Saturday, April 12, 2008

Does Colossians 3:16 Command Hymn Composition?

One recent commenter suggested that it does command composition of songs for worshipping God. We'll see, shortly, that it does not. First, let's see what it actually says:

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

And here is the parallel passage in Ephesians:

Ephesians 5:17-19
17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

As a lexical-grammatical issue, it is important to recognize that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are three of the categories of the Psalms from the Greek Psalter (see more detail here).

Once we recognize that fact, these passages become rather clearly exhortations to use the Psalter wisely in teaching and admonishing one another, as well as for song to God. The point is that the Psalter not only worships God but edifies the brethren, as indeed it does.

There is nothing in the verse about writing or composing previously non-existent songs. The word "to write" or any equivalent thereof is simply absent from the text.

An interpretation that the verse must refer to composition of new works of song is simply an example of reading back into the text our own modern-day practices. In short, it is eisegesis. The wise man teaches and exhorts Scripturally. These verses are a call to the use of Scripture for mutual edification, not call to invent a new Psalter.

May God give us wisdom to give unto Him the worship He desires,


Reverencing One's Husband

I came across this interesting post from a woman explaining to younger woman some considerations for a mate, and for those already married some suggestions for improvement. (link) It seems mostly correct, and so I commend it for reading, with a couple of quibbles and comments.

The verse in question is:

Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

But is cited as:

"Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

I would take issue with the reduction from reverence to respect. The Greek word at issue is
φοβέω, which is the cognate and root of our English word "fear."

It's so translated in many places in Scripture, for example:

Revelation 19:5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.

It goes beyond simply respecting. Reverence is a great translation here, and its disappointing to see many modern translations using "respect" in place of reverence.

That's my first quibble, and my second is like unto it. My second quibble is that reverencing/respecting is more about the woman than the man. With those quibbles in mind, I'd recommend reading the article (for unmarried women) as though the article was an explanation of ways to make your responsibility of reverencing your future husband easier. I would certainly agree that it would be wise in a society like the modern one, for women to consider whether their potential mate is someone who they could easily reverence, or whether the task will be a very difficult one. (In a more partriarchical society, that consideration should be undertaken by the father.) Part of that consideration is the woman's own ability to reverence her father. A girl may be able to identify certain characteristics about her father that make it easy or difficult to reverence him. She can then use that to her advantage in considering potential suitors. If it takes brains to gain her reverence, then she should be looking for a man with brains - if strength, strength - if Scriptural understanding, knowledge of God's word, and so forth.

Hopefully young men will read this too, and profit from it. Young men often want and need to marry. It would be wise for young men to seek ways to be a reverence-able mate. It's a big challenge, because young men are often foolish, headstrong, and unaware of their weaknesses. Here's the advice: find ways to make it easy for your future bride to reverence you.

This leads me to the intuitive portion of the post. The intuitive portion is this: the easiest husband for a woman to reverence ought to be the one who is most capable of loving her as himself. Contrariwise, the easiest woman for a man to love as himself is the one who most reverence's him. In other words, men and women are complementary.

It is the same between us and Christ. His extreme love of us should inspire from us the greatest possible reverence. It will also inspire love, certainly, but the command to us is:

Psalm 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

which also applies to the authority relationships in which we find ourselves (whether husband and wife or master and servant ):

Ephesians 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

Finally a word of caution:

1 Peter 3:6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

The point here is that there is no virtue in obeying one's husband and reverencing him if that reverence is from terror/fright (πτόησιν). In other words, it is not as though a woman should reverence her husband in a servile manner, like a whipped dog, but in a dignified manner flowing from a loving desire to give the honor that is due the position (not the man who occupies it).

May God give each us grace in our respective roles in life,


P.S. If a woman has been providentially given a husband who makes reverence very difficult, this command can be as difficult as it can be for a husband to love a shrewish wife as himself. The purpose of this post is not to condemn but to exhort: no wife is completely reverential, and no husband is completely self-sacrificing.

Thanks to Patrick Chan for pointing me to this post.

Popular Culture Meets Popular Worship Song

There is a Chris Tomin (Update: or perhaps it actually by Darlene Zschech, as Paul notes in the comments below) "Worship Song" that song that was performed on the aptly titled show, American Idol.

In a move that shocked and disgusted some watchers, the word "Jesus" was replaced with "Shepherd" in the song's chorus. As far as content changes, that was it. Why was it done? I can only speculate that it would done to avoid offending people who would be offended by a song about worshipping Jesus (such as Muslims).

The song is steeped in Biblical terminology, but the composition is a human aggregation - it's not even (as far as I can tell) a paraphrase of any particular Psalm. It is a beautiful piece of music, and very dramatically performed in this example, but it's still not inspired or appointed by God for his worship.

Here it is, with comments continuing below:

As noted above, some people don't like that the name of Jesus has been removed from the song, to the point of being disgusted. If someone had taken Psalm 46, and gone through and had substituted "God of our Fathers" for "God of Jacob," I think I'd be similarly upset. But then, I think I have a good reason to be upset: Psalm 46 is inspired, "Shout to the Lord," is not. It doesn't really even change the meaning of "Shout to the Lord," since we all know that Jesus is the Shepherd. I respectfully submit that people are offended by the change partly because they view it as an attack on Jesus (which it is not) and partly because they view the song as somehow sacred (which it is not). Possibly some are offended because it is a comprise made for purposes of political correctness ... but it is hard to imagine that a reaction of shock and disgust would be generated by people who don't mind calling the person who delivers their mail a "carrier," the person who brings them refreshments in-flight an "attendant," or the person who brings them food in a restaurant a "server."

I think it might be good to reconsider our attitudes toward these merely human compositions that have crept into religious life. Consider going back to the book that God gave us for worshiping him in song, the Psalter.

Here are some examples of Psalm 46:

Choral Arrangement

Guitar Arrangement

Chanted Arrangement (Questionable [2d commandment] images included)

Dramatic Reading

I'd be remiss if I omitted what I believe to be the best English-language presentation of the Psalm I could find (though there is no video, and though it is incomplete) (link).

James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


Jim West Misunderstands Submission

In a recent post, Dr. Jim West argues that the word usually translated "submit" in Ephesians 5:21-22 would be better translated cooperate (link). This is simply wrong.

It's easy to see where Dr. West's error comes from: a refusal to acknowledge Biblical standards for greater and lesser authority, especially within the family. It is a force pervasive in "Western" society. It's the product of the "liberty, equality, fraternity" ideals not of Scripture, but of the rebellious, treacherous, and bloodthirsty French revolution.

