Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pope Francis - Liberal or not?

Matthew Bellisario, editor of the Catholic Champion, was kind enough to bring this clip to my attention, and I'm happy to bring it to the attention of Dave Armstrong and others, who think that Francis is just business as usual for the Roman see:
Christopher Ferrara is a traditionalist Roman Catholic, to be sure, but that's kind of the point. He says: "Something is seriously wrong with this pontificate. You can't deny it any longer." (Christopher Ferrara, 11 minutes in)
"I think we just got stuck with a really, really bad decision in Pope Francis, who again I think has to rank among the very worst popes in the history of the papacy." (Michael Matt - 24:45 in)
Mr. Matt goes so far as to say that living under Francis is worse than living under Alexander VI and the (other) Borgia popes (around 26 minutes in).


Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Real Turretin on: Christ's Atonement is Both Substitutionary and Exemplary

Tony Stiff at Sets 'n' Service has provided a brief quotation from the real Turretin providing a helpful reminder that the Atonement is not only Substitutionary but also Exemplary
(source). Sometimes in our eagerness to emphasize the distinctives of Reformed Theology, we can lose sight of that fact. The fact that Christ's death is an example is important: and something Paul mentions.


Monday, December 08, 2014

Assurance and Baptism - Leithart Should Read 1 John

Peter Leithart should read the First Epistle of John. Peter Leithart writes: "Justification by grace through faith cannot be sustained, either in theology or in our experience, without confidence that God works in the sacraments. We cannot get assurance unless we’re convinced that God declares me His beloved child in the water of baptism. Which means, No baptism, No justification." (link)

But read 1 John. That book's raison d'etre is expressed this way:
(1:4) ... these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full ... (5:13) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
John mentions a lot of things that help give us confidence, the primary one being that we have faith in Christ. John never mentions baptism in this epistle.

Leithart should learn from 1 John that Baptism is not what provides us our assurance.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Leithart Asks - on Justification and Baptism

Peter Leithart has a question that every child who has memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism should be able to answer: "If baptism is not a public declaration of justification, where and when does that public declaration take place?" (link)

Westminster Shorter Catechism #38
Q: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A: At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory,1 shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment,2 and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God,3 to all eternity.4

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:42-43. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
[2] Matthew 25:33-34. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Matthew 10:32. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
[3] Psalm 16:11. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
1 Corinthians 2:9. 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.
[4] 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. [See preceding context.]

As Matthew Henry puts it:

4. Shall they be openly acknowledged in the day of judgment? Yes: Him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven, Matt. 10:32. Will God own them as his own? Yes: They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels, Mal. 3:17. And will that be their honour? Yes: If any man serve me, him will my Father honour, John 12:26. Shall they be openly acquitted? Yes: for their sins shall be blotted out when the times of refreshing come, Acts 3:19.

Westminster Larger Catechism

Q. 90. What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?

A. At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds,[389] shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted,[390] shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men,[391] and shall be received into heaven,[392] where they shall be fully and forever freed from all sin and misery;[393] filled with inconceivable joys,[394] made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels,[395] but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity.[396] And this is the perfect and full communion, which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.

[390] Matthew 25:33. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Matthew 10:32. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

[391] 1 Corinthians 6:2-3. Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

[392] Matthew 25:34, 46. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

[393] Ephesians 5:27. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Revelation 14:13. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

[394] Psalm 16:11. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

[395] Hebrews 12:22-23. But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

[396] 1 John 3:2. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 Corinthians 13:12. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

David King - Justification and The Auburn Avenue Controversy

I know that my friend, David King, would probably prefer for me not to post this, but since it has already been posted by Alpha & Omega Ministries, I wanted to present it for the listeners' edification:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Capital Punishment - Absolutely Condemned or Commanded? Francis of Rome vs. Scripture

According to the Vatican Information Service, on October 23, 2014, referring to Francis of Rome: "He reiterated the primacy of the life and dignity of the human person, reaffirming the absolute condemnation of the death penalty, the use of which is rejected by Christians." By contrast, Biblical Christians affirm the death penalty for a wide range of serious "second table" crimes, especially murder, as it is written:

Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Exodus 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

Leviticus 24:17 And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 24:21 And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.

Numbers 35:16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Numbers 35:17 And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Numbers 35:18 Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

Numbers 35:21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.

Numbers 35:30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.

Failure to Control Known Dangerous Animal who Kills
Exodus 21:29 But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.

Battery of Parents
Exodus 21:15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

Cursing of Parents
Exodus 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:9 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

Exodus 21:16 And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

Sex Crimes
- Bestiality
Exodus 22:19 Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
Leviticus 20:16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

- Adultery
Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

- Incest
Leviticus 20:11 And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Leviticus 20:12 And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

- Homosexual Acts
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

That doesn't even include the list of "first table" or religion-related crimes, such as witchcraft (Leviticus 20:27), blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16), sabbath-breaking (Exodus 31:14-15 and 35:2), and so on.  I don't omit them to hide them, but simply to note that even if one limited the modern state to enforcing "second table" crimes, there is abundant guidance in Scripture that the state ought to punish serious external violations of the 5th, 6th, and 7th commandments with death.

Oh, and for my brethren who think that we should just ignore the Old Testament's teaching regarding the state, Paul himself reaffirms the power of the state to take life:
Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
He bears the sword to execute wrath - not using the flat of the blade to spank, but the edge of the blade to kill.  That's the state's mandate as God's minister, according to both the Old and New Testaments.  Not all nations faithfully obey this mandate - and we should obey even if our state does not have the death penalty for the crimes that Scripture identifies, for conscience sake.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Justification by Faith Alone on Apologia Radio

Jeff Durbin was kind enough to have me on Apologia Radio to discuss Justification by Faith Alone (link to page for episode - direct link to mp3 of episode). I'm in the second radio hour of the podcast, after the discussion of Christian films. I hope it is edifying!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ultimate Destination Isn't Only Purpose

Some people think that "God created the reprobate just to torture them in Hell for all eternity," is an accurate picture of one aspect of Calvinism. I've heard it used a number of times as an attempt to criticize Calvinism. What's a good answer when someone asks you if that's what you believe - or claims that it's what's implied by your belief.

1. The Short Answer - the Tulips

One short answer is that it's like saying you buy your wife flowers, just to throw them in the trash. That's where they end up, right? But isn't it absurd to suppose that their whole purpose is summed up by their destination? The real purpose of the tulips is to beautify the house for a short time. Yes, they are going to end up in the trash or compost heap, but that's not their primary purpose. It's equally as absurd to suppose that the primary purpose of the reprobate is their destination in the lake of fire. There is more to their lives than that, more to their existence than that, and God uses them in other ways than that.

2. The Longer Answer - Your Ancestors and the Tulip Revisisted

We don't know all the purposes of God, or all the reasons he has for doing the things he does. Many of your and my ancestors were reprobates, but God used them to give birth to people who gave birth to people who ... gave birth to us. Without them, we would not even exist. I don't think that's the only purpose God had for them, but it's a purpose. They played other vital roles too. You are not an island, and neither were your ancestors. You and many of them were protected, served, nurtured, and supported by people who were reprobates. So, the role of reprobates in your own life and very existence is enormous - probably beyond anything you can directly comprehend.

But let's go back to a tulip. If you look at an individual tulip cell under a microscope, it may be hard to see it's purpose. Maybe the particular one you see has a particular pigment to it, which helps to provide the beautiful color of the flower - but many of the cells don't have that pigment. There are a lot of cells in the stalk or the leaves. If you are looking at them under the microscope, you can miss the bigger picture of their role within the tulip plant as a whole. The same can be true of an individual human.

