Friday, July 15, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A delightful Australian Anglican - A true Anglican - a Reformed Anglican



One of the highlights of attending Together for the Gospel (T4G) in April (11-13, 2016), for me, was hearing this man, Phillip Jensen here.  Mark Dever interviews Phillip Jensen, the author of the gospel tract, "Two Ways to Live" and also one of the main mentors of those that wrote the concepts in the book, "The Trellis and the Vine".  Take note of other books mentioned by Dever that Jensen has written, and the ministry of Mathias Media.

The Theme of the Conference was "We are Protestant" and had lots of the Reformational sayings and emphasis the whole time.  Excellent!

Jensen has a delightful sense of humor and interesting story.  We need more Anglicans like this!

The authors of The Trellis and the Vine write:

"Col and I have been writing this book, often without realizing it, for most of the past 25 years. . . . None of it would have happened without the extraordinary influence and friendship of Phillip Jensen, who has been there all along, who taught and shaped us profoundly, and who was instrumental in forming both MTS (Ministry Training Strategy) and Mathias Media."  (The Trellis and the Vine, page 5)

What Phillip Jensen said about the Anglican Church was very interesting, especially how the Oxford Movement of the Tractarians, one of the main leaders being the famous John Henry Newman, who went on to convert to Rome, actually corrupted the Anglican Church.  They took the Anglican Church away from the great doctrines of the Reformation and emphasized external rituals and things like bishops mitre hats, etc.  (the "smells and bells" of High Anglicanism)  He points out that Anglicans did not wear bishops mitre hats until after Newman and the Tractarian movement influenced them.  (from late 19th Century onward)  Also interesting was Jensen pointing out that after that, the Anglican Church influenced by the Oxford Movement slowly drifted into theological liberalism.

The Oxford Movement of the Tractarians did not affect his group of Anglicans in Australia, Jensen points out.

Another book that Jensen mentions:  The Masters of the English Reformation. (About William Tyndale, Thomas Bilney, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer).  Notice that Henry VIII is not considered a good person to consider the leader of the English Reformation, as he was actually very Roman Catholic in his theology until the day he died.  He was just angry with the Pope for not giving him an annulment; and he lived a very debauched life and committed adultery a lot, it seems.

Jensen has some good insights into University Campus ministry:  "they are always 18 years old" (when you do campus ministry, every year, a new group of 18 year olds enter ); and "teach what the Bible says on two subjects that University Students are interested in: Sex and Predestination".

Monday, June 27, 2016

Augustine on Peter and the Rock issue of the Papacy claims

  • Augustine
Augustine explains that his view that Peter is the rock of Matthew 16 was later replaced by the view that Christ is the rock. Notice that he refers to his former view being *replaced*, not just adding a second interpretation to it. He says that the reader can decide for himself which interpretation is more likely. He expects the reader to choose between the two, not accept both. Thus, Augustine advocated the *rejection* of the view that Peter is the rock, and he said that others could do the same:

"In a passage in this book, I said about the Apostle Peter: 'On him as on a rock the Church was built.'...But I know that very frequently at a later time, I so explained what the Lord said: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,' that it be understood as built upon Him whom Peter confessed saying: 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' and so Peter, called after this rock, represented the person of the Church which is built upon this rock, and has received 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven.' For, 'Thou art Peter' and not 'Thou art the rock' was said to him. But 'the rock was Christ,' in confessing whom, as also the whole Church confesses, Simon was called Peter. But let the reader decide which of these two opinions is the more probable." (The Retractions, 1:20:1)

 [See discussion below on the Latin word, "Retractationes", which is more accurately translated as something like "Review and Corrections" or "Corrections" or "Reconsiderations".]

Augustine held the Roman church and its bishop in high regard, but he had a non-papal view of church government. Roman Catholic historian Robert Eno comments:
"Elsewhere I have argued in detail Augustine's views of authority in the Church and that, in my opinion, the council [not the Pope] was the primary instrument for settling controversies....I believe that Augustine had great respect for the Roman church whose antiquity and apostolic origins made it outshine by far other churches in the West. But as with Cyprian, the African collegial and conciliar tradition was to be preferred most of the time." (The Rise of the Papacy [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1990], p. 79)

From Jason Engwer's "Catholic, but not Roman Catholic" series, preserved by "Peace by Jesus" at http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/Ancients_vs_papacy.html#Augustine




Addendum: (July 2, 2016)
Scott Windsor pointed out about the Latin word "Retractationes", that it does not mean "Retractions", but more like "Review and Correct":  
From the combox:
Scott,
Thanks for your comments. I take your word for it on the Latin word, as I looked around some to confirm it; and as far as I can tell, you are correct. It seems the Latin means more like "Review and Correct"

Thanks for the link, and I will use some of that from William Jurgens, unless someone else comes along and convinces me that this is not accurate. It seems accurate to me.

Augustine wrote The Retractationes (also known as Retractationum) between 426-427.

His purpose was to clarify and enhance his previous efforts to explain and defend them.

As the patristic scholar, William A. Jurgens, explains,
English-speaking authors usually avoid the problem of what the title means by the simple expedient of referring to it by its Latin title, Retractationes. When it is mentioned in English and in the English translations now available it is invariably referred to as Retractations or Retractions. The first is an affront to English and the second is incorrect. Actually, Augustine had very little to retract, and the meaning of Retractationes is Reconsiderations, Revisions, Second Thoughts, or, as I have called it, Corrections. With the Corrections, Augustine again invented a new literary genre: a summation and criticism of his own writings. He had originally intended to include in his review his books, letters, and sermons. But when he had completed the review of his books in 426 or 427, he was persuaded to publish the whole work as it then stood. (The Faith of the Early Fathers [Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1979] 3:163)
Dr. White's article that deals with the issue you raised. (if that is what you meant by your link - the link is different now. see below)

Did he use the words "Rome has spoken?" No, but he did say Rome responded (sent rescripts) and then stated "causa finita est" (the cause is ended, or the case is closed). He obviously accepted the decision made by the pope.  (Scott Windsor, Sr.)

Except in Augustine's time, he would not have used "Pope" in the sense of jurisdictional authority - that claim comes much later. As far as I know, all presbyters/bishops / ministers (in other areas around the Christian world in the early centuries, not just the bishop of Rome.)  were called "papa" or "father", meaning "spiritual father", as in 1 Cor. 4:15-17 and 1 Timothy 1:2, 1:18, etc.

Dr. White's relevant section of that excellent article: ( Also Linked below) 
The final words of the sermon, then, in which we find the key phrase (placed in bold), are in reference to this heresy, this error (Pelagianism), and its denial of grace. I simply point out that throughout the sermon you have had one source of authority cited over and over again: Holy Scripture. No quotations of Popes or prelates, just Scripture. With this in mind, we come to the actual passage:
10. What then was said of the Jews, the same altogether do we see in these men now. “They have a zeal of God: I hear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” What is, “not according to knowledge”? “For being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and wishing to establish their own, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” My Brethren, share with me in my sorrow. When ye find such as these, do not hide them; be there no such misdirected mercy in you; by all means, when ye find such, hide them not. Convince the gainsayers, and those who resist, bring to us. For already have two councils on this question been sent to the Apostolic see; and rescripts also have come from thence. The question has been brought to an issue; would that their error may sometime be brought to an issue too! Therefore do we advise that they may take heed, we teach that they may be instructed, we pray that they may be changed. Let us turn to the Lord, etc.
It is a measure of the utter desperation of the Roman position to have to make reference to such things, in our opinion. The topic is not the bishop of Rome nor the authority of Rome. It is obvious, beyond question, that Augustine’s point is that Pelagianism is a refuted error. It is not refuted because the bishop of Rome has refuted it. It is refuted because it is opposed to Scripture. Two councils have concluded this, and the bishop of Rome has agreed. From Augustine’s position, the error has been exposed and refuted. If only those who are in error would come to know the truth! Augustine exhorts his hearers to teach the gainsayers, and pray that they may be dissuaded from their errors.
This then is the context and content of Sermon 131 of Augustine (which is, btw, Sermon 81 in the Eerdman’s set, pp. 501-504 of volume VI for those who wish to read the entirety of the work). It is now painfully obvious that to place the words “Roma locuta est, causa finita est” in quotation marks and attribute them to Augustine in the context of Papal Infallibility is simply inexcusable. But, there is more to the situation than that. For history shows us that Augustine would never have uttered such words in the context Keating alleges. How he responded when Zosimus became bishop of Rome and attacked the North African churches for condemning Pelagius proves, to any person even semi-desirous of fairly dealing with Augustine’s position, that Augustine did not view the bishop of Rome as the infallible leader of the Christian Church. But to appreciate fully the depth of the error of Roman Catholic controversialists at this point, we must take a few moments to study the history.  (James White, "Catholic Legends and How they Get Started", see link below.)
http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2000/04/11/catholic-legends-get-started-example/


