Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Be Careful the way you communicate the issue of the canon in the early church

Andy Stanley said, in his recent Easter sermon, "History's Mystery", basically, "the Bible didn't exist until around 300 - 400 AD".  "for 300 years there was no Bible" and "they had no New Testament for really, 400 years".  (at the 5:56 time mark to 6:20 mark) This is a sloppy and misleading statement, because it sounds like the individual NT books didn't exist, but they all did, by 96 AD.  They were individual scrolls and early churches used them, read them, taught them, and quoted them in the first 3-4 centuries.  They only didn't have all 27 books all together under "one book cover" or "canon list".

Andy's main point, that Christianity is based on the person of Christ (and His crucifixion and resurrection), and not philosophy or ideas, is basically true, but he should have expanded and clarified with more; something like, "Christianity is primarily based on the person of Christ; but also His works and doctrines and teachings, which were written down by His apostles in God-breathed Scripture, and that includes all the 27 books of the NT, including the writings of the apostle Paul, as fulfillment of the coming of the Holy Spirit to led the apostles into all the truth." (John chapters 14, 15, 16)

Andy needs to read Michael Kruger's books and blog on the canon and NT history, as Dr. White suggests. (on the video below) 

The Heresy of Orthodoxy.  (with Andreas Kostenberger) 

Statements like "the Bible did not exist for the first 3 centuries", can make people in the audience vulnerable to Roman Catholic apologetic claims.  That is what happened to my friend Rod Bennett; he was not well taught in the canon issues as a Protestant, and so fell prey to that kind of argument. They claim that the church authoritatively decided and determined the canon (the list of which books are inspired/ "God-breathed").  No; rather they were determined by God the Holy Spirit to be "criterion" / "standard" / (the original meaning of "canon", as soon as they were written as individual books / scrolls.  It just took time to collect them all under one "book cover" or "canon list", so to speak.   The early church discovered, discerned, witnessed to which books were already "God -breathed" and therefore, by nature, were "canon" / criterion / standard. 

Dr. White rightly points this out in this screen flow.  If Andy means the final form of where there was unanimous agreement as to the canon list, as in Athanasius' list in 367 AD, then that is right, but the way he communicated his statement makes it seem like the individual letters / gospels did not exist in churches to guide them into the truth and doctrine and practice.  But even long before Athanasius in 367, Origen around 250 AD indicates the same 27 NT book list.  See here.

Below is a compilation of statements that I originally tweeted yesterday and today, but expanded here in this article.

The Scriptures existed and were "God-breathed" right when the ink dried, therefore "canon" when written. (R. C. Sproul, Sola Scriptura: The Protestant position on the Bible, page 82 - "For the Reformers, the Bible was canon as soon as it was written."); they were individual books, to be exact scrolls; later collected under one "book cover"/canon list.

For a Protestant to say, "the Bible did not exist until 300s or 400s AD", gives credibility to Roman Catholic apologetic claims. Andy Stanley needs to clarify his statement.

Clement of Rome, in 96 AD, wrote, "take up the epistle of Paul to the Corinthians", affirming that 1 Corinthians was written in 55 AD, and considered God-breathed Scripture by Clement.

Clement of Rome (Letter of 1 Clement) quoted and alluded to several of Paul's letters & at least one of the written gospels (Matthew) in 96 AD. (Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, p. 294.)

Tertullian and Ireneus quoted from most of the NT books in 180-220 AD.  Ignatius (107-117 AD), Justin Martyr (150 AD), Polycarp (165 AD), Origen (250 AD), Cyprian (250 AD), Clement of Alexandria, (215 AD), all quote from and allude to books of the New Testament.

All the 27 NT books existed by 96 AD, they were just not collected together under 1 canon list or "book cover" yet.  

The nature of the NT documents-they were individual letters/gospels written on scrolls: the Codex form did not even exist in common usage until about 150-200 AD.  Before then, books and letters had to be individually rolled up as scrolls.  So, the form of a modern book, with a binding, flat, etc., did not even exist when the individual letters were written to different areas in the first century.  

The apostles Peter and Paul were executed by Nero around 67 AD.  This means that all their letters were written and existed before then.  The book of Hebrews also was clearly written before 70 AD, because he presents his argument based on the fact that the priests were currently offering sacrifices and the temple was still standing; but He says Christ was the final, once for all time, sacrifice.  If he was writing after 70 AD, he would have said, "And we have proof that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the sacrificial system, because God ordained the Romans to come and destroy the temple in 70 AD, thus proving that Christ is the final sacrifice.  

The Gospel according to Mark (written sometime between 48-60 AD), James, Galatians, written around 48-50 AD; these are the earliest NT documents; they existed, and churches used them and quoted from the them in the first 3 centuries.  So it is misleading to say, "The Bible did not exist until the 300s or 400s AD".    We know Galatians was written before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 in 48-49 AD (Carson, Moo, Intro to NT, p. 464), because if Galatians was written after that, Paul would have mentioned the decisions in his letter to the Galatians to bolster his case.  The fact that he does not mention those decisions is proof that the letter to the Galatians was written sometime before the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15.

We know that Luke wrote the book of Acts shortly after his release from the 2 year in house prison because of the abrupt ending and lack of other details as to what he did after that.  ("other considerations suggest a date not long after 62 AD".  (See Carson and Moo, Intro to NT, page 300.)  This means The Gospel of Luke was written before then, in 60 or 61 AD, or before Acts early in the year of 62 AD.

Most conservative NT scholars believe the Gospel according to John, the letters of 1, 2, 3 John, and the book of Revelation were written somewhere between 80-96 AD, but some argue for a pre- 70 AD dating. That leaves the little book of Jude to be around 80 AD, and "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) (or verse 3) may indicate it was the last book written or one of the last NT books written.

The main reason liberals date Matthew, Mark, and Luke after 70 AD, is because don't believe in predictive prophesy, but Jesus clearly predicted the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:1-3 as future to Him (spoken in 30 AD before the cross), and, it indeed happened in 70 AD. It is interesting that "a generation" was generally considered "40 years". This has implications for Matthew 24:34 - "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place". Does Jesus' woes and judgment pronouncements on that generation living at that time extend from Matthew 23:36 ("all these things will come upon this generation") to Matthew 24:34 ?

As John A. T. Robinson argued, if Matthew, Mark, and Luke had been written after 70 AD, they would have surely added something like, "and this was fulfilled when Titus' armies rolled in and destroyed the temple in 70 AD." (Redating the New Testament, pages 13-30)
The 27 books of the NT and generally accepted dates by conservative students and scholars:
Galatians - 48- 49 AD
James - 48-50 AD (?)
Gospel according to Mark - 48-60 AD
Council of Jerusalem - 49 AD
1 Thessalonians - 50 AD
2 Thessalonians - 51 AD
Matthew - 50-65 AD
Luke - 60-61 AD
Acts - 62 AD
1 Corinthians - 55 AD
2 Corinthians - 56 AD
Romans - 57-58 AD
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (60-62 AD - in Paul's first imprisonment at end of Acts.)
Paul released from prison; seeks to go to Spain. (Romans 15:20-24)
I Peter - 64 AD
I Timothy, Titus - 63-65 AD
2 Timothy - 67 AD
2 Peter - 67 AD (Dictated to a student from prison; to Jude, possibly, the half brother of Jesus, which would explain similarities of style and vocabulary.)
Apostles Paul and Peter executed by Nero. (67 AD)
Nero commits suicide - 67 AD
Hebrews - 68 AD
70 AD - Destruction of Temple
80-96 AD - Gospel of John, letters of 1, 2, 3 John, Revelation
80 AD - Jude - "the faith was once for all delivered to the saints"