Each human is not the be-all and end-all of the universe of Creation. The individual is like a tile of a much larger mosaic. Unlike a mosaic, though, God has crafted each tile. The tile is not just found and put into place opportunistically, but is specially designed for the purposes it serves in the vast drama of history.

So, the question is wrong because it is both myopic and narcissistic.


Monday, July 28, 2014

David and His Son Use Similar Metaphor (or is it proto-transubstantiation?)

Roman Catholics tend to think it is highly significant that Jesus said that the cup (meaning its contents - they never seem to misunderstand that use of non-literal language) is "my blood."  Recall that Jesus said:
Matthew 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mark 14:24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
1 Corinthians 11:25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Instead of understanding this according to its most obvious metaphorical meaning, Roman Catholics try to insist that we should interpret it in some kind of quasi-literal sense.  But Jesus, the Son of David, is using metaphor in much the same way that his father David used it:
2 Samuel 23:13-17And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim. And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem.
And David longed, and said, "Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!"
And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord.
And he said, "Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?" therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.
For David, the water represented the potential death of his men.  For the Son of David, who turned water into wine, the wine represented his own death, which we should remember, as often as we drink it.  Unless you think David was saying that the water was transubstantiated into blood --- but who would be so dull-witted as to think that?


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Never Thirst - Taking Jesus "Literally" can be Fatal

Roman Catholics like to try to claim that they are just taking Jesus "literally" when they interpret "this is my body" to mean that what was in Jesus' hands was not bread but his physical body [FN1]. Three passages in John help to illustrate the problem with that approach: John 4, John 6, and John 7.  In the first, Jesus refers metaphorically to living water, in the second Jesus refers to himself as food and drink, and in the third Jesus offers drink to those who thirst.

In John 4, Jesus interacts with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.  He asks her for water, she objects because he's Jewish, and he responds that she should be asking him for water, because the water he offers is better than the water from Jacob's well. She misunderstands him as speaking physically, even after some further explanation.  She wants to stop the labor of drawing water and misunderstands Jesus' comments about "never thirst."
John 4:6-15
Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
In John 6, Jesus interacts with a number of "disciples" who want Jesus to repeat the miracle of the loaves that's reported at the beginning of the chapter.  Jesus explains that the person who believes on him will never thirst and whoever comes to him will never hunger, calling himself the "bread of life" that "came down from heaven." Jesus insists that the bread he offers is better than the manna that the people ate in the wilderness.  Jesus talks about them eating his flesh and drinking his blood, but they take him physically and go away in disgust.  Jesus explains that the words he speaks are spirit and life.  Jesus asks the twelve if they will go away too, but Peter (speaking for the group) says that they will stay with him because they believe and know that his words are the words of eternal life.
John 6:26-71
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 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. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 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.
But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 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.
But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve. 
In John 7, Jesus interacts with those at the temple for the feast.  Jesus offers the thirsty people water.  John explains to us that Jesus is speaking about the Spirit as the "rivers of flowing water."
John 7:37-39 
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
These passages illustrate Jesus' fondness for using food as a metaphor for trust in him.  We approach the Lord's table by faith, coming to Him as represented by the bread and cup.  We gain a benefit from this if we do so by faith, but not if we do so any other way.  It is not the physical elements that provide the benefit we receive, it is the Spirit.

Remember what Jesus said about clean/unclean foods:
Matthew 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
Unfortunately, it seems our Roman Catholic friends and relatives fail to understand this.  Christ is our spiritual food and drink, not our physical nourishment.
Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
Psalm 105:41 He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river.
Isaiah 48:21 And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.
Psalm 78:20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
The blessings we receive in Christ are primarily spiritual blessings.  We drink the spiritual drink from the spiritual Rock, and that Rock is Christ.  He is our Rock, we trust in Him.

To the glory of his grace!


Footnote 1: I should add that the Roman Catholic position is particularly absurd in that it takes "this is my body" as implying that the bread ceases to be bread and becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.  Likewise, it is claimed that "this is ... my blood" implies exactly the same thing about the contents of the cup.  That's quite far from taking the words literally, in which the bread would just be the body, and the contents of the cup would just be the blood.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Is Open Theism Actually Theism?

The position (or perhaps group of positions) known as Open Theism represent a god that is rather different from the God of the Scriptures. Still, is their god even the kind of god that we could properly refer to as theistic?

Cosmological Argument
The god of Open Theism does not fully map to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Although the god of Open Theism may be viewed as the Creator of all Creation, the god of Open Theism comes to be in various states and consequently requires a prior explanation. Thus, the god of Open Theism does not provide a solution to the problem of infinite regression.

Ontological Argument
The god of Open Theism does not correspond to the ontological argument for the existence of God. The god of Open Theism is not the greatest conceivable being, since the god of Open Theism can change.

Teleological Argument
The god of Open Theism does not correspond well to the teleological argument for the existence of God. Although the god of Open Theism may have some purposes or intentions in things, those purposes or intentions do not extend to all things. In other words, many things exist that the god of Open Theism did not intend or have a purpose for.

Transcendental Argument
Naturally, the god of Open Theism cannot correspond to the transcendental argument for the existence of the Christian God - both because the god of Open Theism is not the Christian God, and because the god of Open Theism does not provide meaning to everything, as required by the argument.

There may be some other arguments for the existence of God that the god of Open Theism would fit (or to which its adherents would attempt to fit it), but it is interesting to note how many of the significant arguments cannot map to the god of Open Theism.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

One Particular Accomplishment in the Sye Ten Bruggencate v. Matt Dillahunty Debate

There were a number of highlights (and a few lowlights) in the Sye Ten Bruggencate v. Matt Dillahunty debate (link). One highlight was when an audience member asked Sye if there was anything Sye couldn't be wrong - and Sye pointed out the essentials. The follow up was "and what are those?" Sye did a great job of immediately presenting the gospel. It was a great opportunity, and Sye nailed it.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Paradox of Atheism

The Psalms provide us with an interesting paradox about Atheism. On the one hand, God is not at all in their thoughts:
Psalm 10:4
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

Psalm 14:1
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
On the other hand, they actively deny God's existence:
Psalm 53:1
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.
A third branch to this remarkable paradox comes in Romans, together with the resolution:
Romans 1:21
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Although we all know God exists, we can become vain in our imaginations to the point of denying God's existence or even forgetting about God. How sad is the plight of atheists!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Some Interesting Parts of the Ten Bruggencate/Dillahunty Debate

During the Sye Ten Bruggencate debate with Matt Dillahunty there were some interesting audience questions.

1) One gentleman asked why everyone isn't saved, if every one knows/believes that God exists. As Sye explained, the problem with the question was that it presumed that it is enough for salvation for people to know the truth of the gospel (i.e. understand the content), or enough for salvation for people to assent to the truth of gospel (i.e. acknowledge that it is true). Instead, salvation is about trusting in and relying Jesus Christ alone for salvation, which we could describe as viewing the truth as good and desiring it for oneself.

2) Another gentleman asked whether, if God exists, Matt Dillahunty thinks that God owes him anything. This question was good from the standpoint of providing one way of getting atheists to try to think. Sometimes atheists try to raise internal critiques of God's existence. Usually these critiques fail because they aren't dealing with the God of the Bible. For example, some atheists seem to think that if God exists, then there should be no human suffering, as though God's primary purpose would be to serve us and make us happy, instead of vice versa. Such a critique is obviously - at best - an external critique.

