Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Decalogue - Logical Prioritization of the First Table

First Table
Intro: I am the Lord => God is and who God is
1. Thou shalt have no other Gods => WHO must be worshipped
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image => HOW he must be worshiped
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain => MANNER of worship
4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy => HOW MUCH/WHEN we worship

It is required that we obey all of the law of God, but there is a beautiful logical priority to the first table going from most essential (intro) to least essential (Sabbath).


Another Triumph for Creationism

Scientists have apparently discovered the function of the appendix (link). The precise function may come as a surprise to some people, but it is yet another item that can be crossed off the list of allegedly unnecessary parts of the human anatomy: an early "proof" of evolution.

The Potter knew His craft.


Praise be to Him who formed us,


Status Report

This blogger is officially inundated. Please don't take it personally if your comment has not been moderated yet.

One quick point of interest. One reader pointed me here (link), and asked for my reaction. Aside from the rather obvious "Mary cannot hear you, she doesn't speak Latin or English, and she's with the Lord, while her body remains in the grave," there's little to say that has not already been said by "Josh" in the comments section of that post.

Some of the metaphors are more of a stretch than others, and the Ezekiel metaphor is practically obscene in context (take my word for it, or disgust yourself). As Josh aptly notes, some of the metaphors ought to point to Christ, not Mary. In any event, the blessed mother of our Lord was the recipient of grace not reward.

Whoever believes on His Name, those are His mother and brethren,


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Notable Quotable - Non-Responsiveness

The Testimony of the Man
"if a man is not willing or able to defend his own arguments, he is not worth all that much time dealing with publicly" (source)

Thrice (at least) the man's arguments were rebutted by the present author
(link) (link) (link) (link)

The man's unwillingness or inability to defend his own arguments was demonstrated

Thus, according to the man, the man is not worth all that much time dealing with publicly.

On the other hand, the man finds plenty of pretexts (link) (link) (link) to mention a certain elder whom he claims has "ignore[d] literally a dozen or more of my in-depth critiques of his work" (source).

Finally, from the same man comes the claim: "Two times refuting his charges is more than enough. He wouldn't deserve any further attention or publicity if he wants to engage in a one-way monologue / preaching exercise. He can always preach to his buddies. Why should I waste my valuable time?" (source)

One assumes that the elder about whom the man is fond of complaining has reached a similar conclusion. Indeed, the man himself states (speaking about the elder):

"If he chooses not to respond to a critique (or to my two challenges to engage in debate in his chat room), it's because his critics are idiots. If I choose to not respond to some [opposing] screed, it is because I am supposedly an idiot and a coward. See how it works (the [other side] is always at fault, any way you look at it)? Very convenient double standard there, isn't it?" (source) (side identification and link to the two challenges omitted)

The present author notes that this creates an interesting (is it triple or quadruple?) standard.


A Brief Challenge to Orthodox

Dear Orthodox,

You've been providing a lot of comments to this blog recently, most of them in disagreement with things I've offered.

How about we formalize the disagreement in the form of a debate?

I would happy to defend the thesis: "Resolved: 'It is tradition, look no further' is less workable as applied to the theological content of the Westminster Confession of Faith than 'The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.'"

You'll recognize that the former mantra is attributed to an early Greek father, and the latter mantra is attributed to "fundamentalist" adherents to Sola Scriptura.

I'm open to counterproposals as well.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Textual Criticism Reading Suggestions

Someone asked where a good place to start in studying textual critical issues is. Here are my recommendations:

1. "Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism," by Dr. Gordon Clark (link). This is a great introduction piece, and not a major reading assignment. Written by a Reformed philosophy professor who is know with the Lord, this article addresses some serious flaws in the basic assumptions of modern textual criticism.

2. "Textual Criticism of the New Testament," by Prof. B. B. Warfield (link). This is a somewhat legnthier work, designed for the introduction of seminary students to the field of textual criticism. As far as a description of the "science" up to the point when Warfield wrote, it is an excellent work, which fairly describes the work being performed. Warfield is a noted Reformed author, though not the present author's favorite. A weakness of this particular work is its seeming acceptance of textual critical first principles as established matters of scientific fact, rather than assumptions that have been customary in New Testament work.

