Saturday, February 21, 2009

Follow-Up Response to Jay Dyer


I have recently had the pleasure of going through an 11-point set of accusations against Calvinism by Mr. Jay Dyer. He has responded to several of the posts in my series and directed me to other posts that he has written that he thinks are relevant to the issues under discussion. The Jay Dyer Index provides a full set (at least I believe it is full) of the relevant posts in this interaction.

As one of the commenters on Mr. Dyer's blog indicated, Mr. Dyer is not your average Romanist. This is true on several levels, but the most relevant levels are those connected to having an Eastern Orthodox background and being a "Byzantine Rite Catholic" these days, as well as previously having been associated with a Reformed church. More than that, Mr. Dyer has clearly spent a lot of time reading and studying the issues, and cites not only to the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils (though he pretty much sticks to the first seven - perhaps a hangover from his EO days) but also the some of the church fathers (particularly those of the East - perhaps another artifact of his journey).

These things place Mr. Dyer in somewhat of a unique position, which both makes reading his material interesting, but also reduces the value in addressing his position. That is to say, because his views are so unique, they are interesting, but a response to them is pretty much just a response to Mr. Dyer. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if some of Mr. Dyer's accusations get repeated, especially by people who are simply looking for a cattle prod with which to zap Calvinists, even though they themselves do not understand Mr. Dyer's methodology or arguments. In this respect (the desire to label Calvinism a heresy) I think Mr. Dyer is more creative than others, but not completely unique.

So, perhaps a further response is justified. After carefully reviewing all of the material that I've identified at the Index post linked above, I think I may have identified a number of core issues that are at the heart of Mr. Dyer's criticisms of Calvinism. I will try, in this post, to identify those issues and provide a suitable response. Mr. Dyer's postings have been voluminous, and I apologize in advance that I will not be providing specific citations to his comments in support of the items I identify. I do invite Mr. Dyer to provide a response (at his own blog) to this, in the event that he feels I have mischaracterized his position.

1. Luther Was Not a Calvinist/Systematic Theologian

Mr. Dyer in several places makes reference to Luther, as though Luther were a Calvinist and/or a Systematic Theologian. Neither of these is correct. Although Luther had many powerful insights, and though Luther did a lot to aid the awakening of Europe to the truth of the Scriptures, Luther was neither fully Calvinistic nor systematic.

2. Question in Responses to Accusations is Calvinism not Romanism

Mr. Dyer seemed to have the impression that my responses were directed to showing distinctives of Calvinism in contrast to Romanism. Although each of the responses had an "accusation redirected" section, those sections were the only ones dealing specifically with Romanism. Just because Rome presents a false gospel doesn't mean that every aspect of Roman theology is necessarily wrong. There are certainly points of at least apparent formal agreement between Calvinism and Romanism, where Romanism embraces the truth. Thus, when (in my responses) I state the Calvinist position, this may or may not be accepted by Rome. That's not the point: the point is that Calvinism's position is the Scriptural position. If others agree, great.

3. Monergism Means God Alone Saves

A few times Mr. Dyer seemed to rely on a sort of play on words to suggest that monergism, the doctrine that God alone saves, is equivalent to monothelitism, the idea that Jesus had only one will. There's no logical connection, however, just a verbal similarity. Mr. Dyer nowhere (that I could find) presents any good reason for making this jump, and this sort of analysis via play on words is not a valid criticism.

4. Paul Says It - We Believe It

In a couple of instances, Mr. Dyer seemed to take issue with the fact that I quoted Paul. For example, Paul says

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:


Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Mr. Dyer seems to treat my quotation of these passages as implying what he perceives to be a Manichean view of God. If so, however, Mr. Dyer's issue is not really with me, but with Paul.

In fairness, I should point out that Mr. Dyer does elsewhere rely on things that Paul says, so Mr. Dyer is just being obtuse or inconsistent here. What Mr. Dyer doesn't do, however, is get beyond a reaction to expressions like "sinful flesh" and "by nature the children of wrath" to explain what he believes Paul means, and how he think that what Paul is saying differs from what Calvinists believe. In other words, the combination of exegesis and application isn't there on these texts.

5. Atonement Issues

Mr. Dyer seems to have a number of issues relating to the atonement. In Mr. Dyer's criticisms of the Calvinist position, the issues connected to the atoning work of Christ on the cross arise repeatedly. Nevertheless, it is not clear whether Mr. Dyer himself has a clear understanding both of the necessity and manner of Christ's atoning work. For Mr. Dyer, the emphasis seems to be (as with remaining writings of a few of the Early Church Fathers) more on the incarnation itself than on the atonement. There does not seem to be a "sacrifice for sin" concept present in his explanations regarding the saving work of Christ. This is an unfortunate gap in Mr. Dyer's theology, and may be one of the sources of his objections, though it is not made explicit in his critiques.

