects, although the American revisions did narrow the confessional tent with respect to the issue of giving preferences to a particular denomination.

Ah, well. There's a lot more that could be said. Many of Hart's positive statements are absolutely correct. He says lots of true things. For example, Hart writes:
I believe that what Scripture says is true. I believe the true church faithfully ministers the word of God. Those truths are binding on all people. The spiritual and eternal nature of those truth’s claims will not be adjudicated until the judgment day. The temporal and civil aspects of God’s law are deliberated daily by those authorities that God has ordained, and those authorities are legitimate even when they do not follow God’s law or implement it correctly.
That's all good and true. The problem is this, when asked directly whether he affirms the following proposition, "Scripture says things that bind the civil magistrate," Hart indicated that he denies this. He stated, "no, I don’t agree with either of your propositions" to the person who posed this proposition to him.

That position is contrary both to the original standards and to the standards under the American revisions. It is, of course, also contrary to the position held by the RPCNA. That position is a position I view as "R2K" rather than "2K." I may be critical of some forms of 2K, but what is out of bounds is saying that the Scripture does not say things that bind the civil magistrate.

More coming on why R2K can't get along with the Westminster Standards, Lord willing.


Dawkins Criticizes Rome and Original Sin

In a recent speech (link), Dawkins has attempted to criticize the Roman Catholic Church.

Dawkins began by pointing out that contrary to the implications of Ratzinger in his recent speech in Edinburgh, Adolph Hitler was more Roman Catholic than Atheist, at least by the standard that is used by Rome when saying how many members her church has (namely those baptized persons who have not renounced their baptism or been excommunicated).

Dawkins then asserted that there is no link between atheism and evil. Of course, there's obviously a connection between atheism and violation of the first table of the law, the relation between men and God. There's also an intuitive link between atheism and the second table, though we expect the correlation to be muted both by the influence of conscience (atheists have consciences too) and the presence of large numbers of members of false religions, as well as hypocrites and the self-deluded (Hitler would fall in at least the latter category, and probably in some sense in both categories), who themselves also have consciences.

Dawkins continues by trying to attack original sin. This was interesting to me, because my friend Dr. White recently debated an atheist on the topic of "is the New Testament evil," in which the atheist's primary argument was about original sin.

After the attack on original sin, Dawkins declares that Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity, identifying children (on account of the sex abuse scandal and making them feel "guilty" in general), "gay people" (one presumes he means sodomites), women (because it won't let them be priests), truth (because he denies the usefulness of a common barrier protection device against AIDS), poor people (because he encourages large, unaffordable families), science (because of opposition to stem cell research), an enemy of the Queen's church (on account of his assertion that Anglican orders are null and void, even while trying to poach Anglican vicars), and education (because of the teaching that "evidence" is less reliable than revelation, faith, tradition, and the pope's own authority).

I'm sure that many of Dawkins' criticisms would be equally or at least similarly applicable to the Reformed churches. Some portions would not be applicable, such as the sex abuse portions, the opposition to the Queen's church, as such, or the portion about denying the truth about the usefulness of barrier protection against infection. Dawkins, however, does not elaborate on the relevant criticisms to much extent, except briefly with respect to original sin.

With respect to original sin, Dawkins' complaints seem to be these:

1) The doctrine of original sin is taught to young children.

This is only a valid objection if the doctrine is false, but the doctrine is true.

2) The doctrine of hell is also taught to them.

The doctrine of hell is also true.

3) The doctrine of original sin is based on an historical Adam, but Romanists now acknowledge that there was no historical Adam.

This criticism is not applicable to us, the Reformed, who affirm that Adam was an historical person. Additionally, there are conservative RCs who continue to affirm that Adam was an historical person.

4) The doctrine of original sin is a "disgusting theory."

This is not really an argument, just a statement of preference (and one that, in the mouth of an atheist, is wholly consistent with the doctrine).

5) The doctrine of original sin leads people to presume that it is godlessness that led Hitler to do what he did.

Perhaps it does lead to that. If it does, then this is only an objection insofar as the doctrine of original sin is false, but the doctrine of original sin is true.

6) The doctrine of original sin indicates that "we are all monsters unless redeemed by Jesus."

Actually, the doctrine of original sin does not entail rejecting the idea that depraved men still have consciences. Thus, while there is a sense in which they are "monsters," they do not all behave monstrously.

