Saturday, December 25, 2010

Critique of Bishop Olmsted's Response

Bishop Olmsted, responding to blogger criticism of his decision to remove the "Catholic" designation from St. Joseph's hospital because it took the life of a child in defense of the life of the child's mother, stated:
I really don't read the blogospheres. I try to pray each day to find my identity in Jesus Christ. I start my day, every day, with an hour of adoration. I celebrate the Eucharist. I pray morning prayer, mid-day prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. My identity comes from Christ. Christ is present in his living body, the Church. That's my identity - it comes from that. If I'm unfaithful to that -- then whether I'm looked at one way, or another - if I'm given praise or whether I'm given ridicule - it doesn't matter. What I'm called to be is faithful to Jesus Christ and his Church.

A few responses:

1) He's not going to win any bonus points from me for blowing off the blogosphere. Obviously, though, he's under no moral duty to read what people write on the Internet or in the newspaper, or what they say on TV or over the radio. Whether the media is old or new, he's not under a moral duty to take any interest in what other human beings have to say about things.

2) For someone who really thinks it doesn't matter, he looked rather nervous and he sounded quite defensive. Perhaps, however, the nervousness had some other source, such as what his fellow bishops will be saying about his decision.

3) His mention of his adoration, Eucharist, and daily prayers is a reference to the fact that he is required under the canon law of his church:
Can. 663 §1. The first and foremost duty of all religious is to be the contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer.

§2. Members are to make every effort to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice daily, to receive the most sacred Body of Christ, and to adore the Lord himself present in the sacrament.

§3. They are to devote themselves to the reading of sacred scripture and mental prayer, to celebrate worthily the liturgy of the hours according to the prescripts of proper law, without prejudice to the obligation for clerics mentioned in ⇒ can. 276, §2, n. 3, and to perform other exercises of piety.

§4. With special veneration, they are to honor the Virgin Mother of God, the example and protector of all consecrated life, also through the marian rosary.

§5. They are to observe faithfully an annual period of sacred retreat.
And again:
Can. 276 §1. In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.

§2. In order to be able to pursue this perfection:

1/ they are first of all to fulfill faithfully and tirelessly the duties of the pastoral ministry;

2/ they are to nourish their spiritual life from the two-fold table of sacred scripture and the Eucharist; therefore, priests are earnestly invited to offer the eucharistic sacrifice daily and deacons to participate in its offering daily;

3/ priests and deacons aspiring to the presbyterate are obliged to carry out the liturgy of the hours daily according to the proper and approved liturgical books; permanent deacons, however, are to carry out the same to the extent defined by the conference of bishops;

4/ they are equally bound to make time for spiritual retreats according to the prescripts of particular law;

5/ they are urged to engage in mental prayer regularly, to approach the sacrament of penance frequently, to honor the Virgin Mother of God with particular veneration, and to use other common and particular means of sanctification.
I bring this up simply to note that what he says he is doing is simply what canon law requires him to do.

4) These requirements are not as rigorous as the requirements for those in monastic life, but they do impose a significant daily burden on a person. The various hours require not just a quick "Hail Mary," but reference to the books that dictate the particular prayers, hymns, and readings for that particular day and hour (there's a great deal more discussion here, for those interested).

5) It's easy to believe that the bishop has found his identity in this, which he has (exceedingly sadly) confused with Christ. A life of daily attendance on these requirements is a disciplined life that adheres to rules. Those who have been in the military may have seen men like this who found a sense of identity in the rules and regimes associated with that life. The prayers at regular intervals from a book that requires simply obedience, not thought, provide a regime that can be followed and give one a sense of belonging.

6) Such discipline is (in itself and without consideration of the end to which it is being put) a good thing. God has created men to obey. Indeed, it is even good to be regular in praying to God - not so that it will become a rote chore, but to be in the habit of turning to God to seek His aid, thank Him for His gifts, confess our sins, and praise Him for His greatness. Rome further perverts the matter by including all sorts of mariolatry into the regime, but that's neither here nor there.

7) Rome, however, uses this as a yoke to place on the shoulders of their priests (bishops are priests too). It becomes a duty that they must do to please the Church and (it is implied) God. But God has not asked for this - God has not said that this is what will please Him.

