Saturday, June 16, 2012

John the Baptist's Bones?

A recent press report indicates that some human bones have been dated to the 1st century.  The bones were found in a bone box.   Oddly, the bone box also contained some animal bones, and these bones were about 400 years older than the human bones.  Who knows whose bones these are.

The article reports:
The human bones in the box included a knucklebone, a tooth, part of a cranium, a rib and an ulna, or arm bone. The researchers could only date the knucklebone, because radiocarbon dating relies on organic material, and only that bone had enough collagen for a good analysis. The researchers were able to reconstruct DNA sequences from three of the bones, however, showing them to be from the same person, likely a Middle Eastern man.
Thus, this is quite unlikely to be the bones of John the Baptist.

Mark 6:17-29
For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife."

Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; and when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, "Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee." And he sware unto her, "Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom."

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, "What shall I ask?"

And she said, "The head of John the Baptist."

And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, "I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist."

And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.

And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
There are two important things to note here. First, his head was separated from the body. The head was given to Herodias, and the corpse was taken by John's disciples. Second, notice that John's disciples buried his body. They did not maintain his body as a relic, but placed it in a tomb.

Thus, while it's not impossible that someone collected his head from Herodias, and then dug up his remains to keep them as relics, it seems unlikely.

The article goes on to point out the abundance of forged relics. A particularly amusing note comes from a relic of a different kind:
Even Joan of Arc has been the subject of forgery. A 2007 study found that alleged pieces of her body kept in a French church actually belonged to an Egyptian mummy.
It's possible that this relic has a similar origin.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Bede - the Ark of the Covenant, a Type of Christ and the Church

As mentioned in a previous post, contrary to at least one later Pope, Bede (A.D. 672-735) identifies the Ark of the Covenant with the human nature of Jesus.  The cited place I provided is not the only such place where Bede makes this identification:
And the priest who touched the ark of God with ill-advised rashness was to make expiation for the guilt of his audacity with an untimely death -- which should cause us to consider that while any offender who approaches the body of the Lord is guilty of transgression, if that person has undertaken vows as a priest he will be punished with death for taken hold of that ark (namely, the figure of the Lord's body) with less reverence than it deserves.
Bede, On Eight Questions, Question 8, p. 160 in "Bede: Biblical Miscellany," Foley and Holder trs.

Bede then goes on to explain:

But according to the allegory, David signifies Christ and the ark significance the Church.
Bede, On Eight Questions, Question 8, p. 160 in "Bede: Biblical Miscellany," Foley and Holder trs.

Bede goes on to give a lengthy allegorical discussion of the passage regarding retrieval of the Ark, in which he consistently refers the ark to the church.  For example he states the following:

Bede then goes on to explain:

Now the three months during which the ark tarried in [Gath] are faith, hope, and charity. For just as a month is filled with days, so does each one of the virtues come to its perfection step by step. These months do not end until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in.

At last, David returns to bring the ark into the city of David, because the Lord will turn the hearts of the parents to the children through the preaching of Enoch and Elijah.
Bede, On Eight Questions, Question 8, p. 163 in "Bede: Biblical Miscellany," Foley and Holder trs.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Does Rome Teach a False Gospel, Let me count the ways! (1 of ?)

I was recently asked to consider debating the topic, “That the Roman Catholic Church teaches a false gospel”. I do think that Rome teaches a false gospel, but I don't think that for just one reason.  There are numerous grounds upon which we can conclude that Rome's gospel is a false gospel.

In 1301, Boniface VIII wrote Unam Sanctam in which he not only declared that there is no salvation outside the church, comparing the church to Noah's ark, but made the famous statement: "Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Porro subesse Romano Pontifici omni humanae creaturae declaramus dicimus, definimus et pronunciamus omnino esse de necessitate salutis. (full text)) The context of the statement is the subjection of the temporal power of earthly kings to the supreme authority of the pope, as well as the necessity of the "Greeks" (i.e. the Eastern Orthodox) to treat the Bishop of Rome as the supreme earthly spiritual authority.