Friday, June 24, 2016

The Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras (Part Two)

This a follow-up to my previous entry, The Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras (Part One).  I've been challenged to revisit the controversy about Rome's canonical decrees and the book of 1 Esdras because "This question keeps popping up due to the fans of James Swan, James White, etc... parroting the same erroneous assertion." The controversy involves one of the books of Esdras, the decrees of Hippo and Carthage, and the infallible pronouncement on the canon by the Council of Trent. Did the earlier councils canonize a book that Trent did not? Do the councils contradict each other? The person challenging me says they didn't, and claims an article from 1907 by Father Hugh Pope proves it: The Third Book of Esdras and the Tridentine Council. Pope's basic argument is that when Hippo and Carthage referred to the two books of Esdras in their canon, they meant Ezra - Nehemiah, not the spurious book of 1 Esdras and a second book comprising Ezra - Nehemiah.

In order to evaluate Pope's article, my previous entry presented some background as to the way this controversy has recently played out. This entry will provide some further background information before tackling Pope's article. To try and keep things cogent throughout these articles, I will refer to the disputed book of Esdras as "1 Esdras," though there may be times that "3 Esdras" is used to refer to the same book.


Henry Howorth: The Modern Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras A
Before actually getting to Father Pope's article, there's one last stop: the article to which Hugh Pope responded to and provoked him to write his article: Henry Howorth: The Modern Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras A (Journal of Theological Studies, Vol. 7. 1906), p. 343-354. The author of this old article appears to be Sir Henry Hoyle Howorth (1842 - 1923) (partial list of Howorth's work). Howorth's studies on the spurious 1 Esdras were important and influential in late nineteenth and early twentieth century scholarship.  One interesting irony is that Rome's defender Gary Michuta (mentioned in my previous entry) positively relies on other studies produced by Howorth, particularly his analysis of the Protestant Reformation on the canon.  Michuta refers to him as a "Protestant scholar." While Howorth is remembered as a scholar, and perhaps he was a Protestant, I've found no information verifying his credentials as a theological scholar or theologian.

Simply because Howorth took a position against Rome one must not automatically assume his views were defending either Protestantism or the Protestant view of the canon. If one looks at Howorth's work, he appears to be an equal-opportunity offender of established views, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant.  A detailed look at Howorth's canon views are beyond the scope of this entry, but he basically argued that the spurious book of 1 Esdras is actually a canonical book while the accepted Ezra and Nehemiah are actual spurious non-canonical books. In the article he does not come across as hostile to Rome but rather insists examining Rome's canon and 1 Esdras was to show that Rome made "a very pardonable mistake" (p. 344). His goal is the reinstatement of the spurious 1 Esdras and the rejection of Ezra - Nehemiah. The other Vulgate found books- The Prayer of Mannasses, 4 Esdras, and 3 Maccabees, are not deemed to be of the same caliber as 1 Esdras. 4 Esdras, for instance, "does not occur in any Greek Bible... It occurs in Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, an Armenian and two Arabic translations" (p. 353).

Is Trent's Decree on the Vulgate a Palpable Contradiction?
Howorth argues Trent canonized the Vulgate edition of the Bible "as the ultima lex of all appeals," but most copies of the Vulgate contained “at least two additional works,” Esdras 3 and Esdras 4, and also the Payer of Manasses and 3 Maccabees [p. 346]. Howorth states,
It cannot fail to be noticed that in these pronouncements there is a palpable contradiction. If the books enumerated are alone to be deemed canonical, it seems difficult to understand how the Vulgate edition of the Bible as then received was to be treated as the conclusive authority in all disputes and controversies, since it contained, in very many if not in most existing copies, at least two additional works which were treated in them as of equal and co-ordinate authority with the remaining books, namely those which in the Latin Bibles were called Esdras III (that is "Esdras A) and Esdras IV; while some copies of the Vulgate also contained a third book not above enumerated, namely, the Prayer of Manasses, as well as the so-called Third book of Maccabees. (p. 346).
Using post-Trent editions of the Vulgate, Howorth documents how these books were relegated (if at all) to an appendix. The 1590 Vulgate edition issued by Pope Sixtus omits all these books. Three years later (1593) a more authoritative Vulgate came out (edition of Clement VIII), reinstating 3 and 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasses, placing them in an appendix (this is different than where they were in old Vulgate editions). 3 Maccabees is ignored. Howorth states,
The removal of the three books above mentioned from the text of the Bible, and the planting of them in a kind of suspense account in an Appendix, while it made the text of the canonical books in the rest of the Bible consistent with the enumeration in the decree of the Tridentine Council, was clearly a tampering with the text of the Vulgate as previously received, though this had been declared by the same Council to be the official and authentic text. (p. 348)

What About Florence?
According to Howorth, Eugenius IV's Bull affirming the Florentine Council canon makes no mention of 3 and 4 Esdras, this despite every copy of the Latin bible had them in it (p.349), so the Florentine list has the same books that Trent's list did. Horworth notes that no copy of the minutes of the Council of Florence exist, so trying to determine the Council's actions is speculative. He posits that when Florence compiled her canon list, they were not careful with the canon lists from previous councils and "jumped to the conclusion" (p. 351) on the spurious 1 Esdras. In order to understand the Florentine Council on the canon, Howorth speculates that the only way to do so is to revisit "the famous African Code which is headed 'The Canons of the 217 Blessed Fathers who assembled at Carthage', commonly called, 'The code of Canons of the African Church'" from 418-419 (p.349). Howorth positively entertains the speculation that these conciliar canon lists were produced because of "fear... of the revolutionary ideas of Jerome" (p. 350).

