Monday, February 28, 2011

Why all the many excuses for not interacting with Lampe’s work, on the Roman Catholic side, need to be ignored.

Nick said: If someone like Lampe denies the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals and even says they contain blatant historical errors, then he’s not a “conservative.” He could be right in other departments or with other arguments, but that’s case by case, and doesn’t change the fact a rejection of Biblical inerrancy can never place a person in the “conservative” category.

On Page 2, Lampe seems to say he doesn’t trust the accuracy of the Pastorals, 1 Peter, Luke-Acts, and Mark in his overall research.


Nick gets this second item wrong. Lampe doesn’t “seem to say he distrusts the accuracy of the Pastorals...” He says, he avoids using them because they are contested; to rely on their historical accuracy would only cause the accuracy of his own arguments to be questioned. And so, in order to avoid such questioning, he chooses only to use information that is not contested. Here is his actual quote:

Peter Lampe: We face a tour through a variety of material: literary materials, above all, but also epigraphical and archaeological ones are at hand, which often become illuminating only in combination. What is contested with respect to geographical provenance (e.g., the Pastorals, 1 Peter, Luke-Acts, Mark), is relegated to the “footnote cellar” with the well-known “cf.” at relevant points, so that the results [of my work] will not be burdened a priori by uncertainty. There is an abundance of sufficiently clear urban Roman sources, and for those other text-complexes special studies have already been produced. Even if the Pastorals, 1 Peter, Luke, and Mark are related to the “footnote cellar,” there is still ample New Testament material left for consideration in the text above. (Lampe’s actual quote, page 2).

So clearly, what Lampe is saying is that, while these texts are contested, he will rely on those texts that are not contested, and in doing so, he will strengthen the force of his argument.


On the other hand, consider Joseph Ratzinger: For evaluating the relationship of the pastoral epistles to the great Pauline epistles, a brief passage in the first epistle to the Corinthians seems important to me .... If we take this text seriously, we must acknowledge that, whoever may have composed them, the Pastoral epistles are ... (Joseph Ratzinger [with a stamp that says “Pope Benedict XVI” on the front], San Francisco: Ignatius Press, (c) 1982/1987, pg 280).

Again, Nick said: this evidence is clear that Lampe denies Biblical inerrancy and Pauline authorship for many Pauline epistles. Overall, he fits the liberal scholar MO which is to be quick to downplay and discredit the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture in favor of secular works.

Now there’s a mark of certainty for you!

Add this to his fuzzy endorsement of "resurrection of the whole man" (and the "fusion" into oneness," and his citation, as pope, of Teilhard de Chardin, and you Catholic guys have got yourselves a whale of a good example of why you seriously need to consider swimming back this way.

Elders, Teachers, Chairs, and Thrones: “what they knew, and when they knew it” (Part 2)

I’m following up on Part 1 of this post, F.F. Bruce provides some context for the synagogue system in Jesus’s time:
The Temple (no, not you Ken) represented the heart of Jewish religious life while it remained standing, but it could not play the part in the regular religious life of most Jews that it had done in King Josiah’s day, when Jerusalem, where he centralized the national worship, was within manageable distance for everyone in the kingdom of Judah. The Jews of the dispersion in particular could pay only occasional visits to the Temple. The centre of their ordinary religious and community life was the synagogue.

The origins of the synagogue are obscure, but it is reasonable to look for them in the circumstances of the exile and its aftermath. How did the exiled Jews preserve their religious loyalty, to a point where those who ultimately returned from the exile considered ‘the people of the land’ too lax or syncretistic in their practice to merit participation in the rebuilding of the Temple? If in their exile they met together for mutual encouragement, to recite appointed prayers and sing the songs of Zion even in a foreign land, this would constitute a synagogue in embryo at least. The synagogue developed throughout the post-exilic centuries and became an invariable feature of Jewish life not only in the Diaspora but in Palestine and even in Jerusalem itself. There on Sabbaths and festivals services of worship were held in which prayers and praises of the temple services were repeated; but whereas in the Temple these prayers and praises were adjuncts to the sacrifices, in the non-sacrificial liturgy of the synagogue they constituted the indispensable elements.

A synagogue service at this time began with the call to worship and the recitation of the Shema and associated benedictions, together with the Decalogue; it continued with the appointed prayers and benedictions, the reading of the law and the prophets, a ‘word of exhortation’ or exposition, and concluded with a blessing. Though a general pattern could no doubt be discerned in synagogue services throughout the Jewish world, there was considerable variation; Israel Abrahams could speak of ‘the freedom of the synagogue’. But the general sequence of the synagogue service had an importance beyond the confines of Jewish history; it influenced to some extent the order of early Christian worship. Invocation, prayer, thanksgiving, scripture reading, exhortation, blessing have from the beginning been integral to the Christian liturgy, although the central place is given to the distinctively Christian ordinance of the Eucharist.

The synagogues throughout the world brought the knowledge of Israel’s God and Israel’s religion to all the Gentile cities in which there were Jewish communities. ‘From early generations Moses had in every city those who preach him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues’ (Acts 15:21). The picture given in the Acts of the Apostles, of Paul and his colleagues making for the synagogue in each new city they came to, and using it as their base of operations as long as they permitted, harmonizes perfectly with the picture given by archaeology and literary and epigraphic evidence. Even Athens, which Jewish residents would probably have found less congenial than many Greek cities, had its synagogue, according to Acts 17:17, and evidently some Athenians were sufficiently attracted by Jewish worship to attend it regularly as God-fearers.

Philippi appears to have been an exception: according to the most probable reading of Acts 16:13, Paul and three companions, finding no regular synagogue there, went outside the city on the Sabbath to ‘a place where prayer was habitually offered’ on the riverside according to Jewish custom and ‘sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.’ This seems to mean that, in the absence of a sufficient number of Jewish men (ten of whom must be present before a synagogue congregation can be properly constituted), some women—Jewesses and God-fearers—came together and said the appointed prayers for the Sabbath. Although they could not form a synagogue, they did form the nucleus of the Christian church in Philippi. The quorum for a church was ‘two or three’ (Matt 18:20), much smaller than a Jewish minyan, and so far as the privileges of church membership were concerned, Paul himself laid it down that in Christ there was ‘neither male nor female’, just as there was ‘neither Jew nor Greek, . . . neither slave nor free’ (Gal 3:28).