7) The doctrine of original sin is a "revolting, depraved, inhuman theory"

This is just a stronger statement of item (4), addressed above.

As for the remainder of Dawkins' complains, we are happy to acknowledge that Divine revelation is more reliable than extrapolations based on the assumptions of contemporary scientists. We affirm the high value of children, and consequently consider those with large families wealthy even if they lack significant financial assets. Our affirmation of the high value of children also motivates our concern about attempts by science to destroy the very young in an attempt to extend the lives of the old. We note that the reason for male leadership is God's design and gifts of leadership to him, the woman being the weaker vessel. We condemn fornication among all those who commit it. Finally, returning again to children, our care for them also motivates to be concerned for their souls, even from a young age.

On these grounds, while we may join with Dawkins in recognizing that the pope is evil, we cannot endorse the significant misguided portions of his criticism.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

R2K Tries to Biblically Defend Itself

Give Darryl G. Hart some credit: he's attempted to make a Biblical case. Here's his attempted Biblical case:
[We] have explicit repudiation of the kingdom of grace using arms when Jesus said in John 20: 36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world even among the Israelites who were seeking a heavenly city. But the Israelites did use the sword. Now Jesus says that he will not use the sword in connection with his kingdom. The NT does not say that we will change on giving the sign of the covenant to babies. So there is assertion as opposed to silence in the NT regarding the sword in the prosecution of Christ’s kingdom.

Jesus' kingdom is not of this world - that means that Jesus' kingdom is a spiritual reality. As Hart admits, this was the case with Jesus' kingdom for all time, both before Christ, while Christ was bodily present, and now that Christ is ascended into heaven. Thus, the fact that the true church of God is a spiritual kingdom is not the basis of discontinuity.

But Hart argues for discontinuity based on the fact that Israelites did use the sword.

Yes, the Israelites did use the sword. Christians use the sword too. In fact, Jesus commanded his disciples:

Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

But, of course, that's not the sort of sword Darryl has in mind. He means the civil magistracy. The sword allusion is an allusion (we hope) to Romans 13:

Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
But Christians will be among the civil magistrates - in fact, we are exhorted to pray for the salvation of kings and all that are in authority:

1 Timothy 2:1-4
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

So, there will be Christian kings, just as also there were Israelite kings.

I guess, Darryl could be trying to argue that even though the Christians would have literal swords, and even though Christians would have the sword in the sense of Romans 13, still the civil magistrate would not attempt to use the sword to convert people. But the Israelites did not use the sword to convert people.

Furthermore, of course, Christ's actual point was simply that if Christ were here as an earthly king, his men would fight to save him. The point Christ had in view was not an absence of the sword in the new covenant community, but rather the spiritual significance of Christ's kingdom. More particularly, Christ did not come to displace Caesar as civil magistrate.

Indeed, Christ affirms that Pilate's present position was something ordained by God:

John 19:9-12
And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, "Whence art thou?"
But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, "Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?"
Jesus answered, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin."
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar."
This actually brings us back to the point that Jesus' words, quoted by Darryl, are addressing. Jesus is rebutting the false charge that he is an earthly King, and the connected (and consequent) false charge that one cannot be a good citizen of Rome and be a Christian.

Remember that on a prior occasion they had tried to trick Jesus into either endorsing the loathsome Roman taxes, or setting himself up against Rome.

Luke 20:19-25
And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
And they asked him, saying, "Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?"
But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, "Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it?"
They answered and said, "Caesar's."
And he said unto them, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's."
And, of course, Jesus said these positive things about the Roman government before the crucifixion. The old covenant administration was still in place at that time. So, there is nothing discontinuous about Christ's disciples being good citizens after the entrance of the new covenant.

Moreover, of course, Jesus' words to Pilate about his servants not fighting to save him were also prior to the crucifixion, and consequently during the old covenant administration. So, again, they do not signal a discontinuity.

Perhaps that should be enough to show that Darryl's attempt to use Scripture to justify his R2K theology has failed. I would, however, like to add the following comment that Ron Di Giacomo provided in answer to Darryl's remarks:


Yes, Jesus in John 18 spoke of his kingdom, which as our Confession teaches is the visible church, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation, but that has little to do with the ordained rule of civil magistrates. That the church should not use arms does not mean that civil magistrates shouldn’t. In fact, your point proves too much. If we were to apply the teachings of Jesus in this regard to the civil magistrates, there would be no temporal justice whatsoever (something you do not aspire to).

Blessings my brother,