Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sola Scriptura Debate Update

The Sola Scriptura debate I am having with Matthew Bellisario, editor of Catholic Champion, has continued to the penultimate round of submissions, with my provision of Answers to his Cross-Examination questions (link to debate). The final round of submissions, due December 1, 2008, are our conclusion essays. Presumably, by now, the weary readers have had enough. Nevertheless, since it is only one more essay each, it looks like we'll be able to complete this debate on schedule.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Response to Anonymous Diatribe against Theonomy

Some anonymous person wrote the following diatribe. It's worth reviewing it, since the spirit behind the diatribe walks to and fro and up and down in the Earth, ensuring that this won't be the last time we hear these sorts of things:
theonomists believe in following the OLD LAW rather than the NEW TESTAMENT, and in murdering blasphemers, heretics, idolators [sic]. And yes, its murder, because the New Testament has removed any and all religious authority for this type of action. "Let him that is without sin cast the first stone" condemns all theonomists to hell. Now, TF says he wouldn't kill someone for wearing wool and linen together.....but that's only because the American government won't let him, not because he doesn't want to. Admit it, TF, just like all your buddy theonomists you wish that Calvinists were in control of the government so they could flay Hindus alive, bore the tongues of Arminians through with hot irons, crucify Roman Catholics, and burn people at the stake for "breaking the sabbath" or wearing wool and linen together. Just admit it. Any theonomist is an extreme theonomist, because the New Testament nowhere tells Christians to take control of the government and punish people for not being Christian. Calvinists just love to persecute, however, and convert by threat of death or injury, because they are Judaizing scum on the worst sort.
First of all, it should be clear that I don't endorse anything that this anonymous person (who sounds more or less like Beowulf2k8) has to say. We'll call this poster just "the Accuser" for short. Let's pick apart his rant, piece by piece, expose it to the light of truth, and watch it dematerialize.

Accuser's Accusation: "theonomists believe in following the OLD LAW rather than the NEW TESTAMENT, and in murdering blasphemers, heretics, idolators [sic]."

a) One God gave both testaments. There's not a disunity between them. They are two edges of the same sword of the spirit.
b) Blasphemers are worthy of death, according to the law of God. A civil government that executes them (or murderers, or anyone else worthy of death) is not "murdering" them. If the Accuser has a problem with that, he needs to take it up with God, under whose law blasphemers were put to death.
c) Heretics and idolaters, as such, were not subject to capital punishment under the law of Israel. So, one would not expect theonomists to support capital punishment of such folks. A civil government that kills people simply for being heretics and/or idolaters would not seem to have any Biblical justification for their judgment.

Accuser: "And yes, its murder, because the New Testament has removed any and all religious authority for this type of action."

Answer: The Accuser is a bit vague in his accusation here. The question of whether something is "murder" or proper execution is a moral question. Questions of morality are religious questions - or at least have a significant religious aspect. If it was just under the Old Testament law (and it was) for someone to be stoned to death, one wonders whether the accuser imagines that justice itself changed.

Accuser: "'Let him that is without sin cast the first stone' condemns all theonomists to hell."

Even if we moderate the Accuser's comment to say that the phrase "contradicts the theonomists":
a) This is not a verse to which a "two kingdoms" kind of person could appeal for that kind of concept, because the punishment of death here was not for a violation of the first table of the law (crimes against God) but the second table of the law (crimes against man).
b) This is not a verse to which those fond of modern textual criticism could appeal for that kind of concept, because most modern textual critics deny the originality of this passage, since it does not appear in the earliest manuscripts that we have today.
c) This is not a verse to which any person who believes that crimes should be punished (but only that capital punishment is out) can appeal to for that kind of concept, because Jesus does not fine the woman, or sentence her to life in prison, but simply lets her go free.
d) This is not a verse to which any person that values consistency of Scripture could appeal to for that kind of concept, because Paul clearly states:
Romans 13:3-4
3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
e) So who could appeal to this kind of verse for that concept? Someone who has only a cursory understanding of the Scriptures and/or someone who wishes to justify his conclusion ex post facto. There are a thousand better ways to understand the comment, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," than to view it as a condemnation of capital punishment.

Accuser: "Now, TF says he wouldn't kill someone for wearing wool and linen together.....but that's only because the American government won't let him, not because he doesn't want to."

a) Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11 both proscribe (forbid) garments made from a mixture of wool and linen. There is not, however, any sentence of death proclaimed on people who violate this law. In fact, the law of Moses doesn't indicate any punishment for violation of this law.
b) The prohibition on garments of mixed fibres was a ceremonial law pointing to separation and physical purity. It was fulfilled in Christ, who was free from impurities.
c) I am in favor of the death penalty, for example, for rape of a married woman, although "the American government won't let" the state governments execute this just punishment for that particular form of the general category of adultery. I do not suggest that Christians should take the law into their own hand in this matter, or the matter of punishment for murder. In short, my position with respect to what is just is framed by the Word of God, not the opinion of the American (or any other) government. If I thought people should be sentenced to death for wearing garments of diverse sorts, I'd just say so.

Accuser: "Admit it, TF, just like all your buddy theonomists you wish that Calvinists were in control of the government so they could flay Hindus alive, bore the tongues of Arminians through with hot irons, crucify Roman Catholics, and burn people at the stake for "breaking the sabbath" or wearing wool and linen together. Just admit it."

Answer: See above. I don't have any problem speaking clearly. I have elsewhere identified what the Old Testament laws were that carried the penalty of death. Simply being a Hindu (pagan) or Romanist (heretic) would not qualify. Wearing mixed garments clearly wouldn't qualify. Breaking the sabbath would qualify as a capital crime. Torture (such as burning holes in people's tongues - even those of "Arminians" who Arminius would not recognize as his followers) is not part of the Mosaic administration of justice.

Accuser: "Any theonomist is an extreme theonomist, because the New Testament nowhere tells Christians to take control of the government and punish people for not being Christian."

a) Christians are not commanded to try to "take control of the government."
b) I certainly don't, and I think most theonomists would agree, think that people should be punished "for not being Christian."

