Saturday, March 06, 2010

Yet Another Steve Ray Patristic Error

I noticed that Steve Ray has reposted links on his blog (link to the blog entry). The links are to two documents he has written on "Mary: the Ark of the New Covenant."

In previous posts in response to those articles, we have seen:

1) Steve Ray Misquotes Athanasius (follow-up with William Albrecht)(follow-up -again- with William Albrecht)

2) Steve Ray Misquotes Gregory the Wonderworker

3) A Full Run-down of Steve Ray's Abuse of the Fathers in the articles.

4) Response to Steve Ray's Audio Clip that accompanies the article

You might think that those responses would be enough to convince Steve Ray to stop re-posting the same errors, if not to go back and fix the errors that he had made. However, he continues to post, over and over again, the same errors.

You might also think that my previous responses (particularly number 3, above) would have exhausted all of the errors that Steve Ray had made in terms of his citation of the fathers.

You'd be wrong. Not only does Steve Ray continue to repeat his errors, I found that I had overlooked one of his errors.

I should add that in my response (4) above I overlooked one additional pseudographic work. Steve Ray cites "St. Methodius (815-8885) [sic]" as writing "Orat. de Simeone et Anna ii."

Not only is there the obvious typo as to the date for Methodius, this work is another of the pseudographic/dubious patristic works. I didn't bother to look carefully at it before, because I figured that the 9th century was late enough that it is no longer really the "early church" in any meaningful sense.

The interesting fact, however, is that the work is a pseudographic work that purports to be written by Methodius of Olympus/Tyre (died A.D. 311). It was written later than that, but it was written (by the forger pretending to be Methodius of Olympus) apparently before Methodius of Constantinople, the missionary to the Slavic peoples.

Although apparently the first printing of this work in the "Ante-Nicene Fathers" list did not include the bracketed material, the following footnote has been included at least since the 1890's as a footnote to the title of the work:
The oration likewise treats of the Holy Theotokos. [Published by Pantinus, 1598, and obviously corrupt. Dupin states that it is “not mentioned by the ancients, not even by Photius.” The style resembles that of Methodius in many places.]
Additionally, here is some of what has been written about this work:
Of doubtful or spurious works ascribed to Methodius may be mentioned, a homily on the meeting with Simeon and Anna at the Temple. This is generally rejected both for reasons of style and because we have reason to think that the system of church festivals which it assumes was not in existence in the time of Methodius. On the date of the introduction of the festival Hypapante in connection with this homily, see [Dictionary of Christian Antiquity] p. 1140. But we cannot endorse the suggestion that the homily is the work of a later Methodius. The preacher expressly claims to be the author of the Symposium on Chastity; so that if the homily be not genuine it is not a case of mistaken ascription but of forgery, and a forger need not be of the same name as the author whom he personates.
- A dictionary of Christian biography, literature, sects and doctrines, By William Smith, Henry Wace (1882), volume 3, p. 911 (author of entry is Rev. George Salmon, D.D., D.C.L., LL. D., F.R.S., Chancellor of St Patrick's Cathedral and Regius Professor of Divinity Trinity College Dublin)
And now turn to your “Remarks on Mr. Palmer’s Letter.”[fn 4] Here you quote various spurious writings to prove that the blessed Virgin Mary was an object of invocation to the early Christians. You press into your service Methodius, the very learned Bishop of Olympus, or Patara, in Lycia, and afterwards of Tyre, in Palestine, who suffered martyrdom A.D. 303. You quote (p. 30) from a homily on which there is not the slightest question as to its being spurious. For, in the first place, the Benedictine Editor, in a note to Jerome’s works, [fn 5] says, once for all, that the “Symposium” is the only entire work of Methodius extant; and Baronius expressly says, “I do not hesitate to say that no Greek or Latin writer has left a sermon delivered on the feast of the Purification (called sometimes ‘Hypapantes,’ sometimes ‘Simeon and Ann’) before the fifteenth year of Justinian (A.D. 542), and that Pope Gelasius paved the way for the institution of that feast, by putting an end to the festivities of the Lupercalia, which were also observed in February.” [fn1] And the Benedictine monk, Lumper, in his “Critical Theological History,” [fn 2] &c., unquestionably shows that the homily you quote is of a much later date than you give it, by attributing it to Methodius.
- Dr. Wiseman's Popish Literary Blunders Exposed, By Charles Hastings Collette, p. 25
After all this gaping, we have two testimonies only offered to us for the practice of 300 years: one a passage of Origen already rejected as spurious; and the other out of a tract of Methodius, if not certainly spurious, yet justly suspected by your own critics, being neither quoted by any of the ancients, nor mentioned by Photius; and of a style more luxuriant than that Father’s other writings are; and that speaks so clearly of the mystery of the Trinity, of the incarnation and divinity of the Word, whom he calls, in a phrase not well known in his time, consubstantial with the Father; of the Trisagion never heard of for above 100 years after his death; of the Virginity [FN1] of Mary after her conception; and of original sin; that your late critic, Monsieur du Pin, had certainly reason to place it among his spurious works, however it be now cited with such assurance by you.

[FN1: Bibliotheque, T. 1. p. 530.]
- A Preservative Against Popery, in Several Select Discourses Upon the Principal Heads of Controversy Between Protestants and Papists: Being Written and Published by the Most Eminent Divines of the Church of England, Chiefly in the Reign of King James II. Collected by the Right Rev. Edmund Gibson (Volume XIII), (1848), p. 56
A homily under the name of Methodius of Olympus dates probably from the fifth or sixth century. It contains long speeches of Symeon and Mary, and places emphasis on the praise of the Virgin. [FN52]

[FN52: CPG 1827; PG 18, 348-381]
- The Homilies of the Emperor Leo VI (Medieval Mediterranean, Vol. 14), By Theodora Antonopoulou (May 1, 1997), p. 180

The work has had supporters:
11. I think I have now put down the titles of all the works of Methodius, expressly mentioned by the ancients: however, it is not improbable that he wrote more; for Jerome says there were many other beside those mentioned by him. Euzebius’s passage above cited from Jerome seems to imply, that Methodius had written some good number of books before he became an enemy to Origen: and he might afterwards also write some other, which we are not acquainted with.
12. Anthere are actually several other [fn b] things now extant which are ascribed to him: such as, a Homily concerning Simeon and Anna; another Homily upon our Saviour’s entrance into Jerusalem; and Revelations, and a Chronicle.
These two last I think are generally rejected as not genuine.
The second likewise I suppose is defended by very few.
But the first homily, concerning Simeon and Ann, has more patrons. Not only [fn c] Combefis, and some others, but [fn d] Fabricius likewise pleads it’s [sic] genuineness. On the other hand, Tillemont [fn e] allows, there is no good reason to take it for a work of our Methodius. Oudin [fn f] strenuously opposeth it, and thinks it the composition of some other Methodius, later than ours by several centuries; as does [fn g] Cave. Du Pin [fn h] says that ‘it is not cited by the ancients, nor abriged by Photius. The author speaks so clearly of the mysteries of the trinity, of the incarnation, and the divinity of the Word, who he more than once says is consubstantial with the Father; of the hymn called Trisagion, of the virginity of Mary, even after her delivery; and of original sin; that there is room to doubt whether somewhat has not been added to this homily: beside that the style is more verbose, and fuller of epithets than that of Methodius.’ So that learned writer. And in my opinion these particulars are sufficient to assure us, that either this homily is not genuine, (which I rather think), or else it has been so interpolated as to be very little worth. Of this, and some other things ascribed to Methodius, Grabe [fn i] honestly says, they are either suppositious, or interpolated. I shall therefore make no use of this piece; or, if I do, I shall give notice of it particularly.

