Saturday, January 09, 2010

Pastor David King Responds to Taylor Marshall

The following is a response from David King to Taylor Marshall's comments on the earlier Erasmus thread (link to Mr. Marshall's comments). I've made only minor edits to what Pastor King and Mr. Marshall wrote. I've also added some editorial footnotes both to Mr. Marshall's comments and to Pastor King's comments.

Jesuits and Roman Unity

Mr. Marshall wrote: Mr. King, Contemporary Jesuits tend to be the most subversive religious order within the Catholic Church - known from their dissent. Many are rather "Protestant" [FN1] - so don't take this random Jesuit quote as indicative of Catholic tradition.

David King Responds: Then I guess that the Roman magisterium doesn’t really live up to all you folks make it out to be. Where is the ecclesiastical discipline for these, the “most subversive religious order” within the Roman communion? The fact that Schatz’s observation of early church history disagrees with yours doesn’t make him wrong. As a Jesuit he does hold orders in your communion, while you hold no official position among the clergy. What makes your censure of Mr. Schatz any more than that of a private judgment? It is interesting how members of the Roman communion cry out against the exercise of all private judgment if they think a Protestant has engaged in such, while they reserve it for themselves against their own clergy.

Clement of Rome and Early Christian Views of Rome

Mr. Marshall wrote: Then you provide a quote reads: "If one had asked a Christian in the year 100, 200, or even 300 whether the bishop of Rome was the head of all Christians, or whether there was a supreme bishop over all the other bishops and having the last word in questions affecting the whole Church, he or she would certainly have said no." (Schatz quote)
This can't be right. Let's look at what actually Christians from this period said and wrote about the Church of Rome.

Pope [FN2] Clement of Rome (ca. 89-96) wrote: "The church of God which sojourns at Rome to the church of God which sojourns at Corinth ... But if any disobey the words spoken by him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger." Clement of Rome 1,59:1

David King Responds: Yes, let’s do look at it, in context. In the first place, this is a rather anachronistic designation which you have assigned to Clement. There is absolutely no historical evidence to support your designation of him as “pope.” This tradition is without support because the office of the monarchical bishop, as it later came to exist, is no where present in Rome at this time. Leadership in Rome as this time had, according to 1 Clement 44:1-6 had been entrusted not to one, but a plurality of bishops, also known as presbyters. The very assertion of this claim that Clement was a “pope” is clearly based upon nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of Romanists.[FN3] This letter was composed by the Church of God at Rome to correct the behavior of the Corinthians, the majority of whom were responsible for removing their ecclesiastical leaders for no just cause.

This piecemeal quotation you’ve put together, which connects the beginning of the letter to the 59th chapter of this epistle is clearly not the result of your own study, but something you’ve lifted from a Roman apologetic web site. This is a prime example of the kind of misrepresentation of which you’ve accused me. The Church at Rome is simply pointing out to the Corinthians that they have trampled on the rights of their duly appointed elders. This is far from claiming some papal or Roman primacy over the Church at Corinth, whose members were in rebellion, not against Rome, but their own clergy.

As I indicated, you have cherry-picked this piece-meal quote which can be found in this form at a number of Roman apologetic web sites. The presupposition behind this proffered piece-meal citation is ludicrous, and fraught with anachronistic wishful thinking. In Chapter 57, 1 Clement instructs the Corinthians to “submit to [their] presbyters and accept discipline leading to repentance.” The admonition of 1 Clement refers this letter as “our advice [notice the plurality] and you will have nothing to regret.” (1 Clement 58)

This letter is giving biblical instruction to the congregants at Corinth to correct them. You haven’t demonstrated to me that you are even familiar with the intent of the letter. Clement appears to be acting as the secretary of the presbyters at Rome in the sending of this pastoral letter. This is nothing here that offers any proof for a papal or Roman primacy of jurisdiction. They urge the Corinthians saying:
But if certain people should disobey what has been said by him [i.e., Jesus Christ, whose commands they have been citing to the Corinthians] through us [notice again the plurality, not papacy], let them understand that they will, entangle themselves in no small sin and danger. We, however, will be innocent of this sin, and will ask, with earnest prayer and supplication, that the Creator of the universe may keep intact the specified number of his elect throughout the whole world, through his beloved servant Jesus Christ, through whom he called us from darkness to light, from ignorance to the knowledge of the glory of his name.
(1 Clement 59)

The misrepresentation here belongs to you, Mr. Marshall. You would be well served to invest some time in meaningful research, instead of offering some piecemeal quotation like this one from some Roman web site, or Denzinger's Sources of Catholic Dogma.

We learn from the early church father Jerome who confesses the obvious from Scripture in his commentary on Titus, that in the beginning the churches were governed by a common council of presbyters, and that bishops were appointed to be above presbyters by custom rather than divine appointment!

Jerome (347-420):
A presbyter, therefore, is the same as a bishop, and before dissensions were introduced into religion by the instigation of the devil, and it was said among the peoples, ‘I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas,’ Churches were governed by a common council of presbyters; afterwards, when everyone thought that those whom he had baptised were his own, and not Christ’s, it was decreed in the whole world that one chosen out of the presbyters should be placed over the rest, and to whom all care of the Church should belong, that the seeds of schisms might be plucked up. Whosoever thinks that there is no proof from Scripture, but that this is my opinion, that a presbyter and bishop are the same, and that one is a title of age, the other of office, let him read the words of the apostle to the Philippians, saying, ‘Paul and Timotheus, servants of Christ to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi with the bishops and deacons.’
Latin text:
Idem est ergo presbyter qui et episcopus, et antequam diaboli instinctu, studia in religione fierent, et diceretur in populis: Ego sum Pauli, ego Apollo, ego autem Cephae, communi presbyterorum consilio, Ecclesiae gubernabantur. Postquam vero unusquisque eos quos baptizaverat suos putabat esse, non Christi, in toto orbe decretum est, ut unus de presbyteris electus superponeretur caeteris, ad quem omnis Ecclesiae cura pertineret, et schismatum semina tollerentur. Putet aliquis non Scripturarum, sed nostram esse sententiam, episcopum et presbyterum unum esse, et aliud aetatis, aliud esse nomen officii: relegat Apostoli ad Philippenses verba dicentis: Paulus et Timothaeus servi Jesu Christi, omnibus sanctis in Christo Jesu, qui sunt Philippis, cum episcopis et diaconis, gratia vobis et pax, et reliqua.
Citation: Commentariorum In Epistolam Ad Titum, PL 26:562-563. English translation from John Harrison, Whose Are the Fathers? (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1867), p.488. See also Karl Von Hase, Handbook to the Controversy with Rome, trans. A. W. Streane, Vol. 1, 2nd ed. rev. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1909), p. 164.

Jerome (347-420):
Therefore, as we have shown, among the ancients presbyters were the same as bishops; but by degrees, that the plants of dissension might be rooted up, all responsibility was transferred to one person. Therefore, as the presbyters know that it is by the custom of the Church that they are to be subject to him who is placed over them so let the bishops know that they are above presbyters rather by custom than by Divine appointment, and ought to rule the Church in common, following the example of Moses, who, when he alone had power to preside over the people Israel, chose seventy, with the assistance of whom he might judge the people. We see therefore what kind of presbyter or bishop should be ordained.
Latin text:
Haec propterea, ut ostenderemus apud veteres eosdem fuisse presbyteros quos et episcopos: paulatim vero ut dissensionum plantaria evellerentur, ad unum omnem sollicitudinem esse delatam. Sicut ergo presbyteri sciunt se ex Ecclesiae consuetudine ei qui sibi praepositus fuerit, esse subjectos: ita episcopi noverint se magis consuetudine, quam dispositionis Dominicae veritate, presbyteris esse majores, et in commune debere Ecclesiam regere, imitantes Moysen, qui cum haberet in potestate solum praeesse populo Israel, septuaginta elegit, cum quibus populum judicaret. Videamus igitur qualis presbyter, sive episcopus ordinandus sit.
Citation: Commentariorum In Epistolam Ad Titum, PL 26:563. Translation from John Harrison, Whose Are the Fathers? (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1867), p.488. See also Karl Von Hase, Handbook to the Controversy with Rome, trans. A. W. Streane, Vol. 1, 2nd ed. rev. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1909), p. 164.