8) I have to admit that when I heard this short speech, many verses flooded into my mind. The first passage was this:

Luke 18:9-14
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
When questioned about his decision, this bishop put down his critics and exalted himself, based on his rituals. But he's missing the point, what God desires is not the rituals, but the contrite heart:

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

What this attitude of following the rules of religious life in the Roman religion misses is what Jesus himself taught:

Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

9) A final passage also came to mind as fitting the situation.

Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Here's a bishop talking about going through his rote prayers - the minimal requirements of his clerical office, and yet he has just condemned a hospital that made the very difficult decision to use lethal force to defend the life of a woman from her child. Was that decision right? Ultimately God will judge, but normally lethal force is permitted in defense of life. If, in fact, the situation is as it has been reported, it appears that the woman had the right to defend herself.

10) I was also struck by the fact that the bishop's stated identity was not Christ alone, but "Christ and the Church." What he considers to be faithfulness to Christ is faithfulness to the rules of his church. However, in following the rules of his church, he's not following God's law. I'm not simply talking about his failure to allow self-defense to be a justification for killing in this case, but about the fact that he offers worship (hyper-dulia) to Mary, engages in idolatry (in the latria of what is truly bread), and seeks to be right with God (evidently) through faithfulness rather than by faith.

- TurretinFan

P.S. I was also a little surprised he didn't mention Mary. But don't worry, there's an image of Mary based on the Guadalupe idol behind him.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Further Response to Mr. Albrecht Regarding Debate on Veneration of Images

In a new video (audio + slideshow only), Mr. Albrecht has responded to the comments in my post (link to post) regarding the debate. This is in addition to the comments he submitted to me by email, and which are already addressed in the original post via an update to that post. I've provided the following written response and a largely-overlapping video response (just audio), below.

Mr. Albrecht responded to the comments on my blog by way of video. He stated that I didn’t heavily emphasize the Old Testament prohibition on the veneration of images – his justification for this claim was simply his assertion that the Old Testament doesn’t prohibit the veneration of images. This assertion is patently false. I highlighted many passages which specifically prohibit the veneration of images, such as Exodus 20:5, which states: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

Or Leviticus 26:1, which states: “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.”

In point of fact, Mr. Albrecht barely engaged the text of Scripture. Instead he focused his time in other areas.

One of his main arguments to attempt to distinguish away the Old Testament texts was to assert that “There is, however, a clear distinction between idolatry and veneration.”

Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction in the Bible? No, he cannot.
Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction from the fathers of the first century? No, they don’t make that distinction.
What about the fathers of the second century? No, they too say nothing helpful to him.
He basically has to jump forward in time many hundreds of years to find anything like this distinction being brought out.

He refers to the latria/dulia distinction that Rome is fond of making. He and I debated that topic some time ago. He could not find the distinction in Scripture then – and he still cannot find it now. Even if he could find that distinction eventually enunciated in some father or other after some time, as we brought out in the debate the 2nd Council of Nicaea did not make the distinction that he would like to see.

Mr. Albrecht again appeals to Dura Europos. He states: “There was much stronger evidence to prove the early Christian church venerated images, statues. The Dura Europos is a clear-cut example of this.” During the debate we exposed this error. Nobody knows what sect worshiped in that church. Nobody knows how the images were used – whether just for decoration, for teaching, or for (as Mr. Albrecht claims) veneration. In fact, no one knows even whether the church was ever used.

He claims it is a Christian church from earlier than the mid-200’s. His assertion is empty and untrue.

He claims that I “have to fall back on the assertion that this church is not typical.” Listen to the debate. First he asked me whether I knew of Dura Europos, then he asked me whether it was typical. I told him it was not. That’s hardly me “falling back” on that position.

He then asks who am I to make an assertion that Dura Europos is not typical. Well, he asked me – so I told him. Why would anybody think that Dura Europos was typical? Mr. Albrecht does not give us any good reasons to think so.