This mistake has significant consequences not only for French aristocrats but also for an understanding of what the Bible teaches. For example, Paul does not leave the matter at verse 22. Instead, in verse 24 Paul goes on to explain:

Ephesians 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

This "is subject unto" is the same verb as in verses 21-22. Does Dr. West think that the church's cooperation with Christ is really the model? It is hard to believe that he would, as there doesn't seem to be much lexical ground for Dr. West's translation.

Furthermore, verse 22 itself does not simply stop at the wives submitting (or cooperating, if we believe Dr. West), but its provides a comparison: "as unto the Lord" (or perhaps "as unto a lord"). Whether we take the "lord" in verse 22 as referring to our Lord and Savior, or whether we take it as referring only to an earthly lord, we should immediately recognize that the submission involved is of one who is under authority to one who is in authority.

In fact, if we start to view ὑποτάσσω as though it means to cooperate, other discussions like the following, unravel:

Titus 2:5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed

Titus 2:9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again

Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

Hebrews 2:8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

Psalm 8:6 (referencing the LXX) Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

Psalm 18:47 (referencing the LXX) It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me

In short, if we start to rewrite the meaning of this Greek word, we are left with a startling lack of authority anywhere in the Bible. But, if we accept the true Lordship of Christ, then we should accept the true headship of fathers in their own houses, even over their wives and children (and slaves, if they have any).

And woman ought also to heed Scripture and especially the praise given to Abraham's wife Sarah:

1 Peter 3:1-6
1Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

(recall: Genesis 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?)

I think we all recognize that it is much more difficult for anyone to voluntarily submit themselves to another as though that person were their lord, but it is the calling of women to do so to their husbands. These days, I think one would rarely find a wife whose comment "lord" to her husband would be taken as anything other than sarcastic disdain.

Husbands have their own set of duties: they are responsible for their wives. It is not a one-way street in which husbands are treated as lords by their wives, but simply scorn them in return. No, husbands are to love their wives not with a submissive love: they are not to call their wives "lord," but with a sacrificial love: willing to set aside their divine privilege and serve their wives to their benefit, even as Christ humbled himself for our exaltation.

Let us not try to rewrite ὑποτάσσω according to modern feminist wishes, or French revolutionary ideals. Instead, let's accept what it means: submission, order within the family. For ὑποτάσσω comes from ὑπο (under) and τάσσω (order). When we do so, we will be on the correct road to understanding the meaning of τάσσω as well, which will lead us to glorify God who "ordered" us to salvation. He is the Lord, we are his people. He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep. He is the husband, we are the wife.

Praise be to the Lord!


Reminder Regarding Apologetics Style

Ultimately, the truth is going to offend and upset people who don't like it. Jesus, Paul, and Jonah did not sugar-coat the truth, they boldly proclaimed it, and God blessed their work.

Nevertheless, it is important always to be mindful lest needless offense be given. The "Stupid Scholar" (has a valuable reminder to that effect here.

Let us do all exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit to the Glory of God!


Bunyan on Sanctification

Hopefully, you've already read Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. If not, I sincerely suggest you get off the Internet, go find a copy, and read it. Not an abridged version - the full thing. Once you have developed an appetite for his writings, read Christiana's Journey as well, which is often bound together with it, and finally The Holy War.

But there are other good writings of Bunyan, as well as a few that are sub-par: after all, he was not an educated man, but simply a tinker with a Bible and time on his hands, thanks to religious persecution that forced him into jail. The following discussion of his regarding sanctification is well worth reading and taking to heart.

(link to Bunyan on Sanctification)

He is a simple man, with a simple message, let us all try to follow it:

Depart from Iniquity!


Dr. Godfrey on Sola Scriptura

Dr. W. Robert Godfrey provides an excellent introduction to Sola Scriptura (here), one of several key doctrinal issues that separate Reformed Christians from Roman Catholics.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Reformed Rap

If you enjoy the "rap" genre, and theological songs, this is a well-done example of Reformed rap.

Caveat. There is simply no place for this in worship on many levels. It's a Reformed song, but the musical style does not seem to be (a) suitably reverent (at least not given the connotations of the "rap" genre in the present society in which we live) or (b) adapted for orderly congregational participation (i.e. it would seem to be too difficult for a congregation to join their voices without causing confusion). Additionally, the content while (based on a cursory review) seems theologically sound (and even appeals to a Psalm), is not itself inspired and divinely appointed for worship.

Nevertheless, outside the context of worship, it is an excellent and interesting song, and its author and performer deserve the respect that any viewer that appreciates rap will no doubt give it.


(located via ThinkWink)

New Evidence Against the Hypothesis of Evolution

The "first" animal (using current "scientific" methodologies) is much more complex than previously thought. (link) Of course, if one simply sticks one's fingers in one's ears, one can go on believing that life came from non-life, that animals came from non-animals, and that men were born of non-men.

No, all things were created from nothing, by the word of God's power, in the space of six days, and all very good.


Some Classic Reading - Alexander, Brooks, Charnock, Goodwin, Sibbes, Strong

Commentary on Acts by J. A. Alexander (Volume 1) (Volume 2)

Complete Works of Thomas Brooks (Volume 1) (Volume 2) (Volume 3) (Volume 4) (Volume 5) (Volume 6)

Complete Works of Stephen Charnock (Volume 1) (Volume 2) (Volume 3)

Complete Works of Thomas Goodwin (Volume 1) (Volume 2) (Volume 3) (Volume 4) (Volume 5) (Volume 6) (Volume 7) (Volume 8) (Volume 9) (Volume 10) (Volume 11 - Google) (Volume 12)

Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (Volume 1) (Volume 2) (Volume 3) (Volume 4) (Volume 5) (Volume 6) (Volume 7)

Outlines of Systematic Theology, Augustus Hopkins Strong (Volume 1) (Volume 2) (Volume 3)


Worship-Related Blog Posts of Interest

Have Praise and Worship Music in Church become a Cain Sacrifice to God?

(TurretinFan would answer, "yes")

The RPW is simple, why all the fuss?

(TurretinFan would answer, "because people think they know better")

Handraising in Worship: Questions

(TurretinFan would answer, "Jordan basically gets it right: raised hands by the pastor during prayer/benediction is called for - otherwise one has a tough time binding anyone's conscience")

Singing Psalms (Example in video)

(TurretinFan would comment, "I still prefer the Psalms unaccompanied")

Why the Date of Easter Changes

(TurretinFan would comment, "This post actually provides a good counter-argument for the idea that we know when Easter was, such that we have a legitimate selection of a single day yearly to celebrate the resurrection. Sure it is determinable based on Passover - but that itself is a bit of a challenge.)

