Friday, December 30, 2011

Hubner's Recommended Reading

My friend Jamin Hubner has posted a list of books (from "both sides") regarding, in his terms, "Economics and Christian Zionism."  Feel free to check out the list.  He makes one remark that I'll address and let the rest pass: "they will at least pause when Tur and Hays’ [sic] essentially point a finger and say “propaganda” – especially as one reads all sides ... ."  Some of these authors (for example, Alan Dershowitz) would be a better choice as a source when accusing Israel of "atrocities" as Hubner manages to do twice in this post.  He's a more credible source on those issues than regular Sojourner's contributor, Burge, who Hubner lumps in with O. Palmer Robertson.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Response to Cursilista Regarding Church History

Cursilista wrote:
The one thing that bugs me is that the question I would ask is for a protestant explanation of how did Christianity move forward through time after Christ died. 

We have a pretty clear answer to that.  Read the book of Acts.  It says zero about a Roman-centered Christianity.  Rome is part of Paul's mission field, it's not the locus of a papacy.  We see churches being planted all over the world, wherever Paul and other missionaries go.

Cursilista continued:
Give an explanation of what form of organization did Christianity take that survived since the time of Christ to today. 
The form of the organization was initially elders in every city (Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:), accompanied by deacons (Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:). The terms bishop and elder were originally synonymous.

Eventually, a monarchical episcopate emerged, in which one of the elders became designated as "the" bishop.  Later, certain bishops gained a preeminence over others, particularly in cities that were important in the Roman empire.  I could go on, and recite the tale of the development of a variety of different organizational forms that have existed from ancient times down to modern times, but suffice to say that there have been a significant number of different organizational forms that have existed, both in ancient times and - of course - in modern times.

Cursilista continued:
Christ said that his church would not be overcome by the gates of hell. Satan would not prevail over his church, therefore Christ's church had to have existed since his death to current time and will continue to exist forever. 

This is a non sequitur, premised on a misunderstanding of what Christ said. 

First of all, the organizational form of the apostolic era church (with a plurality of elders accompanied by deacons in every city) was quite not carefully maintained.  Even historians within the Roman communion (such as Robert Eno and Francis Sullivan) acknowledge this fact. 

Second, the apostasy of individual churches (even very many of them) does not entail victory of Satan over Christ's church.  Recall that during the time of the Old Testament, it seemed to God's prophet Elisha that he was the last follower of God on earth, but God replied that there were 7000 others.  Thus, even if for a few years - or even a few hundred years - there were only 7000 scattered followers of Christ, it would be Satan's error to think he had the victory over the church.

We need not, however, assume that apostasy was so complete that there were only 7000 believers.  Certainly there were many errors that crept into the churches, even from a very early time.  Nevertheless, salvation is not obtained by having perfect doctrines or perfect practices, but rather by trusting in Christ alone for salvation.

Third, the reference to the gates of hell is a reference to death, not Satan.  Recall that Wisdom 16:13 states: "For thou hast power of life and death: thou leadest to the gates of hell, and bringest up again."  The promise that Jesus is making in Matthew 16 is not some kind of victory in spiritual defense against Satan (after all, in warfare gates are themselves defensive not offensive) but rather victory over death: resurrection.  The "church" that Christ is talking about here is all believers.  As Christ explains: "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.  ... No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  ... Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:39, 40, 44, and 54)

Cursilista continued: 
So name that church, name the leaders of that church, show a succession of those leaders, there is a 2000 yr. span of time which has to be accounted for. 

This request proceeds from the faulty premises identified above.  Christ does not promise that every apostle would be faithful, much less that those who came after them would be faithful.  The head of Christ's church is one: Christ, as it is written: "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church," (Ephesians 1:22), "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."  (Ephesians 5:23), "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18).

It is true that Christ died, but Christ was raised again on the third day and continues to live even until this day.  So, the two thousand year time span is fully accounted for.

Moreover, while Christ is bodily absent from us, he has provided us with both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we can learn what we need to believe to be saved from them.  The churches are an aid to that, but they are (and must be) subordinate to both.

Cursilista wrote:
What churches did the Apostles start. They should still be around today. 
Why would one assume such a thing?  Look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation (sorry, Rome didn't make that list).  There is no promise to those churches, which were started in the apostolic era that they would endure forever, or that they would endure without apostasy.  Indeed, can you find those seven churches now?

Cursilista continued:
For 1500 years, my only knowledge of such a Christian church is the Catholic Church. 

There are other churches that claim an ancient lineage.  The Eastern Orthodox churches are the most visible alternative, but there are others as well - such as the Copts in Egypt and the Ethiopian Orthodox.  The fact that a church claims an ancient lineage does not demonstrate that the church teaches what the apostles taught.  We can know what the apostles taught from the Scriptures, and we can compare the teachings of churches like Rome to those teachings to see whether they have maintained or departed from the apostolic faith.

Moreover, Rome's claims to being ancient are easily challenged.  Events like the Council of Constance or the move from election by the people of Rome to election by the Cardinals suggest that the modern papacy is disconnected from the older Roman bishoprics.  The fact that men have obtained the papacy by simony similarly negate the idea that somehow the Roman bishopric has been maintained against Satan's attacks.  Do we even need to mention mention men like Julius III and Alexander VI who occupied the papacy but demonstrated by their way of life that they were not Christians?

Cursilista wrote:
The protestant reformation took place in the early 1500’s. 
That's a typical sociological date.  However, of course, at the time Luther was treated as being a continuation of what Huss (1369-1415) and Wycliffe (1328-1384) had started before him, in terms of opposing Rome.  And we could back even prior to Wycliffe to the Waldensians, who trace their roots to Peter Waldo (1140-1218).  Of course, this is only in the West.  An East-West division occurred in 1054.  So, while the Protestant Reformation was a very notable and important event, it's more of a continuation of lots of people disagreeing with the bishop of Rome, and the bishop of Rome (at least from the 11th century) acting as an autocrat (see the power struggle between Emperor Henry IV and the pope of his day, for example).

Cursilista continued:
The protestants need to fill in a 1500 yr. gap as to what was Christ's church, other than the catholic church, here on earth for those 1500 yrs. If they cannot, then, they have to admit that the Catholic church is the church that was established by Christ. If Christ said he church would endure forever then, either his church started at Pentecost and continues to today or Jesus waited 1500 yrs. to start his church during the protestant reformation. The later proposition is hard to believe.
Mostly, this is already addressed above.  The faulty presupposition behind this argument is that Christ came to establish a single denomination.  Instead, the rock upon which Christ's church is built is a confession of faith in Christ alone ("Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God").  That is to say, "the church" is whoever trusts in Christ alone for salvation.  It's not an organization with a headquarters in Rome, ruled by men in fancy clothes who sit on thrones.

Cursilista again:
Also in this debate, my two cents would be to ask the question and make this supposition . Is god a god of order or disorder. In order to organize men, there needs to be a committee and a head of that committee that controls the debate with authority. 

Cursilista assumes too much. In the Old Testament era, there was no pope, yet the same God ruled his people then.  Now, we have Christ as the head of our church, and we have his official word, the Scriptures, to guide and rule us.  That, however, is not enough for some, it seems.

Cursilista wrote:
When Jesus left this earth , he left his church in the hands of the apostles, humans, his committee, to organize and keep intact all of his teachings. 
Actually, when Jesus left, he sent the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles and evangelists to write Holy Scripture. 

Cursilista continued:
Some of those teachings were not written down, so the bible says, because, all that Jesus taught his apostles couldn’t be written down, it would fill up the earth with books. 
Cursilista may have misunderstood the verse in question, but let us suppose that not all of Jesus' teachings were included in the Bible.  If so, how could we reliably know what those other teachings were?  We would have to examine the historical record to see what else the apostles were teaching, beside those things that were included in Scripture.  But when we examine the historical record, we don't see the distinctively Roman teachings (like papal infallibility, the bodily assumption of Mary, or the immaculate conception) being taught in the earliest period.

