Saturday, January 22, 2011

Addressing Two Responses to the Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument argues for the existence of an uncaused cause that is eternal and unchangeable. There are two main responses to this argument.

1) That doesn't mean that the uncaused cause is Jesus.

There's no particular reason to argue with this response. We know about Jesus from the Bible, not from the cosmological argument.

2) If God exists as an uncaused cause, why not just assume that the universe itself is an uncaused cause?

The answer here is a bit nuanced. The cosmological argument shows that nature does not admit of an uncaused cause. Therefore, we must turn to the supernatural. However, just because the supernatural must have brought nature into being does not mean that nature can bring itself into being. In other words, this second response is an example of category error.

Let me try to clarify that a bit further. One of the foundation principles of the cosmological argument is that nothing comes from nothing. Yet, we see and say that God made all things from nothing. Does this disprove one of the premises upon which the cosmological argument is founded? No - because "nothing comes from nothing" is the way that nature operates. God is supernatural. Thus, the fact that God brings something from nothing does not violate the principle.

Perhaps it becomes even easier when you look at it this way. The cosmological argument is an argument for the fact that a creation miracle must have occurred. However, that does not mean that miracles are an ordinary part of nature. If you see a turtle on a fencepost, you don't think, "wow, I guess turtles CAN climb fences," you think, "someone put the turtle there."

You can easily see that it is absurd to say: "if someone can put a turtle there, why not just assume that the turtle can put himself there?" Yet, it is less obvious (particularly to atheists) to say that "if God can create the world from nothing, or be self-existent, or be timelessly eternal - then why not assume that the universe can be the same?"

I'm sure there are plenty of other responses, but if you ever find yourself in a discussion in which the cosmological argument comes up, perhaps you'll be able to help folks see that the universe is like a turtle on top of the fence post. Someone must have put him there - we know that because the turtle can't possibly have put himself there - just as we know that something outside of nature must have caused nature to exist.

And that something - whose identity is outside the argument - is the Lord God.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Built on the Wrong Foundation

Francis Beckwith explains (in a blog entry / column titled: "Transubstantiation: From Stumbling Block to Cornerstone"):
The Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist is a real stumbling block to some Protestants who are seriously considering Catholicism. It was for me too, until I explored the subject, historically and scripturally.
Transubstantiation is one of those Roman dogmas that spectacularly fails the tests of history and Scripture, so it was interesting to read what Beckwith wrote. It was particularly interesting because Beckwith views transubstantiation as a cornerstone, whereas for us (Reformed), the cornerstone of our theology is the Word of God.

Beckwith begins by allegedly setting for the doctrine of transubstantiation:
Catholicism holds that bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ when they are consecrated by the priest celebrating the Mass. Oftentimes non-Catholics get hung up on the term transubstantiation, the name for the philosophical theory that the Church maintains best accounts for the change at consecration.
There's a tiny problem that Beckwith hasn't accurately represented his church's position. The position of Rome is that:
And this faith has ever been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the veritable Body of our Lord, and His veritable Blood, together with His soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine; but the Body indeed under the species of bread, and the Blood under the species of wine, by the force of the words; but the body itself under the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread, and the soul under both, by the force of that natural connexion and concomitancy whereby the parts of Christ our Lord, who hath now risen from the dead, to die no more, are united together; and the divinity, furthermore, on account of the admirable hypostatical union thereof with His body and soul. Wherefore it is most true, that as much is contained under either species as under both; for Christ whole and entire is under the species of bread, and under any part whatsoever of that species; likewise the whole (Christ) is under the species of wine, and under the parts thereof.

And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.
- Trent, Session XIII, Chapters 3-4

Notice what is actually involved:

1) The bread becomes not just the body of Christ, but the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, and no longer remains bread.

2) The wine becomes not just the blood of Christ, but the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, and no longer remains wine.

These can perhaps be seen in the first three canons that Trent set forth in the same session:
CANON I.-If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.

CANON II.-If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood-the species Only of the bread and wine remaining-which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-If any one denieth, that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let him be anathema.
Notice that is not simply viewed as "the best explanation." It's so central to the Roman faith that if you deny it, you are under Trent's anathema. It's as central as the divinity of Christ is, to a Christian.

Beckwith argues:
There are several reasons why it would be a mistake to dismiss transubstantiation simply because of the influence of Aristotle on its formulation. First, Eastern Churches in communion with the Catholic Church rarely employ this Aristotelian language, and yet the Church considers their celebration of the Eucharist perfectly valid. Second, the Catholic Church maintains that the divine liturgies celebrated in the Eastern Churches not in communion with Rome (commonly called “Eastern Orthodoxy”) are perfectly valid as well, even though the Eastern Orthodox rarely employ the term transubstantiation. Third, the belief that the bread and wine are literally transformed into Christ’s body and blood predates Aristotle’s influence on the Church’s theology by over 1000 years. For it was not until the thirteenth century, and the ascendancy of St. Thomas Aquinas’ thought, that Aristotle’s categories were employed by the Church in its account of the Eucharist. In fact, when the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) employed the language of substantial change, St. Thomas had not even been born!
I answer:

First, the primary reason to reject transubstantiation has nothing to do with Aristotle. The primary reason to reject transubstantiation is that it is not taught by Scripture. In fact, the teachings of Scripture contradict transubstantiation.