The narrative of Acts speaks of synagogues also in Damascus, Cyprus, Iconium, Thessalonica, Beroea, Corinth, and Ephesus. (F.F. Bruce, “New Testament History” (New York: Doubleday, © 1969, pg. 143-145).
* * *

“Elders in Every City”
Roger Beckwith, who is an Anglican, in his work, “Elders in Every City: The Origin and Role of the Ordained Ministry” (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press ©2003), noted the use of fuzzy language in the preface to the Ordinal in the Book of Common Prayer to describe the existence of “Bishops, Priests, and Deacons” in the church:

“It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and the ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church” Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.”

Of this statement, Beckwith says:
This is a very carefully phrased statement which, through loose interpretation, has been misrepresented both by its defenders and by its critics.

For, in the first place, it does not say that this is evident to those “diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors’; in other words, it is evident from Scripture and the Fathers taken together, but not necessarily from one of the two taken singly. If we have difficulty finding the threefold ministry in the New Testament taken by itself, the preface does not say that we should be able to find it there.

In the second place, the preface does not say that “by the Apostles’ decision there have been those Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church” but from the Apostles time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church”; in other words, from the period before the last of the apostles died there have been three orders of ordained ministers; and the last of the apostles, St John, is stated by Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3:3;4) to have lived until the reign of Trajan, who did not become emperor till AD 98. Since the threefold ministry was [evident] when Ignatius of Antioch was writing his letters, about AD 110, it can hardly have arisen later than the beginning Trajan’s reign, in other words, later than the end of the apostolic age. So the preface to the Ordinal is stating the simple truth in saying that it dates from the apostle’s time. But how far the apostles were responsible for the development which took place is left an open question (Beckwith pgs. 9-10)
In discussions between Protestants and Roman Catholics, the question always seems to come down to “the definition of the word ‘Church’”. And in defining the word “Church,” one of the most complicated issues that Protestants face when interacting with Roman Catholics is the notion of “Apostolic Succession.” In fact, to hear the tales of some Roman Catholics, Christ named Peter as Pope, the Apostles as Bishops via a sacrament of “Holy Orders,” and this authority has traveled downstream to us in an unbroken succession, and to challenge the Pope and Bishops is to deny the very authority of Christ.

This is difficult not because Protestants are wrong about it; in my opinion, Protestant rejections of the Roman conceptions of “succession” are quite correct. Rather, this is difficult because there are so many different facets to it, and it requires looking at the issues from many different perspectives in order to understand the complete picture of what happened. As with many things, Rome defines an ancient term or concept in terms of its present-day doctrine. But this is absolutely not the right way to understand how the early church developed.

My hope is to continue to explore all of the many factors that played into this. I think it’s very clear that the gloss that the Roman Catholic Church places on “succession” is really an anachronistic reading – reading its own current doctrines back into the original meanings of some of these words. The gloss that the Called to Communion folks place on this, is beyond anachronism. It is wishful thinking.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Elders, Teachers, Chairs, and Thrones: “what they knew, and when they knew it” (Part 1)

George Santayana famously defined a fanatic as “someone who redoubles his zeal whenever he has lost sight of his goal.”

Bryan Cross has published a long article on “The Chair of St. Peter”. In the fashion of a Medieval florilegium [book of sentences], it is thick with early church references to “the Throne of Peter” and “the thrones of the apostles,” etc., as if somehow this amounts to scads and scads of evidence that the papacy is what it says it is. Bryan concludes his article this way:
The testimony of the tradition we find in the Fathers and other early writers indicates a deepening awareness of the significance and authority of St. Peter’s chair, especially in grounding and preserving the fidelity and unity of the Church. But some conception of the authority of this chair seems to have been present even from the second century. [JB note: but not in the New Testament, not among the Apostles, and no significant mentions of this concept are even evident, much less explicit, until the third century.] And the clearest and most developed conception of this authority seems to have been in the particular Church of Rome, and especially in her bishops. At the same time, there is no comparable set of patristic quotations in which it is claimed that the chair of St. Peter did not hold such authority.

So the inquirer is then faced with a dilemma that in a certain respect parallels that each of us faces regarding Christ’s own claims concerning Himself. Either the Church at Rome almost immediately fell into serious error regarding her own eccesial [sic] authority and role in relation to the universal Church, and though various bishops at times disagreed with her decisions (e.g. St. Cyprian), no one ‘corrected’ her claim concerning her own authority until the time of Photius in the ninth century, or during all those centuries (and to the present) she was truly what she always claimed to be. The former option leaves us with the paradox that the Apostolic seat widely believed to be the touchstone of orthodoxy in every respect for hundreds of years, was terribly wrong about its own identity, and therefore unsuited to be anyone’s touchstone of orthodoxy.
I’ve already written extensively to the effect that the Apostolic Fathers, those writers from, say, 100-150 AD, because of their reliance on “oral tradition,” did in fact begin to lose their understanding of the Gospel of Grace. For example, T. F. Torrance, “The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers” is a major exegetical study of these works, tracing, point-by-point, just how these writers differ from the gospel of Grace as preached by Jesus and Paul:
T.F. Torrance aims in this book to discover how and why there came about in the early history of the Christian Church the enormous difference that exists between the faith of the New Testament and that of the second and third centuries. He explores how the concept of grace is distinctively characteristic of every doctrine of the New Testament, and yet at the same time is the most sensitive to change.
I’d commend this work to you in every way. Keep in mind that this is a major doctrine. Oscar Cullmann describes precisely how this happened:
About the year 150 there is still an oral tradition. We know this from Papias, who wrote an exposition of the words of Jesus. He tells us himself that he used as a basis the viva vox and that he attached more importance to it than to the writings. But in him we have not only this declaration of principle; for he has left us some examples of the oral tradition as he found it, and these examples show us well that we ought to think of an oral tradition about the year 150! It is entirely legendary in character. This is clear from the story that Papias reports about Joseph Barsabbas, the unsuccessful candidate, according to Acts 1:23 f., for the post of twelfth disciple rendered vacant by Judas’s treason. Above all there is the obscene and completely legendary account [in Papias] of death of Judas Iscariot himself.