5a. In the Atonement, the Trinity Had One Purpose

Mr. Dyer repeatedly makes the claim that (in effect) if Jesus suffered the wrath of God on the cross for the sins of the elect, this implies that Jesus' divine will was somehow separate from the Father's divine will. There is, however, no logical link. Christ suffered the cross and the wrath of God voluntarily. Not only was there no disunion in the divine will over this, the Son and the Father were of one purpose, will, and intention in the cross. Christ's human will was made subservient and obedient to the divine will, which is one reason we can refer to the death of Christ as the "passive obedience" of Christ (though that label is not the most useful).

In short, there is no merit to the claim that the Calvinist view of the atonement implies a severance of the divine will. Mr. Dyer appears simply to assert this, and does not provide a supporting argument or explanation to back it up (although he makes a vague reference to "legal imputation"). There's no logical reason why Jesus would have to have a different will in order to experience the wrath of God on the cross on our (the elect's) behalf, nor for legal imputation to take place. Quite to the contrary, it is the unity of the divine will that is important to show that Jesus' death for our sins was not unjust, since he voluntarily offered himself on our behalf.

5b. Invalid Appeal to Perichoresis - Confusion of Persons

Mr. Dyer further objects to the Calvinistic doctrine of the atonement based on reference to perichoresis: the eternal mutual indwelling of the persons of the Trinity. It seems as though rather than properly affirming the relationship of the persons of the trinity, in trying to criticize Calvinism Mr. Dyer is flirting with Sabellianism, as though there were no distinction between the persons (though, of course, Mr. Dyer is not a modalist).

Mr. Dyer appears to believe that the Calvinistic view of the atonement necessarily involves a termination of perichoresis, but he provides no real argument in support of this contention. Mr. Dyer frequently refers to the expression "cut off" but the Calvinistic position is not that the Son was removed from the Trinity, but that he was crucified, died, and was buried - and continued under the power of death for a time.

6. Relation of Human Nature to Salvation

Another central problem that seems to crop up is the relation of human nature to salvation. Mr. Dyer seems to have a confused idea (or at least his comments are confused or confusing) about the way in which human nature relates to salvation. It is people (individual people) that are saved, not "human nature" as such. Salvation is about turning away the judgment of God from individual people, which people are consequently referred to as "saved."

There is an important relation of human nature to salvation, and this was highlighted in Anselm's Cur Deus Homo. The basic issue is that it was necessary that a human being be punished for sin. The blood of bulls and goats was insufficient. Furthermore, that human being had to be undeserving of the punishment himself. Finally, the human being had to be of such great personal dignity as to, by his death, satisfy justice for all those whom God wished to save. Thus, Jesus took on human nature: that is to say, he became a man, even while still being God. Thus, he was and is, God and man, in two distinct natures and one person, as he will be forever.

6a. By Nature, Children of Wrath

The fall brought about a change in mankind, such that all men under Adam's headship are, by nature, depraved in their spiritual faculties, so that they love darkness rather than light. They are, as Paul describes it, by nature children of wrath. This is the natural state of man, after the fall. One thing that saving grace does is, in regeneration, that it begins to restore the spiritual faculties of man. Man begins to love God rather than hating him. This is a restoration of man's nature. The restoration begins in and continues in sanctification. In glorification (upon death or translation), the restoration is complete, and (one might say) gloried man is better off than Adam was before the fall, since the glorified man will not sin.

It is unclear from Mr. Dyer's remarks whether he simply does not understand these Scriptural doctrines, or whether he objects to them. For example, Mr. Dyer alleges that Calvinism teaches that "nature" is inherently evil. This is misleading at best. Fallen human nature is depraved, but not human nature in the abstract.

Mr. Dyer seems to treat human nature as though it were a thing. Such that (in his view) when we say that in the fall human nature became depraved, we are referring to this "thing" of human nature being corrupted, as opposed to the manifestation of the concept being corrupted (as is the actual position). If we meant what Mr. Dyer said, the idea of human nature being restored wouldn't make much sense - the concept of the restoration of human nature, in an individual, only makes sense from the standpoint of a concept of human nature with individual corrupt manifestations, rather than from the standpoint of a "thing" that stands alone.

6b. Christ's Human Nature Not Corrupted

There are a number of odd things that Mr. Dyer suggests regarding Christ's human nature. For example, Dyer asserts that Christ assumed "universal human nature." While this is not necessarily wrong, Mr. Dyer emphasizes "universal" to the point of apparently suggesting that the manifestation of human nature in individual people cannot suffer the effects of the fall in terms of depravity, or that if it does, then Jesus two must necessarily similarly be depraved to be truly human.

