Thursday, August 30, 2007


Here’s a great quote for all the ecumenical Roman Catholics who consider Protestants “separated brothers” rather than heretics:

“Do not be misled, my brothers: if anyone follows a schismatic, he will not inherit the kingdom of God. If anyone holds to alien views, he disassociates himself from the Passion.”
Ignatius, Letter to the Philadelphians 3:3.

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.179.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I will be off-line for a few days, which is a good thing. I'll probably continue rereading the Apostolic Fathers. It's been about 5 years since I read these writings, and it's interesting how different things jump out from the text that didn't jump out at me five years ago. I tend to write in my books, so it's interesting to compare my notes from five years ago to the current rereading.
Augustine (354-430):

"Our volumes are put up for sale in public; the light never needs to blush. Let them buy them, read them, believe them; or else buy them, read them, make fun of them. Those Scriptures know how to hold people guilty who read them and don’t believe."

Source: John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Newly Discovered Sermons, Part 3, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Sermon 198.20 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1997), pp. 195-196. WSA = The Works of Saint Augustine.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Quotable:

Saint and Sinner said...
"Well Dave, if the rest of your arguments are as bad as your exegesis, it's no wonder Dr. White doesn't respond to you.Trying to derive a proof-text against contraception from the parable of the sower will forever remain a classic! "

Friday, August 24, 2007

Here is detailed explanation of why I embrace sola scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, sola gratia, and also explains why I adhere to Reformed theology (aka: Calvinism). It also explains why I am not a Roman Catholic, and why I believe the Roman Church teaches a false gospel.
I don't do "awards" for blogs, but this blog would get my award for best Catholic blog of the year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Google Books is like going through a good used bookstore, and finding things you weren't even looking for:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Blog: Iron Sharpens Iron


I put together a blog for Chris Arnzen, host of the Iron Sharpens Iron radio show:

Iron Sharpens Iron

Take a listen to some of the MP3 shows, and add this link to your blogs and favorites. For those of you not familiar with Chris, you can see him in action here:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

2 Clement vs Tobit

Catholic apologist Gary Michuta states there are "vague" "allusions" or "echoes" to Tobit 12:8 in 2 Clement 16:4. I seem to be missing the vague allusion, other than noting the word "prayer" and the similarity between "alms" and "charitable giving". Indeed, vague...

2 Clement 16:4

"Charitable giving, therefore, is good, as is repentance from sin. Fasting is better than prayer, while charitable giving is better than both, and 'love covers a multitude of sins,' while prayer arising from a good conscience delivers one from death. Blessed is everyone who is found full of these, for charitable giving relieves the burden of sin."Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.123

Tobit 12:8

"Prayer is good with fasting and alms more than to lay up treasures of gold... "(Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

2 Clement says "Fasting is better than prayer" while Tobit says, "Prayer is good with fasting."

2 Clement says "Charitable giving, therefore, is good" and "charitable giving is better than both [prayer and fasting]" and "charitable giving relieves the burden of sin."

Tobit says "alms more than to lay up treasures of gold".

I'm tempted to comment the vague "allusion" is more of a solid "illusion," but I'll check a few other translations, as well as Lightfoot.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

On the Citations from Second Clement

I have a few more comments on the alleged Second Clement. There are plentiful citations from the New Testament, as well as a few from the Old Testament. In his book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, Catholic apologist Gary Michuta notes,

"Scholars do note a few points of contact between the [deuterocanonical books] and 2nd Clement. These allusions are a bit vague and may, again, have been quoted from memory. For example, Lightfoot believes the writer of 2 Clement 16:4 to have had Tobit 12:8 in mind. Likewise, 2 Clement 16:4 appears to be more of an echo of Tobit 12:8 than a direct quote or allusion." (p.64)

So, Michuta believes these "allusions" to Tobit imply that the writer of Second Clement considered the apocrypha to be sacred Scripture. However, read through these citations from Second Clement, and note what else was considered Scripture:

"...the Lord said, 'If you are gathered with me in my bosom, yet you do not keep my commandments, I will throw you out and will say to you: Get away from me; I do not know where are from, you evildoers.' " [Source unknown. It may be from the Gospel of the Egyptians]

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.111

"Therefore brothers, let us turn away from life as residents in this world and do the will of him who called us, and let us not be afraid to depart from this world. For the Lord says, 'You will be like lambs among wolves.' But Peter answered and said to him, 'What if the wolves tear the lambs to pieces?' Jesus said to Peter, 'Let the lambs have no fear of the wolves after their death, and as for you, do not fear those who, though they kill you, are not able to do anything else to you, but fear him who, after you are dead, has power to cast soul and body into the flames of hell.' " [Sources of this series of quotations unknown; possibly from the gospel of the Egyptians, but for the individual sayings, cf. Luke 10:3; Matt 10:16, 28; Luke 12:4-5]

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.111.

"For the Lord says in the Gospel: 'If you did not guard something small, who will give you something great? For I say unto you, whoever is faithful with very little is also faithful with much.' " [Source uncertain, possibly the Gospel of the Egyptians, but also Luke 16:10-12]

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.115.

"For the prophetic word says: 'Wretched are the double-minded, those who doubt in their heart and say, 'We heard all these things even in the days of our fathers, and though we have waited day after day we have seen none of them.' Fools! Compare yourselves to a tree, or take a vine: first it sheds its leaves, then a shoot comes, and after these a sour grape, and then a full ripe bunch. So also my people have had turmoil and tribulation, but afterward they will receive good things.' " [Source unknown. The same passage (though without the final sentence) is quoted as "Scripture" in 1 Clem. 23:3. Lighfoot speculates it is from the lost book of Eldad and Modat mentioned by Hermas (Vis. 2.3-4)].