Accuser: "Calvinists just love to persecute, however, and convert by threat of death or injury, because they are Judaizing scum on the worst sort."

a) Calvinists, in general and especially these days, are not necessarily theonomists. Furthermore, even among Christian theonomists, I've never seen a love of persecution.
b) Calvinists deny the possibility of conversion through threat of death or injury. Unlike Arminians, who imagine that conversion is simply a decision of man, Calvinists believe that it is grace (not the sword) that converts.
d) Conversely, one could deny TULIP and be an Arminian or Amyraldian theonomist. I cannot think of any off hand. There are, however, Federal Visionists (I would not consider them to be Calvinists, because of at least a formal rejection of the "P" in TULIP) who also appear to be theonomists of some kind.


The Old Testament Law - Tripartite Analysis

To provide some background for discussion of the law of God, it is important to understand the categories involved:


The law of God in the Old Testament is of three kinds:

1. Moral

Moral law, because it reflects the character of God, is enduring and immutable. It never was and it never will be permissible to worship any god but God, it never was and never will be permissible to worship God other ways than He ordains, it never was and never will be permissible to dishonor God's name, it never was and never will be permissible to appropriate all seven days of the week for our work, it never was and never will be permissible to dishonor the authorities over us, to kill, to steal, to lie, to covet, and so forth. In short, it is always the case (for all history) that we must love the Lord our God wholeheartedly and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

2. Ceremonial

Under the Adamaic, Noahic, Abramic, Mosaic, and Solomonic administrations of the covenant of grace, the worship of God was manifested in certain outward ceremonies that were designed to point to Christ. Eminent among these ceremonies were the rite of animal sacrifice, the practice of tabernacle and later temple worship, and in some cases a specialized priesthood. These things all have been fulfilled in Christ, the one true and perfect sacrifice. He is our high priest and his sacrificial work is finished. Consequently there is no more sacrifice and no more priestly class among us. There were other associated ceremonies as well, such as dietary laws and laws related to physical cleanliness as a picture of spiritual cleanliness. All these ceremonial laws, being fulfilled in Christ, have been done away.

3. Civil / Judicial / Juridical

This third category of laws were the laws specific to the Mosaic administration of the nation of Israel. They are the laws by which the country was run. They are not binding on all humanity. Nevertheless, they are important as to their "general equity," by which I mean that they show to us a just system of government. There are moral aspects of the civil law of Israel, and these moral aspects remain significant. There were circumstantial aspects, and these aspects necessarily vary under different circumstances. Finally, there were ceremonial aspects, and these aspects have been fulfilled or supplanted in the New Testament.

Errors Distinguished

There are four major (and numerous minor) errors that arise from holding to expired portions of the law (Judaizers and "Extreme" Theonomists) or to disposing of still-relevant portions of the law ("Extreme" Two-Kingdomists and "Extreme" Dispensationalists / Antinomians).

1. Judaiziers

Judaizers seek to impose part (or perhaps all) of the ceremonial law on Christians. Thus, for example, the Judaizers argue that it is necessary for Christians to be circumcised.

2. "Extreme" Theonomists

The term "theonomist" has a wide range of meanings. In some cases, folks who call themselves "theonomists" will insist that virtually all and every detail of the Mosaic law with respect to the Nation of Israel must be followed. The problem with this approach is that it overlooks the fact that the Mosaic law was tailored to two particular forms of government and accompanied a nation-state that has ceased to be.

3. "Extreme" Two-Kingdomists

I am using the term "extreme" here because I'm not sure all "two-kingdom" folks would say this description applies to them. In some cases, it appears that "two-kingdoms" folk treat the civil law of Israel as though it were entirely ceremonial. Thus, these folks say that the civil law is essentially done-away-with and consequently for instruction on how governments should be just, we must appeal exclusively to "natural law," the light provided by God in general revelation.

4. "Extreme" Dispensationalists / Anti-Nominians

"Extreme" Dispensationalists and also Anti-Nominians take the view that all the laws of the Old Testament are done away with, including the moral law. This error arises from a failure to understand the nature of the moral law, and the relation of God to the law of God. God does not change, and consequently the definition of morality does not change.


The issue of God's law is not a simple one to be handled carelessly or callously. We must be careful to observe to do all that God has commanded us, and yet we need to be careful not to bind men's consciences beyond what the Word of God states. Excess in the first regard leads to legalism, excess in the second regard leads to antinomianism. There is one way to see the path to stay on it, without going either to the left or to the right: that one way is by careful attention to the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.


What If Natural Law Teaches Theonomy?

Let's grant, for the sake of the argument, some of the apparent theses of the "Two Kingdoms" folks, and assent to the idea of "natural law" as being the normative principle for civil governments. What if, just as the light of nature points us to find the revelation from God and read it in things spiritual, so also the light of nature points us to find the revelation from God and read it in the moral aspects of civil law?

Is it possible that natural law leads to theonomy?


P.S. I want to be very clear: I hold to the tri-partite division of Old Testament law: the moral law is constant, the civil law is abrogated but relevant as to its general equity, and the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Christ. This is the "Confessional" position and different from the novel position espoused, it seems, among "two kingdoms" folks that the civil law was essentially ceremonial and consequently fulfilled in Christ.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Part of the Problem of the Label "Theonomy"

For example, I tend to call myself a "theonomist," and yet I reject (for the reasons mentioned in the article) the "theonomy" described in this excellent article (link) by Pastor Sherman Isbell.

UPDATE: (New Link)


The Real Turretin on: The Righteousness of Christ

Richard Smith, at The Spurgeon Blog has provided an interesting post in which he considers what the real Turretin had to say about the Righteousness of Christ (link). Turretin's perspective here is quite informative as he Biblically contrasts Christ and our faith in Christ.


Wes White on the Sabbath

Pastor Wes White has, as usual, provided an excellent well-thought-out blog article, this time on the Sabbath (link). It helps to clear up a number of misconceptions regarding the Sabbath.


R. Scott Clark on Theonomy and the Reformed Confessions

R. Scott Clark has a piece that, from its absurd opening, I at first thought was intended as a humorous article (link).

RSC writes, "One of the more interesting ways in which theonomy is contra confessional is its Barthian-like rejection of the classic Reformed doctrine of natural law and implicitly it’s skepticism regarding natural revelation."

I. The Evidence
Let's explore this claim, using the WCF as approved by the PCA. Nature as a revelatory source is mentioned exactly five times in the WCF.

1) I:1
1. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manner, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.

2) I:6
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

3) XX:4
And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account.

