Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Who said this?

No Googling!
...the very nature of biblical texts means that interpreting them will require continued use of the historical-critical method, at least in its principal procedures. The Bible, in effect, does not present itself as a direct revelation of timeless truths but as the written testimony to a series of interventions in which God reveals himself in human history. In a way that differs from tenets of other religions, the message of the Bible is solidly grounded in history. It follows that the biblical writings cannot be correctly understood without an examination of the historical circumstances that shaped them. "Diachronic" research will always be indispensable for exegesis. Whatever be their own interest and value, "synchronic" approaches cannot replace it. To function in a way that will be fruitful, synchronic approaches should accept the conclusions of the diachronic, at least according to their main lines.

But granted this basic principle, the synchronic approaches (the rhetorical, narrative, semiotic and others) are capable, to some extent at least, of bringing about a renewal of exegesis and making a very useful contribution. The historical-critical method, in fact, cannot lay claim to enjoying a monopoly in this area. It must be conscious of its limits, as well as of the dangers to which it is exposed. Recent developments in philosophical hermeneutics and, on the other hand, the observations which we have been able to make concerning interpretation within the biblical tradition and the tradition of the church have shed light upon many aspects of the problem of interpretation that the historical-critical method has tended to ignore. Concerned above all to establish the meaning of texts by situating them in their original historical context, this method has at times shown itself insufficiently attentive to the dynamic aspect of meaning and to the possibility that meaning can continue to develop. When historical-critical exegesis does not go as far as to take into account the final result of the editorial process but remains absorbed solely in the issues of sources and stratification of texts, it fails to bring the exegetical task to completion.

The Bible and History defeat the Qur'an

The Grandverbalizer19,here, and other places at his aggressive blog, thinks he has refuted Christianity. The late Ahmad Deedat, and Shabir Ally and other Muslim debaters, think they have refuted Christianity. (see also Dr. White's debate with Shabir Ally on the NT; and the cross debate)

Muslim apologetics can never refute the truth of the Bible. The truth of the Bible is what refutes the Qur’an, since the Qur’an came 600 years later and is not inspired by God at all. Whatever good is in the Qur’an is stolen from the previous Scriptures, the OT and the NT. Most of the truths of the Scriptures that are talked about in the Qur’an have been changed in many ways. It is the Qur’an that “corrupted” the message of the Bible. Muhammad did not know the details of the Bible, but he thought he did; by hearing about it orally (mostly from heretics and nominal "Christians")and some others seemed to have redacted his original material. The Qur’an affirms the Bible, especially in 5:46-48 and 5:68 and 10:94 and 2:136 and 29:46 and other places, because the writers and compilers of the Qur’an thought the previous Scriptures were perfect and unchangeable without even knowing what it was all about and did not know the contents of it. “No one can change the words of Allah” is said many times in the Qur’an, which I showed here:

No one can change the words of God

The Grandverbalizer19, a Muslim, wrote: (at David Waltz' combox at this post, here.
“Any Christian who thinks that the Qur'an settles the intra-Christian dispute on "NT" canon if it was 22 or 27 books or the intra-Christian dispute on the "OT" canon if it was 37 or 46 books is simply dishonest.”

I never stated that the Qur’an settles the canon issue for Christians, so you are the one who is being dishonest now, if you think I have ever claimed that the Qur’an settles the canon issue, either OT or NT. The canon issue was settled long before the Qur’an came along. The 27 books of the NT were "canon" (meaning "standard", "criterion", "rule", "principle", "law", "measuring rod") as soon as they were written, between 48-96 AD.

Recommended: On the canon and Sola Scriptura and On Sola Scriptura and the Early church fathers

That there was a historical process of collecting all of them under one cover for all the churches is not disputed. Origen quoted all the NT books as Scripture, the same 27, written around 240 AD. Origen died about 253/254 AD. Athanasius wrote them all in a list in 367 AD. You throwing out the issue of “NT 22 vs. 27 books” is a red herring and has nothing to do with the issue of here at all. The Muratorian Canon, a fragment, dated around 160- 170 AD, attests to the undisputed 20 books plus Jude, Revelation, and probably 2 John. That it is a fragment explains why some other books are not mentioned.

Here is a good article on the 27 book of the NT issue:
27 book NT before Athanasius

Muslims need to digest all of these excellent articles to get a proper handle on the canon and church history and what led to the Reformation:
historical roots of the Reformation

Even so, if we take the 20 NT books (all four gospels, Acts, all of Paul’s epistles, 1 Peter, I John) that were universally agreed upon by the churches in the Christian world by 200 -250 AD, they still all take down Islam as a false religion, since they all affirm all the doctrines that make Christianity true and show Islam to be false. All 27 books of the NT were written from 48-96 AD, and most of them by 70 AD, and so they were in existence separately, in different places, but it took a while for all the churches to get them all under one “book cover”, because of the persecution, and the nature of how they were written (individually, at different times, at different locations).

Here I am assuming the Grandverbalizer19 means what Origen and Eusebius and other early church fathers called the 5-7 “disputed” books – (Revelation, Hebrews, 2 Peter, James, Jude, 2-3 John) – “disputed” just means that some parts of the Christian world questioned them and were not sure. But other parts of the Christian world exhibit evidence of knowing about the rest of these books, although no one church or area or writer mentions all the books at one time until Origen and Athanasius. Some of these "diputed" books are clearly used by some early church writers – for example Irenaeus alludes to or quotes from every NT book except Philemon, 2 Peter, 3 John, and James. He alludes to a lot of material from Revelation and he is writing between 180-200 AD. Tertullian, also around 200 AD, also quotes from all the NT books except for Philemon, 2 Peter, 2-3 John, and James. I Clement, written in 96 AD, quotes extensively from Hebrews and quotes from James also. The “Epistle of Barnabas”, written somewhere between 70 and 132 AD, cites 2 Peter 3:8.

The important thing to remember is that all the NT books were written separately to different places, from different places and by different authors. The fact that the Early Church was under persecution and on the run, and that the Romans burned many of the earliest copies explains why did not have time to collect all of the 27 books under one cover in all the places until after the persecution died down.

Christianity grew under persecution; Islam did not; Islam used the power of the sword to force the Arabians to submit. Then the Byzantine Empire to the North and West of Arabia, the Persian Empire to the east of Arabia, and N. Africa were all conquered by aggressive, unjust, evil wars. And Islam used the power of the sword to burn almost all other copies under Uthman and create the text of the Quran, which is the basic one for the Qur’an today. Islam used the power of the state, politics, force, Sharia law, military power, and taxation to subjugate and subdue its enemies, and created its text. Christian history is more honest with its textual variants. The average Muslim denies that there are any variants in the Qur’an, yet there are, as some Muslim scholars admit.

GV19 wrote:
“Any Christian who thinks the Qur'an confirms Mark 16:9-20, and John 8:1-11 (both accepted as canon at the time of Qur'anic revelation) is sleeping at the wheel.

As I told you before, Mark chapter 15 and 16:1-8 takes down Islam also, as it testifies to the details of the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus, and the endings of Matthew, Luke, John, and beginning of Acts supply us with all the “God-breathed” details of the resurrection and great commission and ascension of Jesus, so not having Mark 16:9-20 does no damage at all to the Christian message. Lacking John 8 also does no damage to the Gospel of the Messiah, His mission, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, and so it is you my friend who are “sleeping at the wheel”.

Therefore, it does not matter if some churches questioned a few of the NT books, or that Mark 16:9-20 or John 8:1-11 is not in the earliest manuscripts. Even without those, the gospel of Jesus as Son of God, God the Son, the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, the substitutionary sacrifice of the innocent lamb of God for the sins of humans from all the nations (Rev. 5:9; Mark 10:45; John 1:29); the resurrection of Christ from the dead; justification by faith alone, salvation by grace alone; the inherent sinfulness and blindness and deadness of all humans; ie, the doctrines of the “gospel” are all there in the undisputed NT texts, the gospel, which the Qur’an affirms (2:136; 5:46-48; 5:68; 10:94) still stand after you try to cast doubt on the NT by throwing out red herrings.