Thus, this whole business of the Roman primacy and/or the papacy is something unknown to Holy Scripture, but has been obtruded upon the Church of Jesus Christ by the communion of Rome.


Mr. Marshall continues:

Irenaeus (ca 180) also wrote: "For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church (i.e. the Church of Rome), on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2

David King Responds: How are we to understand the words of Irenaeus here? I’m content to defer to the explanation offered by J. N. D. Kelly. He states, while commenting on this passage from Irenaeus that
This interpretation [i.e., the one implied by Mr. Marshall], or some variant of it, has been accepted by many, but it is awkward to refer in qua to hanc ... ecclesiam, and anachronistic to attribute such thinking to Irenaeus. Hence it seems more plausible to take in qua with omnem … ecclesiam, and to understand Irenaeus as suggesting that the Roman church supplies an ideal illustration because, ‘in view of its preeminent authority’ based on its foundation by both Peter and Paul, its antiquity and so on, every church—or perhaps the whole church—in which the apostolic tradition has been preserved must as a matter of course agree with it. There is therefore no allusion to the later Petrine claims of the Roman see.
See J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper, 1960), p. 193.

But, even if we did permit the meaning you suggest implicitly, Irenaeus does not speak for the church universal with respect to the primacy of Rome or its pope. And to be sure, the eastern churches never recognized, let alone acknowledged, Roman and/or papal primacy.

Victor I

Mr. Marshall insists: Also, Pope Victor 1 (pope from AD 189–199) presumed to excommunicate all the churches of Asia Minor and most people of that day (including those in Asia Minor) were worried about it. This confirms that most Christians did believe that the bishop of Rome DID in fact have such juridical power.

David King Responds: Confirms it? It’s very difficult to believe that you would actually offer Pope Victor 1, the bishop of Rome, and this particular instance, as representative of the views of the church universal at this time. First of all, the vaunted prejudice of any bishop of Rome ought not to be accepted as an example for proof of the contemporary belief of the universal church. The fact that he decided to jump into a dogfight with the Christians of Asia Minor over the date of Easter proves nothing. And yes, the fact that he presumed to tell the churches in Asia Minor what to do didn’t mean squat to them. In fact, their refusal to acquiesce to his pompous demands is proof in the pudding that they didn’t recognize any such notion of Roman primacy. Eusebius informs us that
Victor, who presided over the church at Rome [notice the church at Rome, not the world], immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate. But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor.
See The Church History of Eusebius, 5.24.9-10.

You mean to tell me that Victor’s attempt to censure all of Christendom in Asia Minor under the threat of excommunication, when all of them opposed his jurisdiction, that this proves that the universal church of that day understood and embraced Roman and/or papal primacy? Please tell me that you’re really joking here, and that you really aren’t serious? Even Irenaeus, whom you referenced above, was busy in this particular controversy exhorting Victor to make peace with the churches of Asia Minor. Eusebius informs us that
Among them was Irenaeus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, maintained that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord’s day. He fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom ... .
See The Church History of Eusebius, 5.24.11.

If Irenaeus really supported the Roman bishop’s juridical primacy and authority over the universal church, then pray tell me why he was instructing Victor to back off! The whole notion that Victor's attempt to pontificate to the churches of Asia Minor proves papal primacy, is about the most ludicrous example one could possibly imagine, and which blows up in one's face historically.

Mr. Marshall wrote: All written sources indicate that the Church of Rome was held as first and supreme.

David King Responds: No, not all. There’s a book in the Bible which we Protestants know as the Acts of the Apostles, and it informs us that the first church in which all the apostles gathered was in Jerusalem, that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Act 11:26), and that this church, under the leadership of James, the Apostles, and Presbyters, were the first to send out “decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4). Now, I understand that you dear Romanists don’t sweat that Bible stuff, but we Protestants do. :)

[FN1] One is reminded of the recent accusations against Fr. Raymond Brown, S.S. (link).

[FN2] Mr. Marshall designates him as "pope," although this is incorrect, as Pastor King notes later in the post.

[FN3] As Pastor King has explained elsewhere (link) his use of the term Romanist is not intended to be derogatory, but merely descriptive - although we are aware that some Roman Catholics object to this designation.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Sufficient Standard vs. Sufficient Mechanism

The Scriptures are a sufficient standard to remove error from the church, but they are not the mechanism by which error is removed from the church. That's true whether one's ecclesiology is papal, patriarchal, (some other form of) episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational. I realize that those today with some of those ecclesiologies don't use the Bible that way, and that is their loss.

The Bible should be the standard of judgment within the church, yet we must distinguish. The Bible is the rule of faith, but it is not the person who applies that standard or rule to the situation. In other words, one of the functions of the church is to serve as a judge of controversies and to apply the teachings of Scripture to the matter at hand. In this way, churches can oppose heresy.

The churches who properly use Scripture do not simply wait for a Bible to zap heretics with lightening bolts, they search the Scriptures to see whether the person is teaching something that is contrary to the Word of God.

This function of Scripture as a sufficient rule of faith is not a new function. It is not something that the Reformers dreamed up. It is not even something that the apostles dreamed up. Even the mighty Ezra was not the originator of this principle of the sufficiency of Scripture as a rule, to which nothing needed to be added.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Proverbs 30:5-6
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

God gave the people of Israel Scriptures. He expected them to use those Scriptures as a rule, and he criticized them for adding human traditions to them:

Matthew 15:3-6

But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? ... And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

Mark 7:8-13

For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. ... Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

The Sacred Scriptures, even of the Old Testament were, you see, a sufficient standard. That's why Jesus appealed to them:

John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

And why the Bereans were commended for judging Paul's teaching by them:

Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

That's why when the apostles wanted to decide a matter they turned to them and applied them to the matter at hand:

Act 15:13-20

And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: but that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

Just because God gave the apostles and after them the elders does not mean that there is any guarantee that the churches will always stick to the rule of faith. After all, there were elders in the Old Testament era, and God ordained not only those rulers but Kings, Prophets, and Priests as well.

And yet Israel, the only visible congregation of God fell over and over again. The Scriptures were sufficient, but humans err. There were folks like Naboth who were wrongly condemned by a sinful application of God's law, and there have been men like Galileo and Hus who were wrongly censured by people who profess to be Christ's followers.

We are not free from the risk of human tradition in our churches. Paul wrote to warn us of this:

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

And Peter makes the parallel between the Old and New Testaments even more explicit:

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

So then, let us heed that warning and recognize that the sufficiency of Scripture to decide all matters of faith and morals as the standard of judgment is one thing. The application of that standard to life is another. Humans will err, but God's word remains powerful and infallible:

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

- TurretinFan

N.B. Many thanks to Steve Hays for drawing the sufficient standard / sufficient mechanism concept to my attention.

Most Ancient Hebrew Inscription

Here is an interesting article about a pottery fragment with inscribed words found near the place that is thought to be the site of David's victory over Goliath (link). One of the most important notes from the article is the fact that this new artifact pushes back the secular chronology of Israel by centuries:
According to the university’s statement, such early Hebrew inscriptions make possible the idea that the Bible could have been written hundreds of years before current estimates.
Also of note is the similarity between the text and Scripture. Although the article states:
"The inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures, but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text.”
The following is the text that has been deciphered:
1' you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].

2' Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]

3' [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]

4' the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.

5' Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.


Psa 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Psa 82:4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

Psa 68:4 Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
Psa 68:5 A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.

Isa 1:17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.


