Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Presuppositional And All Around Brilliant Calvinist Converts To Rome?

Over on the Puritan Board a plea went out for help with a person struggling with the presuppositional claims made by Roman Catholics:

“I have a friend who is very very well read. He has been a Calvinist for years, presuppositional and all around brilliant. He started reading Francis De Sales book called The Catholic Controversy, and he's really being thrown through a loop...primarily when it comes to authority and who has it. Keep in mind he's read a ton of Bahnsen on Romanism and has heard numerous debates with Bahnsen and also James White dealing with this...I am at a loss as to what to tell him.”

A response was given by David King, co-author of Holy Scripture, the Ground and Pillar of Our Faith A Defense of the Reformational Principle of Sola Scriptura. David said in part:

The difficulty in dealing with the claims of Roman controversialists and apologists is not that they are so difficult to answer, but because they make so many of these grandiose claims that one is confronted with what appears to be a mountain of evidence against Protestantism on behalf of Rome. They employ these tactics in their attempt to overwhelm the Protestant position before the contest, as it were, even begins. But these arguments only appear to be a mountain of evidence because when you begin to examine the evidence for each of these claims, one finds that they cannot be sustained against the testimony of either Scripture or history. Thus the strength of their apologetic is only served by, indeed depends upon, the ignorance of their audience. This is true of de Sales’ work, The Catholic Controversy, for when one begins to examine each of his claims one by one, they do not carry the weight they appear to carry with the uncritical and unwary reader. For instance, on p. 158 of my copy of de Sales’ work, he makes this claim on behalf of Rome for the infallible interpreter of Scripture...

But it is impious to believe that Our Lord has not left us some supreme judge on earth to whom we can address ourselves in our difficulties, and who is so infallible in his judgments that we cannot err.

I maintain that this judge is no other than the Church Catholic, which can in no way err in the interpretations and conclusions she makes with regard to the Holy Scripture, nor in the decisions she gives concerning the difficulties which are found therein. For who has ever doubted it?

Here de Sales would have his reader to believe that he has access to this “supreme judge on earth to whom we can address ourselves in our difficulties,” as if this grandiose claim were true. In other words, he assumes the very thing he wishes to claim without proof, as though it’s never been doubted. Apart from the impracticality of the claim that people may simply find recourse in their local priest for Rome’s interpretation every time they encounter some difficulty with understanding Holy Scripture, no such source exists even for the members of the communion of Rome. A present day analogy would be that of a politician declaring a crisis, the threat of which is a danger for all, but in reality has been invoked for the purpose of special pleading; “Never fear! I have the solution for your problem!” Rome has no infallible list of infallible interpretations. This is easily proved from their own sources. Almost all of them will tell you that when a scriptural proof is adduced for proof of a dogma, it is only the dogma itself that is regarded as “infallible” and not the exegetical proof drawn forth for its support.

David went on to cite multiple sources to prove his point. See his original post found here.

So what became of the "presuppositional and all around brilliant Calvinist" struggling with these issues? He did decide to embrace Roman Catholicism, as announced on his blog, here. I'm not intending to be mean or uncharitable, but I do have serious doubts about the “brilliance” of this 29-year-old man. He pointed out the heart of the matter in his “conversion”:

“Much of it also boiled down to a question I had been very fond of asking others during debates: by what standard? That question was the clincher in virtually any theological debate. It forced my opponents to grapple with the concept of authority vs. autonomy. Problem was that this question turns out to be a smoking gun in the case against Protestantism. By what standard do we deem one worldview Christian and another non-Christian? The Bible? By what standard do we deem one interpretation of the Bible to be the Christian worldview while excluding another interpretation? Furthermore, by what standard do we deem one book canonical and another extra-biblical? By what standard? Who’s authority? Where did they get it from? How is their conclusion binding?”

The Catholic answer posits an initial faith claim that God gave the Roman Church authority to be the standard being asked for. That’s it, plain and simple. It is a beginning unproven “faith” claim. Now, that claim should be applied to both Scripture and history as a template to explain reality to see if it works. As I’ve pointed out here on this blog, and as David King points out above, it doesn’t. I’ve often said people make these type of decisions from the heart. There are more factors going on than simply a historical and scriptural search to determine “truth”. I’m sure if I were to sit and talk face to face with this man for an hour, “heart” factors would emerge. Now though, he has the task of coming up with ways to tape and pin biblical and historical facts together to make his new template for reality work. He will have an arduous task, and I don’t envy him.

