Saturday, June 13, 2009

June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 9

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Romans 1:26-27
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And 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.

Limited Atonement Defended (Against Albrecht)

This is a response to Mr. Albrecht's video "Limited Atonement, further examined" (link).

Mr. Albrecht has already conceded the main point of the discussion in his video by noting that Limited Atonement is not a heresy. That's for the best, since the position OneTrueChurch (Glenn) took that Calvinism's doctrine of Limited Atonement is heresy, is an untenable position.

There are a few other things to clear up, however:

1. Cut-n-Paste - There are Two Kinds

a) Bad - when you cut and paste arguments from Jimmy Akin to try to use them as your own arguments without understanding what Akin was trying to say.

b) Good - when you quote a church father verbatim.

2. The Church Fathers At Issue

a) Theodoret

Whether or not Christ "thirsts for the salvation of all men" is at best tangential to the issue of the extent of the atonement. And I was surprised that Albrecht would be so blatant about telling his listeners to ignore the context - but there you have it!

However, the statement that Christ was not offered to bear the sins of the non-elect is directly relevant, since that's the claim of limited atonement (though sadly, Albrecht does not understand this).

2. Augustine

Likewise, the statement that Christ did not redeem all humans is directly relevant to the issue of limited atonement, since that's the claim of limited atonement.

3. Chrysostom

Same as with Theodoret - the question of "bearing the sins of all" is the point that is relevant to Limited Atonement (not the question of why he did not bear the sins of the others).

4. Bede

Bede's interpretation of the important (to the discussion) text of 1 John 2:1-2 is supportive of the doctrine of the Limited Atonement, which Albrecht would understand if he understood Limited Atonement.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Augustine Distinguishing All in Adam from All in Christ

I came across the following quotation and thought I'd share it:
Since you do not wish to understand the “many” he said later as meaning the “all” he said first, you declare he said “many” to keep us from thinking he meant “all”. You could do likewise about the seed of Abraham to whom all nations were promised, and say not all nations were promised him, because we read in another passage: “I have made thee a father of many nations.” Sound thinking shows that Scripture speaks in this way because there can be an “all” which are not “many,” as we speak of all the Gospels, yet they are only four in number. There can also be “many” which are not “all,” as we say many believe in Christ, yet not all believe; the Apostle says: “All men have not faith.” In the words, “In your seed all nations will be blessed” and “I have made thee a father of many nations,” it is clear that the same nations that are all are also many, and the same that are many are all. Similarly, when it is said that through one, sin passed unto all, and later, that through the disobedience of one, many were constituted sinners, those who are many are also all. In like manner, when it is said: “By the justice of the one the result is unto justification of life to all men,” and again: “By the obedience of the one many will be constituted just,” none is excepted; we must understand that those who are many are all not because all men are justified in Christ, but because all who are justified can be justified in no other way than in Christ. We can also say that all enter a certain house through one door, not because all men enter that house, but because no one enters except through that door. All, then, are unto death through Adam; all unto life through Christ. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made to live.” That is to say, from the first origin of the human race, none is unto death except through Adam, and through Adam none is unto anything but death; and none is unto life except through Christ, and through Christ none is unto anything but life.
- Augustine, Against Julian, Book VI, Chapter 24, Section 80 (see Ancient Voices for more)

I think this quotation is interesting for a number of reasons:

1) We see Augustine making a similar (though not precisely the same) distinction between "all in Adam" and "all in Christ" that typical Calvinist exegesis concludes;

2) We see that Augustine held to exactly four gospels;

3) We see that Augustine concluded that all who died received this curse via Adam (which would, in Augustine's theology, include Mary the mother of our Lord).


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 8

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

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.

Charles Hastings Collette on the Canon of the Fathers

Collette wrote:
Romanism is full of inconsistencies! Again, with the assumed attribute of infallibility, it is strange that the Roman Church has never authoritatively declared which are the genuine productions of the Fathers, that we may know with certainty what is the faith of the Church, and precisely to know what we should believe. Except according to the unanimous consent of these same doubtful, uncertain, and contradictory writings, no portion of Scripture must be interpreted, and yet the Roman Church has put forward no canon of the Fathers!
(Popish Frauds, p. 89)

Collette makes an excellent point. Trent does suggest that the unanimous consent of the fathers is a rule of interpreting Scripture ("Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established."), but they dare not tell us which are the genuine works and genuine editions of those works of the fathers. As such, it is a perfectly useless standard - a nose of wax to take on whatever shape is thought to serve Rome's interest.


The real Turretin on: Degree of Sanctification

Phil Siefkes at Pastor's Perspective provides a quotation from the real Turretin answering the question: Is sanctification so perfect in this life that believers can fulfill the law absolutely? (link) The short answer, of course, is no - but Turretin explains it well.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Staupitz on Limited Atonement

Johann von Staupitz (lived about A.D. 1460 - December 28, 1524) was Vicar-General of the Augustinian Order in Germany. He was also the dean of the theology faculty at the University of Wittenberg. Eventually, he joined the Benedictines and became Abbot of St. Peter's in Salzburg. He was the one who famously heard Luther's six-hour confession.

He was a spiritual mentor to Luther, but never joined Luther's movement. He was accused of Lutheranism, but abjured this (though he refused to revoke any Lutheranism on the grounds that he had never held it). The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) insists that "Staupitz was no Lutheran but thoroughly Catholic in matters of faith."