Moreover, the distinctively Roman dogmas are not that hard to put into book form.  So, it is not the case that these were simply not included because the amount of dogma was too much for the New Testament to fit it all.  Indeed, certain Roman advocates attempt to allege that Rome's distinctive dogmas actually are found in Scripture.

On top of that, we see that the early Christians plainly did not hold to things like papal infallibility.  While many people say nice things about Rome, and many people even seek the wisdom or authority of the bishop of Rome at various times in the patristic era, where does anyone argue that the bishop of Rome is infallible?  It's absurd to think that such a doctrine is apostolic or from Christ himself, yet we see people try to argue that today.

Cursilista again:
Therefore, The apostles with someone as the , lets call it chairman of the board of the committee, was the governing authority of the faith. 

The book of Acts does not reflect this.  On the contrary, the seeming "chairman" of the council described in Acts 15 is James, not Peter (who was living in Antioch or Samaria at that time, not Rome), and certainly not Linus (who is not even mentioned).  Likewise, as noted above, Rome's own historians dispute the idea the Roman papacy is something that was from the beginning.

Cursilista concluded: 
How else would the faith survive intact if not for some form of human organizational body in place to keep the teachings intact and without error or human interpretation to twist the teachings to cultural changes as time went by.
The answer should be obvious: Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit preserve and persuade us of the apostolic faith.  There is no promise all believers will have beliefs totally free from error.  But our faith does not depend an organization of men or a particular denomination of believers.


A Christmas Message from the Head of the Church of England

I set aside my views of patriarchy and the appropriate relation of church and state to praise the evangelical tone of this message from one of the last outspoken Christian monarchs.

Long live her royal majesty, Queen Elizabeth II!


A Trivium of Responses to Jamin

Let's tackle Jamin's recent post in three parts, which we will style rhetoric, grammar, and logic.  Those familiar with classical education will catch the allusion.   The labels don't perfectly fit, but we'll shoe-horn the arguments into those labels.  We'll also take them out of the traditional order, addressing Jamin's rhetoric first (but immediately I will start abusing my outline by using rhetoric in a more conventional sense).


Jamin begins his post by what appears to be an appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam fallacy).   He claims he will try to clarify the record "without repeating Tur’s condescending tone ... ." Of course, that doesn't stop him from using a form of "absurd" and "silly" twice each in his post as a substitute for an argument.  But leaving aside any hypocrisy of the tone complaint, the tone of my criticisms of Jamin is totally irrelevant to the truth of the criticisms.  Moreover, in this case, Jamin sounds like the parricide who seeks the court's mercy because he's now an orphan.  He's complaining about something he brought on himself.

As for the tone, what exactly does Jamin want the tone of my criticism to be?  He gets upset when Steve Hays lampoons him with sharp criticism and he gets upset when I criticize him "condescendingly".  Is there some tone of criticism that Jamin would accept?

I recognize that a few people who - like myself - appreciate and value Jamin and Jamin's effort may get upset that my criticism is now taking a more sharp turn.  And, they may rightly point out that Jamin's ability (or lack thereof) to take criticism is not relevant to the validity of arguments.

And that's mostly true.  Whether Jamin is dispassionate rock or a crybaby (he's not at either extreme) is irrelevant to whether his conclusions follow from his premises.  On the other hand, Jamin seems to want to make it an issue by bringing it up from the very outset of the post.  So, he made it an issue - we're just responding.


Except that these points seem rather fundamental, they do not really fit the "grammar" tag well, as they have little to do with the mechanics of language.  Perhaps you could say that they have to do with the mechanics of knowledge, but that might seem a stretch.

Jamin asks:
But seriously, can you imagine if our judgments on people’s character and the reliability of their work was based solely on the reading of other people‘s opinions of them? 
Yes, that is one reason why people write book reviews, because other people wish to form judgments solely based on reading other people's opinions of the work, without having to read the work themselves.  We have an expression, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but people quite often do.

Jamin again:
Take for example Dr. James White and his work. Could you imagine the kind of picture of his work and character that would emerge if all I were to read were what other people online wrote?
Yes, I can imagine that. Dr. White has both critics and fans on-line.  The critics criticize, the fans praise.  In point of fact, some of Dr. White's books have reviews/endorsements printed on the outside cover for the very purpose of leading people to form a (positive) conclusion about what Dr. White wrote, so that they will be inclined to purchase and/or read the book.

Jamin himself has three posts under his "book review" tag on his blog, in which he has reviewed five books (three in one post).  So, you might think he'd understand the concept of people forming judgments about books based solely on reviews.  It's not as though reading any of those reviews intellectually commits the reader to subsequently buying and reading the work.  And if one does not have such an intellectual commitment, then it follows that people can and do (in many cases) form conclusions based solely on reviews.


One might think "logic" would better fit my identification of Jamin's fallacy above.  However, I have selected the following points for the "logic" tag, because they deal with how Jamin actually addresses the substance of the argument regarding his use of sources.

As for the problem with Jamin's sources (something that Steve Hays has dogged him about for a while), Jamin gets the closest yet to actually dealing with what Steve has presented.  Don't get your hopes too high, though, for Jamin admits: "I haven’t addressed any of the reviews Steve proffered ... ." 

Jamin, however, offers several reasons, justifications, or excuses for why he hasn't addressed any of the reviews Steve proffered.

1) Steve's Thesis "is absurd"

Jamin begins his argument by asserting that Steve's contention (he often seems to attribute that contention to me, but we'll leave that problem aside for now) that Jamin's source is essentially propaganda for Hamas is "absurd."

He claims that it is absurd because "The book is little more than a good Bible study on “Israel” (!), with some middle-eastern history on the side ... " (emphasis and exclamation point in the original)  How that's supposed to render a propaganda thesis "absurd" is not explained.  Such a book falls within the genre of books that a Hamas' propagandist (even a knowing, intentional one, though that wasn't Steve's claim) would produce.

Jamin further supports his claim by vouching for the history in the book: "the vast majority of which is accurate by other historians’ (Israeli!) accounts ... ."  Jamin seems here to be grasping the concept of source bias.  Had he cited to the Israeli accounts, Steve wouldn't be able to allege source bias.  As for Jamin's vouch, that rests on his credibility.

As for whether the book is a "good" study, we simply are given Jamin's own vouching for the matter.

2) "Anyone who has read the book knows that."

Then one would expect that all the on-line reviews would reflect that, no?  I mean, assuming those reviewers read the book.  Otherwise, this just seems like Jamin vouching more dogmatically.

3) "But that’s just the problem: Tur and Hays haven’t read it, don’t intend to, and remain at the mercy of online reviewers"

Of course, it is totally irrelevant to the criticism that Jamin is receiving whether or not Steve or I read the book.  Neither Steve's arguments nor my criticism require such a premise.  Jamin is fallaciously reasoning when he insists that "the problem" is that his critics haven't read the book he cites.

Even Jamin's own review of the book suggests that middle eastern history is just a side topic of the book, and that some unspecified portion of that history is not accurate according to other historians (perhaps the portion cited by Jamin, perhaps some other portion, we're not told).

Most importantly, though, whether or not Jamin's source is biased is true whether or not Steve or I ever read the book, much less whether we intend to read the book.  Do I have to read "the Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to know that it is an anti-Semitic propaganda piece?  Do I have to intend to do so?  Certainly not.

Jamin knows that, he's just not reasoning logically.

4) "online reviewers – certainly many who are as biased as Burge or anyone else"

Huh?  So, is Burge biased or not?  Are his critics biased or not?  Is no one biased?  This seems to be an attempted "your mother is too" argument without the actual support for the assertion about your mother.  In other words, Jamin does not identify any particular bias of any particular online (or offline) reviewer, but simply waves his hands.

