Saturday, September 27, 2008

George Bryson Open to Debating Again?

Someone posting under the name "George Bryson," today wrote: "What James White did not say is that I offered to debate him on the very interesting question: “Does Calvin or Calvinism teach that God is the cause (by virtue of His decree) the cause of sin?[”] ... Why won’t James White debate George Bryson on such an important and relevant question. While I believe that the “cross-examination” issue is for theatrics I will happily allow James White the opportunity to cross-examine me if He will allow me to cross-examine him on this issue." (full comment)

I don't know whether it is really George Bryson ... the inconsistent use of the third and first person is a bit odd. I'm not sure why Bryson would want to limit the topic in the way that he has proposed, perhaps a better resolution would be:

"Does the Bible teach that God is (by virtue of His decree) the cause of sin?"

Debating what Calvinism teaches or doesn't teach is something that is better done intramurally among Calvinists. Debating what the Bible teaches is something that would actually edify Evangelicals of the Calvinist, Amyraldian, Lutheran, and Arminian persuasions.

But, in case, George Bryson happens to read this, I have a question back for him about his proposed resolution: "What do you mean by cause?" God is not the instrumental cause of sin, and therefore is not properly caused the "author" or to modernize the expression the "actor" of sin. The instrumental cause of sin, the author/actor of sin, is the sinner himself (whether that be a man or a fallen angel).

It is the instrumental cause of sin that bears moral responsibility for the sin. So, assuming that George Bryson is interested in the kind of "cause" that is relevant to the issue of moral responsibility, then the correct (both Biblical and Calvinist) answer to the question is "no."

If George means "cause" in some other (or in no particular) sense, the question that springs to mind is, "Why is he even asking the question?" In other words, why would it matter if God, via his decree, were an ultimate cause or a "but-for" cause of sin?

Here is a video clip from the last time (to my knowledge) that Dr. White and George Bryson debated:


The Real Turretin on: Creation of Souls

Chelms Varthoumlien at Oikodomē has provided a sizable quotation from the real Francis Turretin on the issue of Creationism vs. Traducionism (link). This is not the "Creationism" debate we normally hear about today (vs. Evolutionism) but instead about the issue of whether souls are created or propagated. Turretin quite properly and aptly defends the Creationist position.


Proverbs 1:2-4

Proverbs 1:2-4
2To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

This brief passage sets forth the purpose and point of the book of Proverbs. It is also more generally a principle purpose of the Bible as a whole. In fact, it is the point of didactic books generally: its purpose is to inform - to teach.

People who try to hide the Bible from the unlearned are themselves fools, for the Bible is the light the illumines the dark mind. The simple man becomes wise through reading the Bible, for it gives him wisdom: it conveys knowledge to him.

It is especially essentially for young men. Since most of my readers are young men, I expect, I hope you will all take this verse as a particular exhortation to you to seek out and study the Holy Scriptures.

For those classically inclined here is the original and two ancient translations:

Original (Hebrew)

2לדעת חכמה ומוסר להבין אמרי בינה 3׃לקחת מוסר השׂכל צדק ומשׁפט ומישׁרים׃ 4לתת לפתאים ערמה לנער דעת ומזמה׃

LXX (Greek)

2γνῶναι σοφίαν καὶ παιδείαν νοῆσαί τε λόγους φρονήσεως 3δέξασθαί τε στροφὰς λόγων νοῆσαί τε δικαιοσύνην ἀληθῆ καὶ κρίμα κατευθύνειν, 4ἵνα δῷ ἀκάκοις πανουργίαν, παιδὶ δὲ νέῳ αἴσθησίν τε καὶ ἔννοιαν·

Vulgate (Latin)

2ad sciendam sapientiam et disciplinam 3ad intellegenda verba prudentiae et suscipiendam eruditionem doctrinae iustitiam et iudicium et aequitatem 4ut detur parvulis astutia adulescenti scientia et intellectus


Friday, September 26, 2008

Mohamed Did Not Believe that the Old Testament was Corrupt

Today, many Islamic apologists like to claim that the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is corrupt. They feel the need to claim this, because they are aware of the fact that the Bible is inconsistent with Islam.