What is particularly interesting to note for those interested in the issue of Calvinism is that Staupitz held to Limited Atonement. David Curtis Steinmetz reports:
The death of Christ is sufficient as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all men. The mere fact that baptized infants may be saved without any merits of their own is in itself evidence adequate to establish the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ. This sufficiency, however, is not unlimited. The limitations are twofold.
On the one hand, the atonement is limited in its effect to the remission of the sins of the elect. Christ did not lay down his life for all men, Staupitz noted, but only for many (non pro omnibus sed pro multis). Staupitz did not believe that the atonement was inherently inadequate to expiate the sins of the whole world, but rather that it was not intended to do so. It is not a question of inadequacy, but of intention. The atonement is delimited and defined by divine election.
(D.C. Steinmetz, Misericordia Dei: The theology of Johannes von Staupitz in its late medieval setting, (Brill: 1968) pp. 144-45)

He also limited the atonement in another way, but it is this primary way that is of interest to the Reformed reader who might be mislead by folks who suggest that Calvin innovated limited atonement. It was not something Calvin invented, and it was not something that Luther invented. It is something that Scripture teaches, and it is something that many folks who have professed faith in Christ have taught throughout history.

Furthermore, it is the other limitation on the atonement, to make remove for Penance, that the first generation Reformers had to so vociferously dispute from Scripture, occasionally leading to unguarded quotations that our Amyraldian friends enjoy mining and presenting outside the historical context in which they were made.

Is Staupitz representative of the views of theologically-inclined churchmen (don't think that such a statement is redundant especially in the late medieval period) just before Luther? Hard to say. I have not seen enough data to come to a firm conclusion. Nevertheless, his comments do suggest that there is a reason that the first generation of Reformers did not face opposition on the doctrine of limited atonement: it was already part of the theological milieu, not to mention (of course) that is the clear teaching of Scripture.


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 7

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Leviticus 20:15-16
15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. 16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Some Church Fathers on the Atonement

The following is a list of several patristic quotations (previously posted here) that relate to the topic of the atonement. Some affirm limited atonement, some are simply germane to the topic of the atonement without necessarily affirming limited atonement.

Ambrose (c. 339-97): Although Christ suffered for all, yet He suffered for us particularly, because He suffered for the Church. Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book VI, §25, p. 201.
Latin Text: Et si Christus pro omnibus passus est, pro nobis tamen specialiter passus est; quia pro Ecclesia passus est. Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, 6.25, PL 15:1675.

Ambrose (c. 339-97): Great, therefore, is the mystery of Christ, before which even angels stood amazed and bewildered. For this cause, then, it is thy duty to worship Him, and, being a servant, thou oughtest not to detract from thy Lord. Ignorance thou mayest not plead, for to this end He came down, that thou mayest believe; if thou believest not, He has not come down for thee, has not suffered for thee. “If I had not come,” saith the Scripture, “and spoken with them, they would have no sin: but now have they no excuse for their sin. He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also.” Who, then, hates Christ, if not he who speaks to His dishonor? — for as it is love’s part to render, so it is hate’s to withdraw honor. He who hates, calls in question; he who loves, pays reverence. NPNF2: Vol.: Volume X, Of the Christian Faith, Book IV, Chapter 2, §27.

Ambrosiaster: The people of God hath its own fulness. In the elect and foreknown, distinguished from the generality of all, there is accounted a certain special universality; so that the whole world seems to be delivered from the whole world, and all men to be taken out of all men. See Works of John Owen, Vol. 10, p. 423.
Latin text: Habet ergo populus Dei plenitudinem suam, et quamvis magna pars hominum, salvantis gratiam aut repellat aut negligat, in electis tamen et praescitis, atque ab omnium generalitate discretis, specialis quaedam censetur universitas, ut de toto mundo totus mundus liberatus, et de omnibus hominibus omnes homines videantur assumpti: De Vocatione Gentium, Liber Primus, Caput III, PL 17:1084.

Jerome (347-420) on Matthew 20:28: He does not say that he gave his life for all, but for many, that is, for all those who would believe. See Turretin, Vol. 2, p. 462.
Latin text: Non dixit animam suam redemptionem dare pro omnibus, sed pro multis, id est, pro his qui credere voluerint. Commentariorum in Evangelium Matthaei, Liber Tertius, PL 26:144-145.

(Pseudo-?)Hilary of Arles (c. 401-449) commenting on 1 John 2:2: When John says that Christ died for the sins of the “whole world,” what he means is that he died for the whole church. Introductory Commentary on 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 177. (N.B. A friend has brought to my attention that although this text is found in the PL Supp., CCSL 108B and Clavis designate this work as spurius. I haven't had time to research the question more fully myself, but wanted to highlight this in case anyone is using these quotations.)
Latin text: et non pro nostris tantum. set etiam pro totius mundi peccatis; Aecclesiam mundi nomine appellat. Expositio In Epistolas Catholiicas, Incipit Epistola Sancti Iohannis Apostoli, Cap. II, v. 2, PL Supp. 3:118.

Augustine (354-430): 2. But alongside of this love we ought also patiently to endure the hatred of the world. For it must of necessity hate those whom it perceives recoiling from that which is loved by itself. But the Lord supplies us with special consolation from His own case, when, after saying, “These things I command you, that ye love one another,” He added, “If the world hate you, know that it hated me before [it hated] you.” Why then should the member exalt itself above the head? Thou refusest to be in the body if thou art unwilling to endure the hatred of the world along with the Head. “If ye were of the world,” He says, “the world would love its own.” He says this, of course, of the whole Church, which, by itself, He frequently also calls by the name of the world: as when it is said, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” And this also: “The Son of man came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” And John says in his epistle: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also [for those] of the whole world.” The whole world then is the Church, and yet the whole world hateth the Church. The world therefore hateth the world, the hostile that which is reconciled, the condemned that which is saved, the polluted that which is cleansed.
3. But that world which God is in Christ reconciling unto Himself, which is saved by Christ, and has all its sins freely pardoned by Christ, has been chosen out of the world that is hostile, condemned, and defiled. For out of that mass, which has all perished in Adam, are formed the vessels of mercy, whereof that world of reconciliation is composed, that is hated by the world which belongeth to the vessels of wrath that are formed out of the same mass and fitted to destruction. Finally, after saying, “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own,” He immediately added, “But because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” And so these men were themselves also of that world, and, that they might no longer be of it, were chosen out of it, through no merit of their own, for no good works of theirs had preceded; and not by nature, which through free-will had become totally corrupted at its source: but gratuitously, that is, of actual grace. For He who chose the world out of the world, effected for Himself, instead of finding, what He should choose: for “there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace. And if by grace,” he adds, “then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate LXXXVII, §2-3, John 15:17-19.

