Saturday, June 27, 2009

Transubstantiation, Metaphor, and Common Sense

Over at Beggars All Reformation, one of the commenters had provided a quotation derived from the Westminster Confession of Faith, as follow:
The doctrine which maintains the change...transubstantiation.. is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason...overthroweth..cause manifold superstitions..gross idolatries.
Mr. Bellisario responded (in two separate comments that I have joined:
What is repugnant is that you reject Our Lord's words which tell us otherwise. Not you or your false confession will ever change His words. Common sense does not give us the Gospel. Our lord did. You and your "confession" reject Our lord and His words. Common sense tells me to listen to his words.
I answered Bellisario:
Our Lord isn't the one who invented this concept of transubstantiation. He used a metaphor, but that's too common sense for some folks.
Bellisario responded (again, in two comments that I have joined):
Prove He used a metaphor. That is a lie from the devil. Our Lord never said it was a metaphor. I find it funny that there is only 1 interpretation of this passage of Scripture in the Catholic Church, while the great Saint Robert Bellarmine, writing in the sixteen hundreds, counted over two hundred interpretations of our Lord’s words at the Last Supper, “This is my Body…this is my Blood.” This is the result of everyone trying to interpret Our Lord's words for themselves outside the Church. Who says your interpretation is right?
I now answer, at greater length:

Even leaving aside the bizarre statistical claim, there are numerous problems with this kind of argument from Bellisario.

(1) Jesus never used the word "metaphor" in the pages of Holy Scripture - not just about this metaphor, but about any of them. (2) Normally what distinguishes metaphor from simile is the absence of a signal - if it said "this represents my body" we would have simile, not metaphor. (3) Jesus didn't say that the cup was a figure of speech for the contents of the cup, but folks use their common sense to recognize this. (4) Finally, some of the early church fathers confirm that Jesus used metaphors, including the metaphor identification of his body with bread and of wine with his blood.

"What mean, then, the words, "I am the true vine"? Was it to the literal vine, from which that metaphor was drawn, that He intended to point them by the addition of "true"? For it is by similitude, and not by any personal propriety, that He is thus called a vine; just as He is also termed a sheep, a lamb, a lion, a rock, a corner-stone, and other names of a like kind, which are themselves rather the true ones, from which these are drawn as similitudes, not as realities."

- Augustine, Tractate 80 on John's Gospel, Section 1

Maybe Bellisario would claim that Augustine was deceived because he made these claims without Jesus ever saying that "I am the true vine" is a metaphor (nor the other examples that Augustine listed).

"And when He says, "The Lord looked down from Heaven:" [Psalm 14:2] it describes His perfect knowledge by a metaphor taken from men. So also here He says, "Now I know," to declare this to be greater than all which had preceded it."

- Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Second Corinthians, Section 6

Again, the text does not explicitly say that this is a metaphor. Did someone trick Chrysostom into thinking it was a metaphor?

But let's hit a little closer to home. We are frequently told by those who use Rome as the substitute for reason, that John 6 employs the same transubstantial language as in the words of institution. But Augustine says:

"Now the rule in regard to this variation has two forms. For things that signify now one thing and now another, signify either things that are contrary, or things that are only different. They signify contraries, for example, when they are used metaphorically at one time in a good sense, at another in a bad, as in the case of the leaven mentioned above. Another example of the same is that a lion stands for Christ in the place where it is said, "The lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed;" (Revelation 5:5) and again, stands for the devil where it is written, "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8) In the same way the serpent is used in a good sense, "Be wise as serpents;" (Matthew 10:16) and again, in a bad sense, "The serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety." (2 Corinthians 11:3) Bread is used in a good sense, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven;" (John 6:51) in a bad, "Bread eaten in secret is pleasant." (Proverbs 9:17) And so in a great many other cases. The examples I have adduced are indeed by no means doubtful in their signification, because only plain instances ought to be used as examples."

- Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book III, Chapter 25, Section 36

Augustine didn't just think that "I am the living bread which came down from heaven;" was a metaphor - he thought it was an obvious metaphor. But our Lord never said it was a metaphor.

And Augustine was not alone:

"And entertaining this view, we may regard the proclamation of the Gospel, which is universally diffused, as milk; and as meat, faith, which from instruction is compacted into a foundation, which, being more substantial than hearing, is likened to meat, and assimilates to the soul itself nourishment of this kind. Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: "Eat my flesh, and drink my blood;" [John 6:34] describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both—of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood."

