Sunday, October 19, 2014

Debate: Are Roman Catholics Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ? (White vs Wilson)

Does Trinitarian baptism join you to the New Covenant? Does it join you to Christ? Does it make you a brother or sister in Christ with everyone else who has likewise been baptized, even if you hold to a false gospel? Are Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters in Christ by baptism, but not by confession of faith? These are the issues debated by Douglas Wilson of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho and James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. (2 Hours 48 Minutes)


Saturday, October 18, 2014

O'Carroll on Calvin's Mariology

A few weeks ago I Came across Michael O'Carroll's Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Virgin Mary. His entry on Calvin was interesting, but unreadable unless one can read upside down. I took the time to flip the pages around.

Overall, I think this Roman Catholic treatment of Calvin's Mariology is quite good. Rome's apologists would do well to consider how radically different Calvin's view of Mary was to the Roman church of his day and the Roman church of our day. O'Carroll does well in describing the continuity / discontinuity of Calvin with the church of his day as well as with later periods of church history.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Your Comment is Awaiting Moderation

My apologies to those of you kind enough to leave comments. At times the comments may not appear immediately on the blog. I have trouble with trolls and stalkers from time to time.

There are only a few people who are permanently banned from commenting here. It takes a long time to reach the line that says, "Cross this and you'll be on permanent ignore."

Now with Facebook and Twitter, blog discussions aren't as popular as they once were. I still prefer blogs and discussion forums. I do maintain a Facebook page for this blog, and post to it from time to time. I simply don't have the time or desire to maintain it regularly. And besides, I've never really pursued being an Internet-apologist rock star. I don't sell anything, and more often than not, I blog the stuff I do out of purely selfish reasons rather than to gain a following. I expect no one to comment, and then I'm amazed people actually do.

Thanks for the comments.  


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Calvin: "There have been certain strange folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children..."

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This entry is a follow-up to: Tim Staples Says: Apologists Make Mistakes Too! There has been some interesting discussion on the blog entry recently posted by Mr. Staples about Calvin's view of Mary's perpetual virginity.

One point of interest was an obscure Calvin quote used by the Roman Catholic author Max Thurian, Mary: Mother of All Christians, pp. 39-40. His book was originally written in French in 1962. Thurian states:
Lastly Calvin's thought is made even more clear in a sermon on Matt. 1:22-25, which was published in 1562 in the shorthand notes of Denys Ragueneau: "There have been certain strange folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! for the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company. There we see that he had never known her person for he was separated from his wife. He could marry another all the more because he could not enjoy the woman to whom he was betrothed; but he rather desired to forfeit his rights and abstain from marriage, being yet always married: he preferred, I say, to remain thus in the service of God rather than to consider what he might still feel that he could come to. He had forsaken everything in order that he might subject himself fully to the will of God.
And besides this, our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second. Thus we see the intention of the Holy Spirit. This is why to lend ourselves to foolish subtleties would be to abuse Holy Scripture, which is, as St. Paul says, "to be used for our edification."(21)
(21) La Revue réformée 1956/4, pp. 63-64.

Documentation
If one checks Thurian's documentation for his Calvin quote, it doesn't appear to me that he actually utilized a primary source, but rather took his citation from La Revue réformée 1956/4, pp. 63-64. In other words, the Calvin quote in question that is presented in English came from the French, and was taken from a French journal. Where did the French journal get it? Did the journal article use the primary source? I don't know. Thurian says the sermon was published in 1562.  It's unclear to me when exactly the sermon was preached. T.H.L. Parker says Calvin began preaching on a Harmony of the Gospels in 1559 and did so until the end of his life, so it could very well have been 1562, but since the book was published in 1562, I would posit it was probably preached sometime between 1559-1561 (see Parker's chart here). One other interesting detail is that "Calvin left the publishing of his sermons to to others with the exception of four sermons which he revised and published..."

I tracked down the actual sermon. All the sources I checked mentioned that the person who took the shorthand notes on Calvin's sermons during this period, Denys Ragueneau, was a paid professional in this field, and his abilities surpassed earlier attempts to capture Calvin's sermons.

Context
Typical of Calvin on this issue, the subject matter of the entire sermon does not dwell on Mary, and even less on Joseph. The quote in question is more of a passing comment, or more of an an end-note (for lack of a better term) stuck right at the very end of the sermon:


The English Calvin translation from  Neville B. Cyer of Thurian pp. 38-39 is good, but leaves out some things:
And notably it is said that he did not know the Virgin until she had given birth to her first Son. By this the Evangelist means that Joseph had not taken her as his wife to live with her, but rather to obey God, and to fulfill his obligation to her. It was thus not for reasons of carnal love, nor for profit, nor for anything else that he took her as his wife; it was to obey God and to show that he accepted the grace proffered. This was a blessing, that he could not even fully appreciate. Here is what we must retain.
There have been certain strange folk who have wished to suggest from this passage  that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! for the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph's obedience and to show also that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company. There we see that he had never known her person for he was separated from his wife. He could marry another all the more because he could not enjoy the woman to whom he was betrothed; but he rather desired to forfeit his rights and abstain from marriage, being yet always married: he preferred, I say, to remain thus in the service of God rather than to consider what he might still feel that he could come to. He had forsaken everything in order that he might subject himself fully to the will of God.
And besides this, our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second. Thus we see the Holy Spirit's intention. To give ourselves over to subtle foolishness on this question would be to abuse the holy Scriptures, which is to be useful for our edification, as St Paul says. As for the rest, when men are so unstable and have such itching ears for new and appealing speculations, the devil must possess them as much as they harden themselves, so that they not be brought to the right path and thus trouble heaven and earth; rather, they must maintain their errors and dreams with a diabolical obstinacy. How much the more must we be sober to receive the doctrine that is given to us to accept the Redeemer who is sent to us from God his Father, and that we know his virtue so as to learn to hold ourselves fully in him.
Thus we bow down before the majesty of our good God.

Analysis
There are similarities between this comment and Calvin's earlier comments on Mary's virginity. In the well-known comments from Calvin's Commentaries, his basic point is that a necessary inference that Mary had other children cannot be made from the Biblical texts of Matthew 13:55 and 1:25, and it's “folly” to make a text say more than it does. In this sermon he likewise stresses that "Though some fantasies have been expressed that this passage is teaching that the virgin Mary had other children than Jesus and that Joseph lived with her afterwards, this is nonsense. The Evangelist had no interest in reciting what happened after."

There are some differences as well. When Calvin says, "And besides this, our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence," Calvin's commentary says, "He is called first-born; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin."

The sermon comments have some interesting details about Joseph. One thing to keep in mind is not reading into what Calvin is saying. For instance, when Calvin says, "He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company," and "Joseph had not taken her as his wife to live with her," it would be inconsistent within the context to conclude Calvin is saying that Joseph and Mary never lived together, even after the birth of Jesus. Calvin is not speculating as to what happened afterwards based on this verse (that's his main point!).  It would be a contextual error then to think Calvin here means that Joseph was some sort of monk never dwelling with Mary. The point Calvin is making concerns the period of betrothal. See particularly Calvin's comments on Matthew 1:18-25 where Calvin says "before they came together" means "before they came to dwell together as husband and wife, and to make one home and family" and "The meaning will thus be, that the virgin had not yet been delivered by her parents into the hands of her husband, but still remained under their roof." See also Calvin's comments on Luke 2:1-7 and Luke 2:48-58.

Calvin never comes right out and says Mary was a perpetual virgin, as Roman Catholics understand it. Calvin quite explicitly denies that Mary took a vow of perpetual virginity in his commentary on Luke 1:34-38:
The conjecture which some have drawn from these words, that she had formed a vow of perpetual virginity, is unfounded and altogether absurd. She would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage; which could not have been done without mockery of God. Although the Papists have exercised barbarous tyranny on this subject, yet they have never proceeded so far as to allow the wife to form a vow of continence at her own pleasure. Besides, it is an idle and unfounded supposition that a monastic life existed among the Jews.

We must reply, however, to another objection that the virgin refers to the future, and so declares that she will have no intercourse with a man. The probable and simple explanation is that the greatness or rather majesty of the subject made so powerful an impression on the virgin, that all her senses were bound and locked up in astonishment, when she is informed that the Son of God will be born, she imagines something unusual, and for that reason leaves conjugal intercourse out of view. Hence she breaks out in amazement, 'How shall this be?"
But if one reads between the lines of the sermon, it appears Calvin is saying Mary had no other children besides Jesus. Without any clear denial that Mary was not a perpetual virgin, and with comments that safeguard against the idea that Mary had other children- I think this is why so many writers have concluded Calvin held to the perpetual virginity of Mary- it's a conclusion from inference rather than a direct admission from Calvin. The problem with the conclusion is that it goes against Calvin's specific guidelines- to not speculate beyond what he thought the Scriptures stated. To be fair to Calvin is to allow him to say what he said, not what we want him to say. If one really wanted to give Calvin's opinion on this issue, it is to simply say that Calvin did not think it correct to speculate. This isn't the answer polemicists want to hear, but it is letting Calvin be Calvin.


