Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Verses - Part 21

In today's passage, there are two aspects of thanks. They are both, interestingly enough, about the thanks that it is not given.

The passage is a particularly famous passage, because it speaks about loving our enemies and about being merciful in judgment ("judge not"). Leaving aside the abuses of this text, let's consider its discussion of thanks.

The first example is if you "do good to them which do good to you." There is no thanks for this, because you are simply returning the favor that you are given. Similarly, if you "lend to them of whom ye hope to receive" you don't deserve thanks, because you're basically doing business, not helping someone out. Loving your enemies is the way to obtain their thanks, since you do not owe them your kindness.

The same is true, and more so, of us. We were the enemies of God and he showed favor (grace) to us. We ought to be thankful, because we did not deserve that favor. This is not (despite what some Arminians seem to think) a situation where God was kind toward those who were kind toward him. God is not returning a favor to us, nor is God hoping to get something back in return for the kindness he shows to us. He's not our lender, he's our Redeemer. Thus, we ought to be thankful.

The passage brings this out, because it says "ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." This is actually the second mention of thanks in the text. God is kind to those who are not thankful and who are evil. We ought to act likewise. Children act like their parents. We may deserve thanks from our enemies to whom we are kind, but we should not expect to receive thanks. When God blesses a wicked man with riches and a long life and he does not thank God, we realize this is commonplace. So, we should not be surprised when our own kindnesses to others are not thanked by our enemies.

I've also included a similar passage in Matthew. You will notice that in the Matthew account the more general word "reward" is used in place of "thanks," but the general teaching is the same. Notice how the kindness of God is illustrated in Matthew in giving rain (to water crops) both to God-fearers and God-haters.

Notice as well (by seeing the comparison of these passages) that this mercy of God is part of being "perfect" as the Father is "perfect." True love of our neighbor requires that be kind to our enemies - and in this way we imitate our Father, showing ourselves to be His children.

The final passage shown below, drives home the point that we are unable to deserve the thanks of God. Jesus uses the example of a servant that does what his master tells him to do. Such a servant is not deserving of the master's thanks, because he has simply done his duty. The same goes for us - even when we are at our most righteous, we are simply doing what God has required, and consequently cannot claim any merit in our actions. God doesn't need to thank us.

Luke 6:27-38
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Matthew 5:43-48
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Luke 17:7-10
But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?

Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Unity or Disunity?

I recently came across the following comment:
Protestant epistemology has lead to the creation of thousands upon thousands of divided Protestant sects that cannot come together and agree on a single point of doctrine. What is the source of that Protestant doctrinal chaos if it is not the doctrine of sola scriptura? Does the Baptist man I mentioned really believe anything different than the tens of millions of Protestants that also claim to believe that the Protestant Bible is the ONLY source of infallible authority for a Christian?

Did you notice something interesting? The claim is that all these "sects" (meaning denominations) cannot agree "on a single point of doctrine." But then we are essentially given two points of alleged agreement:

1) The Protestant Canon

2) Sola Scriptura

We could probably add other things as well, such as theism and a rejection of the fictions of the papacy and purgatory. In fact, there are a huge number of beliefs that are characteristic of virtually all (if not absolutely all) of this mass of supposedly dis-unified brethren.

The critic wants to have it both ways: he wants to claim that this huge mass of denominations can't agree on anything, and that they do agree on a couple things that the critic himself rejects. It's really not a fair criticism, but it is remarkable in how blatantly unfair it is!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Verses - Part 20

The following set of passages are some remaining examples of people giving thanks in the gospels. We've already seen Jesus giving thanks, but now we turn to others.

The first passage is the account of Anna the prophetess. She had been a widow for eighty-four years, after having been married for seven years. This extremely elderly lady had been fasting and praying in the temple. When Jesus was brought to her, she gave thanks to the Lord and testified of Jesus to all those in Jerusalem who were seeking redemption. We too should give thanks that Jesus has come, especially since we have been privileged to see this from our earliest years, rather than having to wait until we are over a century old to see the Messiah arrive.

The second passage records Jesus' healing of ten lepers. They all cried out for mercy from Jesus, and Jesus healed them, not immediately but as they were going to the priest as he had instructed. One of them noticed on the way that he had been healed and returned and thanked Jesus, and he was a Samaritan. We too should be thankful to God for the healing that we receive from our sins. It is important to ask God for mercy, as the lepers did, but it is also important to thank God for the good things He does.

The final passage is a parable that Jesus spoke. This is a parable against those who "trusted in themselves that they were righteous." Sadly, we see this sort of thing today in Roman Catholicism. The person trusting in himself is the Pharisee in this parable. He is not a Pelagian, for he thanks God that he is not like other men, but he is a semi-pelagian in that he views himself as actually and personally righteous in God's sight. This sort of thanks is an empty thanks. It is good to thank God, but the thanks of the person who trusts in himself that he is righteous is not praised by Jesus but condemned. Instead, the justified man is the one who says "God be merciful to me a sinner," recognizing his actual sinfulness before God and begging for mercy. That is what "Kyrie Eleison" ("Lord have mercy") embedded in so many old liturgies, is designed to remind one of - even in churches that have lost track of its meaning. Humble yourself, recognize your actual sinfulness, and trust in Christ alone for salvation, and God will impute Christ's righteousness to you.

Luke 2:36-38

And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

Luke 17:11-19

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Luke 18:9-14
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

New American Bible on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

The text of 1 Cor 3:15 has sometimes been used to support the notion of purgatory, though it does not envisage this.

- New American Bible, 1 Corinthians 3, Footnote 8, at 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Vatican's On-Line Edition (link)(same note at USCCB site)

The New American Bible is a Roman Catholic translation, published under the authority of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Verses - Part 19

Today's segment addresses the many verses in which Jesus and Paul give thanks before eating. We, Jesus' disciples as Paul was, do the same when we eat.