This statement illustrates one way in which Rome's gospel is not the apostolic gospel. The apostles never taught what Boniface VIII defines here. This is not an article of faith that was taught either explicitly or implicitly by the apostles, and consequently - even on Aquinas' definition of papal power - it was not within the pope's power to define this article of faith ("And since the Church is founded on faith and the sacraments, the ministers of the Church have no power to publish new articles of faith, or to do away with those which are already published, or to institute new sacraments, or to abolish those that are instituted, for this belongs to the power of excellence, which belongs to Christ alone, Who is the foundation of the Church. ") (source and additional discussion)  It is not an article of faith taught by Scripture or one to be found among the teachings of the early church. Unam Sanctam quotes Scripture, to be sure, but it does so inappropriately.

For example, Boniface VIII states:
Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: 'Feed my sheep' [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John 'there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.'
The use of "feed my sheep" without specifying which sheep does not imply that Peter was to feed every sheep.  As Paul writes to the Galatians:

Galatians 2:8
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

So we see from Scripture that Paul fed the Gentiles, while Peter ministered to the Jews. 

Likewise, it is true that there is one shepherd, but that shepherd is not Peter, or his successors, but Christ himself.  As it is written:

Psalm 23:1
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 80:1
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

Hebrews 13:20
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Peter himself testifies:

1 Peter 2:25
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

1 Peter 5:4
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

And, of course, Jesus himself in the context explains who the one shepherd is:

John 10:11
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

John 10:14
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

So, Boniface VIII is right that the church is not a two-headed monster, but the one head is Christ, not Boniface VIII. Peter was not the head of the church, and there is no unique successor of Peter - rather many have succeeded Peter in feeding Christ's sheep.

Indeed, Boniface VIII himself confessed earlier in the same short work:
We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles [Sgs 6:8] proclaims: 'One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her,' and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God [1 Cor 11:3]. In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism [Eph 4:5].
This ought to have informed Boniface VIII that Christ alone is the head, and he is not. But notice the strange apparent suggestion that there is one lord "in her". The "one Lord" that Paul is referring to in Ephesians 4:5 is Christ, not a lord in the church. As it is written:

1 Corinthians 8:6
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

So, the apostolic faith is that the one Lord of the church is not "in her" but over her. But if someone will insist that Boniface VIII here meant to refer to Christ, not himself, all the worse for Boniface VIII's later statements!

Boniface also attempts an allegorical exegesis:
There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed.
But the captain of our salvation is not the bishop of Rome, but Christ himself:

Hebrews 2:10
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

And it is the Spirit of truth that guides us into all truth:

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

Moreover, Noah was not the pilot or guide of the ark, for we are told that it was an ark. It is nowhere described as having rudder or helm nor yet a keel. Thus, God alone was the guide and pilot of Noah's ark.

Thus, it is written:

Genesis 7:18
And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 8:4
And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.

But Noah remained contained within the ark, so that he could not see to steer, if he had wished to:

Genesis 8:6
And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:

Genesis 8:13
And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.

We can easily add one final example of Boniface VIII's misuse of Scriptures in this document:
Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: 'The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man' [1 Cor 2:15].
Read the context in 1 Corinthians 2:7-16:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.
So, here Paul is not describing a singular bishop of Rome, but rather he is referring to himself and the Corinthian believers. It is apparent, therefore, that Boniface VIII has wrenched this phrase about the spiritual man out of its proper context to make it refer uniquely to his office - an office that did not even exist in the time of Paul, as many of Rome's historians today acknowledge.

I could go on and on, but surely the point has already been made. What Boniface VIII taught as being part of the gospel ("absolutely necessary for salvation") is a false gospel.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hoffer - Real Presence and Transubstantiation

Paul Hoffer had posted some responses in our on-going dialog regarding Augustine and transubstantiation, which included the following kind of comment:
Before we begin addressing errors and omissions specific to Turretinfan's commentary on Sermon 272, I would refer the reader to Part I where I have already addressed Mr. Fan's apparent confusion between the term of "Real Presence" and the term "transubstantiation" in my commentary on his thoughts about Letter 36.