Second, it is unclear what relevance Beckwith thinks that the approval of Eastern-rite liturgies that don't use the term "transubstantiation" is. Even the Latin-rite New Order of the Mass doesn't use the term "transubstantiation." (as can be seen by reviewing this pdf). Those points are totally irrelevant to the question.

Third, yes - the term "transubstantiation" (transsubstantiatio) was used by the 4th Lateran Council, 10 years before Aquinas was born. But the 4th Lateran Council affirmed much less than what Trent affirmed:
There is one Universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation. In which there is the same priest and sacrifice, Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine; the bread being changed (transsubstantiatio) by divine power into the body, and the wine into the blood, so that to realize the mystery of unity we may receive of Him what He has received of us.
(Fourth Lateran Council, Canon 1)

Notice that there is nothing there about each species being the whole Christ, nothing there about the soul and divinity being present, and nothing about the substance of the bread being absent. No doubt the teachings of the Fourth Lateran Council were in error, but they were not as extreme as Trent was.

As for the claim about "1000 years," it's a hollow claim. He continues that claim this way:
It was that third point that I found so compelling and convinced me that the Catholic view of the Eucharist was correct. It did not take long for me to see that Eucharistic realism (as I like to call it) had been uncontroversially embraced deep in Christian history. This is why Protestant historian, J. N. D. Kelly, writes: “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood.” I found it in many of the works of the Early Church Fathers, including St. Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 110), St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 151), St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A. D. 251), First Council of Nicaea (A. D. 325), St. Cyril of Jerusalem (A. D. 350), and St. Augustine of Hippo (A. D. 411) . These are, of course, not the only Early Church writings that address the nature of the Eucharist. But they are representative.
The problem is that Beckwith has been convinced to accept the Roman view despite the evidence. The evidence of "Eucharistic realism" is one thing, and perhaps it is an important thing to the Roman position.

Nevertheless, there is no teaching during the first 800 or so years of the church that has these characteristics:

1) The bread becomes not just the body of Christ, but the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, and no longer remains bread.

2) The wine becomes not just the blood of Christ, but the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, and no longer remains wine.

Yet that is what Trent teaches and makes central to the Roman faith. You may find fathers who echo the Scriptural metaphor of the bread being the body and the cup being the blood. You may even find some fathers who go further, and insist that the relationship is more than a mere symbol, but instead is a symbol with power. You may find fathers that talk about a spiritual presence. But you won't find what Trent teaches.

I openly challenge the Roman apologists to bring forth any example of a church father who says that after the consecration the bread is the blood of Christ, much less any church father that teaches both (1) and (2) as explained above. In short, any father of the church that teaches what Trent makes central to the faith.

Two of my favorite example of the metaphors of the fathers are from Ignatius:
You, therefore, must arm yourselves with gentleness and regain your strength in faith (which is the flesh of the Lord) and in love (which is the blood of Jesus Christ).
Greek text: Ὑμεῖς οὖν τὴν πραϋπάθειαν ἀναλαβόντες ἀνακτίσασθε ἑαυτοὺς ἐν πίστει, ὅ ἐστιν σὰρξ τοῦ κυρίου, καὶ ἐν ἀγάπῃ, ὅ ἐστιν αἷμα Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
See J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, eds. and trans., The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations of Their Writings, 2nd. ed., The Letters of Ignatius, To the Trallians, Chapter 8 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), p. 163.

And again:
Ignatius (@ 110 AD): I take no pleasure in corruptible food or the pleasures of this life. I want the bread of God, which is the flesh of Christ who is of the seed of David; and for drink I want his blood, which is incorruptible love.
Greek text: Oὐχ ἥδομαι τροφῇ φθορᾶς οὐδὲ ἡδοναῖς τοῦ βίου τούτου. Ἄρτον θεοῦ θέλω, ὅ ἐστιν σὰρξ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, «τοῦ ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυίδ», καὶ πόμα θέλω τὸ αἷμα αὐτοῦ, ὅ ἐστιν ἀγάπη ἄφθαρτος.
See J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, eds. and trans., The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations of Their Writings, 2nd. ed., The Letters of Ignatius, To the Romans, Chapter 7 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), p. 175.

And, of course, there are fathers who seem to have taken a view that is inconsistent with the crassly carnal view of Rome, such as Tertullian:
Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, 'This is my body,' that is, the figure of my body.
ANF, Vol. 3, Against Marcion, 4.40.

Beckwith doesn't really make a Biblical argument. He does reference the Bible though, and he does so in this way:
This should, however, not surprise us, given what the Bible says about the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples (Mt. 26:17-30; Mk. 14:12-25; Lk. 22:7-23), which we commemorate at Holy Communion, he referred to it as a Passover meal. He called the bread and wine his body and blood. In several places, Jesus is called the Lamb of God (John 1: 29, 36; I Peter 1:19; Rev. 5:12). Remember, when the lamb is killed for Passover, the meal participants ingest the lamb. Consequently, St. Paul’s severe warnings about partaking in Holy Communion unworthily only make sense in light of Eucharistic realism (I Cor. 10:14-22; I Cor. 11:17-34). He writes: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? . . . Whoever, therefore eats and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” (I Cor. 10:16; 11:27)
But, of course, nowhere does Scripture confuse the symbols and call the bread his blood or the cup his body. Nowhere does the Scripture deny that the bread is still bread or that the cup still contains actual food.