David Waltz fails to consider what is being studied, and thus makes a false analogy

David Waltz continues to press his charge of "inconsistency" against me by making this dubious analogy:

William Dever is to Old Testament what Lampe is to – what? What is it that Lampe studies again? David fails to complete the connection. Nevertheless he presses ahead from this posture of unsupported innuendo:
The trilogy of books pictured above from the pen of William G. Dever represents a solid consensus of recent critical scholarship that works under the premise that archeology and secular history must take precedence over Old Testament Biblical historicity. The results undermine much of the Old Testament’s historical and theological witness. Dever, and the consensus of critical OT archeologists and historians, like Lampe (as John pointed out above), “have seemingly examined each and every scrap of paper from that era, each and every inscription, each and every available public record, in order to come to his conclusions”, and his conclusions include: a pre-monarchy group of “Israelites” is a myth; an exodus of a large group “Israelites” out of Egypt to Palestine is a myth; Moses is not an historical figure; monotheism did not exist until after the Babylonian captivity; the pre-monotheistic Yahweh had a wife (and possibly wives—Mormon apologists love this kind of stuff). Once again, this is what happens when a scholar begins with the premise that archeology and secular history must take precedence over Biblical historicity.
This analogy again shows me that David Waltz really isn’t thinking in terms of specific applications here; rather, he is making generalizations (“reliance on archaeology”) without really considering the granular details of what’s being studied. And it’s in his failure to consider the details that his analogy breaks down.

In this post I'll place Dever's work into the context of Old Testament studies, and provide a brief comparison with Lampe's work within the time frame that he studies. And in a future post, I'll deal with some David's other contentions from this and previous posts.

A crash course on contemporary Old Testament studies
Jeffrey Niehaus (Ph.D., Harvard University and Professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), in his Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008), notes that “there are three possible sources of parallels between the Old Testament (and the Bible as a whole) and the ancient Near East: The mutual recollection of major events that actually did occur (e.g., Creation, the Flood), the use by biblical writers of literary and legal forms already current in the ancient Near East (e.g., poetic parallelism with its stock word pairs, the second millennium B.C. International treaty/covenant form), and finally, the activity of deceiving, demonic spirits (producing parallels between supposed acts of pagan gods and the acts of God as they appear in the Bible (177).

Niehaus notes the irony that, in our day, theology is often practiced more as an academic discipline than a spiritual one. It is the case that Dever himself admits “I am not even a theist,” clarifying his beliefs: “My view all along—and especially in the recent books—is first that the biblical narratives are indeed “stories,” often fictional and almost always propagandistic, but that here and there they contain some valid historical information.”

Niehaus puts this posture into perspective:
There are almost always two ways of looking at the data. The first way is to consider them to be part of an ancient Near Eastern worldview. In that case, the biblical authors are just couching things in terms familiar to them from their contemporary thought world. The second way is to consider the parallels as rooted in truth: revealed truth in the Old Testament and the Bible, and distorted truth in the ancient Near East. We prefer the second approach because it is consistent with the claims made by the biblical writers and speakers themselves (177-178).
Thus Waltke can point to the types of “discoveries” and “consensus” that Dever is talking about, and put them into perspective:
The common idea of an evolutionary development of biblical monotheism emerging from within Canaanite religion contradicts the Bible’s own claim for the historical otherness of the true faith, including a monotheism that goes back to the patriarchs. The evolutionary model of the religion of Yahweh in the last decades has found support in recently discovered inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud (in northeast Sinai, 800 BC) and from Khirbet el-Qom (near Hebron, 725 BC), which show that Yahweh had Asherah, a Canaanite fertility deity, as his consort. … On this and other evidence, the writings of even some senior scholars in the field reflect a growing consensus that true monotheism emerged only late in Israel’s history, probably in the exile as represented in Isaiah 40-55. … But this inscriptional evidence can better be interpreted to validate the biblical testimony that Israel constantly whored after the Canaanite fertility gods (cf. Deut. 16:21-22). Professors of the history of Israel’s religion who seek to topple the biblical account that Yahwistic monotheism reaches back to patriarchal times and to replace it with an evolutionary model developing from polytheism to monotheism do so with a broken reed of ambiguous textual and artifactual evidence (Waltke, An Old Testament Theology,Grand Rapids: Zondervan (2007).
This is an important distinction. So while both Lampe and Dever may appear similar methodically, to have “have seemingly examined each and every scrap of paper from that era, each and every inscription, each and every available public record, in order to come to his conclusions,” there is a vast difference between the worlds that they are studying, as well as a huge difference in the result of their work.

While Lampe relied on perhaps hundreds of inscriptions and thousands of primary source documents, and thus was able to reconstruct a remarkably complete and multi-faceted picture of the world he was studying, Dever and those like him are forced to work with “ambiguous” evidence and, because of the nature of Old Testament studies, they inevitably use their “evidence” in only one of two categories: that of either validating the Old Testament testimony, in which case their conclusions contradict the one reliable literary source that exists for that era (i.e., the Old Testament), or of coming to an opposite conclusion, which runs clearly counter to the literary testimony (i.e. the Old Testament).

There is another key difference. I’ll pick that up (and others) in another post.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Luther: Only Unbelief Causes Damnation

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "On Sin":

Christ taught: “He that commits sin is of the devil: for the devil sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil.” - 1 John 3:8

Luther teaches: “A person that is baptized cannot, thou he would, lose his salvation by any sins however grievous, unless he refuses to believe. For no sins can damn him but unbelief alone” [The Babylonian Captivity. It’s worth mentioning on this point that Luther himself had early written “Pray for me I am falling into the abyss of Sin” – Enders, Vol. 3, Pg. 193].


Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Christ says those who commit any sin are children of the Devil, while Luther says only unbelief is worthy of damnation. Hence, Luther espoused a weak view of sin: sin all you want to, but make sure you have faith.

One obvious error is that the words attributed to Christ are from the apostle John in 1 John 3:8.

Documentation
Luther Exposing the Myth cites "The Babylonian Captivity. It’s worth mentioning on this point that Luther himself had early written 'Pray for me I am falling into the abyss of Sin' – Enders, Vol. 3, Pg. 193." This first part of this documentation is plagiarized from this source. The quote is indeed from The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. It's found in LW 36:60.

As to the extra quote from "Enders," Enders refers to a 19th century collection of Luther's letters. Luther Exposing the Myth probably mined this quote from Peter Wiener's Luther Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor. This later quote was not written before The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), but after it's publication while Luther was in hiding in the Wartburg castle (1521-1522). Quite possibly Wiener got the quote from Hartmann Grisar's Luther Vol. 6. The sentence itself is from Luther's letter from July, 13 1521. It's a concluding comment to a letter to Melanchthon. Luther's Works translates this hyperbolic comment as, "Farewell. Someone had promised to take along this letter which I had written some days ago, but he has not kept his word. I ask all of you to pray for me, since in this seclusion I am drowning in sins. From my wilderness, 36 July 13, 1521" [LW 48:262]. The original Latin text can be found here.

Context
In context Luther is speaking on the subject of baptism. This subject is actually the focal point of the entire quote. The church age in which Luther lived taught that justification began in baptism (with the cleansing of original sin). When one sins after baptism, one doesn't get re-baptized, one was to do penance. For Luther, baptism was more than simply washing away original sin. It was justification. Confused? This article has some helpful information on Luther's view on baptism and justification. For Luther, for the sacrament of baptism to be effective, it must be linked with faith. Luther states,

Now, the first thing to be considered about baptism is the divine promise, which says: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” [Mark 16:16]. This promise must be set far above all the glitter of works, vows, religious orders, and whatever else man has introduced, for on it all our salvation depends. But we must so consider it as to exercise our faith in it, and have no doubt whatever that, once we have been baptized, we are saved. For unless faith is present or is conferred in baptism, baptism will profit us nothing; indeed, it will become a hindrance to us, not only at the moment when it is received, but throughout the rest of our lives. That kind of unbelief accuses God’s promise of being a lie, and this is the greatest of all sins [LW 36:58].

Luther continues to expound upon the power of baptism (it is simply another form of the powerful Word of God).

It will therefore be no small gain to a penitent to remember above all his baptism, and, confidently calling to mind the divine promise which he has forsaken, acknowledge that promise before his Lord, rejoicing that he is still within the fortress of salvation because he has been baptized, and abhorring his wicked ingratitude in falling away from its faith and truth. His heart will find wonderful comfort and will be encouraged to hope for mercy when he considers that the promise which God made to him, which cannot possibly lie, is still unbroken and unchanged, and indeed, cannot be changed by sins, as Paul says (II Tim. 2[:13]): “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” [LW 36:59]

Then come the quote in question:

Thus you see how rich a Christian is, that is, one who has been baptized! Even if he would, he could not lose his salvation, however much he sinned, unless he refused to believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone. All other sins, so long as the faith in God’s promise made in baptism returns or remains, are immediately blotted out through that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because he cannot deny himself if you confess him and faithfully cling to him in his promise. But as for contrition, confession of sins, and satisfaction, along with all those carefully devised exercises of men: if you rely on them and neglect this truth of God, they will suddenly fail you and leave you more wretched than before. For whatever is clone without faith in God’s truth is vanity of vanities and vexation of spirit [Eccles. 1:2, 14] [LW 36:60].