It was gratifying, therefore, to read the following from Fr. Dwight Longenecker:
The problem with this is that “the Real Presence” is a term that is also used by non-Catholics to refer to their beliefs about the Eucharist. I’ve heard Anglicans, Methodists and even a Baptist talk about “the Real Presence” at Holy Communion. They all mean something different by the same term.

This reflects a major problem in all theological and ecumenical discussion: people use the same terminology to describe totally different beliefs. The Catholic uses the term (or should) to refer to transubstantiation. The Anglican says he believes in “the Real Presence” and may be referring to consubstantiation (the belief that Christ is “with” or “beside” the consecrated bread and wine) or receptionism (Christ is received by the individual as he receives the bread and wine by faith) The term “Real Presence” used by a Baptist or Methodist may simply mean, “I feel close to Jesus when I go to communion.”
(source - emphasis added)

He links to a further entry, in which he provides a more detailed explanation:
So–like Ridley and Latimer before him– he used the term ‘real presence’ to sound as close to Catholicism as possible while in fact rejecting Catholic doctrine. Pusey believed the ‘real presence’ of Christ in the sacrament was only a spiritual and sacramental presence. In this way the Victorian Anglo-Catholic actually agreed with the reformer Ridley who wrote, “The blood of Christ is in the chalice… but by grace and in a sacrament…This presence of Christ is wholly spiritual.”

So why does it matter if the presence is only spiritual and sacramental? It matters because the whole work of Christ is more than spiritual. It is physical.


So likewise the church has always insisted–despite the difficulties– that the presence of Christ in the blessed sacrament is not simply spiritual and subjective. It is objective and corporeal. In some way it is physical. At the Fourth Lateran Council that explained that belief with the term transubstantiation. As the Oxford Dominican, Fr.Herbert McCabe has said, “Transubstantiation is not a complete explanation of the mystery, but it is the best description of what we believe happens at the consecration.”

So what should Catholics do when confronted with this confusing term ‘real presence’? First of all Catholics should realise that it is not a Catholic term at all. It’s history is mostly Anglican, and as such it was always used as a way to adroitly sidestep the troublesome doctrine of transubstantiation; and as such it is not an accurate term to describe true Catholic Eucharistic doctrine.


So as Catholics, we must use clear language about the sacrament. We can affirm the ‘real’ presence of Christ which non-Catholics affirm in the fellowship of the church, in the preaching of the gospel and in the celebration of the Eucharist, but we must also affirm that the fullest sense of the ‘real presence’ is that which we worship in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.

Although Paul VI used the term ‘real presence’ in Mysterium Fidei the whole thrust of the encyclical is to support and recommend the continued use of the term ‘transubstantiation’ as the Catholic terminology. With this in mind I suggest Catholics should avoid the ambiguous term ‘real presence’ and speak boldly of transubstantiation. Instead of ‘real presence’ we should also use the terminology used in the twelfth century when the doctrine of transubstantiation was being hammered out. Then there was no talk of a vaguely spiritual ‘real presence’, instead they referred to the ‘real body and real blood of Christ.’
Mr. Hoffer has a lot more to say in the post which the first snippet referenced. In that much larger segment, Hoffer provides some discussion regarding "real presence" and "transubstantiation."  But, at most, the distinction between the two within modern Roman theology is that "transubstantiation" describes the change as a change, whereas "real presence" in modern Roman theology describes the result of that change. We might add that transubstantiation implies not only the "real presence" of the body, blood, soul, and divinity after the consecration but also the "real absence" of bread at that time - but some would say that the modern Roman "real presence" view includes that aspect as well.

As it relates to our discussion of Augustine, Mr. Hoffer's nuance is one that is interesting.  It seems that Mr. Hoffer is not willing to defend the idea that Augustine held to transubstantiation, even under a different name.  Thus, he seems to have conceded the major point we have consistently alleged.