- Clement of Alexandria, The Paedogogus, Chapter 6

"The Scripture, accordingly, has named wine the symbol of the sacred blood; but reproving the base tippling with the dregs of wine, it says: "Intemperate is wine, and insolent is drunkenness." [Proverbs 20:1] It is agreeable, therefore, to right reason, to drink on account of the cold of winter, till the numbness is dispelled from those who are subject to feel it; and on other occasions as a medicine for the intestines."

- Clement of Alexandria, The Paedogogus, Chapter 2

And of course, it's not just those two guys, but Theodoret declares:

"Moreover the Lord Himself promised to give on behalf of the life of the world, not His invisible nature, but His body. "For," He says, "the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world," and when He took the symbol of divine mysteries, He said, "This is my body which is given for you.""

- Theodoret, Letter 130

And again Chrysostom:

"And He Himself drank of it. For lest on hearing this, they should say, What then? Do we drink blood, and eat flesh? And then be perplexed (for when He began to discourse concerning these things, even at the very sayings many were offended),therefore lest they should be troubled then likewise, He first did this Himself, leading them to the calm participation of the mysteries. Therefore He Himself drank His own blood. What then must we observe that other ancient rite also? Some one may say. By no means. For on this account He said, "Do this," that He might withdraw them from the other. For if this works remission of sins, as it surely does work it, the other is now superfluous.

As then in the case of the Jews, so here also He has bound up the memorial of the benefit with the mystery, by this again stopping the mouths of heretics. For when they say, Whence is it manifest that Christ was sacrificed? Together with the other arguments we stop their mouths from the mysteries also. For if Jesus did not die, of what are the rites the symbols?"

- Chrysostom, Homily 82 on Matthew, Section 1

"Those who have become acquainted with the secondary (i.e., under Christ) constitutions of the apostles, are aware that the Lord instituted a new oblation in the new covenant, according to [the declaration of] Malachi the prophet. For, "from the rising of the sun even to the setting my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice;" [Malachi 1:11] as John also declares in the Apocalypse: "The incense is the prayers of the saints." Then again, Paul exhorts us "to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." [Romans 12:1] And again, "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of the lips." [Hebrews 13:15] Now those oblations are not according to the law, the handwriting of which the Lord took away from the midst by cancelling it; [Colossians 2:14] but they are according to the Spirit, for we must worship God "in spirit and in truth." [John 4:24] And therefore the oblation of the Eucharist is not a carnal one, but a spiritual; and in this respect it is pure. For we make an oblation to God of the bread and the cup of blessing, giving Him thanks in that He has commanded the earth to bring forth these fruits for our nourishment. And then, when we have perfected theoblation, we invoke the Holy Spirit, that He may exhibit this sacrifice, both the bread the body of Christ, and the cup the blood of Christ, in order that the receivers of these antitypes may obtain remission of sins and life eternal. Those persons, then, who perform these oblations in remembrance of the Lord, do not fall in with Jewish views, but, performing the service after a spiritual manner, they shall be called sons of wisdom."

- Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenæus, Section 37 (I should point out that I'm not sure about the legitimacy of the authorship of this quotation.)

So, in conclusion, yes - the Westminster Confession of Faith is right in saying that the error of transubstantiation is repugnant to common sense and reason. The reasons for folks to accept it have to do not with respecting the word of God, but in following the traditions of men - traditions which (in this case) were not followed by the early churches.


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 23

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 19:29 Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.

Leviticus 21:9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire.

Deuteronomy 22:21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Common Man Argument for Libertarian Free Will (rebutted)

Paul Manata has an interesting, if somewhat philosophical, post that seems to sum up most of the major arguments responsive to the "Common Man" Libertarian Free Will (LFW) argument (link). It's a good article, and I encourage folks who think that there is some merit to the "common man" argument for LFW to read it and be disabused of such an idea. I have a couple minor nitpicks.

1) Manata mentions, but I would more heavily emphasize, that the common man's definition of "choose" is better represented by essentially the Least Common Denominator of dictionary definitions than by simply the first entry of the most popular dictionary. As such, the common man's definition does not have as a core aspect the "possible" element that is so key to the Libertarian (in the philosophical sense) argument.

Thus, for example, if one goes to Princeton's Wordnet and punches in "choose" one gets:
# S: (v) choose, take, select, pick out (pick out, select, or choose from a number of alternatives) "Take any one of these cards"; "Choose a good husband for your daughter"; "She selected a pair of shoes from among the dozen the salesgirl had shown her"
# S: (v) choose, prefer, opt (select as an alternative over another) "I always choose the fish over the meat courses in this restaurant"; "She opted for the job on the East coast"
# S: (v) choose (see fit or proper to act in a certain way; decide to act in a certain way) "She chose not to attend classes and now she failed the exam"
Notice that none of these definitions included the word "possible" or an equivalent concept.