23 comments:

FM483 said...

James,

After reading this post, I was reminded that everyone believes something, and most people cleave to particular beliefs because they address basic needs of individuals. For example, Roman Catholics, and obviously this 29 year old former Calvinist, crave authority in their lives. This becomes the central tenement of their belief system and consequently everything, including the bible, is interpreted as God revealing His masterpiece - the Church. Passages such as Ephesians chapter 3 are emphasized as showing that God's primary purposes throughout human history was in constructing His Church. Of course such an interpretation is contrary to the 5-point Calvinist emphasis on the Sovereignty of God. However, if the basic felt-need of the described 29 year old former Calvinist is one of authority, the attraction to the claims of the Roman sect is somewhat understandable. It is interesting to note that the primary emphasis in Confessional Lutheranism is not Church authority nor the Sovereignty of God. Confessional Lutheranism sees the entire Scripture as emphasizing the GOSPEL:the reconciliation of God with His entire creation through the perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus the Christ. It makes a tremendous difference where one begins as he approaches Holy Scripture: is this a book about the Church? About the Sovereignty of God? Or is it all about Jesus Christ fom start to finish?

Frank Marron

Jeremiah Bannister said...

I am not at all offended by your questioning Craig's claim that I am brilliant. I am not offended by your insisting that I have a difficult road ahead. I am a bit taken back by how shallow you make me appear. If you were to sit down with me, which you have not, you would find that I put little stock in "feelings." Fault me on the side of rationalism, fine, but to say that this was some sort of "heart" issue is nonsense.

My road to Rome was as unlikely as it was difficult. I bought every audio debate I could get my hands on between James White and Catholics. I read all the online material I could over at Alpha Omega. I bought an audio debate between Bahnsen and Matatics covering various Catholic doctrines. I read Boettner's book, Roman Catholicism. I read much of what Sproul and Gerstner had to say on the issue. To top it all off, I wrote about the controversy for quite some time on my site, often having comments surpassing 120 a day. This was all done in an effort to prove the "idolatrous apostates" wrong.

Well, my crusade ended up a conversion.

Sincerely,
Jeremiah "paleocrat" Bannister

rswood said...

Jeremiah,

I'm curious how you handled the question of the Jews before Christ, as discussed by White and Pacwa in their debate on the canon, I believe. Any claim for authority or argument on epistemology made since Christ is equally valid for those who came before, and provides an enlightening means of understanding the so-called "need" for Rome's authority claims.

GeneMBridges said...

A. As to the post itself: It's interesting to see a person who is supposedly a presuppositionalist fail to adjudicate the presuppositions with which he was confronted.

B.t makes a tremendous difference where one begins as he approaches Holy Scripture: is this a book about the Church? About the Sovereignty of God? Or is it all about Jesus Christ fom start to finish?

Aside from being a repetition of Heppe's historical thesis about Calvin and Calvinism and the infamous "central dogma" theory of historical theology, would you care to demonstrate how the Reformed tradition as opposed to the Lutheran makes "the sovereignty of God" paradigmatic over the whole of their theology? How exactly does a foci of a single loci of a single principia come to be the controlling dogma in our theology? What about the placement of Christ at the center of the Golden Chaine (Perkins) and the Tabula (Beza)? What about Calvin's incessant statements about Christ the elected one and the mirror of our own election? Bullinger? Ursinus? Turretin? Voetius? Witsius? Perhaps a bit less time in Heppe and a bit more time in Muller, Clark, Trueman, Klauber, and Platt in the Reformed tradition and Baghi, Steinmetz, Green, and Scaer in the Lutheran tradition would be of benefit.

vdot said...

Regarding de Sales' circular question at the end:

"I maintain that this judge is no other than the Church Catholic, which can in no way err in the interpretations and conclusions she makes with regard to the Holy Scripture, nor in the decisions she gives concerning the difficulties which are found therein. For who has ever doubted it?"

As I recall, Bill Clinton proposed a similar argument: "I've never been accused of any wrong doing."


Yours,
vdot

Rhology said...

