Friday, March 30, 2012

Response to Paul Owen Regarding Mormons and those in Rome

In response to Dr. James White's comments on whether those in the Roman commmunion and in the LDS church are saved, Paul Owen responded:
Mormons do NOT deny that Jesus is the God-man who died for our sins and rose again. They affirm all those points explicitly. And I see no reason to deny that many devoted followers of Christ can be found within the ranks of the LDS church.
Where to begin?  No, Mormons do not believe Jesus was the God-man in the orthodox sense of that term.  They do not believe in the hypostatic union.  No, Mormons do not hold that Jesus died for our sins in the orthodox sense of that term, they think "Although we are redeemed unconditionally from the universal effects of the Fall, we are accountable for our own sins." (source)  In fact the doctrines of incarnation and the atonement are two important points of difference between orthodox Christianity and Mormonism - not to mention the denial of the Father's true divinity, in the sense of being God from all eternity.

One reason (of many) to deny that there are many devoted followers of Christ in the LDS church is that the LDS church does not teach its followers the historical Jesus.  There may be followers of Christ who are very deceived for a time, but the fruit of the Spirit would include an opening of their eyes to the manifest error of the LDS church.

P.O. continued:
Of course Roman Catholics are being saved! (I think it is better to put it that way and to say “is saved”.) Anyone who receives the sacrament of baptism, who believes in Christ, and “abides” in his body (through divinely appointed channels of grace) is being saved. The notion that God would exclude a person from heaven because they formally deny that faith is the “sole” instrument of their justification is absurd, and turns God into some sort of petty cosmic theology professor, who is more concerned with a person’s lexicon than the state of their heart. Anyone who can read the rich devotional writings of Pope Benedict XVI and conclude that this is not a true follower of Christ is spiritually tone deaf.
No man can serve two masters.  The fictional Mary of Rome's imagination is one master - the God of the Bible is another.  It is plain that Benedict XVI is devoted to the former (here are three recent examples), therefore it is clear that he is not devoted to the latter, even if he attempts to worship God along side his idols.

The point is not that Christians are saved by perfect doctrine, but that one must trust in Christ alone for salvation - and most of those with whom I've interacted in the Roman communion are not doing that.  God is a Jealous God, his name is Jealous.  They trust in "Mary" (not the historical one - but the one they imagine can hear their prayers), they trust in their "saints," and they even trust in their church and their pope.  They are encouraged to trust in their works to ensure their final justification.  That's building one's house on the sand.

Does that mean all those in the Roman communion are lost?  No.  It just means that in order to be saved, one must trust in Christ alone, which means not following what the Roman magisterium and Roman heirarchy practice and preach.

I won't even go into the problems that P.O. himself has with his soteriology, beyond pointing out that it is plain that he does not hold to sola fide in the traditional Reformed sense of the term, no matter what his allegiance at the moment may be (he claims to be Anglican).
Ultimately none of us knows the inner secrets of a person’s soul and walk with Christ. We can only judge them by their fruit (and yes, heresy and false teachings can enter into that judgment). But any definition of “Christian” which would exclude the vast majority of Christians prior to the formalization of the Reformation slogans and definitions of justification is obviously short-sighted!
The vision trouble seems to be on P.O.'s side, for he has not properly seen the argument before him.  We are not saying that people need to perfect doctrine, but rather that they must trust in Christ alone for salvation.  People were doing that since the Apostolic era and people were doing that before Martin Luther was a twinkle in his father's eye.

The real problem is defining Christianity by self-labeling, rather than by the Gospel.  There will be many on judgment day who will say "Lord Lord!" but Christ will tell them, "I never knew you."


Third Marian Strike for Benedict XVI

Proceeding backward in time (from part 1 and part 2), we come now to a third instance of Mariolatry in Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba.  According to the Vatican Information System, in an address on March 26, 2012, Benedict XVI stated:
... since the beginning she has been very much present in the personal lives of Cubans as well as in the great events of the nation ... for she is honoured by all as the true mother of the Cuban people.  Devotion to the "Virgen Mambisa" has sustained the faith and inspired the defence and promotion of all that gives dignity to the human condition and fundamental rights, and it continues to do so today with ever greater strength, giving visible witness to the fruitfulness of the preaching of the Gospel in these lands, and to the profound Christian roots which shape the deepest identity of the Cuban soul. Following in the footsteps of countless pilgrims down the centuries, I too wish to go to El Cobre to kneel at the feet of the Mother of God, to thank her for her concern for all her Cuban children, and to ask her to guide the future of this beloved nation in the ways of justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation ...
Note that Benedict XVI confesses to the desire not only to go to the idol at El Cobre, but also to assume a posture of worship, namely that of kneeling.  He advocates religious devotion to the idol.  Moreover, he also, again, confesses to a desire to attempt to communicate with her including not just a request for guidance, but also thanks - something that cannot reasonably be interpreted as a request for her to pray.

