Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Luther in Rome and His Early View of the Papacy

Recently, I found an interesting pre-Reformation quote from Luther while reading Hartmann Grisar's Luther 1. When Luther says that he was committed to the papacy in his early career, he really meant it:

"If Christ had not entrusted all power to one man, the Church would not have been perfect because there would have been no order and each one would have been able to say he was led by the Holy Spirit. This is what the heretics did, each one setting up his own principle. In this way as many Churches arose as there were heads. Christ therefore wills, in order that all may be assembled in one unity, that His Power be exercised by one man to whom also He commits it. He has, however, made this Power so strong that He looses all the powers of Hell (without injury) against it. He says: The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, as though He said: They will fight against it but never overcome it, so that in this way it is made manifest that this power is in reality from God and not from man. Wherefore whoever breaks away from this unity and order of the Power, let him not boast of great enlightenment and wonderful works, as our Picards and other heretics do, for much better is obedience than the victims of fools who know not what evil they do (Eccles. iv. 17)." (Sermo in Vincula S. Petri, hence on August 1. " Werke " Weim. ed., 1 (1883), p. 69).

The Latin text for this quote can be found here. Note the brevity of the Latin text as well, so whoever transcribed the sermon, either only provided an overview or just this snippet. The sermon snippet dates from 1516 (the year before the penning of the 95 Theses). One can imagine how Luther must have felt when he pointed out blatant abuses and was simply ordered by the papacy to cease and desist.

Grisar uses the quote to prove that when Luther visited Rome in 1510, the corruption or the city did not cause Luther to lose faith in the Papacy. On the other hand, Roman Catholic Ken Hensley's lecture, Luther: The Rest of the Story says that Luther's experience caused him to doubt the power and authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Take a listen to this short mp3 clip from Hensley.

It's also interesting to contrast Hensley and Grisar and the moral state of Rome during this time period. Hensley comes right out and says Rome was more or less morally depraved from head to toe and that Luther questioned his faith in Rome should be no surprise. In fact, Hensley says if Papal leadership doesn't act morally, this is what one should expect of her faithful followers. I add, Hensley's comments should be applied to Rome's current scandal.

Grisar likewise says Rome was "deeply debased" but goes a completely different direction: Luther still should have encountered a "great deal of the Church which no shadow can ever darken" and Luther's "critically disposed mind" "proved all too receptive to the contrary impressions" of Rome and "allowed himself to be unduly influenced by the dark side of things, i.e. the corruption of morals" (Grisar, p.32).

Two Roman Catholics, two different historical conclusions!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Are There Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin? (Part Four)

In a self-published Roman Catholic book comes the following quotation from John Calvin:

At present I only reply in one word, that our Saviour’s promise is made to those only who assemble in his name. How, then, is such an assembly to be defined? I deny that those assemble in the name of Christ who, disregarding his command by which he forbids anything to be added to the word of God or taken from it, determine everything at their own pleasure, who, not contented with the oracles of Scripture, that is, with the only rule of perfect wisdom, devise some novelty out of their own head (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18). . . . Let my opponents solve this difficulty if they would subject my faith to the decrees of man, without authority from the word of God. (IV, 9:2)

The author uses this Calvin quote under the heading, "The Catholic Church vs. the Bible?" He concludes Calvin here is saying a Romanist doctrine is unscriptural because Calvin says it is. The author contends "It is simply not the case that Catholics ignore Scripture in setting forth their theological views" (p.17).

What is Calvin actually saying? The section from the Institutes begins Calvin's look at Councils and their authority (one wouldn't figure this out from the author's citation). Calvin begins in IV- 9.1 noting his esteem for ancient church councils. In IV-9.2 Calvin uses the criterion that a Council gathers in Christ's name when its goal is not to add or subtract from God's word. Calvin says that it's meaningless for his opponents to cite councils in response to him if they haven't first established that those councils really were gathered in Christ's name. Calvin says,

Ungodly and evil bishops can just as much conspire against Christ as good and honest ones can come together in his name. We have clear proof of this fact in a great many decrees that have come forth from such councils. But this will appear later.

Indeed, Calvin does cover this later (in IV-9.8-9). Calvin isn't making a blanket statement that all Roman Catholics "ignore Scripture in setting forth their theological views." He may make statements like this, but he certainly isn't making it here. He's arguing that when his opponents cite a Council to him, they need to first establish that council is not adding or subtracting to God's word. Calvin says,

It will benefit our adversaries but little to mention councils of bishops a thousand times over; nor will they persuade us to believe what they contend—that councils are governed by the Holy Spirit — before they convince us that these have been gathered in Christ’s name.

This is a great example of how the author reads a text. He argues about a point Calvin isn't even making at the moment. If the author really wanted to respond to Calvin, he should at least respond to the argument being made. Why not argue against Calvin about who decides if a Council is meeting in Christ's name? Why not argue who determines if someone is adding or subtracting to God's word? What criteria serves as a guideline to determine an addition or subtraction? If I were a Roman Catholic reading this section of the Institutes, that's what I would ask.

The author suggested fear motivated his detractors to question his competence in responding to John Calvin. If the rest of this person's reading of Calvin is similar to this, the only fear I have is what mis-reading and bogus response I'll find next, and how many years it would take me to go through his entire book.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Skip the "Middle Man" as the Middle Man Requested

The Catholic Champion has presented James Swan: Begging the Question on Sola Scriptura.

A few weeks back he put forth Revolutionizing Catholic Apologetics: Cutting Out The Middle Man and also wrote this.

So, shouldn't I simply skip the middle man? Exactly why should I read Matthew's response according to Matthew's own logic? He should just simply point me to which books would be the best response. But wait... that's the middle man pointing me to the best books.

I guess I'm stuck with the middle man is some regard until the magisterium does something, anything.... but their hands are full with lawsuits and allegations this week, so perhaps next week they can work on a good list of resources in response to my comments on sola scriptura.

Since Matthew recommends skipping the middle man, the argumentation I'd use in response to him would be found here. I suggest Matthew purchase this book and get right to the source of my argumentation.

By the way, I'm still hopeful Matthew will provide a list of which "middle men" to avoid. How do we know according to Matthew who qualifies as a "middle man"? Matthew states:

"The best place to start your research is by using faithful, well educated scholars and clergy to compile your material from, as well as the original sources of the Church, Church Fathers and the Saints."

Matthew suggests cutting out the middle men will revolutionize Romanist apologetics. Every revolution requires sacrifice, so let's get started with a list:


Patrick Madrid
Steve Ray
Tim Staples
Karl Keating
Mark Shea
John Martignoni
Matthew Bellisario


I'm willing to sacrifice the insights of these guys. Whom else could we do without?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Luther a Murderer?

On a recent post I mentioned Mitch Pacwa's upcoming Reformation video series. Pacwa was recently on Catholic Answers to discuss the project. He's looking to do a ten part series on the Reformation from a Roman Catholic perspective. I mentioned Pacwa says Luther "apparently had killed somebody in a duel."

Buried in my e-mail spam was a tip from someone who thinks he might know where Pacwa got this tidbit from:

A German biographer named Hans-Joachim Neumann published a book in 1995 entitled Luthers Leiden (English title Luther's Suffering) in which he puts together some circumstantial evidence that in 1505 Luther killed a friend of his in a duel, the friend's name being Hieronimus Buntz, and that the reason Luther entered the monastery was to escape punishment.

So based on this tidbit, I've been looking around for more information. On this web page comes the following:

Luther’s biographer and admirer, Hans-Joachim Neumann has put together much circumstantial evidence, which indicates, that Luther (who was named ”Luder” until 1520) killed his friend Hieronimus Buntz in a duel in 1505 and entered a monastery to escape punishment. In addition, Luder had a relationship with a married woman since 1503. (Luthers Leiden [Luther’s Suffering] ob cit., p. 15 ff.)

Now the webpage is a typical example of Internet propaganda. However, that doesn't necessarily mean this fact is incorrect. Here's another web page tidbit translated from the German:

Evidence suggesting that Luther killed his friend in the dispute Hieronimus Buntz. 1529 Luther wrote about his time monk: "A man slayer I was" and the biographer of Veit Dietrich, 1532, the Table Talk Luther noted: "After the extraordinary decree of God, I was made a monk, so they do not take me prisoner. Otherwise I would be very easy been caught. As it was, they could not, because it took me to the whole Order. "

And another (Translated from Swedish):

There have been two duels, where Luther attended during his undergraduate studies. The first duel was under Dietrich Emmes inquiries between Luther and Conrad Wigant April 16, 1503 near Stotternheim. The second duel was fought between Luther and Hieronimus Buntz in January 1505 and died in that regard Buntz. Where it happened is still an open question.

