Wednesday, January 31, 2007


You’ve Made It To Rome! Catholic Apologetics Greeting Committee Welcomes You!

I’ve been following the conversion story of “A Presuppositional and Brilliant Calvinist Convert to Rome.” This event interests me, simply because the convert claims to be some sort of former presuppositionalist and former Calvinist. Checking his blog, I noticed that Catholic apologist Scott Hahn greeted him on his arrival across the Tiber:

“I was pleasantly surprised to have received an e-mail from a certain Scott Hahn, today. I was more surprised when he called my cell phone. We spoke for about 45 minutes. I must admit that it was one of the most refreshing and encouraging conversations I have had in a while. As if great couldn't get better, he will be sending me a number of books. PS- My family was invited to spend a few days with Mr. Hahn and his family in Ohio. We are seriously considering the idea but would need to plan it around school, the pregnancy and our wanting to visit other friends who happen to live in the same state.”

I can’t help but wonder how Scott Hahn came to officially greet this convert. This is purely speculation, but I wonder if my blog entry, which James White linked to, was the reason Scott Hahn came upon this new convert. This would mean of course, Scott Hahn reads James White’s blog, which would not surprise me.

Meanwhile, over on Craig French’s blog, a discussion about Rome, infallibility, and defined Biblical texts is underway. In the comments section, a person nicknamed “Jargon” posted a few comments. This is probably the same guy mentioned who asked the new convert, “Where would one attend church during the first 1,500 years of church history?” I pointed out the flawed nature of this question here. Anyway, take a look Jargon’s comments from 1/30/07 on Craig’s blog, and note the hidden presuppositions:

“Infallibility is certainly not a necessary condition of knowledge or truth, but it is a necessary condition of *binding* doctrine and characteristic feature of whatever has been taught by God.”

Says who? Who determines an infallible binding doctrine? Why, it’s none other than whichever sola ecclesia group one places their faith in. In other words, one begins with placing their faith in a particular group/person.

“There is a difference between making a (private) judgment and formulating doctrine carrying divine authority, the extra-Scriptural principle of Sola Scriptura and Protestant ecclesiology can and have never produced the latter. No statement produced or interpretation delivered by Protestant bodies carries divine authority.”

But a statement produced by a sola ecclesia group does carry divine authority, because they say so.

But my favorite argument is the following:

“Infallibility is rooted in Divine Power. The Church can be and the Scriptures are infallible by virtue of it. If the Church cannot possess the divine charism or power of infallibility simply because it is human, then we do not have an ecclesiological problem, we have a Christological problem. The fact that the Church is human does not mean that it cannot be infallible anymore than the fact that Christ was human means that Christ is fallible. Are the divinity and humanity of Christ opposed? Does the Divinity suppress or empower the humanity of Christ? Is the humanity of Christ extrinsic to Him or part of who He is? If the Church is merely human then Christ is not Divine. If the Church cannot be infallible then the humanity of Christ is extrinsic to Christ rather than part of who He is.”

First one must ask, on what basis does one determine the church is infallible? I submit, it is merely assumed, all sola ecclesia groups assume their authority. In regards to Rome, when asked how the Roman Catholic Church can establish her authority, they answer sometimes that it is proved by the testimony of the Scriptures. Hence, the Roman Catholic uses a circular argument: they prove the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures. Other Catholics, realizing the viciousness of this circle, simply assume it being the case that Rome is infallible.

The second aspect of this argument compares the divinity/humanity of Jesus with the divinity/humanity of the Church. It is argued that just as Christ was infallible and human, so the church can be infallible and human. Yet, the argument forgets that Christ in His humanity, was perfect in every aspect of that humanity. Is the church perfect in every aspect of its humanity? I submit, no Roman Catholic would argue it is. The Roman Catholic Church has many blots on her record. Christ has none. Thus, the analogy is a false analogy.

And lastly,

“It is must be noted that it is intellectually dishonest to deny that a persuasive case can be made for Rome and that this does nothing but show 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 one can say that his understanding of Catholicism is the result of studying the relevant primary sources and representative texts/theologians, then one cannot claim to have done his homework or that his opinion deserves to be taken as seriously as one who has.”

Rarely do Roman apologists begin with what I look for in a compelling argument: the revealing of initial, unproven, faith claims. No, they keep these hidden away, buried under citations of church fathers and complicated arguments. Here’s an analogy. When I went to see Lord of the Rings, all the evidence and information made sense. The ring had to be destroyed. It was the only way to save Middle Earth. Now, I could engage in all sorts of arguments about which way Middle Earth could’ve been saved better, and devote my life to proving my theories. I could live my living devoted to Middle Earth. What must I assume to do this? That Middle Earth is a real place. In the same way, much of the Catholic argumentation may appear to make sense once the first point is believed, that Rome is infallible. This claim though, is unproven- it is assumed. Thus, like Middle Earth, it is a system of fantasy, not reality. But if one accepts the first point, all the others follow. With Rome, even though the points follow, the argumentation which appeals to history and Scripture is not compelling anyway.

Monday, January 29, 2007

On Double Standards In Catholic Apologetics

This is a quick follow up to my previous entry A Presuppositional and Brilliant Calvinist Convert to Rome. I’ve been following the Puritan Board thread discussing this. In regard to the “authority” claims made by Catholic apologists, I do not find the arguments put forth persuasive. I have a special interest in this area, and I find the arguments put forth fraught with double standards and self-refuting. I have yet to hear even one argument that remotely makes me consider, "well, they've got a good point here..."

Consider the question that led the person being discussed in the Puritan Board thread to cross the Tiber. He stated on his blog:

“Actually, my skepticism started with a rather simple question: Where would I have attended church during the first 1,500 years of church history? This question, posed by Jargon, has haunted me every day since. Given my Calvinist distinctives, which church would have claimed me as one of their own? Which church father would identify with my protestant doctrines? Why do I feel spiritually disconnected from the first 1,500 years of the church? These questions, and many others, were the center of my spiritual reflection since that day."

Now, one should immediately try this question in a broader context, to see if it is valid question to explain reality. Let's ask the modern-day Roman Catholic the exact same question: Where would a modern-day Roman Catholic find his particular mode of Catholicism in the first 1500 years of the church? Keep in mind, there are differing "types" of Catholics, though they claim to be the Borg, they are not. He may find some "similarities" (whatever that means), but he's separated by time, culture, history, etc. One cannot apply Twenty-First Century standards to medieval people. The people in the first 1500 will worship differently- because they are different people, separated by many factors.

Similarly with doctrine- the Roman Catholic Church today was not the medieval Roman Catholic Church. There were, and are differences- which has led the modern Romanist to bow at the alter of "development of doctrine" (in many ways, a novum itself, at least the Roman Catholic understanding of it). Even with development- certain practices just stopped, and never continued developing. Other practices started later, and find no connection to the early church.

The point: to use this question as a method for determining “reality” a modern day Roman Catholic should be asking the same exact question that this ex-Calvinist is asking. It must be so in order to demonstrate consistency. By reversing the question though, and applying it to a Roman Catholic, it demonstrates it's a false question. It is an invalid approach to determining reality.

This ex-Calvinist crossing the Tiber got a bit angry with me when I mentioned people make these type of conversions/decisions from the heart. There are more factors going on than simply a historical and scriptural search to determine “truth”. He denied this. But if his decision really was the result of the use of logic and the pursuit of truth, I have to wonder if he ever did the basic-presuppositional 101 test of applying the same question to the person asking it. Typically, Roman apologists can't answer their own questions. They can't give a coherent response when the same question is asked of them.