5) "The burden of proof is to demonstrate that so-called pro-Hamas’ propaganda actually is pro-Hamas propaganda – if that’s what all of this is really about."

Steve already offered evidence in support of that contention.  That shifts the burden back to Jamin to revitalize his source by addressing the evidence (something Jamin admits he has refused to do).  While Steve cannot just claim that Jamin's source is biased, Steve didn't just claim - he also provided supporting evidence.

6) "For me, it’s obviously more than that, esp. since I know that Burge’s assertions can/could have been substantiated by a number of other sources, as Burge says nothing profoundly new in the larger scheme of things."

a) That's a demonstration of why it was not particularly wise to cite Burge for this particular point.  Jamin didn't have to cite him for that point, and Burge isn't really "the authority" on that point.  As Jamin seems to concede above, middle east history wasn't even the focal point of Burge's book.

b) Jamin's attempt to get past this issue would proceed a lot more smoothly if he would just say to to Steve, "You're right - that was a bad source for that point.  However, here is a good source for that point."  Then Steve would have nothing left except to drag up a mistake that Jamin has already acknowledged.  I can understand Jamin's desire to deal with other topics, but he keeps posting about this one, leading to reply posts.

7) "It’s about the truth of what I was discussing in that original article the first place: the atrocities behind and consequences of the establishment of Israel and that the Israel of today is the Israel of the OT"

No doubt that is the subject Jamin would prefer to discuss, rather than whether his source was bad a source, but see above.

8) "Tur says “people are capable of knowing what an author’s intention was without having read the original book.” Then perhaps Tur should inform us about what Burge’s intention really is in Whose Land?"

Of course, this is a non sequitur.  Just because it is true that in general one can know an author's intention without having read the original book does not mean that I personally know it in every case or in any particular case.  Also, see below.

9) "if not simply to briefly portray middle-eastern conflict from the eyes of Palestinians (that’s primarily a geographical group, not ethnic group) and examine what Scripture has to say about “Israel.”"

I'm not sure if Jamin knows this, but we now have Jamin's thesis conveyed to us about the author's intention (without us having to read the book).  That supports my contention that people are capable of knowing what an author's intention was without having read the original.

10) "If there is some hidden pro-terrorist agenda behind this Wheaton NT professor’s work that we should know about, then perhaps that should be demonstrated before going any further."

a) "Hidden pro-terrorist agenda" puts too intentional a turn on the matter.
b) But Steve has already provided the demonstration that Jamin has refused to address.
c) Given that Steve has already proffered evidence and Jamin refuses to address it, it's disingenuous for Jamin to continue to demand demonstration.

11) "I haven’t addressed any of the reviews Steve proffered because it’s entirely unnecessary: I’ve read the book!"

Jamin's confused.  Reading the reviews might be unnecessary if one has already read the book.  However, if the reviews are presented as the evidence that the book is biased, and if Jamin wants to maintain that the book is not biased, based on more than just his personal vouching, he needs to address the evidence.

Obviously, Jamin is free to vouch for the book himself (as he seems to be doing over and over again), but simply vouching for the book himself isn't really addressing the opposing reviews.

12) "I know what’s in it. I don’t have to consult secondary sources on the work since I’m one to produce them."

This is just a continuation of the same confusion already addressed at (11).

13) "Nevertheless, it is certainly possible that other people see things that slip my attention and expertise."

Expertise?  In any event, this is just a concession that reading of the reviews might be helpful even to a person who read the book.  However, this line of thought is confused, as explained at (11).

14) "But do any of these “reviews” (which I have looked at) really establish through adequate facts and documentation that this college professor is intentionally helping terrorists ... through his work or otherwise?"

a) Jamin adds in a layer of intentionality and specific intentionality that's not really necessary (As Steve explained: "Obviously Burge doesn't see it that way. That's the nature of dupery. If you knew you were being duped, you wouldn't be a dupe.").  And Steve further suggests just looking at Burge's recent blog posts (link) with topics like "Five Frustrations When You Debate Israel and the Palestinians" and "When Will 3.5 Million Palestinians Get Their Chance For Freedom?" Burge (or whoever titles his blog posts) does not seem to try to present himself as an unbiased source on the matter.

b) More importantly, until Jamin actually addresses the reviews, we won't have a counter-argument as to why they fall short of meeting the standard that is necessary (whether the standard is that Burge is an unwitting or intentional propagandist for Hamas).

15) "That’s why I ignored this tangent on sources and sought to address the underlying presuppositions behind Hays’ violent reaction by asking him 3 simple questions, all three of which Hays (to my knowledge) has not to this day answered himself."

a) Why on earth should Hays answer three admittedly irrelevant questions?  This is a gigantic red herring.

b) What Jamin has actually done is to impugn Steve's motive.  But, of course, Steve's motives are not relevant to the truth of Steve's arguments.  Whether Steve is an evil "Zionist" or not does not make his criticism of Jamin's sources true or false.

16) "I wanted to get past the silly (and I mean silly) assertions about Hamas shills, Britney Spears, man-crushes and Lord knows what else (recount some of it here) and hopefully have a meaningful discussion on something substantive."

a) Hays' raised an objection to a use of a source.  It seems like Jamin has three options: (1) to address the criticism by rebutting the source; (2) to withdraw the source; or (3) to ignore the criticism.  But to respond to the criticism by trying to force the critic to talk about something else is just irrational.

b) Calling the criticism he receives "silly" isn't really a substitute for an argument as to why it is silly.  Steve's lampoon regarding the overly sympathetic fan of Britney Spears may well have been over the top, but that is the nature of lampoons.

17) "But it has been clear that anything but that will happen – whether Tur’s mockery or Hays’ absurd comparison of Dr. White to Norman Geisler."

Hubner would rather discuss "anything but" Hubner's mistakes.  We get that.  That's totally natural.  However, that doesn't justify styling criticism "mockery" and "absurd."  The comparison of Dr. White to Dr. Geisler was just that neither seems to hold their protege accountable.  As Steve's post put it: "Geisler syndrome is when a mentor automatically covers for his protégé"  As Steve's latest comment states: "Jamin continues to suffer from lack of responsible mentoring."  That comparison could be made absurd by suggesting that Jamin's use of sources is the moral equivalent of Caner's behavior, but Steve did not make that suggestion.  Perhaps Dr. White took it that way, which would be unfortunate, but if you carefully read Steve's post (as Dr. White himself suggested) it becomes clear what Steve's very narrow criticism was.  Namely: "Because Caner isn’t White’s own protégé, White can clearly see the problem with Geisler. But because Hubner is White’s protégé, he lacks the same objectivity in that case."  Incidentally, you'll find me disagreeing with some of Steve's points in the comment box of that post.  Moreover, whether or not Steve's comparison is correct is different from whether or not it is absurd.

18) "How unfortunate, indeed, that any of this has to be written."

You might think that Hays had a gun to Hubner's head, forcing him to double down on his mistakes instead of retracting them.  Or even forcing Hubner to respond to the criticism of his position.  That's not the case.  Ultimately, "this" gets written because Hubner doesn't want to just say, "Sorry, it was a bad source.  However, the same points can be documented from Israeli sources X, Y, and Z."  "This" gets written because (apparently) Hubner wants to write about it.

19) "Oh, and I did just notice that this ‘Hamas Shill’ and Hamas ‘propagandist’ just wrote a new book endorsed by Craig Blomberg, Marshall, Longenecker and others"

Ironically, those are the concluding words of Jamin's post.  I'm not sure whether the tone police will be asking for his badge and gun.

More significantly, of course, he's referring us to the endorsement/review of the book by three men, so we can form a judgment about the author without having to have read the book, conceding the very point he disputes above.