The Argument From Tim Staples on Calvin and Perpetual Virginity
Mr Staples eventually changed his original blog entry. He originally stated:

This second myth is even more widespread. I have found it not only taught and published by many Catholics, but I even found one popular Calvinist apologist who has it up on his website as being true. And that is, John Calvin actually taught the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. He did not.
He revised it to:

This second myth is even more widespread, but I must qualify it. There can be no doubt that John Calvin, at least at some point in his career, believed in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. But to place him on the same level of Luther, Zwingli and Wesley is misguided. It is not to paint the entire picture accurately.

Mr. Staples was right originally. There is no explicit teaching from John Calvin on Mary's perpetual virginity. What there is are statements from Calvin saying not to go beyond the text of scripture to speculate as to whether or not Mary had other children.  In regard to the revised statement, the "one point in his career" in which Calvin is said to have believed in Mary's perpetual virginity is the sermon published in 1562 discussed above.  The way Mr. Staples sees it is that this sermon is "earlier in his career" as compared to Calvin's final word on the matter in his Commentary published in 1563. According to T.H.L. Parker though, Calvin's commentary on the Synoptics was published in 1555. As I stated above, the sermon is probably from 1559-1561. It would appear to me that the commentary was before the sermon. Even if the Staples dating scenario is correct and Calvin vacillated on this question in the span of year at the end of his life- this seems like a stretch to me- certainly possible, but hardly likely. Calvin was a consistent theologian. Certainly there were changes in his thinking, but they typically were not saying one thing one year and the opposite the next.

On the other hand, Mr. Staples makes some interesting arguments that I'd like to contrast with some comments from Steve Hays :

...[I]f we read further in Calvin's commentary and head over to Luke 1:34, in volume 2 of this same work I mentioned above, he seems to deny what he had earlier accepted as true.

Luke 1:34 is the famous text where Mary, having heard God's invitation for her to become the Mother of God through the message of the Archangel Gabriel, asks the obvious question: "How shall this be since I know not man?" In other words, "How is this going to happen since I do not plan on having conjugal relations?" For more details on this and more, get my book!

Calvin's commentary on this text reads: “The conjecture which some have drawn from these words, that she had formed a vow of perpetual virginity, is unfounded and altogether absurd. She would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage…”

Notice here, he not only denies this text could be used to prove Mary had a vow of Perpetual Virginity before her marriage to St. Joseph, but that this "would have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage." This would seem to deny the Perpetual Virginity of Mary itself as a possible consideration for Calvin, and it seems to be a change in Calvin's thinking on the matter.

So what may have informed this change? I argue, it may well have been his understanding of the "covenant" of marriage. Remember, John Calvin did not believe marriage to be a sacrament that is ratified as such at the altar of a church and then consummated on the wedding night. It was a "covenant" conditioned upon certin essential things, including the exchange of vows, a minister present, public witnesses, and the consummation. In his commentary on Eph. 5:28, for example, he says:
Marriage was appointed by God on the condition that the two should be one flesh; and that this unity may be the more sacred, he again recommends it to our notice by the consideration of Christ and his church.
The consummation, for Calvin, was essential to marriage. But even more, in his commentary on Eph. 5:31:
And they two shall be one flesh. They shall be one man, or, to use a common phrase, they shall constitute one person; which certainly would not hold true with regard to any other kind of relationship. All depends on this, that the wife was formed of the flesh and bones of her husband. Such is the union between us and Christ, who in some sort makes us partakers of his substance. 'We are bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh,' (Ge 2:23;) not because, like ourselves, he has a human nature, but because, by the power of his Spirit, he makes us a part of his body, so that from him we derive our life.

If "all is dependent upon this," it is no wonder that Calvin (and this followers today) would eventually come to view the PVBVM as out of the question.

The Argument From Steve Hays
This same point Mr. Staples makes was alluded to recently by Steve Hays:
Finally, there's a substantive theological issue. If Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage, then it was never a real marriage (by Jewish standards). In that event, Jesus is not the legal stepson of Joseph, in which case he can't trace his family tree through either the Matthean or Lucan genealogies.
I'm not exactly sure what Calvin would say about this argument in regard to Mary and Joseph. To be consistent, any sort of comment would be going beyond Calvin's stated opinion into the realm of speculation. In terms of sheer logic, the point Hays makes is cogent, and I would agree with him.

Hays also says,
It comes as no revelation that the Protestant Reformers agreed with the Latin Church and (some) church fathers on a number of issues. There's continuity as well as discontinuity. So it wouldn't be some great coup to discover points of agreement between Luther or Calvin with the Latin Church or some church fathers. That was never in dispute.  
Hays gets to the heart of the issue. What I've found is that the alleged Mariology of the Reformers has been used by the defenders of Rome to show that the Reformers practiced sola scriptura and held to distinctly Roman doctrines. Therefore, they argue a few different ways:

a) Romanism is biblical
b) Sola Scriptura is inconsistent (or all Protestants should agree as to what the Scriptura teaches)
c) To be consistent Protestants, following the direct opinions of the original Protestants is necessary.

Hays though points out what any good Protestant historian would say: within all periods of church history, there is continuity and discontinuity. It doesn't surprise me or embarrass me as a Protestant to discover Luther believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. Nor does the view of Calvin that appears to affirm the notion of perpetual virginity between the lines while at the same time saying not to speculate beyond the Biblical text. When one closely scrutinizes the Mariology of the Reformers, one finds exactly what Hays says: there's continuity as well as discontinuity with the Reformers and earlier periods of church history as well as the period in which they lived.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tim Staples Says: Apologists Make Mistakes Too!

Tim Staples has yet another product coming out on Mary. This time it's a book entitled, Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines.  That Rome's defenders continually produce materials about Mary is not surprising, but what is surprising is that Staples recently pitched the book on his blog stating, Apologists Make Mistakes Too! What Staples is referring to are historical errors some of his fellow apologists have made with the historical facts concerning the Protestant Reformers.

For years Rome's apologists have tried to use aspects of the Reformation in support of their version of Mary. The basic argument is that the Reformers held to sola scriptura and yet had a Roman Catholic Mariology. Luther and Calvin believed this or that about Mary, so... why don't contemporary "Bible only" Protestants?

Some of their argumentation is downright silly. Staples rightly identifies one of the worst:


Luther Was Not Buried Beneath An Image of Our Lady 
 As I point out in my book, Martin Luther did retain much of his Catholic Mariology after having left the Church. But there are also not a few myths about what Luther did and taught floating about in Catholic circles. If you haven't heard this one yet, you will. It has been written about and spoken about by quite a few Catholics, and I have personally heard some very well-known apologists state it as true as well. The myth claims there to be a relief of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with an accompanying inscription by Peter Vischer the Younger over the tomb of Martin Luther in the Wittenberg "Schlosskirche" ("Palace Church") where he is buried. "See?" The argument goes. "Luther believed in Mary assumed into heaven and crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth!" Unfortunately, it is actually a memorial plaque for Henning Gode, the last Catholic Prior of that church, who died in 1521. Same building, but not connected to Luther. Luther did believe in Mary as Mother of God, Perpetual Virgin, and even, at least at times in his writings, free from all sin, though he goes both ways on this one, but there is nary at hint of Mary's assumption.

I first came across the burial vault argument in 2007 while listening to a podcast from Mark Shea. Shea stated:

For Luther the Assumption was a settled fact...indeed Luther's burial vault in the Wittenburg church on whose door he had posted his ninety five theses was adorned with the 1521 Peter Vischer's sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin.
This led me to a statement by Peter Stravinskas:
Most interesting of all, perhaps, is the realization that his burial chamber in the Wittenberg church, on whose door he had posted his 95 Theses, was adorned with the 1521 Peter Vischer sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin, with the inscription containing these lines: Ad summum Regina thronum defertur in altum: Angelicis praelatia choris, cui festus et ipse Filius occurrens Matrem super aethera ponit. This "archaeological" fact would seem to speak volumes about Luther's final thoughts on the place of Mary in the life of a Christian.
Staples is correct about the tomb inscription and that Rome's defenders have used it to say, "Luther believed in Mary assumed into heaven and crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth!" Staples is also correct that in Luther's Reformation writings "there is nary at [sic] hint" he believed Mary was assumed into heaven.