What About the African Councils?
Comparing these lists with Florence and Trent, Howorth says "there is a superficial and misleading equation in regard to the books of Esdras... that accounts for what was really a mistake made by later councils" (p. 350). For Howorth, when the earlier African councils stated Hesdrae libri duo (two books of Esdras), it did not mean the books of Ezra Nehemiah as Trent did. He states,
The fact is that the phrase Hesdrae libri duo in the decree of the earlier Councils does not mean the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra and Nehemiah in the Septuagint and in the early Latin prae-Hieronymian translation of the Bible which followed the Septuagint, and was alone recognized as canonical in the Latin Church at the end of the fourth century, formed a single book, which in the early Greek MSS was entitled Esdras B, and which in the early Latin version was entitled Esdras II (p.350-351).
Howorth says that the earlier councils meant to include the spurious 1 Esdras is affirmed by Roman Catholic scholars: 
It is completely recognized by Roman Catholic theologians of the first rank. Thus Calmet, who wrote a special treatise on Esdras A, says: 'When the Fathers and the Councils of the earlier centuries declared the two books of Esdras to be canonical, they meant, following the current Bibles that First Esdras and Nehemiah formed only one book, while they styled First Esdras the work which is called third in our Bibles' (Calmet Comm. iii 250 'Dissert, sur le III livre d'Esdras'). Father Loisy, the most distinguished scholar among the recent writers on the Canon in France, similarly says: 'The two books of Esdras contained in them (i.e. in early copies of the Latin Bible) are not Esdras and Nehemiah; but as in the Greek Bible, the first book of Esdras is that we now call the third, which has been ejected from the Canon; the second comprised Esdras and Nehemiah' {Histoire du Canon 92) (p. 352).
Jerome
There's an important point Horworth makes that Father Pope will find contentious in his article. For Horworth, the divisions of the four books of Esdras in the Vulgate were the direct result of Jerome.
It was Jerome who altered the nomenclature of these books as he altered many other things (and, as some of us think, not too wisely). It was he who, having accepted the Jewish Canon and tradition, also accepted the Jewish division of the book hitherto known to the Greeks as Esdras B, which in the old Latin Bibles was called Esdras II, and gave the two sections of it the new titles of Esdras I and Esdras II, equivalent to our Ezra and Nehemiah; and from him the titles passed into the revised Vulgate, of which he was the author, and eventually became dominant everywhere, and was thus dominant when the Council of Florence sat. It was he who poured scorn on two other books of Ezra contained in the earlier Latin Bibles, and refused to have anything to do with them, or to translate them, and gave them an entirely inferior status by numbering them Esdras III and IV, names by which they have since been styled in the Vulgate; and it was his violent and depreciatory language about them which made many doubt their value and authority [p. 351].
In a different article, Howarth isn't as bold to say it was Jerome who divided the Esdras books:
It is clear that Karlstadt did not understand that what Augustine meant were the books styled Esdras A and B in the Greek manuscripts, that is to say, the so-called apocryphal Esdras I of our Bibles and the joint books of Ezra-Nehemiah, possibly first separated for the Christians by Jerome.

To summarize: Howorth's main argument therefore is,
When the fathers at Florence discussed and decided upon their list of authorized and canonical books, finding, no doubt, that the African Councils had only recognized two books of Esdras, they jumped to the conclusion that these two books must be those called Esdras I and Esdras II in their Bibles, namely, Ezra and Nehemiah; which in fact they were not. Hence their mistake, a great but a natural mistake, which is perpetuated in the Roman Canon. The two books of Esdras recognized by the African Councils, and by all the Fathers who escaped the influence of Jerome, were the books labelled "Esdras A and "Esdras B in the Greek Bibles, that is to say, the first book of Esdras, which was remitted to the Apocrypha by the Reformers, and the joint work Ezra-Nehemiah. This evidence will not be doubted by any one who will examine the early Greek Bibles, and the Canonical lists of the Fathers who were uninfluenced by Jerome. (p. 351).
 Howorth's view is that Trent decreed that the only text of the Bible to be followed was the Vulgate, yet the earlier Vulgate's include the spurious 1 Esdras (and other books as well), so there's a contradiction with Trent's canonical decision, later editions of the Vulgate. A further contradiction exists between the earlier African Councils and Trent on the spurious 1 Esdras. Howorth blames the Councils of Florence for jumping to a conclusion about the meaning of "two books of Esdras," while Trent is blamed for "a very pardonable mistake."

In my next entry when Hugh Pope's article is examined, we'll see that there were multiple points from Howorth that were being responded to. It appears to me that Henry Howorth did not respond to Hugh Pope's rebuttal. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

For Those Tears I Died

During a (conservative) church service recently an open hymn-sing asked for requests from the congregation from two approved hymnbooks: The Psalter (the old CRC hymnbook) and Hymns for The Family of God. A voice behind me requested For Those Tears I Died. I had a vague memory that it was a song from the Hippie "Jesus Movement" of the early 1970's. Hymns for The Family of God attributes the song to Marsha Stevens (now Stevens-Pino) and her band, "Children of the Day." A quick Google search revealed the facts that Ms. Stevens-Pino was divorced, two children, a now professing lesbian and founder of BALM (Born Again Lesbian Music).

I'm a bit out-of-touch with the whole CCM scene and broad evangelicalism, so all of this appears to be a well-known controversy already. This is what happens when one is part of tradition that does not actively embrace worship bands and Contemporary Christian music. I personally don't have a problem with either, but I do not listen to Christian Contemporary Music.

As I sit and think about all of this, I'm not sure if I have it all worked out. There's nothing blatantly heretical about the song, but that its author is a proactive lesbian gives me pause to stop and consider the relationship between truth and lifestyle. The question is: does truth, even if uttered by a pro-active lesbian trump the actions of the writer? I have my own take on this, but I'm simply going to leave the question hanging at this point.


Friday, June 17, 2016

The Roman Catholic Canon and the Book of Esdras (Part One)

I've been challenged to revisit the controversy about Rome's canonical decrees and the book of 1 Esdras because "This question keeps popping up due to the fans of James Swan, James White, etc... parroting the same erroneous assertion." The controversy involves one of the books of Esdras, the decrees of Hippo and Carthage, and the infallible pronouncement on the canon by the Council of Trent. Did the earlier councils canonize a book that Trent did not? Do the councils contradict each other? The person challenging me says they didn't, and claims an article from 1907 by Father Hugh Pope proves it: The Third Book of Esdras and the Tridentine Council. Pope's basic argument is that when Hippo and Carthage referred to the two books of Esdras in their canon, they meant Ezra - Nehemiah, not the spurious book of 1 Esdras and a second book comprising Ezra - Nehemiah.

What's interesting about Father Pope's article is that in regard to literature about this issue, his work appears to have had little impact on scholarship, either when it was written, or now. It's generally accepted by both Protestant and Roman Catholic scholarship that the early church utilized the spurious book of 1 Esdras, and it's highly likely the Hippo and Carthage did indeed have the spurious book of 1 Esdras in mind when it considered the Biblical canon. As I've surveyed some of the available literature, Pope's article is not typically referred to as any sort of definitive apologetic setting the record straight. A few of Rome's bloggers have certainly picked it up (like this blog for instance), and I have my suspicions that this article may have also used it, but scholarship itself appears to have generally ignored it. In the early 1900's I came across a few mentions of the article, but not meaningful mentions, typically just announcements of the article. Some of Pope's arguments are found elsewhere in credible sources. It seems likely that some sources since 1907 positively utilized Pope's article, but I've yet to find them. Of course, scholarship is not infallible, so it's certainly possible that Hugh Pope is the voice of truth crying in the wilderness of scholarship.

In order to evaluate Pope's article, I'd like to first present some background as to the way this controversy has recently played out. In a future blog entry, Hugh Pope's arguments will be laid out. To try and keep things cogent throughout these articles, I will refer to the disputed book of Esdras as "1 Esdras," though there may be times that "3 Esdras" is used to refer to the same book.