Conclusion
The irony is that Luther Exposing the Myth would probably be quite pleased by some of Luther's comments on baptism. Their focus though is on Luther's seemingly passive view on sin committed after baptism. In the same treatise, Luther states:

Beware then, of putting your trust in your own contrition and of ascribing the forgiveness of sins to your own remorse. God does not look on you with favor because of that, but because of the faith by which you have believed his threats and promises, and which has effected such sorrow within you. Thus we owe whatever good there may be in our penance, not to our scrupulous enumeration of sins, but to the truth of God and to our faith. All other things are the works and fruits which follow of their own accord. They do not make a man good, but are done by the man who is already made good through faith in the truth of God. Even so, “smoke goes up in his wrath; because he is angry he shakes the mountains and sets them on fire,” as it is said in Ps. 18[:8, 7]). First comes the terror of this threatening, which sets the wicked on fire; then faith, accepting this, sends up smoke-clouds of contrition, etc.[LW 36:85].

Note Luther states, "All other things are the works and fruits which follow of their own accord. They do not make a man good, but are done by the man who is already made good through faith in the truth of God." Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us.The works we perform are done out of gratitude to what God has done in us. They aren't done to keep a person saved. Throughout his writings, Luther plainly teaches that saving faith is a living faith. Justification is by faith alone unto good works done for the good of one’s neighbor. Rather than denying the importance of works, Luther exhorted his hearers to perform good works. These works though don't restore one's justification, they are the evidence of God's complete work of justification in the life of a sinner.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting to the Specific Issue

David Waltz wrote:

Do not wish to digress here, but it does remind me a bit of James White’s charge/s leveled against Muslim apologists who quote “liberal”, critical Christian scholars in their debates, whilst James allows himself to use “liberal” and critical Islamic scholars.

That is not the exact charge that Dr. White makes - he is not saying Muslims (or anyone else) cannot quote or use any liberal Christian (or Islamic) scholarship at all, at any time, for any reason; he is saying the specific example of them using liberals/skeptics/agnostics and non- inerrantists ( like Bart Ehrman/Bultmann/Crossan/and even James Dunn, who is not as liberal as the rest) against the text of the NT undermines the Muslims’ whole Islamic religion and the Qur'an, since the Qur'an affirms the Torah, Zobur (Psalms of David) and Injeel (Gospel) of Jesus as revelation from the one true Creator God who is able to speak and inspire books. (Surah 2:136; 5:46-48; 5:68; 10:94; 29:46)

Islam claims it is the third in line of the Monotheistic religions and that the first two (Judaism – in “the law and prophets and Psalms”) and Christianity (Injeel = Gospel) were given truly at that time in a “dispensational” (in stages for each time period) kind of way. Dr. White is saying that their attacks on Scripture undermine Islam as the 3rd religion that "completes all religions", since Islam itself is based on those 2 previous religions and their books.

David, do you see the difference?

For example, we can use Ehrman and Crossan and other liberals/skeptics/agnostics to help affirm the historical reality of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by the Jewish leaders under Pontius Pilate, around 30 AD, because the specific point where they agree with true history, undermines Islam and its denial of true history (denial of Christ's crucifixion - 4:157), and because at the same time, it is powerful even more because those same liberals reject the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ, which Islam accepts. (Qur'an, Surah 3:45-48; 19:19-21) The inconsistency is with Islam and the Qur'an. Since Muslims believe that God is one and is the Almighty Creator and speaks and gives revelation in books, and even names the books of the previous revelations, "the Law", "the Zobur", and "the Gospel", then it is inconsistent for them to use liberal scholars specifically on the text of the Text of the Bible, as their main attack that under girds all of their apologetic method of the doubting of the Biblical text. Furthermore, the Qur'an never says the text of the NT has been corrupted, although that is their theological belief, because the contradictions of the Qur'an force them to come up with that conclusion.

Everyone should be interesting in listening and watching Dr. White's debates against Muslims, and his recent ABN shows ; here on the NT textand here on the crucifixion; and here on the two natures of Jesus part 1; and here on the two natures of Jesus, part 2getting his DVD's and get prepared to witness to Muslims and deal with their questions. www.aomin.org

Given the times we live in today, I hope and pray that those who only enjoy Dr. White dealing with Dave Hunt or Arminianism or Roman Catholicism will see the crucial and strategic importance of equipping the church to deal with Muslims and evangelize them and reach out to them in speaking the truth, love, boldness, gentleness, patience, and respect.

Therefore, John Bugay can use Peter Lampe, and has used him well in his historical research on Rome against the Roman Catholic Claims of the Papacy and authority, even though Lampe may not be an inerrantist on the Scriptures.

Luther:Philosophy Should Be Learned To Be Refuted

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "On Reason":

“One should learn Philosophy only as one learns witchcraft, that is to destroy it; as one finds out about errors, in order to refute them” [Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Fol. (1516). Ficker, II, 198. Cf. Three Reformers, By Jacques Maritan, Pg. 31].

This is another quote highlighting Luther's alleged denigration of human "reason".

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Christ exhorted his hearers to use reason and be wise, while Luther says philosophy is basically evil and should only be learned to be refuted.

Documentation
Luther Exposing the Myth cites "Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Fol. (1516). Ficker, II, 198. Cf. Three Reformers, By Jacques Maritan, Pg. 31." Luther Exposing the Myth is primarily plagiarized. They've added quotes like this one from other pro-Romanist sources attempting to pass their work of as original. Page 31 of Three Reformers states:

Has [Luther] a grudge against particular system? No. He is attacking philosophy itself. "Barking against philosophy is a homage he thinks to give to God... One should learn philosophy only as one learns witchcraft, that is to destroy it; as one finds out about errors, in order to refute them" [Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, fol. (1516). Ficker, II, 198].

The quote was most likely taken from Maritain's book rather than any study of Ficker's two-volume publication of Luther's Romans material (WA 56 & 57). Ficker actually was part of recovering this long lost writing in the 1800's. The quote comes from WA 56, 371:

[17] Ego quidem Credo me debere Domnio hoc obsequium latrandi [18] contra philosophiam et suadendi ad Sacram Scripturam. Nam alius [19] forte si faceret, qui ea non vidisset, Vel timeret Vel non crederetur ei. [20] Ego autem in illis detritus multis iam annis et multos itidem expertus [21] et audiens Video, quod sit studium vanitatis et perditionis. [22] Idcirco omnes vos moneo, quantum possum, Vt ea studia cito faciatis [23] Et id solum queratis, non vt ea statuatis et defendatis, Sed potius sicut [24] artes malas discimus, vt destruamus, et errores, vt reuincamus. Ita et [25] Bl. 97 hȩc, vt reprobemus, Aut saltem, vt modum loquendi ipsorum, cum [26] quibus conuersari necesse est, accipiamus. Tempus est enim, vt aliis [27] studiis mancipemur et Ihesum Christum discamus, ‘et hunc crucifixum’.

There are a few variant English transaltions of this quote: "one should learn philosophy only as one learns bad arts, that is to destroy them" [source], and also, "Do not seek to establish and defend philosophy, but rather study her as we do evil arts and errors, to destroy and to refute" [What Luther Says, II:1053 (entry 3350)].


Context
This quote comes from Luther expounding on Romans 8:19. "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God." The exposition on this verse from Luther is pre-Reformation (1515-1516).

19. For the creation waits. The apostle philosophizes and thinks about things in a different way than the philosophers and metaphysicians do. For the philosophers so direct their gaze at the present state of things that they speculate only about what things are and what quality they have, but the apostle calls our attention away from a consideration of the present and from the essence and accidents of things and directs us to their future state. For he does not use the term “essence” or “activity” of the creature, or its “action,” “inaction,” and “motion,” but in an entirely new and marvelous theological word he speaks of the “expectation of the creation,” so that because his soul can hear the creation waiting, he no longer directs his attention to or inquires about the creation itself, but rather to what it is awaiting. But alas, how deeply and painfully we are ensnared in categories and questions of what a thing is; in how many foolish metaphysical questions we involve ourselves! When will we become wise and see how much precious time we waste on vain questions, while we neglect the greater ones? We are always acting this way, so that what Seneca has said is very true of us: “We do not know what we should do because we have learned unimportant things. Indeed we do not know what is salutary because we have learned only the things that destroy us.”