Staples then moves to a mistake about John Calvin:

Calvin Did NOT Believe in the Perpetual Virginity of Mary 
This second myth is even more widespread. I have found it not only taught and published by many Catholics, but I even found one popular Calvinist apologist who has it up on his website as being true. And that is, John Calvin actually taught the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. He did not. The error seems to have stemmed from misunderstanding some few comments from John Calvin’s 3-volume set, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Transl. by Rev. William Pringle (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2009). In his commentaries on Matt. 13:55 and Matt. 1:25, in volume 1, he takes Helvidius to task for assuming Mary had other children because of the mention of the “brothers of the Lord,” in Matthew 13:55, and for assuming “Joseph knew her not until…” meant that Joseph then was being said to have known Mary conjugally after Christ was born. Calvin correctly and sternly (in good Calvin fashion) teaches the "brothers" of the Lord may well be a Hebrew idiom representing "cousins" or some other extended relative. And he also points out that the "until" of Matt. 1:25 really says nothing about what happened after Mary gave birth. It was used there to emphasize the virginity of Mary up "until" that point. Don't get me wrong here. This is good stuff from John Calvin. He honestly exegetes these texts and corrects not only Helvidius, but, no doubt, some of his own confreres who were presuming what was not in these texts. That's a good thing! But unfortunately, many Catholics have taken these two sections of Calvin's commentary out of context and claim it to mean he agreed with the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. But in fact, he never says that. He simply concludes these Scriptures to be silent on the matter. They prove neither yeah nor nay when it comes to Mary's perpetual virginity. What my Catholic friends should have done (and I include myself here before I found this while researching for my book... ssssssshhhhhhh!) is to read further in Calvin's commentary and head over to Luke 1:34, in volume 2 of this same work, where he expressly denies Mary’s perpetual virginity.Luke 1:34 is the famous text where Mary, having heard God's invitation for her to become the Mother of God through the message of the Archangel Gabriel, asks the obvious question: "How shall this be since I know not man?" In other words, "How is this going to happen since I do not plan on having conjugal relations?" For more details on this and more, get my book! Calvin's commentary on this text reads: “The conjecture which some have drawn from these words, that she had formed a vow of perpetual virginity, is unfounded and altogether absurd. She would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage…” Notice here, he not only denies this text could be used to prove the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, but he denies the doctrine itself as a possible consideration.

This is another issue that's been on this blog for many years now. One of my earliest blog entries addressing this goes back to 2006, and it's come up a number of times since then. I would say that Staples is probably the first of Rome's popular defenders to arrive at the conclusion he has about Calvin on this issue.  I look forward to utilizing Staples here the next time one of Rome's apologists bring this up.

Kudos to Mr. Staples, especially with his position on Calvin. I've accused Rome's defenders for years of sloppy and inaccurate historical work on the Protestant Reformation, especially the Reformers' Mariology. At times it's been like shooting fish in a barrel. I have not purchased the book Staples reveals all this information in.  I would speculate there's a good chance he probably came across this blog while doing his research. I know even if he did utilize my blog for his book, he would probably not admit it. It is possible as well Mr. Staples has no idea who I am and figured this stuff out the same way I did: by looking at evidence and reading documents in context.

Ah well. It's enough for me that one of Rome's popular defenders is now saying some of the same things I've been saying for years.


ht: "guy fawkes" for his blog comment alerting me to the blog entry from Mr. Staples.



Addendum #1
I attempted to purchase the e-book version of Staples' new book on Mary, but as of 10/12/14 it was not yet available. Because (as Staples explains below) his comments about the Reformers are footnotes rather than actual lengthier treatments, I can't see the value in spending more than twice the amount for the actual book.

Addendum #2
A comment was left for Mr. Staples giving (among other things) a Calvin citation from a secondary source (that is, no original or complete context) documenting a sermon from Calvin (a citation from Calvin in English which was translated from the French, originally from shorthand notes), taken from a French journal, not the original sermon (that is- the secondary source utilized a Calvin quote from a journal).

Mr. Staples then responded and gave some further information about his position on John Calvin and Mary's perpetual virginity:

I did not go into this kind of detail in the book because it was a peripheral point and limited to a footnote. I was speaking of how a lack of understanding of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary can lead to the loss of an understanding of many crucial teachings, like the indissolubility of marriage, sacraments, consecrated celibacy, the biblical notion of consecration in general, and more. In passing I note how the loss of an understanding of these things can lead to a loss of understanding of Mary's Perpetual Virginity or vice versa. That is when I toss out the idea that Luther's followers could be examples of the former while Calvin's followers the latter. I then footnote the fact that I believe Calvin rejected the Perpetual Virginity of Mary in his commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke and that I think many of us have taken this work out of context over the years. I don't comment on his earlier sermon at all. Again, maybe I should have, but it was a footnote. At any rate, here's my take on what you say. I think Calvin, like Luther on the Immaculate Conception, seemed to waffle on this teaching. Calvin was much more systematic than Luther, but he evolved (or devolved) in his teaching at times as well. But the use of his commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, specific to his comments on Matt. 13:55 and especially Matt. 1:25 is misguided, in my opinion. When you consider that Calvin explicitly takes a position in between Helvidius and Jerome in his commentary on Matt. 1:25 and he says as much, he says the text does not conclude either way, and then he footnotes his own work in Matt. 1:25 when he comments on Matt. 13:55 that the "brothers of the Lord" could be a Hebrew idiom for some other extended relation, that seems to me to be more agnostic than declaratory of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. I don't think the references to "the Virgin Mary" would carry the day either. I know I referred to Mary as "the Virgin Mary" when I was Protestant, but that did not mean I believed she was a perpetual virgin. While it is true that the "title" "Virgin Mary" did carry with it a connotation of a permanent state in the first 16 centuries of the Christians era, so it is an interesting point, I think it more important to go to Calvin's writings on the topic to get at what he really believed. To the point: I would give more weight to his Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, than to the earlier sermon. A major commentary on Scripture that probably took years to write seems to me to be more telling than a sermon that is written in a few days. Moreover, the translation of Calvin's commentary (by Pringle) I used is a collation of both the original Latin 1555 edition and the 1563 French translation that Calvin himself translated from his original Latin text just about a year before he died. So this would come after his 1562 sermon. To give you more of the citation, I'll pick up near the end of my citation and continue: "... and would have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage; which could not have been done without mockery of God. Although the Papists have exercised barbarous tyranny on this subject, yet they have never proceeded so far as to allow the wife to form a vow of continence at her own pleasure. Besides, it is an idle and unfounded supposition that a monastic life existed among the Jews." Thus, he rejects the notion that Mary could have had a vow of perpetual virginity at the annunciation to be sure. He then goes on to reject that Mary could be referring to the future and never having intercourse with a man either: "We must reply, however, to another objection that the virgin refers to the future, and so declares that she will have no intercourse with a man. The probable and simple explanation is that the greatness or rather majesty of the subject made so powerful an impression on the virgin, that all her senses were bound and locked up in astonishment, when she is informed that the Son of God will be born, she imagines something unusual, and for that reason leaves conjugal intercourse out of view. Hence she breaks out in amazement, 'How shall this be?'" What jumped out at me reading this was this: He is responding to an "objection." An objection to what? To his teaching that the very idea of a virgin giving herself to a husband while planning to be a perpetual virgin would be tantamount to committing "treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and... pour[ing] contempt on the holy covenant of marriage." Those are very strong words that would, in my view, lend themselves to Calvin having second and third thoughts about the perpetual virginity of Mary at the very least. If he wanted to clarify things, it would seem to me Matt. 1:25 would be the place to do it because that is where "Joseph takes Mary his wife," but there he is clearly agnostic on the matter. Again, I don't go this deep into Calvin's mind in the book, but I would think, at the very least, one should say Calvin may have held to the view and then waffled on it, rather than just claiming he held to the dogma as did Luther, Zwingli, and even Wesley. Whenever I cite Luther on the sinlessness of Mary, I also note that this was early in his career and he seemed to move away from it later. That seems to me to be the honest thing to do. I would hope folks would have this same courtesy toward me if they come upon things I taught early on that I have come to see I was mistaken on. Or, at least, I would hope folks would inform their audience of my change in thinking. That's my two cents worth. Though you may think it worth less than that!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Luther: All Christians are Peters on Account of the Confession He Makes


While digging around in Hartmann Grisar, Luther V, I came across the following:

Of Mat. xvi. 18: "Thou art Peter and on this rock I will build my church," he gives the following explanation, which plainly rests on his own partisan and anti-Papal standpoint: By Peter all Christians together with Peter are meant, and their confession is the rock. "All Christians are Peters on account of the confession which here Peter makes, which also is the rock on which Peter and all the other Peters are built. The confession is common to all; hence also the name." "Werke," Erl. ed., 64, p. 194.

I was curious to see the context for this quote so I tracked down Erl 64:194. The comment is from a marginal note from Luther's translation of the Bible. I don't recall the complete set of these marginal notes ever being translated into English.

As to Grisar's charge of partisan and anti-Papal, it's too late to direct him to William Webster's The Patristic Exegesis of the Rock of Matthew 16:18.