- TurretinFan

More Marian Madness from Benedict XVI

Again, according to the Vatican Information Service (VIS), on March 27, 2012, Benedict XVI gave an address at the "Shrine of 'Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre'," (Our Lady of Charity of Cobre) (the idol I mentioned in my previous post).  In that address he stated:
Let all those you meet know, whether near or far, that I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country, advancing along the ways of renewal and hope, for the greater good of all Cubans. I have also prayed to the Virgin for the needs of those who suffer, of those who are deprived of freedom, those who are separated from their loved ones or who are undergoing times of difficulty. I have placed in her Immaculate Heart young people, that they may be authentic friends of Christ and that they may not succumb to things which bring sadness in their wake.
Notice that Benedict expressess faith in Mary ("I have entrusted to the Mother of God the future of your country") and admits to praying to her (" I have also prayed to the Virgin for ..."). 

VIS also reports:
The Holy Father paused in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament then before the image of the Virgin. He lit a candle and recited the prayer of the Virgin of Charity, the Jubilee Year ritual by which pilgrims may obtain plenary indulgence.
Notice not only the idoltry in terms of worshiping the physical elements as though they were God, but as well the idolatry in terms of Mariolatry.  There is a direct parallel there.  First, he pauses to pray before what he imagines to be God and then he pauses to pray before the image of Mary.  Moreover, he recited the "prayer of the Virgin of Charity," which is often referred to as the Prayer to Our Lady of Charity (here is a copy).

Highlights from the prayer:
Most Holy Mother of Charity, who came to us as a messenger of peace across the sea, you are the Mother of all.
To your motherly heart we entrust our desires and hopes, our work and our prayers.
We place ourselves under your mantle of protection!
Notice that this prayer seems to be both the basis for Benedict XVI's "entrust" comments above as well as his "mantle of protection" claim and his "presence" claim we mentioned in the previous post.  But where is the truth? This is nothing other than idolatry, even if he claims (as he does) that devotion to Mary should lead one to devotion to Jesus, and even if he acknowledges Jesus to be the Rock ("I encourage all the sons and daughters of this dear country to continue to build their lives on the firm rock which is Jesus Christ ...").  I would encourage them to do that too, but not by reference to the lying idol of Cobre in a shrine in Cuba, but in reference to the inspired Word of God found in the Bible.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

(Real ?) Presence of Mary - So Saith Benedict XVI

As reported by the Vatican Information Service, on March 28, 2012, in a farewell address in Cuba, Benedict XVI stated:
As I bid you a heartfelt adios, I ask our Lady of Charity of El Cobre to protect all Cubans under her mantle, to sustain them in the midst of their trials and to obtain from Almighty God the grace that they most desire. Hasta siempre, Cuba, a land made beautiful by the maternal presence of Mary. 
This is not simply a request for Mary to pray for the people of Cuba.  It is specifically asking Mary to
  • protect the Cubans under her mantle, 
  • sustain them in the midst of their trials, and
  • obtain from Almighty God the grace that they most desire.
Perhaps the third item could be viewed simply as asking Mary to pray, but the other two are asking for Mary to provide sustainance and the specific protection of Mary.  But how can Mary protect?

Here we have the most interesting part of Benedict XVI's comment.  He alleges that Mary's "maternal presence" is in Cuba, and that this "maternal presence" makes Cuba beautiful.

But where is the historical Mary?  Her body is an unknown grave and her soul is in heaven.  She is not present, body or soul, in Cuba.

Lady of Charity of El Cobre is an idol, it's not the historical Mary.  That idol has no power to bring the spirit of Mary down from heaven.  In fact, it has no power of its own at all.  It had to be rescued from the waters of Nipe Bay in 1606 by three fishermen.  It is the Cubans who are the hope of the idol (if it even had a spirit to hope!), not the idol that is the hope of the Cubans.  They rescued it, but it can never rescue them.

And neither is Mary, either real or imagined, a hope for the Cubans.  She is a spirit who has entered into glory, awaiting the resurrection of the body.  She does not have a mantle of protection to offer.  The only hope for the Cubans - as for all mankind - is the son of the real Mary, namely Jesus Christ the righteous.  He alone is the rock of our salvation, for he is not merely man but Emmanuel, God with us.