4) XXI:1
The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

5) XXI:7
As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

II. The Analysis
1) Of the five instances, all are fully acceptable to "theonomists," at least in the broad sense of the term "theonomist" (which itself is a problem with RSC's post).
2) Of the five instances, three (numbers (1), (4), and (5)) are fully supportive of the theonomist position that (where it speaks) Scripture is more clear than nature.
3) Of the remaining two instances:
i) The first (number (2)) assigns to the "light of nature" a role in determining the circumstances of worship. If this contradicts theonomy, then it also (and even more clearly - since the section is on the law of worship, not of nations and societies) contradicts the Regulative Principle of Worship. But, however, such a conclusion is absurd. Therefore, the premise that this contradicts theonomy is false. In fact, a better interpretation is to suggest that "light of nature" in this section means that we use "common sense" to govern the circumstances of worship.
ii) The second (number (3)) is negative: it prohibits people from using the pretense of Christian liberty to publish opinions that are contrary to the light of nature. If the meaning of the "light of nature" is roughly the same here as in the other sections, i.e. essentially "common sense," then there is nothing unacceptable to the theonomist here either. Furthermore, this does not relate specifically to the law of nations (to civil law), but to the moral law.


A second claim by RSC: "For the divines, as for Calvin, civil government is one thing, salvation is another. Theonomists confuse these two things far too often." This sounds absurd. RSC unfortunately fails to provide any examples to substantiate his over-the-top claim.


A third claim by RSC: "Unlike our theonomists, the divines believed that there is a natural law, that it can be and is known, that it contains specific precepts that are revealed with sufficiently clarity to be applied, even by the unregenerate, to specific instances." If, for the sake of the argument, we grant this assertion, that kind of claim is not embodied in the confessions. Instead, quite the opposite. The Confession clearly contrasts the general (it even uses the term "in general" in instance 5 above), vague light of nature with the clear light of Scripture.

Given that the confession appears to contradict RSC's claim that "natural law ... contains specific precepts that are revealed with sufficient clarity to be applied ... to specific instances," and given that the light of nature itself reveals that nature's light provides general principles rather than specific precepts, we can properly reject this RSC's claim.

Furthermore, even if it were not the case that the confession outright contradicts RSC's claim and even if the light of nature did not undermine RSC's "specific precept" assertion, still RSC's indictment would not address theonomy. Why? Because theonomy simply maintains the Reformation hermeneutic that the less clear should be interpreted by the more clear. Scripture is more clear than nature, as it itself teaches and the confession (following Scripture) clearly indicates.

Therefore, I would respectfully call on RSC to revise his posting against "theonomists," or perhaps come up with a new title for those who
a) confuse civil government and salvation (unlike any "theonomists" I know);
b) refuse to accord the light of nature a revelatory role (unlike any "theonomists" I know); or
c) argue that the light of nature is a non-existent thing (unlike any "theonomists" I know).

Or perhaps RSC meant his post as a joke, in which case the pie is on my face for getting at first and then falling for his very out of season April Fools' Joke.


UPDATE: From his comment box, RSC adds this sentiment: "I don’t write these posts to convince the invincible theonomists but to provide help to those who know that theonomy is wrong but who are unaware of the alternative offered by an adaptation of the historic Reformed theory of natural law." That's an interesting thought, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Electoral Day at the Beach

Part I: The Set Up

Imagine the voting populace as people out sunning themselves (or swimming, watching whales, searching for buried treasure, building sand castles, etc.) at a beach. Along the beach there runs a long boardwalk. On the boardwalk are two ice cream vendors, one "Republican" and one "Democrat." Both have the same ice cream for sale (exercise of political power), but the selling point of the two vendors is convenience.

Initially, the vendors try to position themselves in the way that best suits the average beachgoer. The Republican cart is about one third of the way from the right end of the beach and the Democrate cart is about one third of the way from the left hand side of the beach.

This works fine for a while, as both of the vendors get about the same number of customers, and everyone is happy to have a convenient source of ice cream.

One day, however, the Republican vendor realized something: if he moves a little to the left, he'll be more convenient for some of the folks in the "middle third" of the beach, who would otherwise go to the "Democrat" cart. The "Democrat" vendor realizes the opposite thing (he needs to move to the right) after sales start to drop off. Eventually, we wind up with two carts essentially in the very middle of the boardwalk. In reality, there are some aspects of tradition, inertia, marketing, and so forth that keep each of the two vendors from being right in the very middle.

Part II: The Movement

There is no reason that Republican vendor is going to move much to the right. If he does, the Democrat will follow, and now more than half the beach will find the Democrat more convenient. The same principle holds true for the Democrat - if he moves to the left, the Republican will follow and more than half the beach will find the Republican more convenient.

Frankly, the people at the middle of the beach are pleased as can be about the arrangement. They have easy access to the ice cream, regardless of which vendor is slightly closer to them. On the other hand, those at the ends of the beach (the "extremists" we will call them) are pretty unhappy about the "compromised" position of the vendors. It's surely not convenient for the far left to go to the Republican cart, but it is only slightly more convenient for the far left to go to the Democrat cart.

Thus, both ends of the spectrum would like to see either a different system (a three-vendor system) or at least a change in the position of the vendors carts. The former approach turns out to be untenable in practice on this particular boardwalk. Although it sounds good on paper, for some reason it just doesn't work in practice.

With respect to the latter approach: there are two main ways the extremists can change things:

1) By attracting more beachgoers to their cause. This, in effect, rebalances the beach. It gives the two vendors a reason to move slightly in their direction.

2) By leaving the beach. If they leave the beach, the vendors will move slightly away from the direction that they were.

Choosing not to vote in a given election is leaving the beach. The result when "Conservatives" refuse to vote for the more "right" candidate is that the vendors both move to the left. Likewise the result when "Liberals" refuse to vote for the more "left" candidate is that the vendors both move to the right.

Just a little ice cream for thought.


Clarifying Atonement Analogy

I had written:
To go back to the ransom analogy, if the cost to ransom any and all captives is $1 Million, then a payment of $1 Million is sufficient for all, even if it is not intended or used to free all the captives.
As I feared, this appears to have led to some misconceptions by at least one of my readers. Accordingly, I'd like to take the opportunity to clarify.

Although the "ransom" metaphor is a valid and Scriptural one, it is not the only metaphor and not a complete picture. It breaks down when we stretch it beyond the bounds that Scripture uses it. There are other ways of considering the matter, such as that of a penal substitute. That is to say, Christ - in his sacrifice - was a substitute for the penalty our sins deserved. Another way to consider the matter is as a covenantal transaction between the Father and the Son.