[fn b: See Tillem. Mem. Ec. T. v. P. iii. as before, p. 144, et notes 6 & 7 sur. St. Methode. Vid. etiam Fabric. ut supra, p. 257, 258.]
[fn c: Vid. Combef. In Method. p. 469.]
[fn d: Fabr, ut supra, p. 257.]
[fn e: Tillem. as before, p. 136 & 144, & note vi.]
[fn f: De Script. Ecc. T. i. p. 303, &c.]
[fn g: Hist. Lit. T. i. p. 152.]
[fn h: Du Pin, as before, p. 200.]
[fn i: Caeterum prostate quidem unus insuper et alter Methodii tractatus, e quibus plura, eaque luculentissima, pro – catholica trinitatis professione testimonia allegari possent. Se dab iis abstineo, quod tractatus isti aut supposititii, aut interpolate esse videantur. Grab. Annot. Ap. Bull. Def. Fid. Nic. Sect. ii. Cap. 13, in fin.]
- The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Volume III (of XI), (1788), pp. 309-10 (he later writes: “I formerly shewed the reasons why I do not esteem the homilie concerning Simeon and Anna to be genuine. I am therefore far from alleging any thing out of it, as a proof of the sentiments of our Methodius. But if that piece had been genuine, I suppose it might afford an undeniable testimony to this Epistle.”)

In short, the work is certainly not the work of Methodius of Constantinople (815-885). There are also excellent reasons not to believe that it is a work of Methodius of Olympus/Tyre. At best it is a dubious work - if we follow the declarations of many of those set forth above, it is simply a forgery.

I doubt Steve Ray was aware of that issue, though I also doubt he cares. He hasn't fixed his presentation in view of the correction that has already been offered, and I don't expect that this latest criticism will move him to make any further correction to his papers.

- TurretinFan

Friday, March 05, 2010

If we dare suggest ...

... that this news article (link) is in any way, shape, or form connected with clerical celibacy, we will be promptly attacked. However, rationally speaking, one should not be surprised to find a higher than average number of homosexuals among the population of men who are willing to promise never to engage in sexual relations with a woman.

Ergun Caner: Raised by a devout Muslim Father

The issues presently swirling around Ergun Caner have created a certain amount of lack of clarity. This post attempts to clarify some of the issues. Before saying more, I would like to point out that I've attempted (in three posts - link to first - link to second) to respond to over a dozen of the accusations that have been presented against Dr. Caner. My reason for doing so is two-fold: (1) I view the accusations that Dr. Caner is a "fake ex-Muslim" as violations of the 9th commandment and (2) it seems that none of Dr. Caner's other Christian brethren are providing visible responses to these accusations. As to the latter point, I recognize that I may simply be unaware of what responses have been offered.

I do not endorse the conclusion that the "Fake Ex Muslims" site reaches. That site is essentially trying to suggest that Dr. Caner was never a Muslim. Certainly the title of the site gives that impression. The evidence that the site has adduced, in my opinion, is not sufficient to support that conclusion.

Brief Caner Biography
What is Caner's story? As best as I can reconstruct it, based on a number of inconsistent statements that I've seen both in videos from Ergun Caner and his brother Emir, as well as in their book Unveiling Islam, Ergun and the middle brother of the three Caner boys, Erdem, were born in Stockholm in 1966 and 1968 respectively, to a Turkish father and Swedish mother. The Caner family moved to America some time around 1969 or early 1970, and Emir Caner was born shortly thereafter (in 1970). The family split due to a divorce that was finalized some time shortly after the arrival in America. The brothers' primary custodian was their mother, though they were with their father every weekend and attended the Islamic foundation (which they referred to as the "mosque" though it appears to have lacked any minaret). The branch of Islam with which the Caner family was associated was the Sunni branch (which is the largest by population).

Their father was apparently a devout Muslim who helped to renovate the building that eventually served as the Islamic foundation building, so that it could serve as a place of worship. Their mother's devotion to Islam is less clear. Like many Muslim women immigrants, she does not appear to have worn any of the traditional Muslim female garb. Nevertheless, she apparently encouraged her sons to be observant Muslims and supported their father's Muslim influence.

It appears that in 1981, when Ergun was 15 years old, he was converted from Islam to Christianity. His brothers were apparently converted one year later on November 4, 1982, when Ergun was 16, and his brother Emir was 12 (Erdem was 14). It may be that all three were baptized in 1982, since it appears that the Caners' father disowned them (for their conversion to Christianity) at that time. Their mother does not appear to have disowned them and later converted to Christianity herself. Their father died in the meantime, apparently remaining a Muslim to the end.

Troubling Inconsistencies
This, as I have said, is my best attempt to reconstruct the events of the Caner brothers' lives based on a number of inconsistent reports that have been provided by Ergun and Emir. It would be nice if the Caner brothers would themselves set forth a brief biographical sketch of their lives and explain (if possible) the various inconsistencies that have been brought to their attention. Many of the inconsistencies are troubling, but many of the inconsistencies are in the form of statements made orally and apparently "off the cuff." I understand that people sometimes make mistakes during oral presentations - I myself have done so, as have many of my friends. I also understand that, in the moment, Dr. Caner may have embellished his biography - adding "devout" where it was not justified and overstating his international background.

At the time of this writing, Dr. Caner has removed his biography (link to broken page) his personal testimony (link to broken page)

Other Issues
The primary focus of the Muslim critic seems to have been on trying to persuade people that Dr. Caner was never a Muslim. I don't think that the critic has succeeded in that regard. Nevertheless, he has identified a significant number of troubling inconsistencies with respect to Caner's biography. I hope that Dr. Caner will take the time to carefully (in writing) set forth his true biography. Yet other issues remain as well.

Among the other issues that the Muslim critic has identified were apparently inaccurate reports regarding Dr. Caner's education. Apparently one or more website inaccurately described Dr. Caner's educational background. Thankfully, Dr. Caner has clarified this matter (link to his clarification). That set of comments also included an extremely high level biography. I view this matter as a closed one. I'm not aware of anything else that Dr. Caner needs to explain regarding the inconsistent web site biographies of him that allegedly appeared at an earlier date.

Also, Dr. Caner has been criticized regarding debates. Dr. Caner has provided a statement (link to statement) in which he apologizes in vague terms for falsely claiming to have debated one Muslim leader. However, Dr. Caner has repeatedly claimed to have debated many Muslim leaders and leaders of other religions. It does not appear he has done any such debates. The closest he has come was to doing so was an email exchange with Nadir Ahmed.