On the other hand, it seems that Mr. Hoffer believes that Augustine held to the modern Roman concept of "real presence," which would require Augustine to believe that the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ are all "really" present under each species (both under the species that has the appearance of bread, and under the species that has the appearance of wine diluted with water).

Augustine, we contend, held to a divine, spiritual and sacramental (in the Augustinian sense, not the modern Roman sense) presence.  That kind of presence is real, yet it is not the modern Roman conception of "real presence," but rather more like one of the Reformation conceptions of real presence, as Longenecker explains above.

So, at least a minor point of disagreement remains between us, namely whether Augustine held to a full-blown conception of modern Roman "real presence," or whether Augustine merely held to something like the Reformation view of a divine, spiritual, and sacramental (in the Augustinian sense) presence. 


Antonio Lombatti - the Shroud is fake and Not Unique

The Daily Mail (caution - typical racy stories in the sidebars) has posted a story mentioning that Antonio Lombatti views the Shroud of Turin as a fake, and notes that it is not unique.

He said the Turin Shroud itself – showing an image of a bearded man and venerated for centuries as Christ’s burial cloth – appears to have originated in Turkey some 1,300 years after the Crucifixion.


Lombatti, of the Università Popolare in Parma, Italy, cited work by a 19th century French historian who had studied surviving medieval documents. ‘The Turin Shroud is only one of the many burial cloths which were circulating in the Christian world during the Middle Ages. There were at least 40,’ said Lombatti.

‘Most of them were destroyed during the French Revolution. Some had images, others had blood-like stains, and others were completely white.’
The article itself is nothing amazing, but check out Lombatti's own website which combats what he calls the problem of "fantarchaeology".

Perhaps the most interesting part of that website is his bibliography on the topic, including some interesting articles. In one of them, Lombatti seems to sum up the matter well:
The behavior of professional Bible scholars on this relic has been deplorable. It's true, the Turin Shroud may be seen as a ridiculous topic to deal with. So, apart from Joe Zias, James Tabor, Rachel Hachlili, Shimon Gibson, and Levy Rahmani - experts on Second Temple Jewish burials and Early Christianity - scholars have rarely tackled the fancy claims made by the Shroud authenticity supporters. And this has left room for popular quackery both on library shelves and, above all, on the web. Lurid falsehoods and distorted reasoning have been repeated so many times that the common people and some scholars too may think they are facing the real burial cloth of Jesus. The method used by these "shroudologists" bends the mind the wrong way, an insidious and real corruption, and it has nothing to share with scholarly analysis and philological tools.

The Gospels don't mention this double full-length image of Jesus left on his burial cloth. The Second Temple Jews used to bury their dead in a completely different way. There's no historical record on the relic until 1355. When it was first displayed in France, the owner, the diocese bishop and even the pope called it a «representation» of Jesus' burial shroud. Finally, when the linen of cloth was carbon 14 dated in 1988 it turned out to be from 1325 circa. So, despite the fact that the historical and scientific data do match, the Turin Shroud enthusiasts, usually pushed by their faith, couldn't stop and admit that the relic was a medieval forgery. They kept on finding all sorts of causes responsible for a wrong radiocarbon date: fire, smoke, fungi, bacteria, and even Jesus' miraculous radiation emitted during his resurrection. As you can imagine, no scientist who performs carbon dating as a profession has ever imagined questioning the validity of the medieval date of the Turin Shroud.

Despite the fact that the Vatican has never officially affirmed that the Turin Shroud is the real burial cloth of Jesus, the way it has been used and displayed inside the city cathedral has given the people just the opposite view. The Epistle to the Hebrews says that «faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen»: however, the contemporary faithful, like the illiterate folk of the middle ages, are still looking for material and visible evidence of Jesus' earthly life. And they don't seem to care if the relics are evident forgeries. Above all, they don't seem to understand that the Bible, a sacred book and divinely inspired text - as it is considered by Christians - shouldn't need to be proven historically accurate and reliable. Even if archaeologists will find the real burial cloth of Jesus, there would be no way to determine that he was the son of Yahweh or that he was raised from the dead. This is why the Turin Shroud should be placed in a museum and not inside a church.