Moreover, Scripture is rich in metaphor - including metaphor:
  • in which the body of Christ is called "true meat" and his blood is called "true drink" (John 6:55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.)
  • in which Christ is called the "bread from heaven" (John 6:32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.)
  • in which Christ is called the "bread of Life" (John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.)
as well as other metaphors in which Jesus is a vine (John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.), a door (John 10:7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.), and a shepherd (John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.). But, of course, no amount of evidence that metaphor is abundant or that exactly the opposite metaphors are also used, will persuade those who seek to impose their heretical doctrine on Scripture.

Beckwith concludes:
In light of all these passages and the fact that Jesus called himself the bread of life (John 6:41-51) and that he said that his followers must “eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood” (John 6:53), the Eucharistic realism of the Early Church, the Eastern Churches (both in and out of communion with Rome), and the pre-Reformation medieval Church (fifth to sixteenth centuries) seems almost unremarkable. So, what first appeared to be a stumbling block was transformed into a cornerstone.
Notice how blindly Beckwith cites John 6! That metaphor ("Bread of Life") is exactly the opposite of the metaphor ("This is my body"), but yet Beckwith seems to easily grasp one metaphor while stumbling over the other as though it were intended quasi-literally (I don't say "literally" because literally that would mean that both the accidents and substance of a body were present - this "substance-only" idea is not "literal").

Beckwith fails to consider that Jesus explains his hard words that he uttered in John 6:53, only a few verses later:

John 6:61-63
When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

And if Beckwith had studied Augustine more, he would have seen that Augustine explains this the same way:
It seemed unto them hard that He said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you:” they received it foolishly, they thought of it carnally, and imagined that the Lord would cut off parts from His body, and give unto them; and they said, “This is a hard saying.” It was they who were hard, not the saying; for unless they had been hard, and not meek, they would have said unto themselves, He saith not this without reason, but there must be some latent mystery herein. They would have remained with Him, softened, not hard: and would have learnt that from Him which they who remained, when the others departed, learnt. For when twelve disciples had remained with Him, on their departure, these remaining followers suggested to Him, as if in grief for the death of the former, that they were offended by His words, and turned back. But He instructed them, and saith unto them, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Understand spiritually what I have said; ye are not to eat this body which ye see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth. I have commended unto you a certain mystery; spiritually understood, it will quicken. Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood.
NPNF1: Vol. VIII, St. Augustin on the Psalms, Psalm 99 (98), §8.

So, while there may be some vague "Eucharistic realism" out there in the fathers, that does not convert Jesus' metaphors into the Tridentine absurdity, in which the bread is said to be not only the body of the Lord, but his blood, soul, and divinity as well - and not at all to be bread, except as to appearances. Had Beckwith founded himself on the Word of God, rather than on the traditions of men, he would not be led into this error. Since he has rejected, however, the Word of God, he has a new cornerstone for himself.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sola Scriptura in Cyril of Alexandria's "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos"

The Orthodox Research Institute has published an English translation of Cyril of Alexandria's work, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos." It's not a huge tome, weighing in at about 50 pages of English text. Nevertheless, I think it serves to illustrate the Sola Scriptura approach of Cyril. Most of the following will be quotations from this single work. Italics are in the original, but any bolding is my own:
From this viewpoint, it follows that the one Christ has been divided into two things, into God and a man. But this is alien to the apostolic teaching and is in fact an invention of a demonic imagination. For the divine word proclaims to us that at the end of the ages, the Logos became man, not indeed that he was transformed into human nature, but that he took himself this nature.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 1, Section 2

What is implicit in Cyril's analysis is that if it is not in the Scriptures, it is not part of the apostolic teaching. We see him express the same thing negatively here:
But, if they say that the divine visitation has come upon a man born of a woman, then this is also what happened in the case of all the prophets. If this is true, then it is necessary to find in the divine Scripture two separate confessions, one, which praises God the Logos in himself, and another, which glorifies a man like us in words appropriate to human beings.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 1, Section 2

The same thing is repeated:
[After quoting John 1:1, John 1:14, and Hebrews 2:14] Do you hear then the one saying that the Logos was made flesh and the other that he partook of the same? But, if Jesus were born the man from a woman and afterwards the Logos descended upon him, as said before, it is necessary to find everywhere two completely separate confessions. Now, however, that the divinely inspired Scripture attributes to him conjointly the things, which belong by nature of man, the economy of the union is clearly seen.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 1, Section 3

Notice as well that in the quotation above Cyril says that the orthodox is "clearly seen" in Scripture, thereby affirming the perspicuity of Scripture on this issue.