The period about 150 is, on the one hand, relatively near to the apostolic age, but on the other hand, it is already too far away for the living tradition still to offer in itself the least guarantee of authenticity. The oral traditions which Papias echoes arose in the Church and were transmitted by it. For outside the Church no one had any interest in describing in such crude colours the death of the traitor. Papias was therefore deluding himself when he considered viva vox as more valuable than the written books. The oral tradition had a normative value in the period of the apostles, who were eye-witnesses, but it had it no longer in 150 after passing mouth to mouth (Oscar Cullmann, “The Tradition,” in “The Early Church,” London: SCM Press, Ltd., ©1956, pgs. 88-89).
I’ve written extensively about this process. While the fixing of the canon of the New Testament enabled a writer like Irenaeus (c. 180 ad) to recapture and understand a concept of Grace that earlier writers had lost through a reliance on “oral tradition,” it is vitally important that we understand that some of this “entirely legendary” “oral tradition” did make its way into church organization and church teachings. This is not to say that the entire church became corrupted at that moment. Rather, this process was like yeast getting into the dough (Matt 16:11-12) – it doesn’t corrupt all at once, but the festering situation led to some of the fourth and fifth and sixth century abuses that I’ve written about. And it’s vitally important that Christians understand this progression, because the enemies of Christianity today (scroll down to the “Bart Ehrman” section of this blogpost) certainly have no respect for the truth of Christianity, much less the legends.

In the spirit of “chairs” and “teaching,” and to begin to discuss just how much the meaning of this idea evolved during the early centuries of church history, I’d like to step back for a minute, to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee, to talk about where the notion of “teaching” and “chairs” actually came from:
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.

The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.
Understanding the Jewish synagogue system is important, not only for understanding Jesus and his ministry, but also for understanding where Christian worship came from, how it came about, and importantly, where I’d like to focus, on how the leadership structures of early Christianity developed.

People on both sides of the Roman Catholic/Protestant divide will often use the words episkopoi (“overseers”) and presbuteroi (“presbyters”) without understanding that these words had definite meanings when they are used in the New Testament. In fact, it’s remarkable how much Christianity owes, in form and function, to the Jewish synagogue.
Jesus is a pious Jew, who attends synagogue regularly. On this occasion, Jesus goes to the synagogue as was his habit on the Sabbath. This point is especially important, because Jesus’ controversy with the Jewish religious leadership may have left him with a reputation of being a religiously insensitive rebel. In fact, many of the six Sabbath passages in Luke end up in some controversy. Jesus may be pious, but the character of his piety is different from that of the Jewish leadership. On the Sabbath, Jesus will heal, meet people’s needs, and instruct them. The synagogue as a center of Jesus’ activity parallels the church’s activity around the synagogue or temple (Acts 3-4; 13). Christianity did not attempt immediately to isolate itself from Judaism. Rather, it saw itself as the natural fulfillment of Judaism’s hope. So a part of its mission was to call Jews to enter the time of fulfillment. (Darrell L. Bock, “Luke, 1:1-9:50”, “Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament”, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, © 1994, pgs. 402-403.)
I’m amazed at just how much time, in some of the newer histories of the New Testament, is spent on “the Jewish background.” F.F. Bruce’s “New Testament History (New York: Doubleday, © 1969) for example, devotes 150 pages of a 400 page book to such topics encompassing “Judeaea under Roman Governors”, “Philosophical Schools”, “Hasidism, Pharisees and Sadducees”, “Essenes”, “Zealots”, “The Qumran Community”, and “Judaism at the Beginning of the Christian Era,” before beginning with John the Baptist.
Bock Continues:
A synagogue service had various elements: recitation of the Shema (Deut 6:4-9), prayers, a reading from the Law, a reading from the Prophets, instruction on the passages, and a benediction.

The exact nature of the synagogue service—including how fixed it was in this period—has been the subject of discussion. Though some speak of a fixed cycle of readings every three years, such a schedule in this period seems unlikely. The Hebrew Scripture would be read in a standing position in one- to three-verse units. The text was translated into Aramaic, the local language, an oral procedure that often involved targumic renderings of the text (i.e., Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew OT), though the translator did not read from a text in the assembly. The Torah was always read, and often a reading from the Prophets followed. After the reading came an invitation for someone to instruct the audience. Based on texts already read or on new texts, this instruction could be done by any qualified male in the audience, provided ten males were present. Jesus stood up apparently to indicate that he could speak about a passage. Jesus gave such a lesson from the prophets, what was called the Haftarah (a reading from the Prophets).

Jesus takes the scroll and unrolls it to the place from which he will give instruction. It seems that Jesus chose the reading from the Prophets and “found” the place in Isaiah from which he wanted to teach. If the text was part of a fixed reading schedule, then the scroll would have been opened at the appropriate place. This detail suggests that a reading schedule was not used, but that Jesus chose his text (Bock, 403-404).

* * *

The drama intensifies now that the eschatological passage has been read, but its exposition remains. The scroll is rolled up and returned to the attendant, who is responsible for getting and returning the scroll to the ark where it is kept. In all probability he is the hazzan of the synagogue. Jesus then sits down to teach. Teaching in a sitting position was customary (Luke 5:3; Matt 5:1; 23:2; 26:55; Mark 4:1 …). As he prepared to speak, Jesus had the crowd’s attention. The common Lucan term (atenizontes) depicts intense, focused emotion by describing the crowd’s gaze of attention. (Bock, 411).
For more on the evolution of the early papacy and the introduction of forgery by popes to enhance their own stature, see my earlier series of posts on “The See of Peter”.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tidbits

1. Angry Romanist Loves John, Despises Swan
Here's one for John Bugay. The closest thing to Cochlaeus in Cyber-space has been writing long diatribes against Luther and the peasant's war. These screeds are often hard to read to completion. At one point he stated, "Lest anyone think that 'Admonition' is going to be ignored from this point on, it is not. We will be doubling back to it as we trace our way from the causes of the Peasants War all the way to the initial bloodshed." I responded, "It's probably not "we" who will double back, it's you. I rarely read your posts, and if I do, I don't often make it through them. I suspect the same is true of your other fans. " Well, here's a response that broke my heart:

As for you not reading my posts – on your blog your last 6 “articles”, have drawn a total of 17 responses by others. Thankfully for you, you now “allow” some people to “contribute” who actually say “stuff” that people are interested in. As an example, John Bugay’s last three articles have drawn a total of 85 responses.