Indeed it was studying the presupp roots of the controversy that kept me on the right side of the Bosporus a few years back. After encountering the grandiose claims of the EOx church, I was initially taken aback, and I was powerless to answer the "that's just your interp" objection.
But by reading, ironically, the very same stuff that Paleocrat read (along w/ Webster and King's fine volumes) I came to realise that I had allowed my friend to ask ME the question w/o my asking HIM the same question! He had no better solution to offer, and his positions conflict badly w/ Scripture in many points.

Thank Jesus for that!

-ALAN

FM483 said...

In response to GeneMBridges:


The Confessional Lutheran sees Christ as the center of God’s revelation, not His Sovereignty(e.g. John 20:30-31; 5:39; Luke 24:25-17). He sees Scripture as paradoxical, not always logical and appealing to human reason and commonsense, and whenever there is a contradiction between Scripture and reason, Scripture always prevails. This is the single largest departure between Lutheranism and Calvinism. Although both advance the Scriptural doctrine of the Total Depravity of every person prior to conversion(Romans 3:23; 3:10,11; 5:12), that is where the similarities end and differences begin. The Confessional Lutheran merely confesses what God has clearly revealed in His Word and refrains from engaging in speculations regarding what He has not revealed(the “Hidden God”). Hence, the Confessional Lutheran believes that God has reconciled the entire world to Himself through His Son by Grace through faith(2Cor 5:19ff; Eph 2:8-9), although not all believe and are saved. This is not 100 percent agreeable with human reason, being a biblical paradox. To attempt to eliminate and explain such paradoxes usually leads to contradictions with other Scripture. This is perhaps the most ancient question: why are some saved and not others? Calvinists would attempt to answer this through their doctrine of Unconditional Election and Double-Predestination. The Confessional Lutheran would refrain from conjecturing an answer since it is not clear in Scripture but instead one of many paradoxes: God wishes all men to be saved and has reconciled the entire world to Himself through His Son(1Tim 2:4; 1John 2:2; John 3:16). And yet not all believe and receive the gift of faith, forgiveness of sins, the imputation of Christ's’Righteousness, and eternal salvation. Most Christians correctly believe that when they get to heaven, all credit and honor for this will be given to Christ. At the same time, the blame for eternal damnation is to the individual unbeliever, not God. The Confessional Lutheran would point to the Lutheran Confessions for further explanation, such as the Augsburg Confession Article 18 “The Cause of Sin”(http://www.bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.html#article19) and Luther’s explanation of the 3rd Article of the Creed in his Small Catechism(.http://www.bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.html#creed) Confessional Lutherans definitely believe in eternal election, but In Christ. To a Lutheran the entire purpose of election is to offer the individual believer the comfort of assurance in the Gospel – that even before the creation of the world God had a plan for the salvation of all men through His Son. The doctrine is for the comfort of believers, not a reason for understanding God’s purposes in eternity apart from Jesus Christ. Lutherans see only the Revealed God, similar to how Moses only saw His backside and not His True Glory, which is Jesus, Who died for the sins of the whole world. Lutherans do not see a God picking and choosing who shall be saved.

Frank Marron

William B said...

It is must be noted that (a) it is intellectually dishonest to deny that a persuasive case can be made for Rome and that (b) insulting his character and motives is not only unfruiful and presumptuous but it shows an inability or unwillingness to engage the principled reasons and arguments that people give for making that move and validity of which is not dependent upon the person's character or psychological state(s). Unless you can say that your understanding of Catholicism is the result of studying the relevant primary sources and representative texts/theologians, then you cannot claim to have done your homework or that your opinion deserves to be taken as seriously as one who has.

James Swan said...

Frank:

It is interesting to note that the primary emphasis in Confessional Lutheranism is not Church authority nor the Sovereignty of God. Confessional Lutheranism sees the entire Scripture as emphasizing the GOSPEL: the reconciliation of God with His entire creation through the perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus the Christ

Respectfully, Reformed Churches are also confessional churches. My Reformed Church uses the Heidelberg Catechism. Note Lord’s Day #1-

What is your only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

Notice where the confession begins. While Reformed theology has a distinctive feature of not denying God’s sovereignty, I would not characterize the entirety the way you have- that is setting up God’s sovereignty against the Gospel. Even within the theology of John Calvin, in 19th and into the 20th century approaches to understanding his theology, predestination/ sovereignty of God was seen as central idea, but that idea was linked to the doctrine of Christ ( or, our union with Christ). But really, Calvin’s theology reflects his own efforts to exposit the word of God; while one theme is related to another, its difficult to argue or demonstrate that one theme is the organizing theme or more central theme. Note that calvin didn't even get to Predestination/election till book 3 in the Institutes.