In this particular case, Matt stated that he said there would be some things that he would like - but that he did not believe that God would owe him anything. But then Matt took it a step farther and said that he felt that he would not owe God anything. On the contrary, if the God of the Bible exists, then Matt owes God obedience and repentance and faith when obedience falls short.

3) One lady raised an excellent question regarding how one gets from "there must be an absolute outside ourselves" to "the God of Scripture is true." Sye explained that rather the God of the Bible is a necessary starting point in order to make sense of any absolute. Thus, it is not "absolutes therefore God" but rather "God therefore absolutes."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Transubstantiation: Historical Development as Described by Garry Wills

Garry Wills (author of "Why I am a Catholic"), in "Why Priests," describes the development of Eucharistic theology in the Middle Ages (p. 43):
William of Ockham (c. 1288--c. 1346), also known as Occam, wrote a long treatise on the Sacrament of the Altar. There he admitted (because the dogma of the Resurrection demanded it) that the glorified body of Christ in heaven was material. But the sacramental body of Christ was non-material, therefore non-spatial, like that of an angel. It could be present in a punctum, a point. The Scholastic theologians are often derided for debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. That is not a thing they would ever discuss, since their angels are non-spatial and pins are spatial, so never the two could meet.
Wills explains that the position of Thomas Aquinas won out over views like that of Occam.  Thomas used an Aristotelean distinction between accidents and substance.  However, as Wills explains, Thomas took Aristotle in a way Aristotle never imagined (p. 45):
Though Aristotle distinguished substance from accident, he did not (could not) separate them. A dog cannot exist without accidents like size. And there cannot be "a large" or "a white" standing alone without a substance. It has to be a large or a white something. An accident "comes along with" (symbainei) the thing that is its essence. Thomas admitted this natural truth: "An accident assumes what it is from its substance" (ST 3.77 a1r). But for the Eucharist, he posited a miraculous disruption of the natural order. He took the radical step of claiming that a substance can exist without its proper accidents, and accidents can exist without their proper substance, though only by a special action performed by God every time the priest says the words of consecration.
Wills further explains that there was an opposition to the position that Aquinas inherited and adopted (p. 49):
Thomas was forced to go to such lengths in caring for damaged Hosts because alternatives to transubstantiation were condemned by the church. One such alternative was offered in the ninth century by Ratramnus of Corbie, who said that Jesus was present in the Eucharist only symbolically (in figura), not physically. Ratramnus was rebuked by his superior, Paschasius Radbertus, who insisted on the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist--which made Ratramnus's student Gottschalk of Orbais claim Paschasius was advocating cannibalism. The view of Paschasius was the dominating one for the next two centuries.
But then, in the eleventh century, the charismatic and ascetical Berengar of Tours renewed in a more sophisticated way what Ratramnus had argued for, that the Eucharist is Christ in figura (in symbol). Relying on Augustine's philosophy of the sign, Berengar said that the sign does not stand alone. It has to have a signifier and recipient of the sign. The whole system cannot function without this transaction. For him, the Eucharist was a dynamic system, in which the riches of salvation were offered to those with the faith to receive it.
There was also a liturgical aspect to this development.  Wills explains (p. 51):
Even when the Host was not exposed in a monstrance, it was felt to be present within the altar tabernacle, its divinity signaled by a vigil lamp--not a sheltered matter of bread and wine but an abiding divine person to whom one "paid visits," worshiping, genuflecting, and praying to it. Alexander Nagel points out that, increasingly, from the fourteen to the sixteenth century, the tabernacle became larger and more central to churches.
In other words, the position adopted by Aquinas and calcified by Trent was a mutation, not an ancient tradition that was first disputed by the Reformers.


Friday, June 06, 2014

Misamplified Metaphors

People love metaphors - they are the salt of our linguistic cuisine, enhancing the flavor of our verbal diet. Still, they can be abused. I remember learning some time ago of mixed metaphors. I won't get into those now. Instead, let's talk about misamplified metaphors. These are cases where people are attempting to take an existing metaphor and amplify it. This can be done right. So, for example, "He wasn't just burning the candle at both ends, he had found a way to light in the middle too."

Misamplification can be seen when people say things like "he didn't just jump the shark, he jumped the beach, the lifeguard stand, and most of the cars in the parking lot." The reason this is a misamplification is that the metaphor is not about the height of the jump, it was an example of a purportedly low-quality episode of a popular TV program. You could say, "He didn't just jump the shark, he did it during sweeps week."

Misamplification can be applied to other metaphors as well: "He's not just circling the drain, he's circling the whole bathroom!" Instead, try "he's not just circling the drain, he's already half down it!"

Another misamplification example: "He's not a paper tiger, he's a rock, scissors and paper tiger!" A better option might be "He's not a paper tiger, he's more of a paper tiger's cub" or "he's not a paper tiger, he's a paper tabby cat."

Some misamplifications actually defeat the point: "He didn't just spit into the wind, he spat away from the wind as well!" Another: "It wasn't just coming up spades, but hearts, clubs, and diamonds too!"

I suppose there's also a special category of misamplifications. If someone tries to amplify "I am the door," into something more, it's likely going to end up just wrong. Same for "I am the vine." The Roman Catholics get a special award in this category when they amplify "this is my body" into "this is my body, blood, soul, and divinity," although perhaps they should be disqualified from receiving the award, since they mean it non-metaphorically. Thankfully for their teeth they don't make an identical error with "this cup" but instead refer those words to the contents of the cup.

Anyway, just something on my mind.


Oops, the original post included a simile, instead of a metaphor at one point:
So, for example, "that went over like a lead balloon" could be amplified as "that went over like a lead balloon filled with sand."
My apologies to the reader

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

On Silence of Christian Leaders

My brethren are getting frustrated with the fact that certain Christian leaders seem willing to talk boldly about things that all their hearers already agree with, while refusing to speak up about the more controversial in-house problems. Remember the words of Mordecai:
Esther 4:13-14
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
God does use men, like Esther, to advance his kingdom and cause. Nevertheless, God's purposes don't depend on Esther. Christian leaders who remain silent, thinking it is to their advantage, are not undermining our cause, but their own. We can entreat them to do what they seem called to do, but we should also recognize that God will deliver us, if not from that quarter, from some other.


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

What's the Big Deal About Priests?