Cuba is a land made beautiful by God's mercy and kindness.  It is wrong for Benedict XVI to attribute this to Mary or her imagined presence.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Picking the Low-hanging Cherries

Darryl Hart has posted an article (2K Cherries 2Hot 2Handle) responding to my friend Lane Keister's decision to stop discussing two kingdoms theology on his blog.  Unfortunately, the article serves as an illustration of the problem that led my friend to stop discussing the topic.

Hart seems to have a fundamental problem distinguishing argument from personality.  Read his post.  You'll find that after the first paragraph it's all about attacking his critics - not for their views - but attacking their integrity.  Here are some examples:
  • "some who object to 2k have so made up their minds about the idea and its proponents that they will hear nothing in defense of the doctrine; they won’t even read the books written on 2k"
  • "two undeniable historical developments exist that 2k critics won’t accept"
  • "In which case, they have no more claim to Calvin as a standard for religion and politics than 2kers do. Yet, here’s the key. 2kers are honest. They actually admit that they disagree with Calvin."
  • "And this means that the critics of 2k are either unaware of how little standing the original WCF chapter 23 or Belgic Art. 36 has in conservative Reformed churches. Or if they know of confessional revision and use the original documents to denounce 2kers, they are dishonest."
  • "Or perhaps they are simply foolish (and impolitely so)."
(and that's not to mention the comment box, where one finds jewels of charity such as "You philosophers sure are clever (but undermedicated).")

I'm sure this post will sail over Hart's head.  In the post itself, he calls attention to the fact that I have previously pointed out to him that his approach of attacking the person of the critics (for example, accusing them of not being gracious) is ad hominem.  His response is that "I do not see how this point is beside the point."

But what about those two "undeniable historical developments" that form the only substance to his post?

The first of the alleged "undeniable historical developments" is "that the critics of 2k do not advocate the execution of adulterers or heretics."  There are three layers of rebuttal to this point.  First, not all critics of E2k refuse to advocate the execution of adulterers and blasphemers (one assumes that's what Hart means, since that's what Calvin advocated).  Second, Calvin himself seems to have thought that in some cases the penalties should be dependent on the circumstances, including the penalty for adultery (See ICR IV:20:16). Third, whether or not critics of E2k are themselves little clones of Calvin is quite the beside the point.   No critics of E2k claim to be clones of Calvin, and yet whether or not they are clones of Calvin they can still observe that E2k advocates have so radically departed from Calvin that Calvin's views are treated as intolerable and absurd.  There's a difference between the sons of Calvin and the sons of the Quakers, even if neither is identical to Calvin.

The second of the alleged "undeniable historical developments" is "that all of the Reformed churches that belong to the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council have rejected the teaching of both the Westminster Confession and the Belgic Confession on the civil magistrate."  In order to check this claim, I carefully studied the standards of the hundreds, dozens, twelve denominations in NAPARC.  Hart's assessment is wrong.  The OPC and PCA both have not rejected the teachings of the WCF on the civil magistrate, they have broader standards, so that one is not required to hold those views (as already demonstrated here), although their standards do rule out E2k (as explained here).  The ERQ subscribes to the original WCF, but permits liberty of conscience on several sections, including the sections that E2k finds most objectionable.  The FRCNA states that they fully subscribe to the original three forms of unity (including the Belgic Confession).  Should I go on?  At best, the RPCNA could be said to have "rejected" them, based on the ambiguous wording of their "testimony" that serves as an interpretive guide to the standards.  (Of course, not all conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches in North America are in NAPARC, but even with Hart's cherry-picking ...).

Now, Hart makes a fuss about the fact that he's an historian ("From the perspective of this 2k advocate who also doubles as a historian, two undeniable historical developments exist that 2k critics won’t accept — sort of like denying that the North defeated the South in 1865; you may not like it, but how do you deny what happened at Appomattox?").  But what's wrong?  Is Hart just too lazy to research things?  Surely he's not intentionally lying to people while bolstering his claims with his reputation as an historian (some of his historical work is, in fact, well respected).  So, what then?

One answer is that Hart is simply avoiding addressing the actual knotty issues of E2k as compared both with Scripture and with the Reformed tradition with respect to which E2k represents a significant departure.  Until he gets his head straight, his comments and reviews will continue to be the low-hanging fruit in the discussion, but since he's one of the most vocal advocates, they will need to be picked.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Pastor Wells' Review of "The Escondido Theology"

Daniel Wells, a self-described "young pastor," has posted an interesting review of Frame's "The Escondido Theology."  It is interesting, because I think both Frame's supporters and supporters of E2k will find things in it they won't like.  So, perhaps this provides a good example of a "balanced" review of the book.