I won't be converting to Rome any time soon. To me, it's all smoke and mirrors, and the methods they use in argumentation only sound appealing on initial investigation. As Proverbs stated long ago, “The first person to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” (Pr. 18:17)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Who to Trust on Luther Biographies?

"You expect me to trust a guy who apparently spends most of his life defending protestantism to recommend an even handed treatment of its originator?"

I get comments like this all the time. Usually, from the folks over at Catholic Answers. I received a blogback comment on my previous entry on the Facts About Luther from the person who prompted this entry. I would like to briefly respond to the points he made.

"I'm 'manualman' from Catholic Answers. I hadn't realized my post had become a blog entry."

Well, you should probably check the private message feature that the Catholic Answers site provides. I sent you 2 private messages.

The first was sent to you January 1, 2007 at 10:30 AM. I mentioned, “I will probably address the comments raised in the recent thread you started. There are many good books on Luther written by Roman Catholics. O'Hare's book is not one of them.” I then linked to my blog.

The second private message was sent to you January 2, 2007 at 7:01 AM. I stated, “As noted, I took a look at your comments on Patrick O'Hare's Facts about Luther: Christmas Present: The Facts About Luther.” This message linked to this very blog entry.

"Your thoughts are appreciated, but your mind-reading skills are wanting..."

Why not just come out and say you don’t appreciate my perspective?

" 'He's interested in being fueled in maintaining an outdated Catholic polemic.' If that were true, I wouldn't have started the thread in the first place! Instead of ascribing base motives to me, try a bit more imagination."

I am accurate in my assessment, and you demonstrate that you don’t even understand my position. The approach that Catholic scholars previously took in studying Luther was to evaluate Luther the “person” rather than Luther “the theologian”. To gleefully read and recommend a book like that put forth by O’Hare is to maintain an outdated approach to studying Luther. The book has value only in demonstrating how flawed this particular method was.

Just recently, I noticed that a Catholic apologist put up a list of recommend books to study Luther and the Reformation. I noticed he included O’Hare’s book. I wrote about this here on this blog. Then all of sudden, O’Hare’s book disappeared from his blog entry. Hmm…wonder why? At least he seems to grip that O’Hare’s book is not helpful in studying Luther. See also, this blog entry- He notes of O’Hare’s book, “That was the first research I did upon converting and I think I would do it a bit differently today.” Perhaps the same could be said of you.

“You expect me to trust a guy who apparently spends most of his life defending protestantism to recommend an even handed treatment of its originator? Simply because you named a few catholic authors is scant reassurance. I can find a few nominally protestant authors' work which you might not like much too you know!”

Oh yes, you nailed me. I’m up to my usual deceptive tactic of trying to mislead Roman Catholic layman in his pursuit of historical truth. Give me a break. In my own writings, I’ve positively cited many Catholic authors that have written on Luther, and I can also point out books by Protestants that are a waste of time to read. I am familiar with a large corpus of writings on Luther.

Much of my work is available to be scrutinized by those who oppose me. In regard to Luther biographies, I’ve had Catholics thank me for the research I provided. If my recommendations of books on Luther are so biased and untrustworthy, I challenge you to prove your case rather than merely state it. If you’re interested in fueling an outdated polemical approach to Luther, you can follow Art Sippo’s advise. Sippo claims to be knowledgeable on Luther and the Reformation, but as I demonstrated in my discussion with him, he doesn’t know what he talking about.

"On the contrary, I intend to read Rix and Hillaire Belloc before finishing O'Hare. THEN I will give a few protestant apologetic authors a shot. I suspect you proceed no differently. Pick authors you trust first and THEN examine the arguments of those you don't."

You are mistaken. My personal library of Luther and Reformation books is extensive. I read and use the books as I come across them. O’Hare’s book was one of the earliest books I acquired on Luther. Upon an initial reading, I was shocked by the information, as you were. I initially read more Catholic web pages on Luther than either Protestant books or web pages on Luther. One of the reasons this very blog exists is because I found the Protestant community severely lacking in providing responses to the polemical material put forth by Roman Catholics. In other words, I read Catholic material on Luther, and then began my in-depth studies on Luther.

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.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Reasons Not To Join A Reformed Baptist Church

On a cassette tape in my basement, I found a 20-minute broadcast of James White giving reasons not to join a Reformed Baptist Church. This temporary link to the broadcast will only work for about another five or six days:

Reasons Not To Join A Reformed Baptist Church

This link to the same broadcast should work after the above link ceases:

Reasons Not To Join a Reformed Baptist Church

Now, I’m not a Reformed Baptist, but I definitely agree with the points James makes.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Few Short Luther & Reformation Quizzes

Here's some follow up quizzes- these are more biographical:

Martin Luther Quiz

Now try this one: The Life of Martin Luther

Here's a quiz on the Reformation: Reformation quick Quiz . Careful with this one, It's timed (60 seconds).

Here is a funny Reformation quiz: History Quiz Seven: Reformation. Wait till you see question #9- whoever put this quiz together should be failed.

Here's a quiz that doesn't give you the answers to know how you did: Reformation quiz.

And here's a Reformation quiz with typo's for 6th Graders: Reformation quiz.

Monday, January 22, 2007

How "Lutheran" Are You?


I found this quiz, How Lutheran Are You?. No, I didn’t score 100. The results showed I was 75% Lutheran. Most of the questions in which I knew the answers were about Martin Luther. The questions I didn’t know were in Reference to Lutheran hymnals and Denominational details. The quiz doesn’t really show how “Lutheran” one is. Actually, the quiz shows how much one knows about Lutheranism.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Keith Green Visits the Envoy Boards

The late Keith Green was a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter from the late 1970, early 1980’s. Keith died some years back in a plane crash. I had not realized that Keith wrote a document entitled, The Catholic Chronicles. The Catholic folks over at Envoy have begun discussing his views, Envoy style:

It would appear on closer scrutiny (just read the "Chronicles") that Keith, however sincere, was sincerely misguided at best, or a down-right theological bonehead in complete rebellion to Christ's Church at worst.”

We must always remember that Protestantism in all of its forms is derived from disobedience and rebellion against the Church and authority that God himself established. As such, every Protestant is rightly threatened by the claims of the Catholic Church. To preserve their man-made religions they must attack our God-founded one.”

Well, I don’t really have a horse in this race. I just found this topic interesting, as I remember Keith’s music. Some of what Keith said is right on the money:

"The Council of Trent, in its opposition to the reformer's doctrine of justification by faith, and in defense of its doctrine of penance, declared: "Whoever shall affirm that men are justified solely by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ... let him be accursed" (Council of Trent, section 6.) And the Catholic Almanac says, "Penance is necessary for salvation...and was instituted by Christ for the forgiveness of sins". (pp. 269, 559.) The modern church teachings completely concur: "Many things are necessary for salvation. All these things work together faith, baptism, the Eucharist, the doing of good works, and others as well. Redemption is one thing, salvation is quite another. There is nothing lacking on Christ's part; there is much to be done on ours."("The Apostles Creed" published by the Knights of Columbus, pp 18-19.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Romanist Recommends: The Facts About Luther


I’ve been planning on doing a blog entry on which books one should use to study Luther. I’ve been planning to do this for a year. Well, I’ll get to it…eventually. People have written me and asked me, so I guess I should do what I mentioned above: put up a blog entry for quick reference so I don’t have to write the same thing over and over again.