Where can we go from here?  It's up to Jamin.  He can continue to complain that he's getting criticized, he can retract, he can address the evidence Steve has presented, or he can just let it go.  I don't really see what point there would be in my continued involvement in the discussion, unless - of course - Jamin drags me back into the discussion of Jamin.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Idolatry Defined

"IDOL, 'i-dol [1 Kings xv. 13], IDOLATRY. [Acts xvii. 16.] Whatever receives the worship which is due only to God is an idol. In a figurative sense the word denotes anything which draws the affections from God [Col. iii. 5]; and, in a restricted sense, it denotes the visible image or figure to which religious worship is paid [Deut. xxix. 17.] Idolatry consists (1) In worshipping as the true God some other person or thing besides Jehovah; and (2) Worshipping the true God under some image, as the golden calf. [Exod. xxxii. 4, 5.]
Found in Beeton's Bible dictionary (1870). Also found in A Biblical Cyclopædia (1868), The Union Bible Dictionary (1839), Schaff's Dictionary of the Bible (1880) and The Student's Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1881).

Why Pray to Anyone Else?

God declares:

Hosea 13:4  Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.

Mary declares:

Luke 1:47  And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

The angel declares:

Luke 2:11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And remember what Jesus himself taught us about how to pray:

Luke 11:2  And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, ...

So, my dear friends, why entreat Mary to save you?

Why utter this kind of prayer?  "O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke thy most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying."

Why refer to her by the title, "Salvation of the Roman People" as did John Paul II?

Turn from this idolatry and serve God alone.

As Jesus rebuked Satan:

Matthew 4:10  Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Your service to Mary is an offense to God.  What better time to turn from Mary to Her Son than when men around the world are remembering Jesus birth?


Chrysostom and Vatican I

Back in 2007, James White posted the following quotation from John Chrysostom:

Having said to Peter, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonas, and of having promised to lay the foundation of the Church upon his confession; not long after He says, Get thee behind me, Satan. And elsewhere he said, Upon this rock. He did not say upon Peter for it is not upon the man, but upon his own faith that the church is built. And what is this faith? You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (In pentecosten 52.806.75 - 52.807.1)

A blogger interested in the Roman communion, going by the handle "The Idler" has posted a response to this quotation.

The Idler writes: "It is a difficult quote for a convert investigating the Catholic Church's view of the papacy to digest, as it seems upon first glance to outright deny the [Roman] Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:18-19." (bracketed insertion mine)

It's not just on first glance.  The quotation specifically denies "upon Peter" as the meaning, but instead insists that the passage refers to his faith.  Vatican I insists that Matthew 16:18 be understood to refer to Peter himself.

The Idler continues: "If we examine what else St. John Chrysostom says in his writings and homilies, we can tell that he does not agree with James White outside of that select passage."

Before we continue, it's important to note that there are not just two options "James White" and "Rome."  Certainly Chrysostom didn't see it that way (neither James White nor modern Rome was around in his day).  Thus, it is conceivably possible for Chrysostom both to disagree with James White and modern Rome.

The Idler then provides selections from Chrysostom's Homily 52 on Matthew.  In that homily Chrysostom uses the following flowery description of Peter: "What then saith the mouth of the apostles, Peter, the ever fervent, the leader of the apostolic choir? When all are asked, he answers."

He goes on to say, later in the homily:

Seest thou how He, His own self, leads Peter on to high thoughts of Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is Son of God by these two promises? For those things which are peculiar to God alone, (both to absolve sins, and to make the church incapable of overthrow in such assailing waves, and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any rock, while all the world is at war with him), these He promises Himself to give; as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him as “a brazen pillar, and as a wall;” but him to one nation only, this man in every part of the world.
I would fain inquire then of those who desire to lessen the dignity of the Son, which manner of gifts were greater, those which the Father gave to Peter, or those which the Son gave him? For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world; and to a mortal man He entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the keys; who extended the church to every part of the world, and declared it to be stronger than heaven. “For heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away.” How then is He less, who hath given such gifts, hath effected such things?

(Chrysostom, Homily 52 on Matthew)

The Idler argues:
It is important to note that surrounding the above words both before and after, Chrysostom makes a reference to the Arians, a heretical movement that denied the divinity of Christ, referring to them as "those who desire to lessen the dignity of the Son", and asks them "how then is He less, who has given such gifts, has effected such things?".  Therefore, it is no surprise in my mind that Chrysostom speaks of St. Peter's faith being the rock upon which the Church is built.  Simply put, he is showing that it is the faith in Christ as the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, that is of utmost import, and this profession of faith is why Christ placed St. Peter in the position of authority that he did.  In effect, he is countering the Arians with these passages.

There is nothing especially objectionable about this comment from the Idler.

The Idler then continues:
But see how he does not place the idea of the primacy of St. Peter aside, but rather calls him "the mouth of the apostles", "the leader of the apostlic choir", "the leader of them all, Peter", and "makes him a shepherd" that is to guide "every part of the world".  Further on, we see Chrysostom say, "For the Father gave to Peter the revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and that of Himself in every part of the world".
Of course, none of this contradicts the point that Chrysostom denies that Peter is the rock of Matthew 16.  It simply affirms that Peter is spokesman for the apostles in this instance, and someone who is to bring the gospel to the whole world.
In effect, Chrysostom is still holding St. Peter as the head of the apostles, but it is confession of faith that makes him this head.

He doesn't say "head of the apostles."  But even if he had said that (he does call him the "leader" after all), he can still say that without adopting Rome's view of Matthew 16:18, and certainly without adopting the papacy as a whole.  Certainly, prior to Paul's calling, Peter is one of the most prominent apostles.

Moreover, Chrysostom certainly doesn't suggest that Peter's confession of faith makes him the head.  We could discuss this in more detail, but Peter's confession makes him an example and representative of all Christians who make that same confession of faith.  But such a role is not the papacy.

Now, maybe I am blind but I simply do not see Chrysostom as somehow against the [Roman] Catholic notion of the primacy of St. Peter, his being the rock by virtue of his confession, and the like.  Obviously, Protestants will not agree with this, nor will the Eastern Orthodox.  But I cannot help but coming to the conclusion that I do. 
When Chrysostom says "He did not say upon Peter" he's denying Rome's current view of Matthew 16:18.  That does not mean that Chrysostom is adopting some other view in which he denies absolutely everything modern Rome says about Peter.  

At the same time the Idler should also be careful about getting too exuberant.  Even if Chrysostom thought that Peter was the chief apostle, or the leader of the apostles, that does not mean, imply, or suggest that Chrysostom thought that there was a perpetual office of "head of the church" to be filled by a mere man, or that the person filling such an office was the bishop of Rome.

As my friend, Pastor David King, wrote on a previous occasion:
Chrysostom was ordained by a bishop who was out of communion with Rome. In fact, for the better part of his ministerial life, Chrysostom was, technically speaking, out of communion with Rome. Therefore, he was ordained (as most Roman Catholics would argue if consistent) by someone outside the communion of Rome, also claiming to be part of the Catholic Church. Chrysostom was baptized (AD 369) and ordained to the diaconate (AD 380) by Meletius who at the time was out of communion with Rome, and Chrysostom was ordained to the priesthood (AD 386) by Flavian, whom Rome refused to recognize as bishop, and had been de facto excommunicated some years before the ordination of Chrysostom. According to the standard of Leo XIII's Satis Cognitum, both Meletius and Flavian were "outside the edifice," "separated from the fold," and "exiled from the Kingdom" inasmuch as they were not in communion with the Roman pontiff, who acknowledged only Paulinus as the rightful occupant of the Antiochene see.

By receiving baptism and ordination at their hands, Chrysostom was declaring that he recognized them as the proper bishops in succession from and under the jurisdiction of the see of Antioch. While preaching at his tomb, Chrysostom referenced Meletius as a saint, and said of Flavian that he was not only the successor of Peter, but also the rightful heir of Peter to the see of Antioch. Chrysostom could not have been clearer in his repudiation of Paulinus whom Rome had declared to be the bishop of Antioch. (See his Homily II in Migne PG 52:86).