So John, thanks again for all your posts. This angry Romanist appreciates them, and finds them interesting and saying "stuff."

2. Let's Empty Purgatory
Catholic Answers is more than simply a discussion thread board. They have specific groups, created for specific needs. Here's their group: Let's empty Purgatory:

Group created by eternalcorn. Jesus said if we pray this prayer 1,000 souls from purgatory are released: "Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."

The group's founder, eternalcorn, joined Catholic Answers Aug 8, '09, posted this, then visited once more in 2010 (that's dedication!). The group has 319 members, and they have almost 1200 posts repeating this prayer Jesus told us to pray... well, I seemed to have missed that chapter in the Bible, must've been in one of the books Luther threw out.

3. Christian Hypnosis
I'm not exactly sure how I came across this one: Christian Hypnosis. Tool around on this site for a bit.

ChristianHypnosis.org provides christian hypnosis CDs and programs that are designed for Christians who believe that God is all powerful. The programs are designed for believers who believe that through God’s power, anything is possible.We strive to teach believers, and non-believers about the true nature of hypnosis. That it is no different from any other tool that is available in this world. We educate people by exposing myths of hypnosis and encouraging scientific and spiritual research

-snip-

You are in no way more susceptible to “evil spirits” with any of the programs on my site. They are totally the opposite in fact. The goal with Christian hypnosis is to maximize the potential within you and align you more with God and His spirit. This allows us to create the good change you desire.

The debate aside, it was actually the sound file excerpt of their product they offer that I found most entertaining.

4. Swan vs. Sippo on Luther Biographies
I had thought this 2006 discussion I had with Dr. Art Sippo from the Envoy Forums was no more. Searching for something else, it appeared: Research on Luther and Calvin. I'm almost positive this was deleted. Perhaps when Pat Madrid set up his new Envoy forums, it was restored.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dutch Church History: Why Start a New Church?

Dutch Church history is a complicated subject, to say the least. I've been reading about some of the controversies surrounding the formation of the Christian Reformed Church. The following is bit one-sided, but I found it fascinating, taken from this link.

Koene (Conrad) van den Bosch accepted the call from a congregation in Zeeland, MI. In May 1856, van den Bosch "preached from a farmer’s wagon at the first service for a new church established north of Holland to serve the nearby rural community." This church was part of the Reformed Church of America. Less than a year later, he sent the following letter to the denomination:

“By this I notify you that I can hold no ecclesiastical communion with you, for the reason that I cannot hold all of who have joined the Dutch Reformed Church to be the true Church of Jesus Christ, and consequently I renounce all fellowship with you and declare myself no longer to belong to you. I am more constrained to do this by the fear of God on account of the abominable and church-destroying heresy and sins which are rampant among you, which, if the Lord will and we live, I shall present to the next meeting of the Classis. I hope that your eyes may yet be opened to see your extreme wickedness, to take it to heart, and be converted.”

The letter was signed by sixteen families. "This letter was regarded by many as vitriolic. It was indeed biting, caustic, sarcastic, sharp and bitter. This was the start of the Christian Reformed Church. Rev. van den Bosch had a small church built near his house." That part is a bit simplistic, it was more complicated than this simple letter. The CRC went on to be a rather large denomination, faithful to the Scriptures for many years (alas well... ).

Yes (for better or for worse) I have a lot of Dutch in me. And, the church I'm a member of is the direct result of the history of both the Reformed Church in America and the CRC. As I've worked through many of the details surrounding the formation of the CRC, I would say they had many proper reasons for leaving the RCA: departure from Calvinism of the standards (election and atonement), toleration of Free Masonry, etc. They had some silly reasons as well, like problems with a hymnbook.

I realize posting something like this here is simply ammunition for my Roman Catholic friends. But, it's history that's part of my history. This leads then to the bigger point, probably most controversial.

While not every church split or new denomination has a justified beginning, many do. So, I don't necessarily have a problem with a justified church split or new denomination. If the result is many unjustified church splits and new denominations, well that's sin for you. This though doesn't negate that all church splits or new denominations are necessarily wrong or bad. Simply because a church split may be based on sin or faulty premises doesn't mean that all are. That's why I'm a student of the Reformation! That was not a split based on sin or faulty premises.

Consider this. Jesus and the apostles were Jews, and part of Judaism. Why didn't they stay within Judaism? Why didn't they simply stay within the confines of the religious structure that surrounded them and "reform" it? No, the Lord Jesus had a church to build quite distinct from the religious structures of his day. He didn't nail a list of complaints to the temple door. Rather, the people and religious leaders nailed him to a cross. If anyone was ever declared a heretic by a religious organization, that was it. Thus in a sense, Christianity was the Reformation of Judaism. Of course, for various and complicated reasons they aren't referring to us as "separated brothers" and asking us to swim the Jordan or return home to Israel.

Of course with the Christian Church, Jesus wants us to be "one" as do I. Discussions about the invisible and visible church could augment this in many ways, but I don't have the time to venture down those paths. But when a particular organized body departs significantly from the faith, it may be time to move on. There are certain structures that can't (or refuse to) be fixed.