Now consider Cyril's rather sharp remarks about his theological opponents:
But we recognize that their words are full of madness and delirium that it is as if they were spoken in sleep or drunkenness. We shall say to them the words of the Savior, "You err, knowing neither the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matt. 22:29). You ought to sober up and stop sinning, because you have become sick through ignorance of God.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 1, Section 6

What is implied in Cyril's rather non-irenic comments is that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of God. The two go hand in hand.

And again:
If, then, they apply the indwelling to him in a similar manner as in the saints, their blasphemy will be obvious to everyone, and it will be clear that their teaching is entirely alien to the apostolic teaching.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 1, Section 7

Notice that Cyril's emphasis is on the fact that their ideas are not part of the apostolic teaching. In fact, they are foreign to it.

However, of course, the heretics did try to argue from the Scriptures. So Cyril analyzed their arguments. Consider his approach:
But look, they say, the Apostle openly confessed Him to be a man. For, in a letter to Timothy, he writes this: "a man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). They say this, because they want to disturb the mind of the most sincere [believers]. But, if anyone prudently examines the apostolic verse, he will cast his vote against their impiety on the basis of this very verse. However, we shall not cut short the verse like they do, but taking into account a little of what precedes this verse, we shall be able to understand correctly the confession of the economy which is made here.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 2, Section 12

There are at least three things to note in the preceding quotation. First, the perspicuity of Scripture is shown in Cyril's comment about "if anyone prudently examines the apostolic verse." Second, the sufficiency of Scripture is shown by Cyril's comment, "on the basis of this very verse." Third, the hermeneutical principle that Scripture interprets Scripture is shown by Cyril's appeal to context.

It's not a lone appeal either, for he continues:
If this is the case, then, let us bring right into the middle of our discussion the Lord's statement, which they presumptuously say must be understood, as if in the Gospels he confessed that he was a mere man: "why do you seek to kill me a mere man, who has spoken the truth to you?" (John 8:40). But if one gives his mind as a love of truth to the verses of the Gospels and especially to the context, in which the Savior has spoken, then he will fully understand their cunning and will justly call them censorious and slanderous.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 2, Section 15

Notice again in the preceding quotation the double affirmation of Scripture's perspicuity and the necessity to read Scripture in context, letting Scripture interpret Scripture.

Notice as well Cyril's explanation for the faulty conclusion of the heretics:
But they are silent about all these verses and seize upon this word "man," and in this, they are similar to the Jews of that time. For the Jews waited for the Savior to teach, not really because they wanted to believe or to be taught, but because they were planning to seize upon something he would say, as the evangelist reports. These men too read or rather speculate about the divine Scriptures in order to find an accusation against him, who laid down his life for them.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 2, Section 15

This is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. The latter seeks to seize the Word for its own purposes, the former comes to the Word seeking to learn.

He even gets stronger:
[After quoting John 5:17, 19, 22-23, 25, and 27-29 and John 6:35] But they bypass all these verses as if they do not hear or rather, because they intentionally pretend to be deaf. They carry on about this statement, "but now you are seeking to kill me, a man, who has told you the truth," in order to disturb the minds of the most sincere [believers]. But they should consider, if they are right, that he who spoke what was said before is he, who has said this statement also.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 2, Section 16

Notice how Cyril is bringing in the concept of tota scriptura - all of Scripture must be considered, not only a select verse or fragment of a verse. That is because Scripture interprets Scripture.

Cyril continues on with sola Scriptura:
We should be content with what we have said and seek nothing more. For those who are right thinking and instruct themselves by listening to the divine Scriptures will say in good faith that there is nothing absurd about him being at once God and man, if in saying these things sometimes he is called God and sometimes man. The one designation by no means annuls the other.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 2, Section 16

Notice that Cyril has proposed a self-magisterium. A person educates himself by reading the Bible. Such a person is "right thinking" to Cyril. When Cyril says that we should be content with what we have said and seek nothing more, he means that we should accept and limit ourselves to what Scripture teaches.

Cyril also addresses a counter-argument based on something akin to sola Scriptura:
If they insist on saying, "where the Virgin is called Theotokos in Scripture," let them clearly hear the angel proclaiming this piece of good news to the shepherd and saying: "For today to you a Savior is born, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). He does not say, "Who shall be Lord" or in whom the Lord shall dwell," but "who is Lord."
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 3, Section 23

Notice that Cyril doesn't answer: "well, we don't have to prove our doctrines from Scripture," nor does he make vague comparisons to the fact that the word "Trinity" is not in Scripture. Instead, he answers the argument by showing where the Scriptures teach that Christ was God-become-man, not a human that was later indwelt by God. He accepts the major premise of his objectors (if it is not in Scripture it is not orthodox) but he rejects the minor premise (it is not in Scripture).

In view of the above, it should not be surprising to hear Cyril describe Paul this way:
Again, they should not whisper about this by putting forward the passion and resurrection and the fact that God raised him up. For already the reasoning, which applies to the economy, has been proven by what we have already said. If, however, they want to learn more clearly who it was who was crucified, then let them hear the teacher of the whole world, when he writes in his epistle to the Corinthians, "for I received from the Lord and delivered to you, that our Lord Jesus Christ on the night, on which he was betrayed, took bread," etc. (1 Cor. 11:23). Do you observe that the one who suffered for us is openly declared to be Lord?
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 3, Section 24

Is the quotation above itself a compelling proof that Cyril practiced sola Scriptura? Of course not. But it is not by itself. It is part of a larger context in which it becomes obvious that Cyril thinks that the Scriptures teach the reader important things plainly.