Where to Go from Here
I'm at a loss as to how I can further assist in Dr. Caner's defense. Indeed, recently a close friend told me, "I'm not sure pointing out how embarrassing his inaccuracies are can be called a defense." My point, however, from the get-go has been to note that despite a number of such inaccuracies, and despite Caner's apparent penchant for embellishing his oral presentations and conflating details when speaking without notes, nevertheless he was a Muslim who converted to Christianity.

The fundamental assertion that Caner is a "Fake Ex Muslim" is wrong. If the "Fake Ex Muslims" site were merely a "Litany of Ergun Caner's numerous errors regarding Islam" site, I would probably have not bothered to try to come to his defense. At this point, however, I'm not sure of what further assistance (if any) I can be to him. I want to encourage him to get his biography and personal testimony straight.

His own book, Unveiling Islam, corrects many of the mistakes he has made regarding Islam in his oral presentations. It's not clear why he makes the mistakes he does, given the book he has written. I would encourage him, however, to be more careful in his representations of Islam, because it is easy to understand why a Muslim would have doubts about him, given his errors.

I don't know whether Dr. Caner will even read this post. I hope he will, and I hope he will read it in the spirit of encouragement and exhortation that it is written. I hope his followers and fans will similarly exhort and encourage him to make a clean break with his mistakes of the past - set the record straight, and permit us to be able to respond to Muslims who claim Caner is a "fake ex Muslim" with something substantial.

- TurretinFan

P.S. Oh, and as for the Taser incident. Ok, he didn't get actually shocked according to the video (one of the barbs didn't penetrate his skin). He did take a taser dart to the back, which presumably hurts a bit. (link to Taser post)

Response to "Fake Ex Muslims" - Part 3

I've responded to the "Fake Ex Muslims" (FxM) site twice previously (first) and (second). This is the third response. I'll address a few more issues and then respond to FxM's responses to my previous section.

1. Insha-Allah or Al-Hamdolilah

In one video that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner claims that Muslims say "Insha-Allah" (which I'd roughly translate as "according to the will of Allah"). FxM notes that the correct Muslim response is actually "Al-Hamdolilah" (which I'd roughly translate as "to the praise of Allah"). As far as I know, FxM is right.
"Insha-Allah" is similar to the Christian "If the Lord wills." It is primarily (again, as far as I know) a prospective comment. One would, therefore, say, "I will (Insha-Allah) go to the market tomorrow." In contrast, one might say, "I was robbed (Al-Hamdolilah) in the market yesterday.

Result: This looks like one of Caner's embellishments. The basic point Caner is trying to make is simply that Muslims ascribe the course of events to the will of Allah. Caner is correct in that regard, but he seems to have spiced up his story with biographical details which seem unlikely to be true.

2. Salah in the Bathroom?

I see that part 13 of the video series connected with FxM is out. The gist of the argument presented is that Caner claims to have prayed (performed his Salah) on a prayer rug in high school bathrooms. FxM notes that this is a prohibited thing in Islam. FxM concludes that consequently Caner was lying.

The problem for FxM is that although it is forbidden, sometimes Muslims do it (example). The example I provided is from a forum. Notice that the folks answering the opening post give a variety of answers.

I also note that my friend, Dr. White, has taken the position that the idea that Caner prayed in the bathroom is probably an embellishment (link).(I also discovered this rather unusual response - link - from someone who claims to be a Muslim, and claims that "This is allowable in the Hanafi legal school in Islam." Of course, that article questions FxM's Muslim credentials, attacks Dr. White, and contains numerous problems in terms of English spelling and grammar, so I'm not really sure whether we should even take that website seriously.)

Result: This may be evidence that Caner was not a carefully observant Muslim - it is not proof that Caner was lying.

3. Halal and Haram

In at least one video (and apparently at least one audio), FxM notes that Caner is associating Halal and Haram with dietary restrictions. FxM correctly notes that the signification of Halal and Haram is broader than just dietary restrictions. Nevertheless, Halal and Haram do refer to the dietary restrictions.

Result: Caner may or may not be unaware of the broader signification of the terms. His comments in the video are, strictly speaking, true and accurate, whether or not they are precise.


Response to FxM's reply (reply is halfway down the page at this link).

As to 1) I do agree that Ergun Caner has used the November 4, 1982, date many times. I also agree that my suggestion that it should be 1981 is just speculation. I am doing my best to try to reconcile the conflicting evidence in a reasonable way. Whatever doubt that someone may have that the Caner brothers were Muslim, one cannot reasonably doubt that the Caner brothers became professing Christians. It then follows that they first professed their faith at some date - the only question is what date.

As to 2) I agree that there have been numerous occasions where Dr. Caner has given people the false impression (either explicitly or implicitly) that he was raised in Istanbul, Turkey.

As to 3) I agree that if Caner converted prior to November 3, 1981, then Caner would have been 14, not 15. I was simply going back one year from November 4, 1982, to November 4, 1981, in view of the comments by Ergun and Emir that their conversions were one year apart.

As to 4) I should have spoken more carefully, in saying that FxM had not yet raised this issue as one of the issues on his main web page. I, of course, am not aware of his work that is in draft form or of his comments on Youtube.

As to 5) I think the apparent gibberish was more of an attempt to amuse than to con, but obviously FxM disagrees with me. The clip (the one I've seen - FxM indicates that there is a second one) shows that Caner was really getting "into it" (as we would say) with the crowd.

As to 6) FxM seems to have mistakenly thought that I was ignoring the concept of Laylatul Qadr. I was not. I was trying, apparently unclearly, to emphasize the fact that the birthday of Mohamed is not as significant in Islam. Consequently, while it is an error to say that Laylatul Qadr was the same day as Mohamed's birthday, it is not a particularly serious error. It would have been more serious if Caner had given Mohamed's birth date (in the third month), but Caner did not. And, of course, the point of what Caner was saying was that Mohamed was 40 years old at the time, which is a common Muslim belief.

As to 7) I may be wrong to say that the error is relatively trivial. David Waltz seems to agree with FxM that this error by Caner is a significant one (link to Waltz).

(At this point the numbering repeats, because we are now referring back to the first round of responses)

As to 1) I agree that I was wrong to say that "Jinn" was the correct word for angel. FxM states that "Malaika" is the correct word for angel, whereas Jinn would have been the correct term for the evil spirit (although Jinn don't necessarily have to be evil spirits according to Islam). Islam makes a distinction between Angels and Jinn. In fact, I think FxM has made a slight error here (although I am not accusing him of being a fake Muslim because of this error). The Arabic word for "angel" (singular) is Malak. Malaika is the plural form ("angels").

As to 2) FxM states says that I should think that "Ergun does not possess this intrinsic knowledge of Islam that he claims to have." If one judges Ergun's knowledge of Islam only by his writings, Ergun's knowledge of Islam appears significantly more substantial than when we judge it by his videotaped oral presentations. For example, the 40-day Ramadan error is not made in Unveiling Islam and in that book Ergun is clear that the first revelation (discussed above) is believed to have come during the month of Ramadan (see page 42). The book also does not make the mistake about the 12th/Hidden Imam (see page 159). The book even mentions the correct birthday for Mohammed, placing it in the third month (see page 160). I have noticed that FxM's criticisms are mostly focused on Ergun's oral presentations. I'm not saying that those criticisms are invalid. I'm simply noting that if Ergun doesn't know what he's talking about, it is hard to explain how he gets things right when he's writing. But perhaps FxM has some responses planned to Ergun's book(s). I may simply be unaware of his plans.