Likewise, Webster's New World Collegiate Dictionary provides:
transitive verb chose, chosen cho′·sen, choosing choos′·ing

1. to pick out by preference from what is available; take as a choice; select to choose a book at the library
2. to decide or prefer: with an infinitive object to choose to remain

Etymology: ME chesen, cheosen < OE ceosan < IE base *ĝeus-, to taste, relish > L gustare, Goth kausjan

intransitive verb

1. to make one's selection
2. to have the desire or wish; please do as you choose
Same thing. "possible" is not part of the definition, although in one case the word "available" is there, which might arguably be an equivalent concept.

One certainly can find dictionaries that include "possible" in the definition of choose (The first - and only the first - definition in the American Heritage dictionary, for example, has this feature: "To select from a number of possible alternatives; decide on and pick out" - I've added the emphasis), but such a feature that is not found in most dictionary definitions of a word can hardly be viewed as the actual "common man" meaning of the term. A better way to assess the "common man" meaning is to look for the commonalities and overlap of the many dictionary definitions.

2) What's up with the gratuitous reference to Michael Sudduth? :)


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 22

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!

Matthew 5:27-28
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Grammar Lesson for ChristianTruthHammer

This is a response to ChristianTruthHammer and his "simple grammar lesson for James White and his followers." In this response I respectfully suggest four grammatical-exegetical points that our critic should have thought of before he posted his video.

1) "Active" is a voice, not a tense;

2) The verb to know is not a "being" verb, although it is sometimes a "stative" verb;

3) Some verbs - like "know" - can be either dynamic or stative depending on the context; and

4) In this context, the verb "foreknow" is dynamic, just like the verbs "predestine," "call," "justify," and "glorify," each of which has the same subject and object as "foreknow."


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Calvin and Limited Atonement - Impetration Argument

Calvin never heard of the acronym "TULIP" and never argued with an Arminian. The Arminian controversy and the "five points of Calvinism" that were presented by the Reformed folks against the Arminians came after Calvin's death. After (and perhaps because of) the Arminian controversy, there arose a smaller controversy between the Calvinists and the Amyraldians. The Amyraldians, classically speaking, assert that Christ died for each and every person on the hypothesis of faith, thereby denying limited atonement. A few folks both then and now have sought to obtain Calvin's mantle for their Amyraldianism, and the Calvinists have responded with a variety of proofs of Calvin's Calvinism.

One of the proofs of Calvin's Calvinism is the fact that the death of Christ is tied to the impetration of the death of Christ, and Calvin recognizes that the impetration of the death of Christ was only for the elect. Therefore, the proof concludes, Calvin also implicitly recognized that the death of Christ was only for the elect.

In order to understand the argument, one must understand the sacrificial system. After all, the atonement is principally a sacrifice to satisfy divine Justice and reconcile us to God. In the sacrificial system, the priest kills an animal and presents it to God. The priest presents it to God on behalf of an individual or group. We call the animal the victim and the person on whose behalf the sacrifice is offered the beneficiary. The killing of the animal is the death of the victim, its presentation to God is the impetration of the death of the victim.

In Christ's sacrifice, Christ is both the priest and victim. We, the elect, are the beneficiaries. Now, Christ is a sufficient sacrifice to be offered for as large a group of beneficiaries as Christ wishes from one person to more people than there are atoms in the universe. But when we say that Christ is "offered for us" we are saying that Christ impetrated his death on our behalf, rendering God propitious toward us. In that sense, Christ is the propitiation for our sins.

At least one of the neo-Amyraldians has acknowledged that if Calvin links (as inseparable) the death of Christ and the impetration of Christ's death, then this proof suffices to show that Calvin held limited atonement. However, this man (Steve Costley of "Controversial Calvinism") has argued that Calvin does not so link Christ's death and impetration (link to his argument).

Mr. Costley makes his argument from a passage of Calvin that is not actually germane to the issue of the relation of Christ's death and its impetration. When we examine the places where Calvin considers the issue, we do see that he links them in an inseparable way.

There are at least a few places where this can be seen in Calvin. One way that it can be seen is in Calvin's discussion of assurance:
This so great an assurance; which dares to triumph over the devil, death, sin, and the gates of hell, ought to lodge deep in the hearts of all the godly; for our faith is nothing, except we feel assured that Christ is ours, and that the Father is in him propitious to us.
- Calvin, Commentary on Romans 8:34 (link)

As you can see from this example, Calvin places assurance in the linking of us being united with Christ and the Father being "in him propitious to us." The Amyraldian and Arminian views essentially allege that God is already propitious toward all mankind. If Calvin held such a view, then knowledge of God's propitiation would not be a ground of assurance of salvation, since God is also propitious (according to the Amyraldians and Arminians) to everyone, even those in hell.

