Sunday, September 30, 2007

Anti-Catholic Propaganda


Catholic Answers is asking for money to save the US Troops in Iraq from the real enemy: Anti-Catholic Propagandists:

"Imagine yourself in this situation...

You’re a young American soldier, born and raised Catholic, and you’re deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan or some other hot spot in the world today.

You risk your life on a daily basis. You’re fighting an increasingly unpopular war. Death and despair are all around you—and there’s little you can do about it.

This is a time when you need your Catholic faith and the soul-sustaining grace of the sacraments the most.

Yet, at the same time that you’re in harm’s way, you’re also “under fire” from zealous anti-Catholics who want you to go AWOL from the Catholic faith.

At night in your barracks, they ply you with tracts and booklets that show how unbiblical the Catholic religion is. They recite their version of the history of the Church and try to convince you that Catholicism is essentially pagan or blasphemous—and guilty of outright idolatry.

Now, bear in mind, you’re young—and you weren’t well-schooled in the catechism and Catholic apologetics when you were growing up. So you listen to the seemingly plausible arguments of the anti-Catholics . . . you stare blankly at your MRE . . . and you wonder if there are any answers to these attacks on your faith.

Out of loyalty, you try your best to defend the beliefs, practices, and traditions that the Fundamentalists are targeting. But to no avail—because you’re not equipped to defend the faith against such attacks.

Then, before you know it, you start to doubt the Catholic faith. You start reading the tracts and books that your buddy in the foxhole gave you. You even begin attending Protestant Bible studies. And then their church services. You discover that they’re really nice people, and they truly love the Lord.

Before you know it, you’re renouncing your Catholic faith and saying, “I used to be Catholic, but then I studied the Bible, and now I’m Christian!”

This happens every day among our armed forces.

The anti-Catholic zealots “target” the poorly-catechized Catholic troops they’re stationed with—and “save” them for the Lord by getting them to abandon Catholicism...

...You see, a high proportion (over 25%) of our troops are Catholics. Most are young and not well educated in the faith, so they are easy targets for the propaganda of anti-Catholic zealots.

Whether on a ship, on base, or in a foxhole, these troops are a captive audience for the Fundamentalists, who are encouraged by their own chaplains to evangelize Catholics and recruit them for Protestant Bible studies. Protestant chaplains have even been known to hand out Jack Chick publications—the worst anti-Catholic propaganda of all.

Well, a few years ago, we decided to do something about this problem..."

It's funny how easily "separated brethern" becomes "zealous anti-Catholics" when not in mixed company. Be sure to read the whole letter through.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Luther's Response To, "I Would Not Believe The Gospel Without The Authority of Rome"

I was listening to a Catholic Answers broadcast and heard Tim Staples repeat the oft-quoted words of Augustine, "I would not believe the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so." I thought about how interesting it was that the same material used today to defend sola ecclesia was used during the time of the Reformation as well.

I would like to provide the answers given by both Luther and Calvin. First, is Luther's answer:

"St Augustine is quoted as having written in the book against the Letter of the Manicheans, "I would not believe the Gospel if I did not believe the Church." Here you see we are to believe the Church more than the Gospel.

I answer: Even if Augustine had used those words, who gave him authority, that we must believe what he says? What Scripture does he quote to prove the statement? What if he erred here, as we know that he frequently did, as did all the fathers? Should one single sentence of Augustine be so mighty as to refute all the texts quoted above [Luther had quoted a variety of texts proving the supreme authority of Scripture]? That is not what God wills; St. Augustine must yield to them.

Further, if that were St. Augustine's meaning he would contradict himself; for in very many places he exalts the HoIy Scriptures above the opinions of all teachers, above the decrees of all councils and churches, and will have men judge of him and of the teachings of all men according to the Scriptures. Why then do the faithful shepherds pass by those sayings of St. Augustine, plain and clear as they are, and light on this lonely one, which is so obscure and sounds so unlike Augustine as we know him from all his writings? It can only be because they want to bolster up their tyranny with idle, empty words.

Furthermore, they are deceivers, in that they not only ascribe to St. Augustine an opinion he did not hold, but they also falsify and pervert his words. For St. Augustine's words really are 'I would not have believed the Gospel if the authority of the whole Church had not moved me.'

Augustine speaks of the whole Church, and says that throughout the world it with one consent preaches the Gospel and not the Letter of the Manicheans; and this unanimous authority of the Church moves him to consider it the true Gospel. But our tyrants apply this name of the Church to themselves, as if the laymen and the common people were not also Christians. And what they teach they want men to consider as the teaching of the Christian Church, although, they are a minority, and we, who are universal Christendom, should also be consulted about what is to be taught in the name of universal Christendom. See, so cleverly do they quote the words of St. Augustine: what he says of the Church throughout all the world, they would have us understand of the Roman See.


But how does it follow from this saying that the doctrines of men are also to be observed? What doctrine of men has ever been devised that has been accepted and preached by all of the universal Church throughout the world? Not one; the Gospel alone is accepted by all Christians everywhere.

But then we must not understand St. Augustine to say that he would not believe the Gospel unless he were moved thereto by the authority of the whole Church. For that were false and unchristian. Every man must believe only because it is God's Word, and because he in convinced in his heart that it is true, although an, angel from heaven and all the world preached the contrary. His meaning is rather, as he himself says, that he finds the Gospel nowhere except in the Church, and that this external proof can be given heretics that their doctrine is not right, but that that is right which all the world has with one accord accepted. For the eunuch in Acts viii, 37, believed on the Gospel as preached by Philip, although he did not know whether many or few believed on it. So also Abraham believed the promise of God all by himself, when no man knew of it, Romans iv, 18. And Mary, Luke i, 38, believed the message of Gabriel by herself, and there was no one on earth who believed with her. In this way Augustine also had to believe, and all the saints, and we too, every one for himself alone.

For this reason St. Augustine's words cannot bear the interpretation they put upon them; but they must be understood of the external proof of faith, by which heretics are refuted and the weak strengthened in faith, when they see that all the world preaches and regards as Gospel that which they believe. And if this meaning cannot be found in St. Augustine's words; for they are contrary to the Scriptures and all to experience if they have that other meaning."

Source: Martin Luther, That Doctrines of Men Are to be Rejected Together With A Reply to Texts Quoted in Defence of the Doctrines of Men (1522), Works of Martin Luther Volume II (The Philadelphia Edition), Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1943, pp. 451-453.

Also, in a Tabletalk entry Luther is reported to have said the following:

Belief in the Gospel Because of the Church? (April 6, 1539)

“In the passage, ‘I would not believe the gospel unless the authority of the church urged me to,’ Augustine never wished to embrace the opinion of the papists. He didn’t want to write what should be believed but what should be judged, as another passage indicates, ‘I do not wish you to believe my writings more than the Holy Scripture.’ But the sophists poked fun at Paul for having written obscurely and confusedly. Ah, dear God, this treasure of the Holy Scriptures belongs only to a contrite heart and a humble and God-fearing spirit. The ungodly must be exposed and their boasting put down. This is what Stephen did in Acts 7 [:2–53], where he spoke against the place of Jerusalem, against the law, against the prosperous people, against a demanding God. Truly it was an excellent and sharp sermon! In the Roman church today the glory of the church is not at all comparable with the glory of Jerusalem and of the people Israel.”