Garry Wills, in Why Priests, provides some interesting thoughts on the significance of the Roman Catholic priesthood (Chapter 2, p. 20):
The most striking thing about priests, in the later history of Christianity, is their supposed ability to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. "From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly ministry draws its strength" (C 1566). Nothing else about their actions is on that scale--the fact that they can routinely work an astounding miracle. Jesus becomes present in every bit of bread and every bit of wine that is consecrated, and only one thing can make it happen--the words of a priest impersonating Jesus at the Last Supper and saying, "This is MY [i.e., Jesus' though the priest is speaking] body . . . This is the cup of MY blood."
The only person on earth who can do this is a priest, and he can do it all by himself, with no congregation present (in what is called a private Mass). A congregation of believers, no matter how large or how pious, cannot do this if no priest is present. The people of God cannot approach God directly, in this rite central to many Christians, but only through a designated agent. As Thomas Aquinas put it: "A priest, it was earlier said, is established as the mediator between God and the people. A person who stands in need of a mediator with God cannot approach him on his own" (ST 3.22 a4r).
This does, of course, lead to the "Protestant" objection that there is only one mediator, Christ.  This becomes even more clearly in a quotation Garry Wills provides from an RC "saint" (p. 25):
In the twelfth century, Saint Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensian order of priests, wrote of the priest's re-enactment of the Incarnation, "Priest you are not, because you are God."[Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast (University of California Press, 1987), p. 57]
Garry Wills also draws a distinction between the traditional splendor of the papacy and the austerity of the original apostles (pp. 28 and 32):
Until recently the pope used to enter Saint Peter's on a sedia gestatoria, a throne borne on the shoulders of twelve footman while two attendants used the flabellum, a large ceremonial fan made of white ostrich feathers. Despite suspension of its use, the sedia has not been formally renounced.
All this fuss and finery far outdoes what Jesus condemned in the Pharisees. "Everything they do is done to impress people. They enlarge their tefillins and lengthen their tassels" (Mt 23.5-6).
Of course I have known humble and hardworking priests, men who shamed me by their devotion to others. But there are enough of the other kind to make one appreciate the words of Jesus when he told his Followers not to strive for pre-eminence (Mk 9.33-37). Or when he sent his disciples out to preach the Gospel, saying, "Provide yourselves no gold or silver or copper in your belts, or traveler's pouch, or a second pair of tunics or sandals" (Mt 10.9-10). Saint Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Palace cannot claim true descent from that pair of sandals and that single tunic.
The current bishop of Rome is less interested in finery than many of his predecessors, but his "succession" is from them.  He has not condemned their moral heresy, nor does he refuse to be called "Holy Father" or "Vicar of Christ."


Friday, May 30, 2014

The Fallible(?) God of Molinism and the Problem of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

One aspect of "Libertarian" (nothing to do with politics) Free Will (LFW for short) is the idea that a free agent can, in the same circumstance, either do A or not do A.  God's advance knowledge of the future, coupled with God's infallibility, poses a serious problem to this idea, since it seems that either what God knows will happen will necessarily (i.e. it cannot be otherwise) happen or that God is fallible (i.e. it can be otherwise than God knows).  James Anderson previously pointed this out in an article called "The Fallible God of Molinism."

William Lane Craig responded to Prof. Anderson's article regarding the "Fallible God of Molinism" in a predictable way - by arguing that although the possible worlds where the people choose otherwise are possible, in those worlds God's knowledge would be different. Thus, although a person could not bring about a world where God's knowledge is wrong, he could bring about a world where God's knowledge is different. That sounds confusing, and raises several objections.

A first layer of objection is that in this allegedly possible world is a world with different circumstances than the actual world immediately prior to the alleged free choice. In the actual world, God already has knowledge that the man will do X. Thus, in this set of circumstances, saying that the man "can avoid doing X" on its face requires different circumstances.

A typical Molinist response can be seen in Dr. Anderson's summary here (link):
Craig is correct that I made a misstep in the original argument, as I acknowledged in reply to a comment by Greg Welty. I said at first it wasn’t relevant whether God’s decree (or “providential plan,” to use Craig’s terminology) is included in C, i.e., the circumstances in which God places the free agent S, knowing that S will do A in C. But that’s mistaken, because Molinists will say that C doesn’t include God’s decree, such that in those possible worlds in which S does not do A in C, while C is the same, God’s decree is different. (As Craig puts it, God’s providential plan is not “firm and fixed” across worlds in which S chooses in C, even though C is fixed.) The counterfactuals are different in those alternate worlds and therefore God’s decree will also be different in those worlds, since it is based on those counterfactuals.
In other words, people like Craig argue that because God's knowledge is not the cause of the future action of the person, it can properly be excluded from the circumstances.  Anderson mentions how this looks like special pleading.  Molinists typically argue that it should be clear that God's knowledge is not itself the cause of the future event.  Presumably, Molinists would ground God's knowledge in his decree to instantiate and his middle knowledge.

Nevertheless, in some cases God's knowledge is plainly one of the causes of human action.  For example, we have a category we call "self-fulfilling prophecies."  While this category is not usually applied to God, we note that God's knowledge is plainly the basis for actual prophecies. Furthermore, some people whose actions are prophesied hear the prophecy and act based on their own knowledge of the prophecy.  For example, leaders of the Israelites were sometimes motivated to go up to battle by prophetic revelation of victory in that battle.  In such a case, saying that God's knowledge is not part of the relevant circumstances seems totally indefensible.

Worse than that, Molinists are overlooking the problem that even if God's knowledge itself were always kept secret and were never revealed, there is an antecedent cause of God's knowledge, which is also a cause of all the (other) circumstances.  Anderson explains it this way:
The Molinist has to say, in effect, “Don’t worry, it’s possible for S not to do A in C provided we don’t include God’s decree in C, for then it would be possible for S to do other than what God has decreed.” In other words, the Molinist has to restrict C to intramundane circumstances.
But why should the Molinist be permitted to make that move? After all, the circumstances are causally connected to God’s decree (and necessarily so in the Molinist system). The circumstances obtain only because God decided that they should obtain and caused them to obtain. If we can draw the boundary line of C so as to exclude God’s decree and his actions to implement that decree (i.e., his manipulation of intramundane circumstances), why not draw the boundary line even more narrowly, so as to exclude, say, all circumstances more than five years prior to S’s choice, or all circumstances more than fifty miles away from S’s location? Is there any principled reason to draw the boundary line of C where the Molinist wants to draw it other than to save the system? Why think that it being hot and sunny in Charlotte today is a relevant element of my circumstances but God’s making it hot and sunny in Charlotte (partly in order to direct the choices  of Charlotteans) is not a relevant element?
In other words, God's knowledge is based (at least in part in the Molinist system) on God's decree.  But God's decree is always a cause of at least some of the circumstances for every human choice.  Thus, it is fair to say, as Anderson did:
[T]here’s a clear sense in which, on the Molinist view, God determines S’s choices. It isn’t a causal determinism, but it’s still determinism in the sense that God’s decree that S will do A (which is fixed prior to any of S’s choices) guarantees that S will do A. Given that God has decreed that S will do A, S cannot do otherwise than A.
In short, in order to make the God of Molinism infallible, Molinists have to compromise LFW of creatures by artificially excluding things like the divine decree.  But about the only reason to even consider Molinism is an a priori commitment to LFW.

Furthermore, if Molinists are willing to compromise by excluding some of the causal factors of choices, what's the principled basis for rejecting a Calvinistic free will, in which a will is free in the sense that it could choose differently in different circumstances?


The "Jesus Didn't Write a Book" Objection

Over the years, I've noticed a number of objections to accepting the Scriptures as an authority over the church. One of the oddest objections is "Jesus didn't write a book" (example from David Meyers). Against certain Muslims who think that Jesus wrote a book called "the Injeel," this might be an important objection. Against Christians, though, this is a very odd objection. Especially since Jesus and the Apostles were so reliant on the Old Testament Scriptures:
Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Luke 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

John 12:16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
Like the Old Testament, the New Testament is the Word of God - the Holy Spirit inspired it. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit according to the will of the Father. As it is written:
Revelation 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

Romans 16:25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

Ephesians 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

Galatians 1:12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
So, specifically the book of Revelation was a revelation given by Jesus to John (that addresses Meyer's sub-objection that "we don't even know if he told his followers to write anything down, and often it seems they dont expect it to be scripture anyway"), and more generally what Paul taught was revealed to him by Jesus. But what about Scripture generally?
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
And not only is it inspired by God, but God is indeed the reason for Scripture's existence:
2 Peter 1:19-21
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
So, the Scriptures come according to in the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit and he speaks what Jesus spoke:
John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Thus, the New Testament is the revelation of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, as it is written:
Hebrews 1:1-2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
I'd love to write more, but hopefully this answers the objection thoroughly - Jesus in his humanity did not write a book, but he sent the Holy Spirit by whose inspiration his oral teachings were brought to remembrance and memorialized in Scripture:
Luke 1:1-4
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