The Original Name of Easter

(TurretinFan would comment, "The underlying assumption that the earliest Christians celebrated Easter is unproven at best. The point about the name 'Easter' coming after 'Pascha' is correct")

iMonk on the RPW

(TurretinFan would comment, "iMonk is a good writer, but his view of the RPW is wrong")

The meaning of "Psalms" in the Westminster Standards

(TurretinFan would comment, "Psalms meant the 150 Psalms in the Hebrew canon")

The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 1
The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 2
The Regulative Principle of Worship, Part 3
(Music & Singing in Life & Liturgy)
Worship in Spirit and Truth, Part 1
Worship in Spirit and Truth, Part 2

(TurretinFan would comment, "This series is one of the least commendable on the RPW. Jeff Meyers lone footnote was to his fellow Federal Visionist, Peter Leithart. Perhaps this series will define the halfway-back-to-Rome worship for the CREC in the future, though Meyers is still in the PCA, as far as I know")

All praise and worship be to our Lord!


Nadir Ahmed v. Dr. James White

Here's a debate that Dr. White conducted with a Muslim opponent. I'm providing all eleven segments embedded below. I thought that the debate went very well for Dr. White, but that's mostly because his opponent clearly did not have a clue how to debate.

Dr. White's opponent committed many rookie mistakes. For example, he failed to use a large chunk of his available time during his constructive speech, he made statements rather than questions during the cross-examination when it was his turn to ask, he diverted away from answering the questions into speeches, he demanded answers from his opponent at incorrect times, he diverted away from the debate topic to personal self-promotion, he made assertions that were not reflective of what had actually happened in the debate, he used rhetorical tricks that were rather obvious, and he made openly inflammatory claims.

His passion is clear, and his Muslim convictions are clear. The fact is, however, that he doesn't understand how to conduct himself in a debate.

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Segment 4

Segment 5

Segment 6

Segment 7

Segment 8

Segment 9

Segment 10

Segment 11

I hope that these embedded videos are for your edification.

May the Truth enlighten the minds of the billion or so Muslims that currently populate the world,


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Not the Reformed View?

In a recent quarrelsome and ad hominem post, Rev. "Trey" Austin, III has the gumption to suggest (with the title of the post) that Dr. White's view in a recent radio debate with Steve Gregg is "not the Reformed view." Nothing could be further from the truth.

After receiving well-deserved chiding from Dr. White in the first comment in the combox of the post, Trey responds by admitting, "Dr. White, the point of my post is precisely with your attitde [sic] and actions as a person." It's nice to see that admission, but it is important to note the title of the post, which was not "Dr. White is a big meanie," but "Not the Reformed View."

Of course, the real reason that Trey is going ad hominem on Dr. White is because Trey's view of the Atonement (at least, given his promotion of it, I presume it is his) evidenced here and generally in his support of the quasi-Amyraldian, David Ponter. It is disappointing to see such positions being advocated (implicitly or explicitly) by PCA pastors, because the position held by Ponter and company is contrary both to Scripture and the doctrinal standard of the PCA.

Perhaps God will use the mechanism of the Westminster Presbytery to rope in Trey's errors in this matter.


Indulgences for Reading Scripture

One Catholic blogger, who found a cute way to avoid mentioning Dr. White's name without being offensive, has a post in which he points out that Indulgences can be gained in Roman Catholicism by reading Scriptures. (link) He believes this to be a counter-argument to Dr. White's point that it is useless for Catholics (given Catholic epistemology) to read Scripture.

As his first commenter notes, however, the passage he quotes is a bit outdated, because it refers to indulgences that remit "time" in Purgatory. Now that Catholicism is changing to stop talking about "time" in Purgatory, these old indulgences do not make sense. Only the "plenary" indulgences make sense, and so those are the only ones left. (Update: there is still the concept of a "partial" indulgence - but now that time has been eliminated, it is somewhat difficult quantify parts in a way that would permit the indulgence to be coordinate with the act performed. Thus, as a practical matter, the plenary indulgences would be expected to - and do - dominate the indulgence scene.)

This provides a great example of one of the many changes in Catholic theology that took place in Vatican II. Oh - we know the counterargument: the idea that there is time in Purgatory had never been dogmatically defined, and consequently this isn't a change.

But think about it. If all the popes and other Catholic teachers promulgated (and - in previous generations - sold) indulgences that were absolutely meaningless (if, in fact, there is no "time" in Purgatory) then what's the explanation?

1) The "Church" didn't know the truth about Purgatory; or
2) Something else?

Or perhaps someone will come back with a new counter-argument that the post-Vatican II position also hasn't been dogmatically defined, and just because there are no more time-based indulgences doesn't mean that there is no time in Purgatory. On the other hand, the CCC now states that "death is the end of earthly time" (I don't recall the citation offhand), and the CCC nowhere suggest that there is time in purgatory (to my knowledge).

On top of that we have, in Spe Salvi, essentially a promulgation of a denial that Purgatory is a place where time applies:
Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.

(take from paragraph 48 thereof, emphases added, source)

Thus, I think it's safe to conclude that this is an example of Catholicism teaching "X" 50 years ago (i.e. before V2) and "notX" now. That's usually the standard that we're asked to provide by Catholics who want a demonstration of the fact that the Roman Catholic church makes mistakes, and consequently cannot be trusted in the same way we trust Scripture.

In short, Dr. White's point is emphasized by this very matter. If Catholics simply accept what Rome teaches, they are going to be accepting error as truth, because the Roman Catholic church makes mistakes.


UPDATE: "The Hidden One" has disputed several "factual matters." He doesn't specifically come out and say that it was not previously taught that there was time in Purgatory. It's good he didn't because, as Thomas Aquinas wrote in Summa Theologica, "the punishment of purgatory is temporal" (See reply to Objection 4, here) and "The fire of Purgatory is eternal in its substance, but temporary in its cleansing effect" (See reply to Objection 1, here) and "a man may be punished at the same time for sins committed in various places" (See main answer, here) and "And since that which clings more persistently is more slowly cleansed, it follows that some are tormented in Purgatory longer than others, for as much as their affections were steeped in venial sins." (See main answer, here) and "Severity of punishment corresponds properly speaking to the amount of guilt: whereas the length corresponds to the firmness with which sin has taken root in its subject. Hence it may happen that one may be delayed longer who is tormented less, and "vice versa."" (See reply to Objection 1, here)

Furthermore, it is not only a medieval belief, but one that was reflected in the modern era (before V2). For example, see the comparison of three days in purgatory versus three years of suffering on Earth in this aid to understanding the Baltimore catechism (link). See also the discussion in the right hand column, about mid-way down (with various citations) here.