Putting those thoughts on pause for a minute, let's consider what my reader had to say:
My question is this: Do you believe that Christ suffered a certain "fixed" amount of wrath "for sin in general" on the cross... thereby securing life for any number of elect (or put another way... is the amount of suffering Christ endured in his death-- perhaps "the unit called death that was his"-- would have been the same regardless of the number of elect)?
There are two slightly different concepts here, and it is important to distinguish.

a) Christ's suffering and death was for the sins of his people. Contrary to certain universal redemptionists, we reject the idea that Christ died for "sin in general."

b) On the other hand, Christ's suffering and death has merit (which we usually refer to as intrinsic merit). The merit of his suffering and death is representable by an equation in which there is, on the one hand, the penalty received (suffering and death) and a multiplication factor (if you will) of the dignity of the victim.

This is related to the power to expiate sin. Thus, for example, although the animal sacrifices were of the proper suffering and death, even the pure and spotless lambs that were offered were unable to take away sin, because the victim was of very low dignity (not being in the image of God).

From a second perspective, for a mere man to take away sin by suffering and death, he must suffer eternally. Eternal suffering "balances the equation" as it were, although of course no man can expiate his sin in any finite period of time. This principle is the reason that the concept of purgatory is so nonsensical. No finite suffering in the afterlife can take away sin.

From a third perspective, Christ suffered and died. The dignity of his person, being both God and man in two distinct natures and one person, is so much greater than the dignity of a mere man that the man to beast comparison is inadequate to convey the difference. Though we are made in the image of God (unlike the beasts), He was very God of very God. Thus, his suffering and death were of infinite intrinsic worth.

Accordingly, there is a discontinuous set of paths:
a) Beasts' suffering and death => No eternal benefit, because of the lack of dignity of the beast (They merely serve to illustrate for us our need of sacrifice to satisfy justice)
b) Mere human's suffering and death => Simply the just punishment for his sins, even when suffering is extended to eternity, because of the finite dignity of the man (This is what every man will receive who has even the least sin in God's sight on the judgment day)
c) Christ's suffering and death => Infinite eternal benefit, even though Christ's suffering was finite, because of his infinite dignity (This is our Redeemer).

My reader continued:
... OR... do you believe that Christ suffered the equivalent wrath of an eternity of hell for each individual who was given to him to die for? (put another way, if the number of the elect had been one more than it actually is, would Christ have suffered "that much more" on the cross to cover that additional individual's sin debt to the father?
This sounds like a "this much for that many" kind of pure commercial view of the atonement. We reject that idea. The merit of Christ's suffering and death was infinite, not finite. It would have been necessary if Christ had wanted to save only one sinful man, and it would have been sufficient if Christ had wanted to save every sinful human.

My reader continued:
It seems to me that Justice would dictate that Christ suffered in equivalency to the suffering of hell, times the number of elect individuals. (And this seems fitting with terms like "ransom" and other price motifs in scripture). However, it appears to me (per your ransom analogy) that the amount of Christ's suffering is not correlated to the number of the elect.
That is an understandable position. Nevertheless, it is not the position we hold, because the price motif is qualified by the stronger punishment motif. The price is a valid analogy but the "this much for that many" perspective (while very helpful from a Calvinistic point of view) doesn't seem to have strong support in the Old Testament typology. For example, the sacrifice for the day of atonement was the same regardless of the size of Israel's population.

While it may be difficult dogmatically to rule out this purely commercial view of the atonement, there is a reason it is not the view of the major Reformed writers. It is certainly a tempting position, but it seems better to view the atonement in terms of being an acceptable sacrifice to God. A payment for sins, yes - but not a monetary or quantized payment.

My reader continued:
An analogy that would fit the "justice equivalency" view might be that of a Lamborghini/etc sports car. The engine in the car is sufficient to propel the car to 200 MPH... however, the driver of the car may elect to use that massive engine to propel the car only 15 MPH, by applying less than full pressure to the accelerator pedal. The engine in this case is sufficient to drive 200 MPH, but efficient to drive only 15 MPH (or whatever speed happens to be chosen by the driver). Your "million dollar" analogy (as written) would seem to be translated to the car as follows: The car engine must put out maximum power at all times (the pedal is floored, regardless of speed). Only some of that power is transferred to the wheels, and this is how the car is moved at speeds less than 200 MPH.
One difference between the analogy and the thing signified here, though, is that a sports car engine is not needed to make the car go 15 mph. The suffering and death of the God-Man is necessary, even to save a single man. In short, I'm not sure its a very fitting analogy.

My reader continued:
Which view do you hold? If you do not hold the "justice equivalency" (for lack of a better term) view... why not? If the amount of suffering in Christ's death is a unit, how does this differ from the LFW "bank account theory" (which says that Christ basically put sufficient funds to ransom everybody into a heavenly account, and all that is done at belief is that some of the funds are withdrawn and applied to the person... and at the end of the day, any unused funds are wasted).
The Arminian view of essentially a divine bank account of funds to be drawn down, is a "this much for that many" view of the atonement with the additional problem that the "that many" is not the "that many" described in Scriptures.

Some Arminians (perhaps many), however, would reject the "bank account" metaphor in favor of some other metaphor. In any event, they tend to view the sufficiency of Christ's death is being "sufficient to place everyone into the balance of their own free will," which is an entirely different type of sufficiency than the type of sufficiency we are speaking about.


The Real Turretin on: The Use of Faith in Justification

Richard Smith, at The Spurgeon Blog has provided an interesting post in which he considers what the real Turretin had to say about the use of faith in justification (link). Specifically Turretin provides “proof that the act of believing is not our righteousness.”


More Response to Godismyjudge

Godismyjudge (GIMJ) has responded again (link). My reply, for the few still interested, follows.


I previously wrote: That we are not the reason God chooses us has nothing to do with determinism.

GIMJ responded: "I think most folks would disagree with this statement, but I will let them decide that and won’t argue this point further."

I answer: Since GIMJ has not provided a link, they wouldn't seem to have any reason to disagree with the statement, unless (as I suppose) they have a vague sense of what determinism is (the very objection I have to GIMJ slinging that term about).


I had written: As I already said, "actual sufficiency" has to do with intrinsic value. To build on the Scriptural analogy of redemption with a price, the price of Christ's death was enough to save an infinite number of people.