And another (translated from Spanish)






As to Hans-Joachim Neumann's book, he's a professor and maxillofacial surgeon at the teaching hospital of the Humboldt University in Berlin. His book attempts to use current medical knowledge on Luther. That is, he looks at Luther's health from the historical reports, and then at times diagnoses his suffering and how that impacted his work.

I put this post together in about twenty minutes, so when I have more time, I'll be looking further into this based on the clues above.

Update
Just to prove I'm not the meanie some think I am, I searched the term "Dietrich Emme" and found a helpful bit of information via this link (Give credit when it's due). This blog posted an edited snippet from the magazine, Thirty Days: "Struck, But Not By Lightning," by Tommaso Ricci, No. 2, 1992, pp. 62-64), worth checking out on this topic.

I'm always curious as to the Roman Catholic interpretation of Luther & the Reformation. I do like Mitch Pacwa, but I've heard him say some not so true historical stuff on Luther & the Reformation over the years. Perhaps now that he'll be focusing directly on Luther & the Reformation, his facts will be updated. Sometimes we hear stuff, and just repeat it, not realizing it's wrong. With this particular event (or non-event), I'm hopeful he'll be fair. The conclusions seem to be based on circumstantial evidence, and it's interesting that not too many people have picked up on this, leading me to believe it's not compelling circumstantial evidence. Even Pacwa used the word "apparently". On the other hand, even if this "duel" is true, it doesn't change anything.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Are There Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin? (Part Two)

I debated as to who to follow in my review of a recent Roman Catholic book on John Calvin. Calvin's order or that put forth by the Roman Catholic author. Common sense tells me to follow the order of argumentation set forth by Calvin, but since the review is on the analysis put forth by a Roman Catholic author, I'm going to journey through his book via his order. Unfortunately, this is like cooking pasta in a big bowl, then trying to organize each strand into a picture of the Mona Lisa. For instance, the very first snippet of analysis put forth by the author is directed toward the thirteenth point of a sixteen point extended argument from Calvin. It's like watching an old episode of Mission Impossible starting fifteen minutes before the end of the episode.

So with that, I'll begin where the roman Catholic author begins. I'll note the title of his section, and provide the reference to the Institutes. To follow along, simply read the section of Calvin's Institutes noted. I'll be using both the Battles and Beveridge translations. For anyone time challenged, consult Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin (New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1980). This text outlines Calvin's actual argument in each section.

1. The Catholic Church vs. the Bible?
The Roman Catholic author begins with an edit of IV, 8:13 and one sentence from IV, 17:48 ". . . the ministers of Satan, whose usual practice is to hold the Scriptures in derision, . . ."). He comments:

The Catholic Church doesn't create dogmas with utter disregard for Scripture (quite the contrary). Calvin fails to document what he charges. We make no such dichotomy. Calvin does because he thinks in "either/or" terms: for him, if there is true Church authority, this must somehow inexorably be opposed to Scripture in some essential fashion. It's simply not true.

From his reading, the author sees Calvin positing the Roman church doesn't rely on Scripture when it creates dogma. Perhaps he has these key sentences from Calvin in view:

Their statement that the church cannot err bears on this point, and this is how they interpret it—inasmuch as the church is governed by the Spirit of God, it can proceed safely without the Word; no matter where it may go, it can think or speak only what is true; accordingly, if it should ordain anything beyond or apart from God’s Word, this must be taken as nothing but a sure oracle of God.

And:

Now it is easy to conclude how wrongly our opponents act when they boast of the Holy Spirit solely to commend with his name strange doctrines foreign to God’s Word—while the Spirit wills to be conjoined with God’s Word by an indissoluble bond, and Christ professes this concerning him when he promises the Spirit to his church.


Calvin's Argument
In IV, 8:13 Calvin argues against the claim that the church cannot err because it's governed by God's Spirit. It also claims the ability to ordain doctrine beyond what was set down in Scripture. Footnote #15 of the Battles translation documents this by appealing to Cochlaeus, De authoritate ecclesiae (1524) I. v, fo. C 1b; I. 6, fo. C 3b; De Castro, Adversus haereses I (1543, fo. 8 B-10 G). In the very next section (IV, 8:14) Calvin goes on to expand this by saying:

Here again they mutter that the church needed to add some things to the writings of the apostles, or that the apostles themselves afterward properly supplied through a living voice what they had not clearly enough taught. For, of course, Christ said to the apostles, “I have many things to say to you which you cannot bear now” [John 16:12]. These, they explain, are decrees which, apart from Scripture, have been accepted only by use and custom.

Again, this is substantiated by footnote #17- Cochlaeus, op. cit., I. 4, fo. B 4a; I. 8, fo. E 2a; Eck, Enchiridion (1535), fo. 21ab. In Eck's Enchiridion we find the following statement:

Not only are those things expressly stated in the Scriptures or proved from them to be believed and kept (something the Lutherans are willing to do), but also it is necessary to believe and keep those things Holy Mother Church believes and observes. For not everything has been clearly handed down in the Sacred Scriptures, but very many have been left to the Church to determine (which is illumined and governed by the Holy Spirit, and on this account cannot wander from the path of truth). Hence the Savior said to his disciples [Jn 16:12f ]: "I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth." Therefore the Church observes in its rites and ceremonies many things, from the intimate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the tradition of the Apostles, and of the holy fathers, which even if not expressly stated in the Scriptures, yet it is wicked to depart from them or take exception to them. Indeed these things are most confirmed to them, and on that account are to be enforced and observed by all true evangelical and Pauline Christians (such do the Lutherans falsely boast themselves to be). "Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle" [2 Thess 2;14]. [Enchiridion of Commonplaces (Michigan: Baker Books, 1979), p.46].

One finds this very issue (the contents of Scripture and Tradition) debated at the Council of Trent. Rome declared that the truth of God is found both in the Scriptures and in the Tradition of the church. James Boice points out,

A technical point of historical research concerning Trent sheds some interesting light on the matter. In the original draft of the fourth session of Trent the decree read that “the truths … are contained partly [partim] in Scripture and partly [partim] in the unwritten traditions.” But at a decisive point in the Council’s deliberations two priests, Nacchianti and Bonnucio rose in protest against the partim … partim formula. These men protested on the grounds that this view would destroy the uniqueness and sufficiency of Scripture. All we know from that point on is that the words partly … partly were removed from the text and replaced by the word and (et). Did this mean that the Council responded to the protest and perhaps left the relationship between Scripture and Tradition purposely ambiguous? Was the change stylistic, meaning that the Council still maintained two distinct sources of revelation? These questions are the focus of the current debate among Roman theologians. [“Sola Scriptura: Crucial to Evangelicalism.” The Foundations of Biblical Authority. James M. Boice, ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980].

It is a simple historical fact that those Roman theologians contemporary with the Reformers viewed God's truth also elsewhere than solely in Scripture. David Bagchi notes,

Luther's characteristic position was that no doctrine not found in Scripture can be enjoined as generally necessary for salvation. This view was universally condemned by Catholics, principally on two grounds that were themselves drawn from Scripture. First, Christ said much to his apostles that is not recorded in Scripture (John 21:25). This apostolic tradition was reputed to include such practices as praying toward the east and observing Sunday as the Christian sabbath, and such doctrines as the generation of the Son from the Father. Second, Christ told his apostles that they could not yet bear the whole truth and promised them the Holy Spirit, which would lead them into all truth (John 16:12-13).70 This was taken as a guarantee of the trustworthiness of established custom, consuetudo ecclesiae. [David Bagchi, Luther's Earliest Opponents (Minnieapolis: fortress Press, 1991), p. 163]

And also:

The early canons of Gratian, especially Ecclesiasticarum, In his rebus, and Catholica, are clear that Scripture, apostolic tradition, and local and universal customs (provided that they contravene neither positive law nor the law of reason) have equal force. Apostolic tradition was, of course, a fixed body of instructions, the contents of which were well known from references to it made by the fathers. What local and universal customs embraced was, however, not so evident. Clearly they were less ancient than the apostolic traditions, but how ancient did a custom have to be for it to be traditional? The fact that many of the beliefs and practices the Romanists defended as traditional or customary were of recent date caused them little embarrassment. This must not surprise us, for their appeal was ultimately not to antiquity, nor to catholicity, but to the fact that the doctrine or discipline at issue belonged to that church to which Christ had promised the Spirit of truth. The process of being led into all truth was one that nullified all considerations of antiquity and universality, "for the Spirit blows not only where it will, but also when it will" [Ibid., p.166].