Hear then Cyril's conclusion to his work:
He did, indeed, show that the one who was born from the Virgin, that is himself, was both son of David and Lord. However, those who heard this testimony were confounded and did not contradict him, as the evangelist says in the narrative: "For no one was able to reply to his word and dared from that time to ask him any more questions" (Matt. 22:46). May the same thing happen to these [heretics] as well. May they somehow abandon their madness and come to know the preaching of true religion. As for us, beloved, let us hold this faith forever, keeping it in mind, preaching it plainly and boldly with our mouths, being prepared willingly to suffer everything for it. For this is the prediction of the prophets, the preaching of the Apostles and the cause of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the guide of eternal life. This is the wealth of the Fathers. This is our own true treasure, for the sake of which it is right that we sell and give away all things. If anyone ever wanted to steal this from us, let us despise him as an enemy of Christ and of our salvation, because we are persuaded by the commandment of the Apostle: "Whether we ourselves or an angel was to preach to you a different gospel from that which we preached let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8).
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 3, Sections 29-30.

For Cyril, as we have seen, it was crucial to keep doctrines Scriptural, and it was right to call down the anathema of Galatians 1:8 on those who were departing from Scripture's teaching on an important point.

Someone might wonder, "perhaps TurretinFan has simply cited the portions of the rebuttal relating to Scripture, but has left out the rebuttal from the Fathers and from the authority of the Church." Do not fear, I have not left out such items. In fact, the church is only rarely mentioned in the treatise. There is, of course, no mention of the Roman bishop (Cyril of Alexandria was no Romanist, after all) - and there is only a limited reference to councils. I think the limited reference to councils is illuminating, because Cyril is dogmatically condemning as heretics those against whom no counsel has yet proclaimed. He compares them to condemned heretics, and argues that his own position is founded on the unshakable rock. In the context of the work, that means Scripture, not the see of Peter, or apostolic succession generally:
These things and things like them are common to all those, who attempt to scatter the flock of true religion, as indeed the end of the aforementioned heresies has shown. What advantage did the deceit of Arius bring him? What advantage was there in the heresy of Eunomius and those, who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? What profit in the heresy of Paul of Samosata or in the madness of the one called Apollinaris? All these men had a shameful end to their present life and were thrown out of the boundaries of the Church. They shall be thrown out of "the Church of the first-born in heaven" (Heb. 12:23), because their names have been erased from "the Book of the Living and shall not be inscribed with the just" (Ps. 68:29). The same end will come upon these current blasphemers, especially those, who have become the leaders of this perversity, if they do not quickly become aware of their madness and attempt to return to the place, from which they have fallen. For they shall hear from the Savior, "Just as a piece of cloth stained with blood is not clean, so you also will not be clean. Because you lost my land and killed my people, who shall not remain forever" (Isaiah 14:19-20). As for us, who have build our faith firmly upon the unbreakable rock, let us keep the true religion to the end. Let us not be disturbed at all by our opponents, but rather we will have the love of the Lord as an invincible weapon. Let us boast in Him for all things and laugh at the lowliness of our opponents and say the words of the prophet: "God is with us: Know all nations and be dismayed, be dismayed in your strength. If you regain your strength, you shall be dismayed; if you deliberate, the Lord will scatter your deliberations. And whatever words you might speak; it shall not persist among you, because the Lord God is with us" (Isaiah 8:8-10).
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 1, Section 11.

So, quite the contrary, although Cyril believes that the Church will vindicate him, Cyril is bold to call these men heretics prior to any ecclesiastical decision on the matter. He doesn't wait for a council to condemn them, but argues that their positions are heretical on the strength of Scripture alone. May we be stirred up to follow this example of Sola Scriptura that we have seen in Cyril.


P.S. The following excerpt may also be interesting from the standpoint of a discussion on penal substitution:
When, therefore, this is the case, obviously, he demonstrated his love for us by means of a great philanthropy and has partaken of our own nature in order that he might raise it up and deliver it from bondage to the devil. No one, then, should be ashamed in hearing about a child and a baby and anything else that has been written about him in a purely human fashion. For he underwent all things not for his own sake, but for our sake. He preserved everywhere what is proper to human nature in order that the economy might not be regarded as a mere fiction.
- Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Those Who are Unwilling to Confess that the Holy Virgin is Theotokos," Part 3, Section 26.

Kermit Gosnell

Apparently Dr. Gosnell has been charged with murder on the basis that 7 of the children he was paid to kill were born before he killed them (link to story). As far as I know, the mothers of the children have not been charged.

Salt And Light in Action

Governor of Alabama points out that only Christians are his brothers and sisters. Anti-Defamation League has an embolism (link to article). I'm sure Daryl Hart won't be too happy either. After all, he might say, doesn't the Governor know he must (in his official capacity) treat darkness and light as if they were equal? Thankfully, the Governor was exhibiting a more Biblical model of what it means to have the Scriptures inform all areas of your life.