Calvin goes on to make this link even stronger in his subsequent comments in the same section:
Who intercedes, etc. It was necessary expressly to add this, lest the Divine majesty of Christ should terrify us. Though, then, from his elevated throne he holds all things in subjection under his feet, yet Paul represents him as a Mediator; whose presence it would be strange for us to dread, since he not only kindly invites us to himself, but also appears an intercessor for us before the Father. But we must not measure this intercession by our carnal judgment; for we must not suppose that he humbly supplicates the Father with bended knees and expanded hands; but as he appears continually, as one who died and rose again, and as his death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession, and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, he is justly said to intercede for us.
- Calvin, Commentary on Romans 8:34 (link)

Notice how in this discussion Calvin explains that Christ's death and resurrection "stand in the place of eternal intercession." It is hard to imagine Calvin using stronger linking short of saying that the death and impetration are inseparable. Calvin actually equates here the death of Christ and the intercession of Christ, and Calvin is clear (elsewhere, as well as here) that the intercession is specific to the elect. Calvin is essentially saying that Christ intercedes for us by dying for us.

Calvin says the same thing in his Institutes:
Yet we do not dream that he intercedes for us in suppliant prostration at the Father's feet; but we apprehend, with the apostle, that he appears in the presence of God for us in such a manner, that the virtue of his death avails as a perpetual intercession for us; yet so as that, being entered into the heavenly sanctuary, he continually, till the consummation of all things, presents to God the prayers of his people, who remain, as it were, at a distance in the court.
- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section XX (John Allen, translator)

This becomes even more clear when the remainder of that section, and particularly the quotations from Augustine are considered:
Now, the cavil of the sophists is quite frivolous, that Christ is the Mediator of redemption, but believers of intercession; as if Christ, after performing a temporary mediation, had left to his servants that which is eternal and shall never die. They who detract so diminutive a portion of honour from him, treat him, doubtless, very favourably. But the Scripture, with the simplicity of which a pious man, forsaking these impostors, ought to be contented, speaks very differently; for when John says, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ," does he only mean that he has been heretofore an Advocate for us, or does he not rather ascribe to him a perpetual intercession? What is intended by the assertion of Paul, that he "is even at the right hand of God, and also maketh intercession for us?" And when he elsewhere calls him the "one Mediator between God and man," does he not refer to prayers, which he has mentioned just before? For having first asserted that intercessions should be made for all men, he immediately adds, in confirmation of that idea, that all have one God and one Mediator. Consistent with which is the explanation of Augustine, when he thus expresses himself: "Christian men in their prayers mutually recommend each other to the Divine regard. That person, for whom no one intercedes, while he intercedes for all, is the true and only Mediator. The apostle Paul, though a principal member under the Head, yet because he was a member of the body of Christ, and knew the great and true High Priest of the Church had entered, not typically, into the recesses within the veil, the holy of holies, but truly and really into the interior recesses of heaven, into a sanctuary not emblematical, but eternal, — Paul, I say, recommends himself to the prayers of believers. Neither does he make himself a mediator between God and the people, but exhorts all the members of the body of Christ mutually to pray for one another; since the members have a mutual solicitude for each other; and if one member suffers, the rest sympathize with it. And so should the mutual prayers of all the members, who are still engaged in the labours of the present state, ascend on each other's behalf to the Head, who is gone before them into heaven, and who is the propitiation for our sins. For if Paul were a mediator, the other apostles would likewise sustain the same character; and so there would be many mediators; and Paul's argument could not be supported, when he says, 'For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; in whom we also are one, if we keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.'" Again, in another place: "But if you seek a priest, he is above the heavens, where he now intercedes for you, who died for you on earth."
- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section XX (John Allen, translator)

Again, we see the close linking (both in Augustine and Calvin) of Christ's death and intercession. Hopefully, these quotations suffice to illustrate the point, although perhaps others could be adduced if someone were inclined to be argumentative or to doubt the clarity of Calvin's comments above.

Now, while this may settle the question of historical theology as to what Calvin (and Augustine) believed about the scope and extent of the atonement, it is more important to note that Calvin is rightly dividing the word of truth here. It is more important that this doctrine of the limited atonement is Scriptural, than that it was held by Calvin or Augustine. We don't accept the doctrine because those men taught it: we hold that doctrine because Scriptures teach it. I hope that no one will make the mistake of reading this and concluding that we hold to the doctrine of limited atonement simply because Calvin (or Augustine) taught it. No, they are aids to our understanding, but Scripture alone is our rule of faith.