William Webster: The Different Canons of Hippo, Carthage, and Trent
I wrote about the 1 Esdras dilemma in 2006 when I briefly outlined the problem as presented by William Webster in his book, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol. 2 (Battle Ground: Christian Resources Inc., 2001), p. 346-348 [Webster's material from his book can be found in this link]. In terms of Internet apologetics and cyber-battles with Rome's defenders, I would posit that it was probably Mr. Webster that popularized the argument about contradictory Councils and the canon with 1 Esdras acting as the grenade. The basic gist is that the Councils of Hippo and Carthage had a different 1 Esdras than Trent did. Mr. Webster argues in part,
Roman Catholic apologists argue that the canon was authoritatively settled for the universal Church at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. However, the canon decreed by the North African Councils differed from that decreed by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century on one important point. Hippo and Carthage stated that 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras were canonical, referring to the Septuagint version of 1 and 2 Esdras, the Bible their Latin version was based upon. In that version, 1 Esdras was the apocryphal additions to Ezra and Nehemiah not found in the Hebrew Bible, while 2 Esdras was the canonical Jewish version of Ezra-Nehemiah. The Jews only acknowledged Ezra and Nehemiah which they combined into one book. This was 2 Esdras in the Septuagint version. It was Jerome (in his Latin Vulgate) who separated Ezra and Nehemiah into two books, calling them 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras respectively. This became standard for the Vulgate and the basis upon which Trent declared the Septuagint I Esdras to be noncanonical. 1 Esdras in the Septuagint then became 3 Esdras in the Vulgate and the other Apocryphal apocalyptic work of 3 Esdras became 4 Esdras in the Vulgate.
According to Webster, the North African church relied on the Septuagint, and the Septuagint contained the spurious 1 Esdras. There does not appear to be much dispute about this. It's generally recognized that the spurious 1 Esdras was included in the LXX, by both Roman Catholic scholarship and Protestant scholarship. It's not sinister at all: Roger Beckwith notes that Josephus and "the Fathers of the first four centuries" appear to have preferred 1 Esdras over "the corresponding part of Esdras B (Ezra–Nehemiah)," not because they considered it a different book, but because "they regarded it as an alternative (and fuller) Greek translation of the same book" [Beckwith, R. T., The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and Its Background in Early Judaism (London: SPCK, 1985) p. 340]. Brill's Commentary on 1 Esdras states,
1 Esdras is found in a number of early Christian manuscripts and extant in various translations of ancient Christian Bibles. for a case in point, the presence of 1 Esdras in Codex Vaticanus means that it was copied, read, studied, and preached by Christians and for Christians [link].
The Brill commentary also goes on to document the usage of  "1 Esdras as Christian 'Scripture'." This basic point of manuscript existence and church usage is important because Hugh Pope argues that "the oldest LXX MSS which we possess.. came into existence a few years before the African councils [of Hippo and Carthage], as if there is a serious possibility that the extant LXX manuscripts contained the spurious 1 Esdras as a novelty! Pope refers to this as "the one positive argument alleged for identifying Esdras I and II of the African Councils." It seems highly unlikely that, given all the usage of 1 Esdras in the first five centuries of the church that Hippo and Carthage did not understand 1 Esdras to be the spurious 1 Esdras. Pope attempts to downplay these basic facts because granting their truth collapses the rest of his argumentation.


James White vs. Gary Michuta vs. William Webster 
In 2004, Dr. White debated Roman Catholic apologist Gary Michuta on the Apocrypha. He raised this very issue (fast forward in the video to 1:39:15). Responding to Dr. White,  Mr. Michuta says, "William Webster is wrong" because Trent chose to pass over 1 Esdras "in silence" and not make a decision one way or the other in regard to the canonicity of the book. A few years later Mr. Michuta published Why Catholic Bible Are Bigger (Michigan: Grotto Press, 2007) and used the same argument. I wrote about Mr. Michuta's argument a number of times when his book came out (see for instance, this link).

This may seem like a reasonable solution to keep the integrity of Rome's decrees in unison. Unfortunately, while one problem may be solved (the councils do not contradict each other), others surface. Let’s grant that Trent "passed over in silence" on ruling on the book of 1 Esdras. This means the possibility exists that the book in question is canonical, but not currently in the canon. Therefore, it is possible that the Bible is missing a book, in which case, Roman Catholics cannot be certain they have an infallible list of all the infallible books. Their arguments stating they have canon certainty crumbles according to their own worldview. It would also mean, the canon is still open. Even more troubling for Michuta’s position are the statements put forth on the closed canon from the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Catechism states, “It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New.” Notice the words, complete list. If a book is passed over in silence, and may in fact be canonical, the list is not complete. On a theological level, what does it say about Rome's version of the Holy Spirit for an infallible council to pass over something that may be Holy-Spirit inspired Scripture? 

If Mr. Michuta is correct about Trent "passing over in silence" on 1 Esdras, then yes, there is a narrow sense in which William Webster could be wrong that the councils contradict each other. That is, if 1 Esdras is in some sort of conciliar holding pen waiting to be ruled on, the only option to keep Rome's councils from contradicting each other is to deem the book to be sacred Scripture. Will this happen? I doubt it. Rome doesn't appear these days to care about 1 Esdras. Webster's argument has been placed in a conciliar holding pen that's long since been forgotten by Rome's magisterium. If they know where this holding pen is, they don't appear to care.  

Mr. Webster responded to Mr. Michuta by saying, "Trent has spoken quite clearly. 1 Esdras is not canonical. Nowhere in the official list of canonical books is 1 Esdras to be found. The only books that are canonical are those listed by Trent." On Webster's side is the New Catholic Encyclopedia which states of 1 Esdras, "The Council of Trent definitively removed it from the canon." Also in editions of the Vulgate after Trent's decree 1 Esdras placement is tenuous. The 1590 Vulgate omits it, while the 1593 Vulgate places it in an appendix with a preface that says, 
Porro in hac editione nihil non canonicum, nihil adscititium, nihil extraneum apponere visum est: atque ea causa fuit, cur libri tertius et quartus Esdrae inscripti, quos inter canonicos libros sacra Tridentina Synodus non annumeravit, ipsa etiam Manassae regis Oratio, quae neque hebraice, neque graece quidem exstat, neque in manuscriptis antiquioribus invenitur, neque pars est ullius canonici libri, extra canonicae scripturae seriem posita sunt.[link]
 Also on Webster's side is that Trent's canon is held to be definitive by Roman Catholic sources, and in fact, other than Mr. Michuta, I've not yet come across any of Rome's defenders saying the canon is theoretically still open because of Trent's silence on 1 Esdras. No, quite the contrary: Rome's defenders typically battle with the understanding that the canon was settled once and for all by their infallible magisterium. 


Is Gary Michuta Making Up "Passed Over in Silence"?  
What can be said about Mr. Michuta's claims that 1 Esdras was "passed over in silence"? Did he make it up? No, I don't believe he did. In his book, he states the following:
The question was (and still is) 'is Esdras a separate book that happened to use an awful lot of canonical material,' or 'is it an early recension of Scripture with some additional non-canonical material added?' No one knows. The only thing certain about Esdras' canonical pedigree is that it is uncertain.
Many things are questionable about Esdras. The Council of Carthage may have included Esdras on its list. We don't know for certain. Esdras may be an individual book or it may be a recension. No one knows. A few Church Fathers may have used Esdras as a canonical book, but this usage disappeared around the fifth century, although it remained in the Latin Vulgate and the Septuagint. By the time of Trent, the exact nature of the Esdras, both its form and its canonical status, was open to doubt. The best move for Trent was not to move at all.
The fourth question of the Capita Dubitationum asked whether those books that were not included in Trent's list, but were included in the Latin Vulgate (e.g. The Book of Esdras, 4 Ezra, and 3 Maccabees), should be rejected by a Conciliar decree, or should they be passed over in silence. Only three Fathers voted for an explicit rejection. Forty-two voted that the status of these books should be passed over in silence. Eight bishops did not vote The majority won, and Trent deliberately withheld any explicit decision on these books. In post-Tridentine editions of the Vulgate, Esdras and the others were moved to an appendix in the back.
Those who claim then, that Trent" rejected Esdras are mistaken. It did not. In fact, any rejection or affirmation was purposefully withheld. If there was no decision, then Trent cannot be said to have contradicted Carthage. The question of Esdras' canonical status was left theoretically open. [Gary Michuta, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger (Michigan: Grotto Press, 2007), p. 240-241].
The information from Mr. Michuta that's most important to this discussion is Trent's vote. Gary documents the information as coming from Peter G. Duncker, The Canon of the Old Testament at the Council of Trent [The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 3 (July 1953), p. 293-294]. The pertinent section from Duncker isn't that long:
The difficulties made against the wording of the decree, that concern us, are expressed in the following of the 14 “capita dubitationum”:
4. Whether the so-called apocryphal books that are usually included in all the Vulgate codices of the Bible with the sacred books, are to be “nominatim” rejected by this decree, or to be silently omitted.
We may be very brief here. This point arose as a result of an observation of some of the Fathers about such books as 3-4 Esd and 3 Mc; but there was no question that they should be regarded as Sacred Books. The term “apocryphal״ has here undoubtedly the sense, as we Catholics understand the word, applied to the books that non-Catholics call “pseudepigraphic.” The result of the vote indicated that only three Fathers wanted the books to be rejected expressly, eight did not express themselves, forty-two preferred that nothing be said about them. In the later Vulgate editions 3-4 Esd and the prayer of Manasse were added, but as outside the Sacred Books.
The point to keep in mind here is that Duncker states that Trent debated "the so-called apocryphal books that are usually included in all the Vulgate codices." Trent recognized that 3 Esdras (remember- also known as 1 Esdras!) was in the earlier Vulgate. Where does this information come from? Duncker utilized Societas Goerresiana, Concilium Tridentinum (CT). Throughout  the article he relied on reliable primary sources (p.277).