Erasmus points out the belief that there is time and days in Purgatory according to the prevailing belief in his day (link). (See also, footnote 3, here - especially the portion on the following page).

There's a very lengthy discussion here, if anyone is interested.

Likewise, numerous non-Catholics have recorded the same thing (see here for example, especially pp. 375-77).

In fact, we could go and on.

James Akin's undocumented claim(s), "The number of days which used to be attached to indulgences were references to the period of penance one might undergo during life on earth." (here) and "This document introduced the classification of indulgences as partial or plenary—a simplification of an earlier system of reckoning how many "days" of penance an indulgence represented that led some to suppose that an indulgence represented getting a certain number of days "off" their time in purgatory." (here, emphasis in original - same website as previous quotation, but attribution to a particular author is unclear) do not persuade me to the contrary, since Aquinas and many many others are clear that Purgatory was temporal and temporary. Indeed, Aquinas believed that Purgatory was a place (not merely a "state") and that it was either in or near hell. He also held that the fire of Purgatory was real physical fire (and the same fire as Hellfire), which would require time in order to burn, since burning is an action.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Armstrong vs. Aquinas - Classifying Reformed Christians

As recently noted by the "Shrine for the Holy Whapping," a Catholic blog, Aquinas quoted with approval, the following (link to source):

"We believe that the bodies of the saints, above all the relics of the blessed martyrs, as being the members of Christ, should be venerated in all sincerity" and "If anyone holds a contrary opinion, he is not accounted a Christian, but a follower of Eunomius and Vigilantius." (citing De Eccles. Dogm. xl)

Lay Catholic Dave Armstrong has asserted: "I would note that the official Catholic position is to acknowledge Protestants as Christian brothers, whereas many Protestant groups either are officially anti-Catholic or contain within themselves a strong legacy of anti-Catholicism which is then passed down almost unconsciously. " (source)

Let me be clear: the body (in whole or in part) of no Christian whatsoever should receive religous veneration of any kind, whether alive or dead. Furthermore, religious veneration of corpses is open necromancy (in the broad definition of that word). Nevertheless, that does not mean that we cannot treat corpses with respect, or that we cannot hold funerals, etc. Thus, religious worship (such as Catholic veneration of relics) is to be distinguished from non-religious consideration. In view of these statements, it should be apparent that I hold a contrary position to that of Aquinas expressed above. According to Aquinas' standard, I should not be accounted a Christian.

On the other hand, Armstrong broadly defines Christianity this way: "[A]nyone who is a trinitarian and who adheres to the Nicene Creed is (doctrinally) a Christian (that is basically the official Catholic position on other Christians)" (source - including all bracketed material).

So, now the question is this:

1. Is Aquinas out of touch with the Official Catholic Position?


2. Is Armstrong out of touch with the Official Catholic Position?


3. Has the Official Catholic Position changed? (If so, when and by whose authority?)


4. Are Aquinas and Armstrong somehow reconciliable? (If so, how?)


5. It doesn't matter / no one can understand Catholic theology, except people who agree with me / some similar cop-out


6. Your views are not contrary to those of Aquinas.

That last option seems utterly implausible.

Option 5 is self defeating.

Option 4 doesn't seem possible, but I'm open to attempted explanations.

Option 3 is my thought as to the best guess - with the Vatican II era being the place where the tide shifted in favor of people who think it is a species of necromancy to venerate the "relics of saints."

Option 2 is presumably the answer that traditional Catholics, especially sedavacantists, would give.

Option 1 would take a great deal of gumption, but perhaps someone will try to make that claim.

NOTE: Although I enunciate very quickly the objection to veneration of alleged relics, this is not the post for that debate. This post is questioning whether modern Roman Catholicism (and/or Dave Armstrong) defines Christianity the way that Aquinas did.


Worshipping the Creature

Recently, a baby was born in India. The baby has two faces, both of which are "functional," i.e. the baby can apparently drink from both mouths and blinks all four eyes simultaneously. It is a very sad sight. What is far more sad, however, is the reaction of the pagans living around this baby. They regard the baby as a reincarnation of a goddess.

How sad. A poor, deformed child mistaken for something divine.

God - who created all things very good - mistaken for a child who will face great challenges in life, both physically and - one would expect - mentally.

Let us pray that the light of the Gospel will illuminate north India, so that these people will glorify the God who gave this young child two faces, and not the child.


For the overly-curious, here's a link to the article.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Snow-Covered Dung-Heap - Luther / Langland / Chrysostom?

It's often claimed (mostly by Roman Catholics) that Luther compared justification to a snow-covered dung-heap. None have to date (and this author's knowledge) been able to document precisely who originated the phrase, or where it occurs in Luther's voluminous writings, although at least one guy has given it a shot.

Considering that we recently demonstrated that another famous "Luther" quotation was actually a Cochlaean gloss and not Luther's words, I thought I'd try my hand at tracking down where the colorful phrase "snow-covered dung-heap" originated.

Interestingly, the earliest reference I could find was actually rather earlier than Luther himself. William Langland's Piers the Plowman (supposedly a 14th century composition), at Passus 17, line 265, has the expression in late-middle English, which I've updated to modern spellings:

Lines 264-267

Hypocrisy is a branch of pride - and most among clerics
And is likened in Latin - to a loathly dungheap
That were be-snowed all with snow - and snakes within
Or to a wall white-limed - and were black within

The author of the work goes on to complain of the hypocrisy of priests and to quote John Chrysostom.


One interesting fact about the work is that it came to be printed around the time of Edward VI in England. Because of some major textual variant issues, it's not really easy to say whether Langland actually wrote the version that includes the passage above.

In any event, the passage itself clearly points to some even earlier saying in Latin. Perhaps it is possible that if we dig far enough back we'll find the root source in a patristic writer such as Chrysostom or pseudo-Chrysostom. And perhaps it is just a coincidence. There is, of course, no connection to Luther (which would be chronologically impossible) and the application of the simile is to hypocrisy rather than justification.

Considering the publication date of this work, it is possible that someone picked up the turn of phrase and then considered trying to apply to a view of imputed righteousness. Unfortunately, for now, the mystery continues.