The first account below is the feeding of the 4,000 (together with a synoptic account of this feeding). The second account is the feeding of the 5,000 (with a verse referring back to the occasion of the feeding of the 5,000 serving as the fourth passage in this group). These two feedings are similar in many ways, and it would be easy for someone to imagine that they were the same event, except that there are some differences in the details (a different number of people, a different source of food, and a different amount of leftover fragments). In point of fact, we are assuming that the synoptic account of the feeding of the 4,000 is simply a synoptic account, though it could possibly be a third feeding. I think practically all commentators would agree that Matthew and Mark are talking about the same account, but the feeding of the 5,000 should remind us of the fact that Jesus did many things, and it is possible for Jesus to perform quite similar miracles on more than one occasion.

The next group of passages are accounts of the last supper. The giving of thanks at the last supper is the etymological basis for calling the Lord's Supper the "Eucharist," namely because it involves giving thanks to God.

The account of the Lord's supper is found in the three synoptic gospels, but not in John's gospel (which may be surprising to those who would expect John to continue a theme that they thought he was developing in John 6). It is, however, also found in the first epistle to the Corinthians. I have included all four accounts.

The final two passages are examples of Paul either giving thanks for a meal himself (as in the first instance) or presuming that others will do the same (in the second instance).

The force of these passages does not provide an explicit command that we thank God for our food before we eat, but it does provide a strong argument for such a practice. It is right and proper for us to be thankful for our daily bread, and we are provided with admonition to request our daily bread from God (in the so-called Lord's Prayer). This is why we Christians thank God for our food with prayer to Him at the breaking of bread or whenever we eat a meal. It is also why we especially give thanks when we eat the memorial feast of the sacrifice of Christ. Thus, for us, every meal should involve some thanksgiving, with special thanksgiving feasts, and most of all the Lord's Supper, being times of exceeding thanks.

Matthew 15:29-39
And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them: insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.

Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.

And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?

And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye?

And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.

And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children. And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.

Mark 8:1-10
In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.

And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?

And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven.

And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.

And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away. And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.

John 6:1-17
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.

When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.

John 6:23 (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)

Matthew 26:26-30

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Mark 14:22-26
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Luke 22:14-20
And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Acts 27:33-38
And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.

And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.

And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.

Romans 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Navarre Bible on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

We cannot be sure that St Paul is here referring to purgatory; but it is quite in order to interpret “he will be saved, but only as through fire” in that sense.

- Navarre Bible, Saint Paul's letters to the Corinthians, p. 47 (2005)

The Navarre Bible is a production of Opus Dei and features commentary compiled by the faculty of the University of Navarre. It's not necessarily more or less official than some of the competing study bibles.

Bellarmine on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

The following are some thoughts of Robert Francis Romulus Bellarmine (Robert Bellarmine was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930, and declared a Doctor of the Universal Church in 1931.) on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. I don't present this as though it is the only thing that Roman Catholics have ever said about this, nor as something I would endorse (I don't endorse it). Instead, this is presented as an example of Roman Catholic scholarship that rejects the typical "pop apologetics" arguments for Purgatory.

The translation below is by Charles Hastings Collette and is taken from Bellarmine, On Purgatory (volume 2 - of his works, I believe), Book 1, Chapter 4 (and following?).

The difficulties of this passage are five in number.

1. What is understood by the builders?
2. What is understood by gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble?
3. What is understood by the day of the Lord?
4. What is understood by the fire, of which it is said that in the day of the Lord it shall prove every one’s work?
5. What is understood by the fire, of which it is said, he shall be saved, yet so as by fire?

When these things are explained the passage will be clear.

The first difficulty, therefore, is, who are the architects who build upon the foundation? Augustine, in his book on faith and works, chapter 16th and elsewhere, thinks that all Christians are here called by the apostle architects, and that all build upon the foundation of the faith either good or bad works. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, and Œcumenius, appear to me to teach the same upon this passage. Many others teach that only the doctors and preachers of the Gospel are here called architects by the apostle. Jerome insinuates this in his second book against Jovinianus. The blessed Anselm and the blessed Thomas hold the same opinion on this passage, although they do not reject the former opinion. Many more modern think the same, as Dionysius the Carthusian, Lyra, Cajetan, and others.

The other difficulty is rather more serious. For there are six opinions. Some by the name of foundation understand, a true but an ill-digested faith; by the names of gold, silver, and precious stones, good works. By the names of wood, hay, and stubble, mortal sins. Thus Chrysostom upon this place, who is followed by Theophylact. The second opinion is, that Christ or the preaching of the faith is understood by the name of foundation; that by the names of gold, silver, and precious stones, are understood Catholic expositions; by the name of wood, hay, and stubble, are understood heretical doctrines, as the commentary of Ambrose and even Jerome seem to teach. The third opinion by the name of foundation understands living faith, and by the name of gold, silver, and precious stones, understands works of supererogation, &c. Thus the blessed Augustine in his book on faith and works. The fourth opinion is that which is held by those who explain by gold, silver, &c., to be meant good works, by hay and stubble, &c., venial sins. Thus the blessed Gregory in the fourth book of his dialogues, chapter 39th, and others. The fifth is of those who understand by gold, silver, &c., good hearers, and by stubble bad hearers, &c. Thus Theodoret and Œcumenius. The sixth opinion, which we prefer to all, is, that by the name of foundation is to be understood Christ, as preached by the first preachers. By the name of gold, silver, &c., is to be understood the useful doctrine of the other preachers, who teach those who have now received the faith. But by the name of wood, hay, &c., is to be understood the doctrine, not heretical or bad, but the singular doctrine of those preachers who preach catholically to the catholic people, but without that fruit and profit which God requires.