Also while digging around I found my old blog entry where I nailed the Called to Communion folks on Luther giving the keys to Peter.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Just as the Reformation was Gaining Momentum... Mary appeared and Converted 9 Million Indians

Here's an interesting anti-Reformation argument from the New Oxford Review, May 2014 by Frederick Marks.* The following excerpt is part of a larger article presenting an apologetic for the importance of the Roman Catholic Mary:

Of special interest from the standpoint of history is the fact that hostility to Marian devotion is a post-Reformation phenomenon that appears to have arisen in response to an event that occurred in faraway Mexico. When Luther and Calvin launched their reform movement, they subscribed to all that the Church practiced and taught on the subject of Mary. But fourteen years after Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, just as the Reformation was gaining momentum, Mary appeared to Juan Diego at Guadalupe, triggering the conversion of nine million native Indians. The year was 1531, and Christians were on the fence theologically. Should they leave the Church? If they had already done so, should they return? Suddenly, Mary appears to a Catholic and asks him to approach a Catholic bishop to have a Catholic church built in her honor so that people may approach her Son in the Eucharist.
Over the years, evidence for Mary’s New World apparition mounted, and Protestant reformers found themselves in a quandary. How could they admit that the mother of Jesus had come down on the opposite side of the theological fence? Subsequent apparitions, such as those at Lourdes (1858) and Fatima (1917), undeniably authentic, did little to ease the pain. Consequently, some Protestants wound up denying the importance of the Blessed Mother while others questioned the existence of post-apostolic miracles and advised folks to go “straight to Jesus.” 




1. "Hostility to Marian devotion is a post-Reformation phenomenon that appears to have arisen in response to an event that occurred in faraway Mexico."

The key word here is devotion. If devotion is nothing more than saying nice things about Mary, then Protestants are not hostile to Mary (even those in the 17th century). On the other hand, if devotion includes the intercession of the saints, and the cult of the virgin, then hostility to Marian devotion is a Reformation phenomenon, not a post-Reformation phenomenon.


2. "When Luther and Calvin launched their reform movement, they subscribed to all that the Church practiced and taught on the subject of Mary."

 Both Luther and Calvin denied the intercession of the saints, thus changing their theology of Mary drastically and radically compared to popular Roman piety then and now. Neither would pray to Mary, and would tell those people listening to them not to pray to her either. Yes, in 1517, Luther appears to have held the typical Marian piety of medieval Christianity. By 1522, one can find written evidence that he was instructing people away from the intercession of the saints, and not soon thereafter emphasizing to his hearers to move away from the cult of the saints. If the statement is true that Luther "subscribed to all that the Church practiced and taught on the subject of Mary" in 1517, I would include the popular notion that Christ was the cruel judge and Mary was the merciful advocate turning away His wrath.

I've not found any evidence that Calvin held to the intercession of the saints or the cult of the saints during his Reformation career. Then there were Marian issues that weren't official teachings of the Roman church during the Reformation period that both did not embrace- like Mary's assumption. Then there were issues like the immaculate conception in which Luther changed his view on, and Calvin did not adhere to at all. Then there's the fact that Calvin's position on Mary's perpetual virginity is that the Gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards to Mary- so Calvin doesn't decide one way or the other. This is hardly subscribing to "all that the Church practiced and taught on the subject of Mary."


3. "But fourteen years after Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, just as the Reformation was gaining momentum, Mary appeared to Juan Diego at Guadalupe, triggering the conversion of nine million native Indians."

Well, because of the Reformation there have been more than 9 million Protestants. I doubt the author intends to argue that the number of conversions = truth.

One source I looked at said the written tradition of the 1531 event "cannot be traced earlier than the work of Fr. Miguel Sanchez in 1648..." I don't claim to be a knowledgeable person on Mary's alleged appearances- probably because rarely if ever in all my years of Internet encounters with the defenders of Rome have I come across any of them using these appearances for apologetic purposes. One can spend hours on dissecting the source material and debate of Juan Diego and Mary. The way it typically comes down is that Rome did an investigation and declared him a saint, so whatever disparaging evidence is presented won't do much good to one of Mary's defenders. One fact though did bother me enough to look into: the nine million Indian converts. The majority of sources I looked at say it was eight million, not nine,  during the seven year period of 1531-1538. Some sources say 9 million in little over a decade. I have sought out verification of this- and so far, I haven't come across any actual historical evidence documenting this mass conversion due to Mary, nor have I found any indication of what such a conversion entails and how it was determined. Most often, the pro-Roman sources simply say it happened, and happened because of Mary's appearance. The conversion of South America to Christianity may in fact be a lot more complicated than the appearance of Mary (yes, that's sarcasm). See or instance, this article.


4. "The year was 1531, and Christians were on the fence theologically. Should they leave the Church? If they had already done so, should they return? Suddenly, Mary appears to a Catholic and asks him to approach a Catholic bishop to have a Catholic church built in her honor so that people may approach her Son in the Eucharist."

I'm not exactly sure which Christians on the fence in 1531 the author is describing. If he's describing people in Europe, I'm not familiar with any documentation of European Christians in 1531 that were pushed one way or other because of a report of Mary's appearance in Mexico.


5. "Over the years, evidence for Mary’s New World apparition mounted, and Protestant reformers found themselves in a quandary. How could they admit that the mother of Jesus had come down on the opposite side of the theological fence?"

I'm not sure exactly which Protestant Reformers the author has in mind. I know of no statements from either Luther or Calvin on Juan Diego's story.


6. "Subsequent apparitions, such as those at Lourdes (1858) and Fatima (1917), undeniably authentic, did little to ease the pain. Consequently, some Protestants wound up denying the importance of the Blessed Mother while others questioned the existence of post-apostolic miracles and advised folks to go 'straight to Jesus.'"

The miracles of Lourdes and Fatima are undeniably authentic... if one is a Roman Catholic. Protestants did not and have not denied "the importance of the Blessed Mother." Mary played her role in the gospel story, and is therefore an important person (as was Peter, Paul, James, Abraham, etc.). What the author is getting at is that Protestants have denied the intercessory role of Mary, devotion to Mary, and Mary's alleged miracles, and would rather "go straight to Jesus." Well, yes, we would rather go straight to Jesus... and the problem is...?

*The link to the article from the New Oxford Review requires a subscription. The article appears to have been cut-and-pasted here.


Addendum 
Here's an interesting pro-Juan Diego source and it's anti-Reformation polemic:
She declared to Juan Diego that she was the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God.  This doctrinal statement contradicted emphatically the ideas of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation then turning all Europe into two camps.  She called Juan Diego her very dear son, and proclaimed herself a loving mother to all who would come to her with their problems and cares; in other words, substantiating the Church's traditional teaching that Our Lord, from the Cross, in giving her to St. John as his mother and appointing St. John as her son, was creating for her a universal role as Mother of us all.  This was being denied by the Protestant Reformers:  Mary was for them simply the historic mother of Jesus and had no other role to play.
She offered her intercession—as a mediatrix of graces—to all who should ask for it.  This, too, was of course denied by the Reformers, and where "national churches" were being set up, taking over the magnificent churches of the "Old Faith" as in England, the many little German kingdoms and the Scandinavian countries, the images of the Blessed Virgin, as well as those of the Saints, were being thrown out of the churches and homes and were burned or hacked to pieces.  But Our Lady in 1531 firmly emphasized her intercessory role in "the Communion of Saints."

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Luther's German Bible Only and KJV Only

Here's an interesting post I found on the"King James Only" CARM discussion board, relating to the idea that particular translations of the Bible receive divine approval. Apparently, some of the KJV only folks argue that Luther's German Bible was God's approved German translation. I'm sure Luther would have been flattered by that! The point being addressed is if Luther's German translation was divinely approved of and the KJV was divinely approved of, why are there differences?


If according to KJV-only reasoning Luther’s German Bible and the KJV are equal to the same underlying texts, it suggests that they are equal to each other. When the water of the Received text was poured out into Luther’s German Bible, did it not remain the same water according to KJV-only reasoning? If according to KJV-only reasoning Luther’s German Bible and the KJV are equal to the same thing [the self-attesting, self-authenticating word of God], it again indicates that they are equal to each other. J. J. Ray maintained that “things equal to the same thing are equal to each other” (God Wrote Only One Bible, p. 29). Likewise, D. A. Waite acknowledged that “things equal to the same thing are equal to each other” (Fundamentalist Deception, p. 84). Waite wrote: “As in geometry, two things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other” (Critical Answer to Michael, p. 119). According to the KJV-only view’s own tree, Luther’s German Bible and the KJV are branches on the same tree. This would also seem to imply that they are equal to each other. In his book Biblical Scholarship, Ruckman referred to the “Luther‘s Bible and the King James Bible” (p. 56), “Receptus of King James and Martin Luther” (p. 94), “Martin Luther’s German Bible and the King James Bible” (p. 142), and “Martin Luther’s German Bible and the King James Authorized English Bible” (p. 390), seeming to make them equal. According to a consistent application of KJV-only claims and reasoning, Luther’s German Bible and the KJV would have equal authority, and one of these translations cannot have greater authority than the other. If a standard and consensus English translation of the Received text is supposed to be self-attesting and self-authenticating, a standard and consensus German translation of that same text would also need to be self-attesting and self-authenticating. Is Luther's German Bible the consensus and sole final authority for believers that speak German? Can there be two varying and different consensus sole and final authorities for any believers that speak both English and German? Based on what greater authority or standard can it be claimed that one of these translations is greater than or superior to the other? If there are any differences between them, it is valid evidence of the need a greater authority than either of these translations to determine which is more accurate.