CAVEAT: Archaeology is a science in flux. Today's remarkable discoveries sometimes turn out to be yesterday's frauds. Take all this sort of thing with a grain of salt. We know that Moses wrote the Pentateuch from divine revelation, not because of archaeology. Indeed, we recognize that it is possible that this archaeology is correct because it is consistent with Scripture, not the other way 'round.

Hat Tip to Randall Buth at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog for pointing out the translation to me.

Response to C. Michael Patton on the Divine Decrees and Hyper-Calvinism

C. Michael Patton has a new post entitled, Calvinism and the Divine Decrees – Correcting a Misunderstanding. Unfortunately, Patton's post actually promotes a misunderstanding and confuses a few categories.

First, the promotion of a misunderstanding. Patton states: "Supralapsarianism literally means “before or above the fall” (supra=”above”; lapse=”fall”). This is the form of Calvinism that is often called “hyper-Calvinism” (“hyper being an adj not a noun) because of its radical nature. It is held by very few Calvinists, and does not represent so-called “Evangelical Calvinism.”"

While it is sometimes called hyper-calvinism, that description is inaccurate. It is also inaccurate to refer to supralapsarianism as having a "radical nature" and while Patton may have met few supralapsarian Calvinists, I have met many. One of the most prominent supralapsarian Calvinists was William Twisse, who served as the Prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly.

While hyper-calvinism (properly defined) is contrary to evangelical Calvinism, supralapsarianism is perfectly consistent with the Gospel. Hyper-calvinism, properly defined, is a position that combines incompatibilism and divine sovereignty. In other words, like Arminians, hyper-Calvinists (properly defined) deny that it is possible for men to be responsible and for God to be fully sovereign. However, instead of denying that God is fully sovereign, hyper-Calvinists deny that man is responsible. Thus, they generally do not proclaim the gospel and do not preach that is the duty of sinners to repent of their sins and trust in Christ.

There are also a number of non-technical definitions of hyper-Calvinism, such as those set forth in Phil Johnson's primer on hyper-calvinism (link to his primer). Phil Johnson there proposes a five-fold test of hyper-calvinism. Johnson's five-fold test relates to forms of Calvinism that have particular scruples, such as scruples relating to using the expression "common grace" (opponents say we should use the term "grace" only of saving grace), "free offer" (opponents say we should not call the gospel an "offer"), or "love of God for the reprobate" (opponents say we should not refer to God's dealings with the reprobate in terms of "love"). While I don't think calling folks that have such scruples "hyper-calvinists" is very productive (in fact, it tends to generate lots of unnecessary strife among Christian brethren), none of those scruples is inherent in supralapsarianism.

Phil Johnson's article also notes the following definition of hyper-calvinism (I provide his citation and his editorial note in brackets]:
    1. [Hyper-Calvinism] is a system of theology framed to exalt the honour and glory of God and does so by acutely minimizing the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners . . . It emphasizes irresistible grace to such an extent that there appears to be no real need to evangelize; furthermore, Christ may be offered only to the elect. . . .
    2. It is that school of supralapsarian 'five-point' Calvinism [n.b.—a school of supralapsarianism, not supralapsarianism in general] which so stresses the sovereignty of God by over-emphasizing the secret over the revealed will of God and eternity over time, that it minimizes the responsibility of sinners, notably with respect to the denial of the use of the word "offer" in relation to the preaching of the gospel; thus it undermines the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly in the Lord Jesus with the assurance that Christ actually died for them; and it encourages introspection in the search to know whether or not one is elect. [Peter Toon, "Hyper-Calvinism," New Dictionary of Theology (Leicester: IVP, 1988), 324.]
This dictionary definition provides what I've termed the "proper" definition as the first definition. The second definition is like unto it, and its qualification is emphasized by Johnson. As the second definition indicates, hyper-calvinism (properly defined) is normally a subset of supralapsarianism. While there is nothing intrinsic to supralapsarianism that leads to hyper-calvinism, hyper-calvinism's emphasis on God's sovereignty and hyper-calvinism's lack of consideration of man's responsibility tends to lead to adopting a supralapsarian order of decrees.

Unfortunately, Patton seems incompletely familiar with the theological usage of the term hyper-calvinism. Thus, he has sadly mislabeled evangelical and confessional Calvinists like Twisse as "hyper-calvinists" without an adequate justification.

Second, the confusion of categories. Patton states:
Most Calvinists have a theology that makes it very clear that God is not responsible for the creation of evil and did not institute the fall in order to accomplish his purpose of reprobation. In other words, he did not create people for hell.
There are several category problems here.

First, "evil" is an idea, not a thing. In its primary sense, evil describes every moral action or omission that is contrary to the law of God. In its secondary sense, evil describes those creatures who do evil or who are inclined toward evil by their nature. Talking about God "creating evil" is to reify evil. God does not do evil, but some of his creation does. On this, all Calvinists (including Supralapsarians) agree.

Second, God is not morally accountable for the evil deeds of his creatures. On that, all Calvinists agree as well. If Patton means by "responsible" that God is morally accountable for the evil deeds of his creatures, all Calvinists (whether supralapsarian or not) agree that God is not. However, if Patton means by "responsible" that God ordained the evils deeds of his creatures (including the Fall), then all Calvinists (whether supralapsarian or not) agree that God has done so. He's "responsible" in the sense of having ordained that it would occur, though not "responsible" in the sense of being culpable for the wrongdoing.

Third, the supralapsarian position may indeed make the decree of the fall a means to the end of the destruction of the reprobate. However, the supralapsarian position also makes the decree of the fall a means to the end of the glorification of the elect. Furthermore, most of all, the decree of the fall is a means to the end of the glory of God. After all, that is the purpose of the fall in every legitimate form of Calvinism: God's decrees are all ultimately about God bringing on honor and glory to himself. They sometimes involve men but they are not anthropocentric. The primary end of the fall for supralapsarians is not to send folks to hell, but to bring glory to the Creator.

Fourth, God's decrees should not be confused with the execution of those decrees. God's decree of creation was for his own glory. The purpose of the decree within the order of decrees is perhaps disputed among the various -lapsarians, but as to the action itself, it was carried out with full knowledge and intention of what has and will transpire. One cannot be a Calvinist and an Open Theist. Instead, we declare that God created the wicked for the day of evil (whether that refers to temporal evil or eternal judgment makes a difference only on an emotional level). You don't escape the universality of God's providence by going infralapsarian.

Patton further states:
In the end, according to supralapsarians, God is glorified in his decree both to elect and to reprobate.
That's the case for all Calvinists, not just supralapsarians. All of God's decrees bring God glory. If an infralapsarian wishes to claim that in his position there is no specific decree of reprobation, we simply note that this is a matter of labeling. Even an infralapsarian election of men from among the mass of fallen humanity inherently involves the passing over of the others within that same mass.

In conclusion, I do appreciate Patton's attempt to add clarity to the distinction between the infralapsarian order of decrees (held by the real Francis Turretin) and the supralapsarian order of decrees (held by William Twisse, among others). Both views are well within the bounds of Calvinism, and both are held by Evangelical Christians. While hypercalvinists may also accept the supralapsarian order of decrees, it is as unfair to refer to all supralapsarians as "hyper-Calvinists" as it is unfair to refer to all Calvinists as "hyper-Calvinists."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Erasmus' Words - Could Beckwith, Cross, and Liccione Endorse?

Erasmus wrote:
What weight the authority of the church may have with others, I know not; but with me it weighs so much, that I could be of the opinion of the Arians and Pelagians, if the church had approved their doctrines.
Latin Text:
Quantum apud alios valeat auctoritas ecclesiae nescio; certo apud me tantum valet ut cum Arianis et Pelagianis sentire possim, si probasset ecclesia quod illi docuerunt.
Citation: Erasmus, Letter to Pirkheimer, written from Basle on October 19, 1527 (Translation from John Jortin, The Life of Erasmus, Volume 1, , pp. 387-88 of London 1808 edition)

Those are the words of Erasmus, but given the comments provided by Francis Beckwith, Bryan Cross, and Mike Liccione, it seems it expresses a sentiment that they could also share.