Source: LW 54:344

....Continued sometime next week: Calvin's answer...

The Quotable Sippo #2


...Let Catholic Apologist Dr. Art Sippo speak for himself (cf. James 3:3-12).

Source: Envoy forums, 9/24/07

"Protestantism is morally degenerate whereas Catholicism remains morally responsible"

“...the foundation of Protestantism of all kinds is the noxious heresy of JBFA which is based on a form of amoralist humanism which makes 'right standing' before God a mere matter of formality that is completely lacking in moral content. The Protestant revolt tried to allay troubled consciences with mantras like 'Sin strongly believe more strongly!' which were thinly veiled euphemisms for the real notion that with regard to true inherent morality 'It just doesn't matter.'”

“This is what is so insidious about the Protestant system. It creates a fake veneer of moral rectitude, but when it comes down to cases, you don't have to be good to be considered good. Morality is a merely a personal affectation, not a requirement for salvation..”

“Protestants are only as "good" as they want to be. Ultimately, they can always fall back on "once saved always saved" or similar antinomian heresies to justify virtually anything.”

"The fist generation of Protestants wanted to divorce their tired old wives and marry nubile new ones. EVERY branch of the so-called "reformation" allowed this. Some Lutherans and Anabaptists actually advocated polygamy. Celibacy, the evangelical counsels, self-denial and contrition were all swept away in favor of Luther's "if it feels good do it" philosophy and the sin of presumption that it necessarily advocated."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cooperation in Salvation

There are only two possible ways to salvation.

Salvation is either 100% of God or there is some amount of cooperation on the part of the sinner. Jesus either paid the price in full, or there is still some work to be done.

The Catholic model of salvation is one of cooperation between God and the sinner. Jesus’s perfect righteousness and death on the cross merited the grace for the sinner to justify (make righteous) himself.

This grace merited by Jesus (sanctifying grace) is given in increments starting with Baptism and is continued to be merited by the sinner through good works (sacraments, acts of charity, etc.). But sanctifying grace can also be lost through sin, and if you die without sanctifying grace in your soul, you will not make it to heaven.

"Once you have supernatural life, once sanctifying grace is in your soul, you can increase it by every supernaturally good action you do: receiving Communion, saying prayers, performing the corporal works of mercy. Is it worth increasing sanctifying grace once you have it; isn’t the minimum enough? Yes and no. It’s enough to get you into heaven, but it may not be enough to sustain itself. It’s easy to fall from grace, as you know. The more solidly you’re wed to sanctifying grace, the more likely you can withstand temptations.

And if you do that, you maintain sanctifying grace. In other words, once you achieve the supernatural life, you don’t want to take it easy. The minimum isn’t good enough because it’s easy to lose the minimum. We must continually seek God’s grace, continually respond to the actual graces God is working within us, inclining us to turn to him and do good.” Catholic.com

"Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons. It introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life." CCC 2021

"We can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God." CCC 2025

"No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods." CCC 2027

"We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ..." CCC 1821

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. CCC 2010

"The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it: Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us." CCC 2001

"The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit." CCC 2008

This cooperation with God by the sinner to ensure salvation is quite different than the Protestant understanding of justification which relies on the completed work of Christ on the cross to reconcile the sinner to God (which is obtained by faith alone).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I've updated my blog page that has many of the articles and blog posts on Martin Luther. Take a look:

Martin Luther: Topical Master Index

It doesn't have everything, but it has most of it. This is more for my sake than yours. I have a hard time keeping track of everything I've written. This link can be found on my sidebar under "Archives".

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Conversation on Calvinism

johnMark

I was talking to an old friend from high school not long ago. We talked of many issues about church in general. I’ve run into this old friend in the church we now attend which is some 250+ miles away and 15+ years ago from High School. We caught up a little bit on old friends and old times. We talked theology and evangelism a bit and the “C” word came up.

Yes, Calvinism came up. I expressed my disappointment with such folks as Johnny Hunt, Nelson Price and others in the SBC who continuously take unjustified swipes at Calvinism. I mentioned the recent LifeWay study to my friend that showed only 10% of SBC pastors were Calvinistic and not necessarily Calvinist. This was just to make my point that if we are to deal with the problems in the SBC we may to well to look to the theological persuasion of the other 90% of SBC pastors. And if there is truth in these misrepresentations then give us names and real life examples. It’s certainly hard to address strawmen and hypothetical people.

The first thing I brought up was that from either side we have to contend with why did God create anyone who He knew from eternity past would never believe in Jesus and go to hell. Free will? Free will doesn’t answer this question since God already knew the outcome. Unless God some how owes man something unto the glory of man’s decision. Of course, we know God owes no man anything. Even so, God still knew from eternity who will and who will never believe. Yet, He still created them. We didn’t really go this route too much further.

Then, I remembered an old post I wrote as we were talking and brought up five points that are in my friend’s paradigm. I wanted to do this to show that God’s sovereignty is always a “problem” for man’s free will, even for those who are not Calvinists. I was going from memory, but I present them below in original form.

Premises:
1. God unequivocally wants all people to be saved. (referring to God’s decretive will not just His revealed will although most may not even think in these terms)

2. God gives each person equal measures of grace that they can cooperate with and be saved or resist and be damned.

3. Every single person has the ability to believe by cooperating with God’s measure of grace He has given them.

4. God is working within His creation to save all people trying to persuade/convince them to believe.

5. God in His omniscience and omnipotence knows what it would take for each person to believe and can maneuver elements in each persons life to so affect them.

I then asked why aren’t all men saved and hasn’t God has essentially failed? His reply was free will. But I just gave him his own paradigm in which to work. He didn’t take away a good understanding of my presentation or else I gave it very poorly. Hopefully, we can speak more on this another time. I really don’t see what choices one is left with in this paradigm other than God’s sovereignty at work one way or the other.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The glory and the relief of the way we interpret Scripture


The often wacky, sometimes insulting Lucian has commented on my blog, wondering about the many strains of interpretive tradition present in the life of Eastern Orthodoxy. Is it best to interpret the Scripture literally, he asks?


Among his propositions are to take Ezekiel 44:2 and apply it to the perpetual virginity of the BVMary.
Or to take the 4 rivers of the Paradise of Eden. In the literal interpretation, they are the four earthly rivers of Tigris, Euphrates, Pison and Gihon. On a more spiritual level, exemplified by the Exegetical School of Alexandria, the four rivers of Paradise are -let's say- the four cardinal virtues, which water our hearts.
And yet, on a still DEEPER, and, this time, Christological level, exemplified now by the Exegetical School at Antioch, the four rivers of the Paradise are the Four Gospels, which, -again-, water our hearts through the Holy Spirit that enbreathes them.

I, OTOH, am proposing the grammatico-historical method. The GHM employs the grammar, vocabulary, and context of the author, the historical context, the context of the passage in question, the context of the book, and the context of the rest of the Bible to determine authorial intent of the passage in question. That's the GHM in a nutshell. What the author intended is the correct interpretation.