He then states that he’s not aware of any scholars who say that unorthodox people worshiped there. I’m not sure what his ignorance of the subject is supposed to prove. Are there any scholars who claim orthodox Christians worship there? If so, who are these scholars? What is there basis for the claim? Mr. Albrecht can’t tell us, because Mr. Albrecht doesn’t know.

Mr. Albrecht claims that he showed that not a single father interpreted the key Biblical texts in the same way in which I interpreted them. There was not time for Mr. Albrecht to show anything remotely resembling that. All Mr. Albrecht did was assert such a thing. He did quote a small handful of fathers who neither explicitly supported nor explicitly condemned the position I took.

Then Mr. Albrecht tries to explain why his unproven assertion is true. His proposed reason why is “the fathers knew the difference between idolatry and true religious veneration.” But, of course, Scripture does not make that distinction and Mr. Albrecht cannot identify any church fathers that make that distinction. It’s another assertion on Mr. Albrecht’s part, but not one he can support with facts.

Mr. Albrecht tried to argue that Ancient Judaism is not on my side. This was another one of his blunders. He quotes Jacob Milgrim who indicates that in the mid-third century there starts to appear in Judaism a “grudging recognition of Jewish art” and that people began to paint pictures on the walls in that time. This just proves my very point. (Read the article for yourself!)

Mr. Albrecht then cites to a pseudographic Jewish Targum that specifically permits for carved stone columns as long as they are not worshiped. This Targum, however, dates to somewhere between the eighth century and the 15th century. It’s hardly representative of ancient Judaism.

And even if it were, it is simply distinguishing between having the images and venerating them.

Mr. Albrecht claims that his quotation from Basil is a “contested quotation.” That’s not true. It’s a spurious quotation. The consensus of scholarship agrees – both among Roman Catholic scholars and non-Roman Catholic scholars.

I pointed out that Mr. Albrecht was relying on a secondary source. I probably should have mentioned that his comments about Judaism were similarly drawn from a secondary source, which is probably why he didn’t realize the pseudographic Targum he quoted was so late.

Mr. Albrecht asserted that he relied on as secondary source “just as everything else Turretinfan relies on in scholarly works on the Biblical or patristic texts are secondary sources.” I’m not sure why this is particularly relevant. There’s no scholarly source that Mr. Albrecht has turned to that says anything other than what I’ve said – his quotation from Basil is spurious.

Mr. Albrecht goes on to argue with one of the patristic scholars who notes that the term “theotokos” became popular later than Basil. Mr. Albrecht misunderstands what the scholar wrote and goes off on a diatribe about how the term theotokos was used early.

Mr. Albrecht makes a serious blunder by alleging that the term theotokos was used “close to two centuries before Basil’s time” by citing a prayer found in a papyrus that was “dated by papyrologists to the mid-200’s.” The mid-200’s would be about 100 years before Basil (330-379). And frankly, given Mr. Albrecht’s numerous mistakes about dates and so forth, I would want to see what his source was regarding this prayer as well rather than just accepting it (though it may be correct).

Mr. Albrecht points out that work was probably not written by the Greek iconoclasts. One of the works that I quoted from does say “It has been attributed to the Greek Iconoclasts,” which is clearly wrong. So, Mr. Albrecht is quite right to point out the editor’s mistake in using the word “Iconoclast” instead of “Iconodule.” I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht read the other notes, which indicated what this quotation obviously meant, which was that the work had been created during the Iconoclastic controversy. Nevertheless, I fully agree with Mr. Albrecht that it was not the iconoclasts, but the iconodules, who forged this particular letter.

Mr. Albrecht also suggests that many more “m s s” (as he calls them) have been discovered at a later date. I don’t know of any scholarly support for Mr. Albrecht’s assertion, and he does not provide any.

Mr. Albrecht then tries to bolster his position regarding Basil by quoting Basil’s statement that the honor paid to the image passes on to the prototype. This is very interesting, of course, because Basil is talking about worship of Jesus passing on to the Father. I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht grasps the impact of his seizing on this phrase from Basil. Is his worship of Jesus the same as his worship of images? Does he really want to compare his worship of man-made images to his worship of the true image of the Father?