The third difficulty regards the day of the Lord. Some understand by the name of day the present life, or the time of tribulation. Thus Augustine in his book on faith and works, c. 16, and Gregory in his 4th book of dialogues, c. 39. . . . But all the ancients seem to have understood by that day, the day of the last judgment, as Theodoret, Theophylact, Anselm, and others.

The fourth difficulty is, what is the fire which, in the day of the Lord, shall prove every one’s work? Some understand the tribulations of this life, as Augustine and Gregory in the places noted, but these we have already rejected. Some understand eternal fire, but that cannot be, for that fire shall not try the building of gold and silver. . . . Some understand it to be the pains of Purgatory, but that cannot be truly said.

- First, because the fire of Purgatory does not prove the works of those who build gold and silver. But that fire of which we speak shall prove every one’s work what it is.

- Secondly, the apostle clearly makes a distinction between the works and the workmen, and says concerning that fire, that it shall burn the works but not the workers: for he says, if any one’s work shall remain, and if any work shall burn: but the fire of Purgatory, which is a true and real fire, cannot burn works, which are transitory actions, and have already passed.

- Lastly, it would follow, that all men, even the most holy, would pass through the fire of Purgatory, and be saved by fire, for all are to pass through the fire of which we are speaking. But that all are to pass through the fire of Purgatory and to be saved by fire is clearly false: for the apostle here openly says, that only those who build wood and hay are to be saved as by fire: the Church, also, has always been persuaded that holy martyrs and infants dying after baptism are presently received into heaven, without any passage through fire, as the Council of Florence teaches in its last Session. It remains, therefore, that we should say that the apostle here speaks of the fire of the severe and just judgment of God, which is not a purging or punishing fire, but one that probes and examines. Thus Ambrose explains it on Psalm 118, and also Sedulius.

The fifth and last difficulty is, what is understood by the fire, when he says, but he shall be saved, yet so as by fire? Some understand the tribulations of this life, but this cannot properly be said, because then even he who built gold and silver would be saved by fire. Wherefore Augustine and Gregory, who are the authors of this opinion, when they were not satisfied with it, proposed another, of which we shall speak by-and-by. Some understand it to be eternal fire, as Chrysostom and Theophylact. But this we have already refuted. Others understand the fire of the conflagration of the world. It is, therefore, the common opinion of theologians, that by the name of this fire is understood some purgatorial and temporal fire, to which after death they are adjudged, who are found in their trial to have built wood, hay, or stubble.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kadhafi Making Stuff Up?

I came across a reaction to what Kadhafi had said (link to reaction) (link to my own previous post on what Kadhafi had said).

Swordbearer writes:
Kadhafi, in a one hour lesson on Islam, to a paid audience, stated in regard to Jesus' crucifixion: "They crucified someone who looked like him." And his evidence is?????

This is just another example of an uneducated madman speaking about historical events he knows nothing about in order to deceive people into buying into more of his lies. ... But hey, if he either doesn't comprehend Islam which he professes or believes (in regard to women) he can make up his own rules, then why should we believe he wouldn't make up stuff about other religions?
This is kind of an ironic criticism. Kadhafi's evidence is the Koran. It's not good evidence, I agree - but Kadhafi is a Mulsim: he believes what the Koran says, and the Koran says that Jesus was not crucified:

Surat al Nisa 4:157-158. "And because of their saying: 'we slew the messiah Jesus son of Mary.' Allah's messenger-they slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared unto them, and Lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up to himself."

The Koran is wrong, but that is standard Islamic belief. Some say that "it appeared to them" because there was a replacement who was crucified, and some say that "it appeared to them" because Jesus survived the crucifixion without dying. Both are views within Islam.

I don't know whether Swordbearer means to call Mohammed "an uneducated madman" pr whether he means to call Kadhafi that. I suspect the latter, but actually in this instance Kadhafi appears to be more familiar with Islam than Swordbearer is.


Thanksgiving Verses - Part 18

Today's segment is the first mention of thanksgiving, as such, in the gospels. The passage is an account of Jesus praying to the Father. Jesus is thanking God for a very interesting thing: for hiding from the wise, and revealing to "babes." The reason given is that "it seemed good in thy [the Father's] sight."

This view of God provided in the gospels shows a very different picture of God from that which we typically see from certain non-Calvinist preachers. They would like to suggest that God is out there trying to reveal himself to as many as possible, but Jesus thanks God for hiding himself from the wise and revealing himself to babes. Jesus is even more explicit in his teaching of monergism, saying that no one knows the Father except those to whom the Son reveals the Father.

But Jesus' prayer is also useful simply as a model of a prayer of thanks: (1) Jesus prays to the Father, (2) Jesus thanks the father, (3) Jesus praises and adores the Father ascribing (a) Kingdom and (b) Providence to Him, and (4) Jesus submits himself to the will of the Father. This is similar to portions of the so-called "Lord's Prayer" which is a more complete model of prayer for us, the disciples of Christ.

I've included both of the synoptic accounts, and you will see that they differ inconsequentially from one another.

Matthew 11:25-27
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

Luke 10:21-22

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.

All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

The World's Worst Evangelist

He enters the city, spends the first day just getting himself deeper into the city, and then preaches his message: Yet forty days, and the city shall be overthrown. He doesn't have any particular care for the people of the city, and you can see it on his face. He's just going through the motions. Yes, he's warning the city of judgment, but he actually hopes they won't notice him.

But some do. Some laugh at him. "Everything is fine," they tell him. "We're a huge city, and no one and nothing could destroy us."

The preacher just laughs back. "Go ahead and believe that. I don't care."

"You stink," someone yells out. The preacher just ignores it and continues with his warning of judgment.

"Why do you stink so bad," they continue asking him. Finally, the preacher explains.

"It was a sailing accident," he tells them.

"A sailing accident? That can't be it, you're not just wet, you're covered in sulferous slime."

