Saturday, August 30, 2008

The real Turretin on: Old Testament Salvation

JetBrane at Iron Ink has a nice post providing a quotation from the real Francis Turretin on the topic of the salvation of believers in the Old Testament (link). Although their temporal relationship to the true atonement was different than ours, Old Testament saints were saved the same way that we, New Testament saints, are.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Steve Ray - Wearing Rosary Keeps Away Demons?

On the May 8, 2008, edition of Catholic Answers Live, I was amazed to hear Steve Ray reference (seemingly approvingly) a book called, "The Secret of the Rosary," for the idea that wearing a rosary "around your neck keeps the Devil away - it keeps the evil powers away, because they hate the rosary and they hate the crucifix ... ." I can safely say that wearing a rosary has about equal efficacy in keeping demons away as does wearing a scapular or dousing oneself in "holy water." In short, it has no power at all.

Meanwhile, enjoy the ecumenical flavor of that most lovely work:

The heretics, all of whom are children of the devil and clearly bear the sign of God's reprobation, have a horror of the Hail Mary. They still say the Our Father but never the Hail Mary; they would rather wear a poisonous snake around their necks than wear a scapular or carry a rosary.

And truly, I would rather (as Louis de Montfort claims) have a king cobra round my neck than participate in the superstitious and anti-Christian tradition of the rosary or the scapula. I think the portion Steve Ray was referring to was this:

Blessed Alan relates that a man he knew had tried desperately all kinds of devotions to rid himself of the evil spirit which possessed him, but without success. Finally, he thought of wearing his rosary round his neck, which eased him considerably. He discovered that whenever he took it off the devil tormented him cruelly, so he resolved to wear it night and day. This drove the evil spirit away forever because he could not bear such a terrible chain. Blessed Alan also testifies that he delivered a great number of those who were possessed by putting a rosary around their necks.

This may be from an eighteenth century book, but make no mistake, these superstitious beliefs are alive today, as evidenced by Mr. Ray's comment.


Free Apologetics Course

The Parchment and Pen blog has made available for free an apologetics course taught by Rob Bowman (link). That would appear to be Rob Bowman, president of the Center for Biblical Apologetics, not Rob Bowman the noted filmmaker. While I would certainly not be able to endorse absolutely every aspect of Bowman's viewpoints, and while I am particularly concerned by the apparent lack of historical awareness of the course (as evidenced by the dearth of recommended readings from notable Reformers or early churchmen and the fact that the KJV is not even an acceptable version for Scripture memorization for his course), nevertheless given the price, it may be worth checking out.


Response to Paul Hoffer - Salvation of Muslims

This article is in response to one by Paul Hoffer (link to PH's article). I had written:

Question for my readers who follow Vatican 2's proclamation that "the plan of salvation includes" Muslims: Can you see from the example above that zealously following Islam leads to eternal destruction? If so, how do you justify to yourself your church's claim? Can you not admit that your church has erred on this point?

Mr. Hoffer has characterized my statement by claiming that "TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific." Let's leave aside whether Mr. Hoffer's ability to extract suggestions is correct, for now.

Assuming this to be the case, Mr. Hoffer complains for a full paragraph about how this is an "prime example" of "plurium interrogationum." Again, for the moment, we will leave aside whether Mr. Hoffer has actually found a p.i. or not.

Mr. Hoffer proceeds by stating what he believes to be my motive: "Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific ...," meanwhile disputing as untrue this impression that he supposes I intended to convey. Again, let's set aside, for the moment, whether he has correctly divined my intent.

Mr. Hoffer then offers "Proof" of his "contention that TF's questions are based on a false premise ... ."

Mr. Hoffer first confirms that my quotation "plan of salvation" is accurate, and provides a context for that quotation. I appreciate the fact that he has acknowledged that I accurately quoted the document, and I think it is fair to observe that the quotation must be understood as it was intended in context, and not simply according to what serves one's apologetic or polemic needs.

Mr. Hoffer provides the following excerpt:

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Emphasis Mr. Hoffer's).