Blessings,
James

James Swan said...

Jeremiah-

I’m sorry if you thought I was trying to make you “shallow”. You being schooled in presuppositional apologetics should recall that the “heart” is an issue. One of my Presuppositional teachers at Westminster seminary wrote an entire book, “Reasons of the Heart”. I mean nothing “shallow” by bringing up the heart. In fact, we all are motivated by the desires of the heart.

I can appreciate your work and time you put in studying the Roman Catholic controversy. But really, the bottom line is just what I pointed out in this blog entry. The Catholic answer posits an initial faith claim that God gave the Roman Church authority to be the standard being asked for. That’s it, plain and simple. It is a beginning unproven “faith” claim. It is a claim believed from the heart. No matter how much study you did, this decision, in my opinion, was a decision from the heart. Please don’t take offense; I don’t see how it could be otherwise.

In regard to joining Rome, I do have a few questions. Now, I don’t know you, so you may have covered this on your blog. Did you seek the council of your pastor or elders on this? Did you seek out knowledgeable people on this? For instance, James White would’ve taken the time to talk to you either on his DL show, or probably via e-mail. I’m sure David King, William Webster, or Eric Svendsen would have talked with you as well. I’m just asking to find out if you talked with those closely involved with this topic. I’m sure these men would’ve gladly spoken with you. If you didn’t, why not?

FM483 said...

William B stated:

"Unless you can say that your understanding of Catholicism is the result of studying the relevant primary sources and representative texts/theologians, then you cannot claim to have done your homework or that your opinion deserves to be taken as seriously as one who has."

MY RESPONSE:

I was born and raised in a loving Roman Catholic home. The biggest single reason I am no longer a RC is due to all the contradictions between the Word of God and the ponouncements of the pope and his magesterium. Here is one such contradiction: In the most recent catechism of the RCC, it is stated in paragraph 847 that even those who do not know Jesus Christ, but follow the dictates of their consciences, will be saved. This is contrary to what the Holy Spirit says writing through St Paul! In Romans chapte 2 we read that all men know basic right from wrong due to the Law being written on the conscience of every human being. However, Paul makes the point that that is exactly why all men are originally destined to hell- because no man can keep God's Law perfectly. Paul goes on to state that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God and only through Faith in Jesus Christ is any flesh justified in His sight. Not one single man born of a woman is righteous nor made so by the Law. The Law's primary purpose is to reveal sin, not cure this cancer. Hence, the very conscience of each and every man is a continual reminder of their sinful condition and points to the onky solution: Jesus Christ. The RCC is absolutely mistaken on this issue based upon the clear Word of God.

Frank Marron

Anonymous said...

Frank, what about the mentally handicapped?

Will they go to hell for lacking a conscious assent to the Gospel?

pilgrim said...

A big weakness in the Roman Catholic claim that we need an infallible interpreter of God's Word, is that RC's have to do an extra interpretation.

When Rome speaks on an issue---that doesn't settle it--it just means now RC's have to interpret Rome's words--not God's. I have seen RC's with differing interpretations on John Paul II's statements.

I also think their view is insulting to God that He could not produce a Word that we would be unable to understand. The fault is not God's, it is ours.

Pope_St_Peter said...

Sorry to interrupt the conversation. I just thought I would let everyone know that I've posted the first half of my response to Iohannes on my blog.

In Christ and His Bride,
Pope St. Peter

Pope_St_Peter said...

P.S. http://sancta-mater-ecclesia.blogspot.com

Ephraem said...

Pligrim, you said:

"I also think their view is insulting to God that He could not produce a Word that we would be unable to understand. The fault is not God's, it is ours."

This is begging the question. You've assumed your own position as a premise. If God did, in fact, install an infallible Church, then that God meant for Scripture to be our sole rule of faith, would be false.

FM483 said...

Anonymous said...

"Frank, what about the mentally handicapped?

Will they go to hell for lacking a conscious assent to the Gospel?"