"I was swallowed by a great fish. It's really nothing. This city is going to be destroyed in --"

"Wait, you were swallowed by a great fish and survived?"

"Yes, but you're missing the important point. In forty days, this place will be smoldering ruins."

"How did that happen? Tell us!"

"Fine, I was told by God to come here and warn you about this destruction. I didn't want to do so, so I tried to sail off in another direction. God sent a storm and finally the sailors had to throw me off the boat to satisfy God's wrath, so the storm would stop. I got swallowed by the fish and brought by the fish to the shores of this city. Now I'm here preaching the message that God wanted me to preach in the first place, which is that you're going to be destroyed in forty days."

"But why didn't you want to come here and tell us? Why did you run away from your God's command?"

"Because I hate you guys. I want God to destroy you - and he will, in forty days."

"Why not just tell us this straight away?"

"Oh - no special reason."

"Come on, tell us. Why did you try to run away from giving us this message of destruction? We can see that you're happy God is going to destroy us."

The preacher just stands silently for a bit and then continues: "Yet forty days, and Ninevah shall be overthrown."

"Oh please tell us," the people beg him, "Why didn't you want to warn us?"

"Because I know God. He is a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents of the evil that he would do to those who deserve judgment when he sees repentance from sin."

Finally, the people who had only recently mocked this preacher, began to see what needed to be done. They sent to the king of the city and the king proclaimed repentance, fasting, and mourning for their sin in order to avert the judgment of God.

Jonah, our preacher, was not pleased by this result. He left the city and went to the east, setting up a small booth for himself to watch to see what would happen to the city. Perhaps God would destroy it as He did Sodom with fire from heaven.

But no judgment came. Jonah had been right about God: God was merciful to those who repent. Jonah was then even more unhappy and wished for death.

This is what I would call the world's worst evangelist. He had no desire for the good of those to whom he preached. He wanted them to be destroyed, and he only preached to them because God forced him to do so, at fish-point.

He was a cold-hearted man. He was more unhappy about a leafy gourd dying than he would have been about 120,000 children ("sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand") dying, not to mention the enormous amount of cattle in the city that would have perished as well.

But God used him powerfully. He brought a massive city - a city so big that it was a three days' journey across the city - to repentance and saved them from immanent judgment. It just goes to show what a great God our Lord is. He can use the world's worst evangelist to bring a wicked, pagan city to repentance.

Perhaps God is also calling you to preach the gospel to the lost. If so, do so knowing that God can use you. He can use you despite the worst failings you have - so don't be afraid to answer his call and preach.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gaddafi Party and Islam 101

Reformed Chicks Blabbing recently brought to my attention an article about a party that Gaddafi held in Italy to try to convert young women to Islam (link). Gaddafi put out a call for "500 attractive girls between 18 and 35 years old, at least 1.70 meters (5 foot, 7 inches) tall," which was answered by about 200 Roman women.

The party turned out to be an attempt to proselytize the women. They were told about various teachings of Islam, given a Koran, and encouraged to convert. It does not seem that the women got quite what they expected. I found the following comment of note:
Others said they were offended by what they considered anti-Christian aspects of his lesson, including a claim that Jesus was not crucified but that "someone who looked like him" was put to death in his place.
Yes, this is Islam 101, the idea that Jesus was not put to death by crucifixion. There is a split of views within Islam, but the "replacement theory" is one of the more popular ways in which Jesus' crucifixion is denied.

You cannot be both Muslim and Christian. Some of our most fundamental views of Christ are denied by Islam, including both his divinity (which should be more offensive) and his crucifixion.


Is Roman Catholicism a Force for Good in the World?

The following is a debate featuring Roman Catholics Archbishop John Onaiyekan and MP Anne Widdecombe (Conservative) against Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens. The debate went well for the Negative according to the poll results released during the debate. Patrick Madrid, who brought this to my attention, agreed with Richard Dawkins in characterizing the debate as "a rout." (link to Madrid) Madrid seems to think that if Peter Kreeft, Benjamin Wiker, Robert George, Dinesh D'Souza, Helen Alvare, Alan Keyes, John Corapi, or Scott Hahn had debated for the Roman Catholic position, the result would have been different.

The result is what it is. I would not tend to base my criticism of Roman Catholicism on the grounds that Hitchens and Fry used.

Link to video - Sorry, but embedding seems to have problems not auto-playing.

Thanksgiving Verses - Part 17

The minor prophets provide us with two thanksgiving passages, one in Amos and one in Jonah.

In Amos, God mocks those of Israel who are about to go into captivity with an ironic command for thanksgiving. As such, it is one of the few references (perhaps the only one in the Old Testament) to thanksgiving that is not positive.

Amos 4:4-5
Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.

In Jonah, Jonah prays out of the fish's belly, a prayer that exudes hope and a promise of thanksgiving to God. It ends on the cornerstone of monergism: Salvation is of the Lord. Our sinful estate was more miserable than that of Jonah, and yet God looked in mercy on us and saved us. Let us give thanks to the God of our salvation!

Jonah 2

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, and said,

I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.

And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

Horton is Still Reformed

Although he doesn't directly answer the "open question" Horton affirmed his commitment to the Reformation in a new post, which is good enough for me (link), although I would really have wished for a stronger affirmation of the Reformation than the vague affirmations he provides.

Cajetan on the Canon

The following is an excerpt from The canon of Holy Scriptures: from the double point of view of science and faith, by Louis Gaussen, London: 1862, Appendix on the Apocrypha, pp. 642-43 (link).