The first sentence that Mr. Hoffer highlighted makes sense: it is the sentence from which my quotation was taken. I found Mr. Hoffer's second highlighting an odd choice. I would have thought in fairness he should highlight second, "Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience."

I would think that sentence, and particularly that phrase, and most especially that word "also" would inform the reader that the comment about the people in the two previous sentences (1) "in the first place" the Muslims and (2) "those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God ... ," were comments about people who "can attain to salvation."

Mr. Hoffer, however, argues that the reason is that "they claim to profess a belief in the God of Abraham" and that this is "a step closer to accepting the fullness of His Gospel even if there is much error in what a Muslim may otherwise believe." Mr. Hoffer goes on to claim that, "If we accept that Muslims do in fact believe in the God of Abraham, then such a belief would make them more receptive to accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus be saved." We'll return to this briefly.

Mr. Hoffer then tries to support the idea that truth contained in a pagan religion can prepare adherents to accept the Gospel of Christ. Of course, I don't think anyone doubts this. That is to say, God can use truth contained in anything to prepare people for the Gospel.

Mr. Hoffer, however, does not rest on this argument, but quotes from Dominus Jesus (2000), which states that "It would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her." I found it a bit odd that Mr. Hoffer (after seemingly chastising me for providing only a snippet) does not even quote the whole sentence. Since he would doubtless not be opposed, I provide the entire paragraph:

21. With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”.83 Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully. Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding better God's salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished. However, from what has been stated above about the mediation of Jesus Christ and the “unique and special relationship”84 which the Church has with the kingdom of God among men — which in substance is the universal kingdom of Christ the Saviour — it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God. (emphasis in original, though form of emphasis changed from italics to bold)

What is especially interesting is the tail of the sentence that Mr. Hoffer snipped off, the part about these other religions "converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God." Also of note is the initial sentence of paragraph, "With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”."

Mr. Hoffer also provides another quotation, from the next paragraph, "If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation" (emphasis omitted by Hoffer restored). This quotation seems rather helpful to the idea that in fact followers of other religions receive divine grace, even if they do not have the fullness of the means of salvation.

Mr. Hoffer provides a further quotation from John Paul II, in which the pope notes that "Islam is not a religion of redemptino." Mr. Hoffer, however, appears not to appreciate the fact that JP2 is simply describing Islam for what it is (forgiveness of sins in Islam is arbitrary, not based on redemption), not suggesting that Islam cannot serve as a means of divine grace.

Next, Mr. Hoffer links to an argument from Mr. Armstrong, which I plan to address some other time. Since Mr. Hoffer does not reproduce the argument, and since it appears to reflect Mr. Armstrong's rather unique views on the subject, I trust Mr. Hoffer will not mind me passing it by for now.

Mr. Hoffer concludes his line of thought by stating in bold capital letters (not shown here): "The Catholic Church does not believe that a person can be saved through adherence to Islam." Even if that is true, it is somewhat moot. After all, a good adherent of Catholicism will insist, consistent with the following, that the "Catholic Church does not believe that a persona can be saved by adherence to" Catholicism:

However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged”.93 (Dominus Jesus, 22)

The question is whether God graciously rewards those who follow Islam, not whether adherence to Islam is itself meritorious in the sense mentioned in the above block quotation. Catholicism claims not to believe in such salvation through meritorious adherence to religion.

Now, let's return to some of those issues we previously deferred.

1) "TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific."

In response, I should point that many Roman Catholics do actually believe that following Islam will save you. "I believe that all roads lead to the same place," is the way I once heard a very elderly Roman Catholic put it. That, however, is a moot point. Inclusivism, as popular as it may be amongst the laity, is not (as such) official church dogma, at least not yet.

Next, I should point out that saying that Muslims who practice Islam faithfully will be saved is different from saying that Islam itself is salvific. In fact, given the emphasis on grace, a consistent, conservative Roman Catholic would be hard-pressed to argue that even Catholicism itself is salvific (since salvation is by grace, not adherence to religion).