Conclusion
Here we have clear truth that the Roman theologians of Calvin's day argued for a second vehicle of God's revealed truth outside of Scripture, and this content was different than that contained in the Scripture. This is in fact how Rome's sixteenth century apologists argued against the Reformers, and this is the argument Calvin is responding to. Is the romanist author's analysis of Calvin accurate? No, he completely misses Calvin's argument, and the historical context in which the argument was made. Indeed, the Roman church today attempts to dress everything up with Scripture, but back then, Rome's apologists had no trouble stating God's truth was also outside of the Bible (ironically, even many of Rome's modern defenders say this). This is a perfect example of what Steve Hays stated:

[Calvin's Institutes] was written at a very different time and place. To correctly interpret Calvin, you’d need to know about his intellectual influences, the socioeconomic and political conditions of the day, the historical antecedents to his theological terminology, the identity of his theological opponents, and century. What may be common knowledge for someone living in the 16th Century is hardly common knowledge for someone living in the 21st Century.

The author goes on to examine Calvin on Tradition. This will be covered in my next installment.

Are There Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin? (Part Three)

In a Roman Catholic book on John Calvin comes the following quotation from John Calvin:

Every child knows that in the writings of the apostles, which these men represent as mutilated and incomplete, is contained the result of that revelation which the Lord then promised to them. (IV, 8:14)

Roman Catholic Analysis
Catholics do not do this. Scripture often points to traditions outside of itself that are true. Therefore, to hold such a view is not to hold to a "mutilated and incomplete" Bible. It is to hold to all that the Bible itself asserts. The one who denies that there is such a thing as a tradition described and fully accepted in Scripture, is selectively disbelieving part of that same Scripture. It isn’t being accepted in its totality.

Context
Calvin is discussing the claim that extra apostolic God-breathed material exists beyond the Bible. He argues in response that when the apostles committed their doctrine to writing, they weren't so incompetent to leave important things out which needed to be given to the church via a "living voice." Quoting Augustine, Calvin says, "When the Lord said nothing, who of us may say,'These things are or those things are’? Or if one dare say so, what proof does he provide”?

Response
Here would have been a perfect spot for the author to actually supply a Biblical Catholic answer. Which God breathed Traditions does the Bible say exist outside of its pages? Well, of course the Bible can't tell you what they are, that's why they're Traditions! Who can tell you? Why, the Roman Catholic Church... but can they really? They've yet to declare whether the partim-partim or material view is that described in Trent. Those Calvin faced were clearly of the partim-partim camp.

Catholic Partim-Partim Sufficiency claims part of God’s special revelation is contained in the Scripture, and part is contained in Tradition. In this view, the Bible is “materially insufficient.” The New Catholic Encyclopedia states of those who hold this view, “Neither tradition nor Scripture contains the whole apostolic tradition. Scripture is materially (i.e., in content) insufficient, requiring oral tradition as a complement to be true to the whole divine revelation” [Source: New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) Vol 14, p.228].

The other is the Roman Catholic Material Sufficiency view. It holds the Scriptures are “materially sufficient” meaning the entire content of revelation is in the Scriptures, or that divine revelation is contained entirely in Scripture. That is, all the doctrines Christians are to believe are found in the Bible. Along with affirming totum in Scriptura, Catholics who maintain material sufficiency also hold “Tradition” likewise contains the entire content of revelation: “totum in traditione”. Thus, two vehicles carry God’s special revelation in total: Scripture and Tradition. Both are infallible in the Catholic view.

A search of the author's blog for the term "Partim Partim" provided two hits, and neither were his words. He does though appear to be holding to the material view:

We believe Scripture is materially sufficient, but not formally sufficient without the Church as a Guide. We believe that Scripture and Tradition are "twin fonts of the same divine wellspring," as Vatican II states.

Calvin was well within his right to criticize the view of his contemporaries. They indeed held that the Bible was not complete and needed to have things added.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Are There Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin? (Part One)

A Roman Catholic recently blogged a large amount of material on John Calvin. I held out reading any of it and waited to see what he'd put forth in a published book. So I recently received his book on Calvin. Material on a blog can be edited or deleted as if by magic. A published work though sets one's opinion and research concretely. I plan on at least working through some of it to see if Patrick Madrid's claim that this author's work ably refutes Calvinism is correct. It may indeed be the case it accurately presented the argumentation of Calvin's Institutes and contrasted those differences succinctly with his particular flavor of modern day Romanism. If that turn out to be so, I'd be pleasantly surprised. This book spans 388 pages, so it's not a quick read. "Succinct" may not exactly be an accurate description of this text.

Given the author's work on Luther, I do have significant doubts that he accurately presented correct nalysis of Calvin. As I work through the material, I'll keep a sharp lookout for Biblical Catholic answers. That's actually the first quizzical statement from the author. Will he be presenting Biblical answers which are those interpretations of Biblical texts most commonly used by current non scholarly Romanists? Since there are so few (or perhaps any) actual infallibly defined verses for Roman Catholics to utilize, will this treatment be this Catholic author's particular interpretations of the Bible that serve as a response? Or, will those answers be his particular Biblical interpretation along with his particular interpretation of statements from Papal encyclicals, councils and Tradition, etc.?

Dedication
The author dedicates the book "To my Reformed Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ, for whom I have a great deal of respect. May we rejoice in the common ground that we have, and be cordially open and honest with each other, as fellow Christians, when we disagree." Let me be cordially open and honest with the author. More often than not, seriously Reformed five point Calvinists don't consider Roman Catholics "brothers and sisters in Christ." Recent argumentation put forth by Doug Wilson and his group as well as some atypical reasoning from Charles Hodge are exceptions, not the rule. We can be grateful for the author's graciousness towards separated brethren, but he should not be surprised that Reformed people deny him the hand of fellowship in return for his dedication. Those like the author that knowingly and actively promote Rome's false gospel do not stand on common ground with the Reformed on issues most vital to the Christian faith.

Translation of Calvin's Institutes
The author relied on the older Henry Beveridge translation of Calvin's Institutes (1845) "to easily cut and paste everything in it, without a great deal of extra typing being necessary". This is unfortunate, because a far superior translation by Ford Lewis Battles now is the norm for English readers. A cyber-version of this translation can be obtained for a meager $15. Of the Beveridge translation John T. McNeill notes the translation is of "uneven quality" and it's "rather less accurate than either of his predecessors, and is chargeable with numerous minor omissions and a few clearly erroneous renderings" (The Library of Christian Classics edition of Calvin's Institutes, volumes 20 of Westminster's series, p. xlvii). McNeill says though that Beveridge did an admirable job on many sections of the text. One wonders why the author, for a mere $15 wouldn't seek out the best translation? The Battles translation is also more than just a modernized rendering. Its in depth historical and bibliographic notes are of great value to anyone engaging the Institutes. If an English reader really wanted to understand the Institutes and all it entails, the Battles edition is the best choice. To go along with this, any layman really serious about engaging the Institutes would greatly benefit from the compendium book by Battles, Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin (New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1980). Here Battles provides an outline form for each chapter of the Institutes. I point all this tedium out to note that the necessary tools to understand Calvin in context are readily available for any serious study and interaction with the text.

Methodology
The author chose to use his "Socratic manner" to interact with the Institutes. What this usually means is that a section of text is posted, and then commentary from the author follows. The positive aspect of using such an approach is that one can claim to have interacted line by line with a complete text. The negative aspect is that complex argumentation sometimes must be viewed as a whole in order to be best understood and appreciated. If a text is scrutinized line by line without the whole in view, the argument can be missed, caricatured, or mishandled. Also the "Socratic manner" often employed by the author tends to scream out, "I need an editor." Sometimes what could be said in a paragraph of analysis spans multiple paragraphs of tedium and rabbit trails. In this volume, the author appears to argue against Calvin by reorganizing the Institutes into his own system. For instance, Calvin begins Book IV (the focus of the author's book) addressing The Holy Catholic Church, our mother. The author approaches this subject on page 323. The author begins his book with Institutes IV, 8:13 and IV, 17:48 discussing The Catholic Church vs. the Bible. Calvin though discusses the authority of Scripture throughout the Institutes, but in particular in Book I.