3. "A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament for the Use of Biblical Students," by F. H. Scrivener (link). This book comes recommended by Prof. Warfield, and really seems to be perhaps the best way to get thoroughly acquainted with the state of textual cricism immediately prior to the work of Messrs. Wescott and Hort. Scrivener contributed enormously to the field of textual criticism. Reading his work can really give one a feel for many of the pressures and complications involved in the process of textual criticism. This book was apparently designed for student use, and Scrivener includes many interesting anecdotes scattered among the lengthy and thorough discourse.

None of the authors above are KJV-O, nor truly is the following:

4. "The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels," by Dean Burgon. Sadly, none of Dean Burgon's major books have been scanned (or at least the scans have not been made public) by the Google archiving teams, and no other site appears to have performed any similar service. Nevertheless, a summary of the book can be obtained here (link). Whether one is in favor of or opposed to the traditional text, Dean Burgon's writings are worth persual. The Dean Burgon Society seems to have become even more attached (if that is possible) to the traditional text than their namessake, but they are certainly one noted source of counter-argument in the textual critical debate.

5. Finally, I'd be remiss as a Fan of Turretin, to omit mention of this interesting article discussion Textual Criticism as it relates to Prof. Turretin (link). I cannot possibly recommend this article without allegations of improper bias, so I will simply note that the article is available, and includes the writings of one of the Reformation's great authors.

Praise be to God who has preserved the truth over time,


Armstrong Correctly Predicts ...

"... I will hear the usual droning complaints about the length of this paper, and a bunch of hooey about my supposedly straying from the topic, as it is ..." (source) (consider it commented, that's 27 pages if printed on normal paper and adjusting font size up from 8.5 to 12, and there were plenty of off-topic excursions)

What's even more impressive, though, Dave managed to keep the personal issues largely minimized. Good work!

Having dealt with the matters of form (mostly in Dave's favor), let's turn to substance:

1) In the first few paragraphs, Dave provides a brief excursus on the term "bishop." It's an interesting topic, but not particularly germane here.

2) Then in the next two-and-half paragraphs (and table list of Bible versions), Dave defends against an imaginary argument in which S&S supposedly accuses Dave of importing "bishop" into the text. Of course, unless S&S edited the post between then and now, the argument simply isn't there. And Dave does not quote any such argument from S&S.

3) Next, in a paragraph (and block quote of - who else - Dr. White) Dave suggests that S&S's use of cross-referencing is similar to Dave's own cross-referencing.

4) Subsequently, in one paragraph Dave asserts that the explanation above showed that S&S was engaging in "eisegesis" because S&S used "overseer/elder" rather than "bishop" in explaining the sense of the text. The reader is left wondering if Dave recalls what the word "eisegesis means.

5) After that, in a paragraph Dave argues that S&S is presenting a biased interpretation, while from the other side of the paragraph, asserting that everyone does. Point of the paragraph? Apparently Dave wants to point out that everyone has biases.

6) Next, Dave claims that S&S is all over the map, and that - while this is ok by Dave - Dr. White would consider it improper.

7) Then, Dave spends a paragraph on YEC (the relevance being that S&S recognizes the truth of YEC). Apparently, Dave thinks his readers will find YEC distasteful.

8) Subsequently, Dave essentially agrees with the rest of S&S's own exegesis of the verses.

9) Dave then makes an argument to the effect of: "suppose we grant the "invisible church" explanation: how does it work?" This is a strange question. Does Dave not know how Reformed churches (whether Presbyterian or Congregational) work? Dave also "what is this truth?" (emphasis removed) We refer Dave Armstrong to the answer Pilate received to the same answer in John 18:38.

10) Next, Dave asserts that he asked a similar question to Dr. White in 1996 and that Dr. White has not answered the question since. Perhaps Dr. White was following Jesus' example, or perhaps Dave missed Dr. White's answer. In any event, Dave continues with a block quote from Dr. White, and an assertion that Dr. White's commentary is vague.

11) Dave continues by asking "how can they speak of one church unified in truth, given their own ecclesiological chaos and doctrinal relativism, brought on by innumerable competing truth claims amongst themselves?" This question, of course, is loaded. Dave's charges of "ecclesiological chaos" and "doctrinal relativism" are simply his assertions -- not something that he established. Dave follows the question with a lengthy block quotation of a dialogue of his with Dr. White some time ago.