Steve Ray's Letter Addressed

Steve Ray, pilgrimage pedlar, has posted an apparently fictional letter from "Lenny" to "Beau":
Hi Beau, you mention “that Scripture is sufficient to teach us.” There is a problem with your statement is this; it is not in the Bible. Nowhere does it say that we should follow Scripture alone “Sola Scriptura” or that it is all sufficient. Isn’t it interesting “Sola Scriptura” (Bible alone), which is believed to be Biblical by many people is not even in the Bible!
Steve Ray thinks that the idea that the Scripture is sufficient to teach us isn't found in the Bible. Remarkable, eh? Can it be that Steve Ray has never read these texts?

2 Timothy 3:15-17
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Psalm 119:105
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:99
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.

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

James 1:21
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

John 5:39
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Acts 17:11
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Are the Scriptures able to make you wise unto salvation? Are they able to illuminate one and make one wise than one's teachers? Was the Bible written for the very purpose that we would read it and believe? Did Jesus himself commend people to search the Scriptures.
The moment someone believes “Bible alone,” they already believe a concept not found in the Bible. And those who believe “Bible Alone” reject the authority of the Church, a concept found in the Bible. “Bible alone” is one of three pillars of the Protestant Reformation. The problem is that it is self-refuting, because the moment you believe it, you already believe something not in the Bible. And so “Sola Scriptura” crumbles under its own weight.
There are churches mentioned in the Bible, and these churches do have authority. Parents are also described in the Bible, and parents have authority. Are parents infallible? No. Are church infallible? Also no. What's misleading on Steve Ray's part is to suggest that just because churches, like parents, have authority - it means that this authority can never be questioned. Steve Ray knows that there is such a thing as subordinate authority, but he pretends that there are only two categories: Roman totalitarianism and anarchy. There is a third way. The third way is that the churches have authority that is subordinate to the Word of God. They are not authorities over Scripture, they are authorities under Scripture.

That's why Jesus commended the searching of Scripture, and why the Bereans were praised as "more noble," because they searched the Scriptures daily to judge the truth of the teachings of the very apostles.
Let me relate to you a story. I was talking to a couple of people from the Milwaukee Church of Christ. He pointed out to me a verse in 2nd Timothy. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2nd Tm 3:16). And so he said the Bible is it and I agreed the Bible is it. So he said, let’s go on. And I said fine, but before we do, I think we should also follow the Church.
And we should follow our parents too! But both our parents and the church are subordinate to Scriptures. The Scriptures are the inspired word of God, parents and churches are men (humans, for those who think "men" refers exclusively to males). When there is a conflict between parents and Scripture or church and Scripture, we have to follow the Scripture. So, for example, when the Scriptures teach us that religious veneration should be reserved for God alone, and Rome demands that Mary be given the religious veneration of hyper-dulia, we have to pick what Scripture says, over what Rome says, even if Rome happens to be our church at the time.
He became a little irritated with me and he said, we just went through this and you agreed the Bible is it. And so I asked him what he thought the pillar and foundation of truth was. He said, the Bible! I informed him, he was incorrect because the Bible says the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth; “You should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, the pillar and foundation of truth.
Steve Ray's "gotcha" moment with the person who didn't know this particular verse is pretty trivial. After all, "the church" in that verse doesn't mean "a hierarchy," it means a local congregation. Look at the context:
1 Timothy 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

In this verse, "the church," refers to the local congregation - the house of God. It's the place where Timothy is going to be behaving himself properly or not. When we expand out the context a little more:

1 Timothy 3:14-16
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Notice two things: first the truth that the local church upholds and protects is the gospel, of which Paul provides a short summary; second, the letter is being written because it contains something Timothy wouldn't otherwise have, while "in the church" (in the absence of Paul's personal presence). In other words, the text doesn't affirm the sufficiency of "the church," but rather the deficiency of the church, even while affirming the purpose of the church.
I wasn’t being disingenuous when I said the Bible is it. I believe this totally so long as we believe it (the Bible) totally. And the Bible tells us to listen to the Church so it must be included in order to follow the whole Bible. This is the 2nd reason “Sola Scriptura” is wrong, it ignores all the passages that give the Church real authority.
It's disingenuous to say that the position of "Sola Scriptura" ignores verses that deal with church authority. None of those verses say or even suggest that the churches wield an infallible authority.
Again your statement “that Scripture is sufficient to teach us” is not Biblical. However, had you included the Church in your statement it would have been correct. The concept of “Sola Scriptura” is a Protestant understanding but it is rejected by many Protestants today because it is not Biblical.
Steve Ray is putting himself in a corner. Scripture never says that the church is sufficient, nor that "the church" has to be added to Scripture in order for Scripture to be sufficient. "Protestants" may reject Scripture's sufficiency, but not for lack of clear Scriptural teaching. Moreover, are "Protestants" really able to read and understand Scripture? If Steve Ray says "yes," then he's conceded the key point of our contention, which is that people can read and understand Scripture and judge whether Rome is teaching the apostolic faith. If he denies that "Protestants" can read and understand Scripture, then why is he appealing to their interpretation of it?
By the way what church do you belong to? Is it 7th day Baptist or Adventist or say Pentecostal? Usually it’s like pulling teeth to get an Evangelical to say the name of their Church and where they are coming from. I get the impression that they are embarrassed. They make less than complimentary statements about the Catholic Church all the while they are reluctant to mention where they are coming from. And I might add, there are Evangelicals who are not into the Catholic bashing business. Some of them are my friends.
Steve Ray does not seem to get that Evangelicals are not, for the most part, ultra-sectarians like he is. They are about bringing people to Christ and the gospel, whereas Steve Ray is about bringing people to Rome.

When by our preaching people come out of Rome to a Reformed church, God is bringing them to the gospel. He's also bringing them to a particular church and a particular congregation - but they are converting to Christianity not to a sect.

So, it's not that we're embarrassed - it's that our focus is on presenting Christ. The gospel transcends our denominational boundaries, so that we can have unity of the gospel, even with those who are not of our particular denomination. There's no Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist "Unam Sanctam."

But is Steve Ray embarrassed to be associated with Rome? Perhaps he should be. Not just because of the scandals of the modern times, but because of the persecution of the gospel and her messengers, back when Rome had more political power.  The history of the papacy is something lurid and shameful, not something to be proud of.

More than that, though, the key thing he should be ashamed of is the departure of his church from the apostolic faith found in Scripture.  After all, the Scripture tells us what the Apostles taught and believed - and that doesn't match up well with what Rome practices and teaches.  Rome's celibate bishops don't match up with the mostly married apostles and elders in the Bible. Rome's prayers to Mary and the saints don't find Biblical precedent.  Rome's bowing down to images of men and angels is contradicted by Scripture, and we could go on and on.

More than all the scandals - which could happen to any fallible church - the most shameful thing is that Rome has departed from the gospel and declared herself to be infallible and irreformable in her dogma.  That's a hardness of heart worthy of great shame.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Still Trading on the Legend of Loreto

You may recall my friend, Dr. James White, mention the superstitious legend of Loreto a few times in the past (blog example, discussing Keating's use of the legend). In this bizarre legend, angels lift up Mary's house and transport it to Loreto, Italy. In the version at the link, they stop along the way in Trsat, Croatia.

Rome is still trading on these myths. For example, Vatican Information Service, 11 June 2012 reports:
Participants in the fifteenth World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members were received this morning in audience by the Holy Father. Their patron, the Pope recalled, is Our Lady of Loreto who is also the patron saint of all air travellers, in accordance with the tradition that attributes to the angels the transportation of Mary’s house from Nazareth to Loreto, Italy.
So, note that this usage of falsehoods is not limited to lay apologist groups, but goes all the way to the top of the RCC. At least today's bishop of Rome is careful to word the matter in a way that is not, itself, false. Yes, a tradition attributes what he says it attributes. On the other hand, it didn't happen as the tradition alleges. But that doesn't stop the pope from trading on the legend.