This is nonsensical for two reasons. First, Mr. Dyer himself realizes that Jesus did not have original sin (which all men after the fall have at birth, save Christ alone) or concupiscence (proclivity to sin). This is one way in which Jesus is just like the rest of humanity, but without experiencing the spiritual effects of the fall.

A second reason that this is nonsensical is Mr. Dyer's recognition that grace alters nature. That is to say, Mr. Dyer appears to recognize that God's grace can transform the nature of a man. Mr. Dyer even refers to deification/divinization which - at least to a degree - relates to this concept. If, however, any improvement in nature rendered the person outside of humanity, then we would cease to be human if we experienced grace. This, however, is an absurd outcome.

Consequently Mr. Dyer's allegation is demonstrably false. Jesus can take on human nature in a pure form, without the depravity introduced in Adam's heirs by the fall, while still being as truly human as Adam was before the fall.

6c. Jesus Was Raised For of Our Justification

Mr. Dyer seems to suggest that Jesus' nature inherently needed to die and be "raised/deified." This is a very strange claim. Jesus' death was for our sins. Jesus did not die because it was intrinsic to his human nature, but because the wages of sin are death. Jesus was raised by the Father because our righteousness had been accomplished and the Father was satisfied with the work of Christ.

Jesus' humanity was not itself deserving of death. He took our sins upon himself. Thus, from his birth he suffered (though he did not deserve to suffer), he was humbled (though he deserved to be exalted), and he was eventually cruelly killed (though he deserved life). These things he did to satisfy God's justice and liberate us from the deserved judgment for our sins.

7. Confusion of Nature and Person

One accusation that Mr. Dyer makes is that Calvinism confuses nature and person. Actually, though, it appears that the shoe is on the other foot. Mr. Dyer himself seems to confuse person and nature, or at least to confuse the relation of nature to person.

In particular, Mr. Dyer doesn't seem to appreciate that certain things that Christ did, he did "as man" or "with respect to his humanity." This is simply a necessary consequence of the fact that humanity can do some things that divinity cannot. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. In contrast, man is body and soul, he is finite, he had a beginning, and he can change.

This is actually an important issue, particular with respect to responding to the errors of Islam. Muslims seem to make a similar in respect to the Incarnation. They will make comments to the effect that when Jesus relieved himself, are we claiming that God was sitting on the toilet?

The answer to be given to these sorts of objections, as well as to Mr. Dyer's objections, is that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Nevertheless, Jesus was omniscient and eternal in his divinity, not in his humanity. Jesus' humanity had a beginning and Jesus' humanity changed. Jesus was born as a baby, and he grew in stature over time. God (as divine) was never a baby and never grows. Jesus, as man, was hungry and thirsty. As God, Jesus did not need anything.

Many more examples could be given. The point, however, is that although Jesus had two natures, not everything about each nature is communicable to the other nature. Thus, Jesus was conceived in his humanity, not in (or as to) his divinity. Jesus is eternally divine. Before Abraham was, Jesus was the I AM. Jesus created the world and all that is in it. But Jesus condescended to take on human nature: he became a man.

The fact that there are incommunicable aspects of Jesus' humanity does not convert Jesus' human nature into a separate person. Mr. Dyer, however, seems to think that it would - and seems to assert that it would, without providing any supporting reasoning or argumentation to demonstrate it.


I hope that this post answers all (or virtually all) of the points that Mr. Dyer has raised in response to my series. I trust that I have fairly characterized his criticisms, but welcome his comments (via his own blog) if I have mischaracterized them. Calvinism doesn't fall into (or logically lead to) any errors with respect to the Trinitarian relationship or the person of Jesus Christ. The reason that it does not is that it is a system of theology properly derived from Scripture, and Scripture is an infallible rule of faith (the only one we have today).


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jay Dyer Index

This is an index post for my interactions with Mr. Jay Dyer. So far, we have only one set of interactions (based on a single initial post of his), thus there are no categories yet, except those that fall out naturally from the nature of the discussion.

Jay Dyer's Initial Post.