In similar fashion, when contrary to the canons Paulinus consecrated Evagrius to be his successor upon his death in AD 389, Chrysostom actively declined to recognize him as such, and emphatically warned the people of Antioch against joining the body which recognized Evagrius as bishop.

Moreover, Chrysostom makes reference to this in a sermon delivered in AD 395...

I speak not of you that are present, but of those who are deserting from us. The act is adultery. And if ye bear not to hear these things of them, neither should ye of us. There must be breach of the law either on the one side or the other. If then thou hast these suspicions concerning me, I am ready to retire from my office, and resign it to whomsoever ye may choose. Only let the Church be one. But if I have been lawfully made and consecrated, entreat those who have contrary to the law mounted the episcopal throne to resign it.
NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 11, next to the last paragraph.

It wasn't until after his consecration in AD 398 to the see of Constantinople by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, that Chrysostom entered into communion with Rome.

Now, most Roman Catholic apologists are not familiar with this information regarding the circumstances of Chrysostom's baptism and ordinations, but his "orders" as such are denied as proper according to the requirements of Leo XIII's Satis Cognitum. I think this alone proves that there were in Chrysostom's day other groups claiming to be every bit as much "Catholic," but nonetheless out of communion with Rome.
It also serves to show that Chrysostom's positive comments about Peter are not evidence of papalism in his views.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gospel for Islam

In the following video, Dr. White provides a gospel presentation aimed at trying to reach Muslim listeners.

If you have Muslim friends or relatives, consider either providing this to them, or sharing the gospel with them yourself, using this as an aid in your effort.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Maybe Hubner Needs to Look Up "Shill" in a Dictionary

Jamin Hubner responds to my recent post by writing:
Turretinfan criticizes a recent post, saying, “ using a source that is a shill for Hamas is still using a bad source.” It seems Tur is suggesting that because a source is used as a Hamas shill, than in and of itself means the source is bad.

But, obviously this isn’t true. Hamas could use a dictionary and that doesn’t mean the dictionary is “bad source.” It is ironic that in the procesess [sic] of trying to reveal a fallacy, brother Tur seems to commit one (a source fallacy).
The only way that Jamin Hubner's post makes any sense is if he does not understand what the word "shill" means.  Perhaps he should look it up in ... a dictionary.

In the meantime, let me reword my sentence in terms he is more liable to understand: "using a source that is Hamas propaganda (or is written by a Hamas propagandist) is using a bad source."

Later on in the same post, Jamin wrote:
We have to ask in situations like these: how does the author intend the source to be used? Since Tur (and Hays, who made the original accusation about Burge’s work being pro-Hamas) have not even read the original source themselves, they are incapable of even knowing what the author’s intention really is. Hence the lack of any kind of refutation of this supposed Hamas-shill source (Burge’s Whose Land?), and hence the lack of any demonstration that Burge and/or his work is actually a shill or Hamas – and to what extent and in what sense he/his work is.
Yes, in fact, people are capable of knowing what an author's intention was without having read the original book.  Steve Hays addressed this point a long time ago.  We can read reviews of books and learn all sorts of things that way.  In fact Steve Hays has already thoroughly demonstrated this point.  Jamin hasn't bothered to address any of the reviews Steve proffered.

But again, let me put this in terms that Jamin cannot help but grasp.  Suppose that the work is a work by Adolph Hitler.  Am I incapable of knowing what Hitler's intention was in writing Mein Kampf, unless I read the book?  Is that the only way for me to find out?  Or can I read a review of the book?  Can I maybe possibly get some idea by reading the Cliff's notes?  Or is that a hopeless endeavor?

Moreover, since Steve's claim was about the man, isn't it sufficient to read some of his shorter pieces to see that he's a propagandist or "shill" and not simply a relatively neutral source like a dictionary?  Of course it is.

Surely Jamin is not so dense as to really imagine that the only way one can learn about the content of a book is by personally reading that book or that the only way one can find out about an author's character is by reading that particular book.

Right?  So, then Jamin should (a) either address the issue of the credibility of his source by addressing the evidence Steve already presented against it or (b) acknowledge that Steve was correct about the source bias problem of that particular source.


P.S. Hubner's concluding paragraph begins: "All of this is a distraction from the truth and the main concerns that I’ve tried and contiually [sic] try to raise ... ."  But the problem is that Steve has seemingly caught him trying to promote his view about Israel by citing/promoting a work that is itself little better than Hamas propaganda.  Perhaps I agree with Hubner's ultimately conclusions about Israel, but that doesn't change the fact that Hubner is shooting himself in the foot by citing to Mein Kampf for a supposedly historical report of facts of the bad things Jewish people have done.  Oh, wait.  Of course he didn't do that.  He would know better than to do that.  But he doesn't see the problem with the source he did cite (the one Steve described as a shill for Hamas) regarding the bad things the Israelis have supposedly done.  Even if the MK truthfully reports the facts of a particular instance, there is a good reason one wouldn't cite it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mark Driscoll vs. Genesis 7:1

Mark Driscoll has a sermon segment (I hope it is just a segment) regarding Noah.  The thesis is that Noah wasn't a righteous man.

Driscoll makes some good points about the fact that Noah was saved by grace, the same way Moses, Abraham, and David were saved. However, in his eagerness to make his point, he overlooks a crucial verse:
Genesis 7:1 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.

And this, at first blush, appears to have reference to this:

Genesis 6:22  Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

Scripture says Noah was a righteous man. So, we can too. That does not mean that Noah was saved because he was righteous. It simply means that all those children's Bibles, which say "Noah was a righteous man," are not in need of white-out, Sharpies, or whatever Driscoll has in mind - at least not until the moral of the story.

In fact, the New Testament enlightens:

2 Peter 2:5  And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

And perhaps more significantly:

Hebrews 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

So, while much of Driscoll's point about salvation by grace through faith is right, his application is wrong.


UPDATE: A dear reader points out that Driscoll goes on to discuss (in a portion of the complete sermon just after the video clip above):

Genesis 6:9  These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

This does soften my view of Driscoll's comments considerably.  I still don't like the clip, but I think the clipper would have been better to include a little more.  With this greater context, it appears that while it sounds like Driscoll is saying Noah wasn't righteous, he is just guilty of careless expression.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Roma Locuta Est - Causa Finita Est - Debunked Some More

Advocates of the papacy frequently allege that Augustine said, "Roma locuta est, causa finita est."  Augustine did not say this.  My friend Dr. White debunked this urban legend some time ago.  Others have also debunked it.  I'd like to add my own two cents.

After all, I've recently encountered a couple of advocates of the papacy who argue that, although Augustine didn't say "Roma locuta est," he did say "causa finita est" (the cause is ended).  This is true.

Here's the relevant portion from Sermon 131 in context:

For already two councils have, in this cause, sent letters to the Apostolic See, whence also rescripts have come back. The cause is ended: would that the error might some day end! Therefore we admonish so that they may take notice, we teach so that they may be instructed, we pray so that their way be changed.
Although he did say "the cause is ended," this sound bite doesn't actually help the papal advocate, for at least the following three reasons:

1) The appeal is to settled conciliar authority (not papal authority as such).  So, "Rome has spoken, the case is closed" is not a very accurate summary.  A more accurate summary would be "two councils have spoken - the case is closed."  That's not to say that the rescripts weren't from Rome - they were.

2) The reference to rescripts is a reference to a response from Rome regarding the decisions of the councils. Such a rescript neither has its own infallibility nor gives infallibility to the decrees of the councils, whether considered by Roman standards of that day or this day.

3) Notice that there were two councils, not just one.  This is part of Augustine's point.  His point is that, in terms of church court process, continuing this debate is beating a dead horse.  He's not saying that two councils is a magic number, just as he's not saying that getting a response from Rome magically makes the conciliar decisions correct. 