This is, by the way, the method that anyone uses virtually all of the time while reading virtually anything. And of course authorial intent is what we want to discover since we believe that the Scripture is God speaking. Thus, obviously, we want to know what God said and less what man said about what God said, even though that has its (far subordinate) place.

Now, what does that mean for us in the examples Lucian brought up? Alot. The really fun thing is that EOx are often quick, as I mentioned, to question what a SS-ist might say in regard to, say, justification by faith alone. "That's just your individual, private interpretation! Your interp must agree with what The Church® says!"

A few points on that, by way of reminder:
1) How would I know I'm supposed to submit to what The Church® says except the Scr allegedly instructs me to do so? But of course that would be an individual private interpretation of the allegedly-supportive passages. Either that or I a priori accept The Church as infallible interper and then see that it teaches that these Scr psgs direct the reader to submit to The Church as infall interper. Problem solved either way, right?
2) Of course, I can't infallibly know what the infall interper says, b/c I'd be exercising private individual interp of what the infall interper said. I need an infall interper of the infall interper.
3) And then of course I'd need an infall interper of the infall interper of the infall interper of the Scr.
4) And then I'd need an infall interper of the infall interper of the infall interper of the infall interper of the Scr.
5) Another problem is that there is not necessarily any reason within EOdox Tradition to take the psgs that allegedly direct me to submit to the EOC as infall interper as a command. Rather, as demonstrated here by Lucian, there are a few possibilities:
a. I could go off into flights of allegorical fancy. No, Peter is not LITERALLY given the keys to the kingdom of heaven in Matt 16. Jesus changes Peter's name from bending reed (Simon) to Peter (rock), symbolising how the Jewish people would become no longer pliable to what the Lord said back in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, and now they would be hardened in heart against the Messiah, and they would open the door to heaven for the Gentiles to come in.
b. I could easily, in my flight of fancy, contradict EO Tradition.
c. There's no good mechanism (beyond I said so b/c my bishop said so b/c The Church® said so) to distinguish between what is true and what is false in this tremendously wide scope of possibility of interpretations.
d. Why can't I just allegorise the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ as well? Don't talk to me about context or 1 Corinthians 15. No, I'm spiritualising the text here. (Do I sound like John Shelby Spong yet?)

Or we could stick to the GHM and let the text speak for itself. The danger is, of course, to run the risk of private interps and unsupported, sinful ideas being taken and run with by someone, possibly leading people away with him. But I'd ask: How is that different than what we've seen here? Isn't Sacred Tradition just a chrismated bundle of private interps that somehow the amorphous, vague mass The Church® has "stated" that it will accept as part of its teaching? At least in this way, errors can be corrected from becoming fossilised and ingrained into the life of the church, never to be correctable again. Especially not by someone's "private interp."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Luther: The Assumption Was A Settled Fact? (Part 3)

I didn't plan on doing three entries on Luther and the Roman Catholic dogma of Mary's Bodily Assumption (especially since very few probably actually care). In the grand scheme of things, it is really an insignificant point. But, I like the fact of having these entries to refer back to when needed, and it is yet another opportunity to show what those devoted to Rome do with history in the service of their church. My previous entries can be found here:

Luther: The Assumption Was a Settled Fact?: A look at Catholic Apologist Mark Shea's proof that Luther believed in the Assumption because of a sculpture near his tomb.

Luther: The Assumption Was a Settled Fact? (Part 2): A look at Catholic apologist Peter Stravinskas' claim that Luther "...did not pronounce clearly on this subject, but was content simply to affirm it."

No treatment of Luther's Mariology would be complete without consulting the work of one particular Catholic apologist. He says on Luther and the Assumption:

"[Luther's]Later references to the Immaculate Conception appear in his House sermon for Christmas (1533) and Against the Papacy of Rome (1545). In later life (he died in 1546), Luther did not believe that this doctrine should be imposed on all believers, since he felt that the Bible didn't explicitly and formally teach it. Such a view is consistent with his notion of sola Scriptura and is similar to his opinion on the bodily Assumption of the Virgin, which he never denied - although he was highly critical of what he felt were excesses in the celebration of this Feast. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated: "There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith . . . It is enough to know that she lives in Christ." 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 veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."(Sermon, September 1, 1522)"

He uses similar argumentation of Stravinskas and Cole, but with a twist: Luther must have held a lifelong belief in the Assumption because he never denied it. In my earlier post, I traced the popular notion that Luther simply affirmed the Assumption, even though never pronouncing on it clearly, and that this notion comes from a mis-reading of a footnote by Max Thurian. His argument is only slightly different but just as weak. I pointed out this faulty method of argumentation in part one, via this quote:

"But an argument from silence is recognized by all to be quite weak. It implies that one must have almost total evidence before demonstration is possible. If this is the case, one could argue cogently that there may have been airplanes in the time of Christ." Dewey M. Beegle, Scripture, Tradition, and Infallibility (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973), p. 178.

If we followed this method of argument, we could prove Luther believed in Santa or Bigfoot, simply because no evidence exists to prove he did not. I think it's important to keep in mind, it seems Catholic apologists do not have any positive evidence to offer that Luther actually believed in the Bodily Assumption of Mary. The closest they get is the 1522 quote, and this quote never affirms Mary's Bodily Assumption.

As I pointed out previously, by the time of his later lectures in Genesis, Mary is considered along with the other women of the Bible whose deaths are not recorded. One thing we can say about this quote, Mary's death is not distinguished from any of the other women whose deaths are not recorded in the Bible:

"Then one should much rather consider how Abraham delivered a beautiful funeral address about Sarah. For in the Holy Scriptures no other matron is so distinguished. Her years, lives, conduct, and burial place are described....Scripture has no comments even on the death of other matriarchs, just as it makes no mention of how many years Eve lived and of where she died. Of Rachel it is recorded that she died in childbirth (Gen. 35:16–19). All the other women it passes over and covers with silence, with the result that we have no knowledge of the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. Sarah alone has this glory, that the definite number of her years, the time of her death, and the place of her burial are described. Therefore this is great praise and very sure proof that she was precious in the eyes of God."

We can at least give this apologist credit for noting Luther's later disdain for the Feast of the Assumption. Catholic historian Thomas O’Meara points out:

“In 1544 the Assumption is abandoned as a feast; the Ascension of Christ alone is recognized: '“The feast of the Assumption is totally papist, full of idolatry and without foundation in the Scriptures. But we, even though Mary has gone to heaven, should not bother about how she went there. We will not invoke her as our special advocate as the Pope teaches. (The Pope takes away veneration due to the Ascension of our Lord, Christ, with the result that he has made the mother like in all things to the Son.)' "

William Cole points out that Luther,

"...used strong language....for the elimination of the Assumption as an aspect of the 'hypocritical church',” particularly in celebrating a feast for it. Cole cites Luther as saying in 1544: 'The feast of the Assumption is totally papist, full of idolatry and without foundation in the Scriptures. But we, even though Mary has gone to heaven, should not bother how she went there. We will not invoke her as our special advocate as the Pope teaches. The pope takes away the honor due to the Ascension of our Lord, Christ, with the result that he has made the mother like her Son in all things."