I may not be proud of all my Dutch heritage, but I am proud of those who cling to the gospel and Scriptures. If ever the church body I belong to now loses that and refuses to repent, I'd lead the Exodus out the door. I'm sure I'm not saying anything that someone else has said far more eloquently. I don't expect I've ever had an original thought.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Helping Catholic Answers With a Luther Quote

Here's a Luther-related post from the Catholic Answers forum:

So I'm reading this book which, I must admit, would be pretty inflammatory to Protestant senses. I have to say that I don't really like the book too much myself... The author I'm reading quotes a writing of Luther's stating it was a work "against 'The Mass and the Ordination of Priests'" but the only reference to the title of the work and where it can be found is "Erl. 31, 311 ff". Since the author uses such scant quotes out of the entire writing to substantiate some pretty outrageous claims I wanted to read the entire work for myself but I've googled this thing every which way I can figure out and cannot come up with any reference to where the work comes from. In his book, the author states,

"... he tells of his famous disputation with the “father of lies” who accosted him “at midnight” and spoke to him with “a deep, powerful voice,” causing “the sweat to break forth” from his brow and his “heart to tremble and beat.” In that celebrated conference, of which he was an unexceptional witness and about which he never entertained the slightest doubt, he says plainly and unmistakingly that “the devil spoke against the Mass, and Mary and the Saints” and that, moreover, “Satan gave him the most unqualified approval of his doctrine of justification by faith alone.”

The quotes don't work, the reference abbreviation doesn't work, nothing does. I hate when any author writes like this using scant quotes and interpreting them for the reader instead of providing large quotes and leaving the reading to interpret them for himself. Does anyone have any idea where I might be able to find this particular writing so that I can read the whole thing in context?


Our friend at Catholic Answers is reading Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther. The citation involves one of Luther's disputations with the Devil. As explained below, this was a story being told by Luther as a literary device, not a personal experience. Of course, Father O'Hare missed this.



Documentation
"Erl 31. 311" refers to the old Erlangen edition of Luther's Works, which can be abbreviated a number of ways (Erl, E, EA, Werke, etc.). Here are pages 311-312 of Erl. 31. O'Hare begins by alluding to these paragraphs (311-312):




"The Mass and the Ordination of Priests" refers to "Von der Winckelmesse und Pfaffen Weyhe" found in WA 38, 195256. The text cited above from Erl. 31 can be found in WA 38:197-198.

In English, this treatise can be found in LW 38:147-215 entitled, "The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests" (1533). The editors of Luther's Works explain, "The idea of a disputation with the devil occurred to Luther while he was working on this third draft. This verbal exchange with the devil does not reflect his personal experience but is employed as an effective literary device in the first part of the book. The fact that Luther’s plan for the book changed as he developed these three outlines in succession is reflected in the rather abrupt way in which he concluded his writing as well as the remark that the book had become longer than he had originally intended it to be" [LW 38:144]. The quotes O'Hare alluded to can be found on pages 149-150.



Context
Here is an excerpt from LW 38. The entire story of Luther's conversation with devil goes on for multiple pages and is too long to post:

I want to begin with myself and make a short confession before you sainted fathers. Grant me a good absolution which will not be injurious to yourselves. Once I awakened at midnight and the devil began the following disputation with me in my heart (for he is able to make many a night bitter and troublesome for me): “Listen, you very learned fellow, do you know that you said private masses for fifteen years almost daily? Did you not in reality commit sheer idolatry with such a mass and did you not worship there simply bread and wine, rather than Christ’s body and blood, and enjoin others to worship them?” I reply: “But I am a consecrated cleric; I have received chrism and consecration from the bishop, and, in addition, have done all this because of the command to do so and in obedience to it. Why have I not performed the consecration validly, since I have spoken the words in earnest and said mass with all possible devotion? You certainly know this.” “Yes,” he said, “that is true; but the Turks and the heathen also perform everything in their churches because of the command to do so and in earnest obedience to it. The priests of Jeroboam at Dan and Beersheba performed everything perhaps with greater devotion than the true priests at Jerusalem [I Kings 13:33]. What if your consecration, chrism, and consecrating are also unchristian and false like those of the Turks and the Samaritans?”

At this point I truly broke into a sweat and my heart began to tremble and throb. The devil knows how to muster his arguments well and to make an impression with them, and he possesses a convincing, powerful way of speaking. Such disputations do not permit time for lengthy and numerous deliberations, but the answers come in quick succession. At such times I have seen it happen that one finds people dead in bed in the morning. He can kill the body. This is one thing; but he can also scare the soul with disputes so that it almost departs from the body, as he has quite often very nearly done to me. Now he had challenged me in this dispute, and I did not really want to be guilty of such a great number of abominations in the presence of God but wanted to defend my innocence. So I listened to him to hear the grounds on which he opposed my consecration and my consecrating.

First, he said, you know that you did not rightly believe in Christ and as far as your faith was concerned you were no better than a Turk; for the Turk and I myself, along with all devils, also believe everything which is written about Christ (James 3 [2:19]), that is, that he was born, died, and ascended into heaven. However, none of us takes comfort in him or has confidence in him as a Savior; but we fear him as a stern judge. This kind of faith and no other is the one you also had when you were consecrated a priest and said mass; and all the others, both the consecrating bishop and his ordinands, also believed this. For this reason, too, all of you turned away from Christ and depended on Mary and the saints, who had to be your consolation and helpers in need rather than Christ. This you cannot deny, nor can any pope. That is why you were consecrated and have celebrated mass like heathen and not like Christians. How then were you able to effect conversion? For you were not the kind of persons who were to bring about this change.


Conclusion
As to O'Hare's "Satan gave him the most unqualified approval of his doctrine of justification by faith alone," I covered this here in regard to another Roman Catholic writer: Luther & the Devil Both Held to Justification by Faith Alone? In that entry I concluded "I went back and read Luther's dialog, and found no such argument that Satan gave approval to Luther's understanding of justification by faith alone." Perhaps though I missed it. That two Roman Catholic writers both make the same assertion could mean it's there somewhere. I'll leave it to the folks at Catholic Answers to find.

I also covered this same context here: Luther tells us that it was Satan who convinced him that the Mass was not a true sacrifice. What's funny (or sad) is I don't remember writing either of these entries previously.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Helping Pat Madrid's Envoy Website

I was searching Patrick Madrid's Envoy website and found the following curiousity. Note the search, and the sponsored links from Google. Talk about sending mixed messages!