But Cajetan, on the question of the apocryphal books often expresses the same opinion as ourselves, either in his Commentaries on Thomas Aquinas, or in those he wrote at Rome itself, or very near the Council of Trent, on the Holy Scriptures. [FN: The public library at Geneva possesses the Commentaries of Cajetan, In Omnes Authenticos Veteris Testam. Historiales Libros, printed at Rome in 1533. The Pope’s Penitentiary superintended the edition. Cajetan enumerates the books on which has commented, “Omissis reliquis ab Hieronyme inter apocrypha supputatis.”]
He says, on the first chapter of the Hebrews, “The books that Jerome has handed down to us as canonical, (canonicas tradidit,) we hold to be canonical, and those which he has separated from the canon, (à canone discrevit,) we hold to be out of the canon, (extra canonem habemus.)” But we have already said with what decision Jerome has expressed himself against the Apocrypha. “After Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi,” he says on Isaiah xlix. 21, “I have seen no other prophet till John the Baptist!”

Cajetan also says, in his dedicatory epistle to Pope Clement VII. (at the head of his commentary on the historical books of the Old Testament) — an epistle approved by the Pope — “Most holy father, the whole Latin Church is under the greatest obligations to St Jerome on account of the distinction he has made between the canonical books and the uncanonical. He has delivered us from the OPPROBRIUM which would have rested upon us in the eyes of the Hebrews, (ab Hebraeorum opprobio,) of appearing to regard as part of the canon, books and portions of books which the Hebrews entirely want, (quod fingamus nobis antique canonis libros aut librorum partes quibus ipsi penitus carent.)”

He says again, on the last chapter of Esther, “These books are not canonical (non sunt regulares) to confirm the matters of faith, (ad firmandum ea quae sunt fidei.)” “But yet,” he adds, in the sense in which Augustin sometimes spoke, “they might be called canonical—that is to say, books serving as a rule (regulares) to be employed for the edification of the faithful.

It is thus that Jerome had said, (on the books of Solomon, to Chromatius and Heliodorus,) “In the same way as the Church reads the books of the Maccabees, Tobit, and Judith, without receiving them into the number of the canonical writings, so we may treat Ecclesiasticus and the book of Wisdom, reading them for edification, and not to authorise dogmas. (Sic et haec duo volumina legat ad aedificationem plebis, non ad auctoritatem ecclesiasticorum dogmatum confirmandum.)”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pastor King Responds to Bryan Cross' Misuse of Jerome

The following guest post from Pastor David King, is in response to Bryan Cross' remarks (#166) on the blog entry, "Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority."

Cross’ misuse of Jerome…

“Jerome in Context: A Case Study Surrounding Epistle 15 with respect to the Roman Claims about interpretive authority”

It is an unending object of amazement to behold what is at best, ignorance, if not the worst, arrogance, of the misuse that the Early Church Fathers receive in the hands of Roman apologists. Our Roman opponents are accustomed to shout “out of context” immediately at the faintest citation of any patristic witness whose words appear to be at odds with the modern day views of the Roman communion, whether they have actually investigated the context of any such citation or not. One would verily be led to believe by such statements that such members of the Roman communion possess the attribute of omniscience when it comes to the context of every quote that stands in contrast to their present day claims. Time and time again patristic citations are met with counter citations, as Cross' example demonstrates, which amount to an overt double-standard on the part of Roman apologists. I, for one, am willing to grant, in this case, the benefit of the doubt as to motives, and simply underscore the reality that this example serves to prove, as a case in point, the common ignorance that prevails among Roman controversialists in their enthusiasm to offer anything that even has, as it were, the appearance of providing a few stitches as an attempt to cover the birthday suit of the emperor. There is, then, this tendency to read back into the statements of the Early Church Fathers (ECFs) a certain meaning that one wants to see, regardless of whether that perceived meaning can stand the test of historical examination and scrutiny. This is a specific example of reading back into Jerome a modern day view of the papacy which was unknown to him. It will be helpful to consider something of the background of this letter, as well as some of the things which Jerome addresses in it.

First of all, this letter was written roughly in the winter of 376 or 377 A.D. from the desert area of Chalcis ad Belum “on the confines between northern Syria and the region west of the Euphrates.”[FN1] If we are to accept the usual date offered for his birth (347 A.D.), he couldn’t have been more than 29 or 30 years of age. However, Kelly argues strongly in favor of the date Prosper suggests as 331 A.D.,[FN2] which, if accepted, would place his age at this time around 45 or 46 years of age. He had probably been baptized sometime prior to the year 366 before Damasus became the bishop of Rome, or else as Kelly argues “it is inconceivable that he should not have mentioned the fact when he proudly reminded the pope that he had been baptized in Rome” because it was the bishop who normally administered baptism.[FN3] Thus, writing from a foreign location to the church of his present communion, it is only natural that Jerome should seek the counsel of his pastor concerning the three factions of Christians in the city of Antioch. The fact that he proudly employs the flowery language of consulting “the chair of Peter...the successor of the fisherman” is perfectly understandable because it is the church of his present communion and from which he received “the garb of Christ,” which as Kelly notes might possibly be a reference to the “white garment” with which the new newly baptized are clothed following the sacrament.[FN4] Rather than appealing to some notion of universal jurisdiction, Jerome is simply seeking the counsel of his home communion and the advice of his pastor whom he knows and trusts. Taken at its worst, we would have to conclude that Jerome’s expressions are far from that of a catholic spirit, for he excludes from his fellowship (at this time) all three of the rival bishops of Antioch, when he declares “I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus. He that gathers not with you scatters; he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist,” having declared Rome to be “the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten.”[FN5] Such a spirit is decisively sectarian and uncatholic, especially in the light of the fact that Meletius whom he brushed off in his rejection as one of “those Arians”[FN6] who was advocating the ‘three hypostases’ doctrine in an attempt to explain the relationship of the three persons of the Trinity. It was none other than Meletius who only some five or six years later was elected to preside over the Council of Constantinople, and who stood decisively opposed to the Arian heresy. Kelly states of Jerome that;
It was sheer prejudice, or deliberate perversity, to dismiss the adherents of the ‘three hypostases’ doctrine as Arians. They were just as much opposed to Arianism, with its subordination of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Son and its denial of divinity to both, as he was.[FN7]
At any rate, Damasus failed to respond to this letter (Letter 15) of Jerome, which in turn precipitated a second letter (Letter 16) to Damasus, which as far as we know suffered the same fate of no response.[FN8] Suffice it to say, because of the prestige which the Church of Rome enjoyed in many locations in both the west and the east, Jerome was appealing to his home pastor for counsel and advice, with these many expressions of pride for the communion of his baptism.