All the editions of Luther's Bible published during Luther's lifetime did not include 1 John 5:7, Mark 11:26, and Luke 17:36 in addition to many other differences when compared to the KJV. When compared to the KJV, Luther's Bible was also missing phrases at John 19:38, James 4:6, 1 John 2:23, Revelation 18:23, and Revelation 21:26. Glenn Conjurske observed: "The fact is, (in addition to numerous other differences) there are whole verses in the King James Version which neither are nor ever have been in Luther's German" (Olde Paths, Sept., 1997, p. 212). Preserved Smith reported that 1 John 5:7 was first placed in the German Bible in 1575 (Age of Reformation, p. 570). Conjurske also pointed out that Luther omitted 1 John 5:7 from the revised edition of the Latin Vulgate that he published in 1529 (March, 1997, p. 72).

KJV-only author Peter Ruckman seemed to suggest that “Luther’s German Bible is nearly identical” to the KJV (Bible Babel, p. 91). Ruckman recommended “Martin Luther's German version" (Scholarship Only Controversy, p. 1). In his commentary on the book of Revelation, Ruckman wrote: “Martin Luther’s German Bible is the same text as the King James, 1611” (p. 80). In his same commentary, Ruckman asserted: “Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible is a monument in the German language, exactly as the King James Bible is a monument in the English language” (p. 82). Ruckman wrote: “Martin’s German Bible is the German King James Bible. It is the equivalent of the ‘King’s English,’ and so all affirm” (Biblical Scholarship, p. 146). Ruckman wrote: “God produced a German Textus Receptus for the Continent” (p. 230). Ruckman asserted: “Never hesitate to correct any Greek text with the text of the ‘Reichstext’” (Monarch of the Books, p. 19). Bradley stated that Luther's Bible "is still considered the preserved Word of God for the German-speaking world” and that it “was produced from the same reliable text as the King James Bible" (Purified Seven Times, p. 36).

The Argument
I don't have the KJV only books mentioned above to check the references to see if the authors had Luther's Bible in mind (J.J. Ray, D.A. Waite, Peter Ruckman), but it appears the argument is presented correctly. Ruckman states,
"One of the most asinine things you ever heard in your life is a modern, present-day evangelist, standing in the pulpit, talking about great revivals to come, when he no longer believes the Authorized Version is the word of God. Martin Luther's German Bible is the same text as the King James, 1611. Subsequently, all Bibles in Europe and the United States, from these translations, are Textus Receptus, Greek Byzantine text, Syrian type text, and they are NOT the text of the North African Latin Church - in other words today, the Roman Catholic Church."
 This website states:
As an interesting aside, the Martin Luther Bible has a lot to do with the King James Version only debate. Those that hold to KJV only have to provide a Bible in all languages, not just English. They have chosen Luther's 1545 edition as their German champion. The problem is that the passage about three bearing witness in heaven is one of their main arguing points, and Martin Luther did not include it in his Bible. The Martin Luther Bible now contains it, but it was added in 1574 by a Frankfurt publisher (Schaff, cited in text, VII:4:62)
If the KJV only position has been put forth accurately, then the refutation is sound. Dr. White points out that the KJV only advocates claim the Textus Receptus is the "text of the Reformation." It would not surprise me at all to discover KJV only advocates molding history to fit their paradigm.


Tedium: The References
The reference to Preserved Smith can be found here. Smith was a knowledgeable Reformation scholar and not one to defend the Reformers at all costs. One will find that in this text one page earlier Smith describes Luther's Bible: "Among the great vernacular Protestant versions of the Bible that of Luther stands first in every sense of the word." A paragraph later he states, "All too much Luther read his own ideas into the Bible." Of the reference in question, Smith states, "Also, following the Erasmian text, he omitted the 'comma johanneum' (1 John v, 7); this was first insinuated into the German Bible in 1575."

The quotes from Glenn Conjurske (1947-2001) are curious. The September 1997 was a passing comment in an article in which neither KJV onlyism or Luther's Bible was the topic. The quote from March 1997 is more relevant:
We have informed our readers in these pages before that Luther omitted I John 5:7 from every edition of his German New Testament which he published during his lifetime. I have recently learned that he also omitted it from the revised edition of the Latin Vulgate which he published in 1529. This edition is printed in the large German edition of D. Martin Luthers Werke (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1914)----no indication in the book which volume this is of the whole set, but it is Fünfter Band of D. Martin Luthers Deutsche Bibel. The text of I John 5:7-8 appears thus: Quoniam tres sunt qui testimonium dant, Spiritus, Aqua et Sanguis, et hi tres simul sunt. The common Vulgate text (Clementine edition), on the other hand, reads thus (with the words omitted by Luther in bold type): Quoniam tres sunt qui testimonium dant in cælo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus; et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra: spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis; et hi tres unum sunt. This omission was a bold step on Luther's part, for, as Scrivener informs us, the verse is found “in perhaps 49 out of every 50”[manuscripts of the Vulgate, but the very boldness of the step proves beyond cavil, if any further proof were wanted, that Luther did not believe in the genuineness of the verse.

The Bible Verses
The information about Luther's Bible not including 1 John 5:7, Mark 11:26, and Luke 17:36 appears on various websites, (typically discussion boards) debunking KJV only arguments like this one: "the fact that Luther's German Bible did not include Mark 11:26, Luke 17:36, 1 John 5:7, and many other clauses and phrases in the KJV is ignored."

Luther's treatment of 1 John 5:7 is a well-known fact. This old Sunday School newspaper mentions that it was the printer Feyerabeud who inserted 1 John 5:7 into Luther's Bible in 1574, and this old source says it was in Frankfort 1574, but later in Frankfort in 1583, it was taken out again.

The information about the other verses isn't as easy to locate. This website claims to have a 1545 Luther Bible. Luke 17:36 is missing, while Mark 11:26 is included, but is actually what we know to be the later part of Mark 11:25: "auf daß auch euer Vater im Himmel euch vergebe eure Feile." Other online 1545 Luther Bible's have the missing verse 26.

It is also asserted that "Luther's Bible was also missing phrases at John 19:38, James 4:6, 1 John 2:23, Revelation 18:23, and Revelation 21:26." If you Google search this, it appears to me it's probably the same person that's responsible for all the hits. I would be interested to know who originally did the research.  I took the time to compare the online 1545 Luther Bible to the 1912 online Luther Bible.

John 19:38
1545: Darnach bat den Pilatus Joseph von Arimathia, der ein Jünger Jesu war, doch heimlich aus Furcht vor den Juden, daß er möchte abnehmen den Leichnam Jesu. Und Pilatus erlaubte es.

1912: Darnach bat den Pilatus Joseph von Arimathia, der ein Jünger Jesu war, doch heimlich aus Furcht vor den Juden, daß er möchte abnehmen den Leichnam Jesu. Und Pilatus erlaubte es. Da kam er und nahm den Leichnam Jesu herab.

James 4:6
1545: und gibt reichlich gnade.

1912: Er gibt aber desto reichlicher Gnade. Darum sagt sie: "Gott widersteht den Hoffärtigen, aber den Demütigen gibt er Gnade."

1 John 2:23
1545: Wer den Son leugnet  Der hat auch den Vater nicht.

1912: Wer den Sohn leugnet, der hat auch den Vater nicht; wer den Sohn bekennt, der hat auch den Vater

Revelation 18:23
1545:  und die tim des Breutigams und der Braut ol nicht mehr in dir gehöret werden Denn deine Kauffleute waren Fürten auff erden Denn durch deine Zeuberey ind verirret worden alle Heiden

1912: und das Licht der Leuchte soll nicht mehr in dir leuchten, und die Stimme des Bräutigams und der Braut soll nicht mehr in dir gehört werden! Denn deine Kaufleute waren Fürsten auf Erden; denn durch deine Zauberei sind verführt worden alle Heiden.

Revelation 21:26
1545: und wird nicht hineingehen irgend ein Gemeines und das da Greuel tut und Lüge Sondern die geschrieben sind in dem lebendigen Buch des Lambs

1912: Und man wird die Herrlichkeit und die Ehre der Heiden in sie bringen.

The only error here is that of Revelation 21:26. According to the online 1545 version I utilized, verses 26-27 constitute one verse.  The 1912 version is two separate verses: 

26 Und man wird die Herrlichkeit und die Ehre der Heiden in sie bringen.
27 Und es wird nicht hineingehen irgend ein Gemeines und das da Greuel tut und Lüge, sondern die geschrieben sind in dem Lebensbuch des Lammes

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Hardship, Loss of Job, Trouble, Etc. Do Not Equal = Truth

Those of you keeping up with Roman Catholic apologetics may have come across Dr. White's recent entry, Jason Stellman’s Unmitigated Disaster.