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.117.

"For the Lord himself, when he was asked by someone when his kingdom was going to come, said: 'When the two shall be one, and the outside like the inside, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.' " [Source unknown. A shorter version of the saying (lacking and the outside...inside) forms part of a longer dialogue cited by Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 3.13.92), who attributes it to the gospel of the Egyptians. Cf. also, however, the Gospel According to Thomas, saying 22, which preserves a longer form of the saying.]

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.110.

"For the Lord says... 'Woe to him on whose account my name is blasphemed." [Source unknown].

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.119.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Second Clement on Baptism, Advocates, and Purgatory


I've been reading An Ancient Christian Sermon commonly known as Second Clement. If you've read First Clement, it reads differently in content, tone, and style. It seems apparent this sermon was not written by the same author. The date of its writing? Hard to say, but scholars speculate anywhere from 98-170 AD.

Here was an interesting snippet:

"And the Scripture also says in Ezekiel, 'Even if Noah and Job and Daniel should rise up, they will not save their children' in the captivity. Now if even such righteous men as these are not able, by means of their own righteous deeds, to save their children, what assurance do we have of entering the kingdom of God if we fail to keep our baptism pure and undefiled? Or who will be our advocate, if we are not found to have holy and righteous works?"

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.113

Well, I can just imagine a Roman Catholic reading this, and pointing out it is an example from the early church on baptismal regeneration. On the other hand, the quote asks a question "who will be our advocate?" Some may be tempted to think this is simply a rhetorical question, with the answer being: Christ. But as I work through the text, I don't think it is. This writer seems to be implying that Christians who sin do not have an advocate! Try harder! ...or else!

But this quote was even more interesting... so much for purgatory:

"So then while we are yet on earth, let us repent. For we are clay in the Craftsman's hand. For example: if while a potter is making a vessel, it becomes misshapen or breaks in his hands, he simply reshapes it; but if he has already put it into the kiln, he is no longer able to repair it. So it is with us: as long as we are in this world, let us repent with our whole heart of the evil things which we have done in the flesh, in order that we may be saved by the Lord while we still have time for repentance. For after we have departed from the world, we are no longer able there either to confess or to repent anymore."

Source: Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p.115.

This is said to be the oldest extra-Biblical sermon in existence. Besides these examples, there are plenty of other things that could be pointed out about the text. I presented these examples for a few reasons:

1. An early church document needs to be allowed to say what it is saying, however muddled or clear it may be.

2. Simply because a writer is ancient, doesn't mean his theology is more Biblical than someone writing in 2007. In many ways, we are closer to the original writings of the Bible than whoever wrote Second Clement. We have a complete Bible. We have the Bible in its original languages. We may think that this writer has an advantage because he is chronologically closer to the time of the New Testament writing, but as you read such documents like this, it is apparent that this is fallacious reasoning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Luther: "Mary... We Can Never Honor Her Enough"


I’ve read this quote as proof that Luther was “devoted” to Mary:

[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ . . . She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

I speculate this quote came into cyber space via an earlier form of this article by a Catholic apologist. This article says, “Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language.” The Luther quote above, along with some others, is offered as proof.

Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid uses this quote in his book, Answer Me This! as proof that “modern-day Protestantism has drifted from its 16th century moorings” and how far “modern Protestantism has drifted from the fifteen centuries of the historic Catholic faith that preceded the Protestant Reformation” (p. 142). Madrid’s documentation of the quote equals that as found in various cyber-articles, “Christmas Sermon, 1531”.

I’ve never seen a complete context for this quote. I would posit neither have the Catholic apologists cited above. I haven’t written on this quote because of this. Without a context, what’s the point? Well, I think some points can be made about the quote, even without having the context.

1. If you come across a quote like this, it’s not up you to provide the context. It’s the responsibility of those using it to provide a context. It’s up to them to prove they have used the citation correctly. Your first question should be, “please provide a context.” If they can’t provide a context, you should let them know they are not doing responsible research, particularly if they are publishing books with such material. If they want to be taken seriously, do serious work!

2. I think I know the secondary source this quote comes from. It is from William Cole’s article “Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” (Marian Studies Volume XXI, 1970, p.131). If I recall, it was a Roman  apologist who made me aware of this article, and I think if I were to take the time to go through the Internet archive service, I would find that the earliest occurrences of this quote in cyber space were the direct result of a particular Catholic website.

Cole states:

“In a Christmas sermon of 1531, Luther speaks of Mary as the ‘highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ.' He goes on to claim that ‘she is nobility, wisdom and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures” (WA 34, 2, 497 and 499).”

Note, the quote as cited by Cole is actually two quotes from two different pages, separated by an entire page! Here is one of the reasons why context is so important, and for some reason, Roman apologists don’t seem to care. What was on that page that separated these two quotes? TheRoman apologists can’t tell you. They’ve never read it, and really, don’t care.

3. The question that needs to be asked is what exactly is Marian devotion? In other words, what does it mean for a Roman Catholic to be devoted to Mary, and what does it mean for Luther to be devoted to Mary? Roman Catholic apologists don’t tell you. They leave you thinking both were the same.