12) After the block quotation, Dave concludes that his "what is this truth" question remains unanswered. Dave ironically accused Dr. Erik Svendson, saying that he "hemmed and hawed and switched the topic, and obfuscated and indulged in obscurantism and other forms of evasion." The irony of that charge can be seen from the leading quotation of this post, as well as the conclusion below.

13) Dave then, in another paragraph, reasks the question, "What is this truth?" and adds to it: "So what good is a "church" that cannot answer this question? In what sense is it a "pillar and foundation of the truth" at all?" Of course, Dave's argument is non-unique. He does not offer an alternative in which the question can be answered better than Jesus answered it.

14) This apparently reminds Dave of something he wrote in earlier remarks on the perspecuity of Scripture, and consequently he provides a lengthy block quotation of himself.

15) Finally, Dave disagrees with S&S's conclusion, asserting: "I have just shown that this is an impossible position for a Protestant to take, because it has no discernible meaning and content. Protestants are forever condemned to theological relativism (in many areas, not all) because of their false first premises (sola Scriptura, private judgment, supremacy of "conscience" over against the authority of received Christian Tradition)." Unfortunately for Dave, he has not "shown" any such thing. Dave has asserted such charges, but has not provided the reader with any reason to accept them as true.

16) In a four paragraph flight, Dave argues that S&S assumes certain definitions without demonstration. Dave argues that both "truth" and "church" have a degree of semantic range in Scripture. Dave, however, seems to have forgotten that these are "his verses," and consequently the burden of production is on him. The semantic range arguments, consequently, actually enhance S&S's critique. Dave concludes by asserting that the sense of the words is of little consequence because, "In what sense does the doctrinal chaos and inability to unify on so many doctrines in Protestantism constitute supporting (the one) "truth"?" Again, this is a loaded and non-unique question, and consequently cannot constitute a meaningful rebuttal.

17) Next, in two paragraphs, Dave asserts that the "High Church Misinterpretation" identified by S&S is derived from the text of Scripture (which S&S has demonstrated is not the case), and asks the same questions noted above.

18) After a block quote from the introduction portion of S&S's post, Dave argues that the book is being treated as something which it was not, stating, "I merely stated the Catholic belief, as here. I wasn't trying to defend it."

We assume Dave will contact his publisher who describes Dave's book thus:
Armstrong shows that a fair-minded reading of each of these passages (and of the whole Bible) supports the Catholic position on the key issues that divide Protestants from Catholics. Here is Biblical evidence that Catholicism is right about the nature of baptism, the communion of saints, the Eucharist, and the Church; the authority of the Pope, the Bible, and tradition; the salvific role of faith, good works, relics, purgatory, and Mary; the immorality of divorce and contraception; and much more.
After all, we would not want them to falsely advertise or misrepresent the purpose of his book.

As well, we can assume that Dave will revise his own summary/introduction of his book, which states: "I will be asserting - with all due respect and hopefully a minimum of "triumphalism" - the ultimate incoherence, inadequacy, inconsistency, or exegetical and theological implausibility of the Protestant interpretations, and submitting the Catholic views as exegetically and logically superior alternatives."

It would also be good for Dave to kindly move "Catholic Verses" from the "Apologetics" category if it is true that: "I merely stated the Catholic belief, as here. I wasn't trying to defend it."

19) Dave nevertheless continues by attempting some form of defense against S&S's critique. Blockquoting TheoJunkie (who called it), Dave agrees that he does not claim that the church is the source of truth, but merely a "preserver" of truth. Dave mentions that he used the term "ground," and points out other people who arrived at the same conclusion.

20) Next, in three paragraphs, Dave asserts that he gets infallibility of the church from the Jerusalem council. Of course, as Dave notes, this really goes to another section of his book.

21) Dave denies that the church is the clerical orders, and states: "Catholics believe also in the consent of the faithful or the sensus fidelium." One wonders whether Dave accepts Vatican I as one of the ecumenical councils of the Roman church. If so, what remaining value does sensus fidelium have, if the pontiff's authority does not depend on it? We could go further with this, but a lampoon is unnecessary. The sensus fidelium is an inherently unworkable tenet within modern Catholicism.

22) Finally, in a further paragraph, Dave admits that the verse may mean what S&S says, but reiterates the questions posed above about alleged Protestant lack of unity.