Catholic apologists seem to downplay this evidence. Somewhere I have the contexts of these Luther quotes, and I'll post them at a later date.

One thing I also wanted to mention about this internet apologist's argumentation is how similar it is to the old article by William Cole. Cole states:

"For Luther the Assumption seems not to be so much a matter of doubt as of little importance and this is perhaps the reason, as Max Thurian affirms, that Luther did not pronounce clearly on the subject, but was content simply to affirm it. It is in this sense that Walter Tappolet interpets the Reformer's sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time Luther preached on the Feast of the Assumption. Luther had said: 'There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith .' and then explained the significance for him: 'It is enough to know that she lives in Christ, as God is not the God of the dead, but of the living...' If in 1530, he uses strong language in his Admonition to the Ministers, calling for the elimination of the Assumption as an aspect of the 'hypocritical church,' the accent should be placed more on his animosity towards the Church and the celebration of one of its feasts than on the Assumption." [William J. Cole, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" (Marian Studies), (1970), 123-124]

Since the internet apologist doesn't provide any bibliographic documentation for his information, I can think of only a few possibilities to explain the similarities between Cole's article and this apologist's later blog entry.

1. The internet apologist did primary research on Luther. He read Luther's sermon from 1522 in German, and then did a thorough study of all passages from Luther relevant to the Assumption.

2. The internet got a hold of Walter Tappolet's old book Das Marienlob der Reformatoren, translated it, and utilized it in similar fashion as Cole did. Many older writers utilized Tappolet's book. This really is one of the only books to look at this subject closely. In many ways, Catholic writing on Luther's Mariology are only footnotes to Tappolet's book. So, it is within the realm of possibility that the internet apologist used the same source Cole did.

3. The internet apologist did no primary research on Luther's view of the Assumption, but rather utilized Cole's article, or another writer who used Cole's article. Even this quote, "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is in Cole's article.

This internet apologist hates when I point things like this out, but remember, he's the one claiming to be a professional Catholic apologist. Maybe those committed to Rome will take his research methods seriously, but I do not, unless of course, number #1 turns out to be the approach used. I'd even give him credit for number #2. The approach used in number #3 is simply what anyone can do. It takes no skill or insight. In other words, it is not the approach used by someone claiming to be a professional apologetic writer. At the very least, he could cite which source he used for his Luther/Assumption material, rather than giving the appearance he did actual research for his conclusions. Perhaps he has the information from which secondary source he used elsewhere on website, in which case I would offer my apology, but still challenge his conclusions, and exhort him to do primary research on Luther.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cutting-Edge Catholic Interpretation


A discussion in the combox of this post veered into the topic of RC versus Protestant justification. In accusing me of “inaccuracies” and “caricatures” in my presentation of RC soteriology, David made some confusing assertions with regard to RC authority and interpretation:

The basic tenor of your above posts is that the issues between Catholics and Protestants on the all important teaching of “the Biblical gospel” are ‘black and white’ (i.e. clear –cut). I believe that just the opposite is true: the issues are very complex…There have been numerous works, recently published, that identify and discuss the complexities involved; and though great strides have been, and are being made, much more work is needed. Important for OUR discussion at hand is the need to be conversant with this literature, for if one is not ‘up-to-date’, one will be at a significant disadvantage.

To which I asked:

Are the Councils of Trent not up to date?

David’s response:

As up to date as the Bible; but the interpretation of Trent, like the ongoing process of interpreting the Bible, is not static; if you have not read what Catholic and Protestant scholars have written on Trent over the last couple of decades you are bound to misunderstand how Catholics are currently interpreting Trent.

I then responded:

Sorry, I thought Trent was infallible - I don't understand how that leaves room for future interpretation. If infallible councils are now a matter of interpretation for Catholic theologians (magesterium members or just random theologians?) then we are back to Rhology's argument that "infallibility" has gained you nothing in certainty and clarity.

David’s response:

There are degrees of clarity. Some defined doctrines are crystal clear, but others have room for further development….And BTW, what you so affectionately term “Protestantized form”, is simply cutting-edge, up to date, Catholic thought—that you have little interest in such scholarly discourse has painfully come to my attention.

I’ll admit, I haven’t kept up with “cutting-edge Catholic thought” as I wasn’t aware such a thing existed in an infallibly-led institution that claims almost 2000 years of consistency in teachings. Of course, this idea flies in the face of the certainty that an infallible authority is suppose to provide since 400+ years post-Trent it appears Catholics are still trying to figure out what the infallible Trent decrees actually mean. And in the context of justification, does this mean that Catholics are still not certain exactly how they are made right with God?

As supporters of this “cutting-edge Catholic thought”, David listed Augustine, Aquinas, Rahner, Yves Congar, Joseph Fitzmyer, Cardinal Dulles. It seems odd that the proper interpretation of Catholic truths should be coming from mostly Catholic theologians and not from the magesterium. If I were a lay Catholic, how would I know whose interpretation to trust? Would I know whether or not Hans Kung’s interpretation of Trent and justification is accurate (while ignoring his opposition to papal infalliblility)?

This is just another example of how the claims of Roman Catholic authority just don’t add up.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Luther: The Assumption Was a Settled Fact? (Part 2)

I have some further remarks on Luther and the Roman Catholic dogma of the Assumption. Let's take a closer look. Catholic apologist Peter Stravinskas states, "As far as the assumption goes, he 'did not pronounce clearly on this subject, but was content simply to affirm it.' "

First, note Stravinskas provides no references to any primary material from Luther writings. Rather, Stravinskas is citing the opinion of someone else, William J. Cole ["Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" (Marian Studies), (1970), 123]. The odd thing about the Cole citation, is that Cole is also actually citing someone else's opinion! See for yourself:

"For Luther the Assumption seems not to be so much a matter of doubt as of little importance and this is perhaps the reason, as Max Thurian affirms, that Luther did not pronounce clearly on the subject, but was content simply to affirm it."

So I went and took at look at what Max Thurian said. Thurian's comment is as follows:

"On the issue of the Assumption Luther does not speak precisely but is content to assert on August 15th, 1522: 'From this gospel one cannot draw any conclusion about the fashion in which Mary is in heaven- it is not necessary any more to know the fate of the saints in heaven. It is enough to know that they dwell in Christ as God says in Matt. 22: 32: "God is not a God of the dead but of the living' making reference to the text of Exodus 3. 6: "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob"' (ibid., 55)." (Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church, p.197)

First, note Thurian never says Luther "simply affirmed" the Assumption. He says Luther made an assertion in 1522. So, shame on Stravinskas for not looking up the basis of Cole's opinion. Then, shame on William Cole, for reading into the Thurian quote the idea that Luther simply affirmed the Assumption. We can conclude therefore, that the basis for which this idea of Luther simply affirming the Assumption is based on a mis-reading of Thurian. Thurian states Luther did not speak precisely.