Indeed I for my part believe that I owe to the Lord this duty of speaking out against philosophy and of persuading men to heed Holy Scripture. For perhaps if another man who has not seen these things, did this, he might be afraid or he might not be believed. But I have been worn out by these studies for many years now, and having experienced and heard many things over and over again, I have come to see that it is the study of vanity and perdition.

Therefore I warn you all as earnestly as I can that you finish these studies quickly and let it be your only concern not to establish and defend them but treat them as we do when we learn worthless skills to destroy them and study errors to refute them. Thus we study also these things to get rid of them, or at least, just to learn the method of speaking of those people with whom we must carry on some discourse. For it is high time that we undertake new studies and learn Jesus Christ, “and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

Therefore you will be the best philosophers and the best explorers of the nature of things if you will learn from the apostle to consider the creation as it waits, groans, and travails, that is, as it turns away in disgust from what now is and desires that which is still in the future. For then the study of the nature of things, their accidents and their differences, will quickly grow worthless. As a result the foolishness of the philosophers is like a man who, joining himself to a builder and marveling at the cutting and hewing and measuring of the wood and the beams, is foolishly content and quiet among these things, without concern as to what the builder finally intends to make by all of these exertions. This man is empty-headed, and the work of such an assistant is meaningless. So also the creation of God, which is skillfully prepared for the future glory, is gazed upon by stupid people who look only at its mechanics but never see its final goal. Thus are we not completely off the track when we turn our thoughts to the praises and glories of philosophy? Look how we esteem the study of the essences and actions and inactions of things, and the things themselves reject and groan over their own essences and actions and inactions! We praise and glorify the knowledge of that very thing which is sad about itself and is displeased with itself! And, I ask you, is he not a mad man who laughs at someone who is crying and lamenting and then boasts that he sees him as happy and laughing? Certainly such a person is rightly called a madman and a maniac. Indeed, if only the rude common people foolishly thought philosophy was of some importance and did not know how to interpret the sighing of the natural order, it would be tolerable. But now it is wise men and theologians, infected by this same “prudence of the flesh,” who derive a happy science out of a sad creation, and from the sighings they laughingly gather their knowledge with marvelous display of power.

Thus the apostle is right in Col. 2:8 when he speaks against philosophy, saying: “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition.” Clearly if the apostle had wanted any philosophy to be understood as useful and good, he would not have condemned it so absolutely. Therefore we conclude that whoever searches into the essences and actions of creation rather than its groanings and expectations is without doubt a fool and a blind man, for he does not know that creatures are also a creation of God. This is clear from the text [LW 25:361-362].

Conclusion
Aren't contexts wonderful? Luther's contrast between philosophy and theology is an exhortation to study the Scriptures as divine revelation. He passionatley appeals to his students that no one makes a prey of them by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition. Luther says elsewhere, Philosophy does not understand sacred things, and argues against mixing it with theology. Rather than persuing philsophical speculation, Luther exhorts his pupils to "undertake new studies and learn Jesus Christ, 'and Him crucified' (1 Cor. 2:2)." Rather than "abandoning the faith and leading many into apostasy" as Luther Exposing the Myth states, the context of this quote shows quite the opposite.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A brief word about "lost comments."

Blogger has recently made this announcement: "We have enabled automatic spam detection for comments. You should occasionally check the comments in your spam inbox."

That's just one hypothesis on the lost comments.

The donum superadditum and the doctrine of man: a foundational difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics

At the heart of the differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants, there are key differences understandings, both in terms of their understanding of the doctrine of God, but also of the doctrine of Man.

Over at Steven Wedgeworth's Wedgewords, Peter Escalante has, in the context of a discussion about civil authority, given a fairly succinct overview of one of the key differences. I'm not fully prepared to engage in a discussion of all of this -- it involves different concepts of man, and different consequences in terms of the doctrine of justification. But I've been following this excellent discussion, and I wanted to pass it along while it was still fresh in my mind.

It involves Rome's understanding of the donum superadditum with regard to the state that Adam was in before he fell. Briefly, Protestants say that man was "very good," and when he fell, it resulted in a spiritual death, and hence, God's imputation of righteousness and union with Christ is what's required to restore man back to his pristine, pre-fall state. Rome, on the other hand (thanks to Augustine's neopolatonism and some refinement by medieval theologians), holds that, not only was Adam "very good," but that he had some "super-added gift of grace" that he lost in the fall, and it is that "superadded grace" that needs to be restored. Hence the "infusion of grace" in Roman doctrine. [This accounts for the difference in which Calvin described man as "spiritually dead," and hence "totally inable" or "totally depraved," whereas Roman Catholics merely believe that man was "impaired" but with an otherwise full capacity to please God with his own grace-assisted works.]

Peter describes it this way:
For us, man originally had connatural beatitude, and when he fell, the reduced and superficial participation in that beatitude still possible to him, in an extrinsic way, was what we call temporal felicity or civic righteousness. But for RC, original felicity was a donum superadditum, and the status of original creation was thus left unclear, with at the very least a strong suggestion that much of what we think of as creation is in fact the effect of the Fall- an anti-Hebraic gnosticism which marred the thought of the ancient Greek church (and modern EO), and Rome too, though a more Biblical countertendency was present in the West and finally came into full victory with the Reformation. Given that the RC think of the New Covenant as the restoration of the donum superadditum, its relation to the temporal is ambivalent at best and hostile at worst. But for us, the New Covenant a) disables the heteronomous and unattainable Law which measured our alienation, and b) grants full citizenship in the Kingdom of God, simply by trust in Christ and union with Him. This means that the reality of original beatitude is poured into the forms of the creational order, and slowly transforms it spiritually, until all things shall be made new.
There are many, many concepts tied up in this one little paragraph, and it would (and will) take a long time to extract the meaning from them. But the one I want to focus on is that, right from the outset of their understanding of man, Protestants and Catholics differ.

John Fesko, in his "Justification," describes this situation with respect to the "donum superadditum":
It seems as though much of the debate over infused versus imputed righteousness hinges upon the presuppositions of each party. The typical Reformed understanding is that Adam was created upright, or righteous, and that God justified, or declared righteous, the initial creation as well as man in his declaration that everything was "very good" (Gen 1:31). We see the Westminster Larger Catechism echo this point when it states that God created man in "righteousness, and holiness, having the law of God written in their hearts, and the power to fulfill it" (q. 17). By way of contrast, the typical Roman Catholic understanding of Adam's original state holds to the necessity of infused righteousness. Roman Catholic theologians typically hold to the idea of the donum superadditum ("superadded gift"). Medieval Roman Catholic theologians, for example, argue that the donum superadditum was a part of the original constitution of man, that it represented his original capacity for righteousness. We see then, from the outset, that man in his fallen state required infused righteousness in the form of the donum superadditum. If man requires infused righteousness in the prefall state, then he would most assuredly require it in his sin-fallen but redeemed state. The original state of man, then, is an issue that must feature in any dialogues over the question of imputation (John Fesko "Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine" Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Company, pg 372.)
Michael Horton, too, in his "Covenant and Salvation," expands on this concept greatly. "According to the federal theologians, Adam and Eve were never in a state of grace before the fall. Endowed in their creation with all of the requisite gifts for fulfilling God's eschatological purposes, there was nothing lacking requiring a gracious supplement" (194).

If anyone is interested, Horton develops this topic quite extensively, relying on Bavinck's account.

I've looked into this to some degree, and my hope is to discuss it in great detail once I've worked my way through the early church. But it is one of the key differences, and it is one of the distinctions that the Reformers made -- a (very likely unwitting) Roman misunderstanding and accretion that somehow became the law of the land at Trent.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Exhortation to David Waltz

To David Waltz -
In response to his being open to Bahai'ism and stating that he is "testing the spirits", and "checking the fruits", etc. to see if it is true, etc.

"open to the possibility that "Bahai'ism is true" here;

"testing the spirits" and "checking the fruits" (posted by John at 3:58pm)

David -
How can you "test the spirits" (as if it might be true) of something that is non-Christian from the get-go, (and by nature says that Islam was a further development of Christianity - which is impossible and contradictory) since you just said you believed in the Deity of Christ - doesn't make sense at all!

If you have the Spirit of Christ, you can immediately tell that Bahai'ism is a non-Christian religion and a false system and evil (1 Cor. 2:10-16) and it's desire for unity/peace and its message of universalism/Unitarianism is similar to the ungodly desire for unity at the expense of truth at the Tower of Babel - Genesis 11.

