Friday, April 22, 2011

Steve Ray's Response to Michael Welton Critiqued

Steve Ray has posted a response to comments made by Michael Welton in Popes and Patriarchs. There is a lot of filler in the response, but Mr. Ray aims to address essentially two issues (1) Basil's words of dismissal of Rome and (2) Basil's failure to appeal to the Bishop of Rome as a supreme authority.

As to the first issue, Basil himself wrote:
I accuse no one; I pray that I may have love to all, and "especially unto them who are of the household of faith;" [Galatians 6:10] and therefore I congratulate those who have received the letter from Rome. And, although it is a grand testimony in their favour, I only hope it is true and confirmed by facts. But I shall never be able to persuade myself on these grounds to ignore Meletius, or to forget the Church which is under him, or to treat as small, and of little importance to the true religion, the questions which originated the division. I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men. Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints.
Steve Ray cuts the mention of Rome out of the quotation, beginning at "And, although it is a grand testimony ..." but I have provided it to you, since it is significant to the question.

Steve Ray's response is that Basil's words must be understood as hyperbole. "Why? Because if Basil here denounces Rome, he denounces God as well." (p. 6) Of course, Mr. Ray's argument is empty: Romanism (the view that denouncing Rome is denouncing God) is not Basil's worldview. Steve Ray says we have to view Basil's words as hyperbole because if we don't they conflict with Romanism. The "begging the question" fallacy is aptly illustrated by his remarks.

Steve Ray goes on to complain that Basil could have been even more explicit in his denial of Rome's authority ("He could have easily said, 'I reject Rome's presumed authority which they have unlawfully arrogated to themselves.'" pp. 6-7). But Mr. Ray's example mistakenly assumes that in Basil's day Rome claimed universal authority.

In any event, "I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very much elated at receiving a letter from men," is clear enough of a testimony that Basil doesn't view the letter from Rome as having supreme authority. Basil makes a direct appeal to a higher authority by stating, "Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of the faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints," in which he seemingly alludes to Galatians 1:8 "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." One is left in full agreement that while conceivably Basil could have used even stronger language than he did, the language he used is plenty strong.

It should be noted that this is not the only place where Basil criticizes the West. Basil wrote:
I am moved to say, as Diomede said,
“Would God, Atrides, thy request were yet to undertake;

…he’s proud enough.”
[Homer, Iliad ix.]

Really lofty souls, when they are courted, get haughtier than ever. If the Lord be propitious to us, what other thing do we need? If the anger of the Lord lasts on, what help can come to us from the frown of the West? Men who do not know the truth, and do not wish to learn it, but are prejudiced by false suspicions, are doing now as they did in the case of Marcellus, when they quarrelled with men who told them the truth, and by their own action strengthened the cause of heresy.
Basil of Caesarea, Letter 239 (to Eusebius of Samosata), Section 2

On the second point, the question of whether Basil never appealed to the bishop of Rome as the supreme authority, Steve Ray attempts to answer the question by quoting from Basil's Letter 70.

Mr. Ray writes:
Also, in Letter 70 Basil addresses Pope Damasus as "right honorable father" and admits that "nearly all the East . . . is being agitated" and concedes that the pope's authority is "the only possible solution to our difficulties."
Remarkably, Letter 70 is without address, although it is widely believed to have been written to Damasus of Rome, the addressee is identified only by various affectionate names such as: "right honourable father" and "your mercifulness."

Moreover, it should be noted that Basil uses this affectionate term for Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria in his letter 66 to Athanasius (the exact same Greek term: "τιμιώτατε Πάτερ") and similarly refers to Athanasius this way in letter 90 ("ὁ τιμιώτατος ἡμῶν πατὴρ"). I say this not to argue that Athanasius is the addressee, but simply to point out that at least equal dignity is given to Athanasius: this is not a proto-papalist speaking, but simply a bishop speaking to another esteemed bishop. It should be noted that Basil mentions that the addressee is in the same see as Dionysus, and while there were notable Dionysuses (Dionysi?) of both Alexandria and Rome, a references to "the East" (defined in the text as "Illyricum to Egypt") seems to weigh in favor of Rome as opposed to Alexandria.