The Focus of This Roman Catholic Book on John Calvin
The author says his focus is on Book IV of the Institutes: Of the Holy Catholic Church. He claims that Calvinism and Romanism are far closer on soteriology,whereas the real differences between the two systems are on ecclesiology. With this I have an immediate rejection, as would John Calvin most likely. Perhaps the author means only to suggest that current Romanism is closer in soteriology to Calvin, whereas, Calvin wrote with his contemporary "Papists" in view. In either case, the differences between imputation and infusion are still two different soteriologies staring at each other across an immense chasm never to be bridged. The author says Calvin didn't even realize how close he was to being in harmony with Roman Catholic soteriology. I would say quite the opposite is the case (see Institutes Book III, 13-20).

The Author vs. the Goliath of Calvin
The author compares his credentials to those of Calvin, noting Calvin's "formal education, rhetorical and literary ability" and "remarkable encyclopedic knowledge". The author though is "just a lay Catholic apologist with a degree in sociology, and no formal theological education (but with lots of informal theological education for over thirty years)". I have to wholeheartedly agree with the author that Calvin is far his superior. Calvin with his limited library and all those issues which plagued his life is still the greater intellect compared to the author living in the United States with a computer. The author says that since Calvin's been dead a long time and can't counter respond, Calvin's education makes this a fair fight. That is, it's not unfair to write a refutation of someone that's long gone if they have a pedigree of intellectual accomplishment. The "unfairness" as I see it is in this sense: Calvin wrote against the particular Romanism of his day. The author writes from his modern Romanist perspective. As long as the author takes this into consideration, a fair response to Calvin is an approachable endeavour.

The author says "I'm confident that [Calvin] has been, throughout my replies, very often plainly shown to be in error. I've often noted that one may be the greatest genius of all time, but if the facts and the truth are not on one’s side, even an infant who knows the truth can 'get the better of them' in discussion". I can appreciate the fact that the author argues for the perspicuity of truth without infallible help. That is, it's refreshing to find a Roman Catholic so willing to admit that words and information on a printed page can obviously be clear enough to be true or false, and that a person without formal theological training can arrive at truth. I would say, this is refreshingly Protestant of the author.

Get The Anti-Catholics Before They Get You
The author notes that even before his book was published, certain Reformed nefarious anti-Catholics were already attacking his Calvin project. After searching around a bit, it appears those to whom he refers actually made their comments on this blog. The author suggests these minions actually fear such a book on Calvin coming out. Those in my immediate apologetic circle that doubt the author's abilities to put forth a coherent response to Calvin by no means "fear" his intellectual prowess. Rather, my response to the project is more like someone watching a car wreck about to happen. "Someone get the keys before the car pulls away."

On the other hand, the author makes a point which at first appears valid in his defense: "The second defense I made was to appeal to Calvin’s own claims for his work, and its intended audience. It was not supposed to be for scholars and theologians only, but rather, primarily for students and laymen". Steve Hays though has pointed out,"The definitive 1559 edition of the Institutes was written in Latin. It’s not as if the average baker, blacksmith, midwife, or cobbler could read Latin. Indeed, universal literacy in the 16th Century was nonexistent." Hays goes on to say:

Even more to the point, it’s obviously anachronistic to say that because 16th Century work was pitched at a popular level, therefore a 21st Century blogger can write a commentary on that work without any specialized background knowledge. Even if it was written for popular consumption in the 16th Century, to a 16th Century audience, that doesn’t mean it’s equally accessible to a modern audience. It was written at a very different time and place. To correctly interpret Calvin, you’d need to know about his intellectual influences, the socioeconomic and political conditions of the day, the historical antecedents to his theological terminology, the identity of his theological opponents, &century. What may be common knowledge for someone living in the 16th Century is hardly common knowledge for someone living in the 21st Century.

On this blog some months ago, this very subject of the author's Calvin material came up as well. The author says of his Calvin work: "Catholics who encounter Calvinist friends might like to consult this for reference purposes." Hays responds,

So Catholics who are incompetent to evaluate Calvin should consult a Catholic epologist who is equally incompetent to evaluate Calvin. Richard Muller might be qualified to write a commentary on the Institutes. Roger Nicole might be qualified to write a commentary on the Institutes. Paul Helm might be qualified to write a commentary on the Institutes. There are probably some Catholic scholars who would be qualified to do so as well. You are not. Your commentary on the Institutes is an exercise in self-conceited charlatanry.

The words "self-conceited charlatanry" made it to the published edition of the book. The other person apparently singled out in the book is Tim Enloe, who stated the following on this blog:

I thought it was bad some years back when [the author] claimed he didn't even need to know the alpha from the omega in order to "refute" an argument advanced by a man who had been teaching Greek on the college level for many years. I thought it was bad when a few years back he claimed that an entire critical portion of my thesis on conciliarism, discussing the centuries of Medieval canon law debates about the limits of papal power, was "too boring" for him to read through and try to figure out, but he was going to go ahead and "refute" my "dumb" statements about the orthodoxy of conciliarism anyway. The notion that [the author] is writing a "commentary" on Calvin's Institutes, however, tops it all off. The man simply has no concept of his limitations, and despises the correction of others who do. This is one part of the biblical definition of a fool, and since [the author] apparently considers himself a Modern day Socrates, it is worth noting that Socrates would have called him a fool, too - not to mention a Sophist.

The words “no concept” and “limitations” made it to the book. Enloe went on to say:

The question being raised about qualifications to, say, write a "commentary" on Calvin's Institutes is very interesting and touches precisely on why I am so hard on Internet apologists. It's one thing to blog in a spirit of "faith seeking understanding" inquiry where one recognizes one's intellectual horizons and is seeking to grow in his or her understanding. It's quite something else to set oneself up as a master of some subject matter for the purpose of "defending the Faith" and acting like the command to "give an answer" means that any old time you run into something you don't understand, a few nights with encyclopedias and popular-level works will suffice to write a definitive "refutation" of someone's "errors."

-snip-

It is still an interesting question - the limits that laymen should observe when putting their thoughts out in public. I scrolled through the papal document on lay apostolates last night, and while I would not be able to say that I have a great grasp of its guidelines, I did find it interesting that it said some things about laymen needing to have specific mandates from the hierarchy and obtaining "serious" training for the purpose of being competent to do those mandated tasks. It does make an outsider wonder about much of what goes on in the Catholic apologetics world, especially the common enough phenomenon of Joe Blow, who just converted 6 months ago after reading 25 pages of the Church Fathers, 100 pages of Catholic convert stories, and a 2 page summary of Newman setting himself up as an "apologist."

The author says of Enloe and Hays:

This is how the academic snob views most popular analyses, written for the masses and the proverbial “common man,” rather than merely to academics and pointy-headed “intellectuals.” Neither of these men, however (ironically), are actually academics themselves. One is a teaching assistant and the other is still trying, in his late thirties, to obtain a graduate degree. Both have been very active on the Internet for years (a “popular” medium if there ever was one), since that has been the only way they could be read at all (neither having had a book published by reputable publishers, as I have, six times now). They seem to believe that the only people who can think and analyze and critique are scholars and professors. Yet they write such analyses all the time, and are scarcely more qualified than I am (if not less) to do so.

One can see that both Hays and Enloe raised serious questions as to the author's work on Calvin, yet it is enough to attack these men personally as a response, in print. One wonders if any publisher or editor would've kept such comments in a published book. He ignores their constructive criticism and says,"No law or rule can be found that would forbid me from doing this, or entail that this endeavor ought to be defined as having 'no concept' of my 'limitations,' as one of my critics put it, or, 'an exercise in self-conceited charlatanry,' as another delightfully opined." Even if there was a law or rule, one doubts the author would follow it anyway.

Final Remarks
The author says his book is a "gift to John Calvin". Poor Calvin, all his opponents want to give him refutations of the Institutes. Servetus sent Calvin his Christianismi Restitutio, an attack on the Institutes. Normally, gifts aren't meant to tear a person down. I do find it interesting that a man deemed a heretic by Romanists and Protestants likewise wanted Calvin to have such a present.

The author finishes his introduction by stating, "May God the Holy Spirit, our Helper, guide us all into all truth, and grant us the will, by His grace, to want to always seek truth". I haven't done any searches on this sentence, but it is rather curious for a Roman Catholic espousing free will to ask God to "grant us the will." Perhaps a little Calvin actually did rub off on the author.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why the Canon Argument is Connected to Playing "Freebird" for Two Hours


I recently posted The Canon as Infallible Sacred Tradition over on aomin.org. I realize this type of post is... well, argumentation that has been presented before. I wanted to explain the odd circumstances that provoked me to put it together.