Mr. Stellman's entry documented his hardship since joining Rome, and then ends with his own version of Here I Stand, I can do no other.

Then throughout the few hundred comments, this sort of sentiment is repeated often:


"I don’t have any great words of wisdom that you don’t already know as well as anyone, that your reward will be great in heaven. I know that is often of little consolation when our temporal challenges (what you called “humanly speaking”) seem so overwhelming. But we receive our salvation “humanly speaking” as well; it is our humanness that is redeemed!"

"Jason Stellman, You are not alone. We all have to suffer friend. Count your blessings and look to heaven. You never know what God has in store for you next."

"However, we all need these times in our life to be tested, tried and prepared… It takes suffering to bring forth joy. It takes labor to have a baby, it takes time, effort and so much pain to win a race. It took the stations of the cross for us to have salvation… So just be sure this is all for your benefit (Rom 8,28), you will handle it and you’ll be stronger and wiser."

"You have my greatest respect, Jason. Since my husband and I converted several years ago we have heard from a number of fellow Protestant ministers who admit they feel called to Rome, but they don’t follow the call out of fear for their finances. I have almost given up hope for most of them and fear for their souls since they seem to be saying no to Christ in this way. I hope they will turn in time. But you did not count the cost. You saw Jesus in the blessed sacrament and followed Him. He is our life and hope. I know He will lead you into greener pastures."

And these comments go on and on.

A few years ago a friend of mine struggled for years to take care of his family and pay his bills. After years of struggling in the ministry, he finally landed a decent job as an assistant pastor in a non-denominational church. Then after a few years, the senior pastor retired, and named him as his successor. If I recall correctly, the job paid somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000. It included a nice house, health insurance, and a retirement package. This wasn't a mega church, but a small congregation in a nice area. And he lived happily ever after...

No, he didn't live happily ever after. Things were going smoothly until after studying a particular theological issue, he ended up preaching heresy from the pulpit. The church fired him, and the entire thing ravaged the small congregation. He did not go willingly, but rather convinced he was being persecuted for the truth. With the particular heresy he embraced, he found himself a new set of friends that gave him the same sort of sentiment documented above. He began writing for this heretical movement- even giving his testimony (for lack of a better word) of how he was booted unjustly from his church for embracing the "truth." He had a podcast. He had a blog (actually a few blogs). He was part of a radio network embracing this particular heresy, etc.

Suffering is a tricky thing. I have a friend of mine at church who has severe health problems, as does his wife. It's amazing they're still alive. He rarely mentions it. In fact, I have to pry it out of him at times to find out how he's doing. On the other hand, Stellman says: "To be honest, I don’t really know why I am posting this. I know for a fact that much of the information I am divulging will be received with glee from many in the Calvinistic world." I think it's fairly obvious why it was posted.

I don't consider myself gleeful about anything Mr. Stellman posted. I don't wish for my friend, the heretic he is- to be without income, unable to provide for his family, or excommunicated from the church. Neither do I wish those things for Mr. Stellman. But, my basic point is that struggle and hardship as the result of theological convictions do not equal truth. People have been persecuted for religious beliefs for hundreds of years- and some of these people were not even within the realm of Christian theism. I don't think my friend was thrown out of his church unjustly. Nor do I think Mr. Stellman's congregation excommunicated him unjustly.  Wherever my friend is now, with whatever struggle he's having- these are not because of the truth.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Calvin Did Not Understand the Book of Revelation?

One popular theological tidbit circulating is that Calvin did not produce a commentary on the Book of Revelation because he admitted he couldn't understand it:

One of the few books in the Bible that Calvin never wrote a commentary on was the Book of Revelation - he acknowledged that he couldn't understand it. (source)

Even John Calvin, who wrote commentaries on every book of the Bible, skipped Revelation because he did not understand it. (source)

It appears this notion has a long history, being traced back at least to The dictionary historical and critical of Mr. Peter Bayle, Volume 2, There Bayle says:

Scaliger, among other things, commended him for not commenting on the Revelations. He owned him however for the happiest of all the Commentators, in apprehending the Sense of the Prophets. O quam Calvinus bene assequitur mentem Prophetarumm? nemo melius — 'Oh how well Calvin has followed the mind of the Prophets! none better.' [Scaligerana p. 41.]. Since then he adds, Sapit quod in Apocalypsim non scripsit, that is to say, He was in the right not to attempt the Revelations; he must be of Opinion, that there was nothing to be done on that Book. I have read in Bodin what I am going to relate: 'In oraculis interpretandis, malui judiciorum illam formulam, NON LIQUET, usurpare, quam temere ex aliorum opinione non intellecta cuiquam assentiri. Ac valde mihi probatur Calvini non minus urbana quam prudens oratio: qui de libro Apocalypseos sententiam rogatus, ingenue respondit, se penitus ignorare quid velit tam obscurus scriptor: qui qualisque fuerit nondum constat inter eruditos. [Methodus historica cap. VII, p. 416] - In interpreting the Scriptures, I had rather use that judicial Form, IT DOES NOT APPEAR, than rashly subscribe to the Opinion of another which I do not understand. And I am very much pleased with that Saying of Calvin's, which was no less candid than discreet, who, being asked his Opinion of the Book of the Revelations, replied ingenuously, that he was not able to understand anything in so obscure a Writer, whose Name and History were not yet settled among the learned.' I should be glad to know whether Calvin said this in any of his Writings, or only in Conversation; I am more apt to believe the Latter; for it would not have become a Man of his Character to declare, that the learned were not yet agreed who was the Author of the Revelations. [source.]
I found this citation in T.H.L. Parker, Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, pp. 117-118. Parker points out that the evidence provided by Scaliger is no more than an opinion. Parker then questions whether or not Jean Bodin (1533-96) ever had any contact with Calvin, and then dismisses his comment as gossip.

The bottom line is there appears to be no credible historical evidence John Calvin said he did not produce a commentary on Revelation because he could not understand it.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

According to Catholic Answers, Protestantism is Heresy

Here's a tract offered by Catholic Answers: The Great Heresies. The tract outlines all the popular heresies, like, Gnosticism, Montanism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Pelagianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, to name a few... and included in their list is that dastardly sect, Protestantism.

Here's one of the key points:
To commit heresy, one must refuse to be corrected. A person who is ready to be corrected or who is unaware that what he has been saying is against Church teaching is not a heretic.
Depending on which defender of Rome you're talking to, you may be OK believing your Protestant heresy. I've come across some Romanists that say you are only committing heresy if you know that Rome is the true church, but still choose to believe something contrary to what she says. So according to these folks I'm not committing heresy because I don't believe Rome is the true church. Then there are those zealous defenders of Rome who long for the old days and realize the absurd qualifier just described is just that... absurd.

It's interesting to watch one of the less-ecumenical defenders of Rome on the Catholic Answers Apologetics forum clean up the ecumenical mess of recent Roman history:
That's for people who are absolutely clueless. They have to be innocently ignorant of this topic to qualify. It doesn't cover those who are NOT innocently ignorant. i.e. put little effort to learn the truth, or refuses to learn, or pretend to be ignorant, or are just hard of heart, or just plain stubborn, ( 1791 , 1859 ) they are NOT considered ignorant but culpable for their state. That's why the CCC states that Once someone "knows" 846 then they are required to act. And this knowlege is easy to find today. It's never been easier. (source)
For clarification Protestants are NOT the Catholic Church, no matter their stripe. Protestantism regardless the stripe, is listed in The Great Heresies "for those who knowingly and deliberately (that is, not out of innocent ignorance) commit the sins of heresy (rejecting divinely revealed doctrine) or schism (separating from the Catholic Church and/or joining a schismatic church), no salvation would be possible until they repented and returned to live in Catholic unity". We talked about the following just the other day. For those born outside the Catholic Church, aren't guilty of schism. But when they come to the knowledge of the Catholic Church, her founder, and necessity for being in the Catholic Church for salvation, would refuse to enter the Catholic Church, THEN they become guilty of that sin. Their Ignorance is no longer innocent. (source)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Are Rome's Apologists Spineless?

This warmed my heart: When Catholic Books Were... Catholic Books from the Catholic Champion website.
There is a section of the book speaking of Protestants in general, which as we know often attack the Catholic Church, strongly opposes their errors. Unfortunately most of today's Catholic apologists have no where near the knowledge or spine to speak plainly as the Catholics of old have done.
"Protestants being thus impious enough to make liars of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Ghost, and of the apostles, need we wonder if they continually slander Catholics, telling and believing worse absurdities about them than the heathens did?... All these grievous transgressions are another source of their reprobation."
The Catholic Champion does a fine job demonstrating that within the category of those that defend Rome against Protestantism, there is not always an apparent unity or even a real unity. The Champion is correct that if one visits Roman Catholic books from 100 years ago, the arguments against Protestantism were presented in a different (and often harsher) tone. Now, it's not uncommon to find shows like that which is found regularly on Catholic Answers in which the entire program is dedicated to a cordial chat with "non-Catholics."