John 20:30-31
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Conchita Wurst - Orthodox Condemnation, Vatican Approbation

It was interesting to read a report of responses to the victory of Conchita Wurst in the Eurovision competition (link).  Amongst the reactions:
"This [flood] is not a coincidence, but a warning," Patriarch Amfilohije of Montenegro said, according to e.novine.com. "God sent the rains as a reminder that people should not join the wild side."
And likewise:
Patriarch Irinej, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Serbs, reportedly said the floods were "divine punishment for their vices" and that "God is thus washing Serbia of its sins".
And again:
The Russian Orthodox Church has previously described Conchita as an "abomination" and that his victory was "one more step in the rejection of the Christian identity of European culture".
Interestingly, by contrast, on the Vatican website one finds this:
Die Gesellschaft in ganz Europa wird immer mehr bereit, Menschen zu akzeptieren und zu respektieren, so wie sie sind: Das ist für den Bad Mitterndorfer Pfarrer Michael Unger die durchaus frohe Botschaft nach dem Erfolg des aus dem Ort stammenden Tom Neuwirth. Dieser hat als bärtige „Conchita Wurst“ den Eurovisions-Songcontest gewonnen. Die Gemeinde im steirischen Salzkammergut und gerade auch die Pfarrgemeinde hätten sich nach dem Sensationssieg riesig gefreut, zumal Tom/Conchita dort bestens bekannt sei: Mehrere Jahre lang sei der „schon damals sehr selbstbewusste“ Wirtsleute-Spross als Sternsinger von Haus zu Haus gegangen und habe sein offenkundiges Talent für kirchliche Entwicklungshilfeprojekte eingesetzt, so Pfarrer Unger. Das deutliche Ergebnis habe klargestellt, dass Europa auf Vielfalt setzt, und den Vertretern von Uniformität eine Absage erteilt. (kap)
(source)The segment from Vatican radio talks about how this is an illustration of how diverse and tolerant Europe has become. You can see "Pfarrer" (Father) Michael Unger meeting with "Conchita" here (link).


Garry Wills on Augustine and the Real Presence

Garry Wills is the author of "Why I am a Catholic," but also of "Why Priests?" and "Papal Sins: Structures of Deceit."  His "Lincoln at Gettysburg" won a Pulitzer Prize.  He also wrote a biography of Augustine, St. Augustine (a Penguin Lives Biography).  So, it might be good for folks to pay attention when he says (Why Priests, p. 16):
Indeed, Eucharist ("Thanksgiving") in its later sense, of sharing bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ, is never used in the New Testament, not even in the Letter to Hebrews, which alone calls Jesus a priest. Even when the term "Eucharist" came in, as with the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, it was still, as in Paul, simply a celebration of the people's oneness at the "one altar." That meaning for the "body of Christ" would persist as late as the fourth and fifth centuries, in Augustine's denial of the real presence of Jesus in the elements of the meal.
What you see passes away, but what is invisibly symbolized does not pass away. It perdures. The visible is received, eaten, and digested. But can the body of Christ be digested? Can the church of Christ be digested? Can Christ's limbs be digested? Of course not. [[Augustine, Sermon 227]]
If you want to know what is the body of Christ, hear what the Apostle [Paul] tells believers: "You are Christ's body, and his limbs" [1 Cor 12.27]. If, then, you are Christ's body and his limbs, it is your symbol that lies on the Lord's altar--what you receive is a symbol of yourselves. When you say "Amen," and you must be the body of Christ to make that "Amen" take effect. And why are you bread? Hear again the Apostle, speaking of this very symbol: "We are one bread, one body, many as we are" [1 Cor 10.17].[[Augustine, Sermon 272]]
Believers recognize the body of Christ when they take care to be the body of Christ. They should be the body of Christ if they want to draw life from the spirit of Christ. No life comes to the body of Christ but from the spirit of Christ.[[Augustine, In Joannem Tractatus 26.13]]
There are more quotations that could be added to the above, but those are certainly three of the key quotations that establish Wills point.

Wills actually devotes an entire chapter to Augustine and Transubstantiation - chapter 5.  He writes (pp. 55-56):
I mentioned earlier that Augustine did not believe in what is called "the real presence" of Jesus in the Eucharist and quoted several places where he said that. Here is his most explicit claim that what is changed in the Mass is not the bread given out but the believers receiving it:
This bread makes clear how you should love your union with one another. Could the bread have been made from one grain, or were many grains of wheat required? Yet before they cohere as bread, each grain was isolated. They were fused in water, after being ground together. Unless wheat is pounded, and then moistened with water, it can hardly take on the new identity we call bread. In the same way, you had to be ground and pounded by the ordeal of fasting and the mystery of exorcism in preparation for baptism's water, and in this way you were watered in order to take on the new identity of bread. After that the water of baptism moistened you into dough. But the dough dose not become bread until it is baked in fire. And what does fire represent for you? It is the [post-baptism] anointing with oil. Oil, which feeds fire, is the mystery of the Holy Spirit . . . The Holy Spirit comes to you, fire after water, and you are baked into the bread which is Christ's body. That is how your unity is symbolized. [[Augustine, Sermon 227]]
This Augustinian view of the Eucharist's real meaning did not die with him, though the church made long efforts to dismiss it. In 1944, the French Jesuit Henri de Lubac published a book, Corpus Mysticum, that traced a line of theologians in the first Christian millennium who drew on Augustine to provide a theory of the Eucharist opposed to transubstantiation.
Wills goes on (p. 57) to explain that the Vatican opposed de Lubac's book and punshied him along with other "leading liberal thinkers," Jean Daniélou, Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Karl Rahner, Teilhard de Chardin, and John Courtney Murray.  Nevertheless, after Vatican II these men were restored to the point that in 1981, John Paul II made de Lubac a cardinal.  Likewise, Jean Daniélou and Yves Congar became cardinals after their reinstatement.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Michuta on the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals in the so-called Epistle of Barnabas

Gary Michuta tries to argue that the (pseudographic) Epistle of Barnabas quotes from the apocryphal/deuterocanonical book of the Wisdom of Solomon (also pseudonymous).  At pages 59-60, he writes:
The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. AD 70)
The title of this work is something of a misnomer; modern scholars do not consider The Epistle of Barnabas to have been written by the great companion of St. Paul (largely because of marked differences in viewpoint). Nevertheless, the letter is very ancient, and it was highly regarded in the early Church; so highly, in fact, that many ancient writers considered it canonical New Testament book. Its author and place of composition are unknown; it may have originated in Alexandria, Palestine, or even Syria.

Are there Deuterocanonical references in 1 Clement -- in a work so highly honored in early Christianity that the famous Codex Sinaiticus included it right after the Book of Revelation? Yes. Barnabas 6:7 appears to be quoting Wisdom 2:12; as if Wisdom were part of Isaiah 3:9-10. If this identification is correct, then the intermixing of the two prophecies from Wisdom and Isaiah would strongly suggest that the author understood them both to be divine and prophetic in origin.[fn70]

FN70: The relationship between these two texts is disputed. Oesterley sees an intermingling of Ws 2:12 and Is 3:9-10 indicating that both were of equal authority. (Oesterley, Introduction, 125). Similarly, the [sic] The Ante Nicene Fathers, edited by Roberts and Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishers) acknowledges both passages. See ANF 1.140, FN. 19. Likewise, Migne, Muilenburg, Kraft, Goodspeed, Lake, and Sparks confirms this connection as does Brabban, who calls it a "loose paraphrase" (Brabban, "Use of the Apocrypha," 358-59). Westcott (Westcott, 84), Beckwith (Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 427, FN. 208) and Norman L. Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie's Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995), 161) and others dispute this connection.
Readers of this blog may recall a rebuttal of this and related errors (link to previous post).  In summary, relevant to this particular point:

The Epistle of Barnabas 6:7 states:
Forasmuch then as He was about to be manifested in the flesh and to suffer, His suffering was manifested beforehand. For the prophet saith concerning Israel; Woe unto their soul, for they have counseled evil counsel against themselves saying, Let us bind the righteous one, for he is unprofitable for us.