There is a problem for their position: it is not the position of their prophet, assuming that Surah 62:5 is itself not corrupt.

Surah 62:5 The similitude of those who were charged with the (obligations of the) Mosaic Law, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands them not). Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the Signs of Allah: and Allah guides not people who do wrong.

Notice that the Surah compares the Jews to Donkeys carrying "huge tomes" that they do not understand. Notice that the Surah alleges that the Jews "falsify the Signs of Allah," but the most natural reading of the Surah (at least in this translation) is that they falsify not through destroying the text, but through misunderstanding or misinterpreting the text.

Notice that is says "huge tomes" not "no tomes" or "tattered tomes."

And, in another translation, we see the same concept:

62.5 The likeness of those who were charged with the Taurat, then they did not observe it, is as the likeness of the ass bearing books, evil is the likeness of the people who reject the communications of Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.

Notice how the text parallels "books" and "communications of Allah." Notice also that in this translation they are described as rejecting them - presumably because like donkeys they don't understand what is in them - perhaps simply because "Allah does not guide" them.

And it is not the only place in the Koran that such an idea can be found. Recall that it is recorded:

[2.285] The apostle believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His apostles; We make no difference between any of His apostles; and they say: We hear and obey, our Lord! Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course.

And in another translation:

Surah 2:285 The Apostle believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His apostles. "We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles." And they say: "We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys."

Notice that it is says "books," not "book." What's even more interesting is that we are told that the Surahs were themselves orally proclaimed at first - which would suggest that the "books" do not even include the Koran. There is no need, however, to go that far. The fact that the plural form is used is enough to establish the fact that Mohamed did not hold to the idea that the books were corrupted, for if they were corrupted why would he teach that he believes in them?

And we need not rest on only those two places, for there is at least one more:

[20.133] And they say: Why does he not bring to us a sign from his Lord? Has not there come to them a clear evidence of what is in the previous books?

And again, in another translation:

Surah 20:133 They say: "Why does he not bring us a sign from his Lord?" Has not a Clear Sign come to them of all that was in the former Books of revelation?

Note how Mohamed here actually states that there is "clear evidence" or a "clear sign" as to what the content of the "former books" or "previous books." These are not books hopelessly lost in obscurity in the mind of the author of this Surah.

The problem here is that Mohamed simply was not well informed. He did not know the content of the books himself, for we have no reason to believe he was ever provided with an Arabic Bible, and he could not read the Greek or Hebrew original languages.

If you are a Muslim, doesn't this sort of thing cause you a bit of concern? Aren't you bothered by the fact that your prophet accepted the books and "believed in them," while you must not? For the books declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God - God incarnate - the sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God and bring forgiveness to all the people of God.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Result of Ignoring Biblical Wisdom

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

Many people today believe that there is a financial crisis, in which banks are failing because they have loaned money to people who do not repay their loans. In turn, with the banks failing, other people who were invested in the banks risk losing their money. A governmental insurer, however, is provided to make sure that those people with money in the banks don't lose their money.

Proverbs 22:26 Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.

It seems that there is a serious problem here, because the Wisdom of Scripture has been ignored. Men have rushed to purchase houses that they cannot afford, failing to count the cost. Bankers have rushed to provide credit to such men, themselves failing to count the cost. The government has (in essence) made itself a surety for debts, specifically the debts of the banks to their deposit customers (the people from whom the banks get money in order to make loans).

Proverbs 26:10 The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.

God brings judgment on those who foolishly ignore Scriptural wisdom, whether that wisdom relates to things temporal or things eternal. It is worth noting, of course, that the financial crisis (however painful it may seem) is far less worrisome than the spiritual crisis - with eternal destruction looming for the many who have turned aside from Scripture to follow false prophets, false teachers, or simply their own imagination.

Jeremiah 17:11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

There is now talk of a "bail-out" plan to divert money from those who earned it through hard work to those who squandered what they had. No doubt, if the plan is passed, billions will be given to those who know how to operate the political levers, but will such wealth be of lasting significance? Certainly not.

Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

God as judge is no socialist: he gives to all what they deserve. Men may try to avoid the temporal punishments and chastisements that come upon them in this life, but they will not escape the wrath to come. There will be no leveraged buy out of bad debt before the judgment throne of the Most High God.

And how great is that debt!

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

But for all this debt - debt that no man can manipulate - there is, in fact, one way of escape. That way is by repentance from sin and faith in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.

Men may find ways to delay God's temporal judgment for spending money they didn't have, for loaning money to people they should not have, and for being the surety for debts of the unwise. Men may even repent of this foolishness and find ways to avoid making these same mistakes in the future. But eternal judgment is coming, and our God is a consuming fire. Let us then "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Progress in the Debates

Over at the debate blog, progress has been made both on the Genuine Christian Apostasy Debate (Negative Rebuttal Posted - link to debate) and on the Sola Scriptura vs. Roman Catholicism Debate (Negative Answers to the Affirmative Cross-Examination Questions Posted - link to debate).

For the Genuine Christian Apostasy Debate, the next step is for J.C. Thibodaux to post his affirmative rebuttal essay.

For the Sola Scriptura vs. Roman Catholicism Debate, the next step is for Mr. Bellisario to provide five questions for me to answer.



Ancient Christians and their Bibles

A common myth that we hear from time to time from a number of different directions, is that Bibles were in essence Gutenberg's invention: a testimony to Northern European printing ingenuity, but not an ancient practice. Of course it is true that printed Bibles necessarily followed the development of printing, but Bibles were being made long before then. Likewise, others will claim that even if Bibles existed before the Reformation, they were so extraordinarily scarce that ordinary people could not possibly have them.

Indeed, I recently had the pleasure of interacting with a lay apologist for Catholicism who, buying into the myth, apparently believed that people didn't have Bibles before the sixteenth century. He didn't say so, but I think he was somewhat surprised to discover just how many European and non-European languages the Bible had already been translated into before Luther ever nailed his 95 theses to Wittenburg door on October 31, 1517. He seemed to have a mental picture of the Bible surviving from the apostles to the reformers in Latin copy locked away in bishops' chambers.

But this picture of the world is far from the reality that Bibles were the treasured possession of the faithful since the time of the early church. Even in Europe, before Luther, Wycliffe and his followers produced manuscript (hand-written) English Bibles for the laity in an era and religious climate in which such production could get one killed. Others produced Bibles in the common tongue long before that, with Jerome publishing the Bible in Latin not to place out of reach of the common man, but to place it into the common tongue.

But even if someone is well-versed in the fact that Jerome produced a Bible - one may wonder whether his monumental task of producing a Latin Bible from copies of the the Greek and Hebrew originals was the first time that the Bible had been assembled as such. It was not.

Codex Vaticanus and Siniaticus represent essentially complete "codex" forms in which the whole Bible was assembled as a collection. They are normally dated to the 4th century.

Even earlier, the notable papyrus P72 (which is often dated to the 3rd century) contains what appear to be page numbers at the top, which indicate that the books contained in it were at some point bound together into a book form. It's less impressive in the case of P72, because in that case Scripture was bound together with other books that are plainly not Scripture.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note something even more significant than the page numbers: the heading of the section of the papyrus at which 2 Peter begins reads: "Peter's Epistle 2" using the Greek letter Beta to represent the number two. That single character, Beta, has an important significance for the issue of the canon of Scripture. That single character demonstrates the fact that at least a mental and/or implicit canon of Scripture already existed in which there were (at least) two epistles of Peter.

That is page Kappa Gamma (23). On the facing page, Kappa Beta (22), we have the end of Peter's first epistle, which is similarly indicated at the foot of the epistle by "Peter's Epistle 1" using the Greek letter Alpha to represent the number one. Thus, we can see not only that the books were identified by the designations A and B, but they were even bound in that order.