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Where is Calvin's Commentary on Revelation?

One popular theological tidbit circulating in Reformed circles is the revelation that Calvin did not produce a commentary on the Book of Revelation.  T.H.L Parker gives some interesting facts about this:

1. In John Bale's commentary on Revelation (The Image of Both Churches, 1547), he lists the commentaries on Revelation that he's seen, and those that are thought to exist that he has not seen. He includes Calvin in his list.

2. In the Marloratus commentary on Revelation, he mention Calvin as having produced a commentary. He cites Calvin on Revelation, but these Calvin citations are from known works of Calvin.

3. "The catalogue of the Bibliotheque publique et universitaire de Geneve ascribes an anonymously published commentary on Revelation to Calvin: Familiere et briefve exposition sur l'Apocalypse de Sainct Jehan l'Apostre. Geneve. Jehan Gerard 1539 " (Parker, 117).

All three of these instances appear to be spurious. Parker examined the anonymous publication and determined  that the method and exegesis were not Calvin's.

4. A second-hand report (at best) suggests Calvin did not write on Revelation because he said he could not understand the book. This quote is republished by Parker on pages 117-18, and Parker says he's "apt to believe he did not say it at all" (118).

5. Parker suggests that Calvin did not write on Revelation due to a theological reason. Calvin saw the Old Testament as concealing Christ, but the New Testament presented Christ clearly. "...[H]e may have considered that apocalyptic is foreign to the New Testament as if it involved a re-veiling of the clear and unambiguous Gospel" (Parker, 119).  


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Regrettable Lutheran Arguments for the Real Presence

"On a more frivolous note- although it was meant to be taken quite seriously- Luther's supporter Johann Brenz attempted a novel refutation of Zwingli's insistence that the body of Christ is physically present at the right hand of God in heaven. Brenz computed the distance between the earth and heaven by means of his own, and arrived at the distance of 16,338,562 German miles. Given the speed of Jesus' ascent from the Mount of Olives, as Brenz estimated it, Brenz concluded that the body of Jesus could not yet have reached heaven by the sixteenth century" (Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies (Grand rapids: Baker books, 1984), 325).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Do Not Pray To Fulton Sheen, Just Yet.

See: Mother who prayed to Fulton Sheen speaks of ‘confusion and sadness’ after Cause is suspended

As opposed to: Vatican theologians approve Fulton Sheen miracle

"In March, a seven-member board of physicians convoked by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints agreed that there was no natural explanation for why the child’s heart started beating over an hour after his birth. The child, James Fulton Engstrom, is now three years old and developing normally. His mother, Bonnie Engstrom, said she had no precomposed prayer asking for help from Archbishop Sheen. “I just kept repeating his name over and over in my head: Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen, Fulton Sheen,” said Ms Engstrom."


Addendum: Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 11

Q. 30. Do such then believe in Jesus the only Saviour, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?

A.They do not; for though they boast of him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Saviour; (a) for one of these two things must be true, that either Jesus is not a complete Saviour; or that they, who by a true faith receive this Saviour, must find all things in him necessary to their salvation. (b)

(a) 1 Cor.1:13,30,31; Gal.5:4.

(b) Heb.12:2; Isa.9:6; Col.1:19,20; Col.2:10; 1 John 1:7,16.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Calvin Mistranslated Acts 3:21?

Below is a Lutheran evaluation of the Reformed rejection of the real presence in the Lord's Supper (taken  from the CARM boards, emphasis in the original):

The Reformed insist that Acts 3:21 makes it IMPOSSIBLE for JESUS (the inseparable God/Man) to be anywhere but in heaven. This objection...  is(sadly) based on Calvin's unique mistranslation of the text. Here's the verse: "Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." Acts 3:21 KJV "whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago." Acts 3:21 ESV "whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old." Acts 3:21 NAB. But Calvin mistranslated the verse in his Geneva Bible of 1599, "Whome the heauen must containe vntill the time that all thinges be restored, which God had spoken by the mouth of all his holy Prophets since the world began." See http://biblehub.com/text/acts/3-21.htm

The argument being proposed is that the Reformed believe Christ now has a body that can only be in one place at a time, so he cannot be physically present in the Eucharist. Hence the Reformed commit heresy by dividing the two natures of Jesus (or limiting the divine nature of Jesus). Calvin mistranslated Acts 3:21 in the 1599 Geneva Bible using the word "contain" rather than "receive," thus locating Christ only in Heaven and therefore denying his presence in the Eucharist.


Basic Refutation: Calvin did Not Translate the 1599 Geneva Bible
What's blatantly right about this argument is that the Reformed who historically follow in the footsteps of Calvin do indeed hold that the human body of Christ is in Heaven and therefore not physically present in the Lord's Supper. What's blatantly wrong about this argument is that Calvin did not translate the Geneva Bible of 1599. It would be enough to leave this here, but there are some other historical and theological factors that need to be addressed.


The Book of Concord on "Receive"
The Lutheran argument mentioned above was probably not original, but rather appears to be a muddled version of something from the Book of Concord, or more exactly, The Formula of Concord (1577). There it states,
8. Likewise, the teaching that because of his bodily ascension to heaven Christ is so confined and circumscribed by a certain space in heaven that he is neither able nor willing to be truly and essentially present with us in the Supper, which is celebrated according to Christ’s institution on earth, but that he is as far or as distant from it as heaven and earth are separated from each other. In support of their error, some Sacramentarians have deliberately and maliciously falsified the words in Acts 3:21, “Christ must take possession of heaven,” to read “Christ must be received by heaven”—that is, Christ must be so taken in or circumscribed or comprehended by or in heaven that he in no way can or wills to be with us on earth with his human nature. [Tappert, T. G. (Ed.).  The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959) (p. 590)]
Note how The Book of Concord says part of the translating error is "received" while the CARM Lutheran argument at the top of this entry says "received" is the correct translation! Then in its place, The Book of Concord would rather the translation be, "Christ must take possession of heaven." If the charge of creating an English version to comply with theological paradigms is to be applied anywhere, it seems to me this Lutheran translation of Acts 3:21 is a more fitting example. The Lutherans argue that "Christ" is the subject of the sentence, so "Christ must take possession of heaven." The Reformed say "heaven" is the subject of the sentence. so “Christ must be received by heaven.” Grammatically, either is possible. Of the major English versions I checked, none follow the Lutheran grammatical structure- even with some putting forth "He must remain in heaven" which undercuts the Lutheran argument (see this parallel web-page, and also this parallel web-page for examples of English translations of Acts 3:21).


Chemnitz on "Receive"
What's interesting about the history of the Formula of Concord here is that this criticism of using "receive" and locating Christ in heaven may not originally have had only Calvinists in view, but rather another group of Lutherans. According to Theodore R. Jungkuntz (author of Formulators of the Formula of Concord) the initial disapproval of  "receive" was voiced by previously by Martin Chemnitz. For a good description of this Lutheran faction see Robert Kolb, Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero,  pp. 105-112. Kolb notes it's misleading to refer to these Lutherans as "Crypto-Calvinists," and rather prefers the phrase "Crypto-Philippists" (105-106).  Kolb says the doctrinal agenda of this group "developed, however, far less under Calvinist influence than through continuing adaption of insights gained from Melanchthon's Christology and sacramental theology" (106). For the exegetical view of Chemnitz on Acts 3:21, see the addendum below. The irony here is that Lutheran argument presented initially doesn't seem to realize this in-house squabble- that it wasn't simply Calvinists that were using Acts 3:21 to locate Christ's body in heaven, but Lutherans as well


Calvin, the Geneva Bible, and "Must Contain"
The question still remains as to whether or not Calvin deliberately mistranslated Acts 3:21 with the word "contain." When one does check Calvin's commentary on Acts 3:21, one finds the verse translated as "Whom heaven must contain until the time that all things be restored" and then the following commentary from Calvin:
21. Whom the heaven must contain. Because men’s senses are always bent and inclined towards the gross and earthly beholding of God and Christ, the Jews might think with themselves that Christ was preached, indeed, to be raised up from the dead, yet could they not tell where he was; for no man did show them where he was. Therefore Peter preventeth them, when he saith that he is in heaven. Whereupon it followeth that they must lift up their minds on high, to the end they may seek Christ with the eyes of faith, although he be far from them, although he dwell without the world in the heavenly glory. But this is a doubtful speech; because we may as well understand it that Christ is contained or comprehended in the heavens, as that he doth comprehend the heavens. Let us not therefore urge the word, being of a doubtful signification; but let us content ourselves with that which is certain, that we must seek for Christ nowhere else save only in heaven, whilst that we hope for the last restoring of all things; because he shall be far from us, until our minds ascend high above the world. 
The Lutheran charging Calvin with error appears to not realize that Calvin did not write this in English. This English translation is from Christopher Featherstone, 1585 (made not that long after Calvin's death, 1564). Henry Beveridge edited it and updated the English in 1844. Beveridge's English version of Featherstone is what is popularly found today.  In fact, as far as I can tell, Featherstone's (Beveridge) translation is the only complete English translation available of Calvin's Commentary on Acts (For an interesting look at Featherstone, see this link). Could it be simply that Featherstone was familiar with the Geneva Bible's rendering of Acts 3:21 when he translated Calvin's Latin? The entire Geneva Bible was published in 1560. Could this be the simple reason Calvin is translated as saying "must contain"?