Well, a Catholic Apologist put up a blog entry on Recommended Catholic Apologetic and Historical Books. I was going to do an entire entry on his Luther and Reformation choices, but then I figured it wasn’t really worth the time. Just scroll through his recommendations, and note he mentions Patrick O’Hare’s Facts About Luther, Hartmann Grisar’s work, Janssen, Beloc, and a bunch of others. My general comment is his Reformation recommendations are imbalanced, though a few of his suggestions have merit (Tavard and Lortz). I’m not familiar with all the authors mentioned, but if he’s recommending O’Hare and Grisar- well, as the old Monty Python line goes, “Run Away!” I’m sure he has some “sort” of reasoning behind including these outdated & refuted approaches to Luther, perhaps for “historical” value- to show how works like those put forth by O’Hare and Grisar were fundamentally flawed by their vilifying approach.

UPDATE 1/22- Father O'Hare's "Facts About Luther" was removed from his book list. Thanks for stopping by Catholic apologists!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Zwingli’s’ Mariology: On Mary “Full of Grace”



Because he stands in the shadows of Luther and Calvin, Zwingli (1484-1531) gets overlooked often. His writings can be difficult to track down. One can go to the local bookstore and get a Calvin or Luther bio or anthology, but you’ll do a lot searching to actually get a Zwingli book. When you do read Zwingli, it becomes apparent that he was not on par with either Luther or Calvin.

I’ve always wanted to read Zwingli discussing his Mariology. For the most part, the only people who seem to “care” about Zwingli’s Mariology are Roman Catholics. And really, they probably aren’t interested in actually reading and researching Zwingli. Rather, his writings are used for polemical purposes- to show that an early Reformer had particular beliefs about the Virgin Mary. It does appear that Zwingli did have some similar beliefs about Mary to those found in Roman Catholicism. This is a subject that I plan on exploring. I'd like to see for myself how Zwingli understood the role of Mary. I refuse to be spoon fed Zwingli quotes from Catholic apologetics- for I doubt most of the pop Catholic apologetic writers have actually read Zwingli on this subject.

Well, here's a present from me to the Catholic apologetics community. I did finally track down a piece from Zwingli on Mary. It is a section from the “Sermon on Mary, The Pure Mother of God”. Zwingli preached the sermon in Zurich in the autumn of 1522. In it, you will find Zwingli saying all sorts of things about Mary. He calls her "pure" and "holy", a "spotless virgin" etc. Note though, Zwingli’s explanation of the Greek word "kecharitomene". Zwingli understands the word to mean “favorable”.

“When the angel came in unto Mary, he greeted her with these words: " Hail, thou art full of grace! The Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women." Here it is to be noticed that this word "full of grace" is, translated from the Greek word "kecharitomene," which means beloved, or filled with grace, highly favored, whereby we understand that the word “full of grace " should not be taken to mean that she was from herself full of grace, but that all the grace with which she was so rich and full was from God. For to be full of grace is nothing else than to be highly favored of God and to be chosen before all other women. For grace is only the favor of God. So if I should say that God has given much grace to men, I should say nothing else than God has been very favorable to men and done loving things for them. Therefore is the pure Mary full of grace from God, as she herself sings: "He hath done to me great things." She says not: "I am great from mine own grace," but " the Almighty hath done to me great things." For immediately afterward she adds: "He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden, for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." [Source: Guy Carelton Lee (ed.), The World’s Orators (New York: GP Putnum’s Sons, 1900, 95-96).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bibliographic Tedium on the Reformers and Perpetual Virginity

Over on the CARM boards there have been a few threads specific to the Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin on Mary’s perpetual virginity. For instance, a person called Opus Dei” submits the following:

After hearing so many people talk about Protestantism, I've come to a conclusion. Martin Luther would call many of these denominations heretical institutions. I think he would even be disgusted at some of these obvious flaws in theology. Calvin might even be upset. The basis for my conclusion is that all of the main three reformers, Zwingli, Calvin, and Luther all supported the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, how many protestants uphold this?” [source]

And the proof:

Luther: "It is an article of faith that Mary is the Mother of the Lord and still a virgin." Works of Luther, Vol. II, 319-320 Volume 6, 510

Calvin: "There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what a folly this is!Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25, Published 1562

Zwingli: "I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure virgin brought forth for us the sone of God and in childbirth and after childbirth, forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.Zwingli Opera, Volume I, 424 [source]

Leaving aside the main argument for another day (for it is a flawed argument- as if it actually matters what the Reformers thought about Mary's perpetual virginity!), I’d like to explore the proof offered. For the Luther quote, the bibliographic citation given is “Works of Luther, Vol. II, 319-320 Volume 6, 510.” This reference to neither of the English editions Luther’s Works (The earlier Philadelphia edition, or the standard 55 volume Concordia set).

Others in cyber space reference the quote as “Weimer's The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, v. 11, pp. 319-320; v. 6. p. 510”. Weimar is the German translation- Pelikan had nothing to do with it. So, in this reference, the German and English translations are cited together, combined to give a big inaccurate reference. This site documents it, “It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin. (Weimarer Ausgabe 11:319-320)”. That last one may actually be accurate.

Now the Zwingli reference is given as “Zwingli Opera, Volume I, 424.” In my understanding, this is a reference to Zwingli’s works from a Latin set. In print? No, and very difficult to track down. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

"Zwingli's works were first collected and published by his son-in-law, Rudolf Gwalter, and entitled: "Opera D. H. Zwingli vigilantissimi Tigurinae ecclesiae Antistitis, partim quidem ab ipso Latine conscripta, partim vero e vernaculo sermone in Latinum translata: omnia novissime recognita, et multis adiectis, quae hactenus visa non sunt" (4 fol. vols., Zurich, 1545; reprinted, 1581). The first complete edition was edited by Melchior Schuler and Johannes Schulthess (8 vols., Zurich, 1828-42). Volumes VII and VIII, containing Zwingli's correspondence, are especially important. A new edition of his complete works prepared by Emil Egli (d. 1908), George Finsler, and Walther Kohler is appearing in the "Corpus Reformatorum", LXXXVIII (Berlin, 1905); three volumes I, II, and VII, have already (1912) appeared. "

Normally when I interact with someone on this topic, the person quoting this stuff becomes silent when ask for a little more bibliographic information. I do so to find out if the person putting forth the information has actually read Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli, or if the information is a cut-and-paste job taken from Catholic apologetic web sites. The person posting this stuff made some impressive claims:

“I didn't get them from a site, but from the actual material.”

“I didn't type all of any of their statements [sic]. Trust me that is the context. if you still don't agree, look up the material, I cited everything.”

So of course, I asked for some specifics:

I would like to take you up on looking up the actual material. Is the Luther reference to the earlier Philadelphia edition of Luther's Works, or the Concordia 55 volume edition of Luther's Works? Also, which Treatise is being cited? You should know, since you got the quote from the "actual material. Can you quote Zwingli on Mary's virginity and also supply a context? The key is the later request.

The answer given for the Luther quote:

“I'll have to dig it up, I got it in college and I'm currently in the process of moving, all of my books are boxed up, I'll let you know when I find them, I just wrote down the basic works cited for a paper I did for my church, for adult education on the faith.”

And the answer given for the Zwingli quote:

“Zwingli Opera, Volume 1 424."I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin, brought forth for us the son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact virgin."I'd give you the rest of it but I'd have to dig it out of a box to do so, I'll look for it and get back to you, a couple others are waiting for it too.Note: Just to clearify [sic], I did not rip this from a website, I wrote an educational paper for an adult faith education class, and that was all I needed to put on the article, I'll look for the book after I move and unbox things. Should be in a couple of weeks or so."