- TurretinFan

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deedat and Jonah

I just listened to two Ahmed Deedat debates (contra McDowell and contra Douglas), both of which featured a very similar pair of arguments regarding the sign of Jonah.  Each debate features both arguments, with largely the same flourishes - though there were some differences.

The first argument is presented with a great deal of showmanship and buildup, but it boils down to this: Jesus said he would be like Jonah, Jonah was alive in the belly of the whale, therefore Jesus could not be dead in the tomb.  The flaw of the argument is fairly obvious: Jesus did not say that the similarity was that he would be alive for three days, but that he would be buried for three days.

Matthew 12:39-42 
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

As you can see from reading the argument itself, the point is not that Jesus would be alive, but that he would be buried.  This argument is about as weak as they come.

The second argument is that Jesus was not in the tomb for three full days and nights, but only only two full nights (Friday and Saturday) and one full day (Saturday).  This argument is slightly stronger.  Yet it is still problematic.

This argument is premised on understanding Jesus to be using the expression "three days and three nights" to mean "three full days and three full nights."  However, that is simply the same term taken from Jonah 1:17, and there is no indication there that the term means precisely 72 hours.  Indeed, there is no particular indication from the context of Jonah 1:17 as to what time of day Jonah was cast into the sea.  We might surmise it was evening because he had gone to sleep, but the text does not tell us.

What else could the term mean?  Well, it could mean "three consecutive days."  The places where we find this idiom is in the context of the rain of the flood (40 consecutive days Genesis 7:4 and 12), Moses' fast during the time of the reception of the law and intercession for the people (Exodus 24:18 and 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9, 11, 18, and 10:10), the fast of the captured slave (1 Samuel 30:12); Elijah's fast on the way to Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); Job's seven days of silence with his friends (Job 2:13); and Jesus forty day fast (Matthew 4:2).  In each of these cases, the point of the idiom is the fact of an unbroken succession of days.

Thus, the forty day fast of Jesus (and Moses and Elijah) was not the like fast of the Muslims, who break their fasts in the evening.  Instead, it was unbroken.  The rain that flooded the whole world was not a month and a third of Seattle-like weather, it was 40 days of constant rain.

We even see a similar usage in the singular:

Esther 4:16  Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. 

Psalm 1:2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Isaiah 34:10  It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever. 

Revelation 14:11  And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Many other passages have the same usage.  See Leviticus 8:35, Deuteronomy 28:66, Joshua 1:8, 1 Kings 8:29 and 59, 1 Chronicles 9:33, 2 Chronicles 6:20, Nehemiah 1:6 and 4:9, Psalm 32:4, 42:3, 55:10, and 88:1, Ecclesiastes 8:16, Isaiah 27:3, 60:11, and 62:6, Jeremiah 9:1, 14:17, and 16:13, Lamentations 2:18, Mark 4:27 and 5:5, Luke 2:37 and 18:7, Acts 9:24, 20:31, and 26:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:9  and 3:10, 2 Thessalonians 3:8, 1 Timothy 5:5, 2 Timothy 1:3, Revelation 4:8, 7:15, 12:10, and 20:10.

The point is not 24 hour periods, but rather unbroken continuity.  Deedat has misinterpreted "three days and three nights" to mean 72 hours, when rather it means three successive days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

There is more to the rebuttal to Deedat, though.  Part of the sign of Jonas is that Jesus is greater than Jonah.  In fact, in the Luke account, the days in the tomb are not even mentioned.  How was Jonah a sign to the Ninevites?  He was like a man who had come back from the dead, having been spit out by the great fish that swallowed him.

Christ however, is much greater than Jonah, in that he really did come back from the dead.  Likewise, while Solomon was the wisest man, Jesus is greater than Solomon for Jesus is God.

Luke 11:29-32
And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

If only Deedat had read the Scriptures with eyes opened by the Holy Spirit.  But he did not.  Dear readers, do not follow his bad example of misunderstanding of the Sacred text.  Instead, properly understand the Scriptures and learn from them about the sign given to that adulterous generation and handed down to our adulterous day.


P.S. It was interesting to see that Dr. Douglas used some arguments around 1 hour, 42 minutes into the debate regarding the use of skeptics by Muslims - it reminded me of the arguments my friend Dr. White (who pointed me to the McDowell debate) uses.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Google+ Integration?

Blogger seems to indicate that there is some new integration with Google+.  So, if you are one of the millions of people who use Google+, you should be able to get my blog posts in my Google+ stream, if you have appropriately included me in your circle(s).  We will see how that goes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hubner Compares Self to O. Palmer Robertson

Evidently, Jamin Hubner and O. Palmer Robertson share a similar view regarding Israel on some points.  Hubner seems to think that consistency demands that if he (Hubner) is a "dupe for the jihadists" and is "supporting Arabs with unsound arguments," then the same must be true of Robertson.

There's a fundamental flaw in Hubner's reasoning.  Hubner has some "main points" in mind, and he thinks that Robertson shares his opinion on those main points.  Perhaps Robertson does.  Yet it wasn't the "main points" with respect to which "dupe for the jihadists" and "supporting Arabs with unsound arguments" were used.

In fact, Hubner himself had complained that his critics were not addressing his main points.  So, one might think he would realize that it doesn't resuscitate his use of bad sources and bad arguments to find someone who agrees with the points he was trying to make.

Let me try to simplify the point for Hubner: if you argue Man is mortal; Socrates is an ox; therefore Socrates is mortal, you have reasoned fallaciously and from an untrue premise.  If you come along and say "Einstein agrees with me that Socrates is mortal," that does not revitalize either your claim that Socrates is an ox, or your fallacious reasoning.  Consistency doesn't demand that we criticize Einstein, because Einstein didn't reach his conclusion the same way you did.  Capisce?

Analogously, using a source that is a shill for Hamas is still using a bad source and using an invalid argument that supports Arab claims is still supporting Arabs with unsound arguments, whether or not O. Palmer Robertson thinks that “Never can the promise of the land be properly claimed by those who fail to exercise true faith and faithfulness in the Redeemer provided by the Lord of the Covenant.”

So, when Hubner asks, in his article: "…But, for some reason I don’t suspect Robertson and those who endorsed his book (RC Sproul, Robert Reymond, Richard B. Gaffin) will earn any terrorist associations, titles of mockery or titles of supporting any particular race (e.g. Arabs) for saying the same things I’ve said. I wonder why?"  The reasons may be several: they don't actually say the same thing, they don't say it the same way, and they don't have the same emotional reaction to criticism of their arguments and sources.

- TurretinFan

Friday, December 09, 2011

One God and One Lord

In Dr. White's recent debate with Patrick Navas, I was struck by Navas' attempt to say that Paul is distinguishing between Lord and God in 1 Corinthians 8:6  But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Keep in mind that the Shema actually begins:

Deuteronomy 6:4  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 

Mark 12:29  And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

And one of God's titles is "Lord God"

Ezekiel 5:8  Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations. 

Revelation 18:8  Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

So, to say that we have only "one Lord" to exclude the Father from that title seems blasphemous, at best.  Moreover, later in Jude this very title ("Lord God") is applied to Jesus:

Jude 1:4  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.

Of course, Navas may attempt to view the "and" there as disjunctive, but if he does there are now seemingly two lords.

So, it seems that Navas cannot consistently maintain this argument.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Sex Abuse Scandals and the Roman Communion

Another case of a sex abusing priest who was shuffled off to another parish without the police being alerted was recently report (link to story)(Updated link provided by a diligent reader). There are doubtless some people who will be glad to learn that this abuser was neither a pedophile nor a homosexual (though the priest's sexual preferences seem to have been for acts that don't require an adult woman). Two archbishops are implicated by the story: former archbishop Harry Flynn (now Archbishop Emeritus) and his successor archbishop John Nienstedt.  In an interesting ironic twist, Harry Flynn is (or at least was) chairman of a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committee on sexual abuse (of course, there's an even worse irony that recently came to light with respect to the investigation of paedophilia by Rome's finest).