UPDATE: Some readers may want to compare Beveridge's translation of Calvin's Institutes at the relevant section:
Moreover, the Sophists are guilty of the merest trifling when they allege that Christ is the Mediator of redemption, but that believers are mediators of intercession; as if Christ had only performed a temporary mediation, and left an eternal and imperishable mediation to his servants. Such, forsooth, is the treatment which he receives from those who pretend only to take from him a minute portion of honour. Very different is the language of Scripture, with whose simplicity every pious man will be satisfied, without paying any regard to those importers. For when John says, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," (1 John 2:1), does he mean merely that we once had an advocate; does he not rather ascribe to him a perpetual intercession? What does Paul mean when he declares that he "is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us"? (Rom. 8:32). But when in another passage he declares that he is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), is he not referring to the supplications which he had mentioned a little before? Having previously said that prayers were to be offered up for all men, he immediately adds, in confirmation of that statement, that there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man. Nor does Augustine give a different interpretation when he says, "Christian men mutually recommend each other in their prayers. But he for whom none intercedes, while he himself intercedes for all, is the only true Mediator. Though the Apostle Paul was under the head a principal member, yet because he was a member of the body of Christ, and knew that the most true and High Priest of the Church had entered not by figure into the inner veil to the holy of holies, but by firm and express truth into the inner sanctuary of heaven to holiness, holiness not imaginary, but eternal, he also commends himself to the prayers of the faithful. He does not make himself a mediator between God and the people, but asks that all the members of the body of Christ should pray mutually for each other, since the members are mutually sympathetic: if one member suffers, the others suffer with it. And thus the mutual prayers of all the members still laboring on the earth ascend to the Head, who has gone before into heaven, and in whom there is propitiation for our sins. For if Paul were a mediator, so would also the other apostles, and thus there would be many mediators, and Paul's statement could not stand, ëThere is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;' in whom we also are one if we keep the unity of the faith in the bond of peace," (August. Contra Parmenian, Lib. 2 cap. 8). Likewise in another passage Augustine says, "If thou requirest a priest, he is above the heavens, where he intercedes for those who on earth died for thee," (August. in Ps. 94) imagine not that he throws himself before his Father's knees, and suppliantly intercedes for us; but we understand with the Apostle, that he appears in the presence of God, and that the power of his death has the effect of a perpetual intercession for us; that having entered into the upper sanctuary, he alone continues to the end of the world to present the prayers of his people, who are standing far off in the outer court.
- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section XX (Henry Beveridge, translator)

Or Battles' translation:
This babbling of the Sophists is mere nonsense: that Christ is the Mediator of redemption, but believers are mediators of intercession. As if Christ had performed a mediation in time only to lay upon his servants the eternal and undying mediation! They who cut off so slight a portion of honor from him are, of course, treating him gently! Yet Scripture speaks far differently, disregarding these deceivers, and with a simplicity that ought to satisfy a godly man. For when John says, "If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus"[1 John 2:1], does he mean that Christ was an advocate for us once for all, or does he not rather ascribe to him a constant intercession? Why does Paul affirm that he "sits at the right hand of the Father and also intercedes for us" [Romans 8:34]? But when, in another passage, Paul calls him "the sole mediator between God and man" [1 Timothy 2:5], is he not referring to prayers, which were mentioned shortly before [1 Timothy 2:1-2]? For, after previously saying that intercession is to be made for all men, Paul, to prove this statement, soon adds that "there is one God, and... one mediator" [1 Timothy 2:5].
Augustine similarly explains it when he says: "Christian men mutually commend one another by their prayers. However, it is he for whom no one intercedes, while he intercedes for all, who is the one true Mediator." The apostle Paul, although an eminent member under the Head, yet because he was a member of Christ's body, and knew that the greatest and truest priest of the church had not figuratively entered the inner precincts of the veil to the Holy of Holies but through express and steadfast truth had entered the inner precincts of heaven to a holiness real and eternal, also commends himself to the prayers of believers [Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3]. And he does not make himself mediator between the people and God, but he asks that all members of Christ's body mutually pray for one another, "since the members are concerned for one another, and if one member suffers, the rest suffer with it" [1 Corinthians 12:25-26, Cf. Vg.]. And thus the mutual prayers for one another of all members yet laboring on earth rise to the Head, who has gone before them into heaven, in whom "is propitiation for our sins" [1 John 2:2, Vg.]. For if Paul were mediator, so also would the rest of the apostles be; and if there were many mediators, Paul's own statement would not stand, in which he had said: "One God, one mediator between God and men, the man Christ" [I Tim. 2:5], "in whom we also are one" [Romans 12:5], "if we maintain unity of faith in the bond of peace" [Ephesians 4:3]. Likewise, in another passage Augustine says: "But if you seek a priest, he is above the heavens, where he is making intercession for you, who died for you on earth." [Cf.Hebrews 7:26 ff.]
But we do not imagine that he, kneeling before God, pleads as a suppliant for us; rather, with the apostle we understand he so appears before God's presence that the power of his death avails as an everlasting intercession in our behalf [cf. Romans 8:34], yet in such a way that, having entered the heavenly sanctuary, even to the consummation of the ages [cf. Hebrews 9:24 ff.], he alone bears to God the petitions of the people, who stay far off in the outer court.
- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section XX (Ford Lewis Battles, translator)