Basil certainly did not make that comparison. Basil was simply pointing out that by worshiping Jesus was are not becoming tritheists – we remain monotheists, because the worship given to Jesus is not only given to Jesus but to the Father. Basil did not compare the worship of Jesus to the worship of painted boards or statues.

Mr. Albrecht speaks with great emphasis on the word “Image” but he doesn’t seem to realize that Basil is speaking of the Son of God, not some carved stone column or other lifeless idol. I will grant him this – the veneration of Jesus is perfectly acceptable. There is no problem worshiping Jesus. It is man-made images that are the problem. Remember that Scriptures “thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image or any likeness,” it does not prohibit us from worshiping the image of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Albrecht says that in the authentic Basil quotation, the use of “icon” in its proper Christian usage is shown. I heartily agree. The one icon we can worship is Jesus himself. Not a picture of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the image of the Father. That’s the proper Christian worship of an icon – and it is the only worship of an icon supported by Basil.

Mr. Albrecht again repeats his statement that “Christianity has always been able to distinguish between proper religious veneration and idolatry.” Yet, as we’ve noted each time – Mr. Albrecht’s assertion is just not supported by any evidence.

Mr. Albrecht next turned to the issue of the Vienna Genesis. He admitted he made a mistake in saying that the Vienna Genesis was dated to the 300’s, and asserted that it was dated to the 400’s. Actually, while some people have placed it in the late 400’s, it appears that the consensus is for the early 500’s.

Mr. Albrecht then claims that he really meant to refer to the “Cotton Genesis.” But Bruce Metzger (who Mr. Albrecht cited during the debate) also tells us that the “Cotton Genesis” is from the 500’s and John Lowden tells us that some scholars (citing Weitzmann and Kessler) date this to the late 400’s (John Lowden, “The Beginnings of Biblical Illustration” in “Imaging the Early Medieval Bible,” John Williams editor), p. 15. The same work indicates the sixth century for the Vienna Genesis (p. 17).

Mr. Albrecht tries to argue that he has provided positive evidence for the veneration of images in the early church, but he has not. The most he has done is to point out that in some instances some of the ancient churches had images in the churches.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Follow-Up With Scott Windsor

Mr. Windsor has a brand new post (link to post) in which he attempts to respond to my post of yesterday (link to my post). There's not much new.

In my response to my point that he is committing a fallacy of emphasis, he insisted that his position is not novel and quoted (he claimed) from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Here's what he said:

I'll begin with #6 - My explanation is not new. The 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia says: "But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam (aka Original Sin) — from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death." The article actually dates back to 1910 - before even my parents were born.

I trust this will silence the false allegation that this was somehow my "novel interpretation." I have also posted this part of my response to TF's blog.
Except that's not actually what the entry says. The "(aka Original Sin)" is Mr. Windsor's insertion. What it actually says is this:
The formal active essence of original sin was not removed from her soul, as it is removed from others by baptism; it was excluded, it never was in her soul. Simultaneously with the exclusion of sin, the state of original sanctity, innocence, and justice, as opposed to original sin, was conferred upon her, by which gift every stain and fault, all depraved emotions, passions, and debilities, essentially pertaining to original sin, were excluded. But she was not made exempt from the temporal penalties of Adam — from sorrow, bodily infirmities, and death.
(bold is mine, italics are original)

After that, he claims he doesn't need to give a supporting argument for his assertion ("It is not up to me to point out what the supporting argument should be"). In the world of reason, of course, people can't just make assertions.

He goes on to address two arguments I did not make, to wit:

1) He points out that Luther didn't write in Greek. Who said he did? I certainly didn't say so.

2) He alleges that, in context, Luther can't be referring to Jesus' brethren. I'm quite sure Luther isn't talking about the conception of any of Jesus' brethren, and I certainly wasn't suggesting otherwise.

He then claims I've abandoned my Greek argument. What argument exactly? Presumably it is one of those two arguments I didn't make.

He clarifies that his use of "ACCURATE" to describe a translation here "refers to the misplaced insertion of Greek into this discussion as if to confuse the reader." While I grant that Mr. Windsor was one of my readers, and that he was quite confused, I think he has only himself to blame for that. I didn't suggest in the least that the Greek word was a translation of anything that Luther wrote.