It will be long couple of weeks. Now this takes guts, but then again, it’s the Internet, and anything goes. I strongly doubt I’ll get the bibliographic material I asked for. I only point out tedium like this to show that many times, people are putting forth information as if they’ve actually studied a subject, and made an informed decision. For most people though, it seems one makes a conclusion and then looks for information to support it. Such is the normal folly of the defenders of Rome.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

FREE (Out of Print) Books About Martin Luther


Every so often I come across free digital books about Martin Luther. Most of these books date from the 1800’s and early 1900’s. I happen to collect Luther books from this period, so I’m very pleased to be saving some $$ and getting these books for free. Most have downloadable pdf versions available. Some even include pictures of thumbs of whomever was scanning the text.

Here’s a copy of Jules Michelet’s, The Life of Luther Written By Himself (London: George Bell and Sons, 1904). The book was written in 1828-1829, and published in 1835. Two brief reviews can be found here: Review (The Living Age, Vol. 10, issue 116, Aug. 1, 1846). Review (The United States Democratic review. / Volume 19, Issue 97, July 1846). While out of print, this book is not too difficult to track down under twenty bucks.

Also available is scanned copy of Julius Kostlin, Life of Luther. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883). I actually own this book. Kostlin was one the greatest Luther scholars of the 19th Century. Here's a Text Version as well. While out of print, this book is not too difficult to track down under twenty bucks. The great Luther expert J.M. Reu commented, "Kostlin's great Luther work...which appeared in 1883 in an improved edition, sought to satisfy all scientific demands. Luther's life is not only discussed in its smallest details in this work, but the main contents of almost all his writings are given to the reader. For that reason it is even today the leading work on Luther..." [Source: J.M. Reu, Thirty-Five Years of Luther Research, 114]. Ian Siggins: "One of the most balanced biographies of Luther ever written" [Source: Luther (Evidence and Commentary Series), 197.

Here’s a copy of Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, a book which dates from the early 20th Century. Another book I own. Smith’s work is interesting yet flawed. He was an advocate of the psychoanalytical approach to understanding Luther. This book is more Smith’s commentary than actual letters. Here’s a copy of Smith’s Luther’s Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters (vol. 2). Here’s his book, Conversations With Luther: Selections From Recently Published Sources of the Tabletalk (1915). Both of these volumes are tough to track down.

Here’s an 1830’s compilation of The Most Celebrated Sermons of Martin Luther. This book is a good find. Used copies start around $45 and go up.


Other full length books about Luther

Audin (Jean MarieVincent), History of the Life, Writings, and Doctrines of Luther: Writings, & Doctrines of Luther (1854 Dolman)

Charles Beard, Martin Luther and the Reformation in Germany Until the Close of the Diet of Worms (1896 Philip Green)

George Boardman, A Sermon Suggested by the 400th Birthday of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Allen, Lane, and Scott’s Printing House, 1883)

C. A.Buchheim, Henry Wace, Robert Scarlett Grignon, First Principles of the Reformation, Or, The Ninety-five Theses and the Three Primary Works of Martin Luther (1883)

Thomas Carlyle, Life of Martin Luther (New York, American Book Exchange, 1879)

Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Watchwords for the Warfare of Life From Dr. Martin Luther (New York: MW Dodd, 1869).

Henry Cole, Select works of Martin Luther (1826)

WHT Dau: At the Tribunal of Caesar: Leaves from the Story of Luther's Life (1921Concordia Pub. House)

WHT Dau: Four Hundred Years: Commemorative Essays on the Reformation of Dr. Martin Luther (1916Concordia Pub. House)

Kuno Francke, Personality in German Literature Before Luther (1916 Harvard University Press)

Gustav Freytag, Martin Luther (Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1897)

Gustav Freytag, Doctor Luther (1916 The Lutheran publication society)

James Anthony Froude, Luther (1883 Longmans, Green, and co.)

Fannie Harris, The Jew and the German; Or, From Paul to Luther. A Historical Study (1894 J. C. Winston)

Frederic Henry Hedge, Martin Luther and Other Essays (1888 Roberts brothers)

Thomas Martin Lindsay, Luther and the German Reformation (1900 T. & T. Clark)

Martin Luther, Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism (1900 Augsburg)

Martin Luther, Luther's Letters to Women (1865 Chapman & Hall)

Martin Luther, Martin Luther's Spiritual songs (1854)

Martin Luther, Luther's Two Catechisms Explained by Himself: In Six Classic Writings (1908 The Luther Press)

Martin Luther, Barnas Sears, Select Treatises of Martin Luther in the Original German: With Philological Notes, and an Essay... (1846 Allen, Morrill andWardwell)

Martin Luther, William Michell, What Did Luther Teach? Contents: Luther's Shorter Catechism, with Preface. Articles Affirmative... (1870)

Edwin Mead, Martin Luther: A Study of the Reformation (Boston: Geo H. Ellis, 1884).

Arthur McGiffirt, Martin Luther, The Man and His Work (The Century Co, 1911)

Robert Montgomery, Luther: Or, The Spirit of the Reformation (Baisler, 1843)

John Rae, Martin Luther: Student, Monk, Reformer (Hodder & Stoughton, 1884)

Wilhelm Rein, The Life of Martin Luther(1883 Funk & Wagnalls)

William Bruce Robertson, German Student Life ; Poetry ; from the Manuscripts of the Late (1892 J. Maclehose & sons)

Hannah Farnham Sawyer, The Life and Times of Martin Luther (Hillard Grey, 1841)

Barnas Sears, Luther: his mental and spiritual history; with special reference to its earlier periods and the (1799)

Joseph Augustus Seiss, Luther and the Reformation: The Life-springs of Our Liberties (1883 Charles C. Cook)

John Scott, Luther and the Lutheran Reformation (1833 J. & J. Harper)

Levin Schücking, Eudora Lindsay South, Luther in Rome: Or, Corradina, the Last of the Hohenstaufen. A Religio-historical Romance (1890 A.M. Thayer)

George Stephenson, The Conservative Character of Martin Luther (United Lutheran Publishing house, 1921)

John H. Treadwell, Martin Luther. (New Plutarch) (1881)

John Tulloch, Leaders of the Reformation: Luther, Calvin, Latimer, Knox, the Representative Men of Germany (1860 Sheldon and company)

John Tulloch, Luther, and other leaders of the reformation (1883 W. Blackwood and sons)

Franklin Verzelius Newton Painter, Luther on education: including a historical introduction and a translation of the reformer's two...(1889 Lutheran PublicationSociety)

Edmond Walters, Martin Luther, a poem (1884 Alexander and Shepheard)

Reuben Weiser, Luther by a Lutheran: Or, A Full-length Portrait of Doctor Martin Luther : Being a Comprehensive... (1848 Printed at thePublication rooms)

Jane Whatley, The Story of Martin Luther (1862)



I'm sure there are dozens more availalble. If you find some, please drop me a line.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Did Luther Recant on His Deathbed?

I was digging through some of my computer files the other day, and I found an old discussion from the Catholic Answers boards. The question asked was as follows:

“I have heard from several people within the last couple of years that Luther died a Catholic and was administered last rites. I had never heard of this before. Is there a historical basis for either of the assertions??? Thanks and God Bless.”