23) After rehashing a couple points noted above, Dave distinguishes the OT priests from NT clergy, because the OT priests were - according to Dave - not given infallibility. One wonders what Dave thinks the Umim and Thumim were for. It's rather ironic that Dave has it backward: the High Priest and the Prophets did have access to a divine oracle (High Priest) and were verbally inspired (the Prophets): Ben16 does not have such an oracle and is not inspired.

24) After a lengthy block quotation from a previous dialogue Dave had with a Baptist, Dave asserts that the Saducees were the "Bible Alone" folks of the Old Testament time (which is neither relevant to the discussion, nor true).

25) In the words of Armstrong, "The rest is of little importance, or reiteration of topics already dealt with" and consequently there is no need to rehash it any further.


The primary argument that Dave makes is to ask questions: "What is this truth?" (which has been answered, though not the way Dave would like, by Jesus) If Dave will complain that he did not mean "what is truth," but rather "what is the truth on such-and-such an issue," then Dave's question defeats both Roman Catholics and Protestants alike: for neither claims to have provided answers to every conceivable question. If Dave will further complain that he did not mean on every conceivable question, but only on say some particular question of his choosing, we are ready to give an answer, and Dave knows that.

Dave's lengthy, frequently off-topic post does not establish 1 Timothy 3:15 as a "Catholic Verse." It shows that Dave did not build his ecclesiology on 1 Timothy 3:15, but attempted to impose his ecclesiology on 1 Timothy 3:15. It demonstrates that S&S's charge of eisegesis was justified.

(link to S&S) (link to Dave)

Praise be to God who has provided us with a columna et firmamentum of truth.

In firm defense of the truth, against the ipse dixit-al errors of Sola Ecclesia,


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Remembering September 11, 2001

In a more timely article (than this one) remembering September 11, 2001, the authors of one website wrote that the emergency was not due to Muslim terrorists who were out to destroy our freedom but was a far more sinister one.

The authors were right, though not in the way they imagined. (Sadly, the otherwise respectable men who run that site seem to have become ensnared in conspiracy theorizing.)

The danger of Al Quaeda is not about their ability to kill large numbers of people quickly. The danger of Al Quaeda is that they promote Islam. Many folks have it backwards: they are scared of the spread of Islam because Islam brings radical Islam in its wake.

Do not fear them: fear God.

Islam is a threat, because it is inherently anti-Christian. It denies the doctrine of the Trinity. It denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. It denies the deity of Christ. While it claims to call Jesus the Christ, it denies that Jesus is begotton of God.

Those who follow Islam are on the road to hell: one cannot be a Muslim and a Christian. Truth is mutually exclusive, and one must choose. Al Quaeda's biggest threat is their "evangelization" - their attempt to seduce men to follow their false prophet.

While many Muslims are peace-loving men (Praise be to God for His restraining mercy!), radical Islam seeks to proselytize by force, and by threat of force. The libertarians fear Shariah law, liberals fear theocracy, and feminists are frightened by the prevailing Muslim attitude toward women. The problem is this: every Muslim is an enemy of God, just as we were, before God changed our hearts. There is no salvation in Islam (no matter what Vatican II did or didn't say) - only eternal destruction.

Let us pray for God's grace to move powerfully among the Muslims so that they can cast of the shackles of human tradition, false prophecy, and darkness to serving the One True God, Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts, Our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ!


Reformed Theology Confronted by Prophecy

As most people are aware, one of the five sola's of the Reformation is Sola Scriptura. (Ok, maybe not most people, but lots of people.) For a number of reasons, Reformation theology - particularly Calvinist soteriology - has been adopted by a number of groups who claim to have and use various "Charismatic" gifts: such as prophecy and prophetic tongues. It is those two gifts in particular that the present author will briefly address.

Those two gifts create a conflict with Sola Scriptura because:

- If a prophet is from God, his word would have equal authority with Scripture. (That's why one could not have Sola Scriptura during the time of inscripturation.)

- If whatever-it-is that "prophets" have is not a message from God (like prophets in the Bible), then why call whatever gift they have prophecy? God does still reveal things to his people, but no one is inspired according to the Petrine formulation, because Scripture is complete.

Holy men of God still speak, and speak powerfully.


Muscovite Mockers

If you stand up for Christ in your community, you may receive the treatment described by Doug Wilson in this update on the persecution of Christians in Moscow (link). That is to say, you may be mocked in the most senseless ways imagineable.

He may not have some theological errors (who doesn't?), but it is His consistent preaching against sin and for Christ that provoke the antithetical reaction that Doug receives in his community.