My conclusion? I think that the vote did occur and Trent passed over 1 Esdras in silence. It was probably a pragmatic solution for an issue that Trent's participants didn't really care that much about. It appears to me that Trent's participants were aware of the spurious nature of 1 Esdras, and this can be verified that after Trent, as Duncker states, "In the later Vulgate editions 3-4 Esd and the prayer of Manasse were added, but as outside the Sacred Books." Does this "silence" on 1 Esdras mean William Webster was wrong? No. If Carthage and Hippo really had 1 Esdras in their canon, then most certainly Trent does not officially have it in its canon... yet.

All of this tedium about William Webster, Gary Michuta, and Trent's vote on 1 Esdras demonstrates that Trent recognized there was a problem with 1 Esdras, and that 1 Esdras had been around in the church's usage and manuscripts. While this excursion does not definitively interpret what Hippo and Carthage meant by the two books of Esdras, it does speak to the fact that 1 Esdras was not definitively renounced by the pre-African Council church. If Hugh Pope's paradigm were true, there should not have been any sort of debate at Trent in regard to the book. Pope would have his readers believe that 1 Esdras was rejected previous to the North African Councils, yet Trent demonstrates the book was never definitively rejected, and if Michuta is correct, it hasn't been rejected to this day.

Was 1 Esdras Considered Canonical Previous to the Vulgate?
Was 1 Esdras actually the book in view by Carthage and Hippo? If it was, then all bets are off for Rome's defenders. Mr. Michuta does not deny that the book the Council of Carthage canonized was the spurious 1 Esdras. He says, "Carthage did, indeed, accept 'Esdras, two books" and the identity of these two books seems straightforward enough" (p.238). Gary asks, "[W]hat did the Council of Carthage mean when it called for a canon with 'Esdras two books'? Did it mean Nehemiah alone, or did it mean Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esdras proper? It is difficult to tell. It appears that Carthage would have more likely included Esdras, not omitted it. However, neither case is certain" (p.239). Mr. Michuta documents this by referring to Francis Gigot, General Introduction to the Study of the Holy Scriptures (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1900), p. 121. Gigot  is far more certain than Mr. Michuta. He states,
The Third Book of Esdras.
The second apocryphal writing now placed at the end of the authorized editions of the Latin Version, is the third book of Esdras, thus called in the Vulgate because our canonical books of Esdras and Nehemias are known respectively as the first and the second book of Esdras. In the old Latin, Syriac and Septuagint versions, it was named the first book of Esdras from its position immediately before our canonical books of Esdras and Nehemias. This latter name has great historical importance, inasmuch as when early Councils and writers of the Church speak of the first book of Esdras they have in view our third book of  that name, and when in their lists of sacred books they mention only two books of Esdras, the first to which they allude is our third book, while their second corresponds to our canonical books of Esdras and Nehemias counted together as one work.  
The nomenclature just referred to is found in the African councils of Hippo and Carthage, in the writings of St. Augustine, Pope Innocent I and Cassiodorus, and proves beyond doubt that at a given time the canonicity of the third book of Esdras was officially recognized, at least in the Western churches. About the same period, the sacred character of this book was taken for granted by the leading writers of the East, such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, who agree with St. Cyprian, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and others in the West, in quoting as Holy Writ passages found nowhere except in the third book of Esdras. It is not therefore surprising to find that in presence of such unanimity of the East and of the West, up to the fifth century of our era, some writers should have affirmed that this work is truly canonical and inspired. They remark that the Catholic Church, far from rejecting it positively as apocryphal, has allowed its use and inserted it in its official edition of the Vulgate and of the Septuagint ; that by far the largest part of its contents is simply a duplicate of canonical passages in the second book of Paralipomenon and in the first and second of Esdras ; and that, finally, it is difficult to see how the fact that the writing in question has ceased to be in use since the fifth century of our era, can invalidate the earlier positive testimony in its favor. (p. 121-122)
Utilizing Gigot, Mr. Michuta provides a helpful breakdown of exactly what is contained in 1 Esdras. It is a nine chapter book that takes sections from Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah and also adds in approximately two chapter of unique material, 1 Esdras 3-5:6  (Michuta, p.239; Gigot, p.122). The text of 1 Esdras can be found here.

Gigot is an older source, yet similar findings were noted in Brill's Septuagint Commentary on 1 Esdras by Michael F. Bird. He states:


The Brill commentary also goes on to document the usage of "1 Esdras as Christian 'Scripture'." It seems highly unlikely that, given all the usage of 1 Esdras in the first five centuries of the church that Hippo and Carthage did not understand 1 Esdras to be the spurious 1 Esdras.


Addendum: A Breakdown of 1 Esdras (The Catholic Encyclopedia)

Although not belonging to the Canon of the Sacred Scriptures, this book is usually found, ne prorsus intereat, in an appendix to the editions of the Vulgate. It is made up almost entirely from materials existing in canonical books. The following scheme will show sufficiently the contents and point out the canonical parallels:
-III Esdras, i and 2 Chronicles 35, 36 — History of the Kingdom of Juda from the great Passover of Josias to the Captivity.
-III Esdras, ii, 1-15 (Greek text, 14) and I Esdras, i — Cyrus's decree. Return of Sassabasar.
-III Esdras, ii, 16 (Gr. 15)-31 (Gr. 25) and I Esdras, iv, 6-24 — Opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple.
-III Esdras, iii, 1-v, 6 — Original portion. Story of the three pages. Return of Zorobabel.
-III Esdras, v, 7-46 (Gr. 45) and I Esdras, ii — List of those returning with Zorobabel.
-III Esdras, v, 47 (Gr. 46)-73 (Gr. 70) and I Esdras, iii, 1-iv, 5 — Altar of holocausts. Foundation of the Temple laid. Opposition.
-III Esdras, vi, vii and I Esdras, v, vi — Completion of the Temple.
-III Esdras, viii, 1-ix, 36 and I Esdras, vii-x — Return of Esdras.
-III Esdras, ix, 37-56 (Gr. 55) and II Esdras, vii, 73-viii, 12 — Reading of the Law by Esdras.
The book is incomplete, and breaks off in the middle of a sentence. True, the Latin version completes the broken phrase of the Greek; but the book in its entirety probably contained also the narrative of the feast of Tabernacles (Nehemiah 8). A very strange feature in the work is its absolute disregard of chronological order; thehistory, indeed, runs directly backwards, mentioning first Artaxerxes (ii, 16-31), then Darius (iii-v, 6), finally Cyrus (v, 7-73). All this makes it difficult to detect the real object of the book and the purpose of the compiler. It has been suggested that we possess here a history of the Temple from the time of Josias down to Nehemias, and this view is well supported by the subscription of the old Latin version. Others suppose that, in the main, the book is rather an early translation of the chronicler's work, made at a time when Paralipomenon, Esdras, and Neh. still formed one continuous volume. Be this as it may, there seems to have been, up to St. Jerome, some hesitation with regard to the reception of the book into the Canon; it was freely quoted by the early Fathers, and included in Origen's "Hexapla". This might be accounted for by the fact that III Esd. may be considered as another recension of canonical Scriptures. Unquestionably our book cannot claim to be Esdras's work. From certain particulars, such as the close resemblance of the Greek with that of the translation of Daniel, some details of vocabulary, etc., scholars are led to believe that IIIEsd. was compiled, probably in Lower Egypt, during the second century B.C. Of the author nothing can be said except, perhaps, that the above-noted resemblance of style to Dan. might incline one to conclude that both works are possibly from the same hand.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Luther claimed to Be Isaiah?