We may take that kind of designation for granted, because we are used to Bibles today with their handy table of contents (canon). Nevertheless, that kind of designation demonstrates already in the earliest documents that we have, a recognition of the fact that there was more than one epistle of Peter, and that apparently as early as A.D. 200 there was already an established convention as to which epistle was A (1 Peter) and which was B (2 Peter), such that someone would use such an abbreviation in the heading of the book. P72 is interesting because, although it is no longer complete, it contained both epistles of Peter as well as the epistle of Jude, which further serves to demonstrate that the epistles did not simply circulate as individual letters in the early church.

Furthermore, P46 (dated to about 250 A.D.) contains a collection of Paul's epistles, while P45 (of similar date) contains a collection of the gospels and Acts. The only early physical copy of the New Testament is a single fragment (P52) that is from John's gospel, but which is too small to determine whether it was part of a larger codex.

In short, the physical documents we have speak to the fact of the recognition of the canon by the earliest Christians, and attempts by early Christians to bind the canonical books together into Bibles.

With that archaeological background we should not be surprised to hear Augustine testify:
Call this fancy, if it is not actually the case that men all over the world have been led, to believe in Christ by reading these books.
(NPNF1, Vol. IV, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, Book XVI, Section 20.)

Nor should our ears be shocked to hear Chrysostom telling his congregation:
Wherefore I exhort you both to obtain Bibles, and to retain together with the Bibles the sentiments they set forth, and to write them in your minds.
(NPNF1, Vol. XIV, Chrysostom's Homlies on the Gospel of John, Homily 53.)

Of course, we will gladly acknowledge that Bibles in the ancient world were not as cheap and easy to get as Bibles are today. Praise be to God for the printing press and the Internet! And surely in many places today, the population is literate to a greater degree than ever before. Praise be to God for this advance in education! But recall what the solution was in the days of Caesarius, bishop of Arles (470-543):
Moreover, since what a man procures in this life by reading or good works will be food of his soul forever, let no one try to excuse himself by saying he has not learned letters at all. If those who are illiterate love God in truth, they look for learned people who can read the sacred Scriptures to them.
(Fathers of the Church, Vol. 31, Sermon 8.1 of Caesarius of Arles)

And even before Christ, the Word of God was read to the people of God, even if there was not then a full scroll in every hand, Scriptures says that they read from the Scriptures:

Nehemiah 9:2-3
2And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. 3And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.

For this is God's command and the way to preserve the faith:

Deuteronomy 11:16-21
16Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; 17And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you. 18Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. 19And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 20And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: 21That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 19

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 19

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the nineteenth in the multi-part series.

Seventh Ecumenical Council (783) - Destroyed Patristic Writings Opposed to Icons

In mocking words, the council commanded that all writings opposed to icons be turned over to the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose job it was to prevent these writings from being read. This command was to be enforced by deposing clergy from office and excommunicating laymen and monks:

All boyish whimwhams and mad bacchanalia, the false writings that have been brought forth against the venerable icons, must be turned in to the Bishopric of Constantinople to be put away together with the rest of heretical books. If, on the other hand, anyone should be found hiding these, if he be a Bishop, a Presbyter, or a Deacon, let him be deposed from office; but if he be a layman or a monk, let him be excommunicated.

You will notice that, in theory, there was a sort of "heretical library" to be possessed by the Patriarch of Constantinople. In effect, however, the removal of iconoclastic books from circulation had the effect of destroying those books, especially since one would not expect the Patriarch to keep each copy of every book.

As almost a footnote, it is interesting to see that this prominent role was held by the Patriarch of Constantinople, not the Patriarch of Rome. There is, of course, a practical reason beyond the fact that the Bishop of Rome was not considered the head of the church in that day: the heart of the resistance to icons would be expected to come from the Eastern church, where just 30 years previously a similarly sized council had condemned icons as contrary to Scripture and Tradition.

Ultimately, though, this council's decree creates an easy historical explanation for the dearth of writings from the Early Church Fathers against images of Christ: they were rounded up and ultimately destroyed by those who followed the so-called Seventh Ecumenical Council. But for this council, any silence in the Early Church Fathers on this topic would have been harder to explain.