There's at least one other citation that pre-dates Luther, as well. We can see remarkable similarity between the passage above from Langford, and an extract from a sermon ascribed to the German priest Johann Gieler (1445-1510) (without citation):

"In another sermon on existing conditions, he said:
O Lord my God, how falsely now do even those live who seem most spiritual — Parsons and Monks, Beguines and Penitents. Their study is not to work God's works but to conceal the devil's works. Among these all is outward show, and there is no truth, nought else but dung besnowed or buried under snow; without is the glistering whiteness of righteousness and honesty, but within a conscience reeking with vermin and with the stench of sin. The day shall come when the Sun of Righteousness shall melt the snow, and then shall the secrets of your hearts be revealed. And would that the filth of our sins were at least covered with the appearance of snow, that our sin, like Sodom, were not published abroad without shame!"

(link to source) (emphases added)

What's particularly interesting about the quotation is that it is presented on the page I've linked to, just above a quotation from Luther - which might lead the careless reader, flipping open to that page, to think it was Luther's words.

From another perspective, the connection of the quotation to Chrysostom has been linked this way:

The source below, citing "Michael's Ayenbite of Inwyt (Again-bite, or Remorse of Conscience)," which had been edited for the Early English Text Society (though no precise date is given:

"Fairhood is but a white sack full of dung, - stinking, and as a muck-heap be-snewed."

The source says that this "elegant comparison" is an obvious plagiarism from a passage in Chrysostom, in which Chrysostom provides a rather detailed way to rid oneself of lust for beautiful women by mentally stripping them of their skin-deep beauty.


The source itself does not provide a citation to the relevant passage of Chrysostom, but another source (link) identifies it as Homily 7, Section 7, from Chrysostom's homilies on Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians. I should point out that most of the popular English versions of that homily do not seem to contain the text in quoted in the source above, or contain it in greatly summarized and expurgated form. A Greek/Latin diglot version provides the relevant passage (here).

Where else can it be found - probably lots of places. After the items above, the earliest I could find the item was in a work by John Berridge (d. 1793) in a sermon of his.

I suppose the matter may remain something of a mystery, unless/until we uncover the first source to associate Luther with the quotation.


Index - 2 Thessalonians 2:15 - Stopping its Abuse

I've provided a number of posts on 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that address its abuse by those whom I refer to as "traditionists."

1. Opening Post

2. Response to Comments by Reginald (Roman Catholic)

3. Additional Clarification

4. Response to Comments by "Orthodox" (Eastern Orthodox)

This post serves as an index post. Accordingly, I will plan to update it from time to time, in the unlikely event that new arguments in defense of the typical misuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 are presented. Eventually I expect to date-bump this post back in time so as to make it fit with my organizational scheme for this blog.


2 Thessalonians 2:15 - Responding to "Orthodox"'s Counter-Objections

One reader of the blog, "Orthodox," has provided some counter-objections to the rebuttals I've presented so far on the abuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

I think "Orthodox" is a bit confused, as some of his objections have already been answered in earlier posts. For example, "Orthodox" seems to think that he can use a verse any way he pleases, and it is up to the rest of the world to prove that the verse cannot mean what he says it means.

Thus, his counter-objections turn the matter on his head, as he complains first that:

1) You haven't established that it is only about "the gospel", since the immediate context is about things of a wide range of concerns.

a) The short response is that the burden is on those who attempt to use this verse to support their position to show that it does. They cannot, which demonstrates that their reference to this verse is pretextual.

b) The long response is that, not only is the burden not on me (since I'm objecting to an abuse, not trying to make a positive case), but I can actually demonstrate that "the traditions" refers to the gospel, by reference to the immediately preceding verse.

But "Orthodox"'s confusion about the burden that the abuser faces doesn't stop there, for his second objection is similar:

2) Even if it did thus limit it, you cannot claim victory without proving the EXACT boundaries of "the gospel".

a) This counter-objection clearly misses the point that the burden of establishing that usefulness of the verse to the abuser's position is the abuser, not the objector.

b) This counter-objection is also odd, because - of course - one doesn't have to know the EXACT boundaries to have useful knowledge. For example, one may not know the EXACT boundaries of Russia, while still recognizing that London, England is not in Russia. If someone was arguing that we have to accept London, England as part of Russia because we don't know the EXACT boundaries of Russia, we'd laugh.

c) Finally, of course, Orthodox doesn't explain why I'd have to know the boundaries at all. It should be noted that much of the objection to the abuse of this passage would remain, even if it were stripped from its context, and we had only the word "traditions" and nothing to help us understand what it meant. It would still be the burden on the person who sought to use this text to justify his view of "tradition" to establish that what Paul was referring to was the same thing that the person is referring to. In other words, if someone, let's call him "O" wants to claim that he is entitled to hold fast to icons because Paul said to hold fast to "traditions" then it is up to O to demonstrate that icons are within the boundaries of "traditions" as the term is used by Paul. If O cannot, then O has used the text in a pretextual manner.

"Orthodox" continues, by demonstrating that his passion for the matter has overwhelmed his reason, for he states:

3) Asking if you can "demonstrate" that an oral tradition was taught to the Thessalonians is the equivilent [sic] of asking to "demonstrate" that Peter wrote 2 Peter. You can't really do it, and thus you are hypocritical.

a) The demonstration is simple:

2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:


2Pe 3:1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:

That's one of the easiest challenges of Scriptural demonstration that I've ever been presented with. Does anyone think we can expect a sincere and heartfelt apology for "Orthodox"'s false accusation of hypocrisy?

b) Those challenges are not the equivalent of one another, unless I was asserting as either my argument, or a premise to my argument, that 2 Peter was written by Peter. If I were to assert such a thing, though, the demonstration above would be provided to support it.

"Orthodox" false accusations continue with his next assertion:

4) The question of "can you prove they weren't the same as what was written down" is classic sophistry. It's like saying "can you prove you haven't been beating your wife". You can't? Ok, well we'll leave that question open and assume you may or may not have been beating your wife.

a) Calling it sophistry (whether or not one qualifies it as a "classic" sophistry) doesn't make it so. Let's see whether "Orthodox" can substantiate his accusation, or whether this is simply another false accusation.