And likewise:

“I read somewhere (though I don’t know if the source was accurate) that he asked for last rites. But there is the fact that he was excommunicated at the time, so he would have been unable to receive the sacraments. If this is true though, it's pretty funny because Lutherans and other Protestants only have two sacraments, and last rites is not one of them.”

A dramatic deathbed change of heart is emotionally compelling. I myself had a close family member (my brother) who actually may have accepted Christ in his dying moments. I won’t know this side of eternity whether or not that change of heart really occurred. Imagine what a Luther-change-of-heart-on-his-deathbed would mean to Catholic apologetics! If Luther was administered last rights, he was admitting that works were necessary: that is, Christ’s righteousness is not imputed to a sinner. Rather, Luther would be admitting that one must literally become holy, in order for God to view a person as holy. The sacrament of last rights would take away mortal sin. One is therefore not saved by faith alone, but by faith and the process of becoming sanctified.

Well, it isn't true. Luther’s friend Philip Melanchthon recorded this final prayer uttered by Luther:

“My Heavenly Father, eternal Compassionate God, you have revealed to me your beloved Son our LORD Jesus Christ whom I have known, of whom I have acquaintance, whom I love, and whom I honor as my beloved Savior and Redeemer, whom the Godless persecute, dissipate, and reproach. Take my Soul to you. This he said three times: 'Into your hands I commend my Spirit, you have redeemed me God of truth. And God so loved the world…”

Luther’s friend Justus Jonas also recorded this prayer, but added a bit more to it: Luther made one last jab at the Pope, and those enslaved to the papacy. A contemporary and enemy of Luther, the Roman Catholic polemicist, Cochlaeus, commented on Luther’s last prayer as recorded by Jonas. Cochlaeus lamented:

“…[W]hat shall we say of Luther’s last prayer… ‘Oh my Heavenly Father’ (he says) ‘God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God of all consolation, I give thanks to You, because You have revealed Your beloved Son Jesus Christ to me, in Whom I believe, Whom I have preached and have confessed, Whom I have loved and praised; Whom the abominable Pope and all impious people revile, persecute, and blaspheme, etc.’ Here let Jonas inquire of all corners of the Councils, to see whether he shall be able to find in the writings of any Christian a dying man's prayer of this sort, in which anyone at all thus boasts of himself, thus in comparison to himself condemns and accuses all those who, under the Pope, have worshiped Christ, thus attacks and slanders the Shepherd of the Church, the Supreme Pontiff.

Or is it not rather to be believed, that soon after these words of Luther's Christ the Judge said to Luther's soul, just now snatched from his body in death itself, 'From your own mouth I judge you, you wicked servant - since you yourself earlier both said and wrote that you heard Christ's voice in the Pope, Who was speaking and governing in him? Moreover, let that man be anathema and cursed, who speaks against the truth of the Apostolic privileges. Moreover, I aver that there are more good Christians under the Pope - nay, rather, every good Christian; and that under the Pope is the true Christianity, and what is more, the true kernel of Christianity. Therefore, what hope of salvation can a man so hardened possibly have, and one who persists, to the very end, against charity, in his heresy, schism, and rebellion, and in his everlasting hatred against the Pope, and so breathes out his stubborn and obstinate soul? For not only does the judgment of Christ and of Paul, Cyprian, Augustine, and others like them, attested many times over, judge him, but also his own speech and the judgment of his own mouth. Therefore, Jonas stupidly and impiously praises him for this prayer.” [Source: Luther Lives: Two Contemporary Accounts of Martin Luther (New York: Manchester University Press, 2002), 348-349].

Cochlaeus was familiar with the contemporary accounts of Luther’s last days, and those closest to Luther never mentioned he ever recanted or received last rights. Heiko Oberman begins his famous biography Luther: Man Between God and the Devil by giving an account of Luther's death:

"Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?" Yes," replied the clear voice for the last time. On February 18, 1546, even as he lay dying in Eisleben, far from home, Martin Luther was not to be spared a final public test, not to be granted privacy even in this last, most personal hour. His longtime confidant Justus Jonas, now pastor in Halle, having hurriedly summoned witnesses to the bedside, shook the dying man by the arm to rouse his spirit for the final exertion. Luther had always prayed for a "peaceful hour": resisting Satan—the ultimate, bitterest enemy—through that trust in the Lord over life and death which is God's gift of liberation from the tyranny of sin. It transforms agony into no more than a brief blow.

But now there was far more at stake than his own fate, than being able to leave the world in peace, and trust in God. For in the late Middle Ages, ever since the first struggle for survival during the persecutions of ancient Rome, going to one's death with fearless fortitude was the outward sign of a true child of God, of the confessors and martyrs. The deathbed in the Eisleben inn had become a stage; and straining their ears to catch Luther's last words were enemies as well as friends.

As early as 1529, Johannes Cochlaeus, Luther's first "biographer," had denounced Luther in Latin and German as the seven-headed dragon, the Devil's spawn. Slanderous reports that he had died a God-forsaken death, miserable and despairing, had circulated time and again. But now the end his friends had dreaded and his enemies had longed for was becoming reality. Who now would lay claim to Luther and fetch him, God or the Devil? While simple believers imagined the Devil literally seizing his prey, the enlightened academic world was convinced that a descent into Hell could be diagnosed medically—as apoplexy and sudden cardiac arrest. Abruptly and without warning, the Devil would snip the thread of a life that had fallen to him, leaving the Church unable to render its last assistance. Thus, in their first reports, Luther's friends, especially Melanchthon, stressed that the cause of death had not been sudden, surprising apoplexy but a gradual flagging of strength: Luther had taken leave of the world and commended his spirit into God's hands. For friend and foe alike his death meant far more than the end of a life.

Shortly after Doctor Martinus died at about 3:00 A.M. on February 18, Justus Jonas carefully recorded Luther's last twenty-four hours, addressing his report not to Luther's widow, as one might expect, but to his sovereign, Elector John Frederick, with a copy for his university colleagues in Wittenberg. Had Luther—born on November 10, 1483, as a simple miner's son—died young, history would have passed over his parents' grief unmoved. But now his death was an affair of state. The day after his birth—the feast of St. Martin—he had been baptized and received into the life of the Church as a simple matter of course, but now there was open dispute over whether, having been excommunicated by the pope, he had departed from this world a son of the Church.

In the last days before his death Luther had been the cheerful man his friends knew and loved. He had successfully completed a difficult mission: a trip from Wittenberg to Eisleben to mediate in a protracted quarrel between the two counts of Mansfeld, the brothers Gebhard and Albert. Hours had been spent sitting between the parties, listening to the clever reasoning of administrative lawyers—a breed he had despised ever since his early days as a law student in Erfurt. After two tough weeks of negotiation, the parties had narrowed their differences and a reconciliation had finally—though only temporarily—been achieved. So there was reason to be cheerful. Luther had suspected that he would die in Eisleben, the place of his birth. But this did not worry him, although he was quite sure he had little time left: "When I get home to Wittenberg again, I will lie down in my coffin and give the worms a fat doctor to feast on." By highlighting the skeleton within the human body, late medieval art had urgently reminded everyone that health, beauty, and wealth were only a few breaths away from the Dance of Death. The "fat doctor" was well aware of this, not as a moralistic horror story, but as a reality of life poised on the brink of eternity. [Source: Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (New York: Doubleday, 1982), 305].