What about my Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox readers? Do you think Erasmus went too far?


(Thanks to Pastor David King for leading me to this quotation.)

Aquinas - Limit on Papal Power

In a previous post (link) we saw that Aquinas indicated that it was possible for the universal church to define doctrine in some sense. There are, however, limits on that power. The following quotation comes from the Supplement, which is Reginald di Piperno's work that is based on comments from Thomas Aquinas in his commentary on the Sentences:
The ministers of the Church are appointed in the Church which is founded by God. Wherefore they need to be appointed by the Church before exercising their ministry, just as the work of creation is presupposed to the work of nature. And since the Church is founded on faith and the sacraments, the ministers of the Church have no power to publish new articles of faith, or to do away with those which are already published, or to institute new sacraments, or to abolish those that are instituted, for this belongs to the power of excellence, which belongs to Christ alone, Who is the foundation of the Church. Consequently, the Pope can neither dispense a man so that he may be saved without Baptism, nor that he be saved without confession, in so far as it is obligatory in virtue of the sacrament. He can, however, dispense from confession, in so far as it is obligatory in virtue of the commandment of the Church; so that a man may delay confession longer than the limit prescribed by the Church.
Latin text:
Et ideo institutio Ecclesiae praesupponitur ad operationem ministrorum, sicut opus creationis praesupponitur ad opus naturae. Et quia Ecclesia fundatur in fide et in sacramentis, ideo ad ministros Ecclesiae novos articulos fidei edere, aut editos removere, aut nova sacramenta instituere, aut instituta removere non pertinet, sed hoc est potestatis excellentiae, quae soli debetur Christo, qui est Ecclesiae fundamentum. Et ideo sicut papa non potest dispensare ut aliquis sine baptismo salvetur, ita nec quod salvetur sine confessione, secundum quod obligat ex ipsa vi sacramenti: sed potest dispensare in confessione, secundum quod obligat ex praecepto Ecclesiae (1) ut possit aliquis diutius confessionem differre quam ab Ecclesia institutum sit (2).
Citation: Thomas Aquinas (as represented by Reginald di Piperno), Supplement to the Summa Theologica, Question 6, Article 6

Compare the Latin text of Aquinas' commentary on the Sentences (which is essentially the same):
Ad quintam quaestionem dicendum, quod ministri Ecclesiae instituuntur in Ecclesia divinitus fundata; et ideo institutio Ecclesiae praesupponitur ad operationem ministrorum, sicut opus creationis praesupponitur ad opus naturae. Et quia Ecclesia fundatur in fide et sacramentis; ideo ad ministros Ecclesiae nec novos articulos fidei edere, aut editos removere, aut nova sacramenta instituere, aut instituta removere, pertinet; sed hoc est potestatis excellentiae, quae soli debetur Christo, qui est Ecclesiae fundamentum. Et ideo, sicut Papa non potest dispensare ut aliquis sine Baptismo salvetur; ita nec quod salvetur sine confessione, secundum quod obligat ex ipsa vi sacramenti; sed potest dispensare in confessione secundum quod obligat de praecepto Ecclesiae, ut possit aliquis diutius confessionem differre quam ab Ecclesia institutum sit.
([17609] Super Sent., lib. 4 d. 17 q. 3 a. 1 qc. 5 co.)

Of course, the main point of this article is the decidedly non-Reformed position that sacramental confession is necessary for salvation. However, notice the point about articles of the faith. Observe that Thomas thought that "the ministers of the Church have no power to publish new articles of faith, or to do away with those which are already published."

Recall as well Thomas comment on the possibility of increasing the number of the articles of faith:
Accordingly we must conclude that, as regards the substance of the articles of faith, they have not received any increase as time went on: since whatever those who lived later have believed, was contained, albeit implicitly, in the faith of those Fathers who preceded them. But there was an increase in the number of articles believed explicitly, since to those who lived in later times some were known explicitly which were not known explicitly by those who lived before them. Hence the Lord said to Moses (Exodus 6:2-3): "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob [Vulgate: 'I am the Lord that appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob'] . . . and My name Adonai I did not show them": David also said (Psalm 118:100): "I have had understanding above ancients": and the Apostle says (Ephesians 3:5) that the mystery of Christ, "in other generations was not known, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets."
Latin text:
Sic igitur dicendum est quod, quantum ad substantiam articulorum fidei, non est factum eorum augmentum per temporum successionem, quia quaecumque posteriores crediderunt continebantur in fide praecedentium patrum, licet implicite. Sed quantum ad explicationem, crevit numerus articulorum, quia quaedam explicite cognita sunt a posterioribus quae a prioribus non cognoscebantur explicite. Unde dominus Moysi dicit, Exod. VI, ego sum Deus Abraham, Deus Isaac, Deus Iacob, et nomen meum Adonai non indicavi eis. Et David dicit, super senes intellexi. Et apostolus dicit, ad Ephes. III, aliis generationibus non est agnitum mysterium Christi sicut nunc revelatum est sanctis apostolis eius et prophetis.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 1, Article 7

However, carefully notice the context in which Aquinas is speaking:
On the contrary, Gregory says (Hom. xvi in Ezech.) that "the knowledge of the holy fathers increased as time went on . . . and the nearer they were to Our Savior's coming, the more fully did they received the mysteries of salvation."

I answer that, The articles of faith stand in the same relation to the doctrine of faith, as self-evident principles to a teaching based on natural reason. Among these principles there is a certain order, so that some are contained implicitly in others; thus all principles are reduced, as to their first principle, to this one: "The same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time," as the Philosopher states (Metaph. iv, text. 9). On like manner all the articles are contained implicitly in certain primary matters of faith, such as God's existence, and His providence over the salvation of man, according to Hebrews 11: "He that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and is a rewarder to them that seek Him." For the existence of God includes all that we believe to exist in God eternally, and in these our happiness consists; while belief in His providence includes all those things which God dispenses in time, for man's salvation, and which are the way to that happiness: and in this way, again, some of those articles which follow from these are contained in others: thus faith in the Redemption of mankind includes belief in the Incarnation of Christ, His Passion and so forth.
Latin text:
Sed contra est quod Gregorius dicit, quod secundum incrementa temporum crevit scientia sanctorum patrum, et quanto viciniores adventui salvatoris fuerunt, tanto sacramenta salutis plenius perceperunt.

Respondeo dicendum quod ita se habent in doctrina fidei articuli fidei sicut principia per se nota in doctrina quae per rationem naturalem habetur. In quibus principiis ordo quidam invenitur, ut quaedam in aliis implicite contineantur, sicut omnia principia reducuntur ad hoc sicut ad primum, impossibile est simul affirmare et negare, ut patet per philosophum, in IV Metaphys. Et similiter omnes articuli implicite continentur in aliquibus primis credibilibus, scilicet ut credatur Deus esse et providentiam habere circa hominum salutem, secundum illud ad Heb. XI, accedentem ad Deum oportet credere quia est, et quod inquirentibus se remunerator sit. In esse enim divino includuntur omnia quae credimus in Deo aeternaliter existere, in quibus nostra beatitudo consistit, in fide autem providentiae includuntur omnia quae temporaliter a Deo dispensantur ad hominum salutem, quae sunt via in beatitudinem. Et per hunc etiam modum aliorum subsequentium articulorum quidam in aliis continentur, sicut in fide redemptionis humanae implicite continetur et incarnatio Christi et eius passio et omnia huiusmodi.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 1, Article 7

Finally, notice that for Aquinas this progression that existed in the Old Testament period has reached its ultimate point:
The ultimate consummation of grace was effected by Christ, wherefore the time of His coming is called the "time of fulness [Vulgate: 'fulness of time']" (Galatians 4:4). Hence those who were nearest to Christ, wherefore before, like John the Baptist, or after, like the apostles, had a fuller knowledge of the mysteries of faith; for even with regard to man's state we find that the perfection of manhood comes in youth, and that a man's state is all the more perfect, whether before or after, the nearer it is to the time of his youth.
Latin text:
Ad quartum dicendum quod ultima consummatio gratiae facta est per Christum, unde et tempus eius dicitur tempus plenitudinis, ad Gal. IV. Et ideo illi qui fuerunt propinquiores Christo vel ante, sicut Ioannes Baptista, vel post, sicut apostoli, plenius mysteria fidei cognoverunt. Quia et circa statum hominis hoc videmus, quod perfectio est in iuventute, et tanto habet homo perfectiorem statum vel ante vel post, quanto est iuventuti propinquior.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 1, Article 7 (Response to Objection 4)


God's Judgment On Babylon

Thanks to a passage I was reading in Cyril of Alexandria's commentary on Isaiah, I noticed the following connection. Within Isaiah's pronouncement of judgment on Babylon we find the following:

Isaiah 13:16-19

Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

This prophecy was remembered in psalm during the captivity.