ἐν σαρκὶ οὖν αὐτοῦ μέλλοντος φανεροῦσθαι καὶ πάσχειν, προεφανερώθη τὸ πάθος. λέγει γὰρ ὁ προφήτης ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραήλ· Οὐαὶ τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτῶν, ὅτι βεβούλευνται βουλὴν πονηρὰν καθ’ ἑαυτῶν, εἰπόντες· Δήσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον, ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστίν.

Septuagint Isaiah 3:9-10 states:
Wherefore now their glory has been brought low, and the shame of their countenance has withstood them, and they have proclaimed their sin as Sodom, and made it manifest. Woe to their soul, for they have devised an evil counsel against themselves, saying against themselves, Let us bind the just, for he is burdensome to us: therefore shall they eat the fruits of their works.

καὶ ἡ αἰσχύνη τοῦ προσώπου αὐτῶν ἀντέστη αὐτοῖς· τὴν δὲ ἁμαρτίαν αὐτῶν ὡς Σοδομων ἀνήγγειλαν καὶ ἐνεφάνισαν. οὐαὶ τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτῶν, διότι βεβούλευνται βουλὴν πονηρὰν καθ᾽ ἑαυτῶν εἰπόντες Δήσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον, ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστιν· τοίνυν τὰ γενήματα τῶν ἔργων αὐτῶν φάγονται. 

The difference between the language of Barnabas 6:7 and the language of Septuagint Isaiah 3:9-10 is literally two letters of one word out of eighteen consecutive words. 

By contrast, Septuagint Wisdom of Solomon 2:12 states:
Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education.

ἐνεδρεύσωμεν τὸν δίκαιον, ὅτι δύσχρηστος ἡμῖν ἐστιν καὶ ἐναντιοῦται τοῖς ἔργοις ἡμῶν καὶ ὀνειδίζει ἡμῖν ἁμαρτήματα νόμου καὶ ἐπιφημίζει ἡμῖν ἁμαρτήματα παιδείας ἡμῶν·

Thus, Wisdom (probably drawing from Isaiah) does have six of the eighteen words, and these do not include the one word that slightly differs between Barnabas and LXX Isaiah.

Thus, Michuta has undersold the degree of controversy over this erroneous assertion that Barnabas is "mixing" the text of Wisdom into that of Isaiah.  The presumable basis for this error is the use of a shorter rescension of Isaiah, such as that found in the Masoretic text, in Jerome's Vulgate, or in most English translations.

In short, it's definitely LXX Isaiah, not Wisdom, that the author of Barnabas is relying on.


N.B. As for the date of Barnabas, A.D. 80-120 is probably a more accurate range than A.D. 70.

Michuta on the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals in 1 Clement

Beginning around page 56, Michuta tries to argue that "the earliest Christians considered the Deuterocanonical books to be divinely inspired."  His first example is 1 Clement - a book whose authorship is unknown, but is sometimes ascribed to Clement of Rome.

Michuta argues that 1 Clement 3:4 "quotes Wisdom 2:24." (p. 57)

1 Clement 3:4
For this cause righteousness and peace stand aloof, while each man hath forsaken the fear of the Lord and become purblind in the faith of Him, neither walketh in the ordinances of His commandments nor liveth according to that which becometh Christ, but each goeth after the lusts of his evil heart, seeing that they have conceived an unrighteous and ungodly jealousy, through which also death entered into the world.

Wisdom 2:24 states: "Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it." While Wisdom 2:24 is a possible reference here, a more obvious one is Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"

Likewise, James 4:1-3 states: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."

Indeed, the very next verses of 1 Clement provide a canonical basis for the jealousy argument, for it continues (vs. 4 is the last verse of 1 Clement 3):

1 Clement 4:1-7
For so it is written, And it came to pass after certain days that Cain brought of the fruits of the earth a sacrifice unto God, and Abel he also brought of the firstlings of the sheep and of their fatness. And God looked upon Abel and upon his gifts, but unto Cain and unto his sacrifices He gave no heed. And Cain sorrowed exceedingly, and his countenance fell. And God said unto Cain, Wherefore art thou very sorrowful and wherefore did thy countenance fall? If thou hast offered aright and hast not divided aright, didst thou not sin? Hold thy peace. Unto thee shall he turn, and thou shalt rule over him. {This last phrase has also been translated: Be at peace: thine offering returns to thyself, and thou shalt again possess it.} And Cain said unto Abel his brother, Let us go over unto the plain. And it came to pass, while they Were in the plain, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him. Ye see, brethren, jealousy and envy wrought a brother's murder.
Thus, it is a stretch to say that 1 Clement 3:4 "quotes" from Wisdom 2:24, even if a few identical words can be be found there.

Michuta further asserts that 1 Clement 27:5-7 "is a quote from (or at least an allusion to) Wisdom 11:21 or 12:12." (p. 57)
1 Clement 27:5
Who shall say unto Him, What hast thou done? or who shall resist the might of His strength? When He listeth, and as He listeth, He will do all things; and nothing shall pass away of those things that He hath decreed. All things are in His sight, and nothing escapeth His counsel, seeing that The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaimeth His handiwork. Day uttereth word unto day, and night proclaimeth knowledge unto night; and there are neither words nor speeches, whose voices are not heard.
Wisdom 11:21 states: "For thou canst shew thy great strength at all times when thou wilt; and who may withstand the power of thine arm?" and Wisdom 12: 12 states "For who shall say, What hast thou done? or who shall withstand thy judgment? or who shall accuse thee for the nations that perish, whom thou made? or who shall come to stand against thee, to be revenged for the unrighteous men?"

But again, the canonical books have similar statements (in fact, Wisdom is probably based on the canonical books to a significant extent):

 Job 9:12 "If he would take away, who shall turn him back? or who shall say to him, What hast thou done?" Job 9:19 "For indeed he is strong in power: who then shall resist his judgment?" Daniel 4:32 "and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and there is none who shall withstand his power, and say to him, What has thou done?" Isaiah 46:10 "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" Acts 1:7 "And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." Psalm 148:6 "He has established them for ever, even for ever and ever: he has made an ordinance, and it shall not pass away." Romans 9:18-19 "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?" Matthew 5:11 "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Job 34:21 "For he surveys the works of men, and nothing of what they do has escaped him." Psalm 19:1-3 "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims the work of his hands. Day to day utters speech, and night to night proclaims knowledge. There are no speeches or words, in which their voices are not heard."