Finally, I should note that Mr. Hoffer doesn't ever seem to dispute that Muslims who are Muslims (not Muslims who become Christians) are able to be saved as such. Furthermore, that is the best and plainest sense both of Vatican 2's Lumen Gentium and JP2's Dominus Jesus (which, again, Mr. Hoffer does not seem to expressly dispute).

2) This is an "prime example" of "plurium interrogationum."

No. This is not a prime example. Even if it were what Mr. Hoffer suggests, it would not be a prime example, because of the fact that (at a minimum) Mr. Hoffer seems to have overlooked an alternate premise upon which the questions can be founded, namely that practicing Muslims (as such) can be saved (i.e. that Muslims can be saved without becoming Christians). That lesser premise Mr. Hoffer only reaffirms via his quotation of church documents. Thus, even if I were guilty of what Mr. Hoffer tries to charge (i.e. loading the question), this is not a prime example.

3) "Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific ... ."

No. I actually directed the question to those who hold to Vatican 2. I was assuming that my audience would be familiar with Lumen Gentium, and consequently place the snippet quotation I provided in its proper context. I assumed (perhaps rashly) that the reader would recognize that modern Catholicism does seem to teach that non-Christians can be saved, without becoming Christians, as demonstrated above.

In fact, popular apologist for Catholicism, Jimmy Akin recently (about two years ago) stated:

Thus any atheist who could say, "I don't think that God exists, but if I was shown convincing reasons to believe that he does then I would go and get baptized immediately and become one of his devout followers" then this person's heart is such that God will not hold his ignorance against him and will allow him to be saved.

On the other hand, if an atheist says, "Even if there is a God, I'll still refuse to believe in him and I'll spit in his face when I die" then this person is toast.

Between the two would be atheists who display some openness to God but who also to one degree or another resist compelling reasons to believe that he exist when they encounter such reasons. These individuals would seem to be in an ambiguous condition. If their openness to believing in and following God is their more fundamental motive then they would be open to his grace and be saved. If their resistance to believing in or following God is their more fundamental motive then they would be closed to his grace and thus lost.(emphasis changed from italics to bold)


At the end of the day, I'm afraid I feel that Mr. Hoffer's comment in his first paragraph, "I have been accused at times of reading things into what people write," is supported by the present illustration. Mr. Hoffer read something into what I wrote, and got it somewhat wrong.

Against Mr. Akin and Vatican 2, I insist that the only way to be saved is by explicitly believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Thus, I deny that non-Christians can be saved as such. Of course, the only sense in which "the plan of salvation includes" non-Christians is in the sense that there are some non-Christians today who are among the elect: men for whom Christ died, who will - some day - come to a saving faith in Him and be justified by faith alone in Christ alone, thereby being saved by grace alone.

Glory to the One Name under Heaven whereby men are saved, Jesus,


P.S. It is something of a pet peeve of mine to note that what Mr. Hoffer has called "Begging the Question," is more properly called the fallacy of the "complex question" or more colloquially, "asking a loaded question." In logic, the fallacy of "begging the question" normally refers to petitio principii, where an argument is made in which the conclusion is smuggled in as a premise. I am especially sensitive to this, because of the rampant abuse of the phrase "begging the question" to mean simply "raising the issue." Mr. Hoffer, thankfully, does not fall into that ditch. Likewise, the example of the question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" is a prime example of the plurium interrogationum fallacy, although it can take several forms. Incidentally, "plurium interrogationum" literally conveys the idea of "many questions" - hence the English "complex question."

Update: Mr. Hoffer, in a new post (link) seems to miss the point of my correction of his irregular use of the term "begging the question" to describe plurium interrogationum. So that things are clear for him, I'm saying that his accusation/objection should have been to "complex question" or "loaded question" if he was objecting to a fallacy of plurium interrogationum (and I have assumed that it was his intent to object to plurium interrogationum, as petitio principii would be an even less appropriate, for the formal reasons Mr. Hoffer outlines in his post). The phrase "begging the question" derives from the petitio principii fallacy, not the plurium interrogationum fallacy. As well, the preferred spelling of petitio principii is ending with two "i"s (i.e. four total "i"s in the word).