As to 3) no further comments.

As to 4) I hope Ergun will prove FxM by providing clarification, but we'll have to wait and see.

As to 5) FxM declines to argue over whether the Muslim or Christian view is correct. I realize that there is a time and a place for everything. That debate is, of course, not directly germane to the Caner issues. Nevertheless, I would love the opportunity to demonstrate to FxM that the Bible's teaching regarding the Messiah is the truth that is to be believed.

As to 6) FxM indicates that he lost sympathy for Caner when Caner used derogatory terms for Arabs and when Caner said something negative about Mohamed. I don't defend the use of derogatory terms for people. That kind of offense is unnecessary, and I don't let Caner off the hook simply because he claims to be a part of the group (as FxM may be unaware, in some parts of American culture it is thought that members of a group can use derogatory terms for that group, as long as they are part of that group). On the other hand, we who follow Jesus must necessarily take a negative position about Mohamed, who denied the divinity of Jesus. To deny that Mohamed is a false prophet would be to betray our Lord. We realize that this will offend Muslims, but it is a necessary offense. Both positions cannot be correct, and following our Lord requires us to affirm his divinity and to designate those who oppose the Gospel of Jesus as false prophets.

As to the remaining comments) FxM notes that Dr. White "hits the nail on the head" with respect to the issue of whether Caner debated Ally. I agree with Dr. White and FxM in that regard. I note that while questions remain regarding how Caner could make such an error, the error itself has been acknowledged. FxM also notes that "There is something called embellishing stories, then there is something called lying through your teeth." I agree that there is a difference. FxM, responding to my comment about Caner's father's work on the Islamic Foundation building, states: "Then Ergun should not put “BUILD” in capital letters on July 2009 Q&A." I agree that it was a bad choice of words. Regarding the photographic evidence that Caner's father was at the Islamic Foundation, FxM wrote: "If I were to send Francis a picture of my father standing at the entrance of a farm – that does not mean my father was a relatively good farmer." I agree, but I don't think the analogy holds. I agree that having one's picture taken with an Imam is not proof in itself. It is simply evidence.

FxM further asked: "Do devout Muslims heavily smoke? (Ergun says his dad was a heavy smoker)" In my experience, lots of Muslims smoke and smoke openly. I can't say whether Islamic law places a certain limit on smoking, although I am sure that an argument exists that heaving smoking is dangerous for health and consequently haram.

FxM further stated: "Do devout Muslims celebrate birthdays? (Ergun says they were “Wahaabis”, they don’t celebrate birthdays)." I can't recall Ergun saying that. FxM clearly has more familiarity with Ergun's many oral statements than I do. Nevertheless, that sounds like an embellishment. The Islamic Foundation on Broad St. in Columbus, OH, is not a Wahaabi institution, as far as I can tell. I don't recall birthdays being haram for Sunnis in general, but I may be mistaken.

FxM added: "Besides – Ergun first uploaded the picture of him standing inside a room with that Imaam who is in the picture and the caption of the image stated that the Imaam was his father." Yes, that was a very odd mistake. I don't doubt that they were at the place with their father (as opposed to their mother), but the man in the picture was obviously not Caner's father.

FxM concluded: "Francis fails to see any reason to doubt Ergun Caner being a Muslim – that’s quite ignorant of the nearly 70 errors/lies that have been presented in totality (videos + website)." I certainly see plenty of evidence than Ergun embellished his biography, particularly in his oral presentations. I also see evidence that Caner spoke carelessly on many occasions. However, I have no doubt that Ergun Caner said the Shahada as a child, even if he only said it on the weekends when he was with his father. That is "enough" for a child to be considered Muslim, from what I understand of Islam. I note that someone (perhaps FxM?) has suggested that Ergun erred in one oral presentation by claiming that one has to say the Shahada specifically to an Imam in order to be a Muslim. I think FxM should be willing to admit that there is evidence that Caner was a Muslim, even if he was not nearly as devout as some of Caner's self-reports would seem to indicate.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Joseph Ratzinger (aka Benedict XVI) and David T. King

I'm not sure Pastor King will be entirely pleased by comparison, but it is interesting to note that Joseph Ratzinger has confirmed something that Pastor King has been saying for a long time.

Ratzinger writes:
We are fairly certain today that, while the Fathers were not Roman Catholic as the thirteenth or nineteenth century would have understood the term, they were, nonetheless, "Catholic", and their Catholicism extended to the very canon of the New Testament itself.
- Benedict XVI (then Joseph Ratzinger), Principles of Catholic theology: building stones for a fundamental theology (2:1:D), p. 141 (English edition, 1987 - Originally published in German in 1982)(see more context here)

Pastor King has said:
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!

What is also interesting is that Ratzinger's comment stands opposed to lay Roman apologists who claim things like "The Church Fathers Were Catholic" (meaning, of course, "Roman Catholic") (Dave Armstrong, who has a book by that title, comes to mind, though he is not alone in making this sort of ignorant assertion).

Ratzinger goes on, of course, to insist that "only one side can consider them its own Fathers" but the admission that Ratzinger has made exposes one of the central weaknesses to much of the patristically-directed Roman apologetic effort in the English-speaking world today. We can agree with Ratzinger that the Fathers were "catholic" as that term is properly understood, and we can also agree with him that they would not be considered "Roman Catholic" by modern (or even medieval) standards. We too willingly acknowledge that the Fathers were not distinctly "Protestant" - they were who they were, often differing in significant ways from one another. As Pastor King explained it, we "are very content to let the [early church fathers] be what they were."

These facts ought, however, to point us to the need for an even earlier source of authority - the written Word of God contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. By such an established authority we can evaluate the claims of apostolicity of the various competing claimants to the catholic and apostolic faith.

- TurretinFan

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Responding Again to "Fake Ex Muslims"

In a previous post I had begun to defend Ergun Caner against the accusation that he is a "Fake Ex Muslim" (link to my previous post). This post will have two parts. First it will address several more of the "issues" that the Fake Ex Muslim (FxM) site has identified, and second it will provide a reply to a response that FxM provided to my first post.

1. Who Converted in 1982?

In several videos that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner claims to have been saved on November 4, 1982 (or some time in 1982 - not every video specifies the 4th of November). In at least one video and in the Caner brothers' book, Emir Caner claims to have been saved on November 4, 1982. In two videos Ergun and Emir both say that Emir was saved one year after Ergun, and the Caner brother's book says the same thing. Additionally, official (or semi-official) biographies of both men apparently had indicated that they converted in 1982.

Result: It looks like Ergun Caner has mistakenly said 1982 instead of 1981 several times in regards to his own date of conversion and in various places. The inconsistency is a bit irritating, and it would be nice if the Caner brothers would clarify whether indeed Ergun was converted in 1981 or 1982 and whether the brothers were really saved a year apart.

2. Born in Istanbul or Stockholm?

In one video that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner claims to have been born in Istanbul, Turkey. Everywhere else, Caner claims to have been born in Stockholm, Sweden.