But what of it?  After all, we recently heard about a story of sexual abuse by men from a college football program.  What's the difference?  One difference is that Rome claims to be a divinely ordained organization, "the Church," and not simply a self-perpetuating institution seeking worldly fame and glory.  A football program fits the latter category.

Another difference is that this is the first such scandal for that college.  It's not the first such scandal for Rome.

A third difference is that, from what we can tell, those in the football program actually did report the abuse to the appropriate authorities.

Perhaps we could go on and on.  The bottom line, however, is that both scandals illustrate institutions that seem to think that they are not required to play by the same rules as the rest of society - which think that they are above the law, for lack of a better term.

I don't think Christ came to establish a denomination.  That said, if Christ had established a denomination, would we expect it to be better or worse than a college football program?


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Joseph - Widower with Older Children? Nieces and Nephews?

A friend of mine pointed me to an interesting exchange of the blind leading the blind over at the "Catholic Answers" forums.

A first poster ("Glomung") wrote:
A very simple explanation for the whole scenario is that Joseph was a widower, who already had several children. This explains Jesus' brothers and sisters. Joseph happened to be the only bachelor in town, so when Mary came of age, the local Rabbi pushed Joseph to marry her, [Joseph] was not too thrilled with the idea (been there/done that, don't need another mouth to feed) explains Josephs' reluctance. Also when she turns up pregnant Joseph is not overly irked (she's just a kid, you know how they get into mischief). He doesn't take all of it too seriously until the angel has a chat with him.

He never has sex with her because of "pick one", too old, not interested, she's God's gal, like a daughter, whatever the reason that explains the "ever virgin". That is also why he is not present in any of the rest of Jesus' life, he has died of old age.

Then, a second poster ("ConstantineTG") replied:
He wan't the only bachelor in town. The priests of the temple wanted had to remove Mary from the temple because she was of age, and the concern is that women of age may lose their virginity which then would defile the temple. But they wished to preserve the virginity of the temple virgins so they sought older widowers who have no interest in having children (and probably have no ability to do so anyway) to take her as a wife (but in reality be more of a guardian). So they called all the old widowers in town to the temple, and the Holy Spirit showed the priests a sign that Joseph is the chosen one (a dove landed on Joseph). And thus Mary was betrothed to Joseph.

Joseph was indeed irked that Mary was pregnant because of the trouble it would bring to him. After reading the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph's reactions and emotions in the Gospels made sense to me. Also it seems that Joseph handled the situation more maturely. A younger man would have made a big fuss of the issue and ratted Mary out to the pharisees who would have stoned her to death. Joseph seemed to proceed cautiously even though he was distraught by the events.
As to Glomung's comments, nowhere in Scripture is Joseph described as widower.  There is no reliable basis upon which to assert that Josephus was a widower. Likewise, there is no mention of Joseph having any prior children.

There is a good reason to think Joseph didn't have other children from a previous marriage.  Recall that in both the flight to Egypt and the return from Egypt, only Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are mentioned: there is no mention of step-siblings coming along.

Matthew 2:13-23
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him." When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life." And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
As for whether Joseph was irked, he was ready to divorce her, as it is written:

Matthew 1:18-19

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

Joseph was not willing to overlook the assumed adultery.  Instead, he wanted to divorce Mary, although he wanted to do so quietly.

As for Joseph's age, there is no indication that he was particularly old.

As for being in Jesus' life, Joseph was in Jesus' life at least until he was 12:

Luke 2:41-52
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing."

And he said unto them, "How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"

And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Moreover, recall that during Jesus' ministry, people knew of Joseph and of his occupation:

Matthew 13:55-56
Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

Turning to CTG's comments, whatever makes him think Mary was in the temple?  The Scriptures do not say this, nor is there any reliable evidence she was.  There was no divine appointment for there to be "temple virgins" and virginity was not prized over matrimony in Jewish times.

You will notice to the reference to the Protoevangelium of James.  This is a thoroughly worthless and unreliable source, which was rightly rejected by Christians from the patristic era through the medieval era (as I have previously documented).  Even if it had not been traditionally rejected, consider that it's account in sections 13 and 14 (here is a copy of the text) contradicts the Scriptural account of Joseph's reaction to discovering Mary's pregnancy.  In Scripture, Joseph (being a just man - not as a coward) wants to quietly divorce her.  In the Protoevangelium of James, Joseph wants to divorce her quietly because he is afraid.

Even leaving aside the bizarre sign of a dove emerging from the end of a rod and landing on Joseph's head as a sign that he's supposed to be Mary's guardian in this work, the author of the work shows his only passing familiarity with Hebrew customs, by suggesting that the "waters of ordeal" were to be administered by the priest's order both to Joseph and Mary (whereas the law prescribed the waters only for a woman and only upon the suspicion of infidelity to her husband, at her husband's demand).

And it only gets weirder.  In section 19, Salome meets the midwife, and in section 20 Salome demands to investigate Mary's private parts with her hand to see if she is still a virgin after having given birth.  Her hand then starts to drop off as if being burned by fire until it is cured by holding Jesus.

And yet again, in section 22, the account contradicts the Scriptural account in terms of Herod's slaughter of the children.  Instead of a flight to Egypt, Mary hides Jesus in an ox stall.

There is not really any reason to suppose that anything in the so-called Protoevangelium of James has any reliability of any sort, beyond those parts which are obviously derived from the gospel accounts.  Yet that is what is being relied upon by those who are looking for straws to grasp in defense of the fiction of perpetual virginity.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Cheung and Olson

Daniel has posted an interesting response to Roger Olson's attempted use of material from Vincent Cheung.  On this topic of God being the "author of sin," the one positive point that Cheung has brought to the table is that he makes (or ought to make) folks like Olson stop and try to explain why it is wrong to call God the "author of sin."

For example, if by "author of sin," you mean that God permits sin to happen for some higher reason, then how would that be a wrong view?  Of course, that's not the objection.  The objection is typically raised against a view that God decrees sin to occur.

But is such a view equivalent to making God the author of sin?  Again, it depends how you define that term.  If you define it to mean that God has moral culpability for the sin, then no - Calvinists don't believe that, Calvinism doesn't teach that, and Calvinistic views don't imply that.

Or is something else meant?  In any event, in these debates we need to force the opponents of Calvinism to explain their objections for the sake of clarity, rather than getting caught up with ambiguous or equivocally understood expressions.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Abuse of Power in a Broken Home

I read with sorrow the report of a four-year-old boy who was beaten to death.  It's sad because it is a small boy.  It's sad because it happened to be the boy's birthday.  It's sad because the mother of this child is apparently also going to be charged with a crime of concealing a homicide.

It is also sad because there is no mention of the boy's father.  Where was the boy's father?  The man who beat this child to death was the woman's "boyfriend," not her husband.  He's never described as the boy's father, and - in fact - one might think that the boy did not have a father.

Granted that the man who beat this child is portrayed as being "anti-social."  Still, would he have done this if he knew he would answer to the boy's father?  Bullies tend to be less eager to beat up on those 1/10th their size when they have to deal with someone their own size.

In fact, if the woman were with a husband, would this boyfriend even have been in the home?

Who knows what happened to the boy's father - why he was not in the picture.  My purpose in writing this is not to point the finger of blame at anyone other than the murderer.  It is only the murderer's fault, and the murderer should be executed.

This post, however, is a word of encouragement to fathers of children to stay with their wives - to stay involved in the lives of their children.  It is also a word of encouragement to women not to have children out of wedlock, and not to leave their husbands.  This sort of tragedy appears avoidable.

Let us not simply mourn the death of the boy, but let us learn from this tragedy.  Let us strive to follow the familial pattern laid out in Scripture.  Wait for marriage to have children, and then don't break up the marriage.  In this way, you will be there to protect your children.