So, when admitting that the Bible in its final book form or canon list was not available until either 250 AD (per Origen) or 367 AD (per Athanasius Festal Letter 39), we should make clear that the books of the NT were already written from around 48-96 AD, and that the early churches each had either one gospel (maybe 2 or 3) and one or more NT letters; that they were never without some portion of Scripture. Pastors and teachers should be careful the way they communicate the issue of the canon and the history of it in the early church.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Luther to Melanchthon: When there is peace, then will be the time to rectify our deceits, lies, and errors

I was sent the following Luther quote (from an "ex-Calvinist" turned Roman Catholic) found in the book The Bible and the Rule of Faith by the Canadian Cardinal, Louis Nazaire Bégin:

As to the heads of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, I do not wish to judge them myself, for fear of being accused of partiality. I prefer only quoting some short passages of their writings, and repeating the polite speeches they make about one another; the reader can then pronounce for himself as to the sanctity of the origin of Protestantism. The sincerity of Luther is well described in this confidential letter to his friend Melanchthon, August 30th, 1530: 'When once we have nothing more to fear, when we shall be left in peace, then will be the time to rectify our deceits, lies, and errors.'Peter,' he says elsewhere, 'the greatest of the Apostles, lived and taught contrarily to the Word of God.[58] 'Moses, he says, had a tongue, but a hesitating tongue, which stammered—a tongue of death, of anger, and of sin. Collect all the words of wisdom of Moses, of the gentile philosophers, and you will find that they only express idolatry or hypocrisy. [59]
[58] Comment in Ep. ad Gal. c.ii. edit. Wittemberg, Opp. t.v. p. 290.
[59] T.iii. in Ps. xlv. p.425.

Upon checking the source I discovered that it wasn't simply one quote, but three strewn together in the typical Roman Catholic polemical style that has so characterized their treatment of Luther throughout the centuries (I added in the footnotes above from Bégin's book). While the Cardinal claims an attempt to avoid "partiality," any writer that simply throws a bunch of quotes together without a context or historical background is indeed being "partial." Notice in the first quote (the letter), Luther is presented as a behind-the-scenes liar. In the second quote, Luther characterizes the life and teachings of the apostle Peter as contrary to the Word of God. In the third quote, Luther says all of the words of Moses amount to idolatry. In one short paragraph, the impartial Cardinal has presented the lying, apostle-slandering, law despising Martin Luther.  Elsewhere in the book Bégin says Luther was "a real chameleon" in doctrine and modified his opinions day to day (pp. 49-50). Given Bégin's overall treatment of Luther, I would posit he hadn't actually read much Luther but relied on the opinions and citations of secondary sources like this one.

Quote #1
The sincerity of Luther is well described in this confidential letter to his friend Melancthon, August 30th, 1530: 'When once we have nothing more to fear, when we shall be left in peace, then will be the time to rectify our deceits, lies, and errors.

Other than mentioning that the first quote is a letter, it goes undocumented by Bégin. Yes, this quote is from a letter to Melanchthon, but probably not from August 30, but rather August 28. During this time period, Lutheran leaders had been summoned by the emperor to Augsburg in an attempt to unify the Holy Roman Empire. For this meeting, Melanchthon attended and had a crucial role in putting together a statement of Lutheran theology known as the Augsburg Confession. Luther did not attend, so written correspondence between the two was the means by which they communicated. Multiple letters were exchanged during this period. In their correspondence, it becomes apparent that Luther was concerned that Melanchthon not concede more than is needed to the "papists" (for example, see Luther's letter from June 29, 1530). Luther had serious concerns and disagreements with how Melanchthon was representing the Protestant cause, and in some instances criticizes Melanchthon (see LW 49:32). Behind the scenes, Melanchthon and Luther had agreements and disagreements over the unity sought for with the papists (For an overview of these conflicts between Luther and Melanchthon, see Brecht, Shaping and Defining the Reformation 1521-1532, pp. 387 - 446).

The letter to Melanchthon is short. Luther states,
Gratiam et pacem in Christo. Mi Philippe, respondi ad istas quaestiones nudius tertius. Et quid est, quod audent postulare tam manifeste impia, cum ipsi antea nec ita docuerint? Et ideo nunc hoc fingunt, ne praeterita sacrilegia eorurn videamus, sed hoc praetextu eadem resuscitent et stabiliant. Vos nihil mea sententia rectius feceritis, quam si liberemini ab istis crassis insidiis, dicendo, velle vos Deo, quae Dei, et Caesari, quae Caesaris sunt, reddere. Si igitur poterunt ostendere, ea esse Dei et Caesaris, admittite; si non ostenderint, dicite, extra Deum et Caesarem non esse, cui obediatis, nisi solum diabolum cui obedire ne ipsi quidem iubebunt. Quid opus est, sic causam distrahi et dispergi in quaestiones? Solvant illi, quod proponunt, id est, ostendant, esse Deum vel Caesarem. Quare, ista insulsa calliditate vos patimini eos in vos ludere, an hoc vel hoc velitis? Dicant ipsi, an sit verbum Dei, et statim obtinuerint, quia vos velitls verbo Dei obedire. Sed haec melius vos cogitatis: nam ego in tam cassis insidiis forte nimis securus sum, sciens, vos nihil posse ibi comittere, nisi forte peccatum in personas nostras, ut perfidi et inconstantes arguamur. Sed quid postea? Causae constantia et veritate facile corrigetur. Quamquam nolim hoc contingere, tamen sic loquor, ut, si qua contingeret, non esset desperandum. Nam si vim evaserimus pace obtenta, dolos ac lapsus nostros facile emendabimus, quoniam regnat super nos misericordia eius. Viriliter agite et confortetur cor vestrum, omnes qui speratis in Domino. Speratis vero, quia causam eius agitis, quod sine spe qui posset fieri? Saluta omnes nostros. Et tu cum eis bene vale. Ex Eremo, die S. Augustini 1530. Martin Luther
The bolded text has been translated into English a few different ways (The quote as cited by Louis Nazaire Bégin was originally translated into French, and then into English by a translator of Bégin). See the way Roman historian Hartmann Grisar's version has been translated here.  See the way Roman historian Johannes Janssen's version has been translated here. Also note Denifle's comments here. These Roman polemicists see this quote from Luther as an admission that Luther was fundamentally a  liar and deceiver. There is a crucial variant in the sentence (interestingly noted by these old Roman apologists). They point out that only in some manuscripts do the words "et mendacia" (and lies) come after the word "dolos"(schemes), Grisar says "in the oldest Protestant editions." Other writers, particularly Roman Catholic writers, mention only that these words are missing in some manuscripts, not mentioning  it being the oldest editions as Grisar posits. Denifle makes the comment that "et mendacia" is unnecessary because Dolos "suffices perfectly and expresses more." I'm not aware of any contemporary textual studies in English on this sentence. If it's included in one of the upcoming volumes of LW, they'll probably investigate this variant.  

A careful look at the context shows that these old Roman writers are veering off into their inherited caricature of Luther rather than seeing the historical facts of the matter. Brecht explains,
Because of the negotiations, Melanchthon had again become involved in a considerable contradiction to Luther's views, which Luther clearly recognized. This time Luther reacted thoughtfully, objectively, and prudently. What had to be done was to break free from the formulations of those of the opposing side, which they were really using only to advance their own standpoints, and simply to give God and the emperor their due. They would have to prove that their views were supported by God's Word. Luther knew that inadmissible concessions could open the evangelicals to the charge of unfaithfulness and vacillation. He took this surprisingly calmly. Even if it had already come to pass, it could be corrected, and therefore there was no reason to despair. If an armed conflict were avoided and peace preserved, they could later for the sake of the mercy of Christ "easily put out tricks, lies, and mistakes in order." Naturally, this was not meant as a licence for unscrupulous negotiating tactics, as was later alleged. Rather, Luther was forgiving the great mistakes Melanchthon had probably already committed, and he was refraining from criticizing them personally. (Shaping and Defining the Reformation 1521-1532, pp. 422-423).