Update: In yet another new post (link), Mr. Hoffer has tried to continue to insist on his nomenclature. The fact that "begging the question" derives from the petitio principii fallacy, not the plurium interrogationum fallacy is something that would be obvious to anyone who knows Latin. I commend to Mr. Hoffer's reading the following:
  • "Fallacies" by Alfred Sidgwick (link), particularly p. 175
  • "The Laws of Discursive Thought, Being a Text-book of Formal Logic" by James McCosh (link) particularly p. 184
  • "An Elementary Treatise on Logic" by William Dexter Wilson (link) particularly p. 184
  • "Logic" by George Hugh Smith (link) particularly pp. 174 and 189

Additional rudimentary books on Logic could be brought to bear to establish by authority what should be plain to everyone by now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wes White - Thoughts on Church Music

I enjoyed reading Wes White's interesting discussion of Church music - and mostly agreed with it (link). The major point he makes regarding the fact that singing is to be congregational singing is an important one that is overlooked by many folks.


On the Exercise of Charity

I was recently told (by someone who was there), of a certain elderly Roman Catholic lady, unwilling to be so uncharitable as to pray that the unhelpful bank teller be damned in hell, compromised by indicating her intention to pray that the teller would be stuck in Purgatory.

I don't bring this up to suggest that the woman was in any way expressing proper Roman Catholic doctrine or approved practice. I suppose that most Roman Catholic bishops would acknowledge that such a prayer would be improper.

I bring it up to highlight the need to distinguish between our own perceptions of Charity and true Charity. True Charity is turning the other cheek, not punching the villain with only 50% of your strength. It's a lesson we can all learn, not just this otherwise sweet old lady.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Serious Question for my Readers

Question for my Muslims readers: When you read this article (link), does your conscience tell you that this sort of behavior is wrong? If so, are you aware that this sort of activity is a natural consequence of zealously following the teachings of the Koran?

Question for my readers who follow Vatican 2's proclamation that "the plan of salvation includes" Muslims: Can you see from the example above that zealously following Islam leads to eternal destruction? If so, how do you justify to yourself your church's claim? Can you not admit that your church has erred on this point?

Question for my readers who are Evangelical: What steps are you taking to convert Muslims to Christianity? Muslims are an increasing fraction of society, and they desperately need the gospel, without which they will be lost.

These are mostly rhetorical questions. I'm not looking for debate in the comment box, just asking people to think seriously about eternal matters.


Escape from the Flooding Mine

"What a jerk," thought Mike as he headed steadily westward along the mine's tunnel, stomping angrily in the rising floodwaters.

Mike felt insulted. He had been traveling westward at a good clip, in the company of a sizable crew of his fellow miners. They were covered with various patches of dust, and the light from their helmets created an ever-shifting pattern of shadows on the tunnel wall.

The cause of Mike's hurt feelings was the message on a shirt of a single minor headed eastbound. "Go East," screamed the shirt in bright yellow letters on a black background, "Westward Escape Route Not Open."

What was worse, on the back of the shirt - this time in neon orange - the shirt announced that the Eastern Escape Route was the way designed by the engineer of the mine, and that the Western Escape Route was simply wishful thinking that had gained group appeal.

"Who does this guy think he is?" thought Mike. "His shirt screams out hatred for me and my friends." Even as Mike thought this, though, he realized that it wasn't quite fair: the shirt was about a position, not a person.

"Well," continued Mike's thoughts, "if not hatred for me, hatred for everything I and my group of miners stand for: all of our hopes of escape and all of the effort we have put into making sure each other continue successfully on our Western path."

What aggravated Mike even more was that the miner hadn't been content to let Mike's group pass in peace and quiet. Instead, the lone miner had shouted out that he had found a source of knowledge - a map - that showed the one true path of escape. The miner had insisted that all the other paths, including the Western path led only to doom and drowning.