In the broader ecclesiastical picture, though unbeknown to Jerome at the writing of Letters 15 and 16, Paulinus was the only one which Rome acknowledged as the true bishop of Antioch. Strangely enough, it was Meletius’ claim to the chair of Antioch that was supported by the greatest majority of the eastern church. It was he who enjoyed the support of the great Cappadocian Father, Basil of Caesarea, and it was at Meletius’ hand that John Chrysostom received his baptism and his ordination to the diaconate. And it was at the hand of Flavian (the successor of Meletius) that John Chrysostom received ordination to the priesthood.

Letter 15
To Pope Damasus

This letter, written in 376 or 377 A.D., illustrates Jerome’s attitude towards the see of Rome at this time held by Damasus, afterwards his warm friend and admirer. Referring to Rome as the scene of his own baptism and as a church where the true faith has remained unimpaired , and laying down the strict doctrine of salvation only within the pale of the church , Jerome asks “the successor of the fisherman” two questions, viz.: who is the true bishop of the three claimants of the see of Antioch, and which is the correct terminology, to speak of three “hypostases” in the Godhead, or of one? On the latter question he expresses fully his own opinion.

1. Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, “woven from the top throughout,” since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ, and since among the broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover “the sealed fountain” and “the garden inclosed,” I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul. I appeal for spiritual food to the church whence I have received the garb of Christ. The wide space of sea and land that lies between us cannot deter me from searching for “the pearl of great price.” “Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” Evil children have squandered their patrimony; you alone keep your heritage intact. The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold; but here the seed corn is choked in the furrows and nothing grows but darnel or oats. In the West the Sun of righteousness is even now rising; in the East, Lucifer, who fell from heaven, has once more set his throne above the stars. “Ye are the light of the world,” “ye are the salt of the earth,” ye are “vessels of gold and of silver.” Here are vessels of wood or of earth, which wait for the rod of iron, and eternal fire.

2. Yet, though your greatness terrifies me, your kindness attracts me. From the priest I demand the safe-keeping of the victim, from the shepherd the protection due to the sheep. Away with all that is overweening; let the state of Roman majesty withdraw. My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails. But since by reason of my sins I have betaken myself to this desert which lies between Syria and the uncivilized waste, I cannot, owing to the great distance between us, always ask of your sanctity the holy thing of the Lord. Consequently I here follow the Egyptian confessors who share your faith, and anchor my frail craft under the shadow of their great argosies. I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus. He that gathers not with you scatters; he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist.

3. Just now, I am sorry to say, those Arians, the Campenses, are trying to extort from me, a Roman Christian, their unheard-of formula of three hypostases. And this, too, after the definition of Nicaea and the decree of Alexandria, in which the West has joined. Where, I should like to know, are the apostles of these doctrines? Where is their Paul, their new doctor of the Gentiles? I ask them what three hypostases are supposed to mean. They reply three persons subsisting. I rejoin that this is my belief. They are not satisfied with the meaning, they demand the term. Surely some secret venom lurks in the words. “If any man refuse,” I cry, “to acknowledge three hypostases in the sense of three things hypostatized, that is three persons subsisting, let him be anathema.” Yet, because I do not learn their words, I am counted a heretic. “But, if any one, understanding by hypostasis essence, deny that in the three persons there is one hypostasis, he has no part in Christ.” Because this is my confession I, like you, am branded with the stigma of Sabellianism.

4. If you think fit enact a decree; and then I shall not hesitate to speak of three hypostases. Order a new creed to supersede the Nicene; and then, whether we are Arians or orthodox, one confession will do for us all. In the whole range of secular learning hypostasis never means anything but essence. And can any one, I ask, be so profane as to speak of three essences or substances in the Godhead? There is one nature of God and one only; and this, and this alone, truly is. For absolute being is derived from no other source but is all its own. All things besides, that is all things created, although they appear to be, are not. For there was a time when they were not, and that which once was not may again cease to be. God alone who is eternal, that is to say, who has no beginning, really deserves to be called an essence. Therefore also He says to Moses from the bush, “I am that I am,” and Moses says of Him, “I am hath sent me.” As the angels, the sky, the earth, the seas, all existed at the time, it must have been as the absolute being that God claimed for himself that name of essence, which apparently was common to all. But because His nature alone is perfect, and because in the three persons there subsists but one Godhead, which truly is and is one nature; whosoever in the name of religion declares that there are in the Godhead three elements, three hypostases, that is, or essences, is striving really to predicate three natures of God. And if this is true, why are we severed by walls from Arius, when in dishonesty we are one with him? Let Ursicinus be made the colleague of your blessedness; let Auxentius be associated with Ambrose. But may the faith of Rome never come to such a pass! May the devout hearts of your people never be infected with such unholy doctrines! Let us be satisfied to speak of one substance and of three subsisting persons — perfect, equal, coeternal. Let us keep to one hypostasis, if such be your pleasure, and say nothing of three. It is a bad sign when those who mean the same thing use different words. Let us be satisfied with the form of creed which we have hitherto used. Or, if you think it right that I should speak of three hypostases, explaining what I mean by them, I am ready to submit. But, believe me, there is poison hidden under their honey; the angel of Satan has transformed himself into an angel of light. They give a plausible explanation of the term hypostasis; yet when I profess to hold it in the same sense they count me a heretic. Why are they so tenacious of a word? Why do they shelter themselves under ambiguous language? If their belief corresponds to their explanation of it, I do not condemn them for keeping it. On the other hand, if my belief corresponds to their expressed opinions, they should allow me to set forth their meaning in my own words.