In the one video in question, Caner was making excuses for why he wouldn't go tan on the beach. The point he intended was that he had middle-eastern blood and consequently would tan quite a lot, which he apparently did not want. He inexplicably expressed this by claiming to have been born in Turkey.

Result: Embarrassing (also because he employed an ethnic slur connected with claiming he was born in Turkey) embellishment of his point.

3. How Old When Converted - 16 or 18?

In two videos that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner claims to have been 18 years old when he converted. However, Ergun Caner's birth date (according to his facebook page) is November 3, 1966. That would mean that on November 4, 1982, Caner would have been 16 (and he would have been 15 in 1981). Also, in a number of places (such as here) Caner's age of conversion is indicated to be 16 years old. Gahanna High School lists Ergun Caner as being in the class of 1984 (link).

Result: Embarrassing embellishment of how long Caner was a Muslim.

4. Came to America at 12 or 14?

In one video that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner states that he came to American "in 1978" when he was "14 years old." Now, given Ergun's birthdate above, he would have been either 11 or 12 in 1978 (depending on the month of his arrival).

Another troubling thing (that FxM appears to have overlooked) is that Emir Fethi Caner's birthdate is apparently August 25, 1970 (according to his own website's biography). However, the Caner brothers' book states that Emir was born after the Caner family moved to America (Unveiling Islam, p. 17). Emir Caner is listed as class of 1988 for Gahanna High School (link) and Erdem is listed as class of 1986 for the same high school (link). Assuming that each of the brothers was 18 when he graduated (which is usual in the U.S.) then that means that indeed Emir was born in 1970. However, if Emir was born in the U.S. then it means that the Caners moved to America somewhere around 1968-70 (when Ergun was 2-3 years old).

Result: There are some puzzling inconsistencies. Did the Caners move in 1978 or 1968? Was Ergun a teenager or a toddler when he moved? It would be good if Dr. Caner would clarify this biographical point. My guess is that the Caner family moved to America around 1968-1970, because it seems unlikely that they would mistakenly think that the youngest Caner brother was born in the U.S. when he was not. I am puzzled about why and how Dr. Caner could get the date and his age wrong.

5. Gibberish?

In one video that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner appears to be speaking Gibberish as though it were him speaking to his father. After the initial "Isa Ibn Allah," which is a way of saying "Jesus - the Son of God," the rest does sound like gibberish. I should point out that I have limited exposure to Turkish, which is one of the languages that Dr. Caner claims to be able to speak.

FxM also points out that in the video it sounds like Ergun is saying that "Isa Ibn Allah," translates to "I believe in Jesus," which of course it does not. I don't think that's the problem at all. Calling Jesus, "Isa Ibn Allah," is a way of affirming Jesus' divinity and testifying to one's belief in Jesus. That's all Caner meant by what he said.

Result: It looks like Caner embellished his story with some pseudo-Turkish.

6. Date of the First Revelation to Mohamed

In two videos that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner claims that the first revelation took place on Mohamed's 40th birthday. This is inaccurate, according to FxM, since although Mohamed was 40 years old, the revelation did not come on his birthday. FxM is quite insistent that any devout Sunni Muslim (such as Caner claims to have been) would know when the date of the first revelation is, since it is within Ramadan. It is less clear whether all devout Sunni Muslims would also know when the actual date of birth (about 6 month prior) of Mohamed was.

Result: This seems like a relatively trivial error. The main point (that Mohamed had turned 40 when he received his first "revelation") was correct.

7. The 12th (Hidden) Imam

In one video that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner claims that both the Sunni and Shia Muslims believe that a caliph named Mahdi disappeared and is hidden somewhere, still alive. According to FxM, this is something believed only by the Shia Muslims. FxM is insistent that no devout Sunni Muslim could be unaware of this difference in belief between the Sunnis and the Shia Muslims.

Result: Again, this seems like a relatively trivial error. The main point of what Caner was talking about was the belief itself. Although he may (as far as I know, he did) erroneously attribute a Shia belief to the Sunni, this doesn't appear to be a significant error.


Response to FxM's Rebuttal to my first post (link to Rebuttal)

As to 1) FxM helpfully corrects my comment about Jinn by explaining that "Jinn" can be used for both good or evil spirits. FxM argues that understanding the difference between Jinn and the Injeel is a fundamental matter of Islamic doctrine. I have no doubt that it is, but it seems that Caner simply substituted one Arabic word for another. His audience easily understood that he meant spirits, he just used the wrong Arabic word (after using the right Arabic word).

FxM raises the interesting point that Caner claims to have participated in Arabic language fellowships. This means (if it is true that Caner has participated in such) that Caner has even less of an excuse for using the wrong word.

As to 2) I am sorry to hear FxM's report that Caner brushed off this particular error (which he apparently recognized was an error, since he edited it out).

As to 3) Again, I am sorry to hear what Caner's own response to this error of his was. Caner reportedly responded that it was ok for him to say that "Ramadan is 40 days ... because there is a group called the Alawite who fast for 40 days." Whether or not such a group exists, the month of Ramadan (being lunar) is necessarily either 29 or 30 days.

As to 4) I agree with FxM that messing up the Shahada is an astonishingly serious error. I would love to see what (if any) explanation Caner has for this error.

As to 5) I understand that FxM thinks that Muslims have a better understanding of what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah than Christians do. Hopefully, he's aware that we know the Muslim view to be wrong, and we are able to demonstrate the error of the Muslims from the inspired Scriptures. That's a different question, however, from whether Caner was trying to explain that Muslim beliefs about Jesus are wrong, or whether Caner was unaware that Muslims say that Jesus was the Messiah, while interpreting what it means to be the Messiah differently.

As to 6) I agree with FxM that it remains a funny mistake, although perhaps (since I am more sympathetic to Dr. Caner) I view my own chuckles regarding it as more of an embarrassed laugh than an amused laugh.

As to the Conclusion) I agree that Dr. Caner's Questions and Answers don't deal directly with the issues. I note that in the meantime Dr. Caner has provided a new statement (which deals with the issue of his having allegedly debated Shabir Ally, albeit obliquely)(link to statement).


Conclusion to this Section

Again, I think that the evidence provided by FxM is tending to show that Caner seems to be willing to embelish his stories a bit. It's unclear what the proper resolution to his conversion timeline is - but there is a definite set of contradictions there. It is also not clear when he moved to America. It does look like he said "18" where he should have said "16" on at least two occasions. It also looks like he used gibberish to spice up a story he was telling. None of these things, of course, demonstrate that Ergun Mehmet was not previously a Muslim.

If indeed Ergun came to America as a toddler, and if (as his book says) his parents were divorced and his primary custodian was his mother, it is quite possibly that he was not particularly well grounded in Islam, no matter how devout his father was.

I should take this opportunity to point out that the Mirele's blog article suggesting that Caner's father didn't help build the mosque in Columbus, OH seems to be flawed (link to blog article). That article notes that the Islamic Foundation building was actually constructed in the 19th century. However, the article overlooks that the most recent renovation was completed in 1984, which fits well with Caner's story regarding his father's role.