I was looking at recent threads over at Catholic Answers, and came across this post: how do we defend against this Catholic slam? The post states,

A prominent central NJ pastor is doing a month-long series on Catholicism. See liquidchurch.com and bighairpreacher.com. You can listen to his messages at liquidchurch.com or on iTunes (search for 'Liquid Church').

How do Catholics respond to what he says? Does he misrepresent Catholic theology? He doesn't put it in a good light, despite that he says he's not out to "trash Catholics".

Now normally I wouldn't even bother to visit a site like the one mentioned. I'm sure there are a number of ministers takings shots at Romanism, and probably some using horrendous argumentation. I was recently made aware of this particular church ("Liquid Church"), and it's actually not far from where I live. It's a church geared toward the youth, and I've heard it's quite successful (in terms of popularity and attendance). They've got the great band, and all the media enhancement, and probably are somewhat emergent, though I haven't looked over their site very closely. They do appear to be non-Reformed, lacking creeds, and dispensational in eschatology. I wouldn't expect to find the same quality of argumentation against Romanism as say found as that put forth by a Reformed church.

Now here's where it gets personal. I sort of know the minister of this church. He actually grew up in the same church I did. He was at least 4 or 5 years younger than I. I was actually good friends with his older brother back in my teens- we were both guitarists, or rather, guitarist wanna be's. I have very fond memories of the "Freebird" two hour jam sessions in which two 14 year old boys traded riffs, blew up amplifiers, broke strings, and had the police show up telling us to turn our amplifiers down. I think we also had a few good doses of electricity pumped through us by plugging too many amplifiers into one ungrounded outlet. Great times!

Now fast forward 27 years. I have no idea where this brother is, but little Timmy is now a very successful local pastor. It was probably out of sentiment that I went and visited the web page that so infuriated the Romanists on Catholic Answers. I ended up getting involved in the blog comments. I'm not sure how skilled Pastor Tim is with basic Romanist epistemological argumentation. I watched a few clips from Pastor Tim on Roman Catholicism, basic stuff, not bad, but definitely not able to meet the epistemological issues raised by Romanism. I don't even know if Pastor Tim reads his blog comments, or even remembers me. But if he does visit his blog, he'll see that I interacted with the old rewarmed canon argument. It's funny, I would've thought this argument would've been retired by now. I know I haven't listened to or played Freebird in many, many years.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

DavidW on Gnosticism and Calvinism

I've been interacting some on DavidW's blogpost about his comparisons of Gnostic predestination and Calvinistic predestination.  He swears up and down that Calvinism is dressed-up Gnosticism, and I already corrected him on his point, told him:
My response is basically that you're committing a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Alot of EOC doctrines resemble Mormonism; that doesn't mean they're related. Looking at it the other way, all the ancient heretics held to doctrines that EOC would accept as well - that's what makes heretics so dangerous. They creep in, sound the same in almost everything, but secretly introduce destructive heresies, subtly, drawing away disciples after them. So this point of yours in principle proves too much. Otherwise stated, it proves nothing. 
 DavidW today laid out 5 questions on this topic he'd like me to address.  Let's see how well he did.

David,
1) No, it's not a tu quoque. I don't grant that Calvinistic predest is of Gnostic derivation, remember? Rather, I derive Calv predest from Scr, which preceded Gnosticism. So, that's wrong.

2a) "early church writer" means "someone in the early church who wrote". Nothing more or less.
The entire reason I use that term is to point out your question-begging distinction between "Church Fathers" and "heretics". You test everythg by the church; well, what if those whom you now identify as heretics had won the struggle? Then the men you now identify as CFs would be heretics, to you.
This is the problem with the Sola Ecclesia position; the only way you can judge the heretics of old to have been wrong is b/c the modern church is the group that won out, that won the power struggle. Not so for me - I can and must judge anyone and everyone and their teaching by the Word of God, which does not change.

2b) at least one early Church Father who believed in predestination
I've given you three many times - Jesus, Peter, Paul.
This business about early church writers and the dissent that existed between them is an internal critique of the EO position. It doesn't have any bearing on Sola Scriptura.

3) I've identified your arguments as committing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (and am still waiting for a rebuttal). I can demonstrate that my doctrines are drawn from Scriptural exegesis. The ball's in your court.
You said:
If the Gnostic doctrine is not the same as the Calvinist doctrine, surely you should be able to explain how they are different.

Gosh, let's see. Oh, I know - one's Trinitarian and Christian, the other isn't. One's drawn from Scriptural exegesis, the other isn't.
From your own post:
their own selves (who are saved by nature)

Nope, saved by the grace of God. Fail #1.


Faith, then, is no longer the direct result of free choice, if it is a natural advantage.

Define "direct", "result", "free", and "choice".
Besides, Calvinism teaches that the regenerate man DOES freely choose - he chooses God b/c his nature has been changed and he's been given a new heart. Before that, he always freely chooses death and sin, b/c his nature is dead in sin and he hates God, his Enemy.
Fail #2.


Ye are originally immortal

Yet Calvinism teaches we are born dead in sin, and w/o God's intervention we will go to Hell forever.
Fail #3.


he also, similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature

It's so funny how you want to equate the Trinitarian God of the Bible with the Gnostic "nature". Why would you do that?
Fail #4.


In this way also they make a twofold distinction among souls, as to their property of good and evil

And yet the Bible teaches, and Calvinism of course affirms, that "there is no one good, no, not one." Fail #5.
(BTW, why are you citing the heretic Tertullian?)


For this reason it is that they neither regard works as necessary for themselves, nor do they observe any of the calls of duty, eluding even the necessity of martyrdom on any pretence which may suit their pleasure.

1) Calvinism teaches that God works thru means. Fail #6.
2) Calvinism teaches that man is responsible and called to "be holy as your Father in Heaven is holy". I am obligated to follow the entire law of God. Fail #7.


a rigidly deterministic scheme

Perhaps you're confusing Calvinism with HyperCalvinism? I'm pretty sure you've been corrected on that before, but you seem not to be a big fan of taking correction. Fail #8.
Now that, friends, is a lot of fail.


4) Irenaeus says They have also other modes of honouring these images... Seems like he's not a big fan of ANY honoring of images. I can certainly see where he's coming from - why not honor Christ? If you say "we already do", are you denying you could do so more? Or have you honored Him enough already? Let someone else get their snout in the trough, as it were.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mitch Pacwa and Luther's Canon

In looking over Mitch Pacwa's upcoming Reformation video series, I came across this page from Ignatius Productions. It's a set of audio clips from Pacwa on the Reformation. Here's a short mp3 clip from Pacwa on Luther removing books from the Bible. This snippet is part of a ten minute clip by Pacwa specifically on Luther.

Here are Pacwa's assertions:

1. For two years, Luther tried to "kick out" the book of Revelation from the New Testament.

2. In the first edition of his New Testament translation, excluded Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation


3. Luther removed these books because they contradicted the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

It is a simple historical fact that Luther’s translation of the Bible contained all of its books. Luther began translating the New Testament in 1521, and released a finished version in 1522. Luther therefore never tried to "kick out" books from the Bible. I'm not sure why Pacwa mentioned an alleged "two year" struggle with the book of Revelation. I'm not aware of any historical discussion in the year 1524 from Luther (or the years in between) pertinent to taking Revelation out of the his translation.

Pacwa appears to be confused by Luther's prefaces, which I've covered here. It's often the case that Roman Catholics equate Luther's questioning of the canonictiy of certain books with taking books out of his published bible. For instance, Jimmy Akin used to say Luther "cut books out of the Bible." This is a typical error made by Roman Catholics.

As to the list of books Pacwa asserts Luther tried to kick out, I know of no evidence that Luther ever had any negative criticism inclining him to "kick out" 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John. I checked Luther's original prefaces from 1522, and there's not even a hint of questioning these three books. In facts, of 2 & 3 John Luther stated, "The other two Epistles are not epistles of doctrine, but examples of love and faith, and have, besides, a true apostolic spirit" [Works of Martin Luther vol. 6 (Philadelphia Edition), p.476].

On the other hand, the person that did question the authenticity of these three books was Cardinal Cajetan, one of the leading Roman Catholic scholars of Luther's day. Will this fact make it into Pacwa's Reformation video series? I doubt it.

As to Luther removing books because they contradict justification by faith alone, the only book I'm aware of that would come close to Pacwa's description is the book of James. Luther's questioning of Jude primarily has to do with its status in Church history, and it’s internal evidence as to its apostolicity. As to Revelation and Hebrews, his reasoning was similar. Luther never explicitly adds Revelation to his list of “chief books.” However, his tone of writing in the 1530-revised preface contains only a remnant of the doubt as to its canonicity.With Hebrews, Luther’s opinion fluctuated throughout his career.