In regard to the Luther quote Thurian provided, there simply isn't enough of a context to know exactly what Luther was talking about. In 1522, early in the Reformation, it would not be so outrageous to find Luther making a statement like this that would allow for some version of the Assumption (as Thurian says elsewhere, the Assumption was"...accepted by certain Reformers, not of course in [its] present form but certainly in the form that was current in their day."). It is interesting to note that Thurian's research and this quote comes from yet another secondary source, Walter Tappolet’s Das Marienlob der Reformatoren. So, what we have here is an opinion on Luther's view in which no one except Tappolet has actually read the primary source. Thurian provides sparse comments on Luther’s Mariology. It is hardly a thorough treatment.

Now, let's take off our Assumption Dogma glasses for a moment with that Luther quote from 1522. Toward the end of his life, Luther delivered a series of lectures on the book of Genesis. Note the following quote:

"This is what Moses wanted to indicate when he speaks of 'the lives of Sarah.' It is as though he were saying: 'Sarah, in conformity with differences in places and people, often adopted a different attitude and different ways. When she came to a place where she thought she would live pleasantly and quietly, she was compelled to move and to change her plans and feelings as she did so.' For this reason that saintly woman had many lives. More attention should have been given to these things, although it is easy for me to believe that in her hundredth year she was just as beautiful as she was in her twentieth.

Then one should much rather consider how Abraham delivered a beautiful funeral address about Sarah. For in the Holy Scriptures no other matron is so distinguished. Her years, lives, conduct, and burial place are described. In the eyes of God, therefore, Sarah was an extraordinary jewel on whom extraordinary love was bestowed, and she is mentioned deservedly by Peter as an exemplar for all saintly wives. He says (1 Peter 3:6) that she called Abraham lord and that “you are her daughters.” To all Christian matrons Peter holds her up as a mother.

Scripture has no comments even on the death of other matriarchs, just as it makes no mention of how many years Eve lived and of where she died. Of Rachel it is recorded that she died in childbirth (Gen. 35:16–19). All the other women it passes over and covers with silence, with the result that we have no knowledge of the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. Sarah alone has this glory, that the definite number of her years, the time of her death, and the place of her burial are described. Therefore this is great praise and very sure proof that she was precious in the eyes of God.

But these facts do not concern Sarah, who is already dead, as much as they concern us, who are still alive. For it is a very great comfort to hear that the departure and death of that most saintly matriarch and of all the fathers, in comparison with whom we are nothing, differs in no wise from our own death but was just as odious and ignominious as our own is. Their bodies were buried, consumed by worms, and hidden in the earth on account of their stench, not otherwise than if they had not been the corpses of saints; yet they were most saintly people, and, although departed, they are actually alive in Christ.

Accordingly, these things are written for our sakes, in order that we may know that the most saintly fathers and mothers underwent the same experiences we are wont to undergo. Nevertheless, it is certain about them that in the eyes of God they live; and I believe that they — namely, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Adam, etc. — rose with Christ.

Note above how Luther treats Mary. He doesn't speak of some cryptic way in which Mary disappeared off the earth. No, she's placed in a list with others whose deaths are not recorded in Scripture, and are passed over in silence. Are we to assume, based on Luther's words, that all the women were Assumed into Heaven? For those wanting to affirm the Assumption, no lack of information will stop them from finding the Assumption, I'm sure.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Luther: The Assumption Was a Settled Fact?


I listened to a few of Catholic apologist Mark Shea's webcasts on the Assumption of Mary. Mark made one statement that I would be very interested in having documentation for:

"For Luther the Assumption was a settled fact...indeed Luther's burial vault in the Wittenburg church on whose door he had posted his ninety five theses was adorned with the 1521 Peter Vischer's sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin."

First and foremost, I would be extremely interested in which primary references Shea can provide from Luther in which Luther explicitly confirms a lifelong belief in Mary's Assumption. Saying "settled fact" requires proof. A quote with a context would be nice (and I would hope not to get one of those sparse English translations from a German source that no one has, particularly the person making such a claim). I have done a lot of research into this, so if Shea can pull the assumption out of a Luther-hat, this I'd like to see.

Secondly, as to Luther's burial vault, Shea explains in an old blog entry (edit: no longer available, but found here, and here):

"And, of course, problems with it constituted no difficulty for the Reformers, which is why Luther's tomb is decorated with a bas-relief of the Assumption. Indeed, objections to Mary are johnny-come-latelies on the stage of Protestant theology, as is demonstrated by Fr. Peter Stravinskas in Mary and the Fundamentalist Challenge."

This is the claim made by Peter Stravinskas:

"Most interesting of all, perhaps, is the realization that his burial chamber in the Wittenberg church, on whose door he had posted his 95 Theses, was adorned with the 1521 Peter Vischer sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin, with the inscription containing these lines: Ad summum Regina thronum defertur in altum: Angelicis praelatia choris, cui festus et ipse Filius occurrens Matrem super aethera ponit. This "archaeological" fact would seem to speak volumes about Luther's final thoughts on the place of Mary in the life of a Christian."

This website makes an interesting counter-claim:

"If one believes Peter Stravinskas, it would seem that this inscription on [Luther's] heart is reflected in the inscription on his tomb. Stravinskas published a generally good article on 'The Place of Mary in Classical Fundamentalism', but I'm afraid he made one pious mistake: He maintains that the sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin and inscription by Peter Vischer the Younger which is to be found in the Wittenberger Schlosskirche, where Luther is burried, goes with Luther's tomb. I wish it were so, but I'm afraid it belongs to one of the other tombs in the church. If you google for images of Luther's tomb (or Luthers' Grabmal), you'll see that it is the simplest little slab of stone rising a little out of the floor of the main church, a good distance away from the walls - no "burial chamber" at all. The German tour guide "Baedekkers Allianz Reisefuehrer Deutschland, 1991" mentions that "in the Schlosskirche there is a piece of art by Peter Vischer the Younger, who also created the tombs of Sir Hans Hundt and Prior Henning Gode." So if somebody out there could go by the church and let us know to which tomb this obscure "piece of art" belongs, I would much appreciate it."

And this website states:

"2. Epitaph for Henning Goeden
Directly to the right is located "The Coronation of Mary", a bronze plate created in 1521 by Peter Fischer the Younger, a founder from Nuremburg. A work of great aesthetic merit, the plate is the tombstone for Henning Goden, Jurist and last Catholic Provost of the Castle Church."


But, ok, let's for a moment grant that Luther's burial chamber has this particular sculpture. How in the world does this serve as proof Luther held a lifelong belief in the assumption as a settled fact? Mark, if you read this, please try an understand, lack of proof does not mean "proof". You must do better than a burial tomb, or stating something like Luther never spoke against it. Take these words to heart:

"But an argument from silence is recognized by all to be quite weak. It implies that one must have almost total evidence before demonstration is possible. If this is the case, one could argue cogently that there may have been airplanes in the time of Christ." Dewey M. Beegle, Scripture, Tradition, and Infallibility (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973), p. 178.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two representatives of different Infallible Interpreters fight it out

Orthodox has asked an interesting question:

It would be instructive to see you debate with someone from one of the churches that does not accept Revelation as scripture.

Just as it would be to see you do the same.
Here's how it could go down. O = Orthodox, X = some other 'ancient branch of Christianity' like a Copt.