GIMJ responded:
This explanation wouldn’t be an issue if Calvinists only said the value of Christ’s death was sufficient for all. But they say Christ’s death was sufficient for all [meaning the value of Christ’s death was sufficient for all], while in the background, other aspects of Christ’s death move against Christ’s death being sufficient for all. Granted, these other aspects don’t “block” the value of Christ’s death from saving, but perhaps they make use of the value of Christ’s death in such a way that the reprobate remain unsavable. If the reprobate are unsavable, clearly Christ’s death was insufficient for them. Something more than the value of Christ’s death is required. This article suggest that the “something more” is intention, and that intention is implied in the phrase sufficient for all. (link) But whatever the “something else” is, if something more is required from X for Y, X is insufficient for Y. This is why I suspect you are speaking in a divided sense.

To my overall point of checking philosophy against scripture, are there any cases in scripture where Christ’s death is spoken of, meaning that the intrinsic value of the redemption price was enough to save everyone? I ask, because I don’t see Calvinists explaining passages like 1 John2:2 as “the value of Christ’s death was sufficient for all. Rather, I see them explain all texts about Christ’s death as pertaining to the elect alone.
a) GIMJ's argument glosses over the difference between sufficiency and savability. The price is sufficient to save, but is not used to that end. To go back to the ransom analogy, if the cost to ransom any and all captives is $1 Million, then a payment of $1 Million is sufficient for all, even if it is not intended or used to free all the captives.
b) GIMJ's criticism belies one of the problems we have with Arminian soteriology. GIMJ writes, "If the reprobate are unsavable, clearly Christ’s death was insufficient for them. Something more than the value of Christ’s death is required." Arminianism seems to be focused on making man merely "savable." But even this is only from man's perspective. In Arminianism, the death of Christ makes man "savable" from man's perspective, but not from God's perspective. From God's perspective, to borrow GIMJ's phrase, "Something more than the value of Christ's death is required." In point of fact, however, Christ's death makes men savable from Christ's perspective. If he offers his sacrifice to God on their behalf, they will be saved. Thus, his death (without more) makes men savable.
c) Intention is not something "added" to Christ's death to make it sufficient - it is not even, itself, the thing that makes the death of Christ efficient. It is the "joy that was set before him," as Scripture teaches. The act of offering is what makes the sacrifice efficient, and the Holy Spirit actually executes the effect in the life of the elect.


I had written: One of the objections in my post is that the term "determinism" was used in GIMJ's post in such a broad umbrella way that basically only the open theists are outside it (n.b. this is true only when considered as to effects, as proposed in GIMJ's post) and yet the term is popularly misunderstood to refer quite narrowly to mechanical/physical determinism and/or fatalism (neither of which corresponds to Calvinism). In other words, the word "determinism" can both be too encompassing (if we measure determinism by the places where Calvinism and Molinism overlap) and too limiting (since Calvinism explicitly rejects physicalism and fatalism).

GIMJ responded:
By saying only open theists fall outside of determinism, you are dismissing the entire Foreknowledge/LFW issue without engaging it. Are you looking for me to argue why foreknowledge doesn’t entail determinism? Isn’t that asking me to prove a negative? I stand ready to defend the citadel. I will not be drawn out into the field for a fight. If you want what’s in the keep, come and get it. I will be happy to kick down your ladders and pour boiling oil on you. But don’t stand in the valley and declare victory.
a) GIMJ's post was the ladder attempting to storm the citadel of Calvinism. If GIMJ had presented a meaningful definition of "determinism" in his original post, to avoid confusion, this particular dishwater wouldn't have been dumped on him from above. But the problem with trying to smear Calvinism using broad characterizations is that you leave yourself open for a nice shower of this sort.
b) I'm not particularly looking for GIMJ to argue why knowledge of the future doesn't involve "determinism." I'm indicating that his characterizations of what constitutes "determinism" are so broad as to rope in even views that purport to include LFW but also embrace divine omniscience with respect to the future.
c) GIMJ could try to duck this dishwater by characterizing "determinism" differently than he did in his opening post. He seemed to be trying to do that in the last post, but when he does that, most of the objections go away.
d) And that is the point, after all. If a fair portrayal of Calvinism had been provided in the original post, the present series of objections wouldn't be here. There would be no need for a shower of dishwater, if clods of dirt hadn't been lobbed at the castle wall.


I had written: Molinism is normally represented as God deciding to instantiate a particular future from among possible futures. This is one form of predetermination of the future.

GIMJ wrote: "Again, by saying the Molinist explanation of the decrees is a form of predeterminism, you are dismissing Molinism without engaging it."

It's easy simply to answer that this argument itself (like the previous one and the first one) simply dismiss the objections without responding to them. GIMJ hasn't bothered either to retract the original, objectionable post or to set forth distinctions related to Molinism that prevent it from being tarred by the same label GIMJ applies to Calvinism. On the contrary, using the same sweeping strokes, I've pointed out how GIMJ's own position, using GIMJ's lodestone, is determinism.


I had written: Actual ability unless/until used is hypothecated on something. Consequently, there is no meaningful line between "actual" and "hypothetical" ability as to unused ability.

GIMJ responded: "I disagree. Ability (whether it will be used or not) does not require a hypothesis. Projecting the results might. If he chooses A, B will follow. But the actual ability does not."

Despite GIMJ's disagreement, he's mistaken. One can see that he's mistaken from the fact that he conflates "unless/until used" with "whether it will be used or not." The two concepts are not convertable, though they are related. Ability unless/until used exists in hypothecation. Instantiation or prohibition removes that hypothecation.


GIMJ continued: "I had asked Turretinfan a question (well 2 questions) that he didn’t answer, so I will ask again: do you consider yourself a determinist and if so, what type of determinist are you?"

I answer: I think GIMJ needs to read my response more carefully. I indicated that under GIMJ's proffered definition of "determinism" (from the Stanford philosophy web site) Calvinism was obviously not determinism. Since GIMJ knows I am a Calvinist, one might expect him to make the mental connection that was there implicitly.

Furthermore, I have repeatedly noted that I find the label "determinism" misleading, because of the fact that people construe it approximately in the way that the Stanford philosophy web site roughly defines it. It's not a helpful or useful title, except for smearing.


GIMJ continued: "I’ll add a third. BB Warfield explains that the difference between fate and Calvinism is primarily that fate is mechanical and Calvinism is personal (link). Are you are with Warfield?"