Monday, September 22, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 18

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 18

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the eighteenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17) - Promotion of Religious Wars in 16th Century

It is widely held in Catholicism today that John Paul II acknowledged the religious wars of the past were a mistake. What is an inconvenient truth for such folks is that these wars were, even to at least the 16th century, promoted by the Roman church. Those who count there as being 21 ecumenical councils consider the Fifth Lateran Council to be the 18th Ecumenical Council.

The council decreed:

We decree, with the approval of the sacred council, that the said campaign against the infidels is to be undertaken and carried through. Zeal for the faith prompts us to this. It has been so often proposed and promised by us and our predecessor Julius in the sessions referred to, when the business of the council was being explained. On several occasions it was communicated to, and discussed with, spokesmen at our court representing kings and princes. Pope Nicholas V, our predecessor of pious memory, summoned a general expedition against the infidels after the disastrous fall of Constantinople in order to crush their fury and to avenge the wounds of Christ. Callistus III and Pius II, of happy memory our predecessors as Roman pontiffs, urged on by zeal for the faith, followed in the same path with skill and energy. During a subsequent period of three years, we imitated them by means of an authorisation from ourselves and our said brothers for imposing and exacting a tithe on the revenues of churches, monasteries and other benefices throughout the world and for doing each and every other thing that is necessary and customary in a campaign of this kind. We continually pour forth holy, humble and earnest prayers to almighty God that the campaign may have a happy outcome. We order the same to be done by all Christ's faithful of either sex. We exhort Maximilian, the emperor-elect, and kings, princes and christian rulers, whose courage God bids us to rouse, beseeching them by the tender mercy of our God, Jesus Christ, and appealing to them by his fearful judgment to remember that they shall have to render an account of their defence and preservation -- even by giving their lives -- of the church itself, which has been redeemed by Christ's blood, and to rise up in strength and power for the defence of the christian faith, as is incumbent on them as a personal and necessary duty, with all mutual hatred being set aside and quarrels and conflicts among themselves being committed to everlasting oblivion. At this time of such great need, let them offer with eagerness their ready assistance in keeping with their resources. We urge with paternal affection and ask them that, at least during the campaign, out of reverence for almighty God and for the apostolic see, they assure the unbroken observance of the peace into which they have entered, so that such an important good, which we hope and desire will be obtained with the help of the Lord's right hand, may not be impeded by some interruption from discord and dissension.

What is interesting, however, is that it does not appear that any new crusade followed on this council's proclamation. God had other ideas for Europe. Martin Luther in October of 1517 presented 95 theses, which are often identified as the starting point of the Protestant Reformation.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Religious Affections

Nahomi at Courage to Tremble has an interesting series on religious affections (link to example). I was particularly drawn to the example because it quotes from my favorite author, Turretin - but there are many jewels to be found there.


Just Criminal Laws

How can we determine whether a penalty is just, excessively lax, or excessively severe? Considered Biblically, such a question falls into the theological category of "theonomy" - a term that sets off all sorts of red flags in folks' minds these days. As one who adheres to Sola Scriptura as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, I can think of two options to answer the question:

1) Special Revelation (which at the present time is limited to the Bible, though that was not always the case); and

2) General Revelation.

The light provided by special revelation on this issue is often quite clear: the just punishment for murder is death, for example (Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.).FN! Other times, the light is less clear - is the punishment for theft in the Mosaic economy the only just punishment or simply one just punishment out of several or perhaps the just punishment in that particular culture?

The light provided by general revelation is even less clear. Men's consciences are generally bothered by the idea of putting a simple thief (one who steals to feed his family) to death for his crime, and men are generally pricked in their conscience that it would not be proper to permit a rapist to escape with a fine amounting to less than the price of a postage stamp.

Nevertheless, we interpret the less clear by the more clear.

This is all old news, at least to me. Recently, however, I came across a most peculiar argument, and one that I thought I should address (argument by Ron Henzel found here):
[You] seem to be implying that any punishment for rape other than that prescribed by Moses would be arbitrary, and that for a Christian to support it would be inconsistent. I assume you would apply this reasoning to other criminal penalties as well.