Helpful Mariolatry


A few days ago I spotted this posted by our friend the Catholic Champion:

The most infallible and indubitable sign to distinguish a heretic, a man of bad doctrine, a reprobate, from the predestined is that the heretic and the reprobate regard with indifference the Blessed Virgin Mary, and try by word and example to diminish her cult and the love of her, openly or tacitly , and sometimes with good pretexts. Alas. God the Father has not told Mary to make her dwelling with them because they are Esaus." (St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion, n. 30.) [source]

If St. Louis de Montfort had Protestants in mind, this is helpful Mariolatry because it draws a theological line in the theological sand. The Catholic Champion seems to think the quote applies to Protestants: "There is an excellent article by De Konink that referenced this quote and I thought it really points to a crucial error in Protestant theology. In denying the divine motherhood of Mary, and everything that goes along with it, they ultimately reject Our Lord's plan of salvation, knowingly or not."

But the Catholic Champion is just one interpreter among many. Will the real Romanism please stand up?

Catholic Answers:
Vatican II taught Catholics that they must express their concern for the “separated brethren” by praying for them and by “keeping them informed about the Church.” Moreover, Catholics are called to take initiative in reaching out to those separated from the unity of Christ’s one and only Church. The Catholic’s ecumenical responsibility is greater than that of the non-Catholic simply because the Catholic stands within the unity into which the separated brother or sister is being invited. (Luke 12:48: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required”) [source].

The Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit." Yes, the Council hoped for the corporate reunion of all Christians, which means the return of our separated brothers and sisters to the one Church established by Christ. But the Council fathers phrased themselves carefully [source].

It was around this time that the Lord began to providentially arrange for answers to the questions that were plaguing me. First, my mother-in-law became Catholic, which surprised me. I discovered that the Catholic Church didn’t view me or my other Christian friends as lost souls but as separated brothers and sisters in Christ. I knew my conversion experience had been real, so hearing that the Catholic Church didn’t deny the reality of that experience kept my mind and heart open to hearing more [source].

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Luther-related Tidbits

Despite not really having any time to engage my favorite Reformation-related hobby, I still manage to find a few minutes to sneak away to the depths of cyber-space. Here are a few recent Luther-related tidbits:

Brigitte posted a snippet taken from Brecht's book, Luther on Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. Brecht points out Luther understood Ecclesiastes as an "instruction for political life." For The Song of Solomon, Luther saw the book as "a hymn of praise and thanksgiving over politics, which could be pursued properly and peacefully only in connection with God." Now that's quite a unique approach to interpreting these books!

An acquaintance emailed me about this discussion thread: In one of my Psychology courses today we discussed Martin Luther: "my professor said the he hated Jewish people and said that he believed if you wife isn't pleasing you sexually, you should go outside the marriage for satisfaction. Is this true?"My thoughts on Luther's attitude toward the Jews can be found here. As to the latter charge, Perspectives of Luther: Luther a Polygamist?; Luther's "Teachings" on Bigamy and Catholic Double Standards; Luther: "I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture".

A Roman Catholic over on CARM came up with a fact that I doubt will be documented: "[Luther] wanted to remove the book of James and, I believe Revelation, but the princes that aligned with him (in order to make a land grab for Church lands) warned that he would be going to far in that." I love the way this myth has developed. I've never heard it quite like this. I've heard that Melanchthon warned Luther, now it's "princes" (It was none other than Romanist apologist Steve Ray spreading the Melanchthon myth). So much for going "deep into history."

Another CARM Roman Catholic is single-handedly carrying on the tradition of Cochlaeus, blaming Luther for virtually every evil in the world. Here he lays the blame for the peasant's revolt on Luther (and here). I responded: "I say we burn Luther in effigy.... or maybe a giant piƱata that could be whacked with a stick, next to the giant bonfire. When it breaks open, copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church would fall out- as we're reading them smiling and dancing around the fire, we'll drink Kool aid, singing ave maria and then book our next Catholic Answers cruise. Anyway, that's my solution. I think it would be very cathartic." The response: "That’s fascinating imagery, but little else. I revealed some very damaging information about Luther in my last couple of posts and since you didn’t take issue with anything I said, I can only conclude that you agree with my assessment." Why does it have to follow logically that because I didn't "take issue" with what was said, I therefore agree with what was said? I don't see how the conclusion is a necessary conclusion. I then suggested this book. FYI, Luther's Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants was actually published after the peasant's war began. The treatise was delayed, and did not have an immediate role during the war. The German nobility were not spurred by Luther's words. They were spurred by the peasants who strove towards anarchy and civil unrest. Key question: If peasants (or anyone) ever attacked your street and family, what would you do?

Elsewhere on CARM: Luther was a Catholic... so there were things in Catholicism that Luther just accepted as true. Contrarily, this is the way I like to put it: Luther clearly distinguished Romanism from Catholicism, as do I.

There were a few oddities from Catholic Answers over the last few months that I never got around to, like "A Catholic priest from once told me that Martin Luther requested to have a Catholic priest come to give him last rites at his deathbed, but that Melanchthon wouldn't let him." Ironically, I get a lot of Goolge hits from folks searching out Luther's deathbed reconversion to the Roman Catholic Church. Next, Luther's comments on "reason" tend to befuddle many a Romanist, despite having the World Wide Web of information right at their fingertips.

Somewhere on the Catholic Answers forums I read about how Luther regretted the Reformation at the end of his life, but I can't seem to locate the thread. I'd like to blow this one totally out of the water, since many a Roman Catholic presents this argument. One need only read the recent LW 58 to get a good glimpse into Luther's work and attitude during his last years, but that'll wait for anther time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pope Addresses Blogging Apologists

...well, not exactly. There are a good handful of Roman-defending bloggers though that could actually benefit from taking the advice of the papacy they defend. You know the folks I'm talking about- the guys busily throwing mud at Dr. White, and so on.