Quote #2
'Peter,' he says elsewhere, 'the greatest of the Apostles, lived and taught contrarily to the Word of God. [Comment in Ep. ad Gal. c.ii. edit. Wittemberg, Opp. t.v. p. 290].

This quote is from Luther's Galatians 2:11 commentary (Paul's opposition of Peter). Luther isn't intending to disrespect the entire life and teaching of Peter, but rather is following the principle laid out in Galatians 1:6-10 (that even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed). Luther states:
Peter, the prince of the apostles, lived and taught contrary to the Word of God. Therefore he was in error. And because he was at fault, Paul “opposed him to the face” (Gal. 2:11), attacking him because he was not in conformity with the truth of the Gospel. Here you see that Peter the most holy apostle, erred. Thus I will not listen to the church or the fathers or the apostles unless they bring and teach the pure Word of God.  [Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther's works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (26:67). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].

Quote #3
'Moses, he says, had a tongue, but a hesitating tongue, which stammered—a tongue of death, of anger, and of sin. Collect all the words of wisdom of Moses, of the gentile philosophers, and you will find that they only express idolatry or hypocrisy. [ T.iii. in Ps. xlv. p.425].

This quote comes from Luther's comments on Psalm 45:2 (found in LW 12:209-213). Luther prefaces his comments on this Psalm by saying "So throughout the psalm an antithesis is set up with Moses, or between the Law and the gospel. If you recognize this, the psalm will be quite clear" (LW 12:205). It appears that in citing Luther Bégin ignored this crucial comment, or perhaps never saw it at all due to relying on a secondary source. When Luther speaks of Moses in this psalm, he's using Moses as "the Law." He mentions that Moses " a tormentor and cruel executioner and torturer, who torments us and troubles us with his terrors, threatenings and displays of wrath" (LW 12:207). This is because those who seek God through the Law will only find a condemning god. Compared to the grace and mercy of the gospel as given though Christ, "Moses is nothing in comparison with Him" (LW 12:209).  Commenting on Psalm 45:2 (Grace is overflowing upon Thy lips), Luther states:
This is the most distinctive reason for praising kings—in kingdoms of the world, too—if a person can commend their wisdom. For experienced men have declared that matters can be settled better by wisdom and judgment than by force of might and weapons, in fact, that might and weapons are even injurious if they are not supported by good counsel. If we consider ourselves, what are we human beings in comparison with lions, bears, or horses? One horse, if it knew how to use its strength, could throw a hundred men to the ground. So also, if a hog wished or knew how to use its strength, it could kill ten butchers. In fact, even lifeless things like wood and bricks far outdo men. If a tower falls in ruin, it crushes a huge crowd of people. For they surpass man in strength. But since man has understanding, he rules all these things, and we see four-year-old boys drive draft animals. Thus the enormous strength of beasts is ruled and, as it were, taken captive by a weaker power. It was on account of this that the Romans, too, said that matters would be determined by wisdom and judgment and not by fortune; moreover, that great numbers contributed nothing to victory if prudence were lacking; and that if foolishness prevailed, the great mob would be brought together only to be executed. Witnesses to these things are Flaminius, Varro, Minucius, and many others. Wisdom is, therefore, the foremost quality and gift required of a king. For this reason Moses said (Deut. 4:6) that the heathen would be amazed by this one virtue: “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” And Solomon is commended in Sacred Scripture not so much for his riches but for his wisdom; for this is the highest praise. So here, too, after describing His person and unequaled beauty, the psalm demands the same sort of wisdom that He possessed. This is the wisdom of grace poured upon His lips. It seems that Luke (4:20) was looking back at this verse when he said that as Christ was teaching, all eyes were fixed on Him because of the gracious Word (v. 22) which the good will of his hearers occasioned in Him; he said “they were amazed” at His doctrine. He glances here at Moses, too, who also had lips, but thick, ineloquent, heavy, wrathful ones, on which there was no gracious Word, but words of anger, death, and sin. Gather together all the wisdom of Moses, the heathen, and the philosophers, and you will find that in God’s sight they are either idolatry or a false wisdom or, in civil government, a wisdom of wrath. Only the beauty of this King, Christ, is beauty. So only His wisdom is wisdom, for it is the wisdom of grace, that is, of promise; and His Word is sweet, full of consolation and trust. Thus the poet has diligently read the prophecies and promises regarding Christ and has seen that His lips are the sweetest and loveliest lips, which attract the hearts of all the weak. So Christ should not be depicted with gall or a sword in His mouth, as they always portray Him, unless it is to be understood spiritually. He should be depicted in such a way that His lips seem to be pure sugar or honey. Whoever depicts His mouth otherwise errs, and we should rather listen to this poet than to the papists and Satan, the authors of this horrible picture. For this poet will not deceive us when he ascribes to Christ the loveliest mouth. This must be noted carefully. For Christ should not make hearts sad with His words, He ought not to terrify. Whoever terrifies and vexes consciences in Christ’s name is not a messenger of Christ but of the devil, for Christ’s name is: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench.” He is gentle: “He will not cry or lift up His voice or make it heard in the street” (Is. 42:3, 2). He is not rough, severe, biting like Moses, who looks like the very devil and speaks in a way that our heart almost vanishes before him. For he has lips overflowing with gall and wrath, that have been embittered with laurel and gall, in fact, with hellish fire. So away forever with Moses! But our King has pleasant lips; that is, His Word is the Word of the remission of sins and of comfort for the lowly, the Word of life and salvation to recall the damned and dying. Neither does he call them simply “gracious” lips, but lips “overflowing with grace,” in order to point out that Christ is superabundant in His lips. From His mouth, as from some overflowing fountain, the richest promises and teachings stem, and with these He strengthens and comforts souls. So the things you hear daily about this Christ are what the poet depicts, as you see, however briefly, yet with distinctive words and the loveliest poetry: Grace is on the lips of this King, and not only that, it overflows, so that you may understand how abundantly this fountain of grace flows and gushes forth. Luther, M. (1999, c1955). Vol. 12: Luther's Works, vol. 12 : Selected Psalms I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (12:209). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].
The contrast here is between Law and Gospel. The context shows that compared to the Gospel, the Law by itself is not wisdom but condemnation. for Luther, the Law without Christ is a form of idolatry for who think it will achieve peace with a Holy God. For more information on Luther's view of the Law and Moses see:

Luther And The Law: Did Martin Luther Abhor God's Law? (Part One)- A look at four Luther quotes used by Roman Catholics to prove Luther hatred God's Law. The quotes are given contexts and explanations to prove mis-usage by Roman Catholics.

Luther And The Law: Did Martin Luther Abhor God's Law? (Part Two)- A look at Luther's understanding of the Law and its place in the Christian life.

And also, for specific Luther quotes related to the Law and Moses, see these entries from my series Luther, Exposing the Myth:

1. "Their only purpose is to show man his impotence to do good and to teach him to despair of himself"

2. “Thou shalt not covet,’ is a commandment which proves us all to be sinners; since it is not in man’s power not to covet, and the same is the drift of all the commandments, for they are all equally impossible to us.”

3. "Moses is an executioner, a cruel lictor, a torturer a torturer who tears our flesh out with pincers and makes us suffer martyrdom . . . Whoever, in the name of Christ, terrifies and troubles consciences, is not the messenger of Christ, but of the devil . . . Let us therefore send Moses packing and for ever."

4. "We must remove the Decalogue out of sight and heart"

5. “It does not matter what people do; it only matters what they believe.”

6. “If we allow them - the Commandments - any influence in our conscience, they become the cloak of all evil, heresies and blasphemies” (Comm. ad Galat, p.310).