I answer that from the same short and popular piece, Warfield stated in conclusion, "all the language of men cannot tell the immensity of the difference [between Fate and Predestination]." I would certainly agree that all the language of Warfield in that article did not tell the immensity of the difference, and that those who like to smear Calvinism tend to like to act as though the difference were minor rather than immense. I'm not with Warfield on everything, everywhere, but his piece to which GIMJ linked does help to clear up some of the misconceptions, even if providing hooks for folks to try to create new misconceptions.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Separation of Religion and Politics

Zenit news reports (and Global Catholic News repeats) that Benedict XVI has asserted, “the distinction between religion and politics is a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions.”

In context, Benedict stated:

The [Roman] Catholic Church is eager to share the richness of the Gospel’s social message, for it enlivens hearts with a hope for the fulfillment of justice and a love that makes all men and women truly brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. She carries out this mission fully aware of the respective autonomy and competence of Church and State. Indeed, we may say that the distinction between religion and politics is a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions.
(insertion of "Roman" and emphasis are my own) This is an interesting claim coming from a man who is both the head of a church and the head of state of small nation. In fact, as the Vatican's own web site announces:

Even though Vatican City has no direct access to the sea, by virtue of the Barcelona Declaration of 1921, it is allowed to sail its own vessels flying the papal flag. However, the Vatican does not avail itself of this right at this time.
(source - cache of source)

That was not always the case, as many ships - even warships - have flown under the papal flag. As described by the Rosary Magazine:

The Flag of the Vatican
The papal flag is comparatively unfamiliar outside of the Eternal City. The war flag of the defunct temporal power of the Pope was white and in its center stood figures of St. Peter and St. Paul, with the cross keys and tiara above them. The flag of the merchant ships owned by the subjects of the States of the Church is a curious combination, half yellow and half white. In the banner used by the Crusader King of Jerusalem, Godfrey, the only tinctures introduced were the two metals, gold and silver, five golden crosses being placed upon a silver field. This was done with the intention of making the device unique, as in all other cases it is deemed false heraldry to place metal on metal.

For more information on how the Church of Rome began to accept as an inescapable fact the general separation of Church and State, see this interesting book on the "The Last Days of Papal Rome" (link).

Benedict's comments are generally in accord with the spirit of Vatican II, but they are as out of touch with history as can be. The movement for separation of church and state is not properly attributed to Catholicism but to "Protestantism" (broadly used) and more especially to the Separatists and Baptists. To be deep in history is to cease to be a Post-Vatican-II Romanist.


H.T. to SDA pastor Bill Cork at Oak Leaves (link), for bringing the Pope's comments to my attention and to the philosophical blog Siris (link) for bringing the Papal admiralty fact to my attention.

The Real Turretin on: The Romanist View of Faith

Richard Smith, at The Spurgeon Blog has provided an interesting post in which he considers what the real Turretin had to say about the "Roman Catholic" (Turretin uses the term "Romanist" rather than "Roman Catholic") view of faith (link).


Abdullah of London and the Council of Nicea

In the following video, Dr. White addresses some of the more absurd claims of Muslim apologists.

Caution: in order to respond, Dr. White provides a copy of what was presented by the Muslim blasphemer, including both blasphemy and purported images of Jesus.


Death Penalty for Idolatry?

Lane Keister, at GreenBaggins has posed a question:
I know that I have at least two theonomists who regularly read my blog, and so this is a question addressed to them. The sin of idolatry, in the Old Testament, was punishable by death. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Hindus, and many other religions practice idolatry. One can even make the case that Muslims and Jews are idolaters, since they do not worship Jesus Christ as God.

America was founded on a principle of liberty of religion. The issues get complicated in a hurry, of course, but my question is this: if Christian Reconstruction were to win out in America, does that mean that the members of these other religions should be executed? Or is the principle of death for idolatry changed in the NT, according to theonomists?
I answer:
a) I'm not sure if Lane had me in mind - in fact I wouldn't flatter myself to suppose he had thought of me. Nevertheless, since I self-identify as a theonomist, and since I regularly read his blog, I'll take up his question.
b) Lane states, "The sin of idolatry, in the Old Testament, was punishable by death." I had previously (link) discussed the issue of how we know justice. Also, I had previously (link) addressed the issue of what crimes in the Old Testament were subject to capital punishment. I didn't come across the death sentence for idolatry, as such. I wonder if Lane could point me to it.
c) Lane states, "Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Hindus, and many other religions practice idolatry." In order to discover whether this is the case, we'd need to see the specific prohibition on idolatry accompanied by the death penalty that Lane has found. Once we see it, we can confirm or deny this claim. I was a bit surprised that Lane omitted Romanists from his list, but perhaps it was just an oversight.
d) Lane states, "One can even make the case that Muslims and Jews are idolaters, since they do not worship Jesus Christ as God." Muslims and at least traditional Jews are (like Christians) aniconic in their religion: they do not make graven images or likenesses of their god. Thus, they would not be guilty of idolatry within the proper sense of the term. However, perhaps the passage Lane has in mind that prescribes death for idolatry uses the broad sense.
e) Lane states, "America was founded on a principle of liberty of religion." No, it wasn't. Rhode Island was, but not "America." I'm not sure it makes a world of difference, though, to the theonomic question.
f) Lane asks, "The issues get complicated in a hurry, of course, but my question is this: if Christian Reconstruction were to win out in America, does that mean that the members of these other religions should be executed?" Of course, while I consider myself a theonomist, I don't consider myself a reconstructionist. The answer, unless there is Biblical mandate that I have overlooked, would be no. There was a special genocidal command to the Israelites to destroy the nations of Canaan, but that was (i) a specific judgment on the Canaanites and (ii) a means to fulfilling a land promise to Abraham that is fulfilled for us in heaven. If that is all Lane has in mind, then the answer would be a resounding, "no."
g) Lane asks, "Or is the principle of death for idolatry changed in the NT, according to theonomists?" I guess this would depend on the specific command, which apparently I have overlooked. Once Lane points it out, I'll update.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Natural Law, Theonomy, and Homosexual Marriage

R. Scott Clark has an interesting blog post up on the issue of Homosexual Marriage (link). RSC approaches the issue from the standpoint of "two kingdoms theology," a viewpoint that I'm not sure I can fully embrace. Instead, I tend to self-identify with "theonomy" (a term that's perhaps even more liable to confusion than "two kingdoms theology"). Accordingly, I've prepared some thoughts on the issue in parallel to those of RSC, but with an emphasis on the civil law of Israel.