Augustine (354-430): Hence things that are lawful are not all good, but everything unlawful is not good. Just as everyone redeemed by Christ's blood is a human being, but human beings are not all redeemed by Christ's blood, so too everything that is unlawful is not good, but things that are not good are not all unlawful. As we learn from the testimony of the apostle, there are some things that are lawful but are not good. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Adulterous Marriages, Part 1, Vol. 9, trans. Ray Kearney, O.P., Book One, 15, 16 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 153.

Chrysostom (349-407) on Hebrews 9:28. “So Christ was once offered.”: By whom offered? evidently by Himself. Here he says that He is not Priest only, but Victim also, and what is sacrificed. On this account are [the words] “was offered.” “Was once offered” (he says) “to bear the sins of many.” Why “of many,” and not “of all”? Because not all believed, For He died indeed for all, that is His part: for that death was a counterbalance against the destruction of all men. But He did not bear the sins of all men, because they were not willing. NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Epistle to the Hebrews, Homly 17.

Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463): He is not crucified with Christ who is not a member of the body of Christ. When, therefore, our Saviour is said to be crucified for the redemption of the whole world, because of his true assumption of the human nature, yet may he be said to be crucified only for them unto whom his death was profitable. . . . Diverse from these is their lot who are reckoned amongst them of whom is is said, ‘the world knew him not.’
Latin text: Non est autem crucifixus in Christo, qui non est membrum corporis Christi, nec est membrum corporis Christi, qui non per aquam et Spiritum sanctum induit Christum. Qui ideo in infirmitate nostra communionem subiit mortis, ut nos in virtute ejus haberemus consortium resurrectionis. Cum itaque rectissime dicatur Salvator pro totius mundi redemptione crucifixus, propter veram humanae naturae susceptionem, et propter communem in primo homine omnium perditionem: potest tamen dici pro his tantum crucifixus quibus mors ipsius profuit. . . . Diversa ergo ab istis sors eorum est qui inter illos censentur de quibus dicitur; Mundus eum non cognovit. Responsiones ad Capitula Gallorum, Capitulum IX, Responsio, PL 51:165.

Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463): Doubtless the propriety of redemption is theirs from whom the prince of this world is cast out. The death of Christ is not to be so laid out for human-kind, that they also should belong unto his redemption who were not to be regenerated.
Latin text: Redemptionis proprietas haud dubie penes illos est, de quibus princeps mundi missus est foras, et jam non vasa diaboli, sed membra sunt Christi. Cujus mors non ita impensa est humano generi, ut ad redemptionem ejus etiam qui regenerandi non erant pertinerint. Responsiones ad Capitula Objectionum Vincentianarum, Capitulum Primum, Responsio, PL 51:178.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466) commenting on Hebrews 9:27-28: As it is appointed for each human being to die once, and the one who accepts death’s decree no longer sins but awaits the examination of what was done in life, so Christ the Lord, after being offered once for us and taking up our sins, will come to us again, with sin no longer in force, that is, with sin no longer occupying a place as far as human beings are concerned. He said himself, remember, when he still had a mortal body, “He committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth.” It should be noted, of course, that he bore the sins of many, not of all: not all came to faith, so he removed the sins of the believers only. Robert Charles Hill, Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on the Letters of St. Paul, Vol. 2 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001), p. 175.

Bede (672/673-735) commenting on 1 John 2:1: The Lord intercedes for us not by words but by his dying compassion, because he took upon himself the sins which he was unwilling to condemn his elect for. On 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 177.
Latin text: Interpellat ergo pro nobis Dominus, non voce, sed miseratione, quia quod damnare in electis noluit, suscipiendo servavit. In Primam Epistolam S. Joannis, Caput II, PL 93:89.

Bede (672/673-735) commenting on 1 John 2:2: In his humanity Christ pleads for our sins before the Father, but in his divinity he has propitiated them for us with the Father. Furthermore, he has not done this only for those who were alive at the time of his death, but also for the whole church which is scattered over the full compass of the world, and it will be valid for everyone, from the very first among the elect until the last one who will be born at the end of time. This verse is therefore a rebuke to the Donatists, who thought that the true church was to be found only in Africa. The Lord pleads for the sins of the whole world, because the church which he has bought with his blood exists in every corner of the globe. On 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 178.
Latin text: Qui per humanitatem interpellat pro nobis apud Patrem, idem per divinitatem propitiatur nobis cum Patre. . . . Non pro illis solum propitiatio est Dominus, quibus tunc in carne viventibus scribebat Joannes, sed etiam pro omni Ecclesia quae per totam mundi latitudinem diffusa est, primo nimirum electo usque ad ultimum qui in fine mundi nasciturus est porrecta. Quibus verbis Donatistarum schisma reprobat, qui in Africae solum finibus Ecclesiam Christi esse dicebant inclusam. Pro totius ergo mundi peccatis interpellat Dominus, quia per totum mundum est Ecclesia, quam suo sanguine comparavit. In Primam Epistolam S. Joannis, Caput II, PL 93:90.