My Initial Responses to Jay Dyer's Post
Intro to My Response to Jay's Post
My Response to Part 1 of Jay's Post (Nestorian Accusation)
My Response to Part 2 of Jay's Post (Manichean Accusation)
My Response to Part 3 of Jay's Post (Monothelitism Accusation)
My Response to Part 4 of Jay's Post (Tri-Theism Accusation)
My Response to Part 5 of Jay's Post (Gnosticism/Iconoclasm Accusation)
My Response to Part 6 of Jay's Post (Paganism Accusation)
My Response to Part 7 of Jay's Post (Pelagianism Accusation)
My Response to Part 8 of Jay's Post (Ecclesiastical Relativism Accusation)
My Response to Part 9 of Jay's Post (Un-deification Accusation)
My Response to Part 10 of Jay's Post (Liberal Higher Critic Accusation)
My Response to Part 11 of Jay's Post (Agnosticism Accusation)
Conclusion to My Response to Jay's Post

Jay Dyer's Video Responses
Jay's Video Remarks Part 1
Jay's Video Remarks Part 2
Jay's Video Remarks Part 3

Jay Dyer's Written Responses
Jay's Rebuttal With Respect to Nestorianism Accusation
(Related Post by Dyer, Identified as relevant)
Jay's Posting of Athanasius against the "Nestorian-Calvinists"
Jay's Rebuttal With Respect to Manichean Accusation
"Replies to the Calvinists on Fallen Nature"
Jay's Rebuttal With Respect to Monothelitism Accusation
Jay's Rebuttal With Respect to Tritheism Accusation
Jay's Rebuttal With Respect to Gnostiticism/Iconoclasm Accusation
Jay's Rebuttal With Respect to Arianism/Paganism Accusation

Peanut Gallery (meant in the kindest way)
Comments from Michael Burgess on the Monothelite Accusation
Remarks on the Discussion - and a loaded question - from Perry Robinson
Piling On the Accusation of Pelagianism - from Perry Robinson
(Response to Perry from Nathanael Taylor)
(Initial Response to Perry from Steve Hays)
(Full Response to Perry from Steve Hays)
(Mark at the Bellarmine Theological Forum asks Mr. Robert Sungenis to Give the Dialog Coverage)
(Matthew Bellisario Claims that Dyer has Refuted me, referencing the audio from Mr. Dyer below)

General Response to Jay Dyer's Rebuttals
Follow-Up Response of February 21, 2009

Further Informal Dialog
Hodge and Alleged Reformed Denial of Nature/Grace Distinction (already addressed both in my original series (which included a quotation from Hodge on the very issue) and in my General Response at point 6a, where we discuss Mr. Dyer's treatment of nature as a thing)

Further Audio Response (around 51 minutes long) from Jay Dyer (link to post)(direct link to audio).

My Response to Mr. Dyer's Audio commentary (link).


Why You Shouldn't Read Anyone Else's Blog

(except mine of course)

If you were expecting a defense of the title of this post (or the sub-title above), you are in for a let-down. It's not serious. It's a tongue-in-cheek facetious remark aimed at scolding Mr. Nick Norelli who (in this recent post) just doesn't get it.

Mr. Norelli makes the claim that "But apparently unless one has read White’s books, listened to his debates, or researched his teaching and/or ministry over the last 20 years then they can’t truly understand the context in which he says anything." This is just silly. Mr. Norelli goes on to quote the following paragraph from Dr. White:
2) Do not expect the Golden Rule to be applied to you if you are an evangelical. If you are going to address someone like Ehrman, you better do your homework. Read his works, listen to his lectures, study his articles. If you do not, you have nothing to say. However, anyone can comment on what you say as an evangelical without worrying about anything you have ever written or taught over twenty or more years. Just remember, the context of the evangelical is irrelevant; the context of the star-level scholar is all important. Also, it is fair to assume the evangelical believer is ignorant of anything you wish to attribute to them, even if you have no idea whether they are in fact ignorant of those subjects or not.
(emphasis provided by Mr. Norelli)
For some reason, perhaps known only to God, Mr. Norelli has apparently mentally converted "not anything" into "not everything" and/or generalized his comment about people judging his scholarship into a comment about people understanding anything at all that he writes. This too is silly.

I'll put it in simple terms: "Don't say Dr. White doesn't know what he's talking about if you haven't done your homework on his background. And if you are going to say that Dr. White doesn't know what he's talking about, be prepared to back that up, because he'll call you on it."

More specifically, Dr. White has read most of what Ehrman has written, and his opinions of Ehrman's scholarship are consequently informed, even if one disagrees with them. In contrast, folks who bloviate based on a sentence or fragment thereof, taken in isolation, have an opinion that is uninformed.


Joseph and Mary's Marriage

On a recent Dividing Line there was a clip played taken from, if I recall correctly, the "Catholic Answers" show, regarding Joseph and Mary's "marriage." The caller asked (and I may be slightly paraphrasing) two questions:

1) Where in the Bible does it say that marriage is only valid when it is consummated?

2) Did Mary and Joseph have a valid marriage?

The host (well, the person providing the "Catholic Answers") answered the first question by appealing to Genesis, where it says that the "two shall be one flesh."