POPE-AUDIENCE Feb-9-2011 Defend doctrine, but don't attack others, pope says at audience

On St. Peter Canisius "He Formed People's Faith for Centuries"

But then again, what the Pope says is just his opinion: Theology can be debated, even if theologian is pope, cardinal says.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Michael Liccione is mistaken on multiple points

Stephanie said:
One item from Liccione which does deal with what you have responded is also being discussed in the combox.

Specifically: Another of Mathison’s arguments is that there’s no evidence of mono-episcopacy in Rome until the late second century, and that some Catholic scholars agree with that judgment, which indeed they do….
In fact, most of the Catholic scholars I am aware of actually agree with that judgment. I’m not aware of any who contradict that “judgment”. You might say it is “universal”. In fact, this view is taught in a work entitled “The Rise of the Papacy,” by Robert B. Eno, S.S. That S.S. stands for the Order of the Sulpicians, whose mission it is to teach parish priests. So I can’t account for the course schedule, but there’s a good chance that a parish priest near you is on board with this account.
Liccione: That requires arguing, as he does, that St. Irenaeus and one of his sources, Hegisippus, misstated the evidence from the post-apostolic Church of Rome, even though Irenaeus himself had been to Rome and known St. Polycarp of Smyrna personally, who in turn had been to Rome and had himself known the Apostle John personally. Such an argument would have us believe that, roughly 1,900 years after the fact, we can understand the meaning and reliability of the late first-century sources better than people who had lived less than two generations after the fact and had known eyewitnesses to it.
There’s no question that Irenaeus was an important witness. It’s funny that Liccione wants to talk about Hegesippus, because Hegesippus is one of those “secondary sources” for which Liccione says “is not a reputable form of argument” down below.

With respect to Irenaeus, Cullmann [who is not by any means a liberal!], in the work I referred to in my previous post, noted this:
Toward the end of the second century, Irenaeus writes, chiefly in connection with a description of gospel origins that goes back to Papias, that Peter and Paul had preached in Rome and founded the church, and he repeats the assertion when he speaks of the Roman church as the “very ancient and universally known church founded and organized by Peter and Paul.” Here, too, occurs at least one [historical] error: the Roman church in any case was not founded by Paul. That is entirely clear from his letter to the Romans. This at once calls in question the historical trustworthiness of the statement (Cullmann, 116).
Paul writes to the church at Rome without addressing a leader. He writes in the years 57-58, a date that is very firm in history, in a letter that is not contested. Excuses are made as to why Paul makes no mention of Peter in Rome, even though the church has been attested in Rome perhaps from Acts 2, when visitors for Rome were present at/saved at Pentecost. In Acts 18, Aquila and Priscilla are expelled from Rome by the edict of Claudius, attested in secular history, 49 ad.

So the church at Rome is attested long before Paul writes, and there is no leader there.

Ignatius, who knows and writes about Bishops in the east, writes to Rome without mentioning a Bishop. There is no question the city of Rome is important. It is the capital of the empire. This church “which presides in the place of the district of the Romans…”

Consider the Shepherd of Hermas. According to the Muratorian Canon, the oldest (ca. AD-180-200?) known list of the New Testament and early Christian writings, Hermas was the brother of Pius, who is listed as a bishop of Rome (ca 140-154). So he was writing earlier than Hegesippus, whose “list of bishops” is said to be the first one (c. 166), and earlier than Irenaeus (c.180). Hermas was, in fact, listed in the Muratorian Canon as a book to be read in the churches [i.e., it was liturgical].
Afterwards I saw a vision in my house. The elderly woman came and asked me if I had already given the little book to the elders (presbuteroi, plural). I said that I had not given it. “You have done well,” she said, “for I have words to add. So when I finish all the words they will be made known to all the elect through you. Therefore you will write two little books, and you will send one to Clement and one to Grapte. Then Clement will send it to the cities abroad, because that is his job. But Grapte will instruct the widows and orphans. But you yourself will read it to this city [Rome], along with the elders (presbuteroi) who preside (proistamenoi – plural leadership) over the church." (Vis 2.4)
Roger Collins, “Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy,” (New York: Basic Books, 2008), notes “The author of the Epistle of Clement may have been the man of this name later described as the person responsible for drafting communications sent behalf of Christians of Rome to other churches.” If this Clement did compose 1 Clement, then it certainly would be understandable why the Corinthian church would have thought they received a letter from Clement (even though the name of Clement does not appear within that letter. Rather, it is from “the church of God that sojourns in Rome”).

But Hermas could not be clearer. There is a plurality of presbyters who “preside over” the church at Rome. This is no fuzzy mention, as in Ignatius, of a church in “a place of honor”. This is a clear explanation for the “argument from silence” in Paul’s letter to the Romans, in the absence of a clear leader in both 1 Clement and Ignatius.

Hermas reiterates the structure of this leadership, and the fact that they are not leading, but rather that they fight among themselves. He calls them “children”.
Look therefore to the coming judgment. You, therefore, who have more than enough, seek out those who are hungry, until the tower is finished. For after the tower is finished, you may want to do good, but you will not have the chance. Beware, therefore, you who exult in your wealth, lest those in need groan, and their groaning rise up to the Lord, and you together with your good things be shut outside the door of the tower. Now, therefore, I say to you [tois – plural] who lead the church and occupy the seats of honor [multiple “Chairs of Peter”?]: do not be like the sorcerers. For the sorcerers carry their drugs in bottles, but you carry your drug and poison in your heart. You are calloused and do not want to cleanse your hearts and to mix your wisdom together in a clean heart, in order that you may have mercy from the great King. Watch out, therefore, children, lest these divisions of yours [among you elders] deprive you of your life. How is it that you desire to instruct God’s elect, while you yourselves have no instruction? Instruct one another, therefore, and have peace among yourselves, in order that I too may stand joyfully before the Father and give an account on behalf of all of you to your Lord.” (Vis 3.9)
Hermas here is chastising the multiple leaders of the church at Rome. This is important to note because Hermas identifies himself as a slave (Vis. 1.1). It will not do to say that this is a group of priests who work for a bishop. The entire group "presides."

