Thursday, March 07, 2013

R. Scott Clark on "All Heretics Quote Scripture"

R. Scott Clark today responded on his blog to the comment that "all heretics quote Scripture." It's a true statement that simply testifies to the universal recognition of the authority of Scripture. It does not prove what its advocates seem to want to imagine that it proves. R. Scott Clark explains:
According to the Reformed churches, the Bible is the Word of God. It norms all norms. Even though it is contrary to the spirit of the modern age we still hold that the Bible is sovereign over the church (contra Rome) and the reader (contra rationalism and subjectivism). We say that the Scriptures produced the church (not the reverse). The Scriptures fundamentally are the Word of God. That Word was given through human authors but that process of revelation was superintended by God the Spirit. It was Spirit speaking through prophets and apostles. There is a real humanity to Scripture but that humanity does not norm the divine authority, inspiration, integrity, or truthfulness of Scripture.

The churches do not create the canon or the Scriptures. Rather the churches simply receive the Scriptures and the canon. The Scriptures are divinely formed. Contra Rome the authority of the church is ministerial not magisterial. The same principle applies to the autonomous modern rationalist or subjectivist.

It’s true that the Bible must be read. This is where the church enters. Who gets to say what the Scriptures mean? Is it the sovereign rationalist or the sovereign subjectivist? No, it is the divinely instituted and constituted community of interpretation. Does that community (the church) norm the revelation? No. The revelation norms the community. At the same time we are not skeptical. The Scriptures can be understood because they are meant to be understood and interpreted and we are constituted to read and interpret Scripture. We do so, the Spirit helping us, illuminating the Word for us and witness to us that what the Scriptures teach is true.
I would only tweak his statement "the Scriptures produced the church" by pointing out that strictly speaking it was revelation that produced the church, and that the revelation that produced the church has been inscripturated now, though it was in the process of being inscripturated during the apostolic age.

As far as the origin of the quotation goes, Vincent of Lerins was one of the early people to use a line like that one in his Commonitory. But the phrase is used (in a very different sense) today by apologists for Rome, such Bryan Cross, who wrote:
Because the essence of Scripture is not the letter but the meaning, it is not enough to have Scripture as support for one’s doctrine, since “all heretics quote Scripture.”
But this statement presupposes that the letter of Scripture does not convey the meaning of Scripture. Otherwise, it should be sufficient to have the letter of Scripture as support, if the letter and the meaning are harmonious and the letter of Scripture is not ambiguous.

Bryan does not plainly state that he thinks Scripture is ambiguous, but David DeJong in the comment box at Called to (Roman) Communion express the matter straight:
As soon as you recognize that Scripture is ambiguous and that there is not going to be interpretive agreement on every issue (e.g. baptism) and that sincere Christians can sincerely disagree, then you need to account for that in your construal of “essentials.”
It is an old error, one Irenaeus identified with the Gnostics in his "Against Heresies," as we've previously seen (link).


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Trinity Review of Year of Faith

Despite the passing of John Robbins, the Trinity Review continues occasionally to publish reviews. The latest one is a review of Rome's "Year of Faith." The review takes a position of continuity with respect to Rome - it continues to reject the gospel now, just as it has at least since Trent. The language may be more polished now, but that makes the snare more subtle. One of the best lines in the review was "Once Evangelicals go down the ecumenical path into Rome and its rituals, it is difficult to resist her deceptions, except by the Word of God." To that I would add that consequently one of the first things that many of Rome's apologists seem eager to do is to cast suspicion and doubt on the Scriptures and their clarity, as though the Scriptures were hopelessly ambiguous and in need an of external, authoritative interpreter.


P.S. I should add that Benedict XVI's long-awaited encyclical on faith was not published, allegedly because it was not complete. If it is ever completed and published, the Vatican has already indicated that it will not be an encyclical and will not in itself carry the weight of papal authority.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Unionism Rejected (by a Lutheran, of course)

You can skip the first two minutes of the video, which has almost nothing to do with the topic of the video. The topic of the video relates to "unionism," which is a Lutheran term for co-organization, joint worship, and/or cooperation between churches that hold to different things. Historically, the union that prompted the coining of this term was (I believe) the Prussian Union of 1817, which was a union of Lutheran and Reformed churches.

Obviously, I'm not Lutheran, and I would agree with my Reformed forebearers that the Lutheran churches teach error - particularly error regarding the sacraments and worship. I agree with the Lutheran in this video that we need to agree to disagree apart, at least in some sense. We cannot simply ignore our differences or pretend that they do not exist.

Furthermore, I agree with the Lutheran in this video, that people are justified by grace alone through faith alone, not by being doctrinally perfect. Thus, while I think that Lutheran churches have false doctrine (on certain points) and improper worship (on certain points), I acknowledge that Lutheran churchgoers may be saved through faith in Christ alone.

The problem with objections to "unionism" is that some of them tend to be pretty extreme. The Lutheran in the video doesn't give many examples of what constitutes "unionism" in his view, so it is hard to say where he stands on that point.

I'm appreciative of the efforts of groups like the "White Horse Inn," in which Lutherans and Reformed people cooperate in presenting the gospel and in addressing certain errors rejected both by Lutherans and Reformed. Moreover, I myself cooperate in presenting the gospel with my baptist brother, James White - despite our important differences on issues of paedobaptism and church government.

Thus, although there are differences that are enough to prevent us from having a denominational unity with either Lutherans or Baptists, we can still cooperate in areas that do not require such denominational unity. To the extent that the Lutheran in the video would oppose such an idea, I would respectfully disagree with him.

Nevertheless, in general his comments do help to explain the importance of maintaining doctrinal orthodoxy, even at the expense of unity. For that limited point:

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Caners on the John Ankerberg Show - Part 3

"Life of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad" is a third episode of the Caners on the John Ankerberg Show in 2013.