Here one from the CARM Christadelphianism forum in which Luther was said to consider himself on par with the Old Testament prophets, considering himself of the same caliber as Isaiah:
Luther interestingly claims himself as "Isaiah", a most excellent prophet:
"Daniel and Isaiah are most excellent prophets. I am Isaiah - be it spoken with humility - to the advancement of God's honor, whose work alone it is, and to spite the devil. Philip Melancthon is Jeremiah; that prophet stood always in fear; even so it is with Melancthon" (Table Talks, Of Gods word, XXIV).

Documentation
The source given is "Table Talks, Of Gods word, XXIV.Despite the incorrect use of the plural, the source is indeed the Table Talk. The version being used appears to be taken from an early English edition of the Table Talk. An earlier English version includes a much broader context, while later English versions edit it down (see for instance, this Hazlitt 1848 edition).

In regard to the German, the text from the early English editions appear to be based on the older German edition of the Tischreden found in Dr. Martin Luthers' sämmtliche Werke, p. 132. The English (bottom of page 91) follows the same content (top of page 129) of the German. One thing the German brings out that the English does not is that the section was not one long Table Talk, but rather many separate statements that the English rendering put together as one context. When one reads the English in this edition, the entire section is headed, On Solomon's Proverbs, but obviously far more is discussed than Proverbs: Esther, Tobit, Judith, Maccabees, etc. The discussion does not flow naturally because it wasn't one natural discussion. These entries were probably put together because they similarly discuss Old Testament and apocryphal books. The Table Talk the quote under scrutiny comes from was recorded by Conrad Cordatus between 1532-1533. The German text indicates it was an isolated statement. WA TR 2 records the statements as 2296a and 2296b (p.410).


Context
The broader contexts located in this English version and this truncated English version  have no bearing on the quote. The isolated quote simply states,
Daniel and Isaiah are the most excellent prophets. I am Isaiah (said Luther, be it spoke with humility) to the advancement of God's honour (whose work alone it is), and to spite the devil. Philip Melancthon is Jeremiah; "that prophet stood always in fear," even so it is with Melancthon. [link]

Conclusion
The Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. Since Luther didn't write the Table Talk, the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther and should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written.

Yes, there were times in which Luther spoke of himself as a biblical prophet, but what was his prophecy? It was not the divine forth-telling the future as "thus saith the Lord," but rather the proclamation of the Word of God, not in the sense of new revelation, but the biblical inscripturated Word of God. Lutheran scholar Robert Kolb points out, 
Luther had no illusions about being an Enoch or Elijah returned from the grave…. What counted for Luther- and what linked him in his own mind with Elijah- was the Word of God in their mouths. He was firmly convinced that his tongue and pen proclaimed the same Word of God which Elijah proclaimed. Only because of this could he place himself in the ranks of prophets and apostles. Thus, much of the medieval notion of the prophet was not of importance for Luther. He claimed to possess no special gift beyond the Word which had been present in the mouths of the biblical prophets. His estimate of himself, as constructive promoter of the gospel or as destructive critic of false teaching, was only and only connected with the Word of God” [Robert Kolb: Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer 1520-1560 (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.31-32].
What can we learn from this Table Talk  statement? The statement appears to be a contrast between the personalities of Luther and Melanchthon. Simply do a search on Melanchthon and the word "timid." It's no wonder that one of the main English biographies of Melanchthon is entitled, 
Melanchthon: The Quiet Reformer. In letters to Melanchton, Luther refers to him as "too gentile" (LW 48:257] and that he did not approve of Melanchthon's timidity [LW 48:365]. Or, consider these other purported statements said to be from Luther about Melanchthon:
“Philip stabs, too, but only with pins and needles. The pricks are hard to heal and they hurt. But when I stab I do it with a heavy pike used to hunt boars.” [LW 54:50]
“In the Acts of the Apostles you have a description of us. James is our Philip, who in his modesty wanted to retain the law voluntarily [Acts 15:13–21]. Peter signifies me, who smashed it: ‘Why do you put a yoke on the neck of the disciples’ [Acts 15:10]? Philip lets himself be devoured. I devour everything and spare no one. So God accomplishes the same thing in two different persons” [LW 54:355].
The point of the Table talk appears to be nothing more than a comparison of the personalities of Luther and Melanchthon. There is no corroborating evidence that either Luther or Melanchthon considered themselves to be giving forth extra-Biblical new revelation as modern-day incarnations of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The problem with depending on the rationalism of Thomas Aquinas: Analysis of the book, "Evangelical Exodus" by Scott Oliphint



Video begins around 12:20.

This was a very good analysis of why so many students and and teachers at Southern Evangelical Seminary (founder Norman Geisler) have left Evangelicalism and converted to Roman Catholicism.

Analysis of the rationalism of Thomas Aquinas and the book "Evangelical Exodus" (Edited by Douglas M. Beaumont, Ignatius Press, 2016)

Addendum:  (June 11, 2016)
Dr. White's comments on the Dividing Line Program of June 10, 2016 (from around 18 minute mark to 43 minute mark) about the Evangelical Exodus book, Norman Geisler, Southern Evangelical Seminary, Thomas Aquinas, Oliphint's lecture, and Roman Catholicism are a good addition to Oliphint's lecture. 

Dr. White emphasized other issues such as the bondage of the will vs. freedom of the will (Monergism vs. Synergism) and the Sacramentalism of Thomas Aquinas.  (Aquinas was the one called upon by the Pope to defend the 1215 dogma of Transubstantiation.  Aquinas lived from 1225- 1274 AD, but he is the one who explained the earlier dogma of 1215. )  Also, the fact that the SES students are not exposed much at all to the best of the Reformation thinkers - Luther on the Bondage of the Will, Calvin, others - those Calvinists are avoided by Geisler and SES and so the emphasis on Aquinas and the autonomous freedom of the human will, seems to have filled that vacuum.

Dividing Line Program of June 10, 2016 :

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2016/06/10/arminian-loses-psalm-3310-11-ses-rome-comma-johanneum/

Three parts to that DL:
1. An Arminian writer skips Psalm 33:10-11 (beginning to 18:00) 
2. Evangelical Exodus, Geisler, Oliphint, Thomas Aquinas, Roman Catholicism ( around 18.00 to 43.00)
3. Issues about the Textus Receptus, Textual Criticism, 1 John 5:7-8, some Reformed Christians who believe the Textus Receptus Greek text is the best (TR Onlyism); and how that attitude will not equip people to deal with atheists, skeptics, Muslims, JWs, Mormons, etc. who will eat their lunch if they try and bring a TR Only ism attitude into the real world in evangelism and apologetics.  (43:00 to the end)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Luther Believed Prophecy to be Active Today?

This one comes up every so often: either that Luther considered himself a prophet in the Biblical sense of forth telling the future, or that he believed the Biblical gift of prophecy was active in the church of his day. Here's a recent sample from the CARM Christadelphianism board. The person using it appears to think Luther believed in the active gift of prophecy based on a few Table Talk quotes. Here's the first:
Luther believed prophecy to be active today:
"Astronomy, on the contrary, I like; it pleases me by reason of her manifold benefits. General prophecies and declarations, which declare generally what in future shall happen accord not upon individuals and particular things" (Table Talks, Of Astronomy and Astrology, DCCXCVIII).