If you know Christ as the only way, the only mediator, Savior, and Lord, (and that necessitates the doctrine of the Trinity and the revelation of Christ and His work in the NT being the "final word" = Hebrews 1:1-3; also Jude 3); why would you want to be "open" to anything else?

Someone who knows Christ truly does not seek anything else. Jesus Christ is the treasure and the goal and the truth and the joy! How can you be hungry or thirsty for something else?

There is nothing to add to Christ.

And also Bahai'ism not only "adds", but has to completely re-interpret everything of the Bible and sound Christian doctrine.

Christ is enough; He is the satisfaction - John 7:37-39

John 4:14
If you have truly drunk the water that Christ gives; you would not thirst for something else - Sola Christus!

"whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst"

The one who has truly drank from Christ, will "Never thirst" again for something else!

John 6:35 (New American Standard Bible)

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst."

Have you ever considered that you could be falling into the trap described by 2 Timothy 3:7 - "always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth?"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Aquila and Priscilla, itinerants

Down below, David Waltz presented me with a "contradiction" that, well, let me give him the stage:
Me: First, once again, I have not charged you with “intellectual dishonesty”. Second, I would like to present some of Lampe’s positions which I suspect you (as well as K&K) [Kostenberger & Kruger] would not agree with—which, as you probably know, come via the same methods that Lampe uses to arrive at his historical assessments (e.g. form criticism, redaction criticism, et al.). I shall begin with the following from Lampe’s pen:



“The Pastoral letters presuppose Aquila and Prisca still to be in Ephesus (2 Tim 4:19) while Paul is already in Rome. This is one of the historical inconsistencies found in the Pastorals. 



For example, when Paul moved from Ephesus to Macedonia, by no means did Timothy remain behind in Ephesus, as 1 Tim 1:3 supposes: Acts 19:22; 20:1-4; 2 Cor 1:1; Rom 16:21…



How did the author come to the mistake regarding Aquila and Prisca?>> (Peter Lampe, From Paul to Valentinus, 2003, pp. 158, 159.)



Now, do you believe that “the deutero-Pauline author” (Lampe’s words/take, not mine) of 1 Timothy made a “mistake regarding Aquila and Prisca”? DO YOU DISAGREE WITH LAMPE?
The issue here seems to be that Lampe doesn't accept that 2 Timothy was actually written by Paul. I don't happen to agree with this particular assessment, but I'm not going to discount all the rest of Lampe's work because of it. As I noted below, Carson and Moo give plenty of good reasons why they do think that Paul wrote all 13 letters attributed to him.

As well, I'm a guy who marks up his books. And I have a sticky-note at this very point with the note "Check references to Paul's travels. A few things on this.

In the first place, Aquila and Priscilla's travels (or non-travels) are not a matter of faith. It well could be that they were precisely where Paul, writer of the Pastorals, said they were.

Second, if Kostenberger and Kruger are in the least bit concerned about it, they are New Testament scholars, and they definitely have the means to check out something like that.

Third, I've checked Towner ("Letters to Timothy and Titus", Grand Rapids, Eerdmans); he outlines their travels through Paul's letters, and he does not even seem to be aware of the problem. After noting that they had "at some point migrated (apparently) from [Asia Minor] to Rome," he notes:
Subsequently, at the time when Claudius had expelled all the jews from the imperial city (Acts 18:2), they came to Corinth. They also appear in Paul's letters (Rom 16:3; 1 Cor 16:19). When Paul was en route back to Syria/Antioch, they all stopped off at Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla were left (1 Cor 16:19) and Paul began to preach (Acts 18:26). B the time Paul wrote Romans, the couple had returned to Rome (Rom 16:3). Yet at the time of this writing they had apparently returned to Asia Minor, probably in the vicinity of Ephesus (650-651).
It could be that Aquila and Priscilla, like Paul, became itinerant missionaries, and they could well have settled back in Ephesus where they seem to have started.

So if this is the most significant point of contention that you have found (it is first -- do you lead off with your biggest and best?) -- then what else is there?

Um, really? (But let us pray.)

As sometimes happens, a discussion over a relatively minor matter was (most probably accidentally) expanded into a larger concern through a frank admission.

First of all, our co-blogger Ken let us know that:
David Waltz has not returned to Rome - but he is open to Bahai'ism -
see our discussion here at his website- especially in the comboxes.

http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2010/07/seal-of-prophets-is-there.html

"Me: Yes, I remain open to the possibility that the Bahai Faith is true. . . . "
I actually missed that the first time around.  But it gets better.

David Waltz also said in a comment that Blogger apparently ate (since Blogger has been eating comments left and right today, unfortunately mostly to David's detriment): 
you and Rhology are ‘allowed’ a number of worldview and/or ecclesiastical changes in your respective journeys without the worry of derogatory comments being cast your way, but I, who have made fewer changes than either you or Rho, must constantly defend my spiritual journey

Me: 
Um, unthinking heathen -> atheist -> Christian is not very many changes. 1.5 or so. 

He continued:
If I apply your understanding of “change” I have made NONE—I am, and always have been, a Christian.

Me:  
1) No, you haven't always been. You were born an enemy of God.
2) You were once a Jehovah's Witness. Um, that's not Christian.
3) You were once a Roman Catholic. Not Christian either.
4) I have no idea whether you hold to the biblical Gospel, but my educated guess is that you do not.

So no, I'm sorry; your statement is false.
David: 
If JWs are not Christian, what are they? Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim…

So, in reality, though I had begun by thinking this was a relatively minor issue, it is of a much greater concern to all of us, for David, than I had originally thought.  While defending himself from the occasional questioning regarding his spiritual journey and instability, he has honestly and openly called Jehovah's Witness a Christian religion, and it has been revealed that he thinks Baha'i is a live option in the marketplace of ideas.  Let us indeed pray for David Waltz. 

A Brief Carl Trueman review of "The Heresy of Orthodoxy"

It's one thing to work through the historical situation of the early papacy, and show how the thing was *not* there, not in the Scriptures, not in the belief or practice of the early church. It's quite a different thing to reconstruct what *was* there. And that's one of the things I like so much about this work, "The Heresy of Orthodoxy."

Carl Trueman has written a very brief review of this work that I wanted to pass along:
the authors are both New Testament scholars; and their book tackles the influential thesis of Walter Bauer, that what came to triumph in early Christianity was not some primeval orthodoxy but merely one competing vision of Christianity among a host of others. It just happened to be the one that won…

In such a context, this book is a gem, giving both a summary of the Bauer-Ehrman thesis and offering good, solid evidence of its manifold flaws. In the process, the authors deal with the development of the canon, textual transmission, and the relevant bibliography for those who wish to read further. It also has a very helpful concluding chapter (albeit, in my opinion, too brief -- like young Twist, I wanted more cultural criticism, Beadle Kruger!) on why the work of such as Ehrman and Pagels, with its emphasis on diversity, is so appealing in the contemporary cultural context. The book is also thoroughly footnoted throughout, giving plenty of pointers for further reading. All in all, an extraordinarily helpful volume.
Keep in mind as you're reading this, as you see the words "Bauer/Ehrman thesis" or "the flawed thesis of Walter Bauer," you can substitute "the flawed thesis of Newman's development" or "the flawed assumptions about the earliest church made by Roman apologists today."

The work is a sound, biblical based, historically accurate response to all of those things.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Here's a Beggar's All voyage into the Twilight Zone. Can someone explain to me why a Pro-Roman Catholic website called Chant Cd.Com would take one of my Luther papers and host it on their website? It's actually an older version of this paper. They removed my name.

Update: I wrote them, and they put my name back on the paper. The reason for hosting my paper? "Wider distribution."

I still say my all-time favorite is when we documented Steve Ray selling Luther's Works.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Luther: Reason is directly opposed to faith

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "On Reason":

“Reason is directly opposed to faith, and one ought to let it be; in believers it should be killed and buried.”[Erlangen, Vol. 44, Pg. 156-157. For more quotes in this regard see: “Three Reformers”, By Jacques Maritan, Pg. 34; Cf. also Jean Janssen, L’Allemagne et la Reforme. (Trans. E. Paris, Plon, 1887-1911), Vol VII, pg 427].

This is another quote highlighting Luther's denigration of human "reason" (a similar quote was discussed here).

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Christ exhorted his hearers to use reason, while Luther did the opposite. For Luther Exposing the Myth, Christ exhorts his hearers to "be wise" [Matt. 10:16], while Luther says "reason" should be killed and buried.