The first thing I did was check the Latin version of Calvin's comments on Acts 3:21.  Corpus Reformatorum vol. 48 reads, Quem oportet coélum cape, which is literally something like, "whom the heaven must take" (p. 72). Earlier Calvin offers the following translation of Acts 3:21, "quem oportet coelum capere usque ad tempora restitutionis omnium, quae loquutus est per os omnium sanctorum prophetarum a sacculo." The phrase in question is something like "He must get to heaven." The idea is that Christ is to be received and taken into Heaven. In Latin, "Take" and "contain" both have capere as an equivalent. Capere is the present infinitive of "capio."
Capio: Verb present active capiō, present infinitive capere, perfect active cēpī, supine captum
1. I capture, seize, take.
2. I take on.
3, I take in, understand.
According to this source: "To take in, receive, hold, contain, be large enough for"

All this being said, the English translation of "must contain" is within the realm of possibility for the Latin, but does not appear to be the most concise rendering. This old source cites Wescott (who cites P. Cotton) noting "three or four instances of unfair bias in favor of Calvinistic doctrine in the English Genevan Version."  Acts 3:21 is used as an example for "must contain" and this "unfair bias."

I do not have the historical sources to determine if Featherstone followed the Geneva Bible, if he followed a Reformed translation paradigm of the times (i.e., an "unfair bias in favor of Calvinistic doctrine"), or if his English rendering of Calvin's Latin was his own. That being said, there are also a few scattered references in Calvin's writings in which the English word "contain" is used in regard to Acts 3:21, but I have neither the time, primary texts, or language skills required to look them up to compare and contrast. Calvin though had both received and contained in mind. For instance, In Book 4 of the Institutes, Calvin says:
For as we do not doubt that Christ’s body is limited by the general characteristics common to all human bodies, and is contained in heaven (where it was once for all received) until Christ return in judgment [Acts 3:21], so we deem it utterly unlawful to draw it back under these corruptible elements or to imagine it to be present everywhere (Institutes, IV,xvii,12). 

Calvin Mistranslated the Greek Text With His Latin?
The Greek word in question is dechomai. The basic meaning is "receive." In checking an earlier English translation of the section from the Formula of Concord cited above, more detail is presented, noting the alleged Latin mistranslation:
8. Again, when it is taught, that Christ, in consequence of his ascension to heaven, is so contained and circumscribed with his body, in a certain place in heaven, that with it he neither can nor will be truly and essentially present with us in the holy Supper, which is celebrated here on earth according to the institution of Christ, but that he is as far, or distant from it, as heaven and earth are from each other; as some Sacramentarians, for the confirmation of their error, have willfully perverted this text, Acts 3, 21: Oportet Christum caelum accipere; that is, It behooved Christ to receive the heaven; and instead of this translation, they have rendered it; Oportet Christum caelo capi; that is, It behooved Christ to be received by or in the heaven, or to be circumscribed and contained in heaven, so that he neither can nor will be with us on earth in any manner with his human nature [source] (alternate source).
Calvin probably began his Acts commentary in 1550, because by November of 1550, he had a large part of it finished. The commentary on chapters 1-13 were published in 1552. Chapters 14-28 came out in 1554. According to T.H.L. Parker's study of Calvin's commentaries, Calvin relied on the Greek texts available to him at that time. Parker notes, "he favoured a literal translation, even to the extent of preserving the word order where no difference between Greek and Latin forbade it" (Parker, Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, p. 134). For a complete breakdown of the Greek texts thought to have been utilized by Calvin see Parker, chapter 6: "The Greek Text."

Calvin therefore did not prefer a Latin reading over the Greek text. It is believed Calvin did consult the Vulgate and the Latin text put together by Erasmus, but primarily his Latin translation was his own, directly from the Greek.  Parker says Calvin's Latin text "has therefore a decidedly eclectic character" (Parker, Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, p. 190).  For Acts 3:21 the Vulgate has "quem oportet caelum quidem suscipere" (whom the heaven must receive). Erasmus has "que oportet quide coelu accipere" (which is what heaven must receive). Calvin has "quem oportet coelum capere."It appears Calvin did not literally follow either the Vulgate or Erasmus, but this doesn't imply there was devious Latin from Calvin's pen perpetuating translation bias. See Addendum #2 below for exegetical considerations as to why the Latin Lutheran rendering is to be rejected.


Conclusion
The question I would pose in response to the initial Lutherans argumentation is why is their translation "It behooved Christ to receive the heaven" or "Christ must take possession of heaven" not the preferred English translation? Would Lutherans be willing to argue for a cross-denominational translation conspiracy? [As an interesting aside, the NIV 1984 translates the passage as, "He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything...," whereas the 2011 NIV states "Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything..."].

I must admit that a definitive linguistic and historical study of "must contain" and the issues included here are beyond my abilities. One needs to be skilled in Biblical Greek, Latin, and French, have the historical tools to determine Featherstone's method of translation, have to survey the literature of the time period to see the use of "must contain," have access to historical studies on the translation of the Geneva Bible, have access to the primary sources of all Calvin's alleged "must contain" references,   do an analysis of early English Bibles and how they translated this verse, and if there was any change during the controversies of the late 16th Century... and the list goes on. With these caveats, I offer the following conclusions to the original Lutheran argument offered above:

1. Calvin did not translate the Geneva Bible of 1599. Certainly his was a great influence to it, but he did not translate the Geneva Bible (of any edition).

2. "Whom the heaven must receive" is not at odds with either Calvin or the Reformed tradition, but is a translation opposed to the Lutheran confessions. The Lutheran confessions are clearly opposed to it, offering instead their own curious English rendering which is at odds with the majority of English translations present today.

3. "Whom the heaven must contain" is probably an inferior English translation and appears to indicate a Reformed bias (though "contain" is within the realm of meaning).

4. Calvin did not mistranslate Acts 3:21 from Greek to Latin in his commentary on Acts 3:21.  




Addendum 1: Martin Chemnitz on Acts 3:21
The argumentation of Chemintz can be found here (see page 68).
The sequence and context of the entire speech demonstrate what the meaning of this passage in Acts 3:21 actually is. Peter is here making the point of his entire oration, namely, that the heavenly Father has adorned that Jesus who was crucified out of weakness 2 Cor. 13:41 with the highest and most incomprehensible glory and power, which He has demonstrated to some degree in the miracle of the restoration of the lame man. And by this argument he is encouraging those who denied and killed Christ that they should repent of that sin, lest they experience His vengeance. But at the same time He is showing by this very argument what those who believe can expect from that glory and power of Christ. However, because the objection can be raised that Christ did not exercise that glory and power of His in person, either in the face of His enemies or for the sake of those who believed in Him, Peter replies that Christ has received heaven itself. Moreover, there is a common Scriptural expression that God Himself is described as inhabiting the heavens, not in the sense that He is locked up there so that He cannot be on earth also, but in the sense that in the heavens He manifests Himself and His majesty and power more clearly and gloriously. For He shows that in heaven He is not to be known through means, but He reveals the quality of His majesty, glory, and power face to face for us to look at, and there He communicates His benefits without means, but He Himself fills all things with His blessing, so that there is no misery, no weakness, no confusion, no cause for sin there. . . . It is absolutely certain that this is what Scripture wants to say when it attributes to God that He dwells and has His habitation in heaven.And Peter is using this language when he describes the reign of Christ. (LS 217 f.)

Addendum 2 Exegetical Commentaries on Acts 3:21
Here are a few grammatical treatments of Acts 3:21. I plan on updating this as I come across sources. The only in-depth modern Lutheran grammatical treatment I'm aware of is that put forth by Francis Pieper: "As Pieper has pointed out, the Reformed “falsified the words” (SD VII, 119) by taking the Dexasthai as a passive instead of a middle voice; expressed in Christ was enclosed and circumscribed in heaven. For a detailed discussion of this text, see Pieper II,326–328." I do not have access to this volume yet. I'm speculating there are other Lutheran exegetical sources- perhaps my readers can provide me with some additional sources.




Source: Gloag, A critical and exegetical commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (1870)


Source: Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles (1883)


Source: Lange, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (1867)


Source: The Expositors Greek Testament