Psalm 137:8-9
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

It is a very violent judgment - a shocking judgment to modern sensitivities. God declared that he would bring, as part of his just judgment the death of the young children of Babylon: children who were not personally involved in the destruction of Israel or its persecution. Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled and Psalm 137 came to pass. In this way, God visited the sins of the fathers upon the children - even though the Babylonians themselves were carrying out God's chastisement on the Israelites. And in all of this, God is just and his judgments are righteous.

We ought to learn from this to fear the Lord and to serve Him only, for God is a Jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations (to them that hate Him). And in our fear we ought also to seek mercy, for God also shows mercy to thousands (of generations) to those that love Him.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Aquinas on the Development of Doctrine

Here's one or two points where Aquinas differs from modern Reformed believers:
As Augustine says (Ep. xliii) and we find it stated in the Decretals (xxiv, qu. 3, can. Dixit Apostolus): "By no means should we accuse of heresy those who, however false and perverse their opinion may be, defend it without obstinate fervor, and seek the truth with careful anxiety, ready to mend their opinion, when they have found the truth," because, to wit, they do not make a choice in contradiction to the doctrine of the Church. Accordingly, certain doctors seem to have differed either in matters the holding of which in this or that way is of no consequence, so far as faith is concerned, or even in matters of faith, which were not as yet defined by the Church; although if anyone were obstinately to deny them after they had been defined by the authority of the universal Church, he would be deemed a heretic. This authority resides chiefly in the Sovereign Pontiff. For we read [Decret. xxiv, qu. 1, can. Quoties]: "Whenever a question of faith is in dispute, I think, that all our brethren and fellow bishops ought to refer the matter to none other than Peter, as being the source of their name and honor, against whose authority neither Jerome nor Augustine nor any of the holy doctors defended their opinion." Hence Jerome says (Exposit. Symbol [Among the supposititious works of St. Jerome]): "This, most blessed Pope, is the faith that we have been taught in the Catholic Church. If anything therein has been incorrectly or carelessly expressed, we beg that it may be set aright by you who hold the faith and see of Peter. If however this, our profession, be approved by the judgment of your apostleship, whoever may blame me, will prove that he himself is ignorant, or malicious, or even not a catholic but a heretic."
- Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 11, Article 2, Answer to Objection 3

Note that, sadly, most of Aquinas' answer depends on forged (or, at best, dubious) patristic quotations (not forged by Aquinas, but erroneously accepted by him). But yes, Aquinas did think it was possible for the "universal church" to define, in some sense, a doctrine. Furthermore, Aquinas viewed the Roman bishop as the chief residence of the universal church's authority.

This has some similarities to the modern Roman Catholic position on the development of doctrine, which does not itself require Aquinas to have held to dogmas that were only later "defined" (the same term is used, though we may wonder whether it has the same sense) later.


Axe, Saw, and Staff Theology

Calvinism is sometimes accused of turning men into robots or puppets. Scoffers refer to Calvinism as "puppet theology" or "robot theology." One way to respond to this is by trying to explain to the critics that Calvinism teaches that men have wills and make choices. There's nothing wrong with that approach. However, another approach that may help the person to think is to say that robots and puppets aren't the best analogy - the best analogy is that Calvinism turns men into axes, saws, and staves. If it is degrading to humanity to be compared to a puppet or robot (which are, at least, made after the image and likeness of man) how much more insulting it is to be compared to a stick with a blade at the end or simply to a serrated blade or bare stick!

Isaiah 10:12-15
Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith,
By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: and my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.
Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

Yes, even wicked men are tools in the hand of God. That is the way that God's sovereignty works. If you don't like it, and you think it degrades humanity, your problem is not with some 16th century Frenchman but with the Scriptures written thousands of years (about 2300 years) before him. That doesn't mean that men don't have wills and make choices, but it does mean that men should recognize their role in the grand scheme of things: not as the deciders of history but the actors of it.


Aquinas: Scriptures Define Limit on Acceptable Teachings of Apostolic Successors

Thomas Aquinas believed that (at least in certain circumstances) the universal church could not err. If we define the universal church as the faithful and we refer specifically to those doctrines that are essential to the faith, it follows of logical and even definitional necessity that the universal church cannot err. Thus, even a sola scriptura Christian could accept such a claim with the appropriate qualifications (whether Aquinas himself made such qualifications is a different question, and perhaps an interesting one).

But what about the successors of the apostles and the prophets? Aquinas taught that we believe them insofar as they teach the same things that the apostles and prophets taught:
All the intermediaries through which faith comes to us are above suspicion. We believe the prophets and apostles because the Lord has been their witness by performing miracles, as Mark (16:20) says: "...and confirming the word with signs that followed." And we believe the successors of the apostles and prophets only in so far as they tell us those things which the apostles and prophets have left in their writings.
Latin text:
Ad undecimum dicendum, quod omnia media per quae ad nos fides venit, suspicione carent. Prophetis enim et apostolis credimus ex hoc quod Deus eis testimonium perhibuit miracula faciendo, ut dicitur Marc., cap. XVI, 20: sermonem confirmante sequentibus signis. Successoribus autem apostolorum et prophetarum non credimus nisi in quantum nobis ea annuntiant quae illi in scriptis reliquerunt.
Citation: St. Thomas Aquinas, Truth, Vol. 2, Questions X-XX, trans., James V. McGlynn, S.J., Question 14, Article 10, Reply, Answer 11 (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953), p. 258.

Notice then that for Aquinas the Scriptures serve as the sort of outer markers for what those holding apostolic succession can teach and expect us to believe. Notice especially that it is not simply "which the apostles and prophets have left" but he adds "in their writings."


Is Sola Scriptura a Protestant Concoction?

Dr. Greg Bahnsen's lecture by the above title is now available thanks to the transcription by Pastor David King and the editing of James Anderson (link). Thanks to for bringing this to my attention.