O: Revelation is in the Canon... I think.
X: You think? You don't know for sure?
O: Well, it's traditionally held-to as canonical, but our canon is open.
X: So you can't be sure.
O: I can - the Church believes it to be canonical.
X: No, your church is not the true church. Mine is.
O: No, mine is. We have a history.
X: So do we.
O: We go back to the apostles.
X: So do we.
O: No you don't. here's my list.
X: Here's mine.
O: that's not Sacred Tradition.
X: Yes it is. My Church says it is and says your list is not.
O: Well, my Church says your list is not Tradition, even though it's tradition, and my list is Tradition.
X: How do you know it's Sacred Tradition?
O: My church says so and it's been traditionally held to.
X: But your church is the wrong one and so your claims to tradition are invalid.
O: But my church says it is and YOURS is wrong.
X: But your church isn't the true church. So your Tradition is just tradition, whereas my tradition is Tradition.

Etc.

You'd put forward your arguments, they'd put forward their arguments, and then you'd be at an impasse.

My position doesn't depend on whether others accept the rightness of the arguments, but on the arguments themselves.
Speaking of impasse, BTW, look where you are.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Calvin: Which Came first? Scripture or the Church?


"But a most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men!"

"But such wranglers are neatly refuted by just one word of the apostle. He testifies that the church is 'built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles' [Ephesians 2:20]. If the teaching of the prophets and apostles is the foundation, this must have had authority before the church began to exist. Groundless, too, is their subtle objection that, although the church took its beginning here, the writings to be attributed to the prophets and apostles nevertheless remain in doubt until decided by the church. For if the Christian church was from the beginning founded upon the writings of the prophets and the preaching of the apostles, wherever this doctrine is found, the acceptance of it — without which the church itself would never have existed — must certainly have preceded the church.

It is utterly vain, then, to pretend that the power of judging Scripture so lies with the church that its certainty depends upon churchly assent. Thus, while the church receives and gives its seal of approval to the Scriptures, it does not thereby render authentic what is otherwise doubtful or controversial. But because the church recognizes Scripture to be the truth of its own God, as a pious duty it unhesitatingly venerates Scripture. As to their question — How can we be assured that this has sprung from God unless we have recourse to the decree of the church? —it is as if someone asked: Whence will we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Indeed, Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste."

Source: Calvin's Institutes I.7.1-2

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How to Become a Catholic


Often on Christian websites you will see a link to somewhere that tells you “how to become a Christian” or “how to be saved” so when I saw the Catholic version on Catholic.com I took a peak.

Some excerpts from How to Become A Catholic:

“Becoming Catholic is one of life’s most profound and joyous experiences. Some are blessed enough to receive this great gift while they are infants, and, over time, they recognize the enormous grace that has been bestowed on them. Others enter the Catholic fold when they are older children or adults. This tract examines the joyful process by which one becomes a Catholic.

A person is brought into full communion with the Catholic Church through reception of the three sacraments of Christian initiation—baptism, confirmation, and the holy Eucharist—but the process by which one becomes a Catholic can take different forms.“


“The Christian fully enters the Church by profession of faith and formal reception. For the profession of faith, the candidate says, "I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God."

The bishop or priest then formally receives the Christian into the Church by saying, "[Name], the Lord receives you into the Catholic Church. His loving kindness has led you here, so that in the unity of the Holy Spirit you may have full communion with us in the faith that you have professed in the presence of his family."

One major thing struck me as I read How to Become a Catholic: the words “Jesus” and “Christ” are not found anywhere in the article. It appears becoming a Catholic is more about faith in the Church than faith in Christ.

-Carrie

Monday, September 17, 2007

Richard Kuiken, senior pastor of the church I belong to (The Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church), has begun a series of sermons on Homosexuality. The first sermon, Homosexuality Is Wrong In Its Core Essence, was preached yesterday evening. The sermon was an excellent apologetic against homosexuality, and provides valuable information presented with precision. A downloadable MP3 can be be found here.
____________________________________________
"Mr. Swan, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on Martin Brecht's 3 volume work on the life of Luther ."

Excellent volumes (but most people hate reading anything over 110 pages!). Brecht does an excellent job weaving in Luther's theology, which sometimes gets put on the back-burner in historical treatments. The great thing about Brecht's volumes is the consideration of more recent studies of the time period, thus making the book more current than many of the more popular works. But, I would never recommend something like Brecht for a beginner, or someone wishing to get the simple facts. These volumes are for serious minded. They are for those who want more detail, and a better grasp of the time period.
________________________________________________

Catholics on JWs

Catholic Answer's This Rock had an article on Jehovah's Witnesses. I am sure I am not the only one who will find some of the commentary ironic:

Jehovah’s Witnesses are sincere people genuinely striving to do God’s will in their lives. Like us, they go about their daily routines, struggle with life’s concerns, and engage in spiritual activities. Like us, they trust their religious leaders for spiritual guidance, doctrinal instruction, and help in interpreting the Bible....

...Since its inception, the WTS has claimed to be the only organization that speaks on behalf of God (whom they call "Jehovah"). It has called itself God’s "divinely appointed and organized channel of communication" (WT, May 15, 1955, 314), and even "the ark of salvation" (WT, Jun. 1, 1950, 176)...

...Truth-seeking Christians are obliged to ask if the Watch Tower Society is a reliable spiritual guide. Does it really speak on God’s behalf? Are its official teachings objectively true?...

...The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a doctrine known as the "increase of light." It is based on Proverbs 4:18, which in their New World Translation of the Bible reads, "But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established." Witnesses understand this passage to mean that God reveals to them a progressively greater understanding of the Bible, known as "light." Over the course of time, then, the WTS is becoming more accurate in its interpretation of the Bible and in its prophecies, as the "light" shines more brightly.

While Catholics agree with the idea of doctrinal development, that is not the process actually taking place within the WTS. When a teaching or belief genuinely develops, its essence remains intact as expanded layers of understanding are added to it. In fact, the first president of the WTS, Charles Taze Russell, said: "A new light of truth can never contradict a former truth. ‘New light’ never extinguishes older ‘light,’ but adds to it" (WT, Feb. 1881, 3)...

...The article went on to ask, "What confidence can one put in the sincerity or judgment of such persons?" This is a point to ponder seriously when assessing the reliability of the Watch Tower Society as a spiritual guide...

-Carrie

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Infallibly Interpreted Scripture


"Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold;"
- Council of Trent

We know that Roman Catholics must not interpret Scripture in a contradictory way to the Church's teachings. We also know that Roman Catholics must accept everything that their Church professes for their belief.

That said, I have been unable to find a clear list of infallibly interpreted scriptures by the Roman Catholic Church. At best I have found just a few random sources who estimate that a very small number of verses have actually been infallibly interpreted. In light of the restrictions on lay Catholics in interpretation, I would think that knowing the verses that have been infallibly defined would be rather important.

So I am asking the RCs reading here - does anyone actually know how many and what verses of the Bible have been infallibly interpreted? If you can link to a source of that information, that would be great.

- Carrie
I'm doing a little construction on the sidebar. I should have it packed with things in a few days.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Army of Mary

There is an interesting story that just came out about the Roman Catholic Church’s excommunication of The Army of Mary.