“Well,” They say, “Luther’s devotion was that he preached on her feast days.” Yes, but if you go search out these sermons, more often than not, the sermon has nothing to do with Mary. “Well,” they say, “Luther wrote hymns about Mary.” Yes, but if if you go search out these hymns, you will note the absence of distinctly Catholic Marian praise and find a strong emphasis on Christ. “Well,” they say, “Luther venerated Mary.” Luther though abandoned the distinction between latria and dulia because biblically it refers to the same thing. If you search out all the times Luther used the word “veneration”, you will find an entirely negative meaning applied to the term (see my link here).

So, challenge the Roman apologists to define their terms. They need to be able to tell you what Marian devotion is. They cannot be allowed to equivocate: saying nice things about Mary does not equal “devotion”. Force them to provide an official statement from their church. Don’t let them make up whatever they want to. Then, apply that official statement to Luther’s writings. I do not deny that Luther spoke favorably about Mary, but when Catholics say "honor" or “devotion”, they mean something quite different than Protestants.


Addendum 1/18/13
It's been quite a few years since I put this entry together. Since then, the primary sources cited by William Cole (WA 34, 2, 497 and 499) are now available online:

WA 34, 2, 497

WA 34, 2, 499

The sermon is written in Luther's mixture of German and Latin. The sermon in question is entitled, Predigt am 2.Adventsonntag, nachmittags / Afternoon sermon for Advent 2 [Rom 15:4ff] (10 Dec 1531). Aland Pr 1296. It's scheduled to be translated into English in a forthcoming volume of Luther's Works.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"For unlike most people I did not enjoy those who have a great deal to say, but those who teach the truth."- Papias

Source: "The Fragments of Papias" cited in, Michael W. Holmes, ed. The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), p. 565

Hmm...reminds me of a few bloggers.

Luther and the Jews

Over on the Christian Forums discussion boards, a Luther quote came up:

"If I had to baptise a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him over with the words `I baptise thee in the name of Abraham” – Martin Luther 'The Facts About Luther, TAN Books, 1987, p. 290. [36] Grisar, “Luther”, Vol. V. pg. 413."

This quote is being pulled from the online document, "Luther Exposing the Myth" (note the references and footnote). I began reviewing this webpage here. I contacted the author as well, and was told he would take a look at my reviews and get back to me, and he never did.

The first time I wrote about this quote was in my paper, Martin Luther’s Attitude Toward The Jews. I wrote:
This Luther quote appears on various anti-Luther pages: “If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the river Elbe, hang a stone around his neck and push him over with the words `I baptize thee in the name of Abraham'.” Upon a surface reading, one pictures a Jewish convert approaching Luther for baptism, and Luther brimming with murderous anti-Jewish hatred. A review of the probable context though shows no such thing. I highly suspect this quote is from one of the less reliable editions of the Table Talk. The Table Talk material is highly rhetorical, and easily misinterpreted when over-literalized. The quote is probably a derivation of the following Table Talk utterance. The context speaks for itself:
“In 1541, Doctor Menius asked Doctor Luther, in what manner a Jew should be baptized? The Doctor replied: You must fill a large tub with water, and, having divested the Jew of his clothes, cover him with a while garment. He must then sit down in the tub, and you must baptize him quite under the water. The ancients, when they were baptized, were attired in white, whence the first Sunday after Easter, which was peculiarly consecrated to this ceremony, was called dominica in albis. This garb was rendered the more suitable, from the circumstance that it was, as now, the custom to bury people in a white shroud; and baptism, you know, is an emblem of our death. I have no doubt that when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordon, he was attired in a white robe. If a Jew, not converted at heart, were to ask baptism at my hands, I would take him on to the bridge, tie a stone round his neck, and hurl him into the river; for these wretches are wont to make a jest of our religion. Yet, after all, water and the Divine Word being the essence of baptism, a Jew, or any other, would be none the less validly baptized, that his own feelings and intentions were not the result of faith.”
In the same Table Talk collection, an utterance verifies that Luther had no problem baptizing converted Jews:
“A Jew came to me at Wittenberg, and said: He was desirous to be baptized, and made a Christian, but that he would first go to Rome to see the chief head of Christendom. From this intention, myself, Philip Melancthon, and other divines, labored to dissuade him, fearing lest, when he witnessed the offences and knaveries at Rome, he might be scared from Christendom. But the Jew went to Rome, and when he had sufficiently seen the abominations acted there, he returned to us again, desiring to be baptized, and said: Now I will willingly worship the God of the Christians for he is a patient God. If he can endure such wickedness and vallany as is done at Rome, he can suffer and endure all the vices and knaveries of the world.”
The documentation provided from Luther Exposing the Myth states, "Martin Luther 'The Facts About Luther, TAN Books, 1987, p. 290. [36] Grisar, “Luther”, Vol. V. pg. 413." At the time I wrote my paper on Luther and the Jews, I did not have a copy of Grisar, Luther Vol. 5.

Grisar states:
"The fact is, however, that no increase in the number of conversions took place. This disappointing experience, the sight of the growing insolence of the Jews, their pride and usury, not to speak of personal motives, such as certain attempts he suspected them to have made on his life at the instigation of the Papists, brought about a complete change in Luther s opinions in the course of a few years. As early as 1531 or 1532, when a Hebrew baptised at Wittenberg had brought discredit upon him by relapsing into Judaism, he gave vent to the angry threat, that, should he find another pious Jew to baptise he would take him to the bridge over the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him over with the words : I baptise thee in the name of Abraham; for " those scoundrels," so he adds, " scoff at us all and at our religion."
I have not heard this particular story before. At face value, the quote is more likely strong angry hyperbole than an actual threat. Grisar often missed this in Luther's writings. Also note, this quote from Grisar is said to be from the early 1530's, while the quotes I posted in my paper are from a later date.