Polyglot Bible

The Old Testament Hebrew Massoretic, Greek Septuagint (LXX), Latin Vulgate, and Luther German texts, in four columns; the New Testament in Greek and Latin and German, the last column annotated with critical notes and variants. 1863. (link to

It's not the Complutensian Polyglot but it is an interesting source, especially if one knows a bit of older German or Latin better than one knows Greek or Hebrew. In any event, a helpful resource for comparing Luther's translation to the Vulgate, the LXX, and the original texts.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Incoming Blog Post Alert from Bellisario

Bellisario writes: "I have recently been working on a response to Turretin Fan's absurd abuse of the Angelic Doctor's works concerning his view of Sacred Scripture." He explains that his research is taking a long time (it can't be that long, he only started within the last month) and generating enough material for a book. He then states:
When we dive into Saint Thomas' works and the historical and educational background in which he lived, it is quite clear as to what his texts represent concerning Sacred Scripture. I can assure you, it is nothing close to the Protestant flavor which guys like William Webster and others claim him to be. In fact, he is a pure Catholic, and his theology concerning Sacred Scripture is identical with the Catholic Church today.
(source - emphasis added)

We'll see about that. We're going to carefully check Bellisario's post (when it comes) to see whether Aquinas' theology concerning Scripture is "identical with the Catholic Church today." We have no doubt at all that Aquinas' view of the church (and particularly the Roman Church) is different than the view held by folks who are Reformed today. We expect that this will be the bulk of Bellisario's post - comments about how Aquinas was submissive to the authority of Rome and viewed the Roman pontiff as the earthly head of the church with broad authority over the church. Things that don't really address Aquinas' view of Scripture or those points at which Aquinas differs from modern Roman Catholicism. We hope that in his book-length blog post, Bellisario will address the following issues:

What did Aquinas mean by the following statements:

a) "Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science above itself, can dispute with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation; thus we can argue with heretics from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith, we can argue from another."

b) "Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): "Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning."

c) "Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense. "

(discussion of these three may found at this link - additional comment on the third one, here)

d) "the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ" (discussed here - and here)

e) "sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei" ("only canonical scripture is the/a rule of faith") (discussed here - and here)

We hope that Bellisario will not neglect to address these points in his lengthy blog post, carefully explaining what they do mean, rather than trying to focus on what they do not mean.


Aquinas - Index

This is an index post for posts that are primarily about Aquinas (other posts that touch on Aquinas and posts that are more recent than the most recent update of this index post can be found by searching on the label Aquinas) The date of this post may change as I back-date it to move it to the back of the blog, and I may update this post periodically, as I provide new posts

Indices of Works

1. Aquinas' Catena Aurea Index Page

2. Aquinas Opera Omnia - Fretté & Maré

Aquinas on Sola Scriptura and Related Topics

1. Aquinas on Sola Scriptura (Generally)

2. Aquinas on the Primacy of Scripture (A Word of Clarification)

3. Aquinas: Scriptures Define Limit on Acceptable Teachings of Apostolic Successors

4. Aquinas on the Formal Sufficiency of Scripture

5. Aquinas on the Rule of Faith (only canonical Scripture) (Response to Beckwith)

6. Aquinas on the Theological Virtues: Only Known through Scripture

7. Aquinas on Development of Doctrine

8. Aquinas on Limits on Papal Power

Aquinas on Other Topics

1. Aquinas on In Partu Virginity of Mary


The Theological Virtues Only Known to Us Through Scripture

We've previously seen Aquinas talking about the primacy and sufficiency of Scripture. In the following quotation, we see Aquinas stating that the theological virtues are only known via divine revelation found in scripture ("sola divina revelatione, in sacra Scriptura"):
Such like principles are called "theological virtues": first, because their object is God, inasmuch as they direct us aright to God: secondly, because they are infused in us by God alone: thirdly, because these virtues are not made known to us, save by Divine revelation, contained in Holy Writ.
Latin text:
Et huiusmodi principia virtutes dicuntur theologicae, tum quia habent Deum pro obiecto, inquantum per eas recte ordinamur in Deum; tum quia a solo Deo nobis infunduntur; tum quia sola divina revelatione, in sacra Scriptura, huiusmodi virtutes traduntur.
Citation: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part, Question 62, Article 1 ([36103] Iª-IIae q. 62 a. 1 co. )


Monday, January 04, 2010

Aquinas on the Primacy of Scripture - a Word of Clarification

One of the key texts in the discussion of Aquinas and the primacy of Scripture is as follows:

"Formale autem obiectum fidei est veritas prima secundum quod manifestatur in Scripturis sacris et doctrina Ecclesiae [quae procedit ex veritate prima]*. Unde quicumque non inhaeret, sicut infallibili et divinae regulae, doctrinae Ecclesiae, quae procedit ex veritate prima in Scripturis sacris manifestata, ille non habet habitum fidei, sed ea quae sunt fidei alio modo tenet quam per fidem."

* The bracketed material is found in the older texts (example) but is not found in some of the more modern texts (example) The translations below all include the phrase in the translation.

Some translations:

"Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Holy Writ and the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith." (source - translation of Summa by "Fathers of the English Dominican Province")

"But the formal object of faith is primal truth as manifested in the Holy Scriptures, and in the teaching of the Church which proceeds from the primal verity manifested in those Holy Scriptures. Hence he who does not adhere to the doctrine of the Church as an infallible and Divine rule, has not the habit of faith, and if he hold anything which agrees with articles of the faith, he does not hold it through faith, but in some other way." (source - translation/paraphrase by John J. Elmendorf, S.T.D. for his "Elements of Moral Theology" based on the Summa Theologica)

"The formal object of faith is primary truth, as it is shown forth in the holy Scriptures, and in the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the fountainhead of truth. It follows, therefore, that he who does not adhere, as to an infallible divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the primary truth manifested in the holy Scriptures, possesses not the habit of faith; but matters of faith he holds otherwise than true faith." (source - in a translation of Pope Leo XIII quoting the passage)

"The formal object of faith is the Supreme Truth in so far as revealed in the Holy Scripture and in that doctrine of the Church which proceeds from the Supreme Truth. Hence if anyone does not hold to the doctrine of the Church as to an infallible and divine rule, . . . he does not possess the virtue of faith." (source - Catholic Encyclopedia entry on fundamental articles ellipsis that avoids reference to Scripture in original)

Since this is just intended as a reference to clarify, I won't include any argument here. I simply note that one should be careful about how one parses the English language translation (any of the translations) to avoid doing damage to the Latin original.

Flood of Comments

Please note that over the next few days you may see a flood of previously unpublished comments being released. In some cases, I held the comments accidentally due to high volume, in other cases, I was hoping to answer the comments and hadn't yet got around to it. There are still nearly 300 such comments that remain unpublished, and I hope to go through and get them released and (if I think I have time) answered - but some will simply be released unanswered, so that the backlog can be eliminated.

Magisterium More Sufficient than Scripture? (Part 1)

Is the Roman Catholic Magisterium More Sufficient than Sacred Scripture?
Bryan Cross answered on the subject of the ability of the Scripture to interpret Scripture sufficiently, from Scripture, reason, and tradition.
(Part 1 - Meaning of "Scripture Interprets Scripture")

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430) commenting on Psalm 145:13:
The Lord is faithful in all his words, and holy in all his deeds. We might well have believed him if he had chosen only to speak to us, but he wanted us to have his scriptures to hold onto; it is like promising something to a friend and saying to him, “Don’t rely on word of mouth; I’ll put it in writing for you.” It was necessary for God’s written guarantee to endure as each generation comes and goes, as the centuries roll by and mortals give way to their successors. God’s own handwriting would be there for all the passers-by to read, so that they would keep the way of his promise.
- Augustine, Expositions of the Psalms, Psalms 121-150, Exposition of Psalm 144.17 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2004), pp. 393-394.

In responding to a recent article (link to article) by Bryan Cross, I had pointed out that his claim that the ultimate holder of interpretive authority is the individual in sola scriptura is wrong because Scripture is its own interpreter. Scripture is the ultimate interpretive authority of itself. Of course, the individual is the final one in the communication link and must interpret what Scripture says, but the same is true for everyone's rule of faith: the Roman Catholic must interpret what the Magisterium says.

The first relevant part of Bryan's response was to suggest that Scripture is insufficient to interpret Scripture. Bryan stated:
In addition, since Scripture needs to be interpreted (otherwise you would never say "Scripture interprets Scripture["]), then the Scripture that interprets Scripture needs to be interpreted.
(parenthetical in original, bracketed addition mine)

What Bryan is doing here is (1) inserting his own presupposition that Scripture needs to be "interpreted" and (2) equivocating over the term "Scripture." Neither of Bryan's actions are helpful.