Mike tried to point out the size of his group, but the man just kept pointing to the map. Mike had even tried pointing out how the map supported the Western path, but the man had insisted that he knew better, and that in fact - when properly read - the map indicated that the Eastern path was better - in fact was the only way.

Eventually, the lone miner continued on his way through the rising floodwaters to the East, while the group of miners with Mike at their lead continued to the West. "Stupid Anti-Westerner," Mike complained to his colleagues, and they all assented, joking about the fact that the lone miner cut a sad sight trudging in such a lonely manner and trusting in some map.

One may have already guessed how things turned out. There was but one survivor that day: the man who followed the map provided by the engineer of the mine. It was by this revelation of the design of the mine that the man was able to get to safety. It was not hatred of his fellow miners, but love of them, that motivated that miner's shirt and his message to them. But alas, they called him names, questioned his motives, and refused to listen. In the end, they perished.

(inspiration for this allegory)


The Real Turretin on: Covenant of Works - Reward for Obedience

Joshua Lim at Reformed Blogging has provided an interesting quotation from the real Turretin on the Reward of Life that would have been given to Adam for his obedience for as long as he continued in obedience (link).


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Piper Answers WSC #1

In the following video, Piper both in effect answers the first question to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and also reminds us that Missions is a means to an end, not an end in itself:

May God bring in a rich harvest of worshipers,


Only One Way to Heaven

The Bible is clear that there is only way to heaven:

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Thus, the idea that the plan of salvation includes Christ-rejecting followers of Judaism or Christ-rejecting Muslims (and yes, if you deny Christ's divinity, you are rejecting Christ, even if you do not mean to do so) is clearly wrong and contrary to Scripture.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Response to Comments/ Objections - Children Punished for Parents' Sins

I have received a few comments regarding yesterday's post on Original Sin (link). In some cases, I'm not sure whether they are intended simply as comments or as objections. Nevertheless, I've tried to address each, below.

Anonymous states:
You never dealt with a very important passage, Ezek. 18.

I dealt with that passage at some significant length in an earlier post (link to Ezekiel 18 discussion).

Godith states:
John 9 is another passage to deal with in regard to this topic. The man born blind.

John 9 is an interesting passage.
John 9 (the entire chapter)
1And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, 7And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
13They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet. 18But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
19And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
20His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.
24Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
25He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
26Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
27He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
28Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. 29We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes. 31Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. 32Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
34They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

For our discussion, the key part would seem to be:

2And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

It is interesting that the disciples seemed to recognize that blindness was something that could be viewed as a punishment for sin. Furthermore, the it is interesting that the disciples recognized that the blindness might be a punishment on the parents' sin (since the man was born blind).

Jesus' response is quite surprising. He tells them that the blindness is not a punishment for sin, but is instead simply there to show God's glory.

If the doctrine of original sin is a smack in the face to individualism, this is a blow straight to the gut. Here is a terrible infirmity imposed on a man through his whole childhood and into his adult years for the primary purpose of showing God's greatness.

He was not disadvantaged in this way primarily on account of his own sin, or on account of the sins of his parents, but simply so Jesus could heal him!

In short, while this passage is not (in my view) particularly germane to the issue of children being punished for the sins of their parents (since that was not the primary reason for this man's congenital blindness), it does have themes that similar undermine the autonomous view of "every man for himself."

Theojunkie states:
Do any of the scriptures you presented (or any others that you would like to add), suggest that the punished children were free of personal sin?

There are certainly several verses presented that indicate that the children did not personally participate in the sin for which the punishment was incurred. That is not the same thing as saying that they were free from personal sin. Given the former feature, I don't think the latter issue is of particular significance.


Reformed Theology en Espanol (in Spanish)

I recently came across a blog for the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (link). My Spanish is not excellent, but it appears that this blog could become an excellent resource for those who are interested in Reformed theology, and who speak Spanish (particularly if they speak Spanish better than English). I particularly enjoy the on-going series that is being hosted providing translations various important reformed works on the church's Systematic Theology blog (link).