God's law is good.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Images of Jesus - A Response to Hank Hanegraaff's Site

A friend recently directed me to a discussion of images of Jesus found at, which I understand to be the website of Hank Hanegraaff (the article itself is anonymous).

The article begins:
In the fourth-century AD Emperor Leo III ordered the abolition of icons (revered images or sculptures) of Jesus, Mary, angels, and saints. This sparked the great Iconoclastic controversy, so called because those who supported the eradication of icons, often on the grounds that they violated the second commandment’s prohibition of “graven images,” were known as iconoclasts or “image breakers.” The controversy sparked in the fourth century persists to this very day. Do images of Jesus really violate the second commandment?
Actually, Leo III (also known as Leo the Isaurian) was born in the 7th century and reigned exclusively in the 8th century.  Leo III did attempt to abolish (legislatively) the use of images, which had crept into use over time.  This met with some theological opposition, chiefly by John of Damascus (c. 645 or 676 – 4 December 749), who is sometimes referred to as the last of the church fathers.

More could be said, and perhaps ought to be said, but the long and short of it is that the use of icons, statues, and other images are corruptions of the apostolic faith, which ultimately lead to the iconoclastic controversy, as a minority attempted to maintain the purity of God's worship in the 8th century, at the very end of the patristic era.

Hanegraaff's page continued:

First, if the second commandment condemns images of Jesus, then it condemns making images of anything at all. Therefore, God would have been guilty of contradicting himself because he commanded the Israelites to adorn the ark of the covenant with the images of cherubim (Exodus 25:18–20).
This is a surprisingly common argument.  In fact, though, it merely forbids images of God.  Images of Jesus, the Father, or the Spirit - all are forbidden.  This false dichotomy/straw man is simply mistaken.  Indeed, the images of the cherubim demonstrate that the command is not broadly against all making of images, but only of those that purport to represent God or gods.
Furthermore, in context, the commandment is not an injunction against making “graven images,” but an injunction against worshiping them. As such, God warns, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4–5, emphasis added).
There are actually two commands there.  The second is about worshiping the idols.  The first is about making them.  It is amazing how someone can claim that the commandment is not an injunction against making graven images and then quote something that explicitly says just that.
The commandment is not an injunction against making “graven images,” but an injunction against using these carved images as objects of worship.

That is a false dichotomy.  Both are forbidden.
Finally, if viewing an image necessarily leads to idolatry, then the incarnation of Christ was the greatest temptation of all. Yet, Jesus thought it appropriate for people to look on him and worship him as God (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:52). That worship, however, was to be directed to his person, not his appearance. Indeed, idolatry lies not in the making of images, but in the worship of manmade images in place of the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
a) Jesus wasn't a graven image.  He was both God and man in two distinct natures and one person.

b) Jesus was the image of the invisible God, but not by virtue of his appearance.  That "image of the invisible God" line is actually a powerful testimony to Jesus' divinity as my friend, Dr. White, recently pointed out in a debate against Patrick Navas.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Republication of the Covenant of Works

There is a sense in which the Mosaic law (or a portion thereof) is a republication of the covenant of works.  More could be said about that point, but it has recently come to my attention that there is an overture to create an OPC study committee (for a single presbytery, if I understand the overture) to study the issue of republication (link to page).  While I think it is a profitable study, and one that may help (when properly understood and explained) resolve the differences between Presbyterians and covenantal Reformed Baptists, I'm not sure whether the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest has sufficient manpower for the job.  I hope that others will rise to the occasion to assist in this task of studying this important issue.  Please pray that this study, if approved, will benefit both the particular presbytery but also the body of Christ at large.


Steve Ray Thinks Spurgeon was "Dillusional"

Yes, Steve Ray spelled it "Dillusional," though I suspect he meant "Delusional."  But what is the basis for Ray's complaint?  Ray quotes Spurgeon as saying:
It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.
Ray does not provide the context.  Here is the statement in its original context:
In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. My chat this afternoon is not for these great originals, but for you who are content to learn of holy men, taught of God, and mighty in the Scriptures. It has been the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries. If there were any fear that the expositions of Matthew Henry, Gill, Scott, and others, would be exalted into Christian Targums, we would join the chorus of objectors, but the existence or approach of such a danger we do not suspect. The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. Usually, we have found the despisers of commentaries to be men who have no sort of acquaintance with them; in their case, it is the opposite of familiarity which has bred contempt.
(Commenting and Commentaries, Lecture I)

Ray tries to justify his claim with the following argument:
But isn’t it ironic that Spurgeon is guilty of what he accuses others of neglecting? The Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and early bishops and their writings and practices are easily accessible.
Even if that were true, it wouldn't justify calling the great evangelist "delusional."  In point of fact, though, Spurgeon is accusing others of neglecting the use of commentaries.  He himself did not neglect their use.  So, no - Spurgeon is not guilty of what he accuses others of neglecting.

Moreover, the way in which the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles and other prophets (not "early bishops" in anything like the modern Roman sense of "bishops") is not what Spurgeon is talking about.  Spurgeon is not, for example, suggesting that modern day Charismatics have an insufficient respect for Scripture.  Instead, Spurgeon is talking about people who engage in "Solo Scriptura," and literally ignore what other exegetes have found in Scripture.

Ray has completely missed the mark with his usage of Spurgeon's quotation.

Ray then stated:
They practiced the primacy of Rome, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, new birth through water baptism, a church structure with bishops, priests and deacons.
They didn't "practice" papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the papacy.  The apostles themselves didn't provide a church structure of bishops, priests, and deacons.  Steve Ray is being awfully selective in his description of what things some of the fathers taught or practiced.

Moreover, it is one thing to "ignore" what the early fathers taught, and another to disagree with them.  What is interesting is that we can justify our departure from their teachings (where we depart from them), whereas Mr. Ray cannnot.  Why?  Because oral tradition is not one of our sources of authority.  We don't assume that important things - things necessary for salvation - were omitted from Scripture.

If, however, what the early fathers taught they taught because of oral tradition, why doesn't Mr. Ray agree with them on everything? The answer, of course, is that in reality and in practice the "magisterium" trumps both Scripture and tradition for a member of the Roman communion.  It doesn't matter that not one church father taught, held, believed, or practiced (for example) papal infallibility, transubstantiation, or the bodily assumption of Mary.  It doesn't matter that Scripture doesn't teach those things.  Rome says it, they believe it, and that settles it.  Sola Ecclesia.

Ray continues:
The 2nd century “church service” was a perfect blueprint of the Mass today and does not even remotely resemble the “Baptist church” of today.
Quite the opposite.  While there would certainly be differences from what one might think of at a "Baptist church" (which one does Ray even have in mind), there would have been a complete absence of Roman missals from a second century church - and an absence of idols, as well.

Ray concludes:
Why does Spurgeon think so much of what he supposes the Holy Spirit showed him (a tradition unknown before the 16th century) while he ignores what the Holy Spirit universally revealed to the early Church and which has been taught and practiced in an unbroken line in the Catholic Church for 2,000 years?
In point of fact, of course, Spurgeon didn't ignore what Rome claims to teach.  Moreover, Rome's historical claims to teach what was revealed 2000 years ago are lies.  Ray knows very well that the early church didn't hold to papal infallibility, transubstantiation, prayers to Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary, and so forth.  That's why he words his claims in squirrely ways, as we saw above.

For example, he claims that they "practiced the primacy of Rome."  How exactly does he think they did that?  They didn't take that to mean that the bishop of Rome was infallible.  They were comfortable conducting large councils that were not called by - or even attended by - the bishop of Rome (councils like Nicaea).  They settled theological disputes by appealing to Scripture, not to some papal ruling.

Rome didn't even have a singular bishop in the beginning of the church at Rome.  Once Rome came to the point where it had only a single bishop, he may have received a lot of respect.  But that's hardly all Rome requires people to believe - nor does Rome deserve the respect it once did.  It no longer has the kind of track record it did when some of the early fathers praised it.

- TurretinFan