List of Available Debates By Dr. James White

Many of you may know that Dr. James White has done a lot of debates. Many of those debates are available through the Alpha and Omega Ministry's on-line store. I've attempted to provide links to as many of those debates as possible, below. I should note that Dr. White has conducted many other debates as well, as can be seen from his bio page (link to page). And, of course, I should note that not all of the "debates" in this list are formal debates - some are radio debates or discussions, and I have tried to indicate that in the list.

Atheism Debates
  1. Is the Bible for Real? | James White vs. Robert S. Dietz and Robert Funk (mp3 or CD)
  2. Is the Bible True? | James White vs. Robert Price (DVD, mp4, mp3, or CD)
  3. Is the New Testament Evil? | James White vs. David Silverman (Blu-Ray, DVD, mp3, or CD)
  4. Call-in Radio Debate | James White vs. ("Fundamentalists Anonymous") Ann McKinney (mp3 or CD)
  5. Radio Debate | James White vs. ("American Atheist Society") Brian Lynch (mp3 or CD)
  6. Radio Debate | James White vs. ("Freedom from Religion Foundation") Dan Barker (mp3 or CD)
  7. Jesus: Myth or Messiah | James White vs. Dan Barker (mp3)
  8. The Triune God of Scripture Lives | James White vs. Dan Barker (DVD, mp4, mp3, or CD)
Baptism Debates
  1. The Paedobaptism debate | James White and Geoff Volker vs. Gary Johnson and Robert Strimple (mp3 or CD)
  2. The Baptism Debate | James White vs. Bill Shishko (DVD, mp4, mp3, or CD)
Biblical Issues
  1. Did the Bible Misquote Jesus? | James White vs. Bart Ehrman (mp3 or CD)
  2. Is the Bible True? | James White vs. ("Jesus Seminar") John Dominic Crossan (DVD, mp3, or CD)
Calvinism Debates
  1. God's Irresistible Grace | James White vs. Dave Hunt (mp3 or CD)
  2. Predestination and Election | James White vs. (Church of Christ) Paul Barber (mp3 or CD)
  3. The "Read My Book" Debate on Bible Answer Man | James White vs. George Bryson (mp3 or CD)
  4. The Calvinism Debate (Two topics: The Will of Man and Limited Atonement) | James White vs. Pastor James Barker (mp3 or CD)
  5. Freedom of God in Salvation Debate | James White vs. Steve Gregg (mp3 or CD)
  6. The Regeneration and Perseverance Debate | James White vs. Robert Wilkin (mp3 or CD)
  7. Who Controls Salvation? | James White vs. George Bryson (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  1. Is Homosexuality Compatible with Christianity? | James White vs. Barry Lynn (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  2. Is Homosexuality Compatible with Christianity? | James White vs. John Shelby Spong (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  3. The Gay Marriage Debate | James White vs. (Metropolitan Community Church) Dee Bradshaw (mp4 or mp3)
  1. Does the Bible Teach Jesus is God? | James White vs. Sheikh Jalal Abualrub (DVD)
  2. Does the New Testament Teach that Jesus is God? | James White vs. Hamza Abdul Malik (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  3. Is the New Testament We Possess Today Inspired? | James White vs. Shabir Ally (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  4. The Cross Debate | James White vs. Shabir Ally (DVD, mp4, mp3, or CD)
  5. The Great Trinity Debate | James White vs. Abdullah al Andalusi (mp3 or CD)
"Jehovah's Witnesses"
  1. Is Jesus God or a god? | James White vs. Greg Stafford (DVD, mp3, or CD)
King James Version Only-ism
  1. Is the King James the Best Version | James White vs. D.A. Waite (mp3 or CD)
  2. Radio Debate - New Age Bible Versions | James White vs. Gail Riplinger (mp3 or CD)
  3. Radio Debate - The KJV and the Deity of Christ | James White vs. Thomas Holland (mp3 or CD)
Oneness Theology
  1. How Biblical is the Trinity? | James White vs. Robert Sabin (mp3 or CD)
Open Theism
  1. Does God Know the Future? | James White vs. John Sanders (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  2. Is Knowing Jesus the Only Way to be Saved? | James White vs. John Sanders (DVD, mp3, or CD)
Mormonism Debates
  1. Can Men Become Gods? | James White vs. (Mormon) Martin Tanner (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  2. Christianity vs. Mormonism | James White vs. Van Hale (mp3 or CD)
  3. Defending "Letters to a Mormon Elder" in Salt Lake City | James White vs. Daniel C. Peterson and William Hamblin (mp3 or CD)
  4. Is Mormonism Christian? | James White vs. Van Hale (mp3 or CD)
  5. Live Call-in Radio Debate in Salt Lake City | James White vs. Van Hale and Alma Alred (mp3 or CD)
  6. What is Accomplished in the Atonement? | James White vs. Dennis Potter (mp3 or CD)
  7. What is Sin? The Fall of Adam and Its Consequences | James White vs. Gilbert Scharffs (mp3 or CD)
  8. ("Discussion") The Bible and Its Origins | James White and Van Hale (mp3 or CD)
  9. ("Discussion") The Origins of Christianity | James White and Richard Hopkins (mp3 or CD)
Roman Catholicism
  1. Are Roman Catholics Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ? | James White vs. Douglas Wilson (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  2. Are the Scriptures the Sole Infallible Rule of Faith? | James White vs. Mitchell Pacwa (mp3 or CD)
  3. By Faith Alone? | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (mp3 or CD)
  4. Did Mary Have Other Children? | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  5. Does the Bible Teach Sola Scriptura? | James White vs. Patrick Madrid (mp3 or CD)
  6. ("Discussion") Bible Answer Man "Debate" | James White vs. Jimmy Akin (mp3 or CD)
  7. ("Discussion") Bible Answer Man "Debate" | James White vs. Tim Staples (mp3 or CD)
  8. ("Discussion") Bible Answer Man Discussion before the Papacy Debate | James White vs. Tim Staples (mp3 or CD)
  9. How Biblical and Ancient is the Papacy? | James White vs. Mitchell Pacwa (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  10. Indulgences | James White vs. Robert Fastigi (mp3 or CD)
  11. Is it Possible for a Non-Christian to Enter into Heaven? | James White vs. Bill Rutland (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  12. Is the Apocrypha Scripture? | James White vs. Gary Michuta (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  13. Is the Bible the Only Infallible Rule of Faith? | James White vs. Tim Staples (mp3 or CD)
  14. Is the Mass a Propitiatory Sacrifice? | James White vs. Robert Sungenis (mp3 or CD)
  15. Is the Mass Biblical and Ancient? | James White vs. Robert Sungenis (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  16. Is the Roman Catholic Priesthood Biblical and Ancient? | James White vs. Mitchell Pacwa (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  17. Justification by Faith? | James White vs. Robert Fastigi (mp3 or CD)
  18. Justification by Faith | James White vs. Mitchell Pacwa (mp3 or CD)
  19. Justification by Faith Debate | James White vs. Robert Sungenis (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  20. Papal Infallibility | James White vs. Robert Fastigi (mp3 or CD)
  21. Papal Infallibility | James White vs. Tim Staples (mp3 or CD)
  22. Papal Infallibility | James White vs. Robert Sungenis (mp3 or CD)
  23. Perseverance | James White vs. Jimmy Akin (mp3 or CD)
  24. Purgatory: Biblical or Mythical? | James White vs. Peter Stravinskas (DVD, mp3, or CD)
  25. Sola Scriptura I | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (mp3 or CD)
  26. Sola Scriptura II | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (mp3 or CD)
  27. The Apocrypha Debate | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (mp3 or CD)
  28. The Boston College Papacy Debate | James White and Rob Zins vs. Robert Sungenis and Scott Butler (mp3 or CD)
  29. The Eternal Security Debate | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (mp3 or CD)
  30. The Immaculate Conception Debate | James White vs. Christopher Ferrara (Blu-Ray, DVD, mp3, or CD)
  31. The Lost Debate (Justification) | James White vs. Art Sippo (mp3 or CD)
  32. The Marian Doctrines | James White vs. Robert Fastigi (mp3 or CD)
  33. The Marian Doctrines | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (mp4, mp3, or CD)
  34. The Mass | James White vs. Mitchell Pacwa (mp3 or CD)
  35. The Papacy | James White vs. Vinney Lewis (mp3 or CD)
  36. The Papacy | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (mp3 or CD)
  37. Veneration of Saints and Images | James White vs. Patrick Madrid (mp3 or CD)
  38. Was Peter a Pope? | James White vs. Gerry Matatics (mp3 or CD)
N.B. This list is what I could find in the Alpha and Omega Ministries Store (link to store). The store gets updated from time to time, whereas this page may or may not be updated. If you see any corrections that should be made, please let me know.