Pacwa's got a few years to straighten out his facts. So far, I've found him using the following questionable or erroneous facts:

Luther killed someone in duel

Roman Catholics responding nicely to Luther were made saints

Luther plagiarized an early German Bible, simply adding what he wanted to

Luther tried to kick books out of the Bible

Luther tried kick three books out of the Bible he thought were biblical.

Luther rejected James, Hebrews, Revelation, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John because they contradict justification by faith alone. The truth is, Luther's opinion of James is the closest that comes to Pacwa's description.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Balance of Apologetics and Agape Love

My friend, Mark, in the combox of my previous article on "Khoda or Allah??" (Another Mistake by Ergun Caner) asked about "The Camel Method" of Evangelizing Muslims, which is referenced in a NY times article about it and Ergun Caner.

UPDATE: Please see the updated information in the comboxes on the Camel Method. Because of this new information to me; especially the letter from Phil Parshall, and my need to read the Camel Method again; I will refrain at this time from speaking about the Camel Method and take the references to it out; but I will leave my analysis and critique of the C-5/Insiders Movement/"Common Ground" methods. I confess I was speaking out of my years of conflict/tension and confrontation with fellow missionary types on the C-5 level and the emotional tension that that caused. I apologize for including the Camel Method in with the clearly wrong C-5 level methods. But I do need to study that book again. I want to thank Erwin for coming here and commenting.
Dr. Ergun Caner and Dr. James White are right that certain kinds of missionary methods that put methodology over the Scriptures and the power of God to change people, can be deceptive to Muslims. Especially if we are not careful in our communication and exercise discernment and wisdom in how we use methodologies. For example, the C-5/ Insiders Movement / “Common Ground” teaching methods appear to affirm the Qur’an as an inspired book; and suggest that Muhammad was a true prophet from God. There is a lot of post-modern hermeneutics and American pragmatism and “emerging church” / seeker-sensitive type of philosophy and ideas that are the roots of these methods that put the methods over the power of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12), the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16), and it seems that the people who use these methods are not trusting the power of the Holy Spirit to blow where He wants and change people. (John 3:8)
The problem with these methods are that if they are actually opening up the Qur’an and studying it as if you are treating it as a Muslim would, as, “this is what God says”; it is treating it like an authoritative, “God-breathed” book – this is deceptive because the Muslim thinks you are affirming everything in it as inspired. I have had former Muslims tell me this when I quoted a verse from the Qur'an to make a point. In their contexts, you would have to respect the Qur’an, wash your hands, and put it on a stand with Muslims in order to actually “get into it” deeply with serious Muslims. If you don't say anything about the parts of it that are wrong, we can give the wrong impression to our Muslim friend.
The C-5 level methods of calling oneself a “Muslim” is deceptive also, especially without qualification and explanation that we actually believe in Christian submission to God. They can see through that game. The word “Muslim” means “one who has surrendered” or “one who submits”. (but it is understood in an Islamic context of “submission to Allah, and following the example of the prophet Muhammad, and following the Qur’an and the Sunna in the Hadith, and other Islamic sources, etc.) The concept of submission can be explained to Muslims in a biblical way, especially if you have a context of hospitality and love, where you can explain that the Bible speaks of submission to God’s will and we also believe in submission, that repentance and faith in Christ is true submission to God. (Mark 1:15; Luke 22:42; Romans 12:1-2; Romans 6:11-14) Muslims need to understand that we believe in repentance and that Jesus demands repentance. (Luke 13:1-5; Acts 3:19; Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 17:30-31; Acts 26:20; Revelation 3:19) Muslims think that Christianity is "easy believe-ism", (No repentance from sin and no Lordship of Christ)- “that you just get fire insurance from hell, and live like the devil.” Many Muslims, in 26 years (10 in witnessing to Arabs, and the last 16 in witnessing to Iranians) have said to me, “We know this is true, that you get forgiveness and live like the devil, because we see the results in your sensual, sex-saturated, materialistic, selfish, rebellious, individualistic western cultures.”
Basically, there are some things in the Qur'an that are true, because they actually came from the Christians and the Bible. The things that are true in the Qur’an came from previous revelation. The problem is that Muhammad took information from the Bible and changed some of the details and most of the meaning and significance of most of the stories that the Qur’an uses from the Bible. The Bible had not been translated into Arabic yet; and the early church had left their first love (Revelation 2:4-5) and allowed the Mary cult of statues and icons and praying to her as mediator; and the church at the time of Muhammad had fallen into a works/rituals/externalist/sacerdotal controlled religion to overshadow salvation by grace alone and justification by faith alone. Muhammad and the Arabs could not see Christ, because of all the false doctrines and practices that existed at the time. Furthermore, the “Christians” closest to Arabia were mixtures of heretics and Gnostics and nominal Christians.
The biggest problem with contextualization methods like the C-5 / Insiders / Common Ground teaching is that it appears/gives the impression that it is treating the Qur'an as an inspired book. Without biblical discipleship teaching, these large numbers that people are claiming is happening in some parts of the Muslim world through these methods, will naturally create lots of syncretism and heresies. And it already has. They don't seem to be willing to teach on the Trinity or the hypostatic union/2 natures of Christ. It also angers the Muslim authorities when they find out what is going on. They know it is heresy and syncretism of mixing the two religions into something that is neither one. It gives the Muslims that impression, when you open it up and look to it for study; and if one takes too long to actually get to the Injeel (NT); then many Muslims have later said, “You did not tell us that at the beginning; you deceived us!” This has created even more anger.
Dr. White’s saying is true: “Whatever you win them with, that is what you win them to.” And his saying, "Theology matters" is true also.
The “Insider’s Movement” (C-5 level contextualization) is definitely deceptive; and suggests Muhammad may have had the NT gift of prophesy (! Can you believe this?); and it suggests and implies that the Qur’an is an inspired book. They also encourage Muslims who come to Christ to keep doing all the Islamic rituals and keep on going to the Mosque. This does not teach them salvation by Grace alone, justification by faith alone, nor the biblical doctrines of what church (ekklesia) is. They will quickly fall into the Galatian heresy of legalism and mixing works and rituals in order to “earn points with Allah”. These methods do not teach a clear repentance from the false system of works and to the Tri-une God of the Bible. Jesus said, “unless you believe that “I am”, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) They reinterpret everything that does not agree with the NT.
These kinds of methods can be deceptive, because the missionary of this method seems to be actually opening the Qur’an on certain verses, and is not saying he disagrees with the rest of the Qur’an; he is trying to focus only on some good "bridges" in the Qur’an. They don't seem to call for repentance from the false religious system of Islam and its "faith +works" righteousness.
Generally, I agree with the principle of focusing on Jesus Christ and His character and His word in the NT and avoiding direct attacks against Muhammad. Muslims are eastern people; they will understand when you focus on Jesus and that He and His rasoolan (apostles) were the final revelation. (John 17:8; John 16:12-13; Jude 3, Hebrews 1:1-3; Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 22:18 (by principle).
When Muslims read that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was meek and gentle and endowed with Salvation; (Matthew 21:1-10); they immediately get the contrast with Muhammad, who rode in a horse and sword to conquer. They understand this without you having to directly point it out. I have seen this many times over the years.
Jesus was also eastern, and the Bible is an eastern book. He asked questions and many times, especially at the beginning, He spoke indirectly to the Monotheistic and zealous Jews in their context. (Later, Matthew 23 is certainly very direct.) When Jesus asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18), Jesus was not denying He is God, He is actually saying that He is God, because He is good, and if people recognize Him as good; then they should recognize Him as God. It was an eastern method of indirect communication. Zealous and Monotheistic Muslims can be approached in the same way to get them thinking. That is their culture. The parables of Jesus are like this. They teach a powerful truth in an indirect way in stories and illustrations. When Jesus said, “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”, the Pharisees and scribes understood that He was claiming to be God. (Mark 2:1-12)