The intro has the same line about growing up in Columbus and having a mosque-building father (which has already been discussed here).  Ankerberg says that "their family disowned them," (1:44) which we could ask Ankerberg to justify - the justification would seem to be that their non-custodial father disowned them.

Ergun seems to insist that that Shahada says that Mohammed is "his final seal of the prophets" or "the final prophet."  While that is doubtless the Sunni view of Mohammed, the literal translation of portion of the Shahada about Mohammed is just "... Mohammed is the messenger of Allah."

One important point that is presented is the fact that Mohammed is described in the Koran as being an example for Muslims:

Surah 33:21 Ye have indeed in the Apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah. (YUS)

However, if one attempts to have as many wives as Mohammed, one will run smack into the limitation of four wives that is present in Islam.  Likewise, if one attempts to prevent ones widows from marrying, one will run afoul of Islamic law.

Ergun raises the idea (around 5:30 into the clip) that Mohammed says in the Hadith that "he" was spiritually married to Mary.  The apparent source for this is the following, as taken from the Caners' book, "Unveiling Islam":
"Oh Khadija, know that God has wedded me to Mary, Christ's mother in paradise." HE repeated this to Aiysha, "Oh Aiysha [sic], didn't you know that God Almighty in heaven has wedded me to Mary, the daughter of Imran, to Kulthum, Moses' sister and to Assiya, wife of the Pharoh."7
7. Related by Abu Umama in later ahadith.
(pp. 136 and 141, "[sic]" is in the book - note that the book is not necessarily the Caners' own writing - the chapters are allegedly written by various women)

I tried to track down a better citation for this alleged narration.  I found an article by Salman Hassan Jabbar, dated to 1994, which states:
Also worth mentioning in this connection is that Muhammad will have the lion's share of all the good things in paradise for surely he was singled out for favor by God by virtue of his flight into the seven heavens (Al Isra'a wal Mi'raj incident) It was there too that he received from God's hand all the teachings which he transmitted to his followers. When he returned to earth from that trip he was unable to hide the fact from his first wife, Khadija - the eldest. He told her as she lay dying: "Oh Khadija, know that God has wedded me to Mary, Christ's mother in paradise." He repeated this story to his favorite wife, Aiysha, after the Hejira, saying:" Oh Aiysha, didn't you know that God Almighty in heaven wedded me to Mary the daughter of Imran, to Kulthum, Moses' sister and to Assiya, wife of the Pharaoh". (related by Abu Umama)
Abu Umama was one of the companions (sahaba) of Mohammad.  That said, I was not able to verify this supposed hadith from either Bukhari's collection of hadith or Muslim's collection of hadith.

With a little more digging, I found an interesting response from Rasheed Gonzales (link to response) to use of this narration.  In relevant part, Rasheed writes:
Let us now take a look at what Ibn Kathîr said in his exegesis of the above mentioned verse (66:5) in his Tafsîr al-Qur'ân al-'Adhîm. Ibn Kathîr mentions,
In his al-Mu'jam al-Kabîr, Abul-Qâsim at-Tabarânî said,
Abū Bakr bin Sadaqah narrated to us: Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Marzūq narrated to us: 'Abdullah bin Umayyah narrated to us: 'Abdul-Quddūs narrated to us from Sâlih bin Hayyân, from Ibn Buraidah, from his father: [concerning] «widows and virgins» (66:5), [who] said, "In this verse, Allah promised His prophet, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, that He would marry him to the widow: Âsiyah, wife of Pharaoh, and with the virgins: Mary bint 'Imrân."
In his biography of Mary, peace be upon her, Hâfidh Ibn 'Asâkir mentioned from the route of Suwaid bin Sa'îd: Muhammad bin Sâlih bin 'Umar narrated to us from ad-Dahhâk and Mujâhid, from Ibn 'Umar, he said,
Gabriel came to Allah's messenger, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, at the death of Khadîjah and said, "Surely, Allah greets her with peace and gives glad tidings of a house of pearls in Paradise, distant from the fire, containing no hardship, nor noise, of hollow pearls between Mary bint 'Imrân's house and Âsiyah bint Muzâhim's house."
And from the hadîth of Abî Bakr al-Hudhalî, from 'Ikrimah, from Ibn 'Abbâs that the Prophet, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, entered upon Khadîjah while she was dying and said, «O Khadîjah, if you meet your co-wives, then greet them with peace from me.» She said, "O Allah's messenger, have you married before me?" He said, «No, but Allah will marry me to Mary bint 'Imrân, Âsiyah wife of Pharaoh, and Kulthum sister of Moses.» [It is] weak also.
Abū Ya'lâ said,
Ibrâhîm bin 'Ar'arah narrated to us: 'Abdun-Nūr bin 'Abdillah narrated to us: Yūnus bin Shu'aib narrated to us from Abî Umâmah, he said, 'Allah's messenger, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, said, «I have learned that Allah married me in Paradise to Mary bint 'Imrân, Kulthum sister of Moses, and Âsiyah wife of Pharaoh.» So I said: [be it] a pleasure for you, O Allah's messenger!'
(see the remainder of Rasheed's post, for the argument from this quotation, but the gist of the argument is that the chain of narration is weak, and it is possible that this hadith is actually ancient Christian propaganda, designed to make Muslims appear [even more?] despicable to Christians.)

Amusing Quotation
At around 8:15 into the clip, Ergun provides an amusing soundbite, "Fine, I don't like half the Christians I know." His point was that it is not Christians who are the reason for us to be Christians, it is Christ.  That point is valid and good, even though the statement itself is itself a little amusing and somewhat sad, given our experience with him.