The Luther quote in question is actually from an 1883 edition of The Tabletalk, so it isn't even something Luther wrote. It's the recollection of someone else. Remember: there are various collections of the Tabletalk, and not all of them are reliable. I came across some helpful excerpts from the book Luther's Table Talk, A Critical Study, by Preserved Smith. Smith makes some excellent points about the nature of the TableTalk:
“Luther's enemies have always found in the Table Talk a trenchant weapon for attacking his character and doctrines. Even in his writings Luther is neither consistent nor temperate, much more in his private conversation is he careless and unguarded. By taking every thoughtless remark to a friend literally and with no attention to the context, the occasion on which it was uttered, and the cause which evoked it, it is easy enough to entangle Luther in a hopeless mass of contradictions and to asperse his character. This was done by Catholics and humanists as soon as the Tischreden were published, and subsequently has been undertaken more thoroughly by more scientific though equally hostile historians.”
“Luther spoke out whether in describing the morals of the Italians, or his own ailments or in giving advice to one tempted. He spoke out too, in giving his opinions of his enemies and those of the Gospel In language which has never been surpassed and rarely equaled for invective force. hese defects have been so elaborately apologized for by editor and translator that they have perhaps attained undue prominence. Whatever he was Luther was not vicious, and we never see that polisonnerie [polissonnerie: mischievousness, etc.] which is so plain in Erasmus, for example. We do not find Luther writing enthusiastically to a friend about the kisses he has enjoyed or wittily toying with the vicious propensities of mankind in the style of the Praise of Folly. Luther was considered remarkably pure in his own age. Mathesius relates that he never heard from him one shameful word, a judgment in which any fair-minded reader will concur; Luther was frank, but he was not prurient.”

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Free Book: "Luther Examined and Reexamined" By WHT Dau


To the Right: The Title Page and Cover from my 1917 copy of Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation
A while back I mentioned this book: W.H.T. Dau, Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1917) This is an extremely rare book- I was pleased to see that reprints were circulating for around $50.- $75 last year.
The book is now available online, here.
For any of you that engage in dialog with Roman Catholics about Martin Luther, you really should save a copy of this text and use it when aspects of Luther's life are brought up and blown out of proportion.
This book is one of the few that directly looks at Roman Catholic arguments against Luther "the person". It is a short book, and easy to read. What makes it important is that it interacts with some of the older "anti-Luther" material that is circulating around cyber-space (O'Hare, Grisar, etc).
From the preface:
"One may deplore the pathetic courage which periodically heartens Catholic writers for the task of writing against Luther, but one can understand the necessity for such efforts, and, accordingly, feel a real pity for those who make them. Attacks on Luther are demanded for Catholics by the law of self-preservation...
Rome has never acknowledged her errors nor admitted her moral defeat.The lessons of past history are wasted upon her. Rome is determined to assert to the end that she was not, and cannot be, vanquished. In the age of the Reformation, she admits, she suffered some losses, but she claims that she is fast retrieving these, while Protestantism is decadent and decaying. No opposition to her can hope to succeed.
This is done to bolster up Catholic courage. The intelligent Catholic layman of the present day makes his own observations, and draws his own conclusions as to the status and the future prospect of Protestantism. Therefore, he must be invited to "acquaint himself with the life story of the man, whose followers can never explain away the anarchy of that immoral dogma: 'Be a sinner, and sin boldly; but believe more boldly still!' He must be shown the many hideous scenes of coarseness, vulgarity, obscenity, and degrading immorality in Martin Luther's life...
An attempt is made in these pages to review the principal charges and arguments of Catholic critics of Luther...
This book is frankly polemical. It had to be, or there would have been no need of writing it. It seeks to meet both the assertions and the spirit of Luther's Catholic critics. A review ought to be a mirror, and mirrors must reflect. But there is no malice in the author's effort."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Churchmouse On The Air



My good cyber-friend Ray (aka "Churchmouse") made it on to this past Wednesday's Iron Sharpens Iron program to ask Catholic apologist Gerry Matatics a question. The next day, he sent an e-mail question to Iron Sharpens Iron which was read on the air (to which James White responded). I pulled both clips from the show, spliced them together as an MP3 file: Churchmouse On The Air.

Ray has been a good friend for many years now. He has his own blog, A Churchmouse's Musings. He has also contributed articles to this blog:

Guest Blog:Did Jerome Change His Mind on the Apocrypha ?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Checking a Basil Quote



(Revised and extended 8/11/07)

I spent about 10 minutes looking for the context of this quote from Basil, as posted by Catholic apologist Steve Ray:

"The Church preserves many beliefs and practices that generally are accepted or publicly commanded. Some are taken from written teaching; others have been passed on to us 'in a mystery' by the tradition of the apostles. In relation to true religion, both of these have the same force." —St. Basil the Great (c. 330-c. 379)Father of Eastern Monasticism

Steve Ray comments,

"I just came across this quotation again. What a great reminder of the authority of the Church and the Apostolic Tradition! How did I fall for sola Scriptura back in my old life?"

If anyone has a link to the context, or can point me to a source, I would appreciate it. This weekend I will check through my Steve Ray books as well. I did a brief search of my Early Church Fathers collection, but I didn't find anything. I'm not saying the quote doesn't exist, I simply want the context.

Update:
Thanks to those of you who posted such helpful information. I initially read this quote (as cited by Steve Ray) a few minutes before heading out the door yesterday. I must say, I did have a suspicion that this Basil quote cited by Steve Ray either did not say what was claimed, did not support a denial of sola scriptura, or in context totally destroyed the modern claims made by the defenders of Rome.