25 August
Ancient Baptists and Other Myths- by James White


A number of years ago Patrick Madrid and the folks at Envoy decided to take a shot at me regarding an article I wrote for the CRI Journal. Here is the original article from CRI. You will see it is about the Council of Nicea and is focused upon explaining the issues surrounding the issue of the deity of Christ. But Madrid and Hugh Barbour decided to use an article that was about the deity of Christ as a pretext for attacking me and my scholarship, and that based upon...a footnote. Yes, a footnote. What was worse, the reply itself was quite sub-standard, especially for a self-professed patristic scholar. And though the Envoy article was quite lengthy, I had to be quite brief in my rebuttal in the CRI Journal. Since Madrid has recently been promoting the article again (as has Prejean), and since it is not found on the CRI website, I provide it here. I think the fair-minded person will once again recognize that all is not well in Rome's apologetics realm when they have to stoop to this kind of activity. The cover of the July/August 1998 issue of Envoy magazine sports a man, dressed to look like a Baptist (replete with a very Baptist looking watch, a gold cross pin on his jacket, and a tie too ugly to ever be worn) holding a mask in front of his face. The mask is the face of an ancient Christian, possibly an early Church father. The title reads, "Who is that Masked Man?" The subtitle continues: "A Baptist tries to hijack the early Church. You know how he'd be punished in Singapore, don't you?" The article itself, by Fr. Hugh Barbour, is titled, "Ancient Baptists and Other Myths."[1] The article pulls no punches. Its opinions are clearly stated: "A Catholic expert on early Christianity debunks the fanciful claims of a Protestant apologist." The article being reviewed is said to be "error-laden," "amateurishly 'researched,'" and "filled with historical and theological fallacies." One subtitle reads, "The Absurd, and the Outrageously Absurd." And Barbour ends with allegations of "cut-and-paste patristic work," "feats of "scholarly" gymnastics," and "grotesque historical contortions." What horrible, unscholarly article by some backwoods Baptist would attract the attention of Hugh Barbour and Envoy? The article was my own What Really Happened at Nicea? from the July/August 1997 edition of the Christian Research Journal. And while the thrust of that article was providing a response to common and false claims by cultists concerning Nicea and its definition of the deity of Christ, that was never mentioned in the Envoy response. The fact that Fr. Barbour would agree with the vast majority of what I presented also somehow didn't make it into his article. Instead, the discussion I provided concerning the relationship of Nicea to Scriptural authority, and one particular sentence regarding Athanasius' stand for the truth during the resurgence of Arianism after the Council of Nicea, became the target of this lengthy example of how to skewer your opponents without once touching on the issues that really matter. Hugh Barbour uses some pretty strong language in his review. Of course, there is nothing wrong with such language, if, in fact, it is true. I have used the very same language in describing Gail Riplinger's New Age Bible Versions, and have then gone on to demonstrate the truth of the conclusions I have reached. That is how Christian apologetics is supposed to be done: an honest representation of the position being examined, followed by a fair and full refutation. If my article was, in fact, grossly in error, nothing more than a cut-and-paste mockery of patristic sources, then there is nothing at all wrong in pointing this out. However, a little closer examination reveals some very troubling facts. The first thing that struck me as I read Hugh Barbour's article was this: not once, in approximately 4700 words of text, does the article name the "Reformed Baptist author of the Christian Research Journal article." You will never find "James White" in the text of this article. All the way through, I am anonymous, a nameless and faceless person. Can you imagine encountering an article in the CRI Journal that would accuse someone of such shoddy scholarship, but would never tell you who did this poor job of research and writing? What kind of tactic is this? The second thing that struck me was that while the CRI Journal is specifically mentioned, not once was the article's bibliographical information provided. That is, Fr. Barbour would actually quote the article, but never give the date, issue, or page number. If a reader of Envoy wanted to check out the original source, they would not have an author's name, date or issue. Their task would be daunting. Immediately we should be struck by the contrast in methodology used by Envoy and that of the CRI Journal. There is a fundamental issue of fairness involved in providing at least the most minimal information necessary to allow your readers to check your sources and your conclusions. None of us are above the need to give our references and allow the reader to judge our fairness and accuracy. Surely it is easier to take anonymous shots at those with whom we disagree, but such shows disrespect to our readers. They must simply trust that we are being fair and accurate since we don't provide any means by which they can examine our sources. And when we are making personal comments, impugning a person's scholarship, research, and conclusions, we cannot hide behind the mask of anonymity and not allow "full disclosure" of the facts. One cannot help but wonder how many regular readers of Envoy likewise noted the glaring deficiency of this "scholarly" rebuttal. But the most fundamentally disturbing aspect of this reply is to be found in its tremendous misrepresentation of the article it pretends to review. Over and over again Barbour argues that it was my intention to turn the council of Nicea into an ancient convention of Baptists. He writes, "The article. . . actually claimed the Fathers of the Council were essentially Evangelical Protestants." But such is simply untrue. What I did say was that in the particular instance of Athanasius' well-known stand against the combined weight of councils (such as the one held at Sirmium, attended by 600 bishops), bishops (including Liberius, bishop of Rome), and Emperors was not something that you would identify with Roman Catholicism, but with Protestantism, especially since Athanasius defended his action via his fidelity to Scriptural truth. Just because his actions were more consistent with modern day Protestantism than with Roman Catholicism cannot logically mean that I was identifying him as a full-blown Protestant. The early Fathers were neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. They were who they were, and we badly misrepresent them, and end up engaging in errors of anachronistic interpretation, when we try to force them into our mold. As a Protestant, I can allow all the early Fathers to be themselves, not what I need them to be, simply because my faith is not based upon making claims about the alleged "universal" faith of the early Fathers. I can recognize both truth and error in the patristic sources, even within the same writer. I can appreciate Irenaeus' defense against the gnostics, while rejecting his erroneous view of the atonement, for example. I need not gloss over those places where early writers would have disagreed with me, for I make no claim that they were infallible or perfect in their beliefs, since no Christian today would fit into that category either. But the Roman Catholic, if he or she is faithful to the statements of the Magisterium, does not have this luxury. This can be seen in striking fashion in the words of Satis Cognitum, a papal encyclical promulgated by Leo XIII in 1896, written to explain and defend the definition of Papal Infallibility put forward by the First Vatican Council:
Wherefore, in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion is set forth, but the venerable and constant belief of every age. The faithful Roman Catholic who seeks to defend the ultimate authority of the Roman magisterium is left with little choice than to believe that the Roman claims on the Papacy (and by extension, the entire Roman concept of authority) are the "venerable and constant belief of every age" (emphasis added). The largest portion of Barbour's article is devoted to skewering the straw-man idea that "the Council attendees were Protestant." I never made such a claim, nor would I. Unfortunately, the main point I did make regarding Athanasius' willingness to stand against the combined weight of bishops and councils was lost in the flourish of demonstrating what was not contested: that Athanasius wasn't a Baptist. A wonderful opportunity was lost for this patristic scholar to explain why, if the members of the Nicene Council were Roman Catholics, they did not believe in the very doctrines that define the Roman communion over against others, doctrines such as an infallible Papacy, Marian dogmas such as the Bodily Assumption, the treasury of merit, indulgences, and devotion to reserved, consecrated hosts that would indicate that the patristic belief in "real presence" was in fact a belief in transubstantiation.[2] The fact is that the early Church was neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. It was what it was. That's perfectly in line with the Protestant view, but is fundamentally contrary to the Roman Catholic concept.One Good Example While I strongly disagree with Barbour's attempt to turn Athanasius into a follower of the Papacy,[3] a different assertion in his article serves to illustrate best what happens when we view Church History in a partisan fashion. Barbour presents a highly questionable thesis regarding the role of the bishop of Rome, Sylvester, and the calling of the Council of Nicea. It is a well known fact that the bishops of Rome had little to do in the convocation of many of the early Councils. This presents a problem for the Roman apologist only because Rome has anachronistically claimed that she has always held that position. Modern Roman Catholic historians have abandoned this claim, preferring the less strident "development hypothesis," agreeing with Newman that in the early Church the Papacy was more of an "unfulfilled prophecy."[4] Barbour abandons sound historical procedures by pointing to the words of the Council of Constantinople, which met 355 years after Nicea, which claimed that both Constantine and Sylvester together called the council. R.P.C. Hanson, a noted historian, writes concerning this claim:
Religious partisanship has in the past led some scholars to suggest that Sylvester, bishop of Rome, convoked the council of Nicea, but modern Roman Catholic Scholars honourably dismiss this idea.[5] Likewise, George Salmon describes as "less scrupulous" those who make Barbour's assertion, saying that there is "no foundation" for the claim.[6] Roman Catholic historian and Notre Dame professor Richard McBrien likewise notes that Sylvester "played no part" in the proceedings of the Council of Nicea, that he "did not convene the council," and that even Sylvester's representatives "were given no special status" at the assembly.[7] Barbour goes on to make an even more questionable claim when he cites Gelasius of Cyzigus (without reference) as his sole basis for making Hosius, bishop of Cordova in Spain, the representative of Sylvester, so that he can then assert, "So the Council proceeded, led by a bishop officially representing the Church of Rome." Barbour, who begins his article by calling himself a "trained patristic scholar," well knows the character of the source he is citing, but how many of his readers do? Gelasius wrote 150 years after Nicea. Renowned church historian Philip Schaff, speaking of the Council of Nicea, said, "There afterwards arose a multitude of apocryphal orations and legends in glorification of it, of which Gelasius of Cyzicus in the fifth century collected a whole volume."[8] Hanson likewise makes mention of Gelasius' claim:
Gelasius alleges that Ossius presided as representing the bishop of Rome, but this is probably because an historian writing in the second half of the fifth century could not imagine that a bishop of as obscure a see as Cordova could have presided over a General Council unless he was a proxy for a much more important ecclesiastic.[9] And the Westminster Dictionary of Church History is very frank in describing the character of Gelasius' work: "Highly imaginative, it is hardly trustworthy."[10] Yet, this is the source Barbour cites to turn the Council of Nicea into a Roman Catholic entity. Such claims look good when the reader does not inquire into their true value. Such can be said as well for Envoy's attempted response.James WhiteEndnotes:[1] This article is currently posted in its entirety here. In the magazine itself the article is found on pp. 30-37.[2] Points made in a written debate here. For an excellent discussion of these issues, see the article by Bill Webster here.[3] The article originally referenced here is no longer on line.[4] John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), p. 150.[5] R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), p. 154.[6] George Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 289.[7] Richard McBrien, Lives of the Popes (HarperSanFrancisco: San Francisco, 1997), p. 58.[8] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), III:631.[9] Hanson, p. 155. See as well Trevor Gervase Jalland, The Church and the Papacy (London: SPCK, 1946, p. 199, "The fact that Hosius' name occurs first in all lists of subscriptions suggests that he presided as the Emperor's representative, though probably not as Gelasius Cyz....states as a legate of Silvester."[10] Jerald Brauer, ed., The Westminster Dictionary of Church History (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), p. 354.
posted at 00:01:00 on 08/25/06 by James R. White - Category: Roman Catholicism