Mr. Windsor then basically admits that he had no basis for his claim regarding "every translator" but argues that if there were at least two translators, then he was correct. Of course, the only thing he would appear to be correct about is in his defeat of the straw man position that the Greek word is supposed to appear in the English text.

Mr. Windsor identifies the perpetual virginity as a side topic, as it indeed it is. That was, of course, why the point was raised inside parenthesis in my original comment. It was an aside - a point of interest for the reader.

He then makes the untrue assertion: "TF is alleging Luther used Greek in his writings." Now, don't get me wrong. Luther probably did use Greek words in his writings at certain points, but that has not been my argument here. Mr. Windsor simply hasn't followed what I have said.

After quoting my demonstration of my position and over twenty quotations from Ineffabilis Deus, Mr. Windsor boldly alleges: "First off, TF has misrepresented Catholic teaching here." That is a bold allegation because I've just presented numerous quotations from an official papal document, and indeed from the very document that defines the dogma of the immaculate conception.

Mr. Windsor continues: "The whole document, Ineffabilis Deus, does not define the Immaculate Conception - only one paragraph in it does and here it is for the reader". One supposes that Mr. Windsor thinks this contradicts my characterization of Ineffabilis Deus as "the document that defined the dogma." If he does think that, it's simply because of some weakness of his own. The document defines the dogma, whether it does so in one of its many paragraphs or all of its many paragraphs - the same way that Pope Pius IX defined the dogma, although that does not mean that every word that ever came out of Pope Pius IX's mouth (or pen) was the definition of the dogma. This is really just elementary English, in my opinion, but pointing this kind of thing out brings complaints of ad hominem from Mr. Windsor. In point of fact, my characterization is pretty much exactly the same characterization that one will find at EWTN, which describes Ineffabilis Deus as "Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX solemnly defining the dogma of the Immaulate Conception, 8 December 1854."

Mr. Windsor then quoted the formal definition of the dogma. Ironically, this formal definition is actually not a whole paragraph, or even a whole sentence. It is part of one sentence of one paragraph of one section of the document. Nevertheless, I think in fairness to Mr. Windsor we should point out that the portion he quoted is the formal definition, could stand alone as a sentence, and is long enough to be a paragraph.

Mr. Windsor then stated: "That's it - the rest of the document is Pope Pius IX's explanations - but the only part which can be called 'infallible' is the definition itself." Again, who said otherwise? I certainly didn't.

Mr. Windsor then states:
Secondly, the definition makes no mention of the temporal punishments due to Original Sin, and we believe she did suffer and die - which are part of these temporal punishments. Some may maintain that she didn't die - and was taken up just prior to her death - THAT definition only specifies "having completed the course of earthly life..."
Yes, those who follow Rome cannot decide amongst themselves whether or not Mary died. And yes, Roman theology, even though it teaches that Mary was preserved from original sin, irrationally permits her to suffer the punishments due to sin. We will gladly grant Mr. Windsor those points - particularly since we have never said otherwise.

Of course, none of that supports Mr. Windsor's claim that Mary had original sin, just not its stain (as though the two were separable). And furthermore, if Mr. Windsor believes that the meaning of the words of the paragraph defining the dogma can be considered in a vacuum, without considering the usage of the words throughout the document, he is mistaken. Even though the rest of the document is not considered "infallible," it still provides the context in which the defining paragraph is to be understood.

Mr. Windsor's attempt to isolate the part of the sentence from its context is noted but futile. We all know that it has to be understood within context in order to be properly understood. Even Mr. Windsor knows that, whether he wants to admit it or not.

Moreover, while the rest of document may not be "infallible," it is still official. It is still papal. Mr. Windsor cannot simply ignore it because it contradicts his position. As between what Pope Pius IX thinks Roman theology is and what layman Windsor thinks Roman theology is, I think it is not "ludicrous" to think that it is Mr. Windsor who has a deficient understanding of Roman teaching.


Apology Accepted, Mr. Shea

In which Mr. Shea apologizes for his previous claims (link)(link to more recent previous claims)(and original previous claims). Although he doesn't specifically name me, since his original post was obviously aimed at what I wrote, I'm happy to grant his apology and forgive him for his misstatements.