Having said that, I do think that the questions that David Garrison asks in the NY times article are good questions to ask Muslims. Let’s be balanced and wise and think.
I don’t see a problem with asking Muslims these questions and then getting into the Injeel (the NT), especially Luke and Matthew with them.
He [Garrison] explained that after reading the sura in which Maryam, or Mary, gives birth to Isa, a missionary might ask a Muslim, “Do you know of any other prophets born of a virgin?”
And, Dr. Garrison continued: “It says in that passage that Isa would be able to cleanse the leper, even raise the dead. At that point in the conversation with Muslims, we say, ‘Isn’t it interesting that Isa had this tremendous power that God gave to him? Even death was under his power.’
“Then you ask the question, ‘Is there any other prophet that had this kind of power?’ And in Islam, there isn’t.”
And I think that we can use some truths that are mentioned in the Qur’an about Jesus and the books before the Qur’an as starting points with Muslims. We should know that the Qur’an says these things and use them in witnessing, mentioning them, but opening up the Injeel with them. The Injeel, Islam teaches, is the revelation that was given to Jesus by Allah. Popularly understood, Muslims believe it is “the book of Jesus” and some Muslims assume that Jesus wrote it. For Christians, it is whole gospel message, summarized in I Corinthians 15:1-9, but includes all of the whole NT message; Injeel is the Arabic word for “Gospel”, which is a corrupted form of the Greek word, the shorter version, “Euangel”; from “euangellion” (The Gospel; good news). It assumes our sinfulness and condition of being under the just wrath of God (John 3:36; Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:1-3), which is bad news. (Mark 9:48; Matthew 5:21-30)
I do think that these below are good and truthful concepts that are in the Qur’an that we can use as starting points in conversation with Muslims and getting into the Gospels with Muslims: I am not affirming the Qur’an as an inspired book; but I am saying that some of the information that Muhammad got from the Christians was true. The problem is, it got distorted and corrupted and then Muhammad re-interpreted most everything he got from the Jews and Christians.
  1. Isa (Jesus) was born of the virgin Mary. (Surah 3:45-48; 19:19-21) This is why the Jesus film was done from the Gospel according to Luke, and why it is good to start with Luke or Matthew with Muslims. They need to read the Gospels first to get the whole birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses His word. John 3:8; I Peter 1:23-25.
  2. Jesus is called Al Masih many times in the Qur’an. (The Messiah)
  3. Jesus was sinless. (Surah 19:19)
  4. Jesus is the Son of Mary. (many times)
  5. Jesus did miracles. (Healed the lame and blind, and raised the dead.)
  6. Jesus is called “the Kalimat’allah” (Qur’an 4:171; “The word of God”. Kalimeh کلمه is equivalent to “logos” in John 1:1; 1:14 and I John 1:1; Revelation 19:13.) Muhammad got this information from heretical, and nominal Christians and Gnostic gospels that were mixed in with a growing cult of Mary encircling Arabia (N. Arabia, Jordan, Yemen) and Palestine/Lebanon/Syria. Islam denies that “Kalimat’allah” means the Deity of Christ in the way that John 1:1, 14 teaches, but it can be a useful phrase to use in discussing Jesus with Muslims.
  7. Jesus is called “a Spirit from God” - Qur’an Surah 4:171; The concept that Jesus is a “spirit from Allah” is an important one to use to show that His divine nature is His Spirit and soul inside of Him; and He, as "spirit" (God is Spirit, John 4:24) was incarnated – He became flesh and entered into time and creation. I use Luke 1:34-35 and Hebrews 10:5 with Muslims, “A body, you have prepared for Me”, Jesus said.
  8. The problem with this verse (4:171) in the Qur’an is that same verse also denies His Deity and denies the Trinity. “Say not three” -can be interpreted from a Christian point of view that we do not believe in three gods, which is what Muslims think – tri-theism. Unfortunately, Muhammad did not understand that the word Trinity is from 2 Latin words, Tri – Unitas. The “unitas” (one, oneness, unity; see the Spanish: “Uno” – this emphasis is lost and we have to work extra hard to help Muslims understand that we do not worship three gods and that “Son of God” does not mean marriage and sex and that the Roman Catholic usage of “Mother of God” is wrong; along with the statues of Mary and prayers to Mary. ) Also, I always take the opportunity to say to Muslims that that is what the Mormons have taught in the past – that God has a body, was once a man, and had sexual relations with Mary and pro-created Jesus. I take that opportunity to call Mormonism a cult and a non-Christian religion and the Muslims usually say, “Oh, I did not know that; I though you are all Christians.”
  9. The Qur’an affirms the books revealed before it as the Word of God. (Surah 2:136; 29:46; 5:46-48; 5:68)
  10. The Qur’an encourages the Christians “to judge by that which Allah has revealed therein”, in the Injeel. (The Gospel) ( Surah 5:47). Dr. White uses this verse in his debates with Muslims, and missionaries have been using this verse in the same way for decades, even centuries, in order to show that the Bible at the time of Muhammad was not corrupted. So, it is not wrong to use some verses from the Qur’an, depending on what it is and how it is used.
  11. One of the most powerful verses in the Qur’an to know when dealing with Muslims; “If you are in doubt about what we are revealing to you, go and ask the people of the book.” (Surah 10:94) This, along with 5:47 and other verses, show that the Bible has not been corrupted.
  12. There is some kind of idea in the text of the Qur’an of a substiutionary sacrifice for sin, even though Islamic interpretation denies this. – “We have ransomed you with a mighty sacrifice.” Qur’an 37:107 See my previous article.
  13. The Qur’an also affirms that Jesus’ disciples were “full of integrity”, “helpers of Allah” and honest. (Surah 3:52; 61:14) So, I believe we can use this to teach that Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul did not corrupt the gospel. (Although Muslims will reject Paul as an “apostle”; we have to show them that he was a true apostle.)
  14. The Qur’an also says, “no one can change the words of God” (Surah 6:34; 6:116; 10:65; 18:27). So a good question to ask Muslims, when they say that the previous Scriptures have been corrupted, is, “How can puny, sinful man, change the eternal word of God?”
Not everyone can be a formal debater with Muslims like Dr. James White. His work in NT studies and theology is excellent. His book, The King James Only Controversy and NT textual materials are excellent, and are honest with the few textual variants that do exist; and this demonstrates that 99 % of the text we have today is the same as what was revealed originally to the prophets and apostles. No textual variant affects any major doctrine. We can be honest with our Bible manuscripts and how they came down to us in history. His material on affirming the text of the NT is crucial and some of the best, in dealing with Muslim apologists and scholars who use liberals and skeptics to attack the Bible; people like Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, Robert Price (debate coming up; see www.aomin.org), and atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, and popular liberals like John Shelby Spong and Barry Lynn; and the popular level NPR shows, Bill Maher, and the Comedy Central Shows such as “The Daily Show”, and “The Colbert Report” types of attacks against the Bible.
Everyone will not be a skilled apologetics debater like Dr. White, but all Christians are to witness, and can be equipped and reach out to Muslims with respect and friendship and hospitality. Doctrinal folks like me need to be balanced. I like to call my approach, “The Balance of Apologetics and Agape”. (Jude, verse 3 along with verses 20- 23; I Peter 3:15) We must do both; be equipped in all the apologetic issues that come up with Muslims, but love and respect them as people and learn some of their culture in order to not bring unnecessary stumbling blocks in addition to the necessary stumbling block of the cross and the gospel. Be willing to meet Muslims and accept their hospitality when they invite you to their home; and have a strong cup of Turkish coffee with them; or Iranian tea; or Shish Kebab and Hummus and Pita bread with an Arab. Love them as people created in the image of God. Be the friend of sinners and tax collectors as Jesus did. (Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32; Luke 15)If you start with hospitality (eating a meal in their home, and inviting them to your home), love and respect, you can most always create a context where you can open up the New Testament Scriptures with them.
The best chapter of Ergun and Emir Caner’s book, Unveiling Islam, is chapter 16, where they discuss reaching out to Muslims with hospitality and love and respect and cultural issues; and using some key verses from the Qur’an to know.
I also agree with Dr. Caner's point in the NY Times article that George Harrison meant “Hare Krishna” by “My Sweet Lord”, as he clearly praises and calls upon “Hare Krishna” at the end of his song. George Harrison was a Hindu. Hinduism is a false religion; paganism; polytheism. Anyone who knows George Harrison and the Beatles history, understands this.
But, I disagree with Dr. Caner when he says we cannot use the word “Allah” for the God of the Bible, for Arabs and Arabic speakers as my previous article shows.
See Again, here. Doctrinally, Allah of Islam is not the God of the Bible, but linguistically, it is the best word in Arabic to communicate “the one true creator, Sovereign God” and equivalent to Elohim in the OT and Theos in the NT for Arabic speakers.