But lets move along from the affectionate title to the actual request. His actual request to his addressee is this:
I have been constrained to beseech you by letter to be moved to help us, and to send some of those, who are like minded with us, either to conciliate the dissentient and bring back the Churches of God into friendly union, or at all events to make you see more plainly who are responsible for the unsettled state in which we are, that it may be obvious to you for the future with whom it befits you to be in communion.
There is not here any request for exercise of authority and power. Instead, the request is for aid and encouragement:
We are lamenting no mere overthrow of earthly buildings, but the capture of Churches; what we see before us is no mere bodily slavery, but a carrying away of souls into captivity, perpetrated day by day by the champions of heresy. Should you not, even now, be moved to succour us, ere long all will have fallen under the dominion of the heresy, and you will find none left to whom you may hold out your hand.
Without further commentary, I think it is worth pointing out the use here by Basil of "churches" (plural) as distinct from buildings. Basil may view communion as universal, but his ecclesiology is one in which there are many churches.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Paul Helm Reviews Michael Horton's Systematic

Paul Helm has a balanced review of Michael Horton's new systematic theology, "The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way." I'm still in the process of reviewing the book myself. I will reserve my comments until a later date.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

With Friends Like These, Jeffrey Meyers Needs Help!

A committee of the Missouri Presbytery of the PCA attempted to exonerate Jeff Meyers of the charges of, in essence, being a Federal Visionist. They explained:
In addition to this the [committee] suspects another underlying assumption of the complainants in this first section (II.A), namely, that any man who identifies with FV in some way and has put his name to documents authored by other men who claim the same (i.e. the JFVP), must, de facto, be guilty of doctrinal infidelity and placed on trial for it on the grounds of the GA’s adoption of the declarations in the 2007 Ad-Interim Report on the Federal Vision.
(Report, page 12, lines 25-30)

They then argued that this blanket condemnation is not proper, because the Federal Vision is not a monolithic movement. They then apparently attempted to argue that Meyers is not like the others (i.e. those in error) in the Federal Vision movement with the following explanation:
Wholesale, blanket condemnations of movements are usually very inaccurate and therefore unjust. No church court of the PCA has condemned everything that every person associated the FV believes and teaches. That is why the measure of a man’s fidelity to the Westminster Standards cannot be the views of men identified with FV but rather the judgment of the appropriate church court as it is makes its own judgments and by doctrinal guidelines laid down by higher courts. And here we would simply mention that the MIC duly pressed TE Meyers on the point as to whether he could affirm all the declarations of the 2007 Ad-Interim Report on the Federal Vision and while he does disagree with much of the reasoning in that report, he answered that indeed, he is able to affirm its formal declarations, with a few qualifications he laid out for the MIC (see MICR, Appendix B, JJM Q and A, p. 3)
(Report, page 12, lines 37-47)

The committee thinks this is supposed to help Meyers, but the committee has conceded that Meyers holds neither to the reasoning nor, without qualifications, to the declarations of the 2007 Ad-Interim Report on the Federal Vision.

Consider this declaration:
The view that one can be “united to Christ” and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
(Declaration 9 from the 2007 Ad-Interim Report on the Federal Vision)

Contrast this item from the Federal Vision Joint Statement:
We affirm that apostasy is a terrifying reality for many baptized Christians. All who are baptized into the triune Name are united with Christ in His covenantal life, and so those who fall from that position of grace are indeed falling from grace. The branches that are cut away from Christ are genuinely cut away from someone, cut out of a living covenant body. The connection that an apostate had to Christ was not merely external.
(Federal Vision Joint Statement, emphasis added)

Moreover, consider that Mr. Meyers has subsequently stated: "Yes, I continue to affirm this statement."

Moreover, in response to this specific declaration Meyers responded:
Again, this declaration uses the phrase “united to Christ” in quotation marks. In my responses to earlier questions in the last section on baptism and in questions 1–4 of this section, I believe I have answered this already. I believe this statement summarizes a view that is unreformed, unbiblical, and not consistent with the Westminster Standards. If we take “union with Christ” as Westminster defines it and not as a reference to the fact that baptized Christians are “united with him” in the sense that they are in covenant with him as members of his body, of which he is the Head, then this view is wrong.
It is curious that this was accepted. It is particularly curious in view of the fact that in response to the question of apostasy, Meyers wrote:
Apostates do not merely “fall away” from external benefits, but from God himself. “Take heed, brethren, lest there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12).
That seems, again, to affirm what the Federal Vision Joint Statement affirms and what the 2007 Ad Interim Report condemned. Mr. Meyers cannot, it seems, either hold to the reasoning of that report, nor (in an unqualified way) to its declarations. He continues to hold to the errors of the FVJS, but yet the committee suggests he should be given a pass. Remarkable!