Ergun Caner Update

Ergun Caner recently preached twice at Clough Pike Baptist Church (as reported here). Ergun preached with, apparently, both of his brothers in attendance. There were a couple of things that struck me as I listened to his messages, but most of all I noticed that most of his criticized material was gone, and he had some new material in his presentation. He did not make claims to know Arabic, or to have been raised in Istanbul, or anything else of that kind (that I noticed). I hope this shows a change in Dr. Caner's approach, and that he will stick to this kind of presentation going forward. It would be nice if he would set the record straight on the points on which Dr. Geisler attempted to defend him, but perhaps he still plans to do so. (A.M. message)(P.M. message)


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Quick Response to Windsor on Luther and Mary

One of my comments has been addressed by Scott Windsor (of the Roman communion) in a post that is mostly addressed to my friend, James Swan (link to SW's post). I'm just responding to the portion of Mr. Windsor's post that relates to what I said.

Mr. Windsor's comments are as follows (his block quotations are, I believe, from Mr. Swan):
Notice the ambiguity as to which conception is being referred to is no longer... an ambiguity! TurretinFan has rightly commented on this:

"As you can see, context is key. "Mary's conception," or "the conception of Mary" (or replace "Mary" with "Virgin") can refer to two very different things: it can refer to the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, and it can refer to the conception of Jesus (or any of his ἀδελφοὶ - look up its etymology). In the latter case, Mary is doing the conceiving, in the former case she is receiving the conceiving. The difference in meaning is significant and - in English - the difference can only be determined by looking at the context." [source]
So now Mr. Swan, via the pseudonymic “TurretinFan” (TF) delves into the etymological fallacy. IF the word in question were intended to mean what they say, then an ACCURATE translation would have been, “in the moment of the Virgin’s conception of the Son...” - so if Swan and TF are correct here, then every translator of this passage to English has it wrong. Now, before continuing, let us also consider the fact that this word TF throws at us is a GREEK word... I am unaware of Luther’s Works being in Greek as he primarily wrote in German or Latin, not Greek. Why the Greek here?

Now, the word he cites here is transliterated “adelphos” which is literally “a” (from) “delphus” (the womb) - and further means “a brother.” [source] It is simply illogical that we’re talking about a “brother” here in “the Virgin’s conception.” TF even states it COULD mean the conception of the Virgin - so we’ll take that argument and leave the irrational one behind.
Now add to the fact that the later Luther states, "Every man is corrupted by original sin, with the exception of Christ" (1540). "Christ alone is a son of the flesh without the sin of the flesh" (1544).
Again, this statement demonstrates a lack of understanding of the definition of the Immaculate Conception. The definition does not say that the Blessed Virgin did not inherit the “sin of the flesh,” only that she was preserved from the STAIN of that sin in the moment of her conception. Will Mr. Swan admit to this fact?
I answer:

1) Mr. Windsor's allegation of fallacy of etymology is unsupported. In fact, the argument that Mr. Windsor offers doesn't begin to address what a supporting argument for such an assertion would need to address. Mr. Windsor doesn't, for example, identify a word that has had its meaning determined etymologically and then explain what the correct meaning should be.

2) Mr. Windsor's allegation about what an "ACCURATE" (his caps) translation would be just reflect his apparently weak knowledge of the English language. The expression, in English, "the virgin's conception" can (standing by itself) refer to one of two things: (1) the action of the virgin (a virgin shall conceive) or (2) the action on the virgin (Mary's mother's conception of Mary). It's perfectly accurate to say "the virgin's conception" with respect to either of those two meanings.

3) Mr. Windsor's claim "if Swan and TF are correct here, then every translator of this passage to English has it wrong" is based on his apparently inadequate grasp of English, as explained above. It is also somewhat strange, because it is not like there are hundreds or even dozens of English translators of this particular passage of Luther's works. Mr. Windsor doesn't even identify two such translators (at least not anywhere near this discussion), though perhaps there are two.