Documentation
Luther Exposing the Myth cites "Erlangen, Vol. 44, Pg. 156-157. For more quotes in this regard see: “Three Reformers”, By Jacques Maritan, Pg. 34 ; Cf. also Jean Janssen, L’Allemagne et la Reforme. (Trans. E. Paris, Plon, 1887-1911), Vol VII, pg 427." That's quite a lot of documentation, giving the appearance of extensive research (in three different languages!). Such though is typically not the case for propaganda pieces like Luther exposing the Myth.

"Erlangen, Vol. 44, Pg. 156-157" refers to the Erlangen Edition of Luther's works. This out of print German / Latin edition of Luther's works was published in the 1800's (some of these volumes are on-line, but the text visibility is poor ). "Three Reformers" is the work of Roman Catholic scholar Jacques Maritain, as is Jean (Johannes) Janssen (L’Allemagne et la Reforme VII:427 can be found here). None of these references are helpful to someone looking for the context. This type of documentation is usually proof whoever put it together never bothered to look for a context. The quote was probably taken from Maritain's book, as Maritain cites Erlangen 44 as his source when citing this Luther quote. Luther Exposing the Myth is primarily plagiarized. They've added quotes like this one from other pro-Romanist sources attempting to pass the web page of as original. Page 34 of Maritain's Three Reformers states:

"Reason is contrary to faith," he wrote in 1536. And a little later: "Reason is directly opposed to faith, and one ought to let it be; in believers it should be killed and buried" [Erl., 44, 156-157 (1537-1540).

Context
This Luther quote is located in WA 47:328. It's from Luther's Sermon on Matthew 19:13-15. Luther preached through Matthew 18-24 during the years 1537-1540. In this sermon, Luther expounds on Christ's ascribing the kingdom of heaven to children against Anabaptism. The context is quite revealing as to what Luther means:

Again, they argue: How can children believe, seeing that as yet they have no reasoning power? Thus they add reason to faith. To this Christ answers: This is exactly why children can believe better.They cannot reason. For reason is directly opposed to faith. This is why you must let reason go. It must be killed and buried in believers. But the Anabaptists turn reason into a light of faith so that reason may serve faith as a guiding light. I hold that it does shine forth as smudge in a lantern. Christ wants us to turn into veritable children if we desire to come into the kingdom of heaven. He means that, as all reasoning is, so to speak, still buried in children, so reason is also to be killed in all Christian believers. Otherwise faith has no place in them. For reason opposes faith.

For instance, Scripture says that there is only one God, but that in this one, divine Essence there are three distinct Persons:God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost. However, these are one Essence and Substance. Now the Turk presently comes with his reason and asks how it is possible for one to be three and three one. Moreover, say they, in a house there must be no more than one lord and host; just so there must be only one God in heaven. — All this is the language of reason. But in this matter you Christian must become a child and say: Indeed, I cannot comprehend this doctrine; but I must become a child,must let myself be carried, touched, and blessed by Christ, and I must believe it. I must close the eyes of reason and not determine how this is possible or impossible; but I must believe and accept the pure, simple Word. The same thing is true of all other articles of faith. When heathen hear that God's natural Son became man, they say: That is impossible. — No doubt it is if reason is asked for advice. But you must let go of reason in this matter, must pay no attention to it,must entirely kill it; otherwise you will not come into the kingdom of heaven. One cannot grasp or comprehend this matter by reason. You must believe the article that Christ was born man in the fullness of time. You must permit yourself to be carried and led to Christ by the divine Word. Then you will partake of the kingdom of heaven. You must become children. This is the place for little children. Little children Christ carries, fondles, embraces, blesses,and says: Of such is the kingdom of heaven. If, then, I permit myself to be carried, Christ gives me His works and His merit and the kingdom of heaven.

The Turk says the same thing about the Lord's Supper: that mere bread and wine are present in it; and, again, that in Baptism there is simple water, such as is poured over the hand. Really now, says he, should this be called a "washing of regeneration,"as is written in the third chapter of the Letter to Titus? —The matter is ridiculous to them; for one can hardly wash a spoon clean with this water. How, then, is one to bathe body and soul with it? Reason cannot comprehend the articles of faith, including the doctrine of the Sacrament of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Therefore the order is: You must become a child and say: I do not understand this. I do indeed see nothing but water and how it is being poured over a little child. But I will gladly be a fool and a child, and I will believe Him when He says that, through the Word, Baptism has the power and might of regeneration and forgiveness of sins [Translation from What Luther Says, 1:485-486 (entry 1440)].


Conclusion
Once again, Luther actually is arguing for a doctrine Luther Exposing the Myth would adhere to. Such is what happens when a context is ignored. This type of miscitation shows that Romanists who put together web pages like Luther Exposing the Myth don't actually care about truth. They accuse of Protestants of "overlooking" certain citations from Luther, but in actuality, it is they who overlook doing the most basic task: reading a context truthfully and accurately.

The most fundamentally honest approach that I can imagine

Has anyone here read D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo's "Introduction to the New Testament"? New Testament scholarship has been, over the last 200 years, one of the most hotly contested areas that one can imagine. And yet, it is hard to imagine that there is a New Testament scholar whose work that Carson and Moo have not interacted with.

Who among us would accept the work of F.C. Baur, or Rudolph Bultmann in its totality? And yet, who would not say that their work had a major effect on the study (and our knowledge) of the New Testament?

There are four letters written by Paul that absolutely no one (who is a serious New Testament scholar) would contest. The most unfriendly kinds of critical scholars that we can imagine hold that, of Paul's letters, at a very minimum, Romans, Galatians, and 1 and 2 Corinthians are absolutely, unquestionably written by Paul. To one degree or another, others argue that some or all the rest are pseudepigraphical; usually they argue that they were written by someone in Paul's circle of disciples, in his name.

Yet a scholar like Thomas Schreiner (and with him, Carson and Moo) can not only say that they hold all 13 Pauline epistles as authentic (and the works of 1 and 2 Peter to be authentic as well, for example), they are able to say precisely what the theories are of the scholars who disagree with them, and in the process of stating these other theories as clearly as they can, they also argue strenuously for their own (conservative) positions.

This is the most intellectually honest approach that I can imagine, and it's one that I try to emulate. And as a result of their work, and contra someone like Mark Noll, it's possible to say that conservative, evangelical biblical scholarship is more well-respected in critical circles than it has ever been.

* * *

David Waltz stopped by last night to accuse me of intellectual inconsistency. It's funny, he's always so cheerful with me, who would have guessed that he harbored such doubts?

He said: I still cannot help but suspect that his anti-Roman Catholic bias has some negative ramifications on his research and beliefs.

David, you have got this precisely backwards.

I do not hide the fact that I dislike the Roman Catholic Church. I came out of that organization and religion after a long personal struggle, one that has occupied most of my life.

Briefly, I grew up as "a good Catholic boy" from the ethnic neighborhoods of Pittsburgh; I heard the Gospel® as a young man, and saw it lived out in the lives of some friends -- one good friend from my closest circle was a Baptist, (and yes, we argued religion), and others were from more Charismatic circles. I admired them for their adherence to their faith. I moved around back then (late 70's, early 80's) -- and I moved from Charismatic Catholic circles to Protestant Charismatics, and several years later I landed in a Reformed Baptist church with a pastor who has become a lifelong friend.

Some time later, other friends were starting up a fellowship for "completed Jews," Jewish believers who wished to express that Jesus was their messiah. Don't you know, that fellowship had some serious difficulties determining who was in charge -- who would set the theological theme for that body: the pastor, who had studied at a very fine southern seminary (and whom they brought in just because of that fact), or the church council, among them major donors, in whose homes the fellowship began, and whose large donations helped to secure the mortgage on the building that they purchased.

It was about that time that I went back to the Roman Catholic church, on the ground that "such disputes had been fought and settled in the early church."

I don't mind to say that I was naive at that time. At that time I was devoted enough to have thought I wanted to study to become a priest. Over a several-year period of time, I considered both the diocesan and the religious priesthood -- and at one point I had applied for and was accepted into a local seminary program. Some time later, I married. My wife and I have six children. I attended Opus Dei "Evenings of Recollection" for about two years.

In my lifetime, I have earned the right to have a "bias" against the Roman Catholic Church. My "beliefs" have been shaped by a willingness to give the Roman church far, far more benefit of the doubt than it ever deserved. My "beliefs," far from being shaped by a bias, were forged in the process of having wholly abandoned myself and my life and my family's life into the bosom of "Mother Church," the much vaunted authority of which, the further in I got, seemed to be further and further contrived.