Indeed, that article also shows a photograph of Caner's father (apparently from the late 1970's) in front of the at least partially converted building (there is a star and crescent above one of the windows) (link to photo). Caner's father is the man in the middle in the suit (next to what appears to be some sort of Imam). The face in the photograph corresponds to the face in Unveiling Islam, p. 14.

So, it does appear that Caner was at least raised by a relatively devout Muslim, and there does not appear to be any good reason to doubt that he remained at least formally and outwardly in the Muslim religion until he was 15 or 16.

- TurretinFan

Present with the Lord in Purgatory?

Over at Catholic Convert, pilgrimage peddler Steve Ray has a post arguing that a certain frequently cited Scripture does not dictate against Purgatory, that other Scripture does teach Purgatory, and that Purgatory involves being in the presence of the Lord (link to post). In the following analysis, we'll consider his arguments piece by piece:

I realize now – that as a Protestant — I misquoted the Bible when challenging Catholics about Purgatory. Catholics taught that there was a “transition” between earth and heaven—a place or state of final purification called Purgatory.

“But how can there be a Purgatory?” I asked. “Doesn’t St. Paul teach that ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’? Since ‘absence from the body’ means that we are immediately in ‘the presence of the Lord,’ there can’t be anything called Purgatory. Catholics deny the clear teaching of the Bible!”

Whoa! Slow down! Is this really what the Bible says?

First off, I don't necessarily buy that Mr. Ray actually used arguments against Roman Catholicism when he was not yet a part of that communion. I've heard him previously say on the Catholic Answers program that he doesn't remember when he was baptized. So, I have my doubts about whether Mr. Ray means to say that he really made these sorts of arguments when he was a "Protestant" or whether he's simply talking about a hypothetical "Protestant." The words themselves that Mr. Ray uses don't ring true to the "Protestant" ear. We tend to say "Paul" or the "Apostle Paul" not "St. Paul." But let's pass over whether Ray has Canerized his biography here without further comment.

Second, Mr. Ray has set up his hypothetical "Protestant" in a weak position. Paul's exact words are not "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" even if that is a teaching that they imply. Paul's exact words are:

2 Corinthians 5:1-9
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
Paul does set up the matter as a dichotomy: present or absent. There is no third option that Paul raises. And Paul makes this dichotomy several times:

1) "if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"

2) "in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven"

3) "we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life"

4) "whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:"

5) "willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord"

6) "whether present or absent"

But the sextuple dichotomy that Paul draws is evidently not clear enough for Mr. Ray. Mr. Ray states:

First, that is a misreading of the Bible—a twisting of Scripture to score a point. The Bible does NOT say “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Rather it says,

“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6-8).

This is very different from my old argument. Paul would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord, but certainly doesn’t say it the way I twisted it in my old anti-Catholic days.

If I want to be away from Michigan in the winter I might say “In the winter we would rather be away from Michigan and present in Arizona.” It does NOT say that to be away from Michigan that I am instantly or automatically in Arizona. My in-laws go between Arizona and Michigan twice a year and they stop a lot along the way. It usually takes them 3-4 weeks to get from one to the other as the visit and camp along the way.

We understand that this language leaves room for a transition period—especially in an automobile or plane with a possible motel or visit along the way. Paul’s words also leave room for such a transition; it does not exclude Purgatory.

This argument from Mr. Ray uses an analogy that is not in the text (the analogy of interstate travel) to try to smuggle a possibility into the text. The analogy in the text is either in this tabernacle (tent) or out of it. The outside of a tent is not 1000 miles away from the inside, it's right there. If this tent dissolves, we'll be clothed with another one - not with another two (one purgatorial and one heavenly) but with another one, a heavenly.

While the existence of two states may not, in itself, dictate against a third, the apostle's argument is plainly about a dichotomy, as seen in the six contrasts identified above. There's no reason in the text to suppose any sort of transitory place or state between the two in the text.

Worse than that, the very point of the text is that believers are, in this life, yearning for the next life, specifically for heaven. If to be absent from the body is to enter a further place or state of yearning and groaning, the apostle's point is dulled. Surely the apostle is not suggesting that the desire is to be absent from the body so that one can be present in purgatory, but rather in heaven with the Lord.

But let us see how Mr. Ray continues his argument:
Second, Paul teaches that we will pass through fire. Notice what he says in 1 Corinthians 3:15: On “the Day” if “any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15, RSVCE). Sounds like Purgatory to me.
Contrary to Mr. Ray's assertions, Paul does not say that we will pass through fire. The text says that on "the day" men's works will have their character revealed.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
As you can see, it is the man's work that will be evaluated by fire and placed in the fire, not the man. All sorts of work from "gold" to "stubble" will be tried in the fire, which shows that it cannot refer to Purgatory, since Romanism teaches that those who build the best work on their foundation will skip Purgatory entirely.

The brief reference to "so as by fire" is a simile. "So as by" shows us that it is not through fire, but it is as though fire. In other words, a person may have only the foundation left, and may get through by the skin of their teeth with just the foundation - namely Christ. When we combine the idea of Christ being the foundation and the work we do being anything ranging from "gold" to "stubble," hopefully it should be plain that the fire is metaphorical. The point is simply that we have done will be evaluated on the last day as to whether we built well or poorly on the foundation. We will be saved regardless of how well we built, since we have the foundation of Christ - although if we do no works beyond mere stubble, it will be a bare escape from hell, like a person who escaped from a house-fire.

One should note that Steve Ray, in his private judgment, thinks that this passage sounds like Purgatory. One may also note, however, that we've previously seen that the eminent Roman Catholic scholar Estius (1542-1613) has essentially acknowledged (with some cautious comments) that in this passage "the Apostle, omitting all mention of the purifying of souls which takes place in the mean time, speaks only about the fire of the last judgment" (see full discussion here).

Likewise the Roman Catholic New American Bible states plainly that Purgatory is not taught in this passage (see discussion here) and the Roman Catholic Navarre Bible says that we can't be sure whether Purgatory is under discussion (more details here).

Even Bellarmine, a doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, is unwilling to say that the entire passage is about Purgatory. He chooses instead to say that much of the passage is about other things, with only the very last reference to fire being a reference to Purgatory (link to more complete discussion).

Augustine himself explains the passage this way:
Now wood, hay, and stubble may, without incongruity, be understood to signify such an attachment to worldly things, however lawful these may be in themselves, that they cannot be lost without grief of mind. And though this grief burns, yet if Christ hold the place of foundation in the heart—that is, if nothing be preferred to Him, and if the man, though burning with grief, is yet more willing to lose the things he loves so much than to lose Christ,— he is saved by fire. If, however, in time of temptation, he prefer to hold by temporal and earthly things rather than by Christ, he has not Christ as his foundation; for he puts earthly things in the first place, and in a building nothing comes before the foundation. Again, the fire of which the apostle speaks in this place must be such a fire as both men are made to pass through, that is, both the man who builds upon the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, and the man who builds wood, hay, stubble. For he immediately adds: "The fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." The fire then shall prove, not the work of one of them only, but of both. Now the trial of adversity is a kind of fire which is plainly spoken of in another place: "The furnace proves the potter's vessels: and the furnace of adversity just men. [Sirach 27:5]" And this fire does in the course of this life act exactly in the way the apostle says. If it come into contact with two believers, one "caring for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord," [1 Corinthians 7:32] that is, building upon Christ the foundation, gold, silver, precious stones; the other "caring for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife," [1 Corinthians 7:33] that is, building upon the same foundation wood, hay, stubble—the work of the former is not burned, because he has not given his love to things whose loss can cause him grief; but the work of the latter is burned, because things that are enjoyed with desire cannot be lost without pain. But since, by our supposition, even the latter prefers to lose these things rather than to lose Christ, and since he does not desert Christ out of fear of losing them, though he is grieved when he does lose them, he is saved, but it is so as by fire; because the grief for what he loved and has lost burns him. But it does not subvert nor consume him; for he is protected by his immoveable and incorruptible foundation.
- Augustine, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapter 68 (written about A.D. 421-22)