Michuta further points out that 1 Clement 55:2-6 makes reference to the person Judith. (pp. 58-59) Michuta also points out that the author of 1 Clement uses Judith as a first example and Esther as a second example. These are just used as historical examples of "Many women being strengthened through the grace of God have performed many manly deeds." (1 Clement 55:3).  These examples come after the author's reference to pagan examples: "But, to bring forward examples of Gentiles also; many kings and rulers, when some season of pestilence pressed upon them, being taught by oracles have delivered themselves over to death, that they might rescue their fellow citizens through their own blood. Many have retired from their own cities, that they might have no more seditions." (1 Clement 55:1)

While we definitely hold Esther to be canonical, we do not know whether the author of 1 Clement had the same view, as Esther was the least well received of the canonical Old Testament books.  In other words, the pairing of Judith with Esther may be a double-edged sword - but in any case, the book is not cited as Scripture.

- TurretinFan

N.B. In this post, generally the Old Testament quotations are taken from Lancelot Brenton's translation of the Septuagint, since it is unlikely that the author of 1 Clement would have had access to the Hebrew originals.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Michuta on Augustine on the Canon - Some Mistakes Corrected

One of the faults of Gary Michuta's "Why are Catholic Bibles Bigger," is its apparent uncritical reliance on a number of secondary sources, especially Breen's "General and Critical Introduction," (here is one problem that came from that) and Gigot's "General Introduction." In the section on Augustine, Michuta seems to draw mostly from Charles J. Costello's "St. Augustine's Doctrine on the Inspiration and Canonicity of Scripture."  Unfortunately, it seems that Michuta did not dig deep enough into Augustine in preparing to write his book.

Michuta - evidently relying on Costello - states: "Augustine calls Sirach 'Holy Scripture' and states plainly that the book contains the words of a prophet." (p. 158)  Unfortunately for Michuta (and perhaps also for Costello), Augustine took back this particular claim, later in his life.
Moreover, I do not seem to have correctly called prophetic the words in this passage: "Why is earth and ashes proud?" [Sirach 10:9] for the book in which this is read is not the work of one whom we can be certain that he should be called a prophet. 
Augustine, Retractions, Section 3 of the Retractions regarding On Genesis Against the Manicheans, p. 43, The Fathers of the Church, Volume 60, Sister M. Inez Bogan, R.S.M. translator.(as previously posted here)

Keep in mind that Augustine's Retractions were written around 426-27 - over thirty years after the famous Council of Hippo that identified Sirach as canonical (in some sense).  It's unclear what this change of position on Augustine's part is based on mature reflection, Jerome's influence, or other factors.  You may recall that Augustine had recognized the conflict between the Jewish canon and the Christian canon in City of God, Book 18, Chapter 36:

After these three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, during the same period of the liberation of the people from the Babylonian servitude Esdras also wrote, who is historical rather than prophetical, as is also the book called Esther, which is found to relate, for the praise of God, events not far from those times; unless, perhaps, Esdras is to be understood as prophesying of Christ in that passage where, on a question having arisen among certain young men as to what is the strongest thing, when one had said kings, another wine, the third women, who for the most part rule kings, yet that same third youth demonstrated that the truth is victorious over all. For by consulting the Gospel we learn that Christ is the Truth. From this time, when the temple was rebuilt, down to the time of Aristobulus, the Jews had not kings but princes; and the reckoning of their dates is found, not in the Holy Scriptures which are called canonical, but in others, among which are also the books of the Maccabees. These are held as canonical, not by the Jews, but by the Church, on account of the extreme and wonderful sufferings of certain martyrs, who, before Christ had come in the flesh, contended for the law of God even unto death, and endured most grievous and horrible evils.
It is interesting to note that Michuta quotes only the sentence beginning "These are held as canonical," without providing the preceding sentence (whether due to his reliance on Costello is unclear).  Regardless of his reasons for omitting that sentence, the sentence does suggest that Augustine is distinguishing between books that are edifying reading and books that are actually inspired.  After all, it would be hard to have an inspired book without a prophet.

Moreover, in the next chapter, Augustine clearly adopts the Jewish view of cessation of prophecy after Ezra (Esdras) (Book 18, Chapter 37):

In the time of our prophets, then, whose writings had already come to the knowledge of almost all nations, the philosophers of the nations had not yet arisen—at least, not those who were called by that name, which originated with Pythagoras the Samian, who was becoming famous at the time when the Jewish captivity ended. Much more, then, are the other philosophers found to be later than the prophets. For even Socrates the Athenian, the master of all who were then most famous, holding the pre-eminence in that department that is called the moral or active, is found after Esdras in the chronicles. Plato also was born not much later, who far out went the other disciples of Socrates.

Similarly, Augustine provides more clues in the next chapter (Book 18, Chapter 38):
What of Enoch, the seventh from Adam? Does not the canonical epistle of the Apostle Jude declare that he prophesied? [Jude 14] But the writings of these men could not be held as authoritative either among the Jews or us, on account of their too great antiquity, which made it seem needful to regard them with suspicion, lest false things should be set forth instead of true. ... But the purity of the canon has not admitted these writings, not because the authority of these men who pleased God is rejected, but because they are not believed to be theirs. Nor ought it to appear strange if writings for which so great antiquity is claimed are held in suspicion, seeing that in the very history of the kings of Judah and Israel containing their acts, which we believe to belong to the canonical Scripture, very many things are mentioned which are not explained there, but are said to be found in other books which the prophets wrote, the very names of these prophets being sometimes given, and yet they are not found in the canon which the people of God received. Now I confess the reason of this is hidden from me; only I think that even those men, to whom certainly the Holy Spirit revealed those things which ought to be held as of religious authority, might write some things as men by historical diligence, and others as prophets by divine inspiration; and these things were so distinct, that it was judged that the former should be ascribed to themselves, but the latter to God speaking through them: and so the one pertained to the abundance of knowledge, the other to the authority of religion. In that authority the canon is guarded. So that, if any writings outside of it are now brought forward under the name of the ancient prophets, they cannot serve even as an aid to knowledge, because it is uncertain whether they are genuine; and on this account they are not trusted, especially those of them in which some things are found that are even contrary to the truth of the canonical books, so that it is quite apparent they do not belong to them.
Notice that Augustine apparently has room for certain books as canonical books that lack prophetic authority but are an "aid to knowledge." 

We see some questions in Augustine's head even back in 396 when he wrote "On Christian Doctrine."  In discussing the canon (book 2, chapter 8, section 13) he wrote: 
For two books, one called Wisdom and the other Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach. Still they are to be reckoned among the prophetical books, since they have attained recognition as being authoritative.
Still, even this list - coming after the council of Hippo - is presented with the following caveat (book 2, chapter 8, sections 12-13):

Now, in regard to the canonical Scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have been thought worthy to be the seat of an apostle and to receive epistles. Accordingly, among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority, to such as are held by the smaller number and those of less authority. If, however, he shall find that some books are held by the greater number of churches, and others by the churches of greater authority (though this is not a very likely thing to happen), I think that in such a case the authority on the two sides is to be looked upon as equal.

13. Now the whole canon of Scripture on which we say this judgment is to be exercised, is contained in the following books:
Augustine is still asserting - after Hippo - that the individual must exercise judgment, despite the fact that Augustine believes that the individual should weigh the testimony of the churches (plural) in making the judgment.

There's another puzzle in considering Augustine's canon.  In On Christian Doctrine, at Book 2, Chapter 8, Section 13, Augustine lists within his canon: "the two of Ezra, which last look more like a sequel to the continuous regular history which terminates with the books of Kings and Chronicles."  While such a description is not unambiguous, it would be a good description of LXX Esdras A (aka "the Book of Esdras" or "the First Book of Esdras" ).  That book begins with an excerpt from 2 Chronicles, adds material from Ezra and Nehemiah, reordering some of the Ezra material, and adding a small amount of unique material.