Here are some excerpts:

Calling it a "very grave situation," the Vatican has excommunicated members of a controversial Quebec Catholic movement, the Army of Mary, for their heretical beliefs that derive from the writings of Marie-Paule Giguère, an 86-year-old mystic who claims to be a reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.

In a judgment delivered to the group on Monday, and announced yesterday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled that the ordinations of six priests in the Army of Mary this past June were illegitimate, because they were performed by a priest rather than a bishop.

Founded as a prayer group in 1971, and recognized by the Archbishop of Quebec four years later, the Army of Mary has been a headache for Canadian Catholic bishops ever since.

In her writings, Mme. Giguère described visions and messages she received from God, explaining that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is fully divine, and also that, as her modern incarnation, so is Mme. Giguère. Rather than the traditional Catholic Trinity - in which God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are each fully divine and part of a three-part deity - the Army of Mary now speaks of a "quinternity," including Mary and Mme. Giguère.

In fact, until this week, things stood pretty much as they were 20 years ago, when in 1987 the late Cardinal Louis-Albert Vachon revoked the Army of Mary's status as a Catholic organization, which was meant as a warning of future excommunication. In 1999, Bishop Cazabon was appointed as Pontifical Commissioner, a sort of Papal envoy, but things remained stalled until 2001, when the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a doctrinal note in 2001 stating that the Army of Mary is not a "Catholic association."

Things came to a crisis this June, however, when a leading Army of Mary priest called Father Jean-Pierre Mastropietro ordained six new priests, including a father and son. Under canon law, only a bishop can ordain priests.

He said he regrets the failure of the efforts at reconciliation, because most of the Army of Mary's priests - there are 39 at the Lac-Etchemin centre, for example, in addition to brothers and sisters of the order - are legitimately ordained, one even by the late Pope John Paul II.

But now that Fr. Mastropietro is wearing a Byzantine crown and "acting like a pope" himself, the final line has been crossed.

"I did my very best with these men," Archbishop Prendergast said.

"I like them. I would like them to be Catholic priests. We need Catholic priests, but we have to have Catholic priests who obey what the bishops say ... [But] once you decide Heaven can tell you what to do, it can tell you all kinds of things that go beyond the boundaries."


What I find interesting about this story:
1. It took 20 years for the unified hierarchy to excommunicate this group (after being a legit Catholic association for a few years).
2. That the final straw for the RCC wasn’t that the leader promoted herself as the incarnation of Mary and part of the “quinternity”, but that the group performed an illegitimate ordination.
3. That this cult has many legitimately ordained RC priests as members (who the Archbishop would like to have return).
4. That “unity” is so important that reconciliation with a cult is a worth pursuing.
5. The quote: “... [But] once you decide Heaven can tell you what to do, it can tell you all kinds of things that go beyond the boundaries."

The Infinite Regress of the Infallible Interpreter

In the spirit of the post just below this one...

I asked Leo:
-Since there is no infallible interper (and the system of the infall interper leads to an infinite regress), what other option do you offer?

Leo responded:
-If the Pope has the authority of God on earth, then there you have it, now, what do you mean "regress"?

A quick response:

If he's infallible, then you have to have a way to know infallibly whether what he said yesterday is infallible.
If it is, you need to know infallibly whether that way to know infallibly whether what he said yesterday is infallible is infallible.
If you solve that, you need an infallible interper to tell you the infall interp of what he said.
If you solve that, you need an infallible interper to tell you the infall interp of the infall interp of what he said.
If you solve that, you need an infallible interper to tell you the infall interp of the infall interp of the infall interp of what he said.

Etc.

It's laudable to want to remove all insecurity, all human fallibility from the equation of how we know the truth. But God just didn't make it that way. "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn" (Isaiah 8:20).

Catholic Quotable


"Again, it is illogical to base faith upon the private interpretation of a book. For faith consists in submitting; private interpretation consists in judging. In faith by hearing, the last word rests with the teacher; in private judgment it rests with the reader, who submits the dead text of Scripture to a kind of post-mortem examination and delivers a verdict without appeal: he believes in himself rather than in any higher authority."

-Catholic Encyclopedia

10 Reasons For Mary

My friend Churchmouse has an interesting recent blog entry:

Top Ten Reasons Why We Should Consecrate Our Lives To Jesus Through Mary

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Prevenient Grace is Irresistable

This is from several months ago, but this will continue to be an ongoing debate. Pastor Gary L. W. Johnson over at the Teampyro blog finishes his three part post entitled Arminianism: Semi-Pelagianism? I am not here to argue that Arminianism equals semi-pelagianism either directly or practically. I think Greg Welty argued well and reasonably that it doesn't.

I am here to argue, in the spirit of the Arminian/non-Calvinist objection that irresistable grace isn't a biblical concept, that they too believe in a irresistable grace. That is, prevenient grace is irresistable. Let's start by looking at article 4 of the Remonstrance and there understanding of grace.
Article 4.
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places).

Now let's turn to one of the theologians in question. In part two of Peter Lumpkins’ interview with Arminian Roger Olson, Olson states:
Arminianism is that God comes to us first, through the gospel which can be efficacious in our lives—through a sermon, a song, a witness, or reading the Bible. But that God the Holy Spirit reaches into our lives first, through prevenient grace, and partially regenerates us, then we have to actualize that with our free will decision which God’s grace makes possible.

This shows my point that prevenient grace is irresistible in its “partial regeneration” because if this “partial regeneration” could be rejected it would be then be semi-pelagianism. Prior in the interview Olson says:

The difference is this: in classical Arminianism--in real Arminianism--if someone gets saved, it’s because God came to them first; the initiative is God’s. God calls them and God enables them. That’s called prevenient grace.



But you don’t hear that in pulpits a lot. What you hear in pulpits and pews is what scholars call semi-Pelagianism; although they don’t know it’s called that.I definitely agree with what Olson said is heard from many pulpits today. If there is no grace acting upon man and man left in his natural, sinful state can make a “decision” without any grace at all we are back to a form of Pelagianism.

Therefore, prevenient grace is irresistible. Proving my point further is one last quote from Olson:
Without God’s prevenient grace, we would not be free, so we don’t believe in Free Will, we believe in the Freed Will. Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism believe that humans have inherent free will apart from any supernatural grace. So, there is a very important difference there.

This basically summarizes my point. Men’s wills are irresistibly freed or otherwise we are back to a form of Pelagianism. So then the irresistibility isn't really the crux of the argument then is it? I will try and address that another time, but for now this will do.

Mark

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Luther: "The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible "


Allegedly, "The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible ... " according to Luther. In this brief snippet, the implication may be that Luther denied the historical account of Jonah and the whale, and therefore denied the miraculous, and is also probably like one of those liberal scholars who interprets the Bible as fictional literature rather than history. Or quite possibly, he just said awful things about Holy Scripture. I've covered the context of the quote elsewhere, it is a Table talk entry, and not something Luther actually wrote. You can read the context for yourself. It does no harm to Luther.