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Albrecht vs Cajetan - Round 2

The video embedded below is a further response to William Albrechts (aka GNRHead) (link to Albrecht's video) on the issue of Cardinal Cajetan and the Canon. In this video:

1. We deal with the fact that "Cajetan" is pronounced in modern English with the "j" making a "j" sound when it comes from a Latin (or other classical) root. Thus, we have Jesus and Jehovah, or - more to the points (since Jesus and Jehovah are not Latin words in the strictest sense) - June, July, Julius Caesar, and Jerome. Of course, a more authentic pronunciation would be to soften the "J" to a "Y" sound, but this is not the standard way of anglicizing Latin names these days.

2. We note that Mr. Albrecht humorously says that I have "the credentials of a super-hero" - but counter that this is why I don't rely on my own credentials. I rely on higher authorities than myself.

3. We clarify that Cardinal Cajetan accepts Jerome's opinion and harmonizes it with the other councils through a "two senses of canonical" explanation, which is reasonable. We note that Mr. Albrecht is confused about this, leading to his mistaken impression that Cardinal Cajetan thought that he (Cajetan) was opposing the rest of tradition besides that of Jerome.

4. Mr. Albrecht expresses the opinion that Cardinal Cajetan is "ignorant" when it comes to Jerome, but we discover that Cardinal Cajetan has credentials that ought to give Mr. Albrecht pause about that sort of comment.

5. We observe that Albrecht admits that his arguments about quotations from the Apocrypha are bad arguments. However, we also note that he doesn't complete eschew them, but then complains when we point out that they are bad arguments (suggesting that we are beating a straw man when we smack down his bad arguments as such).

6. We observe approximately the same thing as (5) about Albrecht's argument from the binding of a few ancient codices.

7. Next, we dispose (on the authority of Bruce Metzger) of the error of thinking that Jerome was alone in rejecting the apocrypha (or as the Romanists call them, the deuterocanonicals). Instead, Origen and Melito of Sardis did as well (it should, of course, be noted that there is an asterisk next to Melito's name, in that he apparently accepted Wisdom in place of Esther, though he got the total number of books correct).

8. Furthermore, we disposed of Mr. Albrecht's error of claiming that Trent had the same list of books as did the councils of Hippo and Carthage, confirming this from the words of one of Mr. Albrecht's fellow Romanists, Gary Michuta.

9. Finally, we addressed Mr. Albrecht's debate challenge, which we accepted - although setting up a time and date remains to be done (Mr. Albrecht had suggested January 2010).

Special thanks to Matthew Lankford's artistic skill in adding a number animation goodies into this clip!


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 6

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Leviticus 20:11-12
11 And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. 12 And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

Leviticus 20:14 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Wise Turk on Religious Entertainment

He's not really a Turk, but we do sometimes find wisdom (of sorts) from unexpected places. I recently came across the following quotation:

"Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment." (Joseph Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 198)

Far be it from me to applaud the most prominent living enemy of the Christian faith, but he's right about this issue. When there is applause during what purports to be a worship service, it is because something has gone dreadfully awry. Worship of God (and God alone) is why we are in church on the Lord's Day.

When one begins to admix entertainment into the service, one is losing sight of the focus of worship in two ways. First of all, one is focusing on the performer, rather than on God. Second of all, one is permitting oneself to be honored when the honor should be directed to God.

Worship is edifying and valuable to the worshiper, but it is not about the worshiper. The minister of God and his assistants (whoever they may be) are there to lead you in the worship of God, not to entertain and amuse you.

I am not saying that no joke may ever be told from the pulpit, but when your pastor can rival the local comedy club for the number of laughs and applause per minute from the crowd, something has gone dreadfully wrong.

In general applause is totally inappropriate in worship, as is reverence and honor being paid to anyone besides the Mighty and Jealous God whom you are there to worship. Come, pay homage to God, and hear the proclamation of his Word!

I think I can say without exaggeration that the problem of entertainment in churches is a rival to the problem of feasting instead of communion in the ancient churches. If you want to have a good laugh, go to a comedy club. If you want to hear outstanding musical performances, go to the local concert hall. The point of church is not entertain you - but for you to interact reverentially and solemnly with God.


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 5

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Of the Preaching of the Word

The following is taken from the Directory for Public Worship (1645) as approved for use in the Church of Scotland. I commend it to the reading of any who have are called upon to preach the word of God. It is an excellent primer in homiletics; while it is not exhaustive, it provides a great foundation for anyone who finds himself serving as a minister of the Word:

PREACHING of the word, being the power of God unto salvation, and one of the greatest and most excellent works belonging to the ministry of the gospel, should be so performed, that the workman need not be ashamed, but may save himself, and those that hear him.

It is presupposed, (according to the rules for ordination,) that the minister of Christ is in some good measure gifted for so weighty a service, by his skill in the original languages, and in such arts and sciences as are handmaids unto divinity; by his knowledge in the whole body of theology, but most of all in the holy scriptures, having his senses and heart exercised in them above the common sort of believers; and by the illumination of God's Spirit, and other gifts of edification, which (together with reading and studying of the word) he ought still to seek by prayer, and an humble heart, resolving to admit and receive any truth not yet attained, whenever God shall make it known unto him. All which he is to make use of, and improve, in his private preparations, before he deliver in public what he hath provided.

Ordinarily, the subject of his sermon is to be some text of scripture, holding forth some principle or head of religion, or suitable to some special occasion emergent; or he may go on in some chapter, psalm, or book of the holy scripture, as he shall see fit.

Let the introduction to his text be brief and perspicuous, drawn from the text itself, or context, or some parallel place, or general sentence of scripture.