First, thank you John Bugay for a link to the context. Thank you Carrie for locating a translation that may have been used by Ray.

Many thanks to Kepha for his citation of Orthodox writer Michael Whelton's Popes and Patriarchs: An Eastern Perspective on Roman Catholic Claims. If you typed all of it in, thank you. If you scanned it, thank you!

Kepha posted:

However, in spite of this, Roman Catholic apologist Stephen K. Ray, in his book Upon This Rock, claims that "Basil sees Rome as the caretaker of the troubled Eastern Churches," and amazingly uses Pope Damasus' support of Paulinus as clear evidence of Rome's supreme universal jurisdiction over the Eastern Church. [footnote, Ray, op. cit., p. 208.]

Ray briefly quotes St. Basil's letter to Terentius as saying that certain men were "carrying about letters from the westerners, handing over the bishopric of Antioch to them." From this Ray concludes: "How could Rome prove its primacy in any stronger terms than to hand the Antiochian bishopric over to someone of its own choosing? Obviously Rome had the right and duty of overseeing such ecclesastical matters, and Basil recognized this authority." [footnote, Op. cit., p.. 209.]

A more glaring case of quoting out of context would be hard to come by. However, I am sure Mr. Ray is quoting from another source and is thus unaware of the entire context of the letter. St. Basil's first real encounter with Rome was his clash with Pope Damasus over the episcopal succession at Antioch, and his letter to Terentius (when quoted in full context) clearly shows that he did not recognize Rome's authority in the East. In fact, a more explicit denial of Roman authority is hard to imagine. Here follows Basil's letter:

I hear moreoever, that the Paulinians are carrying about a letter of the Westerners, assigning to them the episcopate of the Church in Antioch, but speaking under a false impression of Meletius, the admirable bishop of the true Church of God. I am not astonished at this. They are totally ignorant of what is going on here; the others, though they might be supposed to know, give an account to them in which party is put before truth: and it is only what one might expect that they should either be ignorant of the truth, or should even endeavor to conceal the reasons which led the Blessed Athanasius to write to Paulinus. But your excellency has on the spot those who are able to tell you accurately what passed between the bishops in the reign of Jovian, and from them I beseech you to get information. I accuse no one; I pray that I may have love to all, and "especially unto them that are of the household of faith;" and therefore I congratulate those who have received the letter from Rome. And, although it is a grand testimony in their favour, I only hope it is true and confirmed by facts. But I shall never be able to persuade myself on these grounds to ignore Meletius, or forge the Church which is under him, or to retreat as small, and of little importance to the true religion, the questions which originated the division. I shall never consent to give in, merely because somebody is very elated at receiving a letter from men. Even if it had come down from heaven itself, but he does not agree with the sound doctrine of faith, I cannot look upon him as in communion with the saints. [footnote, St. Basil, Letter CCXIV, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VIII; emphasis Whelton's]

This clash centered on the person of St. Meletius, Bishop of Antioch (who was not in communion with Rome), and is thus knwon to history as the Meletian schism. St. Basil, along with the Eastern Church, supported Meletius as the rightful claimant to the see of Antioch over Rome's candidate, Paulinus. [footenote, Chadwick, op. cit., p. 149. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1972, Vol. 3, pp. 239-240.] The reverence the Eastern Church held for St. Meletius may be judged by the fact that he was made president of a council of 150 bishops convened by the Emperor Theodosius in Constantinople in 381 -- the Second Ecumenical Council. When Meletius suddenly died during the council, Rome's candidate Paulinus was still ignored in the election of Flavian to the now-vacant see of Antioch. (Whelton, pp. 120-122)


And to really put things into perspective, David King (author of Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Volume 1) provided this examination:

The Basil quote is taken from His work On the Holy Spirit, chapter 27, and the beginning of section 66. What is problematic for Romanists here is the fact that Basil goes on to name some of these practices (beliefs) and some of them are practices that Rome does not observe today. Here's what Basil says some of these practices/beliefs are...

Basil: "For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation?"

If these unwritten traditions are indeed apostolic and so important to Romanists, why is it that Rome no longer practices all of these unwritten traditions that Basil listed? Do Romanists still turn to the East in prayer? Does Rome still practice triple immersion? If Rome doesn't, then what force are we to give to Basil's words when they cite him? It has the force of turning this whole apologetic on their heads, because they do not practice these very unwritten traditions that Basil lists.

Emmanuel Amand de Mendieta:

"The whole passage has frequently been misinterpreted by Roman Catholic theologians, who imagine that in it they have found something to prove the Tridentine dogma of Tradition, considered as an equal and distinct source of revelation. . . .
In reality, this passage of Basil, the beginning of which is a little vague and lacking in precision, cannot be considered as confirming the Tridentine dogma that doctrinal Tradition is a second fully distinct source of divine revelation. In order to be convinced of the falsity of such an assertion, one need only take the trouble to read the whole passage....In brief, in all his homiletic, doctrinal, ascetic and monastic works, Basil refers constantly, and almost in every line, to the Bible, quoting, expounding, or illustrating it, or drawing out in detail what it teaches without departing from the traditional doctrine of the Church. He leaves us in no doubt that he regards the Bible, especially the New Testament, as the sovereign and all-sufficient moral and doctrinal standard for all Christians, and particularly for the cenobites under his charge. Basil of Caesarea thus taught me a never-forgotten lesson." Emmanuel Amand de Mendieta, Rome and Canterbury: A Biblical and Free Catholicism, trans. Coslett Quin (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1962), pp. 140, 141, 143.