I won't go into details about the Seminarian friend (St. Mary's, Baltimore) who was a daily communicant at the same time I was, whose masses I attended after he was ordained, who put the homosexual moves on me. Nor will I go into details about the parish priest who married my wife and me, who baptized our children, who playfully licked my three-year-old son's face (pretending to be a puppy). I won't go into the details of how he was one of the "pedophile priests" who was at first moved, and only later de-frocked. There are some horrific details that go along with his name, and I could give you his name and you could Google him and find the news stories about him. (And in fact I have sent his name and some links to my friends and fellow bloggers here for corroboration).

* * *

But such issues genuinely are peripheral to the issue at hand. As James Swan often says, if you're going to tell a story, tell the story of Christ -- the Gospels of Jesus, and Paul's Gospel, and Peter's Gospel, and the truthfulness and the trustworthiness and the authority of Scripture.

As for my "research," I read everything that's available that I can get my hands on. I'm a 50-year-old man with a wife and a family -- and some of the folks here know some of the difficulties that my family has been through in recent years. I don't have access to a seminary library, and with it, the research journals that might put a finer and more current touch on some of what I've been reading. I am not a scholar, though I would like to be one. Still, that does not mean I am not taking the most fundamentally honest approach that I can take.

But there is nothing I'm writing, that I am aware of, that is being intellectually dishonest with the materials. If anything, what I am finding is that there is a flood-tide of scholarship that is coming to "anti-Catholic" conclusions -- including the work of such Catholic writers as Raymond Brown, Eamon Duffy, Robert Eno, Francis Sullivan, Klaus Schatz, and others.

One might go so far as to suggest that David Waltz does not understand what it is that he is reading -- the particular conclusions that make a scholar liberal or conservative, or how they arrive at those conclusions. What might be agreed with or disagreed with, and on what basis.

The name Raymond Brown comes up among some of the more traditionalist and devoted Catholic folks, as if Brown was somehow a traitor. But I have (briefly) studied Greek under an individual who knew Brown personally. Raymond Brown was, in my opinion, one of the best friends that some of these conservative Catholics could have. They don't know it, but Brown's method was (a) to study the critical sources and know them the best that he could, while (b) not moving beyond what positions that "the Magisterium" had staked out. In doing this, he was one individual (among others) who prevented Roman Catholicism in its traditional form from sliding completely into the hole that the ultramontanist, ultra-anti-modernist popes dug with their defiant cries of "I AM Tradition" and their anti-modernist oaths. Without scholars like Raymond Brown, the Roman hierarchy would have died the death of a complete laughingstock, drunk on its own imagined sense of authority.

And I'll give you an example of it. Near the end of the Brown/Meier work "Antioch and Rome", Brown was worried that his conclusions would be dismissed because he was too Roman Catholic.
"On both sides many scholars oversimplify the historical situation, agreeing only that for better or worse I Clement had remarkable success in shaping future church thought.

The discussion is not facilitated by the fact that the underlying motif is often a conflicting view of church organization today. The battle offer the unimpassioned pages of I Clement is often a surrogate for a battle between the impassioned descendants of the Reformers and of Trent; and since I am a Roman Catholic, I rather doubt I shall be judged objective about the issue. (pg 177, emphasis in original).


David Waltz said: For instance, John eagerly endorses the critical German scholar Lampe concerning the status of the Roman church/s during the 1st and 2nd centuries, and then thoroughly recommends Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger's The Heresy of Orthodoxy which is at odds with some important conclusions of Lampe.

David, I would like for you to show me where you think I might disagree with Lampe, or where you think Kostenberger and Kruger might disagree with him. Perhaps you're willing to tell me just how the work of these individuals is at odds and then we can discuss the specifics of it, and only then you can genuinely begin to charge me with intellectual dishonesty. Or not.

But I'll do you one better. Kostenberger and Kruger approvingly can cite Baukham's "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses," even though Kostenberger also wrote a substantial (and substantially critical) article taking issue with Baukham's conclusion that someone other than the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John.

Such a disagreement neither negates the validity of the rest of Baukham's highly significant work, nor does it make Kostenberger somehow "intellectually dishonest" for both (a) citing Baukham while (b) disagreeing with some of his conclusions. Kostenberger has shown that he is well prepared to talk about where he agrees and where he disagrees with Baukham, and he is well prepared to say exactly why. It is the very same method used by Carson, Moo, and Schreiner that I've alluded to in the opening section of this post.

* * *

David Waltz: the fact that John, James White, and many other epologists are willing to solicit liberal, critical scholarship ONLY when it furthers their aggenda/s, whilst denying the same method to their opponents, is an all too common practice—that you do not discern commonality and/or inconsistency here is a bit troubling...

I've mentioned just recently that there is a confluence in the work of some of these scholars, and I'll give you one more such example, a blatant one at that:

http://reformation500.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/a-positive-view-of-christian-foundations/
Harvey Cox, who no conservative Christian would consider an ally, recently summarized the work of the Jesus Seminar: while setting out to disprove much about history, in the process they proved he was a first century Palestinian Jew who claimed to be God and who was crucified under Pontius Pilate; his disciples fanned out to the world with the story that he was raised from the dead. Cox said:

“Despite widespread discrepancies among the researchers, some things were not contested. All agreed that Jesus really had existed, and that he was a first-century Palestinian Jew living under the heel of a Roman occupation that – like many such occupations before and since – had split its captive people into feuding sects and warring factions. They also agreed that he was a rabbi who taught the imminent coming of the kingdom of God, and gained a following as a teacher and a healer in Galilee, especially among the landless and destitute, but that he aroused the ire of the nervous ruling religious circles and the tense Roman authorities. When he and some of his followers arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover holidays he caused a stir in the Temple, was arrested, interrogated, and executed by crucifixion, a form of death by torture reserved by the Romans for those suspected of subverting their imperial rule. But after his death, his followers insisted that he had appeared to them alive, and they continued to spread his message even in the face of harsh persecution.” (Harvey Cox, “When Jesus Came to Harvard,” ©2004, pgs 18-19).

Even “critical scholarship” is confirming the facts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. We have come a long way since the days when the someone like Bertrand Russell could say that Jesus didn’t even exist.
So yes, I've not failed to cite this aspect of Cox, a thoroughly liberal thinker -- but I am not the one straying into the liberal camp here. Rather, it is Cox who has been forced, by the facts and evidence, to admit such things that the vast majority of his liberal fellows can only cringe at.

This is a Harvey Cox conclusion that we can agree with. But we also know precisely where we would disagree with him. Such is the nature of the confluence of conservative and critical scholarship. And guess what? No one is being intellectually dishonest here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Whitaker's Eighth Argument

Whitaker's eighth argument defending Sola Scriptura can be summarized (with a small amount of liberty) as follows:

P1. The oral revelation given to the patriarchs did not require the authority of the Church to authenticate it; the patriarchs believed it upon receiving it by virtue of hearing God speak.

P2. The written revelation of the canon is of the same kind and authority as the oral revelation given to the patriarchs.

Therefore,

C. The canon does not require the authority of the Church to authenticate it to us; it should be received in the same manner as the patriarchs received oral revelation.

Whitaker seems to draw additional support for the immediate reception of God's words in P1. from an appeal to Romans 2:15, where Paul says that God's law is written on our hearts. This belief in the law comes, therefore, not from the testimony of the Church. (I would add that this is especially the case since the subject of Romans 2:15 is gentiles who have never heard the law before.) But if the law, which is natural, can be discerned without the Church, how much more the Gospel, which "transcends all nature, and therefore needs some greater kind of confirmation" (the greater confirmation, according to Whitaker, being the Holy Spirit).

I'd add my own support for P2. by noting that God communicates his Words through ordinary means. The patriarchs either audibly heard God speak to them or used the mind's "ear." In either case, physical processes (for even the latter arguably required some level of brain function) were utilized to obtain mental understanding. There doesn't seem to be a significant or functional difference between this and reading or hearing the Words of God in the written canon. If this process of knowing God's Word was valid for the patriarchs, why would it be invalid for Protestants?

Those who are devoted to the interests of the Vatican....