7. “If Moses should attempt to intimidate you with his stupid Ten Commandments, tell him right out – chase yourself to the Jews

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sproul on Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism, and the will of man

R. C. Sproul demonstrates the contradiction in Roman Catholic Theology, when it claims it agrees with Augustine against Pelagius and the Semi-Pelagians (Provincial Synod of Orange in 529 AD), but later re-affirms Semi-Pelagianism by the decrees of Trent (1545-1563) and then, later, arguably, it approves of even Pelagianism by the condemnation of the Jansenists (roughly, 1638-1713) and the modern Roman Catholic Catechism of 1994.  Sproul calls it an "ambiguity".  Indeed, it is more than that; it is a real contradiction.  It also shows the Roman Catholic Church to be fallible; thus bringing down the whole system of its claim to be infallible.

I recommend Sproul's book, Willing to Believe, and DVD teaching series. 

See also an earlier post about the tendency of Roman Catholicism to drift back to Semi-Pelagianism between the Council of Orange in 529 AD until Luther questioned the issue, and the Council of Trent in 1545-1563. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sola Scriptura, the Canon, and Roman Catholicism

Dr. White and Dr. Michael Kruger, President and Professor of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.,  discuss Sola Scriptura, the Canon, and Roman Catholicism on the Dividing Line, back on January 7, 2014 on the Dividing Line.  They listened to a call from a Lutheran to the "Catholic Answers"radio program and then discuss.  I embedded this Dividing Line and discuss some basic canon issues over at my other blog.

"Sola Scriptura", the Canon, and Roman Catholicism 

Anyone commenting must demonstrate they have listened to the whole Dividing Line program first. (smile)

And read my other comments at my other blog, called "Apologetics and Agape". (smile)

Friday, May 09, 2014

Luther: It is easier to live as a Protestant, but better to die as a Catholic

I was sent the following quote from a Roman Catholic website:
The quotation, “it is easier to live as a Protestant but better to die as a Catholic,” is ascribed variously to Martin Luther or one of Luther’s wavering followers. One reason it is better to die as a Catholic, for someone not convinced about going straight to heaven, is the ability to take advantage of the special sacraments for the sick and dying, as recommended in the epistle of James (5:14-15), for healing and/or the forgiveness of sins.
There are various versions of this saying: "It is good to live as a Protestant but better to die Catholic." "It is good to live as a Protestant, but it is good to die as a Catholic." "For a man to be happy in this world and the next, he must live a Protestant and die a Catholic." The saying appears to be based on an old proverb: Katholish ist gut sterben."—"It is good to die Catholic."

Older generations of Roman apologists used Luther's death for polemical purposes. One of Luther's earliest opponents described Satan dragging Luther to hell. Denifle put forth an image of Luther as glutton and drunk, and these abuses (along with a myriad of others) led to his death. Some even contend Luther committed suicide. For instance, here's a 1907 review on anti-Luther historian Heinrich Denfile's book on Luther describing the deaths of Protestants:
Death often reveals the secrets of the human heart. It manifests the hidden feelings of joy or sorrow, peace or despair. Luther always feared death. He envied the very beast because it "fears no king or master, neither death nor bell, nor the devil, nor the wrath of God." His death was very mysterious, but certainly not the death of a saint. Many of his most prominent followers had the same sad experience. Dollinger enumerates a long list of them. A Protestant theologian describes them well when he says: "They became like the heathen, vain, melancholy desperates, and they closed their lives with fear and trembling. Others facing death returned to the Catholic Church." "There were many of them," again says a Protestant author, "who could never console themselves with Protestantism, indeed, some despaired in their sadness, and gladly returned to the Catholic Church." It happens frequently that Protestants become Catholics on their deathbed, but in the hour of death no practical Catholic becomes a Protestant. That fact proves the truth of the old proverb: "Katholish ist gut sterben."—"It is good to die Catholic." How beautiful was the death of the great convert, Frederick Leopold, Count of Stolberg, who having received the last sacraments said to his children: "Children, let us sing to the Lord and be happy." And to his wife he said: "I have come much nearer to the goal." When she answered: "God may spare you to us," he, dying, folded his hands, lifted his eyes toward Heaven and replied: "Oh, could I but say, 'Lord as Thou wilt,' but I would rather die, for death is my gain. Oh, do not pass by, but take my soul with you." In order to die well we must live well. To die the death of a Catholic we must live the life of a Catholic. The best preparation for a happy death and life everlasting, for all those who have a calling, is a religious life.
This reviewer points to the old proverb: "Katholish ist gut sterben."—"It is good to die Catholic." Denifle uses this old proverb in his book on Luther as well.  In an old book from the early 1800's James Doyle, Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare, used the saying:
It is not unusual to find the old Protestant who for years has been as regular an attendant at church as the sexton, and in some cases the sexton himself when he has closed his accounts with this world, and has no more to expect from the parson, to send for the priest, in order to settle with him the affairs of that other world to which he is about to depart: it has passed into a proverb with a certain class amongst us, that for a man to be happy in this world and the next, he should live a Protestant and die a Catholic.
Interestingly, the saying has been applied to Melanchthon's mother's death and also Melanchthon's death, not Luther's. This old Roman polemical work states: "The end of life not being to amass riches, I might simply refer the author to Melanchton. He said to his mother, who desired to become a Protestant: 'If it is best to live a Lutheran, it is preferable to die a Catholic.'" Melanchthon's biographer Clyde Manschreck though notes "There is no evidence that Melanchthon tried to persuade his mother to forsake Catholcism nor indeed was there any reason to do so, for Melanchthon considered himself a reformer within the church."  This old Lutheran newspaper from 1897 ascribes the quote to Melanchton;s death:

Melanchthon Did Not Say It: The approaching 400th anniversary of Philip Melanchthon's birthday brings to mind an old falsehood, invented by an enemy of the Reformation, which still occasionally appears in Roman Catholic papers; namely, that in his last moments he said to his mother, who was near his bedside, "It is good to live as a Protestant, but it is good to die as a Catholic." To nail this slander it suffices to mention that Philip died April 29,1560, when his mother had been long at rest, for she died in 1529. To attend him on his deathbed her dost must therefore have risen from the grave. Besides, how could it be better or more agreeable to the flesh, for that is what it meant, to live a Protestant as one of the minority with loss of reputation and honor and often in peril of death, while the Pope's adherents kept, humanly speaking, on the safe side with the great majority; and how again can it be better or more comfortable to die a "'Catholic'' when their most devoted members are taught to believe that they cannot enter into the saints' rest until they shall have served out their time in the fires of purgatory while the Protestant confidently hopes is that, as the Bible teaches, he will go, immediately after his departure, to be with Christ? At that time it was certainly more convenient to live a "Catholic'' and it is always more comfortable to die as a Protestant in the joyous hope of an immediate entrance into everlasting rest.
This spurious sentence appears to be neither from Luther or Calvin. Whomever first said it, I can't think of any plausible reason why either Luther or Melanchthon would say it. What we do have though are these words from Luther's Small Catechism:

The Seventh Petition: But deliver us from evil.

What does this mean?

Answer: We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from all manner of evil, of body and soul, property and honor, and at last, when our last hour shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven. Amen.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Luther: The substance of Christ’s teaching is unimportant?

I was recently sent  link to a website named The Twelve Tribes. The web site doesn't easily give up information as to who exactly they are. They appear to be some sort of quasi-Messianic Jewish group that practices flee the organized church, and  if Wiki is correct, they have quite a sordid past. A good example of the confusion of what this group believes can be found in this pdf they put together. The website has a lot of anti-Luther and anti-reformation propaganda.

In an article entitled, Martin Luther: Did He Pass the Litmus Test? they make the following statement and present a quote from Luther:
Luther firmly believed in and relied upon the Bible as the source of truth. In his study of the epistles of the Apostle Paul he had come across verses which had given him the understanding that only through faith in Christ’s redeeming passion does the Christian receive salvation. Luther’s perception of the gospel was this: Christianity consists entirely in the belief in Christ; the substance of Christ’s teaching is unimportant. Or in his own words, “The Gospel does not teach us what we must do or leave undone, but says: God has done this for you, has made His Son flesh for you, has had Him gone to death for you” (unterrichtung wie sich Christen in Mosen sollen schiicken, vol. XVI, p. 367).
Twelve Tribes* documents the quote as  unterrichtung wie sich Christen in Mosen sollen schiicken, vol. XVI, p. 367. This is a reference to Weimarer Ausgabe: WA 16:367. In English, the reference is to How Christians Should Regard Moses, 1525 (LW 35:162). This treatise is one of Luther's expositions on law and gospel. Luther writes against those who would erect following Mosaic law a requirement for salvation.