MY RESPONSE:

I did not say what you just said - that a person must make a "conscious assent to the Gospel"in order to be saved. I am saved when I am unconscious in a hospital as I underwent surgeries. I, like a mentally handicapped person, was saved at the instant I was adopted into God's Kingdom and transferred out of the Domain of Darkness: at baptism. God adopted me. Faith is 100 percent GIFT, not dependent upon a person's mental ability to grasp deep theological positions nor make any "decision for Christ". The Lutheran Confessions, consistent with Holy Scripture, maintain that all men are DEAD in their trespasses and cannot discern any spiritual truth prior to conversion(1Cor 2:14). Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of a man which occurs through Word and Sacrament, the Means of Grace. It is a miracle and has nothing to do with the sinful will of unbelieving men. Babies can have saving faith also, even the unborn.

Frank Marron

FM483 said...

ephraem stated:

"This is begging the question. You've assumed your own position as a premise. If God did, in fact, install an infallible Church, then that God meant for Scripture to be our sole rule of faith, would be false."

mY RESPONSE:

Roman Catholics are taught to see the Church as the centerpiece of all revelation. This conflicts with the Scriptures which promote Jesus Christ as the centerpiece of God's revelation. Read the Scripture: the Church is the communion of saints throughout history which cleaved to the promises of God, especially Messiah. The church is the mouthpiece of God for proclaiming the Gospel, both individually and corporately. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, NOT the Church(Romans 1:16). The Church is present wherever God's Word is proclaimed and the sacraments administered rightly. The Church is present in many organizational forms and places today as at the time of Paul(e.g. 1cOR 1:1-2, Revelation chapter 2).

Frank Marron

FM483 said...

James Swan responded to me:

"Respectfully, Reformed Churches are also confessional churches. My Reformed Church uses the Heidelberg Catechism. Note Lord’s Day #1-"

MY RESPONSE:

I am trying to understand your position. When a person asks me what I believe, I refer to them to the Lutheran Confessions as contained within the Book of Concord of 1580. These incluse the 3 ancient Creeds, Luthers's Small and Large Catechism, the Augsburg Confession and Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Fornula of Concord. Are you saying that what you believe is contained within the Heidelberg Catechism? What about the Westminster Confessions of Faith? I am just trying to get a better picture of where you are coming from.

Sincerely,

Frank Marron

James Swan said...

Hi Frank-

This is from my church's homepage:

http://www.pprbc.org/Beliefs.htm

I would say, out of all the creeds listed, the Heidelberg Catechism gets the most use in my church. The Westminster confession is primarily used by Presbyterians.

pilgrim said...

ephraem posted-
"This is begging the question. You've assumed your own position as a premise. If God did, in fact, install an infallible Church, then that God meant for Scripture to be our sole rule of faith, would be false."

I have not assumed a thing. I have not presented a premise to defend. You are guilty of creating a false dichotomy. We could both be wrong.

I did not give any defense of what I believe in my comment--that was not my intent. My intenet was to offer a reason against a position held by the RCC. You have not answered that, but merely criiticized an ASSUMED position I hold.

The fact remains--when Rome offers its position that still needs to be interpreted. Anything presented to us in any language needs to be interpreted. SO adding an infallible interpreter solves nothing--it merely adds an extra layer of interpretation we need to do.

I stand by what I posted.

Gregory said...

Frank Marron stated:

Roman Catholics are taught to see the Church as the centerpiece of all revelation. This conflicts with the Scriptures which promote Jesus Christ as the centerpiece of God's revelation.

MY RESPONSE:

I think you have a misunderstanding of Catholic teaching on this point. I suggest you read the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (aka Dei Verbum), which can be found here:
http://tinyurl.com/2vd9uj

Here is the first sentence of the document: 'Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: "We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:2-3).'

The first sentence of paragraph 2 strengthens the teaching that Jesus Christ is the center of revelation: 'In His goodness and wisdom God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (see Eph. 1:9) by which through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (see Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4).'

Rooney said...

If anyone forgot about Jeremiah Bannister, the Brilliant Calvinist who converted to Rome in 2007, he is now an atheist/agnostic.

He went from Calvinist to RC to Sedevacantist to RC to Atheism/Agnosticism.

He lost faith sometime in 2012. He now grows his hair long and appears to have been involved in rock music.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UArtCipBPrw