The host then went on to say that Joseph and Mary never became one flesh, but (and again I'm paraphrasing) that was ok because NT sacramental marriage hadn't come to be, yet. But if Genesis is the institution of the definition of marriage as valid depending on physical union, then the fact that sacramental marriage hadn't come to exist yet is irrelevant - since the question wasn't whether the marriage was sacramental, but whether it was valid.

They did have marriage before the apostles, and physical union was a normative aspect of Old Testament marriage. That's one reason that the New Testament places such great emphasis on the fact that Mary and Joseph didn't "know" each other from before Jesus was conceived until Jesus was born.

Matthew describes it as being that Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Ghost "before they [i.e. Mary and Joseph] came together" (Matthew 1:18). Of course, Catholicism today claims that Mary and Joseph never came together, but the natural sense of the text is that they did come together, just later. This is especially so when coupled with the statement, only a few verses later that Joseph "knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son," rather than saying that Joseph "never knew" her.


Why Did They Burn the Reformers?

The William Tyndale web site has provided a re-print of an article by J.C. Ryle, on the topic, "Why Were Our Reformers Burned?" (link) There are a number of OCR/transcription errors in the article, but the points it makes are important, and often forgotten.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Simple Challenge for Kent Brandenburg

Mr. Brandenburg has posted an article in which he states:
Bart Ehrman, in Misquoting Jesus, had nine propositions that he developed in the course of the book. In his debate with Ehrman, James White could not challenge the assessment that he himself agreed with eight and a half of the propositions in Misquoting Jesus. The only thing they disagreed about was the interpretation of the evidence. And this is the kind of thing that is the source for non-KJS bibliology.
(source - Article titled "Brainwashed Bibliology")

Now, the last sentence of this paragraph is just wrong. It is true that Dr. White disagrees with Dr. Ehrman about the interpretation of the evidence, but that is far from the only thing that Dr. White disagrees with Dr. Ehrman about.

But here is the challenge for Mr. Brandenburg. It is a simple challenge with two parts:

1) Demonstrate that you know what the nine propositions are by listing them, and
2) Identify which, if any, of those propositions you yourself disagree with.

After all, just because Dr. Ehrman is an apostate and agnostic doesn't mean that every proposition he states is wrong. Surely you don't think that Dr. White has to defend the truth by disagreeing with true statements, do you? So identify the erroneous propositions from those nine that you believe Dr. White should have disagreed with.


Humble Epistemology

Todd Pruitt at the 1517 blog has provided some interesting thoughts on epistemology from Albert Mohler, including a catchy quotation from Gordon Clark (link):
If man can know nothing truly, man can truly know nothing. We cannot know that the Bible is the Word of God, that Christ died for our sin, or that Christ is alive today at the right hand of the Father. Unless knowledge is possible, Christianity is non-sensical, for it claims to be knowledge. What is at stake in the twentieth century is not simply a single doctrine, such as the Virgin Birth, or the existence of Hell, as important as those doctrines may be, but the whole of Christianity itself. If knowledge is not possible to man, it is worse than silly to argue points of doctrine--it is insane.


Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 13 of 13)

This is part 13 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Throughout the series, we have seen the Calvinist position explained with respect to each of the eleven accusations leveled against Calvinism, we have seen the accusation refuted in most cases (the exception being labeling us, like Moses and Gideon, as iconoclasts), and we have seen that generally the accusations lead to greater headaches for those within Catholicism.

It should be clear that the headaches for Catholicism are not strictly speaking either an inversion of the accusation (just because, for example, there was a Monothelite pope doesn't make modern Catholicism consist of Monothelitism) nor are they themselves a rebuttal of the accusations (just because Catholicism has some ideas that are similar to those of the Gnostics doesn't - as a matter of logic - tell us whether Calvinists similarly err).

I hope that I have steered clear of making the same indefensibly inflammatory comments that I have been correcting with this series. That is to say, I hope I have not only demonstrated that Mr. Dyer's comments were inflammatory and indefensible, but I hope that in the process of redirecting those accusations, I have limited myself to legitimate critiques of Catholicism, Mr. Dyer's present affiliation.

For me the bottom line is that the Doctrines of Grace, a soteriology of monergism, as summarized against the Remonstrant errors with the acronym TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints), is what the Bible teaches about salvation. It leads to the position of "compatibilism" namely that God is sovereign in ordaining everything that comes to pass even while man is responsible for what he does. Calvinism is not and does not lead to heresies, precisely because it has been properly derived from Scripture.

After all, that is the one way in which we may avoid error: careful, prayerful consideration and examination of the Bible. Careful consideration of the Bible can include asking our fellow believers for their thoughts and going to commentators (including folks like John Calvin, John Owen, and Francis Turretin) that are steeped in the Word of God. Those writings of our fellow men, however, must always be placed beneath Scripture, since they are fallible, but the Word of the LORD is infallible.