After comparing two public sermons from heaven (Exodus 19-20; Acts 2), Luther makes the following comment:
Now the first sermon, and doctrine, is the law of God. The second is the gospel. These two sermons are not the same. Therefore we must have a good grasp of the matter in order to know how to differentiate between them. We must know what the law is, and what the gospel is. The law commands and requires us to do certain things. The law is thus directed solely to our behavior and consists in making requirements. For God speaks through the law, saying, “Do this, avoid that, this is what I expect of you.” The gospel, however, does not preach what we are to do or to avoid. It sets up no requirements but reverses the approach of the law, does the very opposite, and says, “This is what God has done for you; he has let his Son be made flesh for you, has let him be put to death for your sake.” So, then, there are two kinds of doctrine and two kinds of works, those of God and those of men. Just as we and God are separated from one another, so also these two doctrines are widely separated from one another. For the gospel teaches exclusively what has been given us by God, and not—as in the case of the law—what we are to do and give to God. Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 35: Luther's works, vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (162). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The typical problem with quoting Luther's How a Christian Should regard Moses  to prove Luther was some sort of antinomian is that the document is being taken out of its historical context. Luther directed this treatise towards those like the enthusiasts (Andreas Karlstadt, and the Sacramentarians, etc.). Luther had men in mind who were attempting to introduce Mosaic law into the civil code. This provoked Luther to not only refute such civil notions but to put forth a sharp distinction between law and Gospel  in which the Gospel was expounded upon in relation to the law. Christ has fulfilled the law and has given His people the Gospel.

The Twelve Tribes article goes on to state:
To Luther the teachings of Christ were not important because all that he knew about works was that they were of no benefit or merit in regard to salvation. By this thinking, he reduced the gospel to only the redeeming and atoning sacrifice of Christ on behalf of sinners. It became the gospel of going to heaven. However Christ and His apostles preached the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore to the apostles the teachings of Christ were very important, because teaching others to keep the commandments of Christ would establish His kingship or the Kingdom of Heaven.
The confusion groups like Twelve Tribes have with Luther is that they typically operate with a gospel that has law mixed into it and then judge that Luther is antinomian. They never take the time to figure out where the law fit into Luther's theology. Even the context of the Luther quote would have helped them, had they actually read, for Luther goes on to state: "For the gospel teaches exclusively what has been given us by God, and not—as in the case of the law—what we are to do and give to God." Luther’s theology indeed has a place for the Law of God and its use in the life of a Christian. Most recently an exposition on Luther and the law has been put out by Concordia- Edward Engelbrect's Friends of the Law: Luther's Usoe of the Law for Christian Life. The author demonstrates that Luther adhered to what later theologians described as a "third use of the law."

Luther held that grace, faith, and the work of Christ are essential ingredients that justify, and that justification is a gift as well as the very faith involved. God judges a man by Christ’s perfect works which are imputed to a sinner, and that sinner is seen as completely righteous. This does not though mean: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Salvation is unto good works. Good works are not unto eventual justification. We are saved in order to perform good works, not by performing them. Luther held that faith is a living faith, and it shows its life by what it does. For Luther, we are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. Luther defines good works as those “works that flow from faith and from the joy of heart that has come to us because we have forgiveness of sins through Christ.” Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us.

* It's possible that the Twelve Tribes website took their article on Luther from here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Luther's "Epistle of Straw" comment according to the Twelve Tribes

I was recently sent a link to an exposition on Luther's "epistle of straw" comment put together by a website entitled, The Twelve Tribes. The web site doesn't easily give up information as to who exactly they are. They appear to be some sort of quasi-Messianic Jewish group that practices flee the organized church, and  if Wiki is correct, they have quite a sordid past. A good example of the confusion of what this group believes can be found in this pdf they put together.

The Luther-related link from Twelve Tribes is anti-Reformation propaganda and devoid of the Gospel. Here are a few thoughts as I read through the article:

1) "It is a well-documented fact that Martin Luther is quoted as having said that the book of the New Testament called James was an 'epistle of straw.'"

What they fail to point out is that the comment only appears in the original 1522 Preface To The New Testament. Luther later retracted the comment (along with some others) when he revised his Preface to the New Testament. For anyone to continue to cite Luther’s “epistle of straw” comment against him is to do Luther an injustice. He saw fit to retract the comment. Subsequent citations of this quote should bear this in mind. For more information, see: Six Point's on Luther's Epistle of Straw.

2) "newfound doctrine" "According to his revelation" etc.

The author of this article is claiming that justification by faith alone was revealed by revelation to Luther, but in essence is claiming that what was revealed to Luther was not correct. Luther is portrayed sort of like Joseph of Smith of Mormonism.  This is akin to how some Roman Catholics have argued against Luther.

3) "What bothered him so much about the words of James? He did not like what James said about faith and works. It did not go along with his newfound doctrine, 'saved by faith alone.'”

This partly correct. Luther held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James. Even though Luther arrived at the harmonizing solution between James and Paul , it is probably the case that the question of James’ apostleship outweighed it. Luther's questioning of James included the book's status in Church history, and it’s internal evidence as to its apostolicity. For Luther, James was the writing of a second century Christian, therefore not an apostle nor an eyewitness of the risen Christ. Did Luther simply arrive at this conclusion without a basis? No. Throughout his career, he maintained a position that echoed other voices from church history. This trumped any type of harmonization between Paul and James. For more information on this see: Luther and the Canon of Scripture and Six Point's on Luther's Epistle of Straw.

4) "Martin Luther taught that salvation is by faith alone, thus anything else that might be expected from a believer would be heresy, or works salvation. Yet, the book of James explains just the opposite concerning salvation. So, of course, rather than doubt the authenticity of his own personal revelation about faith, he doubted the Bible."

This is a caricature based on a false understanding of Luther, James, Paul, and the Gospel itself. Luther held that grace, faith, and the work of Christ are essential ingredients that justify, and that justification is a gift as well as the very faith involved. Christ’s perfect works are imputed to a sinner, and that sinner is seen as completely righteous. This does not though mean: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Salvation is unto good works. Good works are not unto eventual salvation. We are saved in order to perform good works, not by performing them. Luther held that faith is a living faith, and it shows its life by what it does. For Luther, we are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. Luther defines good works as those “works that flow from faith and from the joy of heart that has come to us because we have forgiveness of sins through Christ.” Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us. For more information on this see this link. Particularly note the appendix in which I provide many citations from Luther proving that Luther understood the proper distinction between faith and works.

5) "Martin Luther was one who was famous for his “fiery invective” and coarse language. So, of course, he would not like that part in the Bible where it condemns men who, “With the tongue praise our Lord and Father, and with the same tongue curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness."

If one goes through the 100 or so volumes of Luther's writings, the amount of scatological language is slight in comparison to the whole. For a brief synopsis of this see this link: Martin Luther's Volatile Language.

6) "For I am unable to pray without the same time cursing."