But when Paul wrote, “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God” (Rom. 13:2), he was referring primarily to the Roman government, which had a different set of punishments than those prescribed by Moses. Even so, he referred to their authority as “the ordinance of God.”
I found this line of argument most surprising.

Certainly, the laws of the Romans were to be honored by the people of the Roman empire. That is what Paul meant. But to convert such honor into an endorsement of the justice of the laws of the Roman empire would seem bizarre to me. The only rational justification would seem to be either that there is no objective standard of justice or that God providentially provides that every human government always is just. But Scripture - at least in the case of murder - seems to insist that there is an objective standard of justice. Furthermore, Paul himself notes that at least the Corinthian government was unjust (1 Corinthians 6:1) and Jesus in Luke 18 makes reference to an unjust judge.

So it would seem that the position that Mr. Henzel has presented lacks foundation.

In fact, if I had to guess at what was going on, I'd say that Mr. Henzel was overreacting to the label "theonomy," without considering (and accounting for) the undeniable facts that:

a) Justice is objective;
b) the Mosiac law was just both in identifying crimes as such and specifically in punishing them (Heb 2:2);
c) there is no other clear standard of justice; and
d) although Christians are to honor the king, that does not mean calling the unjust just, for we should be like the Proverbs 8:7 person: "For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips."

Zechariah the prophet declared the following, which I think applies not only to Jerusalem of his day, but also to Christian democracies (and democratic republics):

Zechariah 8:15-17
15So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not. 16These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: 17And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.


FN1 It is important to note that capital punishment for murder preceded the Mosaic economy, and consequently cannot reasonably be thought to be a law that was intended to be limited to the Jewish nation.

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 17

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 17

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the seventeenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Second Vatican Council (1962-65) - Freedom of Religion Promoted

You will recall that in a previous section, we noted that the "ecumenical" council Lateran IV canonized persecution of the Jews, even to the point of coercing them to prevent their reversion to Judaism if they once freely converted to Christianity. Vatican II contrarily declared:

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

4. The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious communities are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

15. The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public. Indeed, religious freedom has already been declared to be a civil right in most constitutions, and it is solemnly recognized in international documents.(38) The further fact is that forms of government still exist under which, even though freedom of religious worship receives constitutional recognition, the powers of government are engaged in the effort to deter citizens from the profession of religion and to make life very difficult and dangerous for religious communities.

This council greets with joy the first of these two facts as among the signs of the times. With sorrow, however, it denounces the other fact, as only to be deplored. The council exhorts Catholics, and it directs a plea to all men, most carefully to consider how greatly necessary religious freedom is, especially in the present condition of the human family. All nations are coming into even closer unity. Men of different cultures and religions are being brought together in closer relationships. There is a growing consciousness of the personal responsibility that every man has. All this is evident. Consequently, in order that relationships of peace and harmony be established and maintained within the whole of mankind, it is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an effective constitutional guarantee and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society.

Frankly, it is hard to imagine a more clear example of a 180 degree change in position from 1215 to 1965 than on the issue of religious freedom. Who knows what a Roman bishop 750 years hence will do with Vatican II? It is an inconvenient truth that the canons and decrees of councils (even those designated "ecumenical") cannot necessarily be counted on to represent the dogma of Rome, if she chooses to say something different at a later time.


An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 16

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 16

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the sixteenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) - Jews Officially Persecuted

I must immediately qualify this "persecution" claim, but noting that this is measuring the 4th Lateran Council by the standard of modern-day sensitivities, not by an objective standard.

Lateran IV forbade public offices to Jews, authorized "coercive action" to prevent reversion of "converted" Jews, required Jews and Muslims to wear distinctive clothing, required the Jews to tithe (and the like) on properties they acquired from Christians, and prohibited Jews and Muslims from public places during "Holy Week." (Canons 67-70)

I think by modern standards, most (if not all) of those things would constitute persecution. This is an inconvenient truth for those who like to imagine that the Catholicism they practice today is the same as the "Catholic faith" practiced by the fathers of the Fourth Lateran Council, and yet who cannot stomach religious discrimination and persecution.