Thus, in conclusion, Calvinism is orthodox because Calvinism is Scriptural. The measuring stick of Scripture is the umpire that shows whether John Calvin or Benedict XVI is the false teacher on any given doctrine.

As Gregory of Nyssa (circa A.D. 335–395) said: "Let the inspired Scripture, then, be our umpire, and the vote of truth will surely be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words." It is my hope that the preceding series of responses have demonstrated to you, the reader, that the vote of truth with respect to each of the issues presented is to be given to the dogmas of Calvinism because of their agreement with, and derivation from, the Holy Scriptures.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Calvin Graphic

In honor of Calvin's 500th Birthday, Carla Rolfe has provided an exciting new Calvin graphic. If such things interest you, check it out (link)!


Works of Thomas Smythe

Thomas Smythe (aka Thomas Smyth and Thomas Smith) was a leading Southern Presbyterian who has unfortunately fallen into a degree of obscurity. Some of his background (and the source of the hot-linked image) can be found at the PCA's historical web site (link).

I am pleased to report that Smyth's works are now freely available (in electronic form) to the downloading public via The PCA's web site had indicated a digitization project with respect to Smyth, but I presume that part of this project will have been superseded through's efforts in getting the ten volumes of Smythe's works digitized.

For a table of contents of the works (except volume 8, which apparently the PCA's digitization team did not have), please click this link.

The following are links to the individual pages for each of the volumes of Smythe's works:

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6
Volume 7
Volume 8
Volume 9
Volume 10 has also made available two copies of Smyth's "Ecclesiastical Catechism of the Presbyterian Church" (copy 1)(copy 2), piggybacking on the efforts of Google Books.

The PCA has itself made available some individual articles available:

The Call to the Ministry-Its Nature and Evidence, 2.2 (September 1848) 157-183.
The Necessity and Importance of Controversy, 7.1 (July 1853) 60-74.

Recall also the short selection we previously identified, provided by the Virginia Hugenot (link).



Two Kingdoms, Yes - But Don't Go Beyond the Bible

Mr. James Swan, for a very different purpose, brought the following two quotations to my attention (link to source). Both are from Martin Luther and help to demonstrate the danger of taking the two kingdoms distinction beyond the Bible:
It is pure invention that pope, bishops, priests and monks are called the spiritual estate, while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the temporal estate. This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except that of office.
[LW 44:127].
It follows from this argument that there is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, between religious and secular, except for the sake of office and work, but not for the sake of status. They are all of the spiritual estate, and are truly priests, bishops, and popes. We are all one body of Christ the Head, and all members one of another. Christ does not have two different bodies, one temporal, and the other spiritual. There is but one Head and one body.
[LW 44: 129-130].
To be sure, Luther goes a little far in his response to the errors of Rome. The offices of bishop/elder and deacon are real offices, not merely labels. And the elders and deacons are to serve the Body of Christ (whose only head is Christ) in unique ways that are not the same as the duties of all the other members of the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, the basic point that Luther is making is correct: there is one head over the Body of Christ, and it is Christ not a pope.

Likewise, all men (whether peasants or kings) have a responsibility to promote the true religion of Jesus Christ according to the abilities, gifts, and opportunities that God has given them, and in their functions within the kingdom of this world.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 12 of 13)

This is part 12 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:

11) [A consistent Calvinist must be] An agnostic, in that human reason is so damaged by the fall and total depravity, it cannot accurately reason about God and ever attain certainty.

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

Scripture has been given so that we may know God and believe on the Son of God (John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.). Through faith we understand the things that Scripture teaches (Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.). The unregenerate man's faculties are hopelessly ruined in the fall (Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?) Thus, Jesus spoke of the unregenerate Jewish leaders as "blind guides" (Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.). Indeed Jesus went so far as to say that without regeneration one cannot see the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.)

b) The Accusation Disputed

Agnosticism is a lack of belief in the existence of God. No consistent Calvinist can be an agnostic, since faith in Christ is a central tenet of Calvinism.

Calvinism denies that unregenerate man comes to God of his own abilities, rejecting this Pelagian error in favor of the Scriptural teaching that God changes the hearts of men and opens their spiritual minds to see the truth. However, in regeneration, there is a restoration of the spiritual faculties of man: this is variously described as giving site to the blind, making the lame walk, curing the leper, and raising the dead to life. Jesus performed physical miracles in illustration of these principles, and each of these physical miracles Jesus performed pointed to the spiritual work that the Holy Spirit does.