Blessed is Doug Wilson, when people say all manner of things falsely against him, because of his service to Christ.


Limited Atonement - John 17

One reader noted the following comment:

"Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, "for whose sins did Christ atone?" The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28). Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church -- the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name "Christian" (Ephesians 5:25)." (source)
The reader responded:

The above quote lists John 17 in support of Christ dying only for those "whom God gave Him to save", however this is not the context of the entire verse. In this section Jesus is talking to His disciples. He prays specifically for these men that they be "one" and that "they also may be sanctified". Jesus then also prays for those who will believe because of the witness of these men, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." The most glaring verse however is 12, "While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled." If this section is talking about salvation then Christ was not able to keep one.

What think you?
I respond:

The Judas Exception
Unless you understand Jesus' comment as excluding Judas from the given group, you have Jesus failing in whatever it is that the passage is discussing. Thus, I think most people who study the passage will come to the conclusion that Jesus mentions Judas here to make it clear that it was always God's plan that Judas would be lost. After all, it would be strange for Scripture to prophesy that Judas would be lost, and for Jesus to try to fight that prophecy. We actually have examples where Jesus specifically acted so that Scripture would be fulfilled. To put it simply the Trinity is one God.

In other words, the Father did not send Jesus to save the son of perdition, whom the Spirit had declared would be lost. Judas was one of the given outwardly, but not inwardly.

Thus, no matter what the passage means, Judas cannot be an objection to Christ's efficacy, unless you think that God sent Jesus for the purpose of contradicting Scripture. If you think that, you have a "house divided against itself" problem.

Salvation is under Discussion in the Text
As to whether Jesus is talking about eternal life (salvation), see verses 2-3.
John 17:2-3
2As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Although the current Disciples are the Primary Focus all Disciples are Envisioned
I agree that Jesus mentioned the disciples he made during his earthly ministry primarily, but then extended the reference to "them also that shall believe on me through their word."

John 17:20-21
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Furthermore, that extension was not merely an afterthought:
John 17:2-3
2As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Let me ask you, dear reader, whether you believe that Christ has "power" (εξουσιαν) over all flesh to save those given Him by the Father, or whether all Jesus can do is hope to be asked? Does Jesus have the right, authority, and privilege to save those given him by the Father, or is it up to the individual?

Jude 1:25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory (δοξα) and majesty (μεγαλωσυνη), dominion (κρατος) and power (εξουσια), both now and ever. Amen.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Saint and Sinner Fires, Armstrong Dodges

Saint and Sinner has begun a critique of Armstrong's "Catholic Verses" (link)

Mr. Armstrong has found some time to respond in a limited way (link). Mr. Armstrong notes that the title of S&S's post is "The Eisegeted Verses." What is interesting is that Mr. Armstrong does not directly dispute S&S's assertion that he employs eisegesis. In fact, Mr. Armstrong in no way denies that fact.

Nor, of course, Mr. Armstrong does not address any of the nine fallacies that S&S identifies. Instead, the bulk of Mr. Armstrong's post is in comparisons to other Reformed posters (first paragraph), self-discussion and general criticism of Armstrong's critics (second paragraph), complaints about Dr. White and supposed unkind treatment of Mr. Armstrong (third paragraph), a one-paragraph summary of S&S post (fourth paragraph), a one paragraph summary of the title criticism (fifth paragraph), and an ad-hominem - suggesting that S&S is saying so because S&S is a "presuppositionalist" Calvinist and because he has read Dr. White's writings (sixth and seventh paragraphs).

After all that, a block quote summarizing S&S's list of the 9 fallacies identified in DA's writing so far is followed by a sarcastic-sounding best-wishes-hope-it-don't-blow-up-in-your-face paragraph.

After that, the remainder of the post is four paragraphs of criticizing Dr. White's rebuttal of DA's position with a lengthy block quote with color coded comments interspersed, and two paragraphs of conclusion in which DA points out that DA will ignore S&S if S&S refuses to accept DA's correction (no really: "I will tire of it if he doesn't accept correction" - with the shocking kicker "as in White's case" - as if DA had given any credible indication of being "tired" of interaction with Dr. White) and then paints S&S in colors aimed to make S&S's writings unpalatable to Dave's readers (such as Jonathan Prejean).

Keep up the good work, S&S!