Context
In regard to the German, the quote was probably taken from a source similar to Dr. Martin Luthers Sämmtliche schriften, Volume 22, 1550. Both sentences are separated by a fair amount of text, including a sub-heading. The first line is "Astronomiam nehme ich an, und gefällt om wohl umb ihres mannigfältigcn Nutzes willen." The second line further down is "Gemeine Weissagungen und Verkündigung, da man etwas insgemein zuvor verkündiget, wie es ergehen soll, reimet noch zeucht sich nicht auf einzelne und sonderliche Dinge und Personen."


This quote as it's been cited in English above was taken from an early English edition of the Table Talk. The version being used appears to be from a later reprint of the Hazlett edition (also found on the CCEL website). The number DCCXCVIII appears to be a later renumbering of the earlier edition. Earlier editions number this entry DCCCXLII.  I'm absolutely certain the quote as it's cited above and found in early Hazlett editions is an edited version of a much lengthier utterance in English from Luther on Astrology. The unedited English can be found here starting at the bottom of page 309. Compare this with other later English editions.


Context
An astrologer and a star-peeper, is to be likened to one that selleth dice, and saith, Behold here I have dice that always run upon twelve; the rest of the fifty casts, they run upon two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven. Even thus it is with the astrologers; when once or twice their conceit and fantasies do hit, then they cannot suficiently extol and praise the art; but touching the other so often failing, of the same they are altogether still and silent. I accept of astronomy (said Luther), it pleaseth me well for the sake of her manifold profits. David, in the 19th Psalm remembereth the wonderful works and creatures of God in the firmament of heaven, he taketh therein his delight; Job also remembereth Orion, which they call Jacob's staff, the seven stars, &c. To conclude, the example of Esau and Jacob maketh astrology merely a juggling and confounded work, therewith the astrologers always have enough to do to plaster themselves.
Concluding arguments against Astrology. 
First, that doctrine which dealeth and handleth a matter is uncertain; for materia est informis, is without shape and form, without any quality and fitness; the doctrine of the astrologers and star-peepers dealeth and handleth touching matters, therefore astrology is uncertain. Secondly, General prophecies and declarations, when they will declare a thing generally before what in future shall happen, neither do accord nor draw themselves upon singular and particular things or persons; non competunt specialibus & individuis, they agree not to specials and individuals; but the astrologers and star-peepers do teach general predictions and presages which cannot be directed to and upon particular things and persons, therefore the astrologers and star-peepers do wrong, in drawing and directing there predictions to and upon particular and certain persons and things. Thirdly, When at one time many are slain together in a battle, are shot, struck dead, &c. No man can truly affirm, that they were all born under one planet, yet they die altogether in one hour, yea oftentimes in one moment, especially before the mouths of great cannon and ordnances.

Conclusion
Even without the extended context, the subject matter of the truncated quote is about astronomy, not prophecy. I can see though how someone not being careful read the sentences as the separate subjects of astronomy and "general prophecies and declarations." In context, the comparison is between astrology and astronomy, and that Luther rejected the former and was pleased by the later. Then, the second sentence appears in the next section under the concluding arguments. The "General prophecies and declarations" are in regard to that put forth by astrology. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Calvin vs. Luther on 1 John 3:20

1 John 3:19-20 19
19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. (NASB)

A friend of mine came across the following comment from Jamieson, Fausett, and Brown's Commentary on the The Old and New Testaments on 1 John 3:20, and asked me about a comparison with Calvin's comments and Luther's on the same verse:
Luther and Bengel take this verse as consoling the believer whom his heart condemns; and who, therefore, like Peter, appeals from conscience to Him who is greater than conscience. “Lord, Thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love Thee.” Peter‘s conscience, though condemning him of his sin in denying the Lord, assured him of his love; but fearing the possibility, owing to his past fall, of deceiving himself, he appeals to the all-knowing God: so Paul, 1 Corinthians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 4:4. So if we be believers, even if our heart condemns us of sin in general, yet having the one sign of sonship, love, we may still assure our hearts (some oldest manuscripts read heart, 1 Jo 3:19, as well as 1 Jo 3:20 as knowing that God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. [Link]
Johann Albrecht Bengel's (a Lutheran 1687-1752) comments can be found here. He states, "Whatever or in whatever things, our heart shall condemn us, that we shall be able to tranquilize... Conscience is weak, and knows something of ourselves only, not without trembling; nor has it the ability to pardon: but God is great, knows all our affairs, present, past, and future, and those of all men; and has the right and will of pardoning." The gist of what JFB and Bengel are saying is that 1 John 3:20 is to be taken as a comfort "when our hearts condemns us" because "God is greater than our hearts." If one reads Calvin's view on verse 20, he appears to say something quite different- that if our hearts condemn us, it is a sign of God's judgment "that they in vain possess the name and appearance of Christians."



Martin Luther on 1 John 3:19-21
Luther's comments may be those from Luther's lectures on 1 John (1527) which were given to those who remained in Wittenberg when the plague struck (LW, introduction). In verse 16-18 Luther addresses loving one's neighbor and helping one's neighbor. Commenting on verse 17 Luther's commentary states, "If I have goods and do not expend them, do not give food, drink, clothing, etc.; that is, if I am greedy and niggardly, I am not a Christian" (LW 30:278).  Luther then is recorded to have stated:
19. By this we know that we are of the truth.
This is the evidence with which we assure ourselves of our calling and by which it is established that we are standing in the truth. If I am not moved by the weaknesses of my brother, I surely do not love him. From the fruits of love we can learn that we have love. Faith is established by its practice, its use, and its fruit. For after one has devoted oneself to a life of idleness, it is difficult to raise the heart up to God. Faith alone raises us up. Hence faith must be put into practice, in order that we may be freed from an evil conscience.
And in His sight we shall set our hearts at rest.
The consciousness of a life well spent is the assurance that we are keeping the faith, for it is through works that we learn that our faith is true. And one day my conscience will bear witness before God that I have not been an adulterer, that I have loved my brother, and that I have come to the assistance of the poor, even though there are many things in which we have offended even a brother.
20. because if our heart blames us.
If you lack works, yet you should not lack faith. Even if persuasion is lacking, yet faith and hope are greater. If idleness of life blames you, still you should not yet despair. For it is the sum and substance of the Gospel that you should believe and hope. Although we should consider ourselves unworthy, yet we should accept the grace that is offered and the Gospel. Even if our conscience makes us fainthearted and presents God as angry, still “God is greater than our heart.” Conscience is one drop; the reconciled God is a sea of comfort. The fear of conscience, or despair, must be overcome, even though this is difficult. It is a great and exceedingly sweet promise that if our heart blames us, “God is greater than our heart” and “knows everything.” Why does John not prefer to say that He has done or can do everything? When the conscience blames, then man is distressed and says with David in Ps. 40:12: “My iniquities have overtaken me till I cannot see”; see also Ps. 49:6. Then a sinner sobs and says: “I do not know what I ought to do.” But in opposition to this darkness of the heart it is said: “God knows everything.” One’s conscience is always fearful and closes its eyes, but God is deeper and higher than your heart and examines it more intimately. He gives us a light, so that we see that our iniquity has been taken away from us. Satan often disturbs our conscience even when we do what is right. In case anyone were to be troubled because he had not celebrated Mass, the devil can confuse him and take away all Scripture passages that used to give him courage with respect to human traditions. But then one must close one’s eyes and consider that God is wiser in His Word and that we are not saved by such vain works. Thus the devil can disturb a person for having departed from the monastic life and can suppress the joy of his heart. But here one must resist him; for God, who strengthens you in the truth, is more powerful than the devil. As Matt. 15:9 says, “In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” Sometimes the devil interprets the best things badly and the bad things well, weakens the good things and makes much of the things that are bad. From a little laughter he can make eternal damnation. But you must always consider that
God is greater than our heart.
The heart knows nothing that is right. God knows everything and teaches me better things in the Word of the Gospel.
21. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.
Confidence and condemnation are mutually exclusive. For if you have confidence in God’s grace, your heart does not condemn you. Love cannot calm your heart, since one often loves in words and with the tongue, v. 18. But faith, which is victory over the world and hell, as 1 John 5:4 says, calms you. From this one now understands why the devil vexes us so much, opposes the Word, and strives to take the Word away. For if the Word has been taken away, faith is taken away; if faith has been taken away, calmness of the heart is taken away. If he cannot hinder the Word, he strives to hinder faith, lest we believe the Word; he confuses and muddles the Word. If he cannot hinder faith, he strives to hinder prayer and hurls a person into so many activities that he is unable to pray.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 30, pp. 279–281). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