Issue: how, from a “theonomic” perspective one should think about the question of whether the state should sanction homosexual marriage? Beyond the ambiguity over what constitutes "theonomic," there's some ambiguity in the question, since "sanction" can mean either "approve" or "enforce a penalty against." Thus, we'll consider the issue as broadly as possible.

1. Explicit Old Testament Law
A. The Old Testament specifically condemns homosexual behavior:

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

B. The Old Testament also specifically prescribes the death penalty to both parties to a homosexual act:

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

2. New Testament Light

A. The New Testament confirms that the disapprobation of homosexual behavior was not merely a matter of ceremony:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

1 Timothy 1:10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

B. The New Testament also draws an equivalence between Male and Female homosexuality:

Romans 1:26-27 and 32
26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Romans 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

3. Resolution of the Issue

Therefore, the most fitting rule for the King to implement is not only to prohibit so-called homosexual marriages from recognition as marriage, but also to punish capitally those who engage in these abominable practices.

4. Objections Answered

A. It may be objected: "The moral law of God has been revealed in creation and re-stated, in the context of the national covenant with Israel. For the purposes of deciding deciding post-theocratic civil questions, the national covenant having been fulfilled by Christ and thus having expired and having been abrogated, it is proper to appeal to the natural revelation of the moral law in creation." (source, R. Scott Clark)

We answer: that although the national laws of Israel are expired and abrogated, and though the ceremonial aspects of the national laws of Israel are fulfilled in Christ, the moral aspects of the national laws of Israel remain. As demonstrated above, the prohibition on homosexual behavior is a matter of moral law, not mere ceremony. Furthermore, where the moral law is explicit, there is no need to appeal to the natural revelation of the moral law in creation, since it is not proper to interpret the more clear by the less clear. We acknowledge, however, that general revelation is from God, and that consequently - in principle - natural law, as derived from general revelation, is not rendered completely illegitimate, simply because it is not completely clear.

Furthermore, even examining such a scholarly source as R. Scott Clark, we cannot find a very rigorous argument from natural law alone (i.e. without recourse to special revelation) to determine what path should be taken.

B. It may be objected, that "Some scholars however, e.g. John Boswell, have argued over the last twenty-five years that earlier periods in church history were more approving of homosexuality than once thought." (noted by RSC with disapproval)

We answer: since our rule of faith does not depend on the customs of men, we do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the historical battle over whether previous generations of Christians were more or less approving of homosexuality.

We note, however, that if we are to return to the apostolic and Old Testament periods of church history, the clear evidence is severe condemnation.

C. It may be objected, that "in contrast to our own times, most of the ancient Christian writers were not, by contemporary standards, very explicit about homosexual behavior. Doubtless some will attempt to capitalize on the rhetorical restraint of earlier times as a sort of tacit approval of homosexuality." (noted by RSC with disapproval)

We answer: again, for the same reasons as above, we do not have a vested interest in this historical battle. We note, however, that a reasonable alternative explanation for such guarded language among the ancients is shame because of recognition of the sinfulness of the acts:

Ephesians 5:12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

D. It may be objected, that "Romans 1:27 indicates that those engaging in homosexual activity were 'receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.'"

We answer: it seems most natural to view this phrase as referring not to the reception of the reward for the error of homosexual behavior, but for the error of worshiping the creature more than the Creator. There are several reasons to believe that this reading is more natural and the proper reading:

1) the point of the passage is to emphasize that God is punishing the wicked for sins against himself; and
2) in general, in the passage a system of punishments are laid out for us:
vss. 20-21 punishment for refusing to act on the obvious knowledge of God = darkening of the mind
- further impact: vs. 22-23 punishment for claiming to be wise = that they become fools
-- yet further impact: vs. 24 - punishment for dishonoring God by images = that their own bodies are dishonored among themselves
--- still further impact: vss. 25-27 - punishment for worshiping the opposite of what they should = that their bodies' lusts are unnaturally reversed
- parallel impact vss. 28-32 - punishment for being unmindful of God = a reprobate mind.

Nevertheless, even if the point of vs. 27 is merely to identify the impact of homosexuality, and even further assuming that the impact is simply the laws of nature (sexually transmitted diseases and so forth, as opposed to execution by the King) being applied to homosexual acts, we would not therefore conclude that the King is forbidden to impose a prohibition on the wicked acts of men, since among the list of things resulting from a reprobate mind are murder, which the King must not tolerate.


Response to Daniel Montoro on Marian Devotion

Over at Beggars All Reformation, there is some discussion of the worship of Mary evidenced by a recent report regarding Benedict XVI. While there are other issues to be addressed (issues that require more thought and attention), Mr. Daniel Montoro has provided some comments aimed at defending his religion against its critics.

Daniel Montoro wrote:
Rhology, in a catholic's prayers for Mary's intercession the point of it is to lead us to Jesus. MAry helps us because Jesus has given her the grace to help us by leading us to himself. If you can't understand this fact then you are retarded or an evil demon who acts on behalf of Satan attempting to pervert our minds with your lies. By saying Jesus is absent, you are attacking the insturment he decided to use. You're not god, Jesus is. You're nothing more than a mindless follower of some psychotic lunatics named Martin "psycho depressed" Luther and John "legalistic Jew hater" Calvin. Basically, to say that Jesus is absent speaks more to your lack of intelligence and hate for God then it does of catholic theology.

Gem Bridge, How about looking at the Wedding Feast at Cana. This shows how weak your bogus argument is. You really need to end your hatred of the only church you can attain your salvation through. Hopefully you are just ignorant for your sake.

Andrew, by reading above I'm sure that in your heart you now know that any argument following the same line of knuckleheaded responses will fail.

You guys should not abuse God's truth lest you find yourselves in hell.
(link to source - Caution, while this comment was fairly clean, it was after Mr. Montoro calmed down a a bit.)

I'll respond to this guy's points, one at a time:

1) "[I]n [Romanist] prayers for Mary's intercession[,] the point of it is to lead us to Jesus." This line would work if, for example, Romanist prayers to Mary were only for catechumens. In point of fact, the Romanist never gets past praying to Mary. I think it would be fair to say that one could not be a good "Roman Catholic" and pray only to Jesus. Praying to Mary, in point of fact, simply leads to more devotion to Mary - not to devotion to Jesus.