b) "Orthodox" compares the question to the question "can you prove you haven't been beating your wife." This is improper for several reasons:
(i) First of all, of course, the classic sophistry is to ask, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" That's a sophistry, because the question is loaded: if you answer "yes," it will be understood that you were beating her before. If you answer, "no," it will be understood (via a denial of the antecedent fallacy) that you continue to beat her. It's a sophistry because it is a rhetorical trick to make someone say something they don't mean. It's a trick question.
(ii) The present question is neither complex, nor trick. It is simple and straightforward. Can you demonstrate [x]? If you can, you can, and if you cannot, you cannot.
(iii) The comparison question asked by "Orthodox" is also simply and straightforward, though it is on a somewhat inflammatory subject. Detectives ask this question of suspected criminals all the time. "Do you have an alibi?" they may inquire, or perhaps they may phrase it as, "Can you prove you weren't downtown during the shooting?" If a suspect cannot, a good detective certainly would, as "Orthodox" indicates, "leave that question open and assume you may or may not have been [doing whatever you are suspected of doing]." Indeed, only Clousseau (the detective from the "Pink Panther" movies) or some equally buffoonish detective could be pictured simply taking a suspect's word for it, that the suspect is innocent.
(iv) Furthermore, the inflammatory nature of the question confuses the issues a bit further. After all, we generally (i.e. when we are not acting as detectives) prefer to assume that someone is innocent until they are proven guilty. Thus, we would expect that the accuser needs to prove that the man WAS beating his wife, and not that the man prove that he wasn't beating his wife. In other words, the nature of that question carries with it an underlying burden of proof, if it is placed in a criminal context. This confuses the issue, because there is a very different burden of proof here. Recall how the verse gets abused: someone (let's call him "O") claims we have to accept "oral tradition," because this verse says so. We respond by challenging "O" to demonstrate that the verse says so, and if he cannot we don't accept his supposed proof. The analogy to the wife beating scenario would if "O" were to claim that the bruises on his neighbor's wife were proof that his wife had been beaten by her husband. We'd ask "O" to demonstrate that the bruises weren't caused by the wife being in a car crash, particularly if we saw a highly damaged car sitting in her driveway. If "O" couldn't demonstrate that the husband was the cause of the bruises, we wouldn't call the neighbor a wife-beater, because "O" couldn't meet his burden of proof, just as "O" cannot meet his burden of proof with this verse.

"Orthodox" continued by making an interesting comment:

If you make the positive assertion that they may have been identical, it is up to you to establish that assertion, otherwise the assertion fails and there is no need to consider such an unfounded contention.

a) Does "Orthodox" read what "Orthodox" writes? "Positive assertion that they may ..."? That something may be is rarely a positive assertion, and it's not a positive assertion here.

b) Does "Orthodox" remember the context of the discussion? It is the abuser of the text that has made a positive assertion, namely that the text teaches "traditionism" (for lack of a more succinct word). It's up to the abuser of the text to demonstrate such support. If they cannot, then, as Orthodox puts it: "the assertion fails and there is no need to consider such an unfounded contention."

Next, "Orthodox" shifts gears, and makes a new category of error, this time the error is an allegation of misrepresentation:

5) Discussing a "class of knowledge called Sacred Tradition which is separate from scripture" is a misrepresentation of the opposing view. The claim is that there is one class of knowledge called sacred tradition, of which the written record is a part. This, coincidently, is the exact way that Paul categorises things in 2 Th 2:15. Hold to the "traditions" whether written or oral. Not "hold to the oral traditions and s acred [sic] writings".

a) It's not a misrepresentation. Catholics sometimes talk about "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture" as though they were two parallel bodies of knowledge. If "Sacred Tradition" can only mean (to Catholics) a genus that includes Scripture, then the statement would be a bit like "Fruits and Apples." See, for example, CCC 84 and CCC 97 (in which the genus is "Word of God" and the species are "Sacred Tradition" and "Sacred Scripture"). Furthermore, I've personally heard Catholics discuss the matter that way, specifically excluding Scripture from Tradition as being in different categories.

b) The fact that "Orthodox" wants to use different nomenclature,
(i) doesn't make the Catholics disappear as one category of folks who use the text; and
(ii) doesn't really make much substantive difference: whether one wants to call the genus classification using the word "traditions" or "word of God" or whatever, the underlying issues are the same. While "Orthodox" is welcome to have the debate over whether the Catholics should lump "Sacred Scripture" in with "Sacred Tradition" in their theology, I leave to "Orthodox."

c) Ironically, Orthodox himself provides an example of the abuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 with his comment: "This, coincidently, is the exact way that Paul categorises things in 2 Th 2:15. Hold to the "traditions" whether written or oral. Not "hold to the oral traditions and s acred [sic] writings"." There a couple of errors here:

(i) The major abuse here is due to the underlying assumption that by "traditions" Paul means what "Orthodox" means by "traditions." There's no reason at all to suppose that. "Orthodox" assumes it, but we have no reason to accept his claim.
(ii) A minor abuse here is due to "Orthodox" misreading "our epistle" as though it were a reference to "written traditions" in general (again, basically assuming "Orthodox"'s definition of "traditions").
(iii) Another (and still more minor) abuse here is due to "Orthodox" misreading "taught ... by word" as thought it were a reference to the class of "oral traditions" rather than to specific things that had been taught by Paul to the Thessalonians (again, underlying that misreading is "Orthodox"'s assumption that Paul means what "Orthodox" means by "traditions").

Turning from abuse of the text and false accusations of misrepresentation, "Orthodox" reverts to his previous false accusation of hypocrisy, this time with a different basis. I was hesitant even to include this item, because it has nothing to do with 2 Thessalonians 2:15, but I ask the reader to be patient with me. "Orthodox" contends:

6) Saying you don't know if Chrysostom wrote this thing is another case of "have you stopped beating your wife". You have zero reason to think Chrysostom didn't write it, but you think maybe if some doubt is cast on it, we can devalue the whole thing. Again hypocrisy. What if this reasoning was applied to the scriptures?

a) The historical question of whether Chrysostom wrote the homilies cited is not comparable to the loaded question (at least this time "Orthodox" correctly relates the question) of whether someone has stopped beating his wife. There's nothing complex or loaded about an historical inquiry as to authorship.

b) And of course, I didn't even ask that question, I just indicated that I didn't know.

c) Despite "Orthodox" claim to the contrary, I do have reason to think Chrysostom might not have written it. As I previously told "Orthodox" (link - does he read carefully?), "John Chrysostom’s legacy is muddied by time and various strains of thought all attributed to him, but not necessarily all his own." (or, for another example, in the post itself to which "Orthodox" was responding, I wrote: "John Chrysostom wrote a a large amount, and even more that he did not write has been attributed to him over the years. ") Even the Catholic Encyclopedia at "New Advent" admits that "numerous" apocryphal writings are attributed to him (link), and additionally mentions the role of editors in the release of at least some of his homilies. So, authorship of these particular homilies, and - more particularly - these specific words is certainly open to reasonable doubt.

d) "Orthodox"'s guess as to my reason for mentioning it is mistaken. I mentioned the open question of authorship to avoid dogmatically asserting that it was Chrysostom, and not one of his editors or a pseudo-Chrysostom that abused 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Furthermore, it was important to point out that the second homily from which I quoted was not the same homily, since one wouldn't necessarily interpret Chysostom in view of what pseudo-Chrysostom wrote, or vice versa. Thus, I cautioned the reader, to soften the force of my own argument.

e) "Orthodox"'s final comments, "
Again hypocrisy. What if this reasoning was applied to the scriptures?" are likewise off the mark. In this case, the charges are more absurd than usual. Far from hypocrisy, the matter was a simply clarification of the record, so that Chyrsostom's name might be somewhat removed from the stain of the abuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15, just as one might say that one's neighbor's wife's face was bruised, without dogmatically asserting that it must be the husband that did it. As for the application to Scripture, I simply believe what Scripture says. I don't treat Scripture like I treat the writings attributed to the church fathers. If 2 Peter says it was written by Peter (and it does), then I believe it. If Scripture says nothing about the authorship of a particular book, I refuse to be dogmatic about that matter myself.