Thus, Calvinism consistently affirms the total depravity of man and denies that unregenerate man can come to know God, even though God can be clearly seen:

Romans 1:19-20
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

c) The Accusation Redirected

Of course, Catholicism is not inherently an agnostic religion: it does acknowledge the fact that God exists. Practically speaking, however, Catholicism tries to instill a lack of confidence in people, in their ability to read and understand the Bible (even though, the Bible itself teaches otherwise). They suggest this for one obvious reason: if people weigh each doctrine of Catholicism in the scales of Scripture many doctrines (papal infallibility, the immaculate conception of Mary, Purgatory, etc. etc.) fall short and are seen to be unbiblical and even anti-Biblical.

Furthermore, the teachings of Catholicism, while not formally imbuing agnosticism do lead one to distrust human senses/reasoning (whether or not this related to the fall), not only for the unregenerate but for all men. Thus, the founder of the so-called Society of Jesus, Ignatius Loyola, stated: "I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it." The only path to certainty is apparently the definition of "the hierarchical Church." But such certainty is not obtained by reasoning, and really cannot be. Thus, if Calvinists were guilty for the reasons Dyer alleges (which, of course, they are not) then those in Catholicism would be similarly guilty, if they followed in the footsteps of Ignatius Loyola.

As you must already know, the difference is that Calvinism places faith in the Bible (the written and unchanging Word of God), whereas Catholicism places faith in Rome (that they allege is the true Church of God, but which has abandoned the true gospel). That may seem harsh because those in Catholicism claim to believe the Bible. On the other hand, they have the order of authority reversed, so that they will simply accept whatever teaching Rome gives (even when it is contrary to the plain sense of Scripture) and understand the Bible in light of that teaching, rather than the other way around - accepting only those teachings that jive with Scripture.


Continue to Part 13

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 11 of 13)

This is part 11 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:

10) [A consistent Calvinist must be] A liberal higher critic, since Luther can slice up the canon, it follows so might anyone.

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

Virtually all Calvinists hold to the same 66 book canon of Scripture (see Belgic Confession Article 4, Westminster Confession of Faith 1:2, London Baptist Confession of Faith 1:2, and Savoy Declaration 1:2). The canon of Scripture is just a list of the inspired books (2 Timothy 3:16-17 "16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.").

The Calvinist position is well expressed by the Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675), which states, in its first two canons:
Canon 1: God, the Supreme Judge, not only took care to have his word, which is the "power of God unto salvation to every one that believes" (Rom 1:16), committed to writing by Moses, the Prophets and the Apostles, but has also watched and cherished it with paternal care from the time it was written up to the present, so that it could not be corrupted by craft of Satan or fraud of man. Therefore the Church justly ascribes to it his singular grace and goodness that she has, and will have to the end of the world (2 Pet 1:19), a "sure word of prophecy" and "Holy Scriptures" (2 Tim 3:15), from which though heaven and earth pass away, "the smallest letter or the least stroke of a pen will not disappear by any means" (Matt 5:18).

Canon II: But, in particular, The Hebrew original of the OT which we have received and to this day do retain as handed down by the Hebrew Church, "who had been given the oracles of God" (Rom 3:2), is, not only in its consonants, but in its vowels either the vowel points themselves, or at least the power of the points not only in its matter, but in its words, inspired by God. It thus forms, together with the Original of the NT the sole and complete rule of our faith and practice; and to its standard, as to a Lydian stone, all extant versions, eastern or western, ought to be applied, and wherever they differ, be conformed.

b) The Accusation Disputed

In fact, Luther did not "carve up the canon." James Swan has provided a great paper on this subject (link) plus a three-part response to criticism (part 1)(part 2)(part 3). And, of course, Calvinists are not Lutherans.

Furthermore, as discussed above, Calvinists accept Scripture because of its divine authorship. Thus, consistent Calvinists do not feel free to discard books that are inspired or to accept additional books (such as the so-called "Deutero-canonical" book) that are not inspired. Even when Calvinists believe the legend that Luther removed one or more books from the canon, consistent Calvinists reject such action as inappropriate.

The term "Higher Criticism" has been used various ways. One definition I found is
"HIGHER CRITICISM" is a phrase used to express all investigations respecting the genuineness, authenticity, and integrity of ancient literary works especially the various books of the Bible.
(The Higher Criticism, Introduction, Charles Wesley Rishell)

Arguably, some form of higher criticism is the apologist's role in defending the genuineness, authenticity, and integrity of the various books of the Bible. Although the ultimate answer for why we accept the books of the Bible as genuine and authentic is the persuasion of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit uses means, including (in some instances) historical evidences.