2) "[Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus,] helps us because Jesus has given her the grace to help us by leading us to himself." One could never get this doctrine from the Bible. The role of leading people to Jesus is the role of the evangelist, something that is never provided as a description of our Lord's mother. She was certainly highly favoured by God (so much so that all generations will call her blessed), but she is not a dispenstress of grace. Mary, if she could speak, would certainly lead people away from devotion to herself and toward devotion to her Son and Savior. As noted above, however, Marian devotion in practice leads away from divine devotion and towards further Marian devotion.

3) "If you can't understand this fact then you are retarded or an evil demon who acts on behalf of Satan attempting to pervert our minds with your lies." This, of course, would seem to contradict the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II.

4) "By saying Jesus is absent, you are attacking the [instrument] he decided to use." First of all, the statement itself doesn't follow. If Jesus is absent, he is absent. If he is present, he is present. It has nothing to do with attacking or defending instruments of Jesus. Second, it is simply the say-so of those who practice Marian devotion upon which the idea that Jesus "decided to use" this is based. In other words, this is not a practice taught or exampled in Scripture, but is - instead - a tradition of man.

5) "You're not god, Jesus is." Agreed. Likewise, however, Mary is not a goddess. And, according to Jesus, all those who do the will of Jesus' father are his mother and brethren.

6) "You're nothing more than a mindless follower of some psychotic lunatics named Martin "psycho depressed" Luther and John "legalistic Jew hater" Calvin." Actually, Scripture - not men - are our rule of faith. Despite the slander of Christian men (and bear and mind that Mr. Montoro graciously believes that every non-retarded person who disagrees with him on these issues is demon-possessed), these ad hominems are really irrelevant. Even if they were true, we don't accept anything as true simply because Mr. Luther or Mr. Calvin said so: we accept things as true because the Scriptures say so. We reject Marian prayers both because they are not taught or exampled in Scripture and because they are contrary to Scripture.

7) "Basically, to say that Jesus is absent speaks more to your lack of intelligence and hate for God then it does of catholic theology." One can readily see, simply by reading, where the hatred and lack of intelligence is. More to the point, however, the concept of Jesus being absent in a prayer is simply a matter of logic. If a prayer says, in effect, "If Mary doesn't help us, no one will," then Jesus is absent from that prayer. There may be some attempted explanation for Jesus' absence, but it takes a special breed of zealotry to make the statements Mr. Montoro makes.

8) "[Gene Bridges], How about looking at the Wedding Feast at Cana." The wedding feat at Cana is an example of Mary suggesting that people should go directly to Jesus. If there is an analogy to be made from this passage, it is not one that leads to Marian devotion.

9) "This shows how weak your bogus argument is." Actually, Mr. Montoro making such a statement without any supporting argument would seem to show either that he has no case at all, or that he has no ability to set forth and explain his case. As noted above, the only analogy to be drawn from the account is one that is not helpful to Rome's claims.

10) "You really need to end your hatred of the only church you can attain your salvation through." Actually, one can only attain salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus. One of the objections to this old-style anti-ecumenical Catholicism is the fact that it defines salvation by the church, instead of the other way 'round. By putting the cart before the horse, this old style of anti-ecumenical, pre-Vatican II Catholicism is subject to the the criticism that it usurps the role of the Holy Spirit in saving whom He will.

11) "Hopefully you are just ignorant for your sake." This kind of comment is already addressed above.

12) "Andrew, by reading above I'm sure that in your heart you now know that any argument following the same line of knuckleheaded responses will fail." If they will fail, it won't be because of Mr. Montoro's crushing defense of his religion. In point of fact, Mr. Montoro's method of defense seems likely simply to highlight his fanatical devotion to his religion, as opposed to any rational basis for anyone else to agree with him.

In conclusion, I think it's important to note that not all of Rome's supporters are this truculent or reckless in their claims. Just because this particular Romanist shows no understanding of the teachings of the Scriptures or even his own church, that doesn't mean that all supporters of Romanism are in the same boat. I hope to respond to some of the more thoughtful supporters in due course, though those sorts of comments naturally take longer to address.


Is Roman Catholicism Getting some Feminist Influence?

Check out this article (link) in which the "Synod of Bishops on the Bible" proposes (with a significant minority vote of opposition) to "allow women to be officially installed in the ministry of lector" (lectella perhaps or lectra?). It's being sold as not that big a deal, I guess, since women were already routinely performing this role without stable ordination. I've seen some small reaction to this movement in Romanist circles, with John Zuhlsdorf seemingly opposed to the idea (link).

Presumably, the "Old Catholics" will simply find this a confirmation of the departure of modern Catholicism from the ancient practices and customs.


Voting Anguish

Many American voters with a conscience are torn by the anguish of the prospect of voting for a liberal Republican to prevent a borderline Marxist from being elected. One is reminded of the plight of the prophet Elisha.

2 Kings 8:11 And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept.

Why was he weeping? It was because of the bad things that Hazael, the person to whom he was talking, would do (link to graphic description).

The election in America will not yield another Hazael of Syria, but Americans with the right to vote in their election must surely be anguished between voting for the better of two rascals and letting the rest of the voters decide which rascal should serve (see more here). Weep, pray, search the Scriptures, and follow your conscience.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monergism vs. Synergism

Top Ten lists are popular these days, and there's nothing that an apologetic/polemic blog from a Reformed, Puritan, Presbyterian perspective is, if not consumed with being popular (yes, that is tongue in cheek, in case there was any doubt). Thus, without further ado:
Alternative Ways to Express
Monergism vs. Synergism:

10) Theonomy vs. Autonomy

9) God's Sovereignty vs. Man's Sovereignty

8) Yielding to God's Power vs. Wielding the Power of a Demi-God

7) All of God vs. Something Whereof to Boast

6) God Mercying Whom He Wills vs. God Mercying Him Who Wills

5) The Race is not to the Swift vs. The Race is to the Swift

4) Able to Make You Wise Unto Salvation vs. Able to Make You Wise Almost Unto Salvation

3) James 4:12 and 14-15 vs. James 4:13

2) Reformed Theology vs. Trent

1) Thy Will be Done vs. My Will be Done

Remember this, God is all-powerful. It is he who saves, and he does so using the Word of God, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Romans 10:10-17
10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Praise be to God who has given us His Word!