If the text be long, (as in histories or parables it sometimes must be,) let him give a brief sum of it; if short, a paraphrase thereof, if need be: in both, looking diligently to the scope of the text, and pointing at the chief heads and grounds of doctrine which he is to raise from it.

In analysing and dividing his text, he is to regard more the order of matter than of words; and neither to burden the memory of the hearers in the beginning with too many members of division, nor to trouble their minds with obscure terms of art.

In raising doctrines from the text, his care ought to be, First, That the matter be the truth of God. Secondly, That it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence. Thirdly, That he chiefly insist upon those doctrines which are principally intended; and make most for the edification of the hearers.

The doctrine is to be expressed in plain terms; or, if any thing in it need explication, it is to be opened, and the consequence also from the text cleared. The parallel places of scripture, confirming the doctrine, are rather to be plain and pertinent, than many, and (it need be) some what insisted upon, and applied to the purpose in hand.

The arguments or reasons are to be solid, and, as much as may be, convincing. The illustrations, of what kind soever, ought to be full of light, and such as may convey the truth into the hearer's heart with spiritual delight.

If any doubt obvious from scripture, reason, or prejudice of the hearers, seem to arise, it is very requisite to remove it, by reconciling the seeming differences, answering the reasons, and discovering and taking away the causes of prejudice and mistake. Otherwise it is not fit to detain the hearers with propounding or answering vain or wicked cavils, which, as they are endless, so the propounding and answering of them doth more hinder than promote edification.

He is not to rest in general doctrine, although never so much cleared and confirmed, but to bring it home to special use, by application to his hearers: which albeit it prove a work of great difficulty to himself, requiring much prudence, zeal, and meditation, and to the natural and corrupt man will be very unpleasant; yet he is to endeavour to perform it in such a manner, that his auditors may feel the word of God to be quick and powerful, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and that, if any unbeliever or ignorant person be present, he may have the secrets of his heart made manifest, and give glory to God.

In the use of instruction or information in the knowledge of some truth , which is a consequence from his doctrine, he may (when convenient) confirm it by a few firm arguments from the text in hand, and other places of scripture, or from the nature of that common-place in divinity, whereof that truth is a branch.

In confutation of false doctrines, he is neither to raise an old heresy from the grave, nor to mention a blasphemous opinion unnecessarily: but, if the people be in danger of an error, he is to confute it soundly, and endeavour to satisfy their judgments and consciences against all objections.

In exhorting to duties, he is, as he seeth cause, to teach also the means that help to the performance of them.

In dehortation, reprehension, and publick admonition, (which require special wisdom,) let him, as there shall be cause, not only discover the nature and greatness of the sin, with the misery attending it, but also shew the danger his hearers are in to be overtaken and surprised by it, together with the remedies and best way to avoid it.

In applying comfort, whether general against all temptations, or particular against some special troubles or terrors, he is carefully to answer such objections as a troubled heart and afflicted spirit may suggest to the contrary. It is also sometimes requisite to give some notes of trial, (which is very profitable, especially when performed by able and experienced ministers, with circumspection and prudence, and the signs clearly grounded on the holy scripture,) whereby the hearers may be able to examine themselves whether they have attained those graces, and performed those duties, to which he exhorteth, or be guilty of the sin reprehended, and in danger of the judgments threatened, or are such to whom the consolations propounded do belong; that accordingly they may be quickened and excited to duty, humbled for their wants and sins, affected with their danger, and strengthened with comfort, as their condition, upon examination, shall require.

And, as he needeth not always to prosecute every doctrine which lies in his text, so is he wisely to make choice of such uses, as, by his residence and conversing with his flock, he findeth most needful and seasonable; and, amongst these, such as may most draw their souls to Christ, the fountain of light, holiness, and comfort.

This method is not prescribed as necessary for every man, or upon every text; but only recommended, as being found by experience to be very much blessed of God, and very helpful for the people's understandings and memories.

But the servant of Christ, whatever his method be, is to perform his whole ministry:

1. Painfully, not doing the work of the Lord negligently.

2. Plainly, that the meanest may understand; delivering the truth not in the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect; abstaining also from an unprofitable use of unknown tongues, strange phrases, and cadences of sounds and words; sparingly citing sentences of ecclesiastical or other human writers, ancient or modern, be they never so elegant.

3. Faithfully, looking at the honour of Christ, the conversion, edification, and salvation of the people, not at his own gain or glory; keeping nothing back which may promote those holy ends, giving to every one his own portion, and bearing indifferent respect unto all, without neglecting the meanest, or sparing the greatest, in their sins.

4. Wisely, framing all his doctrines, exhortations, and especially his reproofs, in such a manner as may be most likely to prevail; shewing all due respect to each man's person and place, and not mixing his own passion or bitterness.

5. Gravely, as becometh the word of God; shunning all such gesture, voice, and expressions, as may occasion the corruptions of men to despise him and his ministry.

6. With loving affection, that the people may see all coming from his godly zeal, and hearty desire to do them good. And,

7. As taught of God, and persuaded in his own heart, that all that he teacheth is the truth of Christ; and walking before his flock, as an example to them in it; earnestly, both in private and publick, recommending his labours to the blessing of God, and watchfully looking to himself, and the flock whereof the Lord hath made him overseer: So shall the doctrine of truth be preserved uncorrupt, many souls converted and built up, and himself receive manifold comforts of his labours even in this life, and afterward the crown of glory laid up for him in the world to come.