The real Turretin on: Effectual Calling

Michael at Pot and Torch has provided an interesting blog post on Irresistible Grace, in which he leads off with a short quotation from the Real Turretin on Effectual Calling (link).


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Children Punished for a Parent's Sins


Some folks who hold to a nearly dogmatic form of rugged individualism do not like the idea of federal headship, especially when it comes to punishments. I much more rarely hear people complain that they will be judged righteous for the deeds of their federal head. It is when guilt and punishment are concerned that the objections seem to come in. There are several rebuttals.

1. General Revelation - Nature Itself

a. Nourishment

The general revelation of nature should make it apparent that the children receive what comes from their parents, as a general rule. An unborn child (fetus, if you will, though that sounds so dehumanizing) obtains nourishment from its mother via the marvelously designed placenta. The infant obtains nourishment from the mother's breast. The children generally eat the grown/hunted/gathered or purchased by their parents even once they could hypothetically fend for themselves.

b. Class

Children of poor parents are usually also poor, and children of rich parents are usually well off. To describe it in statistical terms, there is a high correlation between the state of a child and the state of a child's parents - not only socioeconomically, but genetically. A child of two short parents is unlikely to be tall, and a child of two tall parents is unlikely to be short.

c. Human Justice

The laws of men too bare testimony to the fact that children are punished for their parents' sins. Most societies have laws whereby evildoers are punished in their persons or property. If a father is imprisoned or fined for a crime, his children generally suffer financially: even more so if justice is rendered against the father in a capital case. It is not that the law sets out to punish the children of law-breakers: it just happens that way.

d. Fornication / Adultery

When men and women engage in extramarital sexual relationships, it often results in procreation. The children of such unions are often stigmatized, but even more significantly they often come into the world without a father to provide for them, or without a mother that wants them. In ancient Rome, such children were sometimes murdered through exposure to the elements after birth. In modern societies, such children are often murdered by their mothers in ways that sicken at least this author. Even if a child survives birth, its a statistical observation that such children tend to have a more difficult time in life.

2. Special Revelation - Scripture

a. Examples of Children being punished for the sins of their parents.

(i) The Great Deluge

We are not specifically told that there were any infants in Noah's day, but God brought the Flood on account of the sinfulness of the world 120 years prior to the Flood. Men lived longer in those days, but they did have children, and they did not give up their usual marital relations in view of Noah's preaching.

Luke 17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Genesis 6:1-7
1And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

(ii) Sodom and Gomorrah

Especially considering the form of sexual immorality for which Sodom is famous, we cannot be absolutely sure that there were young infants in the city, nevertheless, there is no particular reason to suppose that they had been so exclusively consumed by illicit lust that there were none. The fire God sent against the city, however, did not discriminate according to age.

Genesis 19:24
24Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

(iii) Firstborn of Egypt - 10th Plague

You may recall that the tenth plague, the plague that permitted the Israelites not only to leave but to plunder the Egyptians, was the death of the firstborn of all the Egyptians. This plague is couched in such universal terms that we may safely assume that it included infants and not only the firstborn that had grown somewhat.

Exodus 11:4-6
4And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 6And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.

(iv) Ham's Mockery

As you may recall, our grandfather Noah got drunk and lay naked in his tent. His son Ham found him in this inebriated condition and mocked him, calling his brothers Shem and Japheth. They, however, did not join his mockery but took a sheet with them and walked backwards into the tent covering Noah in the process. When Noah discovered what had happened, he cursed Ham, but especially Ham's son, Canaan.

Genesis 9:24-27
24And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

(v) The Unborn Child of the Middianitish Woman

You may recall that the women of Moab were a temptation to the men of Israel. So much so that they began to go after the false gods of Moab. God was angry against Israel for this unfaithfulness to Him, and smote them with a plague. But what stopped the plague was the action of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, who killed one of the most open philanderers with a javelin. He skewered the man and the woman - in her case, the Bible specifies that it was through her belly, from which may infer that she had a belly - i.e. was pregnant.