I think that by "liberal higher critic" Dyer probably meant to refer to those who approach "higher criticism" from the standpoint of extreme skepticism (doubting everything in the extreme way that, for example, Bart Ehrman does) or from the standpoint of pure naturalism (that is to say, treating Scripture as being purely the product of human composition). For the reasons stated above, the consistent Calvinist cannot accept either of these forms of higher criticism.

c) The Accusation Redirected

Modern Catholicism's view of the canon is one that is based on determining which books were received by "the Church." Thus, Trent declares: "And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one's mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod." (4th Session) Although one might think that this sort of magisterial announcement might at least prevent Catholicisms adherents from carving out a canon of their own.

James Swan had discussed this issue earlier when Gary Michuta (an apologist for Catholicism) had argued that Trent did not reject the Septuagint book of 1 Esdras by not including it in the list (link). This would seem to suggest that further carving out (or carving in) of 1 Esdras is still possible in Catholicism, if Michuta is correct (which itself seems unlikely).

Perhaps of greater interest is the fact that Trent went beyond merely identifying the canonical books. Trent also declared:
But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church.
(4th Session) (emphasis added)

Note that Trent identifies the "old Latin Vulgate" as the authentic version, even as to "its parts." There are two things that must be kept in mind: (1) the "old Latin Vulgate" was not an edition of the Vulgate then in existence. Pope Sixtus V was given the task of preparing the "official" version of the Latin Vulgate, but he failed. His version was so riddled with errors that his successor, at Bellarmine's suggestion, withdrew all copies of the original Sixtus V translation and issued a new edition in which there was an attempt to correct the errors of the Sixtus V translation. This edition (called the "Celementine Vulgate" after pope Clement VIII who promulgated it) includes the famous "Johannine Comma." If the Sixtus V translation, even as edited by Clement VIII, must be accepted as to "its parts" then it would seem that it would be a violation of the teachings of Trent for people in Catholicism to deny the authenticity of the Johannine.

Of course, that does not stop the modern textual critics with Catholicism. The Nova Vulgata, promulgated by pope John Paul II, omits the Johannine Comma. It also makes numerous other changes to the text.

Thus, although Catholicism in Trent would appear to eliminate the possibility of higher criticism, in the sense of accepting additional books or not accepting listed books, certain prominent apologists for Catholicism do not feel so limited. Likewise, although Catholicism in Trent would appear to be locked into a particular edition (or at least into the Latin textual tradition), modern Catholicism seems willing to revise the text in accordance with modern textual critical theories and resort to the original languages, rather than reliance on the Latin textual tradition.

Pope Leo XIII (in 1893) put it this way:
Hence it is most proper that Professors of Sacred Scripture and theologians should master those tongues in which the sacred Books were originally written; and it would be well that Church students also should cultivate them, more especially those who aspire to academic degrees. And endeavours should be made to establish in all academic institutions - as has already been laudably done in many - chairs of the other ancient languages, especially the Semitic, and of subjects connected therewith, for the benefit principally of those who are intended to profess sacred literature. These latter, with a similar object in view, should make themselves well and thoroughly acquainted with the art of true criticism. There has arisen, to the great detriment of religion, an inept method, dignified by the name of the "higher criticism," which pretends to judge of the origin, integrity and authority of each Book from internal indications alone. It is clear, on the other hand, that in historical questions, such as the origin and the handing down of writings, the witness of history is of primary importance, and that historical investigation should be made with the utmost care; and that in this matter internal evidence is seldom of great value, except as confirmation. To look upon it in any other light will be to open the door to many evil consequences. It will make the enemies of religion much more bold and confident in attacking and mangling the Sacred Books; and this vaunted "higher criticism" will resolve itself into the reflection of the bias and the prejudice of the critics. It will not throw on the Scripture the light which is sought, or prove of any advantage to doctrine; it will only give rise to disagreement and dissension, those sure notes of error, which the critics in question so plentifully exhibit in their own persons; and seeing that most of them are tainted with false philosophy and rationalism, it must lead to the elimination from the sacred writings of all prophecy and miracle, and of everything else that is outside the natural order.
(Providentissimus Deus, Section 17)


Continue to Part 12

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rosary Power!

The superstitions associated with the Rosary are just tremendous, but a sincere belief in the power of the Rosary throughout Catholicism cannot be denied. I recall reading that the SSPX had prayed 1.7 Million rosaries (source - with critical Romanist commentary) from the time that they had come under Rome's excommunication until the time the excommunication was lifted.

But I came across an even more interesting site "Rosaries for Life" (H.T. to Romanist Mark Shea for pointing this out) in which the goal is to fight abortion through praying Rosaries (link). The remarkable depth of the superstitious reverence for the rosary can really be seen most clearly from a sub-page of the site entitled "Rosary Power" (link).

I think we should be praying to God, asking that the massacre of the unborn be abated, but the Rosary is not the way to pray. It is saddening to see not only the depth of the superstition, but as well the depth of the sincerity of those who are drawn into these practices.