Ancient Baptists and Other Myths by James White

25 August
Ancient Baptists and Other Myths by James White
A number of years ago Patrick Madrid and the folks at Envoy decided to take a shot at me regarding an article I wrote for the CRI Journal. Here is the original article from CRI. You will see it is about the Council of Nicea and is focused upon explaining the issues surrounding the issue of the deity of Christ. But Madrid and Hugh Barbour decided to use an article that was about the deity of Christ as a pretext for attacking me and my scholarship, and that based upon...a footnote. Yes, a footnote. What was worse, the reply itself was quite sub-standard, especially for a self-professed patristic scholar. And though the Envoy article was quite lengthy, I had to be quite brief in my rebuttal in the CRI Journal. Since Madrid has recently been promoting the article again (as has Prejean), and since it is not found on the CRI website, I provide it here. I think the fair-minded person will once again recognize that all is not well in Rome's apologetics realm when they have to stoop to this kind of activity. The cover of the July/August 1998 issue of Envoy magazine sports a man, dressed to look like a Baptist (replete with a very Baptist looking watch, a gold cross pin on his jacket, and a tie too ugly to ever be worn) holding a mask in front of his face. The mask is the face of an ancient Christian, possibly an early Church father. The title reads, "Who is that Masked Man?" The subtitle continues: "A Baptist tries to hijack the early Church. You know how he'd be punished in Singapore, don't you?" The article itself, by Fr. Hugh Barbour, is titled, "Ancient Baptists and Other Myths."[1] The article pulls no punches. Its opinions are clearly stated: "A Catholic expert on early Christianity debunks the fanciful claims of a Protestant apologist." The article being reviewed is said to be "error-laden," "amateurishly 'researched,'" and "filled with historical and theological fallacies." One subtitle reads, "The Absurd, and the Outrageously Absurd." And Barbour ends with allegations of "cut-and-paste patristic work," "feats of "scholarly" gymnastics," and "grotesque historical contortions." What horrible, unscholarly article by some backwoods Baptist would attract the attention of Hugh Barbour and Envoy? The article was my own What Really Happened at Nicea? from the July/August 1997 edition of the Christian Research Journal. And while the thrust of that article was providing a response to common and false claims by cultists concerning Nicea and its definition of the deity of Christ, that was never mentioned in the Envoy response. The fact that Fr. Barbour would agree with the vast majority of what I presented also somehow didn't make it into his article. Instead, the discussion I provided concerning the relationship of Nicea to Scriptural authority, and one particular sentence regarding Athanasius' stand for the truth during the resurgence of Arianism after the Council of Nicea, became the target of this lengthy example of how to skewer your opponents without once touching on the issues that really matter. Hugh Barbour uses some pretty strong language in his review. Of course, there is nothing wrong with such language, if, in fact, it is true. I have used the very same language in describing Gail Riplinger's New Age Bible Versions, and have then gone on to demonstrate the truth of the conclusions I have reached. That is how Christian apologetics is supposed to be done: an honest representation of the position being examined, followed by a fair and full refutation. If my article was, in fact, grossly in error, nothing more than a cut-and-paste mockery of patristic sources, then there is nothing at all wrong in pointing this out. However, a little closer examination reveals some very troubling facts. The first thing that struck me as I read Hugh Barbour's article was this: not once, in approximately 4700 words of text, does the article name the "Reformed Baptist author of the Christian Research Journal article." You will never find "James White" in the text of this article. All the way through, I am anonymous, a nameless and faceless person. Can you imagine encountering an article in the CRI Journal that would accuse someone of such shoddy scholarship, but would never tell you who did this poor job of research and writing? What kind of tactic is this? The second thing that struck me was that while the CRI Journal is specifically mentioned, not once was the article's bibliographical information provided. That is, Fr. Barbour would actually quote the article, but never give the date, issue, or page number. If a reader of Envoy wanted to check out the original source, they would not have an author's name, date or issue. Their task would be daunting. Immediately we should be struck by the contrast in methodology used by Envoy and that of the CRI Journal. There is a fundamental issue of fairness involved in providing at least the most minimal information necessary to allow your readers to check your sources and your conclusions. None of us are above the need to give our references and allow the reader to judge our fairness and accuracy. Surely it is easier to take anonymous shots at those with whom we disagree, but such shows disrespect to our readers. They must simply trust that we are being fair and accurate since we don't provide any means by which they can examine our sources. And when we are making personal comments, impugning a person's scholarship, research, and conclusions, we cannot hide behind the mask of anonymity and not allow "full disclosure" of the facts. One cannot help but wonder how many regular readers of Envoy likewise noted the glaring deficiency of this "scholarly" rebuttal. But the most fundamentally disturbing aspect of this reply is to be found in its tremendous misrepresentation of the article it pretends to review. Over and over again Barbour argues that it was my intention to turn the council of Nicea into an ancient convention of Baptists. He writes, "The article. . . actually claimed the Fathers of the Council were essentially Evangelical Protestants." But such is simply untrue. What I did say was that in the particular instance of Athanasius' well-known stand against the combined weight of councils (such as the one held at Sirmium, attended by 600 bishops), bishops (including Liberius, bishop of Rome), and Emperors was not something that you would identify with Roman Catholicism, but with Protestantism, especially since Athanasius defended his action via his fidelity to Scriptural truth. Just because his actions were more consistent with modern day Protestantism than with Roman Catholicism cannot logically mean that I was identifying him as a full-blown Protestant. The early Fathers were neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. They were who they were, and we badly misrepresent them, and end up engaging in errors of anachronistic interpretation, when we try to force them into our mold. As a Protestant, I can allow all the early Fathers to be themselves, not what I need them to be, simply because my faith is not based upon making claims about the alleged "universal" faith of the early Fathers. I can recognize both truth and error in the patristic sources, even within the same writer. I can appreciate Irenaeus' defense against the gnostics, while rejecting his erroneous view of the atonement, for example. I need not gloss over those places where early writers would have disagreed with me, for I make no claim that they were infallible or perfect in their beliefs, since no Christian today would fit into that category either. But the Roman Catholic, if he or she is faithful to the statements of the Magisterium, does not have this luxury. This can be seen in striking fashion in the words of Satis Cognitum, a papal encyclical promulgated by Leo XIII in 1896, written to explain and defend the definition of Papal Infallibility put forward by the First Vatican Council:
Wherefore, in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion is set forth, but the venerable and constant belief of every age. The faithful Roman Catholic who seeks to defend the ultimate authority of the Roman magisterium is left with little choice than to believe that the Roman claims on the Papacy (and by extension, the entire Roman concept of authority) are the "venerable and constant belief of every age" (emphasis added). The largest portion of Barbour's article is devoted to skewering the straw-man idea that "the Council attendees were Protestant." I never made such a claim, nor would I. Unfortunately, the main point I did make regarding Athanasius' willingness to stand against the combined weight of bishops and councils was lost in the flourish of demonstrating what was not contested: that Athanasius wasn't a Baptist. A wonderful opportunity was lost for this patristic scholar to explain why, if the members of the Nicene Council were Roman Catholics, they did not believe in the very doctrines that define the Roman communion over against others, doctrines such as an infallible Papacy, Marian dogmas such as the Bodily Assumption, the treasury of merit, indulgences, and devotion to reserved, consecrated hosts that would indicate that the patristic belief in "real presence" was in fact a belief in transubstantiation.[2] The fact is that the early Church was neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic. It was what it was. That's perfectly in line with the Protestant view, but is fundamentally contrary to the Roman Catholic concept.One Good Example While I strongly disagree with Barbour's attempt to turn Athanasius into a follower of the Papacy,[3] a different assertion in his article serves to illustrate best what happens when we view Church History in a partisan fashion. Barbour presents a highly questionable thesis regarding the role of the bishop of Rome, Sylvester, and the calling of the Council of Nicea. It is a well known fact that the bishops of Rome had little to do in the convocation of many of the early Councils. This presents a problem for the Roman apologist only because Rome has anachronistically claimed that she has always held that position. Modern Roman Catholic historians have abandoned this claim, preferring the less strident "development hypothesis," agreeing with Newman that in the early Church the Papacy was more of an "unfulfilled prophecy."[4] Barbour abandons sound historical procedures by pointing to the words of the Council of Constantinople, which met 355 years after Nicea, which claimed that both Constantine and Sylvester together called the council. R.P.C. Hanson, a noted historian, writes concerning this claim:
Religious partisanship has in the past led some scholars to suggest that Sylvester, bishop of Rome, convoked the council of Nicea, but modern Roman Catholic Scholars honourably dismiss this idea.[5] Likewise, George Salmon describes as "less scrupulous" those who make Barbour's assertion, saying that there is "no foundation" for the claim.[6] Roman Catholic historian and Notre Dame professor Richard McBrien likewise notes that Sylvester "played no part" in the proceedings of the Council of Nicea, that he "did not convene the council," and that even Sylvester's representatives "were given no special status" at the assembly.[7] Barbour goes on to make an even more questionable claim when he cites Gelasius of Cyzigus (without reference) as his sole basis for making Hosius, bishop of Cordova in Spain, the representative of Sylvester, so that he can then assert, "So the Council proceeded, led by a bishop officially representing the Church of Rome." Barbour, who begins his article by calling himself a "trained patristic scholar," well knows the character of the source he is citing, but how many of his readers do? Gelasius wrote 150 years after Nicea. Renowned church historian Philip Schaff, speaking of the Council of Nicea, said, "There afterwards arose a multitude of apocryphal orations and legends in glorification of it, of which Gelasius of Cyzicus in the fifth century collected a whole volume."[8] Hanson likewise makes mention of Gelasius' claim:
Gelasius alleges that Ossius presided as representing the bishop of Rome, but this is probably because an historian writing in the second half of the fifth century could not imagine that a bishop of as obscure a see as Cordova could have presided over a General Council unless he was a proxy for a much more important ecclesiastic.[9] And the Westminster Dictionary of Church History is very frank in describing the character of Gelasius' work: "Highly imaginative, it is hardly trustworthy."[10] Yet, this is the source Barbour cites to turn the Council of Nicea into a Roman Catholic entity. Such claims look good when the reader does not inquire into their true value. Such can be said as well for Envoy's attempted response.James WhiteEndnotes:[1] This article is currently posted in its entirety here. In the magazine itself the article is found on pp. 30-37.[2] Points made in a written debate here. For an excellent discussion of these issues, see the article by Bill Webster here.[3] The article originally referenced here is no longer on line.[4] John Henry Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), p. 150.[5] R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), p. 154.[6] George Salmon, The Infallibility of the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 289.[7] Richard McBrien, Lives of the Popes (HarperSanFrancisco: San Francisco, 1997), p. 58.[8] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), III:631.[9] Hanson, p. 155. See as well Trevor Gervase Jalland, The Church and the Papacy (London: SPCK, 1946, p. 199, "The fact that Hosius' name occurs first in all lists of subscriptions suggests that he presided as the Emperor's representative, though probably not as Gelasius Cyz....states as a legate of Silvester."[10] Jerald Brauer, ed., The Westminster Dictionary of Church History (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), p. 354.
posted at 00:01:00 on 08/25/06 by James R. White - Category: Roman Catholicism