Emmanuel Amand de Mendieta is a former Roman Catholic who became a convert to Anglicanism. To be sure, de Mendieta emphasizes that he was no proponent of sola Scriptura, but he recognizes that in Basil no Christian dogma rested on the authority of unwritten tradition.

For an extended treatment of this quote by Basil, see William Webster, Holy Scripture, the Ground and Pillar of Our Faith (Battle Ground: Christian Resources, 2001), Vol. 2, pp. 142ff.


So, I did as David suggested, and I reviewed Holy Scripture Volume 2. William Webster makes some excellent points:

"...[W]hile Basil did affirm the existence of apostolic tradition handed down through the Church independent of scripture, his statements are rarely given in context. The importance of so doing is that Basil defined what he meant by apostolic unwritten tradition." [Holy Scripture Volume 2, p.144]

"A second point needs to be made regarding Basil's claims, and is true for all references by Church fathers to oral tradition with respect to customs and practices. These claims cannot be proven. The fathers only assumed that these practices were apostolic in origin, but there is no way to validate this. The importance of this is underscored by the fact that the early Church witnessed many contradictory claims of apostolic tradition within various segments of the Church. The mere assertion of a claim does not make it true. There are instances...where claims for apostolic tradition are made by one section of the Church, which were repudiated by another." [Holy Scripture Volume 2, p.145]

"A third point is that Basil's defense of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was not based on unwritten tradition exclusively sense. He appealed to the primacy of Scripture and demonstrated that the particular practice or custom was in conformity with Scripture. In referring to his appeal to the tradition of the fathers he made it clear that he was willing to receive their teachings only because they expressed the overall teaching of Scripture... Basil was clear. Tradition apart from Scripture is not sufficient for the establishment of doctrinal truth. The authority of the teaching of the fathers was directly contingent on their conformity to the teaching of Scripture." [Holy Scripture Volume 2, p.145-146]

Webster cites Basil:

"But it is not sufficient for us, that it is the tradition of the Fathers. For they also followed the mind of Scripture; having taken their first principles from the testimonies which, a short time since, we placed before you, from the Scripture."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

An Ancient Voice For The Day #21

Julianus Pomerius (wrote around the end of the 5th century):

"Let the pursuer of the contemplative life, then, approach his Creator to be enlightened in heart; let him watchfully serve Him by contemplating Him and untiringly enjoying Him; let him desire Him continually; for love of Him let him flee all that could turn Him away; let him rest all his thoughts and all his hope on his pleasure. Let him take time for holy meditations on the Sacred Scriptures; let him, being divinely illumined, delight in them. There let him consider his whole being as in some gleaming mirror; let him correct what he sees disordered; let him hold to what is right; reform what is deformed; cultivate what is beautiful; preserve what is sound; by careful reading strengthen what is weak. Let him not tire of reading the commandments of his Lord, love them without growing weary, fulfill them efficaciously; and, being adequately instructed by them, let him understand what he should avoid and what he should pursue. Let him devote himself to an examination of the mysteries of the same Divine Scriptures, read of Christ there prophesied, see Him represented, understand the perdition of the reprobate people according to prophecy, mourn its fulfillment, rejoice in the salvation of the Gentiles. Let him hold fast the things predicted and accomplished in the past; let him trust future promises."

Source: Mary Josephine Suelzer, trans., ACW, Vol. 4, Julianus Pomerius: The Contemplative Life (New York: Newman Press, 1947), pp. 27-28.

For an excellent compilation of quotes of the Church fathers teaching on the primacy, sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture, get a copy of Holy Scripture:The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol III- The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura.

Gerry Matatics Interview



Iron Sharpens Iron will have Catholic apologist Gerry Matatics on today at 3PM. This is a live show, so if you want to call in and talk to Gerry, here is your chance (I won't be able to listen live or call in, but if I could call in, I'd ask Gerry where the tapes are he promised to send me last year when I went to his lecture). The station is AM 1440, and can only be heard on Long Island, other parts of NYC, and Connecticut. Fortunately, this radio station also live-streams online. Their webpage can be found here. Their Real Player broadcast link is here.


"GERRY MATATICS, the very first minister ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) to convert to Roman Catholicism (see http://www.gerrymatatics.org/aboutgerry.html), who at one time was one of the most highly sought after apologists, debaters and conference speakers within "mainstream", conservative Roman Catholicism (having worked along side such renowned Catholic apologists as Scott Hahn, and other well known apologists affiliated with Catholic Answers), will address his most recently embraced theological position "SEDEVACANTISM": the theology of a sector within "Traditional" Catholicism that claims THERE HAVE BEEN *NO* LEGITIMATE POPES FOR OVER 40 YEARS TO THE PRESENT (and that all those who have claimed to be within the Papal Succession of Pope Pius XII to the present are not even to be considered genuine Roman Catholics). Mr. Matatics, along with other "sedevacantists", also reject all those professing to be priests ordained since Vatican II as *illegitimate* priests and *false* Catholics with no genuine power or authority to administer the Sacraments of the "true" Catholic Church. Those who may be most well known today connected with this extremely controversial movement are Academy Award winner Mel Gibson and his father Hutton. Gerry Matatics is also featured as a commentating theologian on the DVD for Mel Gibson's blockbuster film "The Passion of the Christ, Director's Cut"."