Where there are more ministers in a congregation than one, and they of different gifts, each may more especially apply himself to doctrine or exhortation, according to the gift wherein he most excelleth, and as they shall agree between themselves.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Tenacity of the Text - a Response


The issue of the tenacity of the text is one of the important points that was raised by Dr. White in his debate with Dr. Ehrman recently (the debate can be obtained here). One of the illustrations of the tenacity of the text is the illustration of a jigsaw puzzle set that includes 1,010 pieces although only 1,000 are the pieces to be included (with 10 pieces that are additional). Ehrman does not admit this principle of the tenacity of the text, insisting instead that there are places (at least one - perhaps many) where the original reading of a text is lost. There may, in Ehrman's mind, be 1,010 pieces but less than 1,000 of those go with this puzzle.

It's important to distinguish the issue of tenacity; in its most basic form the tenacity argument simply asserts that we have all the pieces that make up the original text. It does not say that we can easily distinguish between readings. It also does not say whether the majority text has been interpolated (the prevailing view in modern criticism) or whether the older texts are deficient (a view popular among advocates of the majority text).

I came across the following comment on a theological discussion forum:
At best [The 1,010 pieces for a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle illustration] gives an understandable graphic/picture that is helpful in presenting the nature of the situation faced by text critics. However, despite the reality of "tenacity" it would be overly optimistic and wrong to presume that we nevertheless possess all the pieces that are required to perfectly complete the puzzle. Indeed we do have an overabundance of pieces regarding certain aspects of the puzzle picture, but it is not correct to suggest we have no vital pieces yet missing. We do not, and cannot, know that we possess somewhere in the available manuscripts the autographa, however autographa may be defined! We cannot say that if we have three manuscripts of a text that one of them accurately reflects the original.

This comment was questioned by one of the participants, and the following clarification was provided:
My point is simply that at this juncture we cannot affirm with surety that no vital pieces are yet missing. The problem here is simply that the text witnesses we possess only touch the fringes of the 2nd century. We have, at present, no way of knowing what may have dropped out very very early in manuscript transmission, in first century or early second century. In respect to the New Testament the earliest manuscript witnesses are of varying earliest age. We can presume we have all the vital pieces, and it is indeed possible, perhaps even probable, that we have them. But to suggest that is the case is by no means a certainty.
(same source)

What can we make of this sort of rejoinder? There are several answers to be given.

1. Speculation

From a purely materialistic standpoint (ignoring the supernatural), it is possible to be radically skeptical of anything. The radical skeptic demands proof beyond any doubt, and there are few things that the radical skeptic is willing not to doubt. Such a process, though, is just speculation.

An argument premised on skepticism is fundamentally flawed. It employs what I refer to as the skeptical fallacy. The skeptical fallacy is seen in the following:

1) P should be accepted IFF (i.e. if and only if) it has sufficient warrant.
2) P is susceptible to doubt and consequently P does not have sufficient warrant.
3) Therefore P should be rejected.

I've stated it a bit informally to compress it. The fallacy lies in the fact that the reasoning, if it were true, undermines the minor premise. After all the minor premise is itself a proposition that is subject to doubt. That is to say, one can doubt whether susceptibility to doubt is a legitimate attack on warrant.

But I digress. The point is that bare speculation over the merely hypothetical possibility of matter being lost in transmission is not a well-grounded and reasonable objection to the position of tenacity. Thus, to the extent that the rejection is based solely on speculation, it is an unreasonable objection.

2. Confusing the Issues

The issue of whether we can "perfectly complete the puzzle" is not the same as the issue of tenacity. I suppose it is reasonable to mention this concern, because completing a 1,000 piece jigsaw perfectly with extremely high confidence of having obtained the proper result is possible by nature of the way that pieces fit together (or don't, in the case of the extraneous pieces).

In other words, it is easy to see how the illustration could (through the fact that the analogy is not perfect) lead someone to an incorrect conclusion. It is important to understand that not every textual variant is easy to resolve. Picking at random from my copy of Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, I note that there is a textual variant with respect to the word "γὰρ" ("gar") in Romans 14:5. The majority text omits the word, but a number of ancient copies of the text, ancient translations of the text, and early Christian and heretical usages of the text include the word. Is the word original? It may be hard to tell, and the fact of tenacity doesn't make the life of the textual critic much easier for puzzles like this one.

What tenacity does do is suggest that the original text was either with the γὰρ or without the γὰρ, but not with some other word than γὰρ in the place of γὰρ, or with a word or phrase following γὰρ that cannot be found in any manuscript, translation, or ancient quotation. Tenacity of the text suggests merely that we have the original reading, not that we know with 100% in each case what that original reading was.

3. Rapid, Decentralized Transmission

Despite the claims of some modern Roman Catholics, the text of the New Testament was recognized as Scripture while the apostles were still alive and was distributed by the apostles and the other disciples widely. We can see that it was treated as Scripture during the lives of the apostles from Peter's reference to Paul's writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.) as well as Paul's reference to Matthew's gospel as Scripture (1 Timothy 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. & Matthew 10:10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.) as well as his reference to the gospels generally as Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:3-4: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:).

Indeed, some of Paul's epistles were intended as circular letters to be distributed to multiple churches. Thus, for example, the Epistle to the Galatians is addressed to "the churches of Galatia" (Galatians 1:2) and likewise the Revelation of John is addressed to seven specific churches (John 1:4 and following) in Asia minor. Furthermore, undermining the idea that there was a central papal authority and unity church at Rome, Paul addresses his epistle to the Romans to "all that be in Rome" (Romans 1:7 - see also the litany of salutations in chapter 16).

Paul founded churches over a wide geographic area constantly commended the Scriptures - especially the Old Testament but also the New (Acts 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,). Paul even intentionally did not go places that other Christian missionaries had gone (Romans 15:20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:).

This wide geographic dissemination of churches and emphasis on Scripture naturally lead to a widespread dissemination of Scripture fairly quickly. Especially since ministers were supposed to be preaching not their own ideas or thoughts but the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.)