As his next-to-last point, Orthodox makes another faulty comparison on the tangential issue of what the passage attributed to Chrysostom is alleged to teach:

7) You say that what Chrysostom means by tradition is ambiguous, but the issue is that it goes beyond what scripture is, and that is not ambiguous in the context. Your argument is equivalent to saying that scripture lists no canon, therefore we can safely ignore scripture. i.e. hypocrisy.

a) Is it really clear that Chrysostom means something beyond Scripture? I'm not sure. The "in context" comment is bogus, because the alleged statement by Chrysostom is practically devoid of context.

b) Furthermore, if someone is going to cite Chrysostom as supporting their position, it is important to establish what Chrysostom was referring to. Otherwise, the same pretextual quotation abuse that we've documented with respect to 2 Thessalonians 2:15 can be made with respect to Chrysostom.

c) Since "Orthodox" pretends to hold to that which was received by all the fathers, it should matter a lot to "Orthodox" what Chrysostom himself meant by what he wrote. It's much less important for me, though, because I am willing to admit that all the church fathers were men, and consequently fallible and errant.

Finally, Orthodox provides a last argument, finally apparently attempting to return to the text.

8) You say that 2 Th 3:6 is about discipline and not about doctrine, so tradition=discipline. Then you claim that 2 Th 3:15 is about the gospel, and not about discipline, therefore tradition=gospel. So you contradict your own restrictive agenda by which you desperately try and shrink the categories out of existence.

a) Actually, my comment about 2 Thessalonians 3:6 was to relate to the reader Chrysostom's comments on the verse, not my own. Chrysostom, when considering 2 Thessalonians 3:6, clearly did not have in mind either the Catholic category of "Sacred Tradition" or the category "Orthodox" prefers of something akin to "everything the church uses to convey information."

b) The verse that we have been discussing, which is about holding fast to the gospel is 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (not 3:15).

c) My only agenda here is to stop the abuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that I've seen way too often, as well as to expose the fact that it is used as a pretext.


Hopefully, by now it has been demonstrated that there is no rational way to justify the use of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 as though it were evidence of the Bible teaching the "traditionist" position with respect to the relationship between Scripture and Tradition.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Challenge to J.C. Thibodaux

Those who have been following along at Triablogue may be aware of a non-Reformed writer who has presented what he calls a challenge to Reformed theology. To summarize the challenge, he believes that these three passages pose a problem for Reformed theology:

Matthew 5:27-30;
Hebrews 4:9-11; and
Revelation 22:18-19.

His reasoning is that Reformed theology denies that genuine believers can eventually go to hell, and that the passages above contradict that denial.

JCT's challenge is available here (link).

Now, JCT has been engaged in various posts over at Triablogue, as follows, as well is in the comment boxes both in those posts (in some cases) and other posts.


Nevertheless, perhaps JCT still believes that there is life in his challenge. Perhaps he still does not appreciate the full consistence of Reformed theology with each of the passages above.

If so, I want to challenge him to a written debate on the subject at my debate blog. If he is interested, we can work out the debate details according to mutual preference. I don't think it would need to be a very long or complicated debate, so - while I am busily preparing for another debate at the moment - it may be possible to fit it in immediately.

J.C. Thibodaux, the ball is in your court.


UPDATE: Updated to place Steve's final response into the list.

Two Methods of Apologetics towards Catholics

Passionately (link).

The link is to a Catholic blog, in which is embedded a video of a man dressed a Catholic priest shouting a message of repentance to an assembled congregation of Catholics, apparently during their service. The audio is somewhat indistinct - a combination of amateur recording equipment and lousy acoustics / camera location.

The man shouts out warnings to the Catholics that the priest cannot save them, and that they are endangering their souls by their religion. At first the priest (it seems) tries to tell the man to go away. Eventually, after a bit, the priest realizes that the man's shouting can really only be overcome by the vox populi, and consequently leads the congregation in song.

Cons of this approach:

1. The Catholic blog that posts the video in the link above suggests that this is illegal in many places. While illegality is not an absolute bar to evangelism, it may be more seemly to pursue methods of evangelism that honor the king. Also, getting arrested for disrupting a worship service is not necessarily the same as getting arrested for preaching the gospel, even if that is what you were doing when we disrupted the service.

2. The approach is rude. These are people who clearly do not want to be disturbed. Again, it is not absolutely necessary that an evangelist be polite at all costs, but being rude is not the Pauline model, to say the least.

3. The approach doesn't seem effective. It is too easy to drown out the message with a hymn - it is too easy to write off the messenger as a "rabid anti-Catholic." The mockery in the Catholic blog post above demonstrates both of the ways in which the message will be minimized.


1. These are people who may not otherwise hear the gospel warnings, that may be jolted by such an approach.

2. It cannot be completely ignored.


I'm not in favor of this sort of apologetic methodology, at least not in the society in which we live. I am not trying to judge the man in the video: I don't know his heart, his motivation, or his intent. Perhaps he simply longs for the Catholics in his community to be saved. Calling him an "anti-Catholic" for that it is wrong. I could alternatively ascribe negative motivations, but I don't know the man's heart. I really don't like the fact that he dressed up as a Catholic priest, although in a few places other ministers also were similar atire. From the voices in the video, it sounds as the person calling the parishioners to repentance is an American, which tends to make me think that the garb is assumed.

Rationally (link).

The link is to a post by James Swan over at Alpha and Omega Ministries. The link presents a studied examination of one particular station of the so-called "stations of the cross." It provides a demonstration that one of the stations is based on ingrained legend founded in etymological error.