Don't forget also, tomorrow's show will be a review of this interview by Dr. James White:


"DR. JAMES R. WHITE, renowned author, Bible scholar, debater and Founder & Director of Alpha & Omega Ministries (see www.aomin.org), a theologically Reformed, Evangelical Protestant apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona, will conduct a "REVIEW OF WEDNESDAY'S INTERVIEW WITH GERRY MATATICS" (see above). Dr. White is perfectly suited to provide commentary due to the fact that he debated Gerry Matatics on the subject of the Papacy in Denver during "World Youth Day" in 1993 (he had previously debated him on the subject in 1990 in Tempe, a debate moderated by Scott Hahn). According to Dr. White, it remains one of the clearest refutations of Rome's claims to papal primacy offered by Alpha & Omega Ministries. A full seven hours worth of debate (real debate, not radio programs with callers, commercials, and the like, debate---the real thing) during which Mr. Matatics defended the very institution he *now* claims is in apostasy. For those interested, I would direct anyone to every single one of the debates Dr. White has done on the Papacy in general, and papal infallibility in particular, which includes debates against Catholic apologists Gerry Matatics, Robert Sungenis, Tim Staples, and Mitch Pacwa, offered at www.aomin.org. Gerry Matatics has agreed to have some interaction with Dr. White during this extremely controversial, live broadcast."

UPDATE
The first show can be found here. An MP3 of the followup show with Dr. White can be found here. On the first broadcast, my good friend Churchmouse made it on to the air as a caller. When I get a chance, I'm going to find that call and post it as a separate MP3 file.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Radio Interview: "Luther Myths"


Here's the link to the Iron sharpens Iron radio broadcast on "Luther Myths":




Many thanks to Chris Arnzen for having me on.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Free Book: "Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther" by Roland Bainton



Here is a link to an online downloadable version of the famous Luther biography, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton. I'm fond of the TXT document version.
I assume those who are interested in finding a Luther biography really don’t want books written for scholars- they want easily readable and digestible material. Probably the most popular biography of Martin Luther written in English is Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand: A Life Of Martin Luther [New York: Mentor Books, 1950]. I always mention this book when asked for recommendations. The reason? The book is easy to find, it’s very affordable, and it’s historically reliable. It’s been in print for over 50 years now.
The book presents the basic “facts” about the 16th Century Reformation in non-technical terms. Bainton’s work is generally very reliable. A review states,“…Dr. Bainton displays masterful skill in writing a history of those times which is at once technically sound and singularly readable. In relatively few pages he has made those eventful times “come alive” for the lay reader of church history” [Westminster Theological Journal, Volume 13 (Vol. 13, Page 167)].
One knows if they utilize his book as a historical reference, one is not getting “hearsay” or speculative psychological interpretations. One is getting the facts from a man who spent his academic career keenly focused on Luther’s writings. A review from 1950 states, “Dr. Bainton, who holds the Titus Street Professorship of Ecclesiastical History in the Yale Divinity School, is one of the foremost Reformation scholars in this country—a fact which in itself lends considerable worth to this work”[Westminster Theological Journal Volume 13 (Vol. 13, Page 164)]. It should be pointed out, Here I Stand is not a book very interested in expositions on Luther’s theology. Primarily, the book is a historical analysis, and a simple one at that.
Also, what one finds in Bainton’s book is a head on interaction with some of the hot issues surrounding his life. Bainton takes on these issues: like Luther’s later coarseness in his writings, his usage of Cranach’s paintings, his railings against the Jews, the bigamy of Phillip of Hesse, to name a few. Bainton though provides an apologetic in evaluating these issues. This isn’t acting as if nothings wrong with Luther- this is an evaluation of the facts surrounding the “hot” issues and putting them in perspective.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Radio Interview, August 6- "Luther Myths"


Well, I'm headed for my sixteenth minute of fame. I am scheduled to be on Chris Arnzen's Radio show, Iron Sharpens Iron (August 6, 3-4 PM) discussing "Luther Myths." I believe the show will be a live discussion between Chris and I, as well as live callers.

The station is AM 1440, and can only be heard on Long Island, other parts of NYC, and Connecticut. Fortunately, this radio station also live-streams online. Their webpage can be found here. Their Real Player broadcast link is here. They also have a link to Windows Media Player (but I couldn't get it to work). I'll probably get an MP3 of it as well for the blog.
To call in on the air, the number is 1-631-321-WNYG (9694). The topic will be limited to my recent aomin entries on Luther Myths:
Obviously, the subject of Luther and the Reformation is a vast subject. I have never claimed to be an expert, but I will do my best to answer whatever comes up. If you're among my Roman Catholic fans, you also are welcome to call in, but please have a Luther-specific question drawn from the material contained in the links above.
"No slander against Luther has ever gone unanswered. As the charges against Luther have become stereotyped, so the rejoinder cannot hope to bring forward any new facts. But it seems necessary that each generation in the Church Militant be put through the old drills, and learn its fruitful lessons of spiritual adversity. Thus even these polemical exchanges between Catholics and Protestants become blessings in disguise. But they do not affect Luther. The sublime figure of the courageous confessor of Christ that has stood towering in the annals of the Christian Church for four hundred years stands unshaken, silent, and grand, despite the froth that is dashed against its base and the lightning from angry clouds that strikes its top. "[WHT Dau, Luther Examined and Reexamined (St. Louis, Mo. Concordia Publishing House 1917) p.5-6]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Reformation Fan Club Testimonials

"I’ve read quite a bit about the man, and my theology teacher in high school completed his doctoral thesis on Martin Luther and his life. His hatred for Jews and Authority stems from his childhood, both because his father worked for rich Jews and resented it, and because his mother was a prostitute in a bath house which catered towards many corrupt member of the Catholic Church. " [source] (The entire discussion can be found here).