Lane Keister has already expressed his amazement over the comment: “ . . . no one school of interpretation on these disputed issues should be adopted as the only orthodox position to the exclusion of the others.” (Report of the Complaint Review Committee, 62). I will simply echo that. I wonder whether the issue is that the Missouri Presbytery doesn't view the issue of union with Christ and apostasy as big issues, or whether the issue goes beyond that to a general lack of concern over theological issues. It is hard to stomach such a conclusion, but it is also hard to understand how these glaring issues could be overlooked.


N.B. I see that both Mr. Meyers and others have made the report of the committee public. While this is, therefore, a public matter - it is also one that has not yet completed its tour of the PCA court system. It has not come before the General Assembly. Those who may be involved in the final determination matter should take care to observe any PCA rules with respect to circularization.

A Manual of Councils of the Holy Catholic Church | Edward H. Landon

One reference book that might interest many of my readers is a Edward H. Landon's, "A Manual of Councils of the Holy Catholic Church." Published (as a new and revised edition) in 1909 in two volumes, it can be found on The arrangement of the volumes is a little counter-intuitive. It is arranged in alphabetical order by place name - not the order one might expect from a historical work, but nevertheless a useful order for a reference work. There are some useful appendices in Volume 2 for helping the reader to correlate the "modern" name of the councils with the Latin names and the actual places where the councils were held. The work is, of course, not limited to ecumenical councils. This may serve as a useful supplement to Hefele's great conciliar work.

Volume 1: A-N

Volume 2: O-Z plus Appendices

There are also older editions, but I am unable to find them on-line at this time.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

William Albrecht (GNRHead) Index

Since I have done a dozen moderated live debates with Mr. William Albrecht (aka GNRHead), I figured it is time to create an index page for my interactions with him. The first section of the page documents the debates, both those on Marian Dogmas and Other Topics. The second section of the page documents the other interactions we've had - informal debates, discussions, or just Internet back-and-forth. Clicking on the name of the debate should direct you to an mp3 of that debate.

Formal Debates 
Marian Debates
  1. Assumption of Mary Debate
  2. Immaculate Conception Debate
  3. Mother of God Debate
  4. Perpetual Virginity Debate
  5. Veneration of Mary Debate (transcript)(main page)(Follow-Up Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part 5)(Part 6)(Part 7)(Part 8)
  6. Is Marian Devotion Intrinsic to Christian Worship? (page with embedded version)
Other Debates
  1. Latria-Dulia Debate (transcript)
  2. Veneration of Images Debate (main page - with follow-up)(further follow-up)
  3. Augustine Transubstantiation Debate
  4. Purgatory Debate
  5. Canon Debate (main page)(second main page)
  6. Papal Infallibility Debate (main page)
  7. Sola Scriptura and Unity Debate (main page)
  8. Sola Fide Debate (main page)
  9. Is the Apocrypha God's Word? (page with embedded version)
Discussions/Informal Debates
Augustine and the Eucharist
  1. Discussion Regarding Augustine and Eucharist (February 11, 2008)
  2. Response to Albrecht's Discussion of His Call to Dr. White's Program (November 18, 2008) (Debate Challenge Received)
  3. Addressing Typos in Dr. White's Discussion of Augustine and the Real Presence (February 23, 2009)
  4. Augustine vs. Albrecht on the Real Presence (February 25, 2009)
  5. Augustine vs. Albrecht Again (April 23, 2009)
  6. Augustine, Metaphor, Bodily Presence (May 20, 2009)
Alleged Athanasius Quotation
Misquoting Athanasius (February 27, 2009) (First Follow-Up)(Second Follow-Up)(Third Follow-Up)(Index Page for Discussion of Athanasius Misquotation)(Yet Another Steve Ray Patristic Error)

Cardinal Cajetan and the Canon
  1. Cajetan and the Canon (May 22, 2009)
  2. Albrecht vs. Cajetan - Round 2 (June 10, 2009)
Limited Atonement
  1. Limited Atonement (May 26, 2009)
  2. Limited Atonement Defended (June 13, 2009)
  3. The New Mass Translation (June 3, 2010)