There's a balance to Luther's comments. In verses 16-18 he describes faith in action, in essence, how our actions prove faith. In verse 19 he speaks of the "evidence with which we assure ourselves of our calling and by which it is established that we are standing in the truth." "It is through works that we learn our faith is true." Then he continues to describe the comfort mentioned in verse 20 for those who struggle with the "fear of conscience" about their works.  One can't help but wonder if Luther's being autobiographical at this point when he states, " Even if our conscience makes us fainthearted and presents God as angry, still 'God is greater than our heart.' Conscience is one drop; the reconciled God is a sea of comfort." Verse 20 is expounded as "consoling the believer whom his heart condemns" just like JFB states.


John Calvin on 1 John 3:19-20
There's also a balance to Calvin's comments. In his Commentary on 1 John 3:14, Calvin speaks of love as "the special fruit of the Spirit, it is also a sure symbol of regeneration." He balances this with stating that evaluating the amount of "love" in one's life is not the basis of confidence for salvation, because if it were, salvation would "recumb on works." Salvation has its confident "foundation in the mercy of God only." In verse 16 he describes how a Christian should seek to imitate Christ in his actions towards others, and doing this correctly requires those actions be done with "brotherly love." "Except this feeling prevails in our hearts, we have no connection with Christ." In verse 19 he reiterates that "love" assures our hearts in the sense that it is "an evidence that we are born of God," but this isn't to be used as a proof of certainty of salvation. "Love is accessory or an inferior aid, a prop to our faith, not a foundation on which it rests." Then comes Calvin's comment on verse 20:
  20. For if our heart condemn us. He proves, on the other hand, that they in vain possess the name and appearance of Christians, who have not the testimony of a good conscience. For if any one is conscious of guilt, and is condemned by his own heart, much less can he escape the judgment of God. It hence follows, that faith is subverted by the disquiet of an evil conscience.
  He says, that God is greater than our heart, with reference to judgment, that is, because he sees much more keenly than we do, and searches more minutely and judges more severely. For this reason, Paul says, that though he was not conscious of wrong himself, yet he was not therefore justified, (1 Corinthians 4:4; ) for he knew that however carefully attentive he was to his office, he erred in many things, and through inadvertence was ignorant of mistakes which God perceived. What then the Apostle means is, that he who is harassed and condemned by his own conscience, cannot escape the judgment of God.
  To the same purpose is what immediately follows, that God knoweth or seeth all things. For how can those things be hid from him which we, who in comparison with him are dull and blind, are constrained to see? Then take this explanation, “Since God sees all things, he is far superior to our hearts.” For to render a copulative as a causal particle is no new thing. The meaning is now clear, that since the knowledge of God penetrates deeper than the perceptions of our conscience, no one can stand before him except the integrity of his conscience sustains him.
  But here a question may be raised. It is certain that the reprobate are sometimes sunk by Satan into such stupor, that they are no longer conscious of their own evils, and. without alarm or fear, as Paul says, rush headlong into perdition; it is also certain, that hypocrites usually flatter themselves, and proudly disregard the judgment of God, for, being inebriated by a false conceit as to their own righteousness, they feel no convictions of sin. The answer to these things is not difficult; hypocrites are deceived because they shun the light; and the reprobate feel nothing, because they have departed from God; and, indeed there is no security for an evil conscience but in hiding-places.
  But the Apostle speaks here of consciences which God draws forth to the light, forces to his tribunal, and fills with an apprehension of his judgment. Yet; it is at the same time generally true, that we cannot have a calm peace except that which God’s Spirit gives to purified hearts; for those who, as we have said, are stupefied, often feel secret compunctions, and torment themselves in their lethargy.
Calvin, J. (2002). Calvin’s Commentaries (1 Jn 3:19). Galaxie Software.

Even though Luther and Calvin preface their comments similarly in regard to the way actions demonstrate saving faith, when they arrive at verse 20 they diverge. For Luther, he appears to have someone in mind with the "fear of conscience, or despair," the sensitive soul that realizes a look inside in light of a holy God produces a feeling of condemnation. On the other hand, Calvin says if one is lacking "the testimony of a good conscience" and has a guilty feeling, "What then the Apostle means is, that he who is harassed and condemned by his own conscience, cannot escape the judgment of God," and "The meaning is now clear, that since the knowledge of God penetrates deeper than the perceptions of our conscience, no one can stand before him except the integrity of his conscience sustains him."

Calvin though does go on to describe someone somewhat similar to the person Luther has in view. In his comment on 1 John 3:21 he states,
Here, however, arises a greater difficulty, which seems to leave no confidence in the whole world; for who can be found whose heart reproves him in nothing? To this I answer, that the godly are thus reproved, that they may at the same time be absolved. For it is indeed necessary that they should be seriously troubled inwardly for their sins, that terror may lead them to humility and to a hatred of themselves; but they presently flee to the sacrifice of Christ, where they have sure peace. Yet the Apostle says, in another sense, that they are not condemned, because however deficient they may confess themselves to be in many things, they are still relieved by this testimony of conscience, that they truly and from the heart fear God and desire to submit to his righteousness. All who possess this godly feeling, and at the same time know that all their endeavors, how muchsoever they come short of perfection, yet please God, are justly said to have a calm or a peaceful heart, because there is no inward compunction to disturb their calm cheerfulness. 
Calvin admits that if one seriously looks into their heart, something will certainly convict that person before a Holy God. Discovering such, a person will naturally feel "a hatred of themselves." This person however is to  "flee to the sacrifice of Christ, where they have sure peace." He goes on to say that such a person discovering such dark truths about themselves are typically those who  "truly and from the heart fear God and desire to submit to his righteousness." This is possessing a "godly feeling" and results in confidence toward God rather than conviction.

Conclusion
Are Luther and Calvin saying different things? I'm sure my Lutheran friends would completely think so. Calvin and Luther certainly diverge on their explanations of verse 20. However, they both seem ultimately to have the same thing in mind, or perhaps it would be better to state they arrive at the same place.

My view? I'm with Luther on verse 20, because that's the sort of conscience I have.  For Calvin's view, it reminded me of B.B. Warfield's popular comment that John Calvin was the theologian of the Holy Spirit.  Notice in his comment on verse 20: "we cannot have a calm peace except that which God’s Spirit gives to purified hearts." The idea appears to me that Calvin relies on the inward testimony of the Spirit to avoid having one's heart feeling condemnation before a Holy God. He speaks of those who "possess this godly feeling"and have "a calm or a peaceful heart." Before someone thinks this is subjective mysticism, notice how Calvin explains how this inward testimony emerges, "but they presently flee to the sacrifice of Christ, where they have sure peace." Above Luther says in verse 21, "For if you have confidence in God’s grace, your heart does not condemn you." It sounds very much the same to me, but being expressed differently. No, Calvin was not a Lutheran, and Luther was not a Calvinist, but there are senses in which they overlap, even when at times it appears they are saying two different things.