Westminster West and Frame's Point 27

Frame's point 27 (from this list) of Escondido Theology is this: "The Sabbath pertains only to worship, not to daily work. So worship should occur on the Lord’s Day, but work need not cease."

Meredith Kline wrote: 
Moreover, since the Sabbath is a sign of sanctification marking that which receives its imprint as belonging to God's holy kingdom with promise of consummation, the Sabbath will have relevance and application at any given epoch of redemptive history only in the holy dimension(s) of the life of the covenant people. Thus, after the Fall, not only will the Sabbath pertain exclusively to the covenant community as a holy people called out of the profane world, but even for them the Sabbath will find expression, in a nontheocratic situation, only where they are convoked in covenant assembly, as the ekklesia-extension of the heavenly assembly of God's Sabbath enthronement. That is, Sabbath observance will have to do only with their holy cultic (but not their common cultural) activity.

That seems to pretty clearly correspond to Frame's accusation.  Kline is not the strongest advocate on this point, although his position does seem to underlie other E2k positions.  For example, Lee Irons argues as follows:
I am in complete agreement with Kline's interpretation of the function of the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant, thus limiting its observance to the covenant community. I also agree with his theocratic analysis of the Sabbath in the pre-fall and Mosaic economies. But I have reservations about his exclusive application of the new covenant Sabbath sign to the cultic activity of the assembled church. The implication seems to be that our Sabbath duties are exhaustively fulfilled by attending corporate worship. Furthermore, not only are Christians permitted to engage in cultural activity on the Lord's Day outside of public worship, they are positively required to do so. For to rest from cultural activity on the Lord's Day would be to place the holy stamp of eschatological consummation upon non-holy cultural activity, thus profaning the Sabbath.

Ironically, those whose Sabbath practice is more in line with the Puritan approach of resting all the day from "worldly employments and recreations" are the greatest violators of the Sabbath, and are theoretically subject to church discipline. I doubt that Kline would want to see his view implemented in our churches with such unyielding disciplinary rigor. But even if strict Sabbatarians are permitted the freedom to practice the Puritan Sabbath according to the light of their conscience, it still does not ring true to say that resting from cultural activity on the Lord's Day is sinful. I want to avoid laying heavy burdens upon God's people - whether it be the intolerable yoke of the strict Sabbatarians who say that we must rest from any and all cultural activity, or an inflexible application of Kline's exegetical insights in which the church's freedom from the Mosaic Sabbath is distorted into a new legalism requiring that we engage in cultural activity on the Lord's Day.

Irons is not just arguing that Kline's position implies that men may work seven days (without excuse) but that they must!  This position contradicts Scripture (particularly the 4th commandment) and also lies outside the bounds of the Confession.

Note that Jason Stellman (one of Frame's targets) does not follow Kline or Irons' extrapolation of Kline, but instead takes a more traditional approach. Stellman quotes (approvingly, with a qualification):
"The other difference between Stellman and some of the other Escondido theologians is that he takes issue with Kline's view of the Sabbath. Kline believed that Sabbath observance in the new covenant pertains to the Lord's Day worship service alone. He thought that the Sabbath pertained only to what is 'holy,' and in the new covenant holiness pertains only to worship, not to work. Therefore we should not rest weekly from the tasks we pursue on the other six days.

"Stellman, however, argues that since the Lord's Day is a day, and not just a few hours, we ought to withdraw from cultural tasks on that entire day (pp. 57-59)."
Stellman's qualification is that he thinks he is not alone amongst E2k advocates. He writes:
... I don't remember a single professor during my three years at Westminster Seminary California ever agreeing with Kline's view of the Sabbath, either privately or in class.
I will note, however, that Kline is listed as amongst the Faculty Emeriti in the current academic catalog.  Escondido is not particularly active in distancing themselves from Kline.

I know that Pastor Stellman sometimes stops by this blog.  I wonder whether he would be willing to confirm that he agrees with "Kline's interpretation of the function of the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant, thus limiting its observance to the covenant community." (Irons' description)  If so, then we may be able to at least identify one of the core principles of E2k, with three distinct branches built on that foundation.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Joel McDurmon Reviews "The Escondido Theology"

Mr. McDurmon has provided a very interesting review of "The Escondido Theology," as well as of some of the responses and context of the work.  McDurmon made an excellent observation relative to Godfrey's comment: "All of us on the faculty of Westminster Seminary California are shocked and saddened by John Frame’s book, The Escondido Theology."  McDurmon points out: "Most of the chapters in Frame’s book have been posted as review articles online for months, even years."  It's hard to see how the book could "shock," given that it is consistent with the criticism that Frame has been making for a while.