I came across this nugget after a number of hours trying to track down a context to a Luther quote:

The venerable champions of Protestantism, the Rev. Joseph Mendham and the Rev. George Stanley Faber, repeatedly warn their readers to accept with the greatest reserve and caution any statement, theological or otherwise, of a startling nature from the pen of a Romanist, and to reject it until verified by a careful examination of the originals. But, as their testimony may be deemed partial, I will add the remarkable testimony given in the Translator's preface of Dr. Dollinger's "Fables respecting the Popes of the Middle Ages," a translation undertaken with the sanction of the author,—himself a Romanist. The charge of literary fraud indulged in by Roman Catholic writers is thus delicately expressed :—

"It is impossible to live long among those who are devoted to the interests of the Vatican, or to read much of the literature that is written in support of those interests, without feeling that the conception of truth entertained by those advocates is a saddening travesty of the sacred reality. In some cases the sense of truth, the love of truth for its own sake,— nay, even the very power of discriminating between truth and falsehood,—seems almost lost"!


source and primary source

By the way, the quote I was looking for turned out to be spurious. Of course, not every person in communion with Rome quotes sources poorly. However, in my Luther studies, more often than not, truth is slain in the street.

Covenant, Canon, and the New Testament Church

Now that the fireworks of the last few days have subsided, I've wanted to get back to Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger's (2010) "The Heresy of Orthodoxy" (Wheaton IL: Crossway).

As I noted in a previous post, while the stated topic of this work was to deal with what's known as the "Bauer/Ehrman" thesis, it also has extraordinary implications for Bryan Cross's unique and novel concept of "Ecclesial Deism". As he has noted:
Deism refers to a belief that God made the world, and then left it to run on its own. It is sometimes compared to “a clockmaker” winding up a clock and then “letting it run.” Deism is distinct from theism in that theism affirms not only that God created the world, but also that God continually sustains and governs all of creation.

Ecclesial deism is the notion that Christ founded His Church, but then withdrew, not protecting His Church’s Magisterium (i.e., the Apostles and/or their successors) from falling into heresy or apostasy. Ecclesial deism is not the belief that individual members of the Magisterium could fall into heresy or apostasy. It is the belief that the Magisterium of the Church could lose or corrupt some essential of the deposit of faith, or add something to the deposit of faith.
There are a couple of things wrong with this definition. First, Bryan anachronistically reads the concept of "magisterium" back into the earliest church. He also misunderstands not only what "the church" is (or rather, he superimposes his own impressions back on it, but he also misunderstands (or mis-states) what's actually being promised to "the one true church" in John 16:13.

In reality, it was not a "magisterium" that the earliest church had, but the concept of "covenant", and while the title of this work deals with heresy and orthodoxy, it could, in fact, have been entitled "Canon and Covenant."

The authors not only identify core orthodox doctrines (and locate the church within the doctrines -- not vice versa), but they also describe how the concept of covenant always brought with it the requirement for a written copy of the covenant documents -- which not only were kept in holy shrines, but which were also to be "read publicly at regular intervals."

"The new covenant documents are no exception to this overall pattern," they write. "The religious world of Judaism had already anticipated the reality" not only of God's covenant in Israel, but a "New Covenant" sealed by Christ's blood. And they point to the "clear expectation that this new covenant, like the old covenant, would be accompanied by the appropriate written texts to testify to the terms of the new arrangement that Gd was establishing with his people." So, rather than being an after thought, "the canon is a concept that has been indelibly part of the life of God's people from the very state of the nation of Israel," and thus, they were a part of the thinking of the earliest communities of Christians.

This work is incredibly valuable, as well, in providing a Scripture-based account that's totally at odds with the "ecclesial deism" assumption.

Because this work is so helpful, my hope is to work through this book in a way that is a bit longer than one might expect in a simple review.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction: The Contemporary Battle to Recast the Origins of the New Testament and Early Christianity.

Part 1: The Heresy of Orthodoxy: Pluralism and the Origins of the New Testament

1. The Bauer-Ehrman Thesis: Its Origins and Influence

2. Unity and Plurality: How DIverse Was Early Christianity?

3. Heresy in the New Testament: How Early Was It?

Part 2: Picking the Books: Tracing the Development of the New Testament Canon

4. Starting in the Right Place: The Meaning of Canon in Early Christianity

5. Interpreting the Historical Evidence: The Emerging Canon in Early Christianity

6. Establishing the Boundaries: Apocryphal Books and the Limits of the Canon

Part 3: Changing the Story: Manuscripts, Scribes, and Textual Transmission

7. Keepers of the Text: How Were Texts Copied and Circulated in the Ancient World?

8. Tampering with the Text: Was The New Testament Text Changed Along the Way?

Concluding Appeal: The Heresy of Orthodoxy in a Topsy-Turvy World

Again, while the authors make these points in the context of interacting with the Bauer/Ehrman thesis, point-by-point, I found myself agreeing with them as point-by-point, they address what Roman Catholics continually represent as the key core weakness of Protestantism, "that 'Sola Scriptura is not taught in the Bible.'"

The Reformers' doctrine of Scripture is not only incredibly biblical, but it is also the case that "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass," including the development of the canon as a means of guiding His one true church into all truth.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Luther: Reason is the Devil's Handmaid

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "On Reason":

“Reason is the devils handmaid and does nothing but blaspheme and dishonor all that God says or does”[Against the Heavenly Prophets, On Images and the Sacraments].

This is another Luther quote allegedly denigrating "reason" (a similar quote was discussed here). Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Christ exhorted his hearers to use reason, while Luther did the opposite.

This "reason" comment from Luther is one of many similar statements peppered throughout his writings. Lutheran theologian Siegbert Becker begins his treatment on Luther and reason with the following comments from Luther:

Reason is a big red murderess, the devil's bride, a damned whore, a blind guide, the enemy of faith, the greatest and most invincible enemy of God.

Such comments have been seized upon by many. Becker then contrasts these statements with the following from Luther:

Reason is God's greatest and most important gift to man, of inestimable beauty and excellence, a glorious light, a most useful servant in theology, something divine. [Siegbert Becker,The Foolishness of God (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1999, p. 1].

These later comments have not been seized upon by many. Obviously, there's a lot more going on than Luther Exposing the Myth expresses by using a single out of context quote. Luther Exposing the Myth at least accurately identified the treatise from which it took the quote, Against the Heavenly Prophets, On Images and the Sacraments. Other than that, this obscure quote is a typical propaganda hit: ignoring context, history, and theological presuppositions.


Context
Against the Heavenly Prophets (1525) was written against Luther's former colleague Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt. In this treatise, Luther expresses (among other things) his harsh disagreement with Karlstadt over the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Karlstadt held the body and blood of Christ are not in the sacrament. Luther argues against Karlstadt's Biblical argumentation for a number of pages, and then states:

Let this be our answer to the arguments and reasons that Dr. Karlstadt presents for his dream from Scripture. They were threefold. First, a capital letter is found in some books, not all. Second, there was a punctuation mark. Third, the dear touto. What wonderful arguments, which no one would use except such heavenly prophets, who hear the voice of God. A fourth now is, that he cannot present a single verse of Scripture in his favor. This is the most damaging argument and will forever remain so. I shall not overthrow it but will rather strengthen it. Furthermore he teaches us what Frau Hulda, natural reason, has to say in the matter, just as if we did not know that reason is the devil’s prostitute and can do nothing else but slander and dishonor what God does and says. But before we answer this arch-prostitute and devil’s bride, we first want to prove our faith, not by setting forth capitals or periods or touto tauta but by clear, sober passages from Scripture which the devil will not overthrow [LW 40:174]

Luther's Works explain the reference to Frau Hulda:

In Germanic mythology, Frau Hulda is the name of the leader of a group of elfin creatures who were looked upon as the instigators of good and evil among men. Like them Frau Hulda is of a capricious nature, now friendly, now hostile especially in times when disorder arises among men. She may therefore be regarded as a personification of order and clever reasoning. However, in matters of faith Luther looked upon reason as seductive, hence as “the devil’s prostitute.”

Luther doesn't begin to delve into Karlstadt's arguments from "reason" until later in the treatise (LW 40:192). Luther's arguments presented previously actually use "reason' in the sense that Luther is arguing from a grammatical and exegetical basis. When he attacks Karlstadt for using "reason," he's attacking him for attempting to explain Biblical data rationally. For Luther, reason can only say bread is bread. For Luther though, only the heart of faith can grasp Christ's words concerning the bread "this is my body." The senses will only lead one to believe that bread is bread.

Conclusion
In this instance, Luther actually is arguing for a doctrine Luther Exposing the Myth would adhere to. Such is what happens when a context is ignored. This type of miscitation shows that Romanists who put together web pages like Luther Exposing the Myth don't actually care about truth. They accuse of Protestants of "overlooking" certain citations from Luther, but in actuality, it is they who overlook doing the most basic task: reading a context truthfully and accurately.