5. I implore your blessedness, therefore, by the crucified Savior of the world, and by the consubstantial trinity, to authorize me by letter either to use or to refuse this formula of three hypostases. And test the obscurity of my present abode may baffle the bearers of your letter, I pray you to address it to Evagrius, the presbyter, with whom you are well acquainted. I beg you also to signify with whom I am to communicate at Antioch. Not, I hope, with the Campenses; for they — with their allies the heretics of Tarsus — only desire communion with you to preach with greater authority their traditional doctrine of three hypostases.

Letter 16
To Pope Damasus

This letter, written a few months after the preceding, is another appeal to Damasus to solve the writer’s doubts. Jerome once more refers to his baptism at Rome, and declares that his one answer to the factions at Antioch is, “He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me.” Written from the desert in the year 377 or 378.

1. By her importunity the widow in the gospel at last gained a hearing, and by the same means one friend induced another to give him bread at midnight, when his door was shut and his servants were in bed. The publican’s prayers overcame God, although God is invincible. Nineveh was saved by its tears from the impending ruin caused by its sin. To what end, you ask, these far-fetched references? To this end, I make answer; that you in your greatness should look upon me in my littleness; that you, the rich shepherd, should not despise me, the ailing sheep. Christ Himself brought the robber from the cross to paradise, and, to show that repentance is never too late, He turned a murderer’s death into a martyrdom. Gladly does Christ embrace the prodigal son when he returns to Him; and, leaving the ninety and nine, the good shepherd carries home on His shoulders the one poor sheep that is left. From a persecutor Paul becomes a preacher. His bodily eyes are blinded to clear the eyes of his soul, and he who once haled Christ’s servants in chains before the council of the Jews, lives afterwards to glory in the bonds of Christ.

2. As I have already written to you, I, who have received Christ’s garb in Rome, am now detained in the waste that borders Syria. No sentence of banishment, however, has been passed upon me; the punishment which I am undergoing is self-inflicted. But, as the heathen poet says:
They change not mind but sky who cross the sea.
The untiring foe follows me closely, and the assaults that I suffer in the desert are severer than ever. For the Arian frenzy raves, and the powers of the world support it. The church is rent into three factions, and each of these is eager to seize me for its own. The influence of the monks is of long standing, and it is directed against me. I meantime keep crying: “He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me.” Meletius, Vitalis, and Paulinus all profess to cleave to you, and I could believe the assertion if it were made by one of them only. As it is, either two of them or else all three are guilty of falsehood. Therefore I implore your blessedness, by our Lord’s cross and passion, those necessary glories of our faith, as you hold an apostolic office, to give an apostolic decision. Only tell me by letter with whom I am to communicate in Syria, and I will pray for you that you may sit in judgment enthroned with the twelve; that when you grow old, like Peter, you may be girded not by yourself but by another, and that, like Paul, you may be made a citizen of the heavenly kingdom. Do not despise a soul for which Christ died.

What Roman disputants cannot appreciate about this letter (letter 15) of Jerome is that he writes as a theological novice, as he later describes himself during this period of his life in the prologue of his commentary on Obadiah (PL 25:1098). In Letter 15, as well as Letter 16 (which was his 2nd attempt to get Damasus to respond to him, with Letter 15 having gone unanswered), he makes mention in both letters of the three rival bishops of Antioch, "I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus. He that gathers not with you scatters; he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist."

With a true sectarian spirit, Jerome writes off all three of these rival bishops as being of “Antichrist.” Jerome makes the same youthful mistake of judgment that any of us are liable to make. After all, unknown to Jerome at this time, Damasus recognized Paulinus as the true "catholic" bishop of Antioch. And Meletius (and this is where it becomes comical when dealing with misguided Roman apologists) whom Jerome rejects in this letter, and regards as one of "those Arians" because Meletius and others (most notably Basil of Caesarea) were using the language of "three hypostases" (which, by the way, was orthodox language) to describe the relationship of the persons in the Trinity. It is because this language is new to the ears of Jerome, that he dismisses it as "Arian," all the while informing his pastor Damasus that if he chooses to accept it, so will he! As Kelly points out concerning this language of Jerome, “It was sheer prejudice, or deliberate perversity, to dismiss the adherents of the ‘three hypostases’ doctrine as Arians. They were just as much opposed to Arianism, with its subordination of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Son and its denial of divinity to both, as he was.” See J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), p. 54.

But what becomes even more damaging to the Roman paradigm of the alleged papal primacy and “catholic unity” in that day, is that while pope Damasus recognized Paulinus as the true bishop of Antioch, Basil of Caesarea (no small ecclesiastic of the east) and John Chrysostom recognized Meletius as the true bishop of Antioch, from whose hands Chrysostom was baptized and ordained to the diaconate! The third claimant to the throne of Antioch, who is mentioned by Jerome, Vitalis, fell into the error of Apollinarius.

Jerome isn’t appealing to “the teacher of all Christians” who had the ultimate authority to adjudicate between the rival bishops. He was appealing to the pastor of his own communion in the western see where he had been baptized! Moreover, no one in the east had any notion of the papal primacy of jurisdiction. Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom, in supporting Meletius as the rightful bishop of Antioch, certainly held no notions of papal primacy, such as Leo XIII's Satis cognitum (and now Bryan Cross) attempts to read back into this letter of Jerome. After all, according to the standard of Leo XIII's Satis cognitum, Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom were “outside the edifice,” “separated from the fold,” and “exiled from the kingdom,” for the simple reason that neither of them joined Damasus in recognizing Paulinus as the rightful occupant of the Antiochene see! They “knew nothing (As Edward Denny points out in his helpful work, Papalism, p. 347) of the Papal Monarchy as an integral part of the Divine Constitution of the Church necessary to its very existence.”