June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 21

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!

Proverbs 6:32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

The real Francis Turretin on: The Simplicity of God

Dan Borvan at Geneva Redux has a nice series of the real Francis Turretin on the Simplicity of God:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Source for Part 5



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Psalms 58:3 vs Kerrigan Skelly

The following is a two-part video response to Kerrigan Skelly on Original Sin and Psalm 58:3. Mr. Skelly challenges Calvinists to exegete this passage, but when we do so we discover that, contrary to Mr. Skelly's assertions, the text does support the doctrine of original sin.

June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 20

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!

Deuteronomy 5:18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

The Real Turretin (and others) on: The Golden Chain of Salvation

Jamie Steele has a nice post quoting the real Francis Turretin and others on the Golden Chain of Salvation (parts 3-5) (link). Recall that each part of the chain is something God did:

1) God foreknew;
2) God predestined;
3) God called;
4) God justified; and
5) God glorified.

By the way, you can find Mr. Steele's post on parts 1-2 here (link).



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Fathers were not Always Original

“But by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we believe to be saved in like manner as they also.” If, therefore, they, that is, the fathers, being unable to bear the yoke of the Old Law, believed that they were saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, it is clear that this grace saved even the just men of old through faith. Because “the just man liveth by faith,” therefore, these religious mysteries (sacraments) could vary according to the diversity of times, yet all refer most harmoniously to the unity of the same faith.

- Bede on Acts 15 (PL 92:976-77), plagiarizing Augustine’s Letter 190 (to Optatus) – translation based on the translation of Augustine by Sr. Wilfrid Parsons

June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 19

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!

Exodus 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Category Fail(ure) - "Especially Sinners"

Those in the younger generation are familiar with the "fail" lingo, and the (ure) is for the rest of us who still appreciate proper grammar. Anyhow, Catholic News Service reports the pope as saying that "Padre" Pio had a "total willingness to welcome the faithful, especially sinners" - to whom or what is not specified.

The category error is the implication that some of the faithful are not sinners. Scripture is clear that all have sinned - all are sinners. Now, perhaps someone will come here and tell us that the pope is using special papal jargon and that "sinners" here means only those with especially serious sin.

If one's goal were simply to try to find an orthodox interpretation of the pope's words, one might even point to a passage of the speech a bit further down where it spoke of the "conversion of sinners" as supportive a special sense of the term.

But that would be a stretch. It's more probable that the pope was committing the same category error we see in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church":
2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is "able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
- CCC 2634

The catechism is wrong. He does not intercede for all men (at least not "all" in the sense of "each and every"), but only for the elect. He does not intercede for any but those who need intercession, namely sinners. He is the only intercessor for all men, but he is not the intercessor for each man. So likewise, all men are sinners, and thus the "especially sinners" would not (but for the faulty presuppositions implicit) provide any further limitation on his intercession.

The bottom line? No matter what the pope or the catechism say, Scripture tells us:

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:


Criticism, Complaints, or Whatever

So, I realize that not everyone is pleased by the comments moderation policy on this blog. Today, I've created a blog that I intend to let serve as an "open forum" for folks to air their grievances, gripes, complaints, whatever. As far as I'm concerned, this is a test of the feasibility of such an approach. Hopefully it will go well and serve as an outlet for folks who feel I'm suppressing them, while keeping this blog relatively tidy. You can continue to comment here on this blog, or if you like you can leave the same comment on both blogs, so as to help folks see what comments of yours are not getting through on this blog.

Anyhow, without further ado, here's the link: Criticism of Turretinfan.


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 18

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!

Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


There's an old tale - I don't recall where I first heard it, or I'd give credit where it is due. Perhaps it was from a family member, who got it from whence I don't know. The story goes:

Old Woman: I hear there is a new pastor in town.
Old Man: Oh? Is he any good?
OW: An excellent speaker - everyone who goes enjoys the sermon.
OM: None of that "fire and brimstone" eh?
OW: Oh, no! Certainly not! This young man actually insists that there is no hell. Everyone will be saved.
OM: Well, if he's right we don't need him, and if he's wrong we don't want him.

The old man's common sense hits a form of universalism on the nose. If there is no hell, and everyone goes to heaven, it would seem that there is no real point in believing this doctrine.

There are, of course, other branches of universalism. One branch that is making its rounds these days calls its "Evangelical Universalism" and tries to convince folks that eventually everyone will be saved - though some will have to go to hell first, because they fail to believe in this life.

In some ways, this is a less serious error than the more traditional "there is no hell" form of Universalism. It's still plainly wrong because the Bible teaches the finality and perpetuity of hell. For example, Scripture both in the Old Testament and the New Testament speaks of this:

Isaiah 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Mark 9:44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (identical statement at vss. 46 and 48)

Yes, there is a hell, and yes it is eternal - not of finite duration. Therefore, there is an urgency to repent and believe now, not simply to avoid a stretch of unpleasantness in hell but to avoid an eternity there. If you have not done so, repent of your sins and place your trust in Christ alone for salvation.


The Potter or the Carpenter

God is the potter and we are the clay. He sovereignly determines who to form as vessels of wrath and whom to form as vessels of mercy. Both in some sense show forth the love of God: while the former show his patience and longsuffering, the latter show the forth the full richness of his love.

Some folks are not happy about this. They would deny to God the right to do with his creation as he sees fit. They do not think it is fair that God would create some vessels for wrath (usually there is no complaint about people being created as vessels for mercy).

Others are not quite so bold as to complain about that. They tack a slightly different tack. They suggest that God is unfair in picking some rather than others without reference to something about the person himself. They argue that this is arbitrary which, they think, makes no sense or is unjust.

One comment that seems to come from this perspective of complaint against the Biblical model of sovereignty is a comment I recently read from GodIsMyJudge. Criticizing the Calvinist view of election, he stated:
But whatever God’s other reason was, it couldn’t be related to some good quality or disposition in us. Let’s say I am building a house and need one nail. Even though my end goal is to build the house, I would still pick longer nails over short ones if the job called for it. In that case longer nails are more suitable for my purpose, so this example can’t be representative of unconditional election. But if any nail will do and all the nails are the same, then I don’t care which one I pick out of a jar full of nails. So in this way, whatever the other reason is, it doesn’t explain why one was chosen and another rejected.

This kind of criticism has a patina of validity: wouldn't a good carpenter pick the best nails for the job? Of course he would! He wouldn't pick short nails where long nails would be better, or vice versa.

The problem with the example is that it treats God as finding men as pre-existing objects. It is the problem that lies beneath the error of Molinism and middle knowledge.

Both Molinism and this analogy treat God as essentially "finding" men "as is" and then basing his decrees on that which did not come from Him. This is contrary both to the Scriptural analogy and to sound reason.

The Scriptural analogy is that of a potter. The potter begins with clay, not nails of a previously (and externally) determined length. He builds the pots according to the purposes he has for them, not the other way 'round. He does not build a pot and then think, "Hmm ... this would make a nice vase" or "Hmm ... looks like this is going to have to be an ash-tray." God does not create at random and then make do with what luck or fate gives him. He does not simply roll cosmic dice. No, God makes pots the way he wants them to be.

This contrasts with the analogy of a carpenter building a house who simply finds himself with some short nails and some long nails and makes the best of what he finds. Of course, that analogy itself conflicts with sound reason.

If a carpenter were going to build a house he would not (unless forced to) simply resort to a bag full of a random assortment of nails. Instead, a reasonable carpenter would plan ahead and count the costs and so forth before he begins. He doesn't want to build half the house only to find out that he doesn't have enough long nails to continue.

No, instead a wise (and sufficiently well-funded) carpenter would purchase suitable materials for the purpose in advance. He would figure out how many long nails he wanted and purchase that number - same for the short nails.

But Molinism and the analogy GodIsMyJudge provided make God out to be an underfunded carpenter, making the best of the hand that's been dealt him, as it were. Recall that in Molinism God does not decide how a man will react to particular circumstances, he simply discovers this fact via middle knowledge. He then makes the best of men's choices - they dictate the size - and perhaps shape - of the house.

In this scenario, God considers himself lucky that there are so many people who choose to believe, which gives him that many more longer nails. The longer nails, you see, are differentiable from the shorter nails not by the choice of the carpenter but by their own choice: it is something they did, not something they received.