For context, See: Luther: I am unable to pray without at the same time cursing 

7) "So, we see a religion full of gluttony, drunkenness, and even murder in the name of God, by people (including Martin Luther himself)"

There is no historical evidence that Luther was a glutton, drunkard or murderer. See: PBS Presents “Facts” That Luther Advocated Drunkenness and Promiscuity and Luther a Murderer?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Future of Protestantism - Peter Leithart, Fred Sanders, Carl Trueman, and Peter Escalante

I watched the whole thing; but I admit I fell asleep here and there for 5 minutes or so. I think I went back and listened again to the parts I missed.
I am trying to understand Peter Leithart.
He was tried for heresy (it seems, if I understand it rightly, basically, of being accused of aspects of the “Federal Vision” – that infant baptism justifies and regenerates – and aspects of something similar to the New Perspective on Paul that seem to be adding the merit of works for final salvation and not distinquishing between justification and sanctification), within the last couple of years, but was exonerated.
Go to the Aquila Report and search under Peter Leithart and you can find the details.  (There are several other articles there on the heresy trial of P. Leithart.)
But the main prosecutor, Jason Stellman, later became a Roman Catholic. (very ironic)
Leithart seems to say that Roman Catholicism is part of the same body of Christ and the people are brothers and sisters as they were baptized with the same Trinitarian baptism. Leithart seems to be arguing the same kind of thing that Doug Wilson argued in his debate with James White, “Are Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters?” (see at – Wilson says something like “grab them by their baptism”.
I think Peter Escalante was wrong at 1:28:00 where he says that Francis Turretin said that the RCC was a church, just deformed, but has word and sacrament, etc.
Turretinfan provides evidence to the contrary:
No one mentioned directly the anathemas of the Council of Trent on the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
In this video, Leithard emphasizes:
1. Ecumenical meetings, Unity, John 17 – getting together locally to foster unity and discussions with Roman Catholics
2. Seemed to say that Transubstantiation could be an opinion, but not a dogma ( ?? !!!)
3. Liturgy
4. Sacraments
5. Eucharist/Lord’s supper has to be celebrated every week
Carl Trueman said that J. Gresham Machen’s view was that theological liberalism was not Christianity, but that RCC is a distorted form of Christianity; and that the Reformers did not re-baptize anyone who converted from Rome to the Protestant faith.
Trueman was good in emphasizing the Word/Scriptures/preaching/teaching and pastoral implications of helping the average person understand the issues, by not confusing them with too much ecumenism.
They needed to have James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and John Bugay of Triablogue and John McArthur, R. C. Sproul, and William Webster there to make the discussion more lively.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Augustine: Scripture over icons and statues and sacraments; and the Bondage of the will

1.  A Quote from Augustine that emphasizes Scripture.  (seeing Scripture as the way to connect personally with the face of God, instead of through icons or the Lord's supper, seems to point more toward Sola Scriptura.)

I came across this quote by Augustine years ago when I checked out from a local library a book by Robert L. Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought:  Seeking the Face of God   Robert L. Wilken is a convert to Roman Catholicism (from Lutheranism), and I had the privilege of meeting him at an ETS meeting in Atlanta several years ago. He was an invited guest of the Patristics group at ETS. I think it was in 2003.  (As I recall, N. T. Wright also had a big speaking role that year, and I think the voting members were still hashing things out over the "Open Theism" controversy with John Sanders, Gregory Boyd and Clark Pinnock.  I am only an associate member, so I am not even able to vote.)    Robert Wilken doesn't see this quote the way it strikes me, obviously.  It seemed to me, in all honesty, that he appreared irritated at me when I asked him some questions about the early church and Mary.  (after his lecture)  Oh well; I decided not to push the issue, and let others also greet him and ask questions.  A lot of his material is very good and useful.  Another book of his, The Land Called Holy,  gave me useful information about the early church and Islam.  It is hard to understand why a person would convert to Rome.  
Augustine:  “For now, treat the Scriptures of God as the face of God; melt in its presence” (Sermones 22, 7)
 I cannot find these sermons on line.  Apparently they are not part of the or newadvent collections.  
That kind of emphasis on the Scriptures seems to put them above the sacraments, and the external church, and rituals, and statues and icons.  Did they even start to have statues in church settings yet then, in Augustine's day?  I consider it a good emphasis toward Sola Scriptura.

2.  A Quote from Augustine that shows his change in 396 AD from libertarian free will, to his belief in the bondage of the will after that point. 

In reading the Five Views book on Justification, I came across an interesting quote by Augustine.

( Note: As of today, April 11, 2014, I have almost read all of the first 3 chapters on "Justification in Historical Persepctive", the New Perspective overview, the traditional Reformed View (by Michael Horton) and chapter 7, the Roman Catholic view (by Gerald O'Collins and Oliver Rafferty.   Chapter 4 is called the Progressive Reformed view by Michael Birth, chapter 5 is the New Perspective view by James D. G. Dunn, and chapter 6 is the Deification - eastern Orthodox view. 
Augustine had a "significant theological shift" in 396 AD in a letter to Simplicianus.  Before that time, Augustine held to a view of human freedom and God's predestination as "predicated upon divine foreknowledge of future human choices, as opposed to divine predetermination.  However, with his 396 response to Simplicanus' questions on these matters, Augustine essentially rejects his earlier approach - and with it the patristic consensus - and instead locates the reason for the divide between the elect and the reprobate as, ultimately, residing in God's mysterious will.  Decades later, Augustine would explain this 396 reversal:  "I indeed, labored in defense of the free choice of the human will; but the grace of God conquered, and finally I was able to understand, with full clarity, the meaning of the apostle . . . "what hast thou that thou has not received?" (citing Augustine, Retractions 2:1:3, in Justification:  Five Views.  Edited by James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy. Inter-Varsity Press, 2011, p. 19. ) 
There are many quotes of Augustine that confirm he believed in the bondage of the will after this point.  Nick Needham has compiled many in this book, The Triumph of Grace:  Augustine's Writings on Salvation.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just in case you haven't seen this yet

Really cool that the Called to Communion folks allowed a full article by an Evangelical Reformed Protestant, on the historical issues of the mono-episocate, apostolic succession, and the early church in Rome and how they relate to the Papacy claims. (article by Brandon Addison)

John Bugay comments on this also. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Roman Catholics Cannot Profess the Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God...
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father...

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins...


A Roman Catholic cannot affirm the boldfaced statements.

1) Being seated is wording from Hebrews, and the reason Jesus sits down is that He has completed His high priestly work of atoning for sin. It is for real finished, and that's why Hebrews says that there remains no sacrifice for sin. Yet the Roman Mass neither is nor re-presents the atoning death of Jesus, because it does not take away all sin from the person it benefits. A person can go to Mass 10,000 times and still go to Hell. A person can go to Mass 10,000 times and still die imperfect, and God brings charges against him in Purgatory, in direct violation to Romans 8:33-34.

2) Jesus took on flesh at the Incarnation, and flesh is always located in one place at any one time. Yet Roman Catholic Church affirms that the body of Jesus is located in zillions of different places simultaneously through transubstantiation. So He's not at the right hand of the Father. He's there and also all over the place.

And true, Roman Catholics acknowledge one baptism for remission of sins, but it's the wrong baptism. They look to water when they should be looking to the Spirit. And no, they are not one and the same. Not even close.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Sermon: Our Union With Christ, R.C. Sproul Jr.

Every Sunday I'm going to try to post a sermon (either written or audio) that I've found useful. For this first installment, I recently listened to R.C. Sproul Jr. speak on "Our Union With Christ."  Like many of my Reformed friends, I'm a big fan of R.C. Senior. I haven't listened to much by his son, but this sermon simply knocked me over.  R.C. Jr. has been through some extremely high waters, and this has made his sermons outstanding testimonies to what it means to be united with Christ.

Here is the link to the sermon. If you've come across this some time in the future and the link no longer works, try this link.

Friday, March 14, 2014

C.S. Lewis... Remained a Protestant

I found this old post compiled by Matthew Shultz: To be Deep In Medieval History is to Remain Protestant. I was intrigued by the quotes.

"C.S. Lewis once quipped that the more medieval he became in his outlook, the farther from Roman Catholicism he seemed to grow." Douglas M. Jones III, Foreword to Keith Mathison's The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, ID: Canon Press), 11.