This is why I regard “Romanists” by this title. After all, there is no greater "anti-Catholic" spirit than that of a Romanist who maintains that communion with Rome constitutes the necessary requirement to be in the true Church of Jesus Christ. What can be more sectarian (as it was in Basil and Chrysostom's day) than this kind of party spirit!

We, as Protestants, are very content to let the ECFs be what they were. But it is the Roman apologist who, on the contrary, must read back into the ECFs the notions of modern day Rome and papal primacy that were never recognized by the eastern church. Again, for all this insistence on the ECFs being “catholic” I am in great agreement! But the true “anti-Catholic” title belongs to those who argue for the exclusive claims of Rome.

Bryan Cross’ typical misuse of this letter of Jerome (in the comment section of his blog) is a classic example of why the claims of the Roman communion cannot be taken seriously from an historical perspective, much less a theological one.

So, then, Jerome isn't even addressing the question of the authoritative interpretation of Scripture, but rather the question of ecclesial alignment. I recommend highly Edward Denny’s treatment of this very instance in his book Papalism, pp. 285ff. [Available at], where he demonstrates very clearly how Leo XIII (and now Bryan Cross) have misused this citation of Jerome as though it supports proof for papal primacy and the interpretive jurisdiction of Rome.


P.S. As to interpretive authority, Jerome's own writings are full of statements like the following 3 examples...

Jerome (347-420) says toward the end of his commentary on Habbakkuk: And thus have I briefly delivered to you my opinion; but if any one produce that which is more exact and true, take his exposition rather than mine. John Daillé, A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1856), p. 229.

Latin text: Haec a me breviter dicta sunt. Si quis autem his sagaciora et veriora repererit, illius magis explanationi praebete consensum. Commentaria in Abacuc, Liber Secundus, PL 25:1332.

Jerome (347-420) says at the close of his commentary on the 2nd chapter of Zephaniah: We have now done our utmost endeavour, in giving an allegorical exposition of the text; but if any other can bring that which is more probable and agreeable to reason than that which we have delivered, let the reader be guided by his authority rather than by ours. John Daillé, A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1856), pp. 229-230.

Latin text: Haec diximus, ut potuimus interpretationi allegoricae servientes. Si quis autem magis verisimilia, et habentia rationem quam a nobis sunt disserta repererit, illius magis lector auctoritate ducatur. Commentariorum In Sophoniam Prophetam, PL 25:1372.

Jerome (347-420) says again elsewhere: This we have written according to the utmost of our poor ability, and have given a short sketch of the divers opinions, both of our own men and of the Jews; yet if any man can give me a better and truer account of these things, I shall be very ready to embrace them. John Daillé, A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1856), p. 230.

Latin text: Haec ut quivimus, et ut vires ingenioli nostri ferre potuerunt, locuti sumus, et Hebraeorum et nostrorum varias opiniones breviter perstringentes, si quis melius immo verius dixerit, et nos libenter melioribus acquiescimus. Commentariorum In Zachariam Prophetam, PL 25:1446-1447.


1. J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), p. 46.

2. Ibid., pp. 1f., 337-339.

3. Ibid., p. 23.

4. Ibid.

5. Letter 15, §2.

6. Letter 15, §3, and Letter 16, §2, where he wrote “For the Arian frenzy raves, and the powers of the world support it. The church is rent into three factions, and each of these is eager to seize me for its own. The influence of the monks is of long standing, and it is directed against me. I meantime keep crying: ‘He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me.’ Meletius, Vitalis, and Paulinus all profess to cleave to you, and I could believe the assertion if it were made by one of them only. As it is, either two of them or else all three are guilty of falsehood.”

7. J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: His Life, Writings, and Controversies, p. 54.

8. Ibid.

Thanksgiving Verses - Part 16

The two passages in today's segment come from the book of Daniel. The first passage is Daniel's prayer of thanks to God for showing him the meaning of the king's dream. The first thing Daniel does, even before going to telling Arioch the good news (the wise men of Babylon were going to be killed, since they could not tell the meaning of the king's dream).

The second passage relates the decree of the jealous Babylonian presidents and princes who convinced the king to pass a law that outlawed Daniel's daily prayers to God. Notice that Daniel prayed three times a day, and that thanksgiving was a part of his regime, even during this time of persecution. This should be an encouragement to us likewise to give thanks.

Daniel 2:19-24

Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said,

Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: and he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.

I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.

Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation.

Dan 6:4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
Dan 6:5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
Dan 6:6 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
Dan 6:7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
Dan 6:8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
Dan 6:9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
Dan 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
Dan 6:11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving Verses - Part 15

Even Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, mentions thanksgiving. He mentions it in the context of the return of the captivity of the people of Israel. The biggest point of the passage is to point out that God is predicting the future. He is telling Jeremiah to write this down as proof, as it were, that God is accomplishing what he said.

Israel will have an incurable wound, but God will heal the wound. Israel will be exiled by her enemies, but then the enemies themselves will be exiled. Israel will be given gladness, thanksgiving, and the multiplication of children. But God's wrath will be on the wicked.

We've already seen that thanksgiving coming to fruition in some of the previous thanksgiving passages we've examined.

The passage ends on the anger of God: not an anger that simply burns irrationally, but an anger that accomplishes what God intends and purposes. Yes, this destroys any conception of God as an omnibenevolent Santa Claus that never intends to destroy anyone, but reminds the reader that God describes himself (in one aspect) as a whirlwind.

Jeremiah 30
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book. For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah.

For thus saith the LORD;

We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.

For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: but they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.

Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.

For thus saith the LORD, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines. All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.

Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee. Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after. Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them. And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the LORD.

And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.