Notice that Augustine explicitly refers this fire to the fire that "in the course of this life" tries men through various temptations. Whether or not we agree with Augustine's analysis of the text, it is plain that Augustine did not agree with Steve Ray (perhaps because the concept of "Purgatory" lay yet uninvented - perhaps because the text so clearly indicates that the work of every man is tested by this fire - we need not decide that matter here).

And this is not the only time Augustine discusses the matter, for he says again:
We shall then ascertain who it is who can be saved by fire, if we first discover what it is to have Christ for a foundation. And this we may very readily learn from the image itself. In a building the foundation is first. Whoever, then, has Christ in his heart, so that no earthly or temporal things— not even those that are legitimate and allowed— are preferred to Him, has Christ as a foundation. But if these things be preferred, then even though a man seem to have faith in Christ, yet Christ is not the foundation to that man; and much more if he, in contempt of wholesome precepts, seek forbidden gratifications, is he clearly convicted of putting Christ not first but last, since he has despised Him as his ruler, and has preferred to fulfill his own wicked lusts, in contempt of Christ's commands and allowances. Accordingly, if any Christian man loves a harlot, and, attaching himself to her, becomes one body, he has not now Christ for a foundation. But if any one loves his own wife, and loves her as Christ would have him love her, who can doubt that he has Christ for a foundation? But if he loves her in the world's fashion, carnally, as the disease of lust prompts him, and as the Gentiles love who know not God, even this the apostle, or rather Christ by the apostle, allows as a venial fault. And therefore even such a man may have Christ for a foundation. For so long as he does not prefer such an affection or pleasure to Christ, Christ is his foundation, though on it he builds wood, hay, stubble; and therefore he shall be saved as by fire. For the fire of affliction shall burn such luxurious pleasures and earthly loves, though they be not damnable, because enjoyed in lawful wedlock. And of this fire the fuel is bereavement, and all those calamities which consume these joys. Consequently the superstructure will be loss to him who has built it, for he shall not retain it, but shall be agonized by the loss of those things in the enjoyment of which he found pleasure. But by this fire he shall be saved through virtue of the foundation, because even if a persecutor demanded whether he would retain Christ or these things, he would prefer Christ. Would you hear, in the apostle's own words, who he is who builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones? "He that is unmarried," he says, "cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord." [1 Corinthians 7:32] Would you hear who he is that builds wood, hay, stubble? But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. [1 Corinthians 7:33] "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it,"— the day, no doubt, of tribulation— "because," says he, "it shall be revealed by fire." [1 Corinthians 3:13] He calls tribulation fire, just as it is elsewhere said, "The furnace proves the vessels of the potter, and the trial of affliction righteous men." [Sirach 27:5] And "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide"— for a man's care for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord, abides— "which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward,"— that is, he shall reap the fruit of his care. "But if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss,"— for what he loved he shall not retain:— "but he himself shall be saved,"— for no tribulation shall have moved him from that stable foundation—"yet so as by fire;" [1 Corinthians 3:14-15] for that which he possessed with the sweetness of love he does not lose without the sharp sting of pain. Here, then, as seems to me, we have a fire which destroys neither, but enriches the one, brings loss to the other, proves both.
- Augustine, City of God, Book 21, Chapter 26 [City of God was written from A.D. 413-427]

You'll notice that both of these comments from Augustine are from about the same time, toward the end of his life (he died A.D. 430). In both cases, Augustine uses essentially the same argument about this passage. And we can see, from City of God, what the opinion was of those whom Augustine opposed:
There are some, too, who found upon the expression of Scripture, "He that endures to the end shall be saved," [Matthew 24:13] and who promise salvation only to those who continue in the Catholic Church; and though such persons have lived badly, yet, say they, they shall be saved as by fire through virtue of the foundation of which the apostle says, "For other foundation has no man laid than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day of the Lord shall declare it, for it shall be revealed by fire; and each man's work shall be proved of what sort it is. If any man's work shall endure which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. But if any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire." [1 Corinthians 3:11-15] They say, accordingly, that the Catholic Christian, no matter what his life be, has Christ as his foundation, while this foundation is not possessed by any heresy which is separated from the unity of His body. And therefore, through virtue of this foundation, even though the Catholic Christian by the inconsistency of his life has been as one building up wood, hay, stubble, upon it, they believe that he shall be saved by fire, in other words, that he shall be delivered after tasting the pain of that fire to which the wicked shall be condemned at the last judgment.
- Augustine, City of God, Book 21, Chapter 21

Notice that this position that Augustine is opposing is the idea of some Christians being saved after tasting the pain of hellfire for a short time. Now, granted that's not exactly Purgatory, but you'll notice that Augustine's response is not to say that the believers face the fire of Purgatory rather than the fire of hell. Instead he refers this passage to the fire of the tribulations of this life. It is true that Augustine leaves open the possibility of a general posthumous fire through which all men pass:
But if it be said that in the interval of time between the death of this body and that last day of judgment and retribution which shall follow the resurrection, the bodies of the dead shall be exposed to a fire of such a nature that it shall not affect those who have not in this life indulged in such pleasures and pursuits as shall be consumed like wood, hay, stubble, but shall affect those others who have carried with them structures of that kind; if it be said that such worldliness, being venial, shall be consumed in the fire of tribulation either here only, or here and hereafter both, or here that it may not be hereafter—this I do not contradict, because possibly it is true.
- Augustine, City of God, Book 21, Chapter 26

Notice the important differences even between this possibility and Purgatory: (1) the bodies (not the souls) of the dead are exposed to this fire and (2) all of the elect are exposed to the fire (not only those who need purgation). Furthermore, while Augustine says that such may "possibly" be true, he certainly does not affirm that it is true, or say that he believes it to be true.

However, Steve Ray wants to insist that to be in Purgatory is to be present with the Lord. Steve writes:

Third, Purgatory is not “away from the Lord” strictly speaking. Those in Purgatory—whether it is a place or a state of transition—are not apart from the Lord. In fact, it is the love of God that is purifying them. I have always said that Purgatory is like the front porch of heaven. Those who are in Purgatory know they have arrived! But you can read more about that in my article on Purgatory here.