Numbers 25:1-9
1And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. 4And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. 5And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. 6And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

(vi) Achan's Theft

You may recall Achan. He was passing through the wreckage and rubble of Jericho, a city that was cursed by God. He decided that despite God's specific prohibition, he would take several items of value that he found in Jericho. He took the items and hid them in his tent. God then defeated Israel at the hands of the tiny forces of Ai.

The fact that others were punished for Achan's sin became a sort of by-word among Israel, at least for a time:

Joshua 22:20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

More to the point, however, when Joshua had discovered that Achan the son of Zerah had disobeyed God, the punishment was his death, but not only his death. Also executed were his family, and even his cattle.

Joshua 7:24-26
24And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

His children were killed with him, though we are not explicitly told that any of them were infants.

(vii) Solomon's Older Brother

Solomon's older brother is not named in Scripture. He is the child of the adultery of David with Bathsheba. As you may recall, David's seduction of Bathsheba and murder of her husband greatly displeased God, and God punished David for this. God spared David's own life, but he cursed David's line, such the sword would not depart from it, and more relevant to the point of this article, he slew David's infant son.

2 Samuel 12:7-23
7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. 15And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. 16David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 18And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? 19But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. 20Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. 21Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. 22And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

This list of examples is not exhaustive. For example, we could also add Korah (Numbers 16), Saul's sons (2 Samuel 21), or Jericho both a first (Joshua 6) and a second time (1 Kings 16), but perhaps the seven examples above suffice to prove the point.

b. God's Own Self-Description

God does not hesitate to describe himself as a God who punishes the fathers by also punishing their children. We may subsume within that description of course the specific instances where God killed or had killed the children of those who sinned, for the sins of their fathers.

On top of those, we may list the four times God specifically states that he visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children:

(i) Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

(ii) Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

(iii) Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

(iv) Deuteronomy 5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

3. General Revelation 2 - Conscience, Culture, and Reason

Perhaps this is a bit redundant, but children generally feel responsible for their parent's failures. Some children respond to this by working twice as hard to avoid doing what their parents did, and other children respond to this by fatalistically resigning themselves to follow in their parents' footsteps. While the latter approach is wrong, both approaches implicitly recognize a principle of the children being in some way held responsible for what their parents have done.

Culture to a degree reinforces this. The sometimes popular "reparations" movement among descendants of former slaves in America has it its roots a view that the descendants of slave owners should be responsible for what their ancestors did. Slavery itself (in many cultures the result of some personal failure) was passed on to children in many places. Likewise, a degree of cultural opposition to Jews (especially religious Jews) is based on (in some places and at some times in history) on the fact that their ancestors killed Christ (who, in fact, did call down God's wrath on themselves and their children, Matthew 27:25).

Furthermore, Reason applying itself to culture commends the same. For culture generally permits inheritances of goods to children (as Scripture confirms to be proper). Reason, favoring symmetry, suggests that not only positive things but negative things should be transmitted from parents to children, thus favoring the idea that guilt too may be inherited.


For all these reasons, it should be clear that it is just for children to be punished for their parents' sins. It may violate the principles on which modern pluralistic society is built - specifically the value of rugged individualism - but it is Scriptural, it is in accordance with the light of nature, and it is in accordance with the light of conscience and reason. Thus, we properly affirm it.


Sunday is not a Day for Football or Olympics

The Westminster Confession states:

Chapter XXI, Section, VIII.

This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their wordly employments and recreations, but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

The London Baptist Confession (1689) states:

Chapter XXI, Section, VIII.

The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe a holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Even the Baltimore Catechism (a Roman Catholic document) states:

"Not satisfied with doing only what the Church obliges us to do on Sundays and holy days, those who really love God will endeavor to do more than the bare works commanded. Sunday is a day of rest and prayer. While we may take innocent and useful amusement, we should not join in any public or noisy entertainments. We may rest and recreate ourselves, but we should avoid every place where vulgar and sometimes sinful amusements, scenes, or plays are presented." (source) (cf. also the catechism of Pious X)

I have not included anything from the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," because it has taken a more liberal attitude toward the Sabbath day.

May the God of the Sabbath, who has given us rest, bless us,