Furthermore, once the Scriptures were widely disseminated, there was no mechanism for central control that could be effective until the time of Constantine when Christianity began to have strong political connections. By then it was too late - there were manuscripts and translations of the New Testament across an enormous geographical region extending at least as far south as Ethiopia, east to Persia, West to what is now France and north to Scotland. There is evidence that some fairly early Christians even evangelized western China (legend - at least - has it that the Apostle Thomas was the early missionary in this direction), although I am not aware of any textual manuscripts that they left behind from the earliest days.

In view of this widespread dissemination of the text, we have an enormous number of witnesses to the ancient text of the New Testament. Some parts of Scripture (for example the Gospels) may have more copies and other parts (for example, John's epistles) may have fewer copies. Likewise a few books (Hebrews and Revelation, for example) may have more copies in one geographic area than another. Likewise, some manuscripts are more or less highly correlated with other manuscripts, to be sure (for example, there are a significant number of Byzantine manuscripts that are similar to one another from the 10th century to the 16th century). Nevertheless, the widespread dissemination of the text during the times of persecution guarantees (as much as is possible) that we have a text that has been free from any intentional tinkering. Likewise the large number of extant texts confirms (again, as much as is possible) that nothing has been lost inadvertently in the course of transmission. If there were only one or two copies, something could accidentally fall out in transmission. However, when there are hundreds or thousands of copying procedures going on independently over the globe in a variety of languages, the chances of the same thing falling out by accident is fairly remote.

4. Providential Preservation

Although the item (3) above does get us back at least to the state of the text in the late second or early third century with an extremely high level of confidence as to tenacity, there remains the issue of whether there was any significant alteration in the first century or the early second century. On challenge in this area is that the papyrus upon which 1st and 2nd century manuscripts were written is not an especially durable material. Thus, while it is reasonable to expect that there were a vast number of manuscripts of the text of the New Testament at this time, there are only about 12 manuscripts that date back to the second century (one or more of which may possibly date back to the first century).

This is by no means a small feat. It is fair to say that there is no contemporaneous text with any similar level of attestation. As Dr. Ehrman was forced to concede, if one calls the gap between the originals and the copies "enormous" one must call the gap between the originals and copies of other ancient texts "ginormous" by comparison.

But science can take one only so far. Textual criticism as an art cannot absolutely ensure the reliability of transmission of the text back to the very beginning.

There is, however, another reason to believe that no vital part of the text has been lost:

Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, and Luke 21:33 each state: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

Likewise, Isaiah 55:11 states: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

These passages assure us that no important part of Scripture will be lost. Someone may point out that the passages mentioned above in the gospels relate to Jesus' prophecy in particular and that the Isaiah text (as in Isaiah 45:23) is relating specifically to Isaiah's prophecy. Nevertheless, these passages inform us as to the character of God and his care for his word.

Likewise we read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." This passages shows the value of the word of God and again, when taken with God's many statements about his care for his people, confirm that no important text of Scripture will be lost.

We additionally see the care of God's word in the transmission of the book of Jeremiah. There were two forms of the book. The original of the first form was destroyed by an ungodly king, but God ensured that Jeremiah would rewrite the original and add to it many additional words:

Jeremiah 36:23-32
23 And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. 24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words. 25 Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them. 26 But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet: but the LORD hid them. 27 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, 28 Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned. 29 And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast? 30 Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. 31 And I will punish him and his seed and his servants for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them; but they hearkened not. 32 Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.

Likewise, when Moses broke the first tables of the law, God gave him a new copy:

Exodus 32:19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Deuteronomy 9:17 And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.

Exodus 34:1-5
1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. 2 And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. 3 And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. 4 And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. 5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

Finally, we see further evidence of God's care for the text of Scripture in the specific admonitions given both to Moses and the Apostle John:

Deuteronomy 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20
18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

Revelation 22:18-19
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Even someone will rightly say that the first set of admonitions were specifically for the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy), and even if someone will further claim that the last admonition should be limited to the book Revelation, nevertheless all three passages show the care that God has of his word.

This is confirmed by the fact that the Word of God is our spiritual bread:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

And finally by the fact that failure to heed the word of God results in judgment:

2 Chronicles 34:21 Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book.


The text of the New Testament has been preserved for us in the myriad copies that exist - there are some extra pieces thrown into the jig saw puzzle kit, but all the authentic pieces are there for us. There is excellent scientific evidence in support of this conclusion, in the form of the enormous number and extreme antiquity of the copies that we possess. Although science can only take us so far, only through the fallacy of skepticism can folks doubt that the text we have is substantially the same as the text that was given. Finally, of course, it must be emphasized that the science of textual criticism, as valuable as it may be, is not the ground of our faith.

When we are presented with a copy of the Bible we do not accept it as God's word simply because its transmission is well-attested. The reliability of its transmission is simply a confirmation to us. In fact, of course, natural science could never provide the answer to the most important question of authorship.

Accepting the Bible as God's word may be supported by various reasons, but is ultimately a matter of faith through the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's heart:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.


Directory for Public Worship: a Few Notes

Those who know me, know that I find myself most closely aligned with the Scottish Reformed traditions. Thus, you can imagine that I was pleased to find that this Directory for Public Worship (adopted by the Scottish church in 1645) has been placed on-line (link).

Let me suggest a few points from that document that would aid modern churches:

The publick worship being begun, the people are wholly to attend upon it, forbearing to read any thing, except what the minister is then reading or citing; and abstaining much more from all private whisperings, conferences, salutations, or doing reverence to any person present, or coming in; as also from all gazing, sleeping, and other indecent behaviour, which may disturb the minister or people, or hinder themselves or others in the service of God.