4) The comment about Jesus ἀδελφοὶ also whizzes over Mr. Windsor's head. There was a primary point and a secondary point to the comment. The primary point was that an expression like "Mary's conception" (standing alone) could refer to her conception of any of the children she brought forth. Of course, in this instance it refers to Jesus' conception, not James' or any of the Lord's other ἀδελφοὶ. The second point was that Jesus, according to Scripture, had ἀδελφοὶ - those who were from the same womb as him - that includes brothers and what Scripture refers to as "αδελφαι" which refers to sisters. That secondary point is not really relevant to the issue of what Luther's talking about, at all. It's just a point that needs to be made against those who mistakenly hold to the idea that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus' birth.

5) Mr. Windsor's attempt to separate the "STAIN" (his bold and caps) from the sin is not something he can support from the official teachings of his church. Read the document that defined the dogma, and you'll see that the "stain" and the "sin" are used essentially interchangeably.

Notice, in the following series how "taint," "stain," and "sin" are used interchangeably and how it is repeatedly affirmed that Mary was free from original sin (in order of appearance, numbers just for ease of reference, in case you should wish to check/correct me)
  1. "absolutely free of all stain of sin"
  2. "free from all taint of original sin"
  3. "conceived without the stain of original sin"
  4. "preserved free from all stain of original sin"
  5. "preserved from original sin"
  6. "preserved from original sin"
  7. "was never subject to original sin, but was completely preserved from the original taint,"
  8. "all men are born infected by original sin; nevertheless, it solemnly declared that it had no intention of including the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, in this decree and in the general extension of its definition."
  9. "free from the original stain"
  10. "the Virgin's supreme sanctity, dignity, and immunity from all stain of sin"
  11. "her most excellent innocence, purity, holiness and freedom from every stain of sin"
  12. "free from all contagion of sin"
  13. "the worm of sin had never corrupted"
  14. "when one treats of sin, the holy Virgin Mary is not even to be mentioned"
  15. "to her more grace was given than was necessary to conquer sin completely"
  16. "entirely free from every stain of sin"
  17. "she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin"
  18. "holy and removed from every stain of sin"
  19. "conceived without original stain"
  20. "preserved free from all stain of original sin"
  21. "conceived without original sin"
So, unless Mr. Windsor has more than simply his own say-so, we must respectfully insist that it is he, not us, who is unfamiliar with Roman dogma on the subject. He is committing the fallacy of emphasis by assuming that "stain of original sin" is supposed to be different in its sense than "original sin."

6) I was aware of Mr. Windsor's novel interpretation of Ineffabilis Deus, and I had asked him previously to tell me where he got his ideas from - whether from some official source or from his own creativity. He didn't respond then (that I'm aware of), and I don't suppose he'll respond now, although he has the opportunity to respond in the comment box.


Severus of Antioch on Scripture

Severus is a 6th century patriarch of Antioch, but one who seems to have viewed the Council of Chalcedon as embracing Nestorianism. Thus, he would not typically be considered a church father by the Eastern Orthodox or Romans, although the Syriac Orthodox Church would presumably consider him to be one of their fathers.

I think you'll find that, whatever the merits or demerits of his Christology may have been, his view of Scripture was similar to that of the fifth century fathers that preceded him (link to discussion of fifth century fathers).

Severus of Antioch (465-538)(patriarch of Antioch from 512–518 - Non-Chalcedonian):
How therefore is it anything but ridiculous and impious for us to say that the Trinity was united in hypostasis to the race of mankind, when the holy Scriptures say more plainly than a trumpet, «The Word became flesh and dwelt in us», that is that one of the three hypostases who was rationally and hypostatically united to soul-possessing flesh?
E. W. Brooks (editor and translator), Severus of Antioch: A collection of letters from numerous Syriac manuscripts, Letter 2 (Second Letter to Oecumenius) (1915), p. 20.