I say, "unique material," because the material is not canonical.  The material, however, is described by the Encyclopedia Britannica this way: "The only new material is the “Tale of the Three Guardsmen,” a Persian folk story that was slightly altered to fit a Jewish context."

Michuta does have an interesting section on The Book of Esdras (pp. 238-42) in which he remarkably argues that the Roman Catholic canon is still open with respect to this book.  Michuta fails to apprise the reader of the source of the distinguishable material. He notes that "A few Church Fathers may have used Esdras as a canonical book, but this usage disappeared around the fifth century, although it remained in the Latin Vulgate and the Septuagint" (emphasis Michuta's).  Michuta does not note there - or in the Augustine section - that Augustine is one of those fathers.

In particular, in City of God, at book 18, chapter 36, quoted at more length above, Augustine wrote:
After these three prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, during the same period of the liberation of the people from the Babylonian servitude Esdras also wrote, who is historical rather than prophetical, as is also the book called Esther, which is found to relate, for the praise of God, events not far from those times; unless, perhaps, Esdras is to be understood as prophesying of Christ in that passage where, on a question having arisen among certain young men as to what is the strongest thing, when one had said kings, another wine, the third women, who for the most part rule kings, yet that same third youth demonstrated that the truth is victorious over all.
This passage is Book of Esdras, chapters 3 and 4, the "unique" material from that book.  This seems to be pretty clear evidence that Augustine (and by extension, probably also the North African bishops who met in council at Hippo and Carthage) viewed the Book of Esdras as one of the two canonical books (rather than considering Ezra and Nehemiah as separate books).

I don't mean to suggest for a second that we should adopt the Book of Esdras as canonical on Augustine's say-so. I do think Augustine was wise to retract his error regarding Sirach (and presumably Wisdom as well, as he ascribes both of those writings to the same author, not to Solomon).  Likewise, I do not mean to suggest that we should hold the canon as tentatively as Augustine did or that we need to use precisely the same methods he did to come to the conclusions to which he came.  The point is, instead, to clear up some misinformation about Augustine - and to provide some important nuance regarding Augustine's use of the term "canonical," as not always implying that the books in question are inspired.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Right to Life - but No Right to Support?

One of the arguments proposed by advocates of permitting intentional abortion is that even if a fetus or embryo has a "right to life" (by virtue of being a separate human being), that right does not include a right to insist on another person's assistance.  For example, if you need blood transfusions to live, that does not mean you have a right to demand blood from another person, nor to demand continued blood transfusions from someone who has begun to volunteer.

One possible response to this argument is to say that humans do have a duty to preserve the lives of others, and if your neighbor needs a blood transfusion to live, you do have a moral duty to provide that transfusion.  The Westminster Standards, and Jesus' example of the Good Samaritan, suggest that such a duty exists - not as a "right to life" but as a duty to preserve life.  That response really should suffice.

Suppose that we are wrong on this counter argument and that there is no general moral duty to inconvenience oneself to preserve one's neighbor's life.  Still, there are clearly cases everyone accepts in which a person has a moral duty to support the life of someone else.  We may be able to convince our friendly opponents of this with several examples:

1. The case of the car accident victim.  Suppose you crash into another person and they are dying unless you act to save their life.  In that case, I think most people would agree that you have some duty to try to save their life, even if it is inconvenient for you.  This is somewhat analogous to the embryo or fetus, because the person is in the womb of his mother due to something his mother did.  Therefore, she has a duty to save his life, even if it is inconvenient for her.

2. The case of paternal child support.  Suppose you father a child out of wedlock.  Most people seem to agree that the father has some duty to (at least) financially support the child, even if the child's life itself does not absolutely require such support.  The justification seems to be either that the father acted by begetting the child and/or that the father has paternal duties toward the child. Much more so, a mother likewise acted, has maternal duties, and should minimally be required to save the child's life for a few months.

3. The case of a young infant.  Suppose the fetus is born and consequently becomes designated an "infant." If a mother were simply to refuse to nurse (or otherwise feed) the child, we would view this as neglect and as murder if the child died from it.  The same would be true if a single father refused to feed the infant.  The justification here is pretty clearly parental duty.

Thus, in short, a general answer to this argument is that (a) we do have a general duty to preserve life and (b) that general duty is heightened in the case of parents with respect to their offspring.  The only thing that remains to be seen is whether such a duty applies to offspring who have not yet offsprung.

But surely the duty is one that is based on the helplessness (or negative maturity) of the child, not on the self-sufficiency or maturity of the child.  This can be seen from the fact that failure to feed a 30 year old son is not neglect, unless that son has a serious disability such that he cannot feed himself.  An embryo or fetus is much more helpless and immature than an infant.  Thus, the parental duty of support should be much greater for a fetus or embryo than for an infant.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Garry Wills on the Title "Holy Father"

Garry Wills (self-identified Catholic, but rejecter of the papacy and transubstantiation), in "Why Priests?" has this interesting comment (p. 12):
Jesus is telling his Followers not to be like the Sadducees and Pharisees who seek the "first places":
Everything they do is done to impress people. They enlarge their tefillins and lengthen their tassels. They like the most important place at meals, and the chairs of honor in their synagogues, and to be cheered on the street, and to be called by people "Rabbi." You, however, must not be addressed as "Rabbi," since you have only one Teacher, and you are brothers to each other. Do not address any man on earth as father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. And you must not be addressed as leaders, since you have only one Leader, the Messiah. The greater among you will be your servant. For whoever boosts himself up will be lowered, and whoever lowers himself down will be boosted up. (Mt. 23.5-12)
What could be more against this teaching than popes who adopt the title "Holy Father"?
Wills is exactly right.  While the "call no man father" command does not mean we can never in any way refer to other men as fathers, the kind of behavior it does prohibit is precisely the behavior of Roman Catholics, in elevating a single man above all others.

Wills continues (p. 12):
Thus the post-Gospel literature of the Jesus movement introduces people in administrative roles--Servants, Elders, Overseers. These are not charisms bestowed by the Spirit, but offices to which people are appointed by their fellow human beings--and once more the priesthood is missing from the list.
Wills is right again.  He goes on to explain what "Servants" (deacons), "Elders" (presbyters), and "Overseers" (bishops).  Wills notes that Paul, in his letters, uses the plural term "episkopoi" once (at Philippians 1:1).  Luke, in Acts, similarly reports Paul as using the plural term.

In Philippians 1:1, Paul and Timothy greet, as Wills explains (p. 13) "(1) God's people, (2) the Overseers, (3) the Servants."  These are the overseers, plural, for the church at Philippi.  Similarly, at Acts 20:28, Paul speaks to the overseers, again plural, of the church at Ephesus.

In two other cases, the singular form is used, but even there the occurs in conjunction with elders (presbyteroi plural) or board of elders (presbyterion - which implies a plurality of people).

I would, naturally, disagree with Wills' suggestion (p. 14) that these possibly later singular usages point towards a development of the monarchical episcopate, such as argued-for by the letters of Ignatius.  Nevertheless, Wills historical points that Paul's usage suggests that the leadership of the church is not a leadership by one, but by plurality of more or less equals.

Furthermore, Wills is right in noting the fundamental distinction and discontinuity between the apostles (whose gift was a charism of the Holy Spirit) and the elders/bishops that followed them, whose appointment was by men, even those who were appointed by the apostles themselves.  Even though these offices of deacon and elder are divinely authorized offices, they are divinely authorized in a different way from the apostolic office.

Significantly - both for Wills and us - none of this pointed to a priest or high priest over the local assembly.  The apostles themselves were not priests, and they did not even set up a human office of priest.

- TurretinFan