AFTER reading of the word, (and singing of the psalm,) the minister who is to preach, is to endeavour to get his own and his hearers hearts to be rightly affected with their sins, that they, may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord, and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by proceeding to a more full confession of sin, with shame and holy confusion of face, and to call upon the Lord to this effect...

The section on the sermon I will post separately tomorrow, since it could be a mini-course in homiletics.

Times of sickness and affliction are special opportunities put into his hand by God to minister a word in season to weary souls: because then the consciences of men are or should be more awakened to bethink themselves of their spiritual estate for eternity; and Satan also takes advantage then to load them more with sore and heavy temptations: therefore the minister, being sent for, and repairing to the sick, is to apply himself, with all tenderness and love, to administer some spiritual good to his soul, to this effect.

He may, from the consideration of the present sickness, instruct him out of scripture, that diseases come not by chance, or by distempers of body only, but by the wise and orderly guidance of the good hand of God to every particular person smitten by them. And that, whether it be laid upon him out of displeasure for sin, for his correction and amendment, or for trial and exercise of his graces, or for other special and excellent ends, all his sufferings shall turn to his profit, and work together for his good, if he sincerely labour to make a sanctified use of God's visitation, neither despising his chastening, nor waxing weary of his correction.


Calvi-minians - Fatalism, Luck, and Superstition

I've pointed out before that most people accept a number of Calvinistic principles in their everyday life. Young men intuitively know that wooing young ladies works and that the decisions young women make about how they will spend their time (particularly with whom) can be influenced. Young women too know that they can influence the decision of young men to woo through various arts both cosmetological and sociological. On a larger scale, the advertising industry receives enormous amounts of money to influence everything from political elections to what sort of carbonated beverage you drink.

Nevertheless, the common woman also has a strong intuition that no amount of lipstick and batting of eyes is going to guarantee and the common man also realizes that flowers (even dozens of them) can only increase your chances, but not ensure the desired result.

I've mentioned "chances" and this leads to another intuition. The average "Joe" thinks that there is a lot of "chance" or "luck" in the world. Thus, he amuses himself with games of chance, throws coins into fountains, and even purchases lottery tickets in what might appear to be a highly irrational investment strategy.

Nevertheless, the average Joe thinks he can make his own luck. He attempts to control the odds in various ways. Some ways - ways used by the professional gambler at craps at blackjack (and most especially in poker and the like) - are rational attempts premised on "luck" being largely a predictable quantity or of minimizing the reliance on "luck" by - as they will say - playing the person rather than the cards. Others are simply superstitious attempts to control the supernatural and impersonal "fate" that decides outcomes that we assign to chance. Thus, the superstitious Joe carefully scratches his Lottery ticket from right to left, since a few years ago this technique led to substantial success - or buys the ticket only when there is no one else in line to buy tickets.

On the flip-side of making one's own luck, the average Joe has a strong sense of his own freedom. The average Joe has no problem with the idea that he inevitably influenced the young lady to marry him, but he doesn't like the idea that she inevitably brought about his wooing in the first place through her own arts. He prefers to believe that he is "free" to be interested or uninterested no matter how charming and beautiful she is.

What's interesting, though, is that the average Joe does seem to think that populace can be bought. Maybe the individual is free in his mind, but politician "X" won the election because he spent more on advertising. "Oh, if only politician "Y" had had a bigger warchest," the person will complain, "he would have been able to pull off a victory." Voting is clearly an exercise of the will, but the average person admits that this will is susceptible of being determined (at least on the scale of the population as a whole) by advertisement.

So, there is tension in the common man's mind. He exhibits a number of Calvinistic traits in recognizing that the human will is determinable and that there is a force that determines what happens, and yet he exhibits Arminian traits in asserting his own autonomy from determination and his attempt to control deterministic forces.

Calvi-minians - that's a good name for these folks (a name I stole from Steve Hays, by the way). There is a part of their heart that informs them of the providence of God, but they seek to suppress that truth. They are fundamentally inconsistent. They refuse to let it be that God determines everything that happens, but they'll give him the big things - just as they do with advertisers.

They'll even do the same thing on an individual scale. They don't have a big problem with God foreordaining that Pilate would crucify Jesus rather than releasing him, or miraculously converting Saul of Tarsus, but they have a problem with God foreordaining that their best friend would repent and believe. They don't have a problem with God hardening Pharaoh's heart, but they have a problem with God hardening their sister's or father's heart.

They pray for the salvation of others, but they deny that God has the power to bring about that salvation. The wish to manipulate God's power through prayer, but they do not believe he has the power to manipulate his own creation. They hate to think of themselves as puppets, but they love to treat God as though he were a puppet. That is the Calvi-minian. He is a strange but sadly a common beast. And there is only one cure for this ailment: Scriptural consistence -- to realize that the Scriptures teach that there is no such thing as an impersonal force of "luck" but that even what we perceive as "random" outcomes are the decision of our Provider (Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.), that it is not just the "big things" that concern God but even the little things (Luke 12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?), and that God is the author (Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.) and finisher of our salvation (Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:).

So, dear reader, if you are a Calvi-minian - root out the "minian" and follow Scripture more completely. God is both the Creator who made all things of nothing in the space of six days, and the interested Provider who works all things together to the good of his followers (Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.).


Thoughts on Pseudonymity

Richard at Philosophy, et cetera has some interesting thoughts on respecting pseudonymity (link). I think most folks on the net agree with his primary conclusion with a small minority of vengeful folks falling into his proposed alternative.


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 4

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Leviticus 18:20 Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 3

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Leviticus 18:6-18
6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD. 7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness. 9 The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. 10 The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. 11 The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 12 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman. 13 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman. 14 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt. 15 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness. 17 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness. 18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.