I bring this quote up, because a few months back, a Catholic apologist defended his understanding of Luther as making a derogatory remark about the book of Jonah by pointing out A Protestant likewise felt Luther was making a nasty comment about the book of Jonah. The following paragraph is a typical argument from this guy :
"Swan then cites Hamilton in agreement, in his next post, about Luther's view of Ecclesiasticus (rather than Ecclesiastes). He loves that, because it agrees with his preconceived notions. But he passes over, for some reason, Hamilton's opinions that disagree with his own. For example, the same book (Hamilton writing), citing Colloquia (another name for Table-Talk), states on page 246, citing Luther: "The history of Jonah is so monstrous, that it is absolutely incredible . . . [footnote] I cited these words of Luther to show in how irreverent a manner he thought himself privileged to speak of the Holy Scriptures." Yet Swan had chided me at the end of his first article for asserting that Luther thought Jonah was a "mere fable"... Sir William Hamilton begs to differ. My William Hazlitt (translator) hard-copy edition of Table-Talk reads a little differently: 'The history of the prophet Jonah is almost incredible, sounding more strange than any poet's fable; if it were not in the Bible, I should take it for a lie.' Take your pick. It's another case of 'what did Luther really say?' and of having to trust one conflicting Protestant account over another. We Catholics cannot be expected to figure all this out, when Protestant authors are so confused themselves. I should think, then, that this is a good reason for cutting us a great deal more slack. "

So for the one or two of you who take his argument seriously, and you're wondering which Protestant is interpreting Luther correctly, recall first: the quote in question wasn't even written by Luther, and secondly, simply because two people can read the same quote and come to a different understanding, doesn't mean one of them is not wrong. It means that you must actually THINK. Use your reasoning to actually read. Am I to believe Catholics like this guy think that unless there is an infallible interpreter for everything, everyone is an idiot?
I'd like to quote an extended section from a lecture given by Luther as recorded by Roland Bainton in his famous biography, Here I Stand (pages 355-357). I do this so if any come across this quote, or actually thinks this Catholic apologist has a cogent argument, you will have here a ready web page to show how Luther actually dealt with the book of Jonah. He does so with respect, and treats the book as history. In fact, according to Luther, because it is in Scripture, it can be believed.
Jonah was sent to rebuke the mighty king of Assyria. That took courage. If we had been there, we should have thought it silly that one single man should attack such an empire. How silly it would seem for one of us to go on such a mission to the Turks. And how ridiculous often it has appeared that a single man should rebuke the pope. But God's work always appears as folly.

"And Jonah took ship for Tarshish." The godless think they can get away from God by going to a town where he is not recognized. Why did Jonah refuse? First because the assignment was very great. No prophet had ever been chosen to go to the heathen. Another reason was that he felt the enmity of Nineveh. He thought God was only the God of the Jews, and he would rather be dead than proclaim the grace of God to the heathen.

Then God sent a great wind. Why should he have involved the other passengers in Jonah's punishment? We are not the ones to lay down rules for God, and for that matter the other persons on the boat were not innocent. We have all transgressed. The storm must have been very sudden because the people felt that it must have an unusual cause. Natural reason taught the sailors that God is God. The light of reason is a great light, but it fails in that it is ready to believe that God is God, but not to believe that God is God to you. These people called on God. This proves that they believed he was God, that is to others, but they did not really believe he would help them, otherwise they would not have thrown Jonah overboard. They did their uttermost to save the ship like the papists who try to be saved by works.

Jonah was asleep in the hold. Men are like that when they have sinned. They feel no compunction. If God had forgotten his sin, Jonah would never have given it another thought. But when he was awakened and saw the state of the ship he recognized his guilt. His conscience became active. Then he felt the sting of death and the anger of God. Not only the ship but the whole world was too small for him. He admitted his fault and cleared all the others. This is what contrition does. It makes all the world innocent and yourself only a sinner. But Jonah was not yet ready to make a public acknowledgment. He let the sailors wrestle until God made it plain that they would all perish with him. No one would confess. They had to cast lots. Wounds cannot be healed until they are revealed, and sins cannot be forgiven until they are confessed. Some say that they sinned in casting lots, but I cannot see that lot-casting is forbidden in Scripture.

Then Jonah said, "I am a Hebrew. I fear the God who made heaven and earth." The weight of sin and conscience is made greater if confessed. Then faith begins to burn, albeit weakly. When God's wrath overtakes us there are always two things, sin and anxiety. Some allow the sin to stand and center on the anxiety. That won't do. Reason does this when faith and grace are not present.

Jonah confessed his sin to be all the greater when he said, "I am a Hebrew and a worshiper of the true God." This made him all the more inexcusable. And Jonah said, "Throw me into the sea." The sailors thought confession was enough, and they set to work again on the oars. Jonah had to plumb the shame which was a thousand times greater because it was against God. For such a one there is no corner into which he may creep, no, not even in hell. He did not foresee his deliverance. God takes all honor and all comfort away and leaves only shame and desolation.

Then came death, for the sting of death is sin. Jonah pronounced his own sentence, "Throw me into the sea." We must always remember that Jonah could not see to the end. He saw only death, death, death. The worst of it was that this death was due to God's anger. It would not be so bad to die as a martyr, but when death is a punishment it is truly horrible.

Who does not tremble before death, even though he does not feel the wrath of God? But if there be also sin and conscience, who can endure shame before God and the world? What a struggle must have taken place in Jonah's heart. He must have sweat blood. He had to fight against sin, against his own conscience, the feeling of his heart, against death, and against God's anger all at once.

As if the sea were not enough, God prepared a great fish. As the monster opened its frightful jaws, the teeth were jagged like mountain peaks. The waves rushed in and swept Jonah into the belly. What a picture is this of Anfechtung. Just so the conscience wilts before the wrath of God, death, hell, and damnation. "And Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale." Those were the longest three days and three nights that ever happened under the sun. His lungs and liver pounded. He would hardly have looked around to see his habitation. He was thinking, "When, when, when will this end?" How could anyone imagine that a man could be three days and three nights in the belly of a fish without light, without food, absolutely alone, and come out alive? Who would not take this for a fairy tale if it were not in Scripture?

But God is even in hell.

"And Jonah prayed unto the Lord from the belly of the whale." I do not believe he could compose such a fine psalm while he was down there, but this shows what he was thinking. He was not expecting his salvation. He thought he must die, yet he prayed, "I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord." This shows that we must always pray to God. If you can just cry, your agony is over. Hell is not hell any more if you can cry to God. But no one can believe how hard this is. We can understand wailing, trembling, sighing, doubting, but to cry out, this is what we cannot do. Conscience, sin, and the wrath of God are about our necks. Nature cannot cry out. When Jonah reached the point that he could cry, he had won. Cry unto the Lord in your anguish, and it will be milder. Just cry and nothing else. He does not ask about your merit. Reason does not understand this, and always wants to bring in something to placate God. But there just is nothing to bring. Reason does not believe that all that is needed to quiet God's anger is a cry.

"All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me." Observe that Jonah calls them thy waves. If a wind-blown leaf can affright a host, what must not the sea have done to Jonah? And what will not the majesty of God at the judgment day do to all angels and all creatures? "My soul melted within me, and I thought of the Lord." This is to turn from the God of judgment to God the Father. But this does not lie in the power of man.

"I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving, I will pay that I had vowed." "And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it cast Jonah forth upon the dry land." The instrument of death is become the agency of life.