Hmm...I don't recall these "insights" about Luther's parents. Funny, you can read the quote with the subject being the high school theology teacher, and it works just as well.

I wanted to add also, the rumor of Luther's mother being a prostitute is actually that she was a prostitute and had intercourse with a demon to produce Luther. This myth is thought to have been perpetuated by Luther's nemesis Cochlaeus, but really, it was a typical unsubstantiated sixteenth century myth. The reason why Luther's legitimacy is suspect is because Luther's mother is documented as saying she can remember the day, but not the year Martin was born. This was reported by Melanchthon:

"The name of Luther is widely spread throughout the ramifications of an ancient family within the Lordship of the illustrious Counts of Mansfield, but the parents of Martin Luther originally resided in the town of Eisleben, where he was born, subsequently they removed to Mansfield, where his father, John Luther, filled the office of magistrate, and for his integrity of character, was valued and beloved by all good men. In his mother, Margaret Luther, was found a fair assemblage of domestic virtues; and a peculiar delicacy of mind was conspicuous in her character, accompanied by the fear of God and the spirit of prayer, so that many excellent women found in her a bright example of Christian virtues. Her reply to questions which I have occasionally put to her, respecting the time of her son's birth, was, that she clearly remembered the day and the hour, but that she was doubtful as to the year; she said, however, that he was born on the 10th of November, after eleven o'clock at night; and that the name of Martin was given to the infant, because the following day on which, by baptism, he was initiated into the church of God, was dedicated to Saint Martin. But his brother James, a man of uprightness and integrity, was accustomed to say, that the opinion of the family, respecting Luther's age was, that he was born in the year of our Lord 1483."

Somehow, this means Luther was an illegitimate child. What folly! As to the bathhouse, this is probably derived from the story of Luther being born in a bar. WHT Dau explains:

"Some have declared [Luther] the illegitimate child of a Bohemian heretic, others, the oaf of a witch, still others, a changeling of Beelzebub, etc. Many of these writers, giving themselves the airs of painstaking investigators who have made careful research, repeat the tale of Barbour, viz., that Luther was born in the day-and-night room of an inn at Eisleben. If this is so, Luther's mother must have been a traveler on the day of her first confinement. If this were so, the fact could, of course, be easily explained without dishonor to Luther's mother: she merely miscalculated the date of the birth of her first-born,--not an unusual occurrence. Carlyle believed this story, but gave it an almost too honorable turn, by likening the inn at Eisenach to the inn at Bethlehem.

But this story of Luther's birth in a bar-room is not history; it belongs in the realm of mythology. Nobody knows to-day the house where Luther was born. Preserved Smith, his latest American biographer, says there is a house shown at Eisleben as Luther's birthplace, but it is 'not well authenticated.' There is a bar and a restaurant in this particular building now, for the accommodation of foreign visitors. It is possible that in this mythical birthplace of Luther you can get a stein of foaming "monk's brew" or a "benedictine" from the monastery at Fecamp, or a "chartreuse" from Tarragona, distilled according to the secret formula of the holy fathers of La Grande Chartreuse. If you sip a sufficient quantity of these persuasive liquors, you will find it possible to believe most anything. And the blessing of the holy fathers who have prepared the beverages for your repast will be given you gratis in addition to their liquors.

The journey of Luther's mother to Eisleben which compelled her to put up at an inn is, likewise, imaginary. Melanchthon, Luther's associate during the greater part of the Reformer's life, investigated the matter and states that Luther was born at his parents' home in Eisenach during their temporary sojourn in that city, prior to their removal to Mansfeld.

These stories about the place and manner of Luther's birth originated in the seventeenth century. They were unknown in Luther's time. Generations after a great man has died gossip becomes busy and begins to relate remarkable incidents of his life. Lincoln did not say or do one half of the interesting things related about him. He has been drawn into that magical circle where myths are formed, because his great name will arouse interest in the wildest tale. That is what has happened to Luther. These "myths" are an unconscious tribute to his greatness. One might let them pass as such and smile at them." "[Source: WHT Dau, Luther Examined and Reexamined (St. Louis, Mo. Concordia Publishing House 1917) p.17-18]

As to Luther's father being employed by Jewish people, even the polemical Father Patrick O'Hare's Facts About Luther notes Luther's Father "...owned and cultivated a small farm. He worked and struggled against great odds to eke out a frugal livelihood" (p.23). Of course, O'Hare, no friend of Luther, goes on to perpetuate the myth that Luther's father was a murderer. More often, Luther's father is described as owning a smelting business, which is the most accurate descrption. I've never read that Luther's father "worked for rich Jews"- one would have to know who owned the mine in the town of Eisleben, where Luther's father worked before opening his own trade. It really wouldn't matter who owned the mine- 15th and 16th century employees tended to hate their employers. Of course, the Jews were hated throughout the Middle Ages and Reformation period by the majority of non-Jewish people. So, even if the assertion of Luther's father is true, it would have been true of the majority of non-Jewish people. This doesn't excuse it, but it stops Luther's father for being singled out, as if he was somehow different from the majority of people from that time period. This information from the editors of Luther's Works helpful:

"In Mansfeld, which was at that time the heart of the copper mining industry, the Luders sought their fortune in mining and made it. Through hard work, thriftiness, and honesty Gross-Hans made his way from hired mine hand to renter, co-owner, and owner of mines and furnaces, and from an immigrant to the city to a position comparable to a present-day alderman. By 1508/09 the Luders had gained the respect of their fellow-citizens and some wealth." [LW 48:329]