"What I meant was that if I replied to your original question (why I am not a member of the Roman Church) I shd. have to write a v. long letter." C.S. Lewis, Letter to Sister Mary Rose, January 1950, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950 - 1963, Ed. Walter Hooper, (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 8.

"The question for me (naturally) is not 'Why should I not be a Roman Catholic?' but 'Why should I?' But I don't like discussing such matters, because it emphasises differences and endangers charity. By the time I had really explained my objection to certain doctrines which differentiate you from us (and also in my opinion from the Apostolic and even the Medieval Church), you would like me less." Letter to Mrs. Halmbacher, March 1951, Ibid., 106.

"It is a little difficult to explain how I feel that tho' you have taken a way [conversion to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism] which is not for me I nevertheless congratulate you..." Letter to Mary Willis Shelburne, November 10, 1952, Ibid., 248-249.

Michael Edwards, commenting on a reply to a letter he received from Lewis on November 2, 1959, states:

"This was in response to a request for a personal meeting to help me sort out two different problem areas, (1) which Christian denomination I should settle on...I never felt happy as an Evangelical. I was seriously considering becoming a Roman Catholic...I was vexed about the problem of papal infallibility and Lewis recommended I should read "The Infallibility of the Church" [1888] by [George] Salmon. This in fact did hep me settle the question." Ibid., 1133.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Supralapsarianism, Gomarus, Westminster, and Dort

Over on the CARM boards I was led into an interesting investigation on Franciscus Gomarus (1563-1641). The post (from a Lutheran) which provoked my interest can be found here. The main assertion appears to be that Reformed theology, particularly Reformed creeds, are inherently supralapsarian. It was argued that Gomarus (a supralapsarian), because of his condemnation of Arminius, had some sort super-influence over the history of Reformed theology, particularly the Canons of Dort and then the Westminster Confession of Faith. It was stated:
Despite what modern Calvinist have been taught, at least the Baptist ones, the foundation of their documents was written on double predestination. Not only does it extend to the WCoF, which they deny, it also extends to the three Forms of Unity, which I'm sure they'll deny as well.
It was also suggested that the Reformed should expunge this from their creeds:
Instead of using historical confessions to bolster their case, which they can't do, modern reformed should revise their standards eliminating those doctrines that are so troubling to their new systematics. This has been done before by many Presbyterian churches so their is plenty of precedent to do so. If one of their mantras is "the reformed are always reforming" then it should be perfectly logical to reform their standard to reflect their new doctrine.
I took a little time to explore why Gomarus appears to be a supralapsarian and why the Synod of Dort produced what appears to be a declaration with infralapsarian underpinnings. The most helpful source I came across was Drawn Into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism. Starting on page 116, it's pointed out that Gomarus was outnumbered by the infralapsarians, and those that drafted the statement were infralapsarians. Next it's pointed out that the other supralapsarians present did not come to the aid of Gomarus during the debate on this issue. Third, Gomarus attempted to use the Thirty-Nine Articles to prove his position, but he was shown to be misrepresenting this document.

As to the Westminster Confession, some Reformed scholars think that the confession is purposefully vague. B.B. Warfield notes that the majority present were infralapsarians, but that some of the ablest thinkers were supralapsarians, and that it was "set down in the Confession only what was common ground to both, leaving the whole region which was in dispute between them entirely untouched." John Murray states, “The Confession is non-committal on the debate between the Supralapsarians and the Infralapsarians and intentionally so, as both the terms of the section and the debate in the Assembly clearly show."

One thing though does appear to me to be the case as I did this cursory invesitgation, that at both Dort and Westminster the majority were infralapsarian. Any notion (as such implied in the CARM post), that the Westminster Confession is decidedly supralapsarian, or that Gomarus had some sort of prevailing supralapsarian impact on the Westminster Assembly, or that the Three forms of Unity were unequivocally supralapsarian, is unjustified, and not supported by the historical record. By extension, it does not follow that the "modern reformed" need to "revise their standards" to expunge supralapsarianism since the major Reformed creeds do not necessarily teach it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

500 Years of Protestantism: Luther and Calvin Destroy Marriage? (Part 2)

A while back I mentioned a Roman polemicist who posted 500 Years of Protestantism: The 38 Most Ridiculous Things Martin Luther Ever Wrote. There's now a follow-up: 500 Years of Protestantism: Luther and Calvin Destroy Marriage. The basic thrust of this recent offering is that the Reformers denied that marriage is a sacrament and hence took God out of marriage, placing it in the hands of the state government. The contemporary mess of marriage can entirely be laid at the feet of the Reformers. I began reviewing the material here. With this installment, I'm going to take a look at the specific quotes cited from Luther and Calvin. The author begins by stating,

Now when Martin Luther and, later, John Calvin began teaching that Sacraments are just signs (i.e. containing no inner working/transformative grace), and of those signs there are only two (i.e. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and that Holy Matrimony is not a Sacrament, it instantly opened the door to their next finding; that the institution of marriage is under the purview of the state government, rather than the Church.

There are basic errors here. While the Reformers certainly deny Roman sacramental soteriology, neither Reformer taught that the sacraments were "just signs" as if by "sign" something trivial was adhered to. Calvin states that a sacrament is "an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men"  (Institutes, IV,14,1), and he then goes on to a much richer explanation comprising several chapters. Luther saw the sacraments as another form of the powerful Word of God in which God gives His promises, and this visible Word changes our hearts, minds, reason, and will. It is then asserted that the Reformers were in error by limiting the sacraments to two, as if the seven sacraments posited by Romanism were set in stone by the apostles themselves. This is hardly the case. It wasn't until the 13th Century that Romanism settled for seven. Then it is asserted that the Reformers were that which "instantly opened the door" for marriage to be put in the hands of government. A Roman Catholic source though says:
Only in the late 1700's in France did churches, Catholic and Protestant, lose legal control over marriage. The Napoleonic Code of 1792 ordered all marriages to be civil. After that all countries began allowing civil marriages [Greg Dues, Catholic Customs and Traditions (revised edition, 2007) (New London: Twenty-Third Publications, 2007) p. 165].
Simply because Luther and Calvin posited that the state regulate marriage, this did not mean that the hierarchy of the church didn't play any role in marriage. One can read quite a number of examples in Luther's writings in which he and the Lutheran church were involved in marital issues (this will be brought out below in evaluating some of the Luther quotes). Likewise with Calvin, one need only skim through the Registers of the Consistory of Geneva in the Time of Calvin and Adultery and Divorce in Calvin's Geneva to realize that the church was most certainly involved in marital issues.

What follows then are a number of quotes from Luther and one quote from Calvin. The Luther quotes appear to have been taken entirely from this web page, and done so by botching the documentation in most instances.

Luther Quotes

1.“Marriage is a civic matter. It is really not, together with all its circumstances, the business of the church.” It is so only when a matter of conscience is involved.” (source: What Luther Says Vol. II, Concordia Publishing House, 1959)

When the author cut-and-pasted this quote, he missed the page number (885). The quote is actually not something Luther said, but is something Luther is purported to have said. It's a Table Talk utterance found in WA tr 4, entry 4068. Here's how the quote actually reads:
No. 4068: Opinions on Several Marriage Problems October 15, 1538
Several matrimonial cases were presented on October 15. Before his marriage a certain engaged man committed murder and fled to an unknown place. Should the engaged woman be regarded as free from him? He [Luther] replied, “This is a civil matter, and the man is dead by civil law. But if the accused man can be cleared before civil law, he ought to take her as his wife in the name of the Lord.” A second case: A certain adulteress of ill repute finally took flight with her adulterer and carried some household utensils off with her. He [Luther] said that she should be summoned to appear, her case should be heard, and then they should be separated. “Cases like this belong to the civil government altogether [said Luther] because marriage is a civil affair. In all its outward circumstances it has nothing to do with the church, except insofar as there may be a case of conscience.” (LW 54:315). 
Notice the severity of the cases to which Luther refers. The first involves the fact that engagements were just as binding as actual marriages, and murder was involved. The second case involved theft. One sees easily how the cases were indeed civil. Luther is purported to be arguing here that these sort of issues are best evaluated by civil authorities.

