Thursday, March 21, 2013

Michael Patton - Wrong 6 out of 8 Times

Michael Patton's recent post, "Eight Issues that Do NOT Make or Break Christianity" is not his finest moment. Of the eight positions he picks, six are issues that go to the fundamentals of the faith, to wit (using his numbers):

1 . Young Earth Creationism

You don't have to agree with every argument or every position from Answers in Genesis, but special creation as a matter of historical fact is a fundamental aspect of the Christian faith and a doctrine plainly taught in Scripture.

2. The authorship of the Pastoral Epistles

The pastoral epistles clearly state their authorship (see vs. 1 of each of them). It may not be a fundamental of the faith in itself, but it is a plain teaching of the text.

3. The inerrancy of Scripture

The Scriptures are the Word of God. God does not make errors.

4. Whether the flood covered entire earth

The Scriptures plainly teach that the flood did cover the entire earth. While this issue is not as fundamental as special creation, the significance of the Noahic covenant is very significant.

6. The inspiration of Scripture

The doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures is fundamental to the faith and is plainly taught.

8. The theory of evolution

Rejection of the theory of evolution is necessary in view of the plainly taught doctrine of special creation.

The only two points on which Patton was correct were:

5. The character witness of Christians

Christianity is about Christ, not about his followers. We are not disciples of anyone but God. If we were disciples of someone else, that person's character could be in question, but we are not.

7. The unity of Christianity

Christian unity will be complete in the kingdom to come. It is incomplete now for many reasons, but chiefly because God has chosen that it will be incomplete now.

Oh, and even about the two he gets right, on #7 he claims:
It is important to note that all of orthodox Christianity has always been united on many things. There is a certain perspicuity (clarity) to the Scripture which has brought about this universal unity. We call this the regula fide or the canon veritas. It is simply an expression of orthodox belief, arguing that there are certain beliefs shared by all Christians, everywhere, at every point in history. There are too many things to list, but in essence we all agree on the person and work of Christ.
Obviously, I don't speak for Patton or whatever group he associates with, but for us (as for Thomas Aquinas) "only canonical Scripture is the rule of faith." There are many plain teachings in Scripture, to be sure, and generally speaking true believers agree on them (although human tradition is a powerful distorter). But Christianity unity is chiefly about unity in Christ - in the fact that we each have union with Christ through faith in Him. Thus, by faith we are the body of Christ, a fact we celebrate when we remember the Lord's death until he comes.

Note well - I'm not saying that Christians must have a correct understanding about the six things above in order to be saved. The way to be saved is by trusting in Christ alone for salvation, as he is presented in the Gospel. People can be saved with numerous doctrinal errors, even about very important points on which compromise is impossible.

Patton writes: "I have seen too many people who walk away from the faith due to their trust in some non-essential issue coming unglued." Of course, as a Calvinist, I'm well aware of the fact that people who walk away from "the faith" do so either on a temporary basis (as I hope and pray is the case for Jason Stellman) or because they were never one of us.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When did Roman Catholicism Begin?

Over at Greenbaggins, Scott asked:
TF, when, exactly, do you believe Roman Catholicism began?
I answer:

If Roman Catholicism is defined by her (supposedly) infallibly defined dogmas, her birthday is November 1, 1950, which is when her pope defined the fiction of the bodily assumption. If she is defined by the last (supposedly) ecumenical council she accepts, she's even younger (December 8, 1965), the date of conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. If she is defined by her canon laws, the most recent major edition was January 28, 1983. If she's defined by her current pope, then she's newborn.

But if she's simply vaguely defined as a movement, it's hard to provide a fixed date. Benedict XVI treated Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) as the father of Roman Catholicism - despite the fact that Thomas Aquinas' views would place him outside the RCC today.

Perhaps better dates would be the dates of the councils of Constance (1418), Florence (1445) and Trent (1563), where certain strands of scholastic theology gained ecclesiastical dominance over other strands. Then again, a lot of Tridentine RCism has been undermined in contemporary RCism.

And frankly, that's probably the best way to date the movement - to the "late medieval" period - 15th or 16th century, although there were undoubtedly doctrinal roots that go back earlier, even while recognizing that RCism continues to change even today.

That doesn't mean that no one before 1054 held to any views in common with Roman Catholics, and it doesn't mean that things like the Edict of Milan or the forged "Donation of Constantine" were insignificant factors in producing what eventually came to be RCism. Still, calling anyone in the late patristic or early medieval period "Roman Catholic" is anachronistic.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why Not Rome?

Reformed Reader has ten great reasons not to join the Roman communion. My own top ten list would probably be something like this (going off the cuff, and not in any particular order):

1) Worship of Bread

The host is bread - it's not God and shouldn't be worshiped as God. In the Lord's supper, the bread is the body of Christ, but in a non-literal sense (as should be obvious).

2) Papacy

God is my Holy Father, not any mere man.

3) Priesthood

Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man.

4) Mary

Mary was blessed and saved from her sins. She is our fellow creature and not to be offered hyper-dulia.

5) Worship by Images

God has explicitly forbidden the making or religious reverencing of images.

6) Prayers to the Dead

Those who are dead in Christ are - you know - dead in Christ. Their souls are with God. They cannot hear you any more than you can hear them.

7) Blood of the Martyrs

How could I join a denomination that persecuted the church of Christ and has not repented of this?

8) Ultra-Sectarianism

The worst example of schism is Rome, who pretends to be the only true church. Joining Roman communion is participation in that schism.

9) Scriptures

Rome does acknowledge Scripture's authority with her lips, but then takes that authority back by making human tradition the lens through which Scripture must be read.

10) Judgment or Gospel

I have no desire to receive the judgments God will mete out against those who preach or follow another gospel. Rather, I must and will hold fast to the gospel that the apostles preached, which is recorded in Scripture.