When we say that "Scripture interprets Scripture" we are not making a categorical statement that each part of Scripture requires some further interpretation. Some parts of Scripture are written in a plain matter that does not require further interpretation (Job 33:3 My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly. John 16:29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 2 Corinthians 3:12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:). Some parts of Scripture, however, are less clearly expressed (2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.). Those less clear parts are interpreted by the more clear parts (John 16:25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.). As well, it is only reasonable that the obscure should be interpreted by the clear rather than conversely.

This is not only the teaching of Scripture, but of the fathers as well.

Tertullian (about A.D. 160-220):
And, indeed, (since some passages are more obscure than others), it cannot but be right — as we have shown above — that uncertain statements should be determined by certain ones, and obscure ones by such as are clear and plain; else there is fear that, in the conflict of certainties and uncertainties, of explicitness and obscurity, faith may be shattered, truth endangered, and the Divine Being Himself be branded as inconstant.
- Tertullian, ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 21.

Jerome (about A.D. 347-420):
Some may say: ‘You are forcing the Scripture, that is not what it means.’ Let Holy Writ be its own interpreter . . .
- Jerome, FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 6 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 45.

Basil of Caesarea (about A.D. 329-379):
Whatsoever seems to be spoken ambiguously or obscurely in some places of holy Scripture, is cleared up by what is plain and evident in other places.
- Basil of Caesarea, Regulas Brevius Tractatas, Question CCLXVII, PG 31:1264.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):
Hold fast to the open texts and accept them wholeheartedly, and you will deserve to have the obscure ones unfolded to you. How can you penetrate obscure passages if you shrug aside the plain ones?
- Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 2, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Sermons, Sermon 46.35 (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1990), p. 286.

Basil of Caesarea (about A.D. 329-379):
You could find many passages of this sort in the writings of the evangelists and the Apostle. Now, then, if a command be given and the manner of carrying it out is not added, let us obey the Lord who says: ‘Search the Scriptures.’ Let us follow the example of the Apostles who questioned the Lord Himself as to the interpretation of His words, and learn the true and salutary course from His words in another place.
- Basil of Caesarea, FC, Vol. 9, Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, Concerning Baptism, Book II, Q&R 4 (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1950), p. 399.

Irenaeus (about A.D. 130 - 200):
For by the fact that they thus endeavour to explain ambiguous passages of Scripture (ambiguous, however, not as if referring to another god, but as regards the dispensations of [the true] God), they have constructed another god, weaving, as I said before, ropes of sand, and affixing a more important to a less important question. For no question can be solved by means of another which itself awaits solution; nor, in the opinion of those possessed of sense, can an ambiguity be explained by means of another ambiguity, or enigmas by means of another greater enigma, but things of such character receive their solution from those which are manifest, and consistent and clear.
- Irenaeus, ANF: Vol. I, Against Heresies, 2:10:1.

Tertullian (about A.D. 160-220):
Well, if it occurs occasionally in certain portions of it, you will say, then why not in that phrase, where the resurrection might be spiritually understood? There are several reasons why not. First, what must be the meaning of so many important passages of Holy Scripture, which so obviously attest the resurrection of the body, as to admit not even the appearance of a figurative signification? And, indeed, (since some passages are more obscure than others), it cannot but be right — as we have shown above — that uncertain statements should be determined by certain ones, and obscure ones by such as are clear and plain; else there is fear that, in the conflict of certainties and uncertainties, of explicitness and obscurity, faith may be shattered, truth endangered, and the Divine Being Himself be branded as inconstant. Then arises the improbability that the very mystery on which our trust wholly rests, on which also our instruction entirely depends, should have the appearance of being ambiguously announced and obscurely propounded, inasmuch as the hope of the resurrection, unless it be clearly set forth on the sides both of punishment and reward, would fail to persuade any to embrace a religion like ours, exposed as it is to public detestation and the imputation of hostility to others. There is no certain work where the remuneration is uncertain. There is no real apprehension when the peril is only doubtful. But both the recompense of reward, and the danger of losing it, depend on the issues of the resurrection. Now, if even those purposes of God against cities, and nations, and kings, which are merely temporal, local, and personal in their character, have been proclaimed so clearly in prophecy, how is it to be supposed that those dispensations of His which are eternal, and of universal concern to the human race, should be void of all real light in themselves? The grander they are, the clearer should be their announcement, in order that their superior greatness might be believed. And I apprehend that God cannot possibly have ascribed to Him either envy, or guile, or inconsistency, or artifice, by help of which evil qualities it is that all schemes of unusual grandeur are litigiously promulgated.
- Tertullian, ANF: Vol. III, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Chapter 21.

Thus, for example, a passage must be read in context:

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430): Commenting on Matt. 23:2-3:
When bad members of the clergy hear this that is said against them in this text, they try to twist the meaning. Yes, I’ve actually heard some of them trying to twist the meaning of this judgment. If they were allowed to, wouldn’t they simply delete it from the gospel? But because they can’t delete it, they look for ways of twisting its meaning. But the grace and mercy of the Lord is at hand, and he doesn’t let them do so, because he has hedged all his judgments round with his truth, and balanced them. Thus no matter who tries to cut something out or to tamper with it by reading or interpreting it wrongly, the person of sound and solid sense should join to scripture what has been cut out of scripture, and read what goes before or comes after, and they will find the true meaning which the others tried to explain away wrongly.
- Augustine, John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 4, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Sermons, Sermon 137.7 (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1992), p. 376. (Note the emphasis on context, and that one needs no infallible interpreter [“they will find the true meaning”] to understand the text correctly).

Similarly the Scripture as a whole interprets individual passages.

Tertullian (about A.D. 160-220):
Scripture interpreted by the whole, Chapter XX.—The Scriptures Relied on by Praxeas to Support His Heresy But Few. They are Mentioned by Tertullian. They would have the entire revelation of both Testaments yield to these three passages, whereas the only proper course is to understand the few statements in the light of the many. But in their contention they only act on the principle of all heretics. For, inasmuch as only a few testimonies are to be found (making for them) in the general mass, they pertinaciously set off the few against the many, and assume the later against the earlier. The rule, however, which has been from the beginning established for every case, gives its prescription against the later assumptions, as indeed it also does against the fewer.
- Tertullian, ANF: Vol. III, Against Praxeas, Chapter 20.

Jerome (about A.D. 347-420):
A: This passage to the ignorant, and to those who are unaccustomed to meditate on Holy Scripture, and who neither know nor use it, does appear at first sight to favor your opinion. But when you look into it, the difficulty soon disappears. And when you compare passages of Scripture with others, that the Holy Spirit may not seem to contradict Himself with changing place and time, according to what is written, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water spouts,” the truth will show itself, that is, that Christ did give a possible command when He said: “Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and yet that the Apostles were not perfect.
- Jerome, NPNF2: Vol. VI, St. Jerome Against the Pelagians, Book I, §14.

Jerome (about A.D. 347-420):
. . . let us call upon the Lord, probe the depths of His sacred writings, and be guided in our interpretation by other testimonies from Holy Writ. Whatever we cannot fathom in the deep recesses of the Old Testament, we shall penetrate and explain from the depth of the New Testament in the roar of God’s cataracts—His prophets and apostles.
- Jerome, FC, Vol. 57, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 2, Homily 92 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1966), p. 246.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):
Chapter 9.—How We Should Proceed in Studying Scripture.
14. In all these books those who fear God and are of a meek and pious disposition seek the will of God. And in pursuing this search the first rule to be observed is, as I said, to know these books, if not yet with the understanding, still to read them so as to commit them to memory, or at least so as not to remain wholly ignorant of them. Next, those matters that are plainly laid down in them, whether rules of life or rules of faith, are to be searched into more carefully and more diligently; and the more of these a man discovers, the more capacious does his understanding become. For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life,—to wit, hope and love, of which I have spoken in the previous book. After this, when we have made ourselves to a certain extent familiar with the language of Scripture, we may proceed to open up and investigate the obscure passages, and in doing so draw examples from the plainer expressions to throw light upon the more obscure, and use the evidence of passages about which there is no doubt to remove all hesitation in regard to the doubtful passages. And in this matter memory counts for a great deal; but if the memory be defective, no rules can supply the want.