Yet here, in the leadership of the church of Rome, there are multiple elders who "preside"; they are acting like sorcerers. They exult in their wealth. They take the seats of honor. They want to teach, but they are guilty themselves of having no instruction.

As for what we can know 1900 years after the fact, I’m convinced there is much that we can learn. Archaeology confirms writings, secular writings confirms New Testament writings. How can forensic scientists reconstruct a murder based on such small and insignificant things as fingerprints, DNA evidence, and striations on bullets?
Liccione: That dubious sort of move is rather common among liberal scripture and patristic scholars; it’s just special pleading when made by a conservative theologian who would often find liberal scholarship dubious on just such grounds.
Is it “special pleading”? There is no question that “liberal scholarship” has put the New Testament as a whole, and the life of Christ, through the most strenuous bit of examination over the last 200 years that any person or set of documents has been subjected to. And our historical knowledge of both the life of Christ and the New Testament is on far firmer footing than it has ever been. Even “liberal” scholarship is confirming important facts and details about the life of Christ.

With respect to the life and letters of Paul, for example, there is a body of his work that interacts with secular people and places and histories, that there is no question as to who Paul was, where he traveled to, what he wrote, and on and on. His letters are so well attested, scholars don’t even quibble over dates and places any more.

I’d say rather that what Liccione calls “conservative” and “liberal” scholarship in these fields are doing their jobs so well that many formerly contested things and events are coming into such a sharp focus that many things are agreed upon by both sides.

Consider the life of Christ. Craig Blomberg recently blogged about a conservative and an atheist historian who agreed: the Resurrection probably was being reported the same year it happened. This is a tremendous confluence of agreement on facts, especially when you consider that 100 or so years ago, Bertrand Russell was making a name for himself by mouthing off that Jesus never even existed. Blomberg has published one or two books in the last few years, which I haven’t read, that probably go into far more detail than this.

Gary Habermas has put together a list of 12 historical facts about the resurrection of Christ that huge numbers of scholars, liberal and conservative, agree upon in huge numbers.

Consider the following four items. In his work “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” Habermas says that virtually 100% of scholars believe the first four are “so strongly evidenced historically that nearly every scholar regards them as reliable facts,” and the fifth is believed by more than 75% (pg 48).

1. Jesus died by crucifixion

2. Jesus’s disciples believed he rose and appeared to them

3. The conversion of Paul (from persecutor of the church to leading Apostle).

4. The conversion of James, the brother of the Lord (originally a severe skeptic)

5. The empty tomb.

Habermas surveyed more than 2,400 sources in French, German, and English in which experts have written on the resurrection from 1975 to the present.
So when Liccione and other Roman Catholics from the CTC school of thought want to wave their hands and dismiss “liberal” scholarship, I want to say they simply do not know what they are talking about.

But consider further that this same confluence of scholarship that is bringing the life of Christ and the reliability of the New Testament into such sharper and clearer focus, are decimating Roman Catholic tales of the early papacy.
Liccione: The argument in question, which is fairly common, also trades on an ambiguity in the use of the word ‘presbyteros’ in the early Church. And it has been vigorously contested on that and other grounds by Catholic scholars whom Mathison simply ignores. The selective use of secondary scholarly sources is not a reputable form of argument. So Mathison’s present argument doesn’t merit more attention here either.
I’ve given examples from Hermas above of the “trading on ambiguity” in the word “presbuteros” above. What’s Hermas saying? Is he being ambiguous?

Too, I’m sure that Mathison’s trying to summarize here. There is nothing “not reputable” about what Mathison has done, and for Liccione to cast aspersions on his motive or his method is just simply what’s decried at CTC as ad hominem. But when you can’t really address what the writer is saying, then shoot the messenger.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tune in to “Called to Communion” for more obfuscation

In 1953, the Lutheran theologian Oscar Cullmann produced a work, “Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr,” which traced virtually every single piece of theological (Biblical) and historical and literary and archaeological evidence about the life and death of Peter. It is this work, in my opinion, that really forced Rome to re-think what the papacy was all about.

Consider what Vatican I pronounced about the power and function of the papacy:
Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world….

So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.
This was no soft-and-squishy doctrine. Adrian Fortescue, writing in his 1920 work, “The Early Papacy: to the Synod of Chalcedon in 451,” made this bold statement: “We have all the evidence we can require that the Catholic Church in the first four and a half centuries did believe what we believe [now] about the papacy” (pg 30). Clement, in his letter [1 Clement], commands the Corinthians to return to the obedience of their lawful hierarchy. He does not advise; he commands. He commands with an authority, one would almost say with an arbitrary tone, that has not been exceeded by any modern Pope.

Fortescue, who was among other things a writer for the “Catholic Encyclopedia,” was a mainstream writer during that era. And Pius XII demonstrated that statement in spades, by making an infallible pronouncement that all Roman Catholics were to believe, and he let the consequences be known that “It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

Such was the certainty of the papacy in itself, during what Patrick Buchanan referred to as the real Catholic Moment in America.

Yet just 10-15 years later, after all of that certainty, Vatican II was not only tinkering with the infallible papal formula, but making major changes to it. The “command economy” of Rome became one “communion,” the church, “governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, (13*) .... [(13*) Dieitur. Saneta (catholica apostolica) Romana Ecelesia .: in Prof. fidei Trid., 1. c. et Concl. Vat. I, Sess. III, Const. dogm. de fide cath.: Denz. 1782 (3001).]” That citation, 13*, which is given in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, by the way, comes from Vatican I. (It’s fascinating to see how Vatican II cite’s Vatican I, and all the things that they leave out).

Vatican II goes on to describe this “communion” of popes to bishops: Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together…: Let’s go back a bit further and see the picture that Vatican I uses to describe this “communion,” the state of this relationship:
But now, with the bishops of the whole world sitting and judging with Us [i.e., “Me”], gathered together in this Ecumenical Council by Our [i.e., “My”] authority in the Holy Spirit, We [i.e., “I”], having relied on the Word of God, written and transmitted as We [i.e., “I”] have received it, sacredly guarded and accurately explained by the Catholic Church, from this chair of PETER [CAPS in Denzinger], in the