2. “No one can deny that marriage is an external, worldly, matter, like clothing and food, house and property, subject to temporal authority, as the many imperial laws enacted on the subject prove.” (source: What Luther Says Vol. 46, Concordia Publishing House, 1959)

This is another quote probably taken from this web page, and cut-and-pasted incorrectly as "What Luther Says Vol. 46." What Luther Says is typically either three volumes or one. There is no "Vol. 46," there is though a volume 46 in Luther's Works (LW).  The context explains that the entire regulation of marriage by the church wasn't being given over to the government:
No one can deny that marriage is an external, worldly matter, like clothing and food, house and property, subject to temporal authority, as the many imperial laws enacted on the subject prove. Neither do I find any example in the New Testament where Christ or the apostles concerned themselves with such matters, except where they touched upon consciences, as did St. Paul in I Corinthians 7 [:1–24], and especially where unbelievers or non-Christians are concerned, for it is easy to deal with these and all matters among Christians or believers. But with non-Christians, with which the world is filled, you cannot move forward or backward without the sharp edge of the temporal sword. And what use would it be if we Christians set up a lot of laws and decisions, as long as the world is not subject to us and we have no authority over it? (LW 46:265)

3. “I feel that judgments about marriages belong to the jurists. Since they make judgments concerning fathers, mothers, children, and servants, why shouldn’t they also make decisions about the life of married people? When the papists oppose the imperial law concerning divorce, I reply that this doesn’t follow from what is written, ‘What God has joined together let no man put asunder.” (source: Luther’s Works Vol. 54)

This is another quote probably taken from this web page, and cut-and-pasted incorrectly without the page number (66).  The quote is actually not something Luther said, but is something Luther is purported to have said. It's Table Talk utterance #414. What's interesting about the complete context here is that Luther actually shows that in some instances the church plays a role in the affairs of marriage. Certainly though, the context does indicate that Luther believed certain aspects of marriage were to be under the direction of the government.

4. Neither is there any need to make sacraments out of marriage and the office of the priesthood.” (source: Luther’s Works Vol. 37)

This is another quote probably taken from this web page, and cut-and-pasted incorrectly without the page number (370).  What one assumes is that for Luther marriage was just simply some sort of worldly affair because he denied it was a sacrament imparting grace. Note though what Luther actually states: "Neither is there any need to make sacraments out of marriage and the office of the priesthood. These orders are sufficiently holy in themselves."

5. “Not only is marriage regarded as a sacrament without the least warrant of Scripture, but the very ordinances which extol it as a sacrament have turned it into a farce. Let us look into this a little. We have said that in every sacrament there is a word of divine promise, to be believed by whoever receives the sign, and that the sign alone cannot be a sacrament. Nowhere do we read that the man who marries a wife receives any grace of God. There is not even a divinely instituted sign in marriage, nor do we read anywhere that marriage was instituted by God to be a sign of anything. To be sure, whatever takes place in a visible manner can be understood as a figure or allegory of something invisible. But figures or allegories are not sacraments, in the sense in which we use the term.” (source: Luther’s Works Vol. 36; Babylonian Captivity of the Church)

This is another quote probably taken from this web page, and cut-and-pasted incorrectly without the page number (92). The quote as it stands is actually a good representation of a point I made previously, that the Scriptures are silent in regard to marriage being a sacrament.

Calvin Quotes

“The last of all is marriage, which, while all admit it to be an institution of God, no man ever saw to be a sacrament, until the time of Gregory. And would it ever have occurred to the mind of any sober man? It is a good and holy ordinance of God. And agriculture, architecture, shoemaking, and shaving, are lawful ordinances of God; but they are not sacraments. For in a sacrament, the thing required is not only that it be a work of God, but that it be an external ceremony appointed by God to confirm a promise. That there is nothing of the kind in marriage, even children can judge.” (source: Institutes of Religion, Chapter 19, no. 34).

It's hard to say where this quote was swiped from, but, once again, it's documented incorrectly by leaving out that the quote is from Book IV of the Institutes. Notice what Calvin affirms: marriage was instituted by God, and that it is a good and holy ordinance of God. But simply because it holds this pedigree doesn't mean it's a sacrament. Calvin goes on to document the abuse the Roman church committed in its complete regulation of marriage:
Not to have mocked the church simply in one thing, what a long train of errors, lies, frauds, and misdeeds have they attached to this one error? Thus, you may say that they sought nothing but a den of abominations when they made a sacrament out of marriage. For when they once obtained this, they took over the hearing of matrimonial cases; as it was a spiritual matter, it was not to be handled by secular judges. Then they passed laws by which they strengthened their tyranny, laws in part openly impious toward God, in part most unfair toward men. Such are these: That marriages between minors contracted without parental consent should remain firm and valid. That marriages between kinsfolk even to the seventh degree are not lawful, and if contracted, must be dissolved. They forge the very degrees, against the laws of all nations and also against the ordinance of Moses [Leviticus 18:6 ff.]: that a man who has put away an adulterous wife is not permitted to take another; that godparents may not be coupled in matrimony; that marriages may not be celebrated from Septuagesima to the octave of Easter, and in the three weeks before the nativity of John, and from Advent to Epiphany; and innumerable like regulations which would take too long to recount. At length, we must extricate ourselves from their mire, in which our discourse has already stuck longer than I should have liked. Still, I believe that I have accomplished something in that I have partly pulled the lion’s skin from these asses. (Institutes IV, 19, 37)

What the Reformers rebelled against was the complete control the Roman church had on marriage via canon law and the unbiblical notion of making marriage a means of infused grace. Ultimately, the issue of marriage was a sola scriptura issue. Rome claimed infallible authority over the estate of marriage. The Reformers responded by pointing out the Scriptures do not show that marriage is a sacrament, and the application of canon law demonstrates the severe fallibility of Roman authority.

Whatever mess marriage is in today, it would be an error to think that when Rome had complete control via canon law it was somehow more functional, and that marriage was in some sort of "golden age" previous to the 16th Century. The simple fact is that marriage previous to the Reformation had a whole host of problems. In a thoughtful essay [John Witte, The Reformation of Marriage Law in Martin Luther's Germany: Its significance Then and Now (Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 4, No. 2 (1986), pp. 293-351] some of these problems include the following:

Luther and other German Protestant reformers attributed much of the decay of marriage not only to the negligence and arbitrariness of authority and the moral laxness of society but also to the canon laws of marriage and the Roman Catholic theological concepts of marriage underlying these laws. For the reformers the canon law of marriage yielded paradoxical results. It discouraged and prevented mature persons from marrying by its celebration of celibacy, its proscriptions against the breach of vows to celibacy, its permission to breach oaths of betrothal, and its numerous impediments. Yet it encouraged marriages between the immature by declaring valid secret unions consummated without parental permission as well as oaths of betrothal followed by sexual intercourse. It highlighted the sanctity and solemnity of marriage by deeming it a sacrament. Yet it permitted a couple to enter this holy union without clerical or parental witness, instruction, or participation. Celibate and impeded persons were thus driven by their sinful passion to incontinence and all manner of sexual deviance. Married couples, not taught the Scriptural norms for marriage, adopted numerous immoral practices. Such paradoxical results, the reformers averred, were rooted in tensions within the Roman Catholic theology of marriage. Although Roman Catholic theologians emphasized the sanctity and sanctifying purpose of the marriage sacrament, they nevertheless subordinated it to celibacy and monasticism. Although they taught that marriage is a duty mandated for all persons by divine natural law, they excused many from this duty through the restrictions of canon law. Both the Roman Catholic theology and the canon law of marriage thus met with sharp criticism on the part of the reformers.