[Alternative translation]

What those who fear God and have a docile piety are looking for in all these books is the will of God. The first step in this laborious search, as I have said, is to know these books, and even if not yet so as to understand them, all the same by reading them to commit them to memory, or at least not to be totally unfamiliar with them. Next, those things that are put clearly in them, whether precepts about how to live or rules about what to believe, are to be studied with the utmost care and diligence; the greater your intellectual capacity, the more of these you will find. The fact is, after all, that in the passages that are put plainly in scripture is to be found everything that touches upon faith, and good morals, that is to say hope, charity, which we dealt with in the previous book.
Only then, however, after acquiring some familiarity with the actual style of the divine scriptures, should one proceed to try to open and unravel their obscurities, in such a way that instances from the plainer passages are used to cast light on the more obscure utterances, and the testimony of some undoubted judgments is used to remove uncertainties from those that are more doubtful. In this matter what is of the greatest value is a good memory; if this is wanting, these instructions cannot be of any great assistance.
- Augustine, NPNF1: Vol. II, On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 9. & (respectively) John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 1, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., De Doctrina Christiana, Book II, Chapter 9, §14 (New York: New City Press, 1996), p. 135.

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):
Now, although I may not be able myself to refute the arguments of these men, I yet see how necessary it is to adhere closely to the clearest statements of the Scriptures, in order that the obscure passages may be explained by help of these, or, if the mind be as yet unequal to either perceiving them when explained, or investigating them whilst abstruse, let them be believed without misgiving. But what can be plainer than the many weighty testimonies of the divine declarations, which afford to us the dearest proof possible that without union with Christ there is no man who can attain to eternal life and salvation; and that no man can unjustly be damned,—that is, separated from that life and salvation,—by the judgment of God?
- Augustine, NPNF1: Vol. V, On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, Book III, Chapter 7.

In particular, the less clear allegorical sections are interpreted by the more clear literal sections:

Augustine (about A.D. 354-430):
For what else is it than superlative impudence for one to interpret in his own favour any allegorical statements, unless he has also plain testimonies, by the light of which the obscure meaning of the former may be made manifest.
- Augustine, Letter 93, Chapter 8, Section 24

Chrysostom (about A.D. 349-407):
There is something else we can learn here. What sort of thing is it? It is when it is necessary to allegorize Scripture. We ourselves are not the lords over the rules of interpretation, but must pursue Scripture’s understanding of itself, and in that way make use of the allegorical method. What I mean is this. The Scripture has just now spoken of a vineyard, wall, and wine-vat. The reader is not permitted to become lord of the passage and apply the words to whatever events or people he chooses. The Scripture interprets itself with the words, “And the house of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth.” To give another example, Ezekiel describes a large, great-winged eagle which enters Lebanon and takes off the top of a cedar. The interpretation of the allegory does not lie in the whim of the readers, but Ezekiel himself speaks, and tells first what the eagle is and then what the cedar is. To take another example from Isaiah himself, when he raises a mighty river against Judah, he does not leave it to the imagination of the reader to apply it to whatever person he chooses, but he names the king whom he has referred to as a river. This is everywhere a rule in Scripture: when it wants to allegorize, it tells the interpretation of the allegory, so that the passage will not be interpreted superficially or be met by the undisciplined desire of those who enjoy allegorization to wander about and be carried in every direction. Why are you surprised that the prophets should observe this rule? Even the author of Proverbs does this. For he said, “Let your loving doe and graceful filly accompany you, and let your spring of water be for you alone.” Then he interprets these terms to refer to one’s free and lawful wife; he rejects the grasp of the prostitute and other woman.
- Chrysostom in Duane A. Garrett, An Analysis of the Hermeneutics of John Chrysostom’s Commentary on Isaiah 1-8 with an English Translation, Isaiah Chapter 5 (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1992), pp. 110-111.

We have multiplied many similar statements here in case Bryan Cross does not understand that what we are proposing by "Scripture interprets Scriptures" is just what the Christians of previous generations believed and taught. In the next section will proceed through his argumentation.

[to be continued in Part 2]

- TurretinFan

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Eastern Orthodox Confusing Augustine with Gnostics

I notice that David at Pious Fabrication is accusing Calvinism of being Gnostic because it is Augustinian (link). David answers the question, "Is Augustinian theology Gnostic, then?" with "an emphatic YES!" While it seems that Jnorm888 at Ancient Christian Defender is happy about this unjustified claim (link), I presume others (particular those of our Roman Catholic friends who think they are more Augustinian than the Calvinists) are less happy about this sort of claim.

Unsurprisingly, David's argument contains shallow and frankly hollow criticisms of which the following is a typical example:
An example of such a flawed, Gnostic-tinged theology is Augustine's idea of predestination, that God had elected from eternity to save some while condemning the rest to damnation. Anyone familiar with Gnostic theology can see the influence of the Gnostic belief in the saved pneumatikoi versus the damned somatikoi.
This and the other argument employ filtering (aka confirmation bias) and treat any similarity no matter how superficial as evidence of influence. It is the same fallacy employed by Dan Barker in his debate with Dr. White in suggesting that mythology had some influence on the gospel accounts (catch a portion of that debate here).

There may be some similarity between the pneumatikoi and the spiritual (πνεύματος - pneumatos in Romans 8:6) and the somatikoi and the carnal (σαρκὸς - sarkos in Romans 8:6) such that the body (σῶμα - soma in Romans 8:10) is dead because of sin but the Spirit (πνεῦμα - pneuma in Romans 8:10) is life because of Christ. There may be some similarities, and it may even be that one is derived from the other. But the bare fact of some similarities (particular superficial similarities like the similarity between the fatalistic aspects to certain forms of Gnosticism and the predestination of Scripture/Augustinianism/Calvinism does not prove that one was derived from other.


Nazareth Residence Found

There's no reason to think it was Jesus' residence, but if there were any skeptics out there who thought to themselves, "Nazareth wasn't inhabited in Jesus' day," (and I seem to recall one telling me that on a previous occasion) that excuse for not believing in Christ has been taken away (link). As we learn from Scripture, it was despised and unimportant village in those days, and it is not surprising to us that it took this long to find any archaeological evidence that it existed as a village in Jesus' day. We wouldn't have been surprised if no evidence had ever been found, and we weren't waiting for this evidence to believe.

Before posting this, I thought I'd try to find an example of the kind of skeptical comment I heard previously. The following is close:
There occurs not a shred of evidence for a city named Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus. [Leedom; Gauvin] Nazareth does not appear in the Old Testament, nor does it appear in the volumes of Josephus's writings (even though he provides a detailed list of the cities of Galilee). Oddly, none of the New Testament epistle writers ever mentions Nazareth or a Jesus of Nazareth even though most of the epistles got written before the gospels. In fact no one mentions Nazareth until the Gospels, where the first one didn't come into existence until about 40 years after the hypothetical death of Jesus. Apologists attempt to dismiss this by claiming that Nazareth existed as an insignificant and easily missed village (how would they know?), thus no one recorded it. However, whenever the Gospels speak of Nazareth, they always refer to it as a city, never a village, and a historian of that period would surely have noticed a city. (Note the New Testament uses the terms village, town, and city.) Nor can apologists fall on archeological evidence of preexisting artifacts for the simple reason that many cities get built on ancient sites. If a city named Nazareth existed during the 1st century, then we need at least one contemporary piece of evidence for the name, otherwise we cannot refer to it as historical.

Now, I'm not sure if they'll find any specific usages of the word "Nazareth" on the house, but that's not an especially reasonable request, so we'll leave the evidence where it stands.