So, don’t let someone trick you with the old “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” argument. It is fallacious and deceptive. Again, the Catholic Church is correct.
Although Mr. Ray loves to claim that the argument from Scripture against Rome's false doctrine of Purgatory is "fallacious and deceptive," one should immediately see that Mr. Ray himself is here employing a fallacious and deceptive argument. The love of God is with believers at all times. Indeed, Scripture teaches us that "Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)

That means that we have the love of God right now, here on Earth. Consequently, the kind of "present with the Lord" that Paul is talking about cannot possibly have to do with experiencing the love of God, for we experience the love of God now. It has to do, instead, with a presence of location. Christ is physically in heaven now, and we will join him there when we die. Purgatory is not where Christ is, nor should we believe the pushers of transubstantiation who tell us "Lo, here is Christ" in the priest's hands "or, lo, he is there" in the monstrance (quite the opposite, "And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:" Mark 13:21). Instead, Christ is seated at the right hand of God the Father (1 Peter 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.), from whence he will come (John 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. ) to judge the world (Psalm 96:13 Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.) at the last day (John 12:48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.).

Mr. Ray states that he has always said "Purgatory is like the front porch of heaven." However, Thomas Aquinas (considered a doctor in the Roman Catholic church - and arguably her foremost theologian) states:
Nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory, nor is it possible to offer convincing arguments on this question. It is probable, however, and more in keeping with the statements ofholy men and the revelations made to many, that there is a twofold place of Purgatory. One, according to the common law; and thus the place of Purgatory is situated below and in proximity to hell, so that it is the same fire which torments the damned in hell and cleanses the just in Purgatory; although the damned being lower in merit, are to be consigned to a lower place. Another place of Purgatory is according to dispensation: and thus sometimes, as we read, some are punished in various places, either that the living may learn, or that the dead may be succored, seeing that their punishment being made known to the living may be mitigated through the prayers of the Church.

Some say, however, that according to the common law the place of Purgatory is where man sins. This does not seem probable, since a man may be punished at the same time for sins committed in various places. And others say that according to the common law they are punished above us, because they are between us and God, as regards their state. But this is of no account, for they are not punished for being above us, but for that which is lowest in them, namely sin.
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Appendix II (Purgatory), Article 2

By "situation" Thomas means the place where Purgatory is situated, that is, its location. Notice that the first option that Thomas gives is one that represents the teaching that Augustine opposed (namely that the elect taste the fires of hell). The second option that Thomas gives is more broad, but notice that Thomas rules out the possibility that the place of Purgatory is above us, as it would be if it were the front porch of heaven. So while the magisterium of Ray may teach that Purgatory is the front porch of heaven, the traditional teaching in Romanism is that Purgatory is a place of immense suffering, probably adjacent to hell.

But that's not quite the end. Ray ends his article by providing a caption for one of the pictures that decorate his article. The caption reads:
(Piccture: Purgatory is a place of mercy; it is a place of joy for having arrived.)
(error in original)

Ray's warm and fuzzy view of purgatory as a place of mercy and joy are not what we would call the traditional view. Traditionally, purgatory is a place of strict justice and misery. The whole point of purgatory is that people have unexpiated guilt for their sins, which guilt is expiated through their suffering. It is only an expression of "mercy" and "joy" in that vicarious acts (alms, masses, and the like) can liberate the person without the person undergoing the full extent of the torture, and the torture is of finite duration, coordinate with the amount of sin that is to be purged. And whatever else Purgatory may be, it is supposed to be a place of transition, not arrival. It is not designed (in Romanist theology) as a destination in itself, but as a means to the end of heaven.

If, as Scripture teaches us, "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous" (Hebrews 12:11) and if Purgatory is indeed a place of chastening (as the Romanists so frequently allege) then it follows that Purgatory is not a place of joy but of grief. Why does Mr. Ray oppose both the implications of Scripture and the traditional view of his own church? The answer to that question requires speculation.

Possibly, Mr. Ray realizes that the idea of God torturing those he loves after their death is not a doctrine that makes any sense. Perhaps Mr. Ray thinks that the view of Purgatory as a horrible place - a view that helped folks like Tetzel fund papal luxury in the middle ages - is something that is repulsive and repugnant to the folks who Mr. Ray is attempting to convert to Romanism.

Dr. White recently debated Tim Staples on the subject of Purgatory, and particularly touching on the discussion in 1 Corinthians 3, that we've analyzed above (link to mp3 of the debate). I had the opportunity to ask a question (at the very end of the question-answer period). The question I asked Mr. Staples was: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?" (Romans 8:33-34) I would ask Mr. Ray the same question.

God justifies the elect. No one is able to lay anything to their charge - not "mortal sins" and not "venial sins." No one is able to condemn the elect to suffering Purgatory because they are justified by Christ's righteousness. It is God who justifies - who is the judge that sentences men to Purgatory?

- TurretinFan

Monday, March 01, 2010

Is 1 John 5:10 Parallel and Relevant to 1 John 5:1?

The following video comes from Dr. James White addressing the question of whether 1 John 5:10 is parallel to and relevant to 1 John 5:1, particularly with respect to the issue of regeneration and faith.
Also of interest, Dr. White has a presentation specifically on 1 John 5:1, which provides the main argument regarding 1 John 5:1:

Unloading 17 More Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 17/17

Steve Ray has a list of more than 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). I originally planned to respond to just 35 of them, but the series seems to have been of interest, so in this extension, I'm responding to three more numbered questions in his list, plus fourteen "bonus questions" that take the form "Where does the Bible say ... ." I'm trying to provide the answers in the same common format as the original series, for easy reference. This is number 17/17.

Where does the Bible . . .
. . . tell us Jesus Christ is of the same substance of Divinity as God the Father?

Simple Answer(s):

1) The use of the exact phrase of "substance of Divinity" is not found in Scripture.

2) There are many verses that prove that Jesus is God (in the sense of being the only Lord God). One of the more obvious examples is the following:

Jude 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Important Qualification(s):

There are many treatises that examine this important Scriptural doctrine in much greater depth. I've tried to give a simple and concise answer, but many writers from ancient times down to modern times, have given much greater and more comprehensive exegeses of Scripture to thoroughly demonstrate this same truth.

- TurretinFan

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unloading 17 More Loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" 16/17

Steve Ray has a list of more than 35 loaded Questions for "Bible Christians" (quotation marks his)(link to the whole list). I originally planned to respond to just 35 of them, but the series seems to have been of interest, so in this extension, I'm responding to three more numbered questions in his list, plus fourteen "bonus questions" that take the form "Where does the Bible say ... ." I'm trying to provide the answers in the same common format as the original series, for easy reference. This is number 16/17.

Where does the Bible . . .
. . . that Protestants can have an invisible unity when Jesus expected a visible unity to be seen by the world (see John 17)?

Simple Answer(s):

1) John 17 says nothing about denominational unity.

2) The unity John 17 is talking about is a unity of love.

3) While love itself is invisible, that love exists among "Protestants" and is seen by the world.

Important Qualification(s):

The ultimate fulfillment of Christ's prayers in John 17 will be fulfilled in heaven. There are shortcomings of love on earth, and sometimes those shortcomings can be expressed denominationally. That is very sad, and "Protestants" should work to remedy those shortcomings. Nevertheless, the many fraternal relations that exist among denominations help to demonstrate that denominational boundaries do not necessitate any lack of love.

See also the more detailed discussion of John 17 at the following link: (link).

- TurretinFan