But that's not the way of Scripture. Scripture declares:

1 Corinthians 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

Not even faith fits that bill, for it is the fruit of the Spirit:

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

Thus salvation, including faith, is called the gift of God:

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

So, even our faith is something we receive - it's not something of our own that differentiates us from another. We are what we are by God's grace. He is the potter and we are the clay.


Beyond the Looking-Glass: Exegesis and Humpty Dumpty

One of my favorite works of fiction for children is the Alice pair: "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass." Although there is a lot of silliness in the work, a few of the points that are made have worked their way into popular thought. One of the characters in the work is Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty, as you ought know, is the fairy-tale egg that sat on the wall, but in "Through the Looking Glass" he has a conversation with the main character Alice:
`And only ONE for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

`I don't know what you mean by "glory,"' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

`But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument,"' Alice objected.

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. `They've a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs, they're the proudest -- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs -- however, I can manage the whole of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

`Would you tell me, please,' said Alice `what that means?`

`Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. `I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

`That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

`When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, `I always pay it extra.'

`Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

`Ah, you should see `em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: `for to get their wages, you know.'

(Alice didn't venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can't tell YOU.)
- Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking-Glass, Chapter VI

In this dialog, Humpty Dumpty is using words in a sense that is quite far from their ordinary sense and insisting that he is perfectly within his rights to do so. It would be problematic if people spoke this way, since we would always have to ask them to explain what they mean. Thankfully, normal people are not so obtuse as to use "glory" to mean "a nice knock-down argument" or "impenetrability" to mean "we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life."

Humpty Dumpty is an obviously silly character, who pays off words to mean what he wants them to mean. As silly as he is, though, one can imagine a still sillier character: one who pays off words used by someone else to mean what he wants them to mean. This reverse-Humpty-Dumpty-ism is sadly far too common - and it comes in two forms.

The first form of reverse-Humpty-Dumpty-ism comes in the form of those who eisegete a disputed text. Thus, for example, there are those who practice reverse-Humpty-Dumpty-ism in the discussion of John 3:16. The reverse-Humpty-Dumpty-ist will insist that "so" in "For God so loved the world" is intensive (rather than demonstrative) and that "world" means "each and every person." Why? Well, apparently this reverse Humpty Dumpty paid off the words to mean what he wants them to mean. That's not the sense the author (or translator) of the words intended, but that doesn't matter to the reverse Humpty Dumpty.

The second form of reverse-Humpty-Dumpty-ism finds itself expressed in folks who refuse to accept someone else's explanation of his own words. We see this from time to time from the papists who insist that we mean "papist" as an insult or that we mean "pope-worshiper" by "papist" even when we provide explanation that this is not the case. These are the sorts of easily-ridiculed folks who insist not only that they are the masters of language but that they are the masters of our language: that they (not we) determine the meaning of the words that come out of our mouths.

It is one thing to object with Alice that "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument," and it quite another to insist that Humpty Dumpty means glory in the usual sense. The former is a quirky obtuseness, the latter is an antisocial bullheadedness. After all, it is simply a part of honest dialog to let the person with whom one is conversing speak for themselves: putting words in their mouth via reverse-Humpty-Dumpty-ism is simply nefarious.

Thankfully, again, such persons are few who will not accept the explanation of what a person means. There only a few buffoons who will continue to insist "Oh no, you mean 'x'" after you have explained that you mean 'y'. Not so with those who eisegete Scripture.

Sadly there are many who would never do this with another person's words, but will do this with the text of Scripture. The investigation with such people ceases to be an honest inquiry into what the author (or translator) meant by the word but an exercise in power:
`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'
When we investigate Scripture, we need to let the Scriptures themselves be the guide and master as to their meaning, just as we would do for someone with whom we are speaking.

We cannot with Alice directly interrogate the text:
`Would you tell me, please,' said Alice `what that means?`
Nevertheless we can seek out that answer with a variety of tools, such as looking to the context, the original languages, and the other usages of a particular word by the same author.

Thus, in the case of John 3:16 we will discover that "so" is demonstrative and that "world" is never specifically personal in John's writings. Thus, through careful study of what John meant, we can ascertain the sense of his words, rather than pulling a reverse-Humpty-Dumpty-ism.

To do this, we need to be careful not to let our preconceptions be the guide. We need to assiduously avoid approaching the Bible as though it were there for us to extract support from. Instead, we should treat the Bible as the Word of God: even if we do not respect our fellow men enough to let them speak for themselves, we should respect God enough to let his Word speak for itself.


June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 17

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!

Matthew 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.