Irony in Patristics

I haven't read a ton of patristic writing, I freely admit.  About 200+ pages starting from page 1 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and taking notes the whole way, so far.
But I can apply logical argumentation to common Eastern Orthodox argumentation in regard to the way they view patristic support for their position, and thus perform an internal critique of Eastern Orthodoxy.  Now, given that the Scriptures are the way they indeed are, it makes very little difference to me whether the entirety of those who identify themselves as "The Church®" over the course of history stand in opposition to what the Scripture teaches - "Let God be true and every man a liar." 

But of course, anyone who's familiar with patristic writings to a more than surface-level extent will know that the early church situation is not nearly that simple.  The questions of who was in schism from whom, who agreed with whom, who contradicted whom, who contradicted himself, who properly represented the actual position of most of the people in the church at his time, etc, are fundamental questions, and far too often our EO and RC friends simply assume that they are unimportant, assume that their church is The One True Church® and thus the default position, and any dissenter from such necessarily has all the burden of proof to defend his dissent. 
Let's take a look, for a case study, at DavidW's blog in which he likens Calvinism to Gnosticism.  I dropped by and dropped an Irenaeus quote from Jason Engwer:
"They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles." (Against Heresies, 1:25:6) It seems likely that Irenaeus was part of the ante-Nicene consensus against the veneration of images. (source)
DavidW has responded, I replied, and DavidW once more.  I encourage you to read what he said, and here I relate my own rebuttal.

approach Orthodoxy on its own terms, free of such confutation.

Do you venerate images?  Bow down to them? 
What substantial differences can you name between EO practice and RC practice, besides that they use statues and you don't?



the book explores the supposedly iconoclastic references that Protestants cherry-pick from the Church Fathers

The existence of which is evidence in support of my position.  I don't think the early church writers had a consistent consensual position, remember?  I judge ALL THINGS by Scripture.



it's a case of looking at the Fathers on their own terms and in their fulness, as you are unwilling to do.

Hahaha, that makes me laugh, that you who ignore early church writers who dissent want to "look at the Fathers on their own terms".  Whatever, man.



3. How do they know Epiphanius' letter is a forgery?
Answers.
The very existence of ppl who'd like to forge such a letter shows that there did exist such an iconoclastic strain of tradition.  Which, again, is my position.



The iconoclasts of the 8th century picked up their iconoclasm from the Muslims.
Even Muslims get stuff right, you know.  I sorta picked mine up from the OT Jews.


You ASSERT that Tertullian doesn't represent early opinion. Prove it.
Professor Jeffrey Macdonald, a professor of early Christian history

OK, I listened to it, thank you. 
Macdonald:  "He's not technically a Church Father" - begging the very question at hand.  Who decided that?  Why isn't whoever decided that himself in schism, himself unreliable with respect to what is authoritative and normative in church history?
"He wrote a lot" - yup.  And yet you judge him wrong on many counts.  How is that any diff than what I do with what you claim about CFs that you DO agree with?  Why do you get to disagree with an early church writer and I don't?
"He did not remain in the Orthodox Church" - so he schismed?  So he was Protestant before there were Protestants? 
"Gnostics wanted Christians to live under extra rules" - that's very interesting. You mean like necessitating works like baptism on top of faith for salvation from sin?
"most of the CFs tried to work thru Greek philosophy, that meant to Tatian's crew that they were apostatising" - doesn't sound like there's a ton of unity and agreement in the early church, now was there?  There sure seems to be a big diff in the way you EOx talk to Protestants and the way you talk to each other.  Kinda like how Yasser Arafat would say "Peace, peace" in English to the Western goober politicians, then go say "War, war" in Arabic to his own ppl (though obviously less violently).
"Tertullian is not reflecting the reality of early Christianity, he's reflecting a particular position" - What a dumb thing to say!  Of COURSE he was reflecting a particular position.  EVERY writer "reflects a particular position".  Sheesh.

Now, around minute 48-49, Macdonald has a very interesting extended quotation:

"The church has a tradition that the married women did this, and the girls, I guess, they didn't wear veils.  So he makes the statement:  'Whatever favors the opposition to truth is heresy, even if it's ancient custom'.  And he says that in a number of places where he's contrasting the tradition of the church, he rejects the tradition of the church, in favor of the prophecies of the women.  And it stuck in my mind b/c Cyprian, who comes after him in Carthage, makes almost the same statements; for Cyprian, to him he's not a Montanist, but he always refers, Tertullian for him is the only church father b/c he wrote in Latin, and he refers to Tertullian as 'a master', but he makes that statement in regard to the rebaptism, b/c the church was not rebaptising people from heretical groups but was receiving them by chrismation and Cyprian says 'well, ancient custom is just ancient error', you know, so it's this ultimately, the church disagreed with Cyprian on that and have the canons and everything, but this attitude of rejection of the church tradition.  And we will say that OK, not everything that every early Christian ever did is necessarily Gospel, but the consensus of the church and the tradition of the church's practice is part of what Irenaeus is referring to, when he says 'What's to separate us from the Gnostics, who make up their errors?  Each Gnostic is just making stuff up.  That our teachings go back and are continuous back to Christ' and that's what distinguishes the church from a heretical group.  For Tertullian and later Cyprian, they both say 'no, that the church's practice is no indication of what is true,' particularly Tertullian.  And of course, he's coming at it from the idea that these Montanist teachers were in fact revelations of the Holy Spirit."

There is a lot to catch there, but notice how Macdonald says Saint Cyprian treated Tertullian, a guy who was headed to heresy according to the EOC.
Notice how Macdonald even characterises Cyprian's view that Tertullian was the only church father.
Notice how these two early witnesses seem to be treating "church tradition" just like I do - easily prone to error, and in the case of the doctrine under dispute, just a mistaken tradition that got accepted by enough people, handed down enough, and eventually crystallised into unshakable "Sacred Tradition".  And yet these two men disparage it as merely "ancient error".  So what is the EO antidote to this problem?  More appeals to more so-called Sacred Tradition?  As if that's not the very problem at hand?  Why not appeal to what God has said?  Oh no, they've got more important things!  Like preserving their Sola Ecclesia presuppositions, their pet authority. 


Questioner - "It's not like he did a flipflop." 
"That's not surprising.  Alot of his writings, when he's writing against the church he's also contradicting his own early writings, when he was in the church...Tertullian sort of took exception with the decision of the Roman church and ultimately decided, even in his pre-Montanist writings, you start seeing, not the earliest ones, but the period about 204 on, he starts adopting Montanist ideas and then 207 he leaves..."
So...Tertullian takes exception to what a bishop (the one in Rome) defined.  And yet 1800 years later, the Reformed are roundly criticised for following his example.  (Macdonald clarifies that this dissent by Tertullian took place in 197, BTW.)
And I have said in the past that a strong case can be made that church fathers contradict themselves in their own writings over the course of time.  Of course, I catch flak for that kind of statement from RCs and EOdox, but I bet Macdonald won't catch any.  Oh no, b/c he's one of the boys. 

DavidW continues:
Historians don't have polling data; we work with what we have

And then you assume that's what the early church believed.  So you DON'T have any polling data, yet you take ~50 writers who wrote variegated things on a wide variety of topics with some disagreement between them and frequent disagreement between writings from any one of them over the course of his life, and from THAT you decide what the early church believed?  No, you decide after the fact. That's always been my point.  You, the modern EOC, decide which views out of the sparse info that you have from the past you're going to follow.  Sola Ecclesia.
Pardon me, but I don't want to follow such circular self-referential reasoning, such begging of the very question at hand.  I follow what God has most surely said - the Scripture. 


Okay: I say that aliens came to earth, enslaved all people, and set up a kingdom that was only finally overthrown in the 6th century by St. Justinian the Emperor. It's okay, though, lack of documentary evidence doesn't mean it's not true
You're exactly right - that doesn't mean it's not true.  ANYthing could conceivably be true; that's the problem of induction at work (since you mentioned logic).  You have faith on the modern EOC's interp of archaeology and historical data, despite when we show you that your view of history is flawed. You are a humanist at the core.  I have faith in God's Holy Word. 


Right -- he was a heretic. He did become a Montanist, you know?

Yes, I know that, and you're begging the question to claim that joining a Montanist sect means that he was necessarily wrong or out of step with the church.  Prove that most ppl weren't in fact part of the Montanists.  Polling data. 


Irenaeus is not talking about my position because my position is the same as Irenaeus' and I sincerely doubt that Irenaeus is calling his own position Gnostic.
Wow.  That was a naked assertion of epic proportion.  How about you actually deal with what he said?