1. Catholics have to be interested in reading to get the message.

2. Catholics have to actually go to the website to read the message.

3. Catholics have to think to get the message.

4. It's fairly easy to ignore: just call Swan names and don't go to his web site.


1. If someone goes, they have a tough time answering matter rationally.

2. The message is polite but firm, based in fact and compelling to someone who makes an historical examination of the matter.

3. The message is engaging. If you disagree, you cannot just stick your fingers in your eyes and sing a song, because your mind expects something more.

Compared to the former approach, Swan's approach seems better - but then Swan has a different intended audience. The rank and file of Roman Catholicism do not go to Swan's website and check out what he writes. On the other Swan's approach is also more durable: he doesn't have to shout every day to be heard every day. Also, Swan's approach is more winsome. I think if I were Catholic, I'd be more well persuaded by Swan's approach than by the approach in the first video.


Of course, these are not the only two approaches that exist. I have no doubt that someone may think that there is a better approach than either of the two I've outlined above. Regardless of how we go about it, we must do so from the right motives - and ought to do so in a way that is aimed toward bringing souls to Christ.

Paul encourages us this way:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
19For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33
31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

Therefore, let us be constant continually preaching to those who do not trust in Christ alone for salvation, that they do so, repenting from their sins, and receiving the gift of God by faith in the Savior.

Praise be to His glorious grace!


Brazen Committees - Response to Doug Wilson

Doug Wilson, on his own blog, writes: "Establishing committees that are as stacked as a painting on a WWII bomber's nose is not the way to inspire my confidence. No, I haven't gotten over the sheer brazenness of that study committee." (source) I think Doug is missing the point.

1) The study committee wasn't called to inspire anyone's confidence, and certainly not to inspire the confidence of an outsider like Wilson.

2) The "stacked" mixed metaphor is slightly off-color, but mostly off-putting.

3) Calling the Federal Vision study committee stacked because none (or less than half - or less than all - who knows what number or percentage would satisfy Wilson) of the members of the committee were Federal Visionists is absolutely as silly as suggesting that a study committee on women in the ministry must include women pastors or that a study committee on paedocommunion must include children. It is as silly as suggesting that a study committee in the PCA on Roman Catholicism must include Catholic priests. Frankly, it is as silly as suggesting that a study committee on Stalin must include representatives from the KGB.

The underlying silliness is the apparent belief that the only way that a view can get a fair hearing is if the study committee includes in its membership either the people who are likely to be affected by the committee's decision (women/children examples) or the people who are under examination (priests/KGB examples).

4) Calling the selection of members for the committee "brazen" assumes that there was something wrong with the process. Why Wilson supposes that there was something wrong with the process, we can only guess. He obviously didn't like the fact that there were no Federal Visionists on the committee, but he doesn't provide any reason for us to think that the exact same mixed metaphors wouldn't be hurled if only one of the members had been a Federal Visionist, or only two, or only half, or if too soft or inexperienced Federal Visionists had made up the entire study committee. Indeed, I see no reason to doubt that if Doug Wilson himself had made up the entire study committee, he'd just start complaining that his report got a "stacked" review at the GA, and that the presbyters "brazenly" refused to agree with his questionable theology.

In short, I'm disappointed by Wilson's refusal to acknowledge that the study committee was properly formed, conducted itself in a scholarly and Biblical fashion, and reached a sober and correct conclusion, namely that the so-called Federal Vision is outside the bounds of Reformed Theology as defined by the Westminster Standards.

It wouldn't be so bad, except that Wilson had called a committee to examine his own theology some time ago. Did he include any TR's on the panel? No. Of course he did not, and I don't think that anyone imagines he had some duty to do so. Next time Wilson wants to gripe about "stacked" PCA study committees, let me suggest this metaphor: "as stacked as the CREC committee that examined me."


Comparing the Mass to Animal Sacrifices

Reginald, who had been providing some interaction on 2 Thessalonians 2:15 appears to have lost interest in that discussion because he didn't like this comment I made in passing in another (completely unrelated) discussion:

As to (1), the application to transubstantiation is too easy. So, I'll leave it at that.

Reginald doesn't really explain why he doesn't like the comment. Perhaps he sees something unspoken behind the comment. Perhaps he simply doesn't understand the comment. It really has nothing to do with the 2 Thessalonians 2:15 discussion, and in fact it was made in response to this comment by one of my other readers:

1. A Santiera priest was told by the courts that he could not offer his animal sacrifices in the Dallas/Ft. Worth city/county lines per the city's ordinance.

The context was religious persecution that I had described in this earlier post (link).

Now, I don't mind if Reginald wants to take offense at my comment or use that as a reason not to interact on the unrelated topic of 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

I just think its worth spelling out the argument:

1. Greater Dallas has decided that animal sacrifices cannot be made within its city limits.
2. These days, biologists classify man as an animal.
3. In the mass, it is claimed by Roman Catholics (including Reginald) that the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.
4. Furthermore, calling the mass a sacrifice is perfectly orthodox Catholic theology: "So priests must instruct their people to offer to God the Father the Divine Victim in the Sacrifice of the Mass" (emphasis original - link to original) - even in the ecumenicism of post-V2:
"There can never be any repetition of that act; it happened once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). Nevertheless, the Eucharist truly has a sacrificial character because Christ is really present there in the very act of his supreme self-gift to his Father. The sacramental presence of Christ himself is at once the sacramental presence of his sacrifice also, because the Christ who is present is he who has entered the sanctuary once and for all bearing his own blood to secure an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).[109] He now lives forever, exercising a perpetual priesthood, making intercession for us (Hebrews 7:24-25). Catholics regret any impression they may have given of a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, but they also reject the overreaction which denies a sacrificial character to the Eucharist." (source)

In view of those four essentially indisputable facts, it seems as though if Muslims took over the Greater Dallas machine they could use the same prohibition on animal sacrifices against the Mass, and forbid Catholics from conducting the Mass within the city limits.

(Update: I came across this Muslim comment to a Catholic today, which tends to confirm that they would see things that way: "Since Muslims are forbidden to partake in cannibalism, I shall leave the "body and blood" bit to you who are allowed to indulge in such practices. I do not follow the example of John Paul, that is for YOU as Catholic to do {referring to JP2 kissing the Koran}. I follow the example of Jesus [peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] and I call on the one true God, HIS own God [John 20:17; Rev. 3:12], who is not he himself. I thought you would do likewise." (braces added - square brackets in original)

Reginald considers this vinegar, but he doesn't explain why. While I don't mind people taking offense at what I write (thanks Carrie!), I'd not want to give Reginald or anyone else needless offense.

I'd love to hear his explanation.


P.S. Updated to correct a typo caught by Carrie.