Severus of Antioch (465-538)(patriarch of Antioch from 512–518 - Non-Chalcedonian):
To those who are not wise in their mind or are otherwise without intelligence, and are lacking in true instruction, the holy Scripture gives the proper rule and place, in order that their emptiness of mind and lack of instruction may be turned to wisdom: for indeed it commands those who are such both to learn and to ask, or to be silent altogether; for the holy book of Proverbs somewhere said: «To the fool who asketh wisdom shall be reckoned: but, when a man maketh himself silent, he is thought to be wise». But the man who keeps this rule it raises and advances, and incites to learn things that are of use and profit, and it says, «Give thine heart to wisdom, and prepare thine ears for words of understanding».
E. W. Brooks (editor and translator), Severus of Antioch: A collection of letters from numerous Syriac manuscripts, Letter 25 (to the Emesenes) (1915), pp. 50-51.

Severus of Antioch (465-538)(patriarch of Antioch from 512–518 - Non-Chalcedonian):
But, if we in some place hear Scripture say 'the Lord's eyes', we understand God's activity, which is signified through the term 'eyes'. And, when again we hear of ears, we understand the propensity and inclination that he has toward us, and that he has the attribute of mercifulness, and that he brings our service to completion; for Scripture speaks to our weakness in human and condescending fashion. And, because it is said that God has wings also, yet we do not understand that he has wings, but that his sheltering power is signified through these; for, since we are Christians, we must understand the divine Scriptures spiritually, not according to the letter.
E. W. Brooks (editor and translator), Severus of Antioch: A collection of letters from numerous Syriac manuscripts, Letter 28 (1915), pp. 87-88.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Triablogue and Christmas

I've noticed that there are a number of Christmas-related posts over at Triablogue (link to said posts). I admit I have not read the posts carefully (and some are just for fun), but I have not seen any advocating the idea that the church is permitted to make December 25 a holy day of obligation or arguing that God has requested that we honor Jesus' birth with a holiday. If Triablogue were to hold those positions, I would find it pressing to engage with their posts.

I trust that both non-Reformed and Reformed members of Triablogue would agree with me that no church has the right to impose on the conscience a duty to celebrate Christmas, and that God has nowhere indicated that he wishes to be worshiped by an annual feast of the nativity. Since we agree on those core principles, and since I am so busy with other things, I'm quite willing not to defend the Puritan position that I hold (because it's Biblical, not because it's Puritan).

In fact, I would not have even thought to mention their posts at all, had not one kind reader privately messaged me indicating that he believed Triablogue's posts were directed at me in some way (something I could not find in my quick perusal of the tagged Triablogue posts).

If the Triabloguers wish to keep the day to the Lord, let them do so.


Truth Value of Tensed Statements

I've heard certain philosophically inclined people suggest that the truth value of the statement:
(1) I will party like a rock star on January 1, 2011,
is dependent not only on whether or not I actually do party like a rock star on that date, but also on whether today (the day you are reading my statement) is before or after January 1, 2011. I don't agree.

We do not evaluate the truth of statements in a changing context. Thus, we evaluate the truth of statement (1) keeping mind when it was said, as well as who it was said about. The statement does not become false simply because I die, nor does it become false when someone else reads it.

That's probably more clearly seen from the use of past tense statements. The statement:
(2) I partied like a rock star,
is dependent (for its truth) on whether or not I had already so partied prior to making the statement. The statement does not become true on January 1, 2011, if I so party then (don't worry, friends and family, I have no such plans). The statement was a lie when I made it, and it is evaluated in that context, not a changing context.

Let me add one point of clarification: we evaluate the statements within a fixed context, but the content of that context may evolve. For example, only God knows whether (1) is true (as of today), by January 2, 2011, a number of people will know whether it is true (hopefully, they will know it was false), but many of you who don't know me personally may never know whether it is true. Likewise, you may not know whether (2) is true, and if you cared to find out you would investigate my past, which would involve (in theory) an increasing collection of information upon which you could make your judgment.

Who cares?

The issue is mostly interesting because God knows the future. He can make true statements about what will happen tomorrow, and it is impossible for anyone to intervene to make God's statements false. This idea eliminates an "open" view of the future, and leaves Calvinism as the primary viable explanation for how human freedom and divine Providence are compatible (which is really a topic for another post).

Those statements that God could make (and on many occasions has made) are always true. God's promise that a Messiah would come was true when God made it, and remains true now, even though the Messiah has already come, because we evaluate God's statement from a single unchanging context.