Alternative Responses to Jay Dyer

A brother posted his response to Jay Dyer's challenges to Calvinism (link to his response). Drake Shelton begins his response this way:
I was ashamed of Turretinfan's responses to this so I decided to devote the past year and a half to these issues.
I'm always appreciative of assistance. Thanks, Drake! I still like my answers, but I always appreciate those who lend a helping hand.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Does "Politics" Get to Trump God's Law?

Here's a quick thought: in a "democratic" country with a lot of Christians, at least some of those interested in political power will seek to cater to the Christians. Thus, topics that interest Christians like "Freedom for Christians to worship and evangelize," "marriage as defined by the Bible," "fornication is evil," and "killing babies is wrong," will become part of the platform of politicians. Does that convert those topics into "political" topics or does it simply show that Christians are having a light and salt effect on the world?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Introduction to "The God of Calvinism" (and Mr. Ruggiero's biography of Calvin)

As we continue our review of, "The God of Calvinism," we come to the introduction. The introduction begins by framing the position that Louis plans to take:
I made the decision to research this subject in March 2003, shortly after I debated Reformer James R. White on the subject of irresistible grace. As a result of delving deeper into the major doctrines of Calvinism during my study, I have concluded that neither Calvinism, nor what most people take to be its alter ego, Arminianism, is true.
At first I was going to say that he must not have studied Calvinism very well, if he thinks that Arminianism is Calvinism's alter ego. Then, I realized that the book does not identify any editor. This is just an example of Mr. Ruggiero saying something he doesn't mean. Mr. Ruggiero means that Arminianism is thought to be the polar opposite of Calvinism, but he has said "alter ego," which means that the two are different manifestations of the same thing. Similar to Louis' parenthetical "(this one no exception)" which omits the "is" and yet appears both in the "Why You Should Read This Book" section and on the back cover, this is an error that a skilled editor could have prevented. Nevertheless, one realizes that publishing Christian books is often not a very lucrative endeavor, and so we will simply have to deal with Mr. Ruggiero's statements as best we can understand them.

The introduction contains its own introduction and then a summary of each of the chapters and parts of the book. There are three parts and fifteen chapters altogether. The first part begins with a chapter on the Trinity and divinity of Christ. Then there is a chapter in favor of prevenient grace, a chapter against Total Depravity, and a chapter in favor of synergism. The second part addresses the remaining points of the five points of Calvinism. It also includes a chapter that aims to criticize the Reformed doctrine of the universality of God's decree of providence, particularly with respect to the sinful acts of men. The third part contains several chapters aimed at addressing "Replacement Theology."

Lord willing, we'll address Mr. Ruggiero's arguments as they come up. From a rhetorical standpoint, his comment that Reformed theologians "blatantly reject" prevenient grace was interesting. We do reject the doctrine of prevenient grace.

It was also disappointing to see that on the topic of Total Depravity, Mr. Ruggiero alleges that Reformed theologians hold that Man is born "utterly depraved," although that terminology suggests a position that Reformed theologians would reject.

There's a conclusion to the introduction section, titled "And so..." which deals with what the impact of the book is supposed to be. In this section, we see the sad and blasphemous nature of the work.
The perspectives of God offered by Reformed theology depict a capricious, selective, arbitrary, unilateral entity who decrees sin, withholds salvation from the majority of mankind (for did He not say that the way was narrow and few would find it?), and in His singular agency disdains a relationship with mankind which involves in any way man's response from his own heart. Such a God would, in this author's perception, be a monster, and to paraphrase George MacDonald: Should there be such a God, it would be dishonorable to worship Him.
The point of this review is not to judge Mr. Ruggiero's heart, but if we were to judge Mr. Ruggiero strictly based on what he said, it appears that he has blasphemed God (calling him a monster) and has declared worship of God to be dishonorable. That's a very serious concern - and something that Mr. Ruggiero should probably rethink, at least because he believes Calvinists to be Christians - if not because of what Scripture says.

We commented on the ad hominem approach presented in the previous section, and we see it again at the conclusion of the introduction section. Mr. Ruggiero writes:
While this book hopes to present you with clear evidence from Scripture as to the deficiencies in Calvinist doctrine, conduct your own test. Consider those you know who embrace this teaching. If it is true (i.e. if it has power to cause its adherents to become more like Jesus), you should see clearly demonstrated in their lives the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
As I previously noted, this ad hominem approach is logically invalid. I've met nice people and mean people of almost every persuasion. I've met extremely kind Muslims, I've met extraordinarily nice Mormons, and some of the sweetest old ladies you'll ever meet say their Rosaries in Latin because that's how they memorized them. None of that establishes the truth of their doctrines.

Of course, all those who profess to be Christians should take this kind of issue to heart. We should seek to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (i.e the result of the Spirit's work in our life):

Galatians 5:22-26
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
And again:

Ephesians 5:8-10
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
Notice that these are the fruit of the Spirit. Not necessarily the fruit of holding to correct doctrines, but the fruit of having the Holy Spirit in one's life. That doesn't mean that everyone who is a nice person has the Holy Spirit, but rather it is what should blossom in the life of every Christian, and should particularly be evident in the lives of those who were the opposite before they were saved by the power of God's grace.

The introduction section ends, but there is one more piece of prefatory material, namely a brief biography of John Calvin. John Calvin's death comes at the end of the first page, with the second and third pages dealing with the appearance of Arminianism.

Mr. Ruggiero goes on to claim that there are many varieties of Calvinism and then states:
Because of this, there are times when Calvinists accuse non-Calvinists of misrepresenting Calvinism. Most of the time, however, the non-Calvinist is simply responding to someone else's own personal brand of Calvinism.
Hopefully we will have few occasions to accuse Mr. Ruggiero of such misrepresentation. However, when we do, we will be careful to see whether he is simply critiquing a view of other Calvinists or whether he is simply not correctly representing the Calvinists he is allegedly responding to.

Of course, no non-Calvinist biography of Calvin would be complete without a mention of Servetus. Ruggiero refers to Calvin's "(documented) history of bitter hatred and persecution of those who disagreed with his beliefs." No footnote accompanies that sentence, oddly enough, although the paragraph's last sentence cites the New Encyclopedia Brittanica, volume 10, 15th Edition, p. 654, which appears to be the entry on Servetus.

A much better biography of John Calvin can be obtained freely on-line (via Google Books) both for on-line reading and download as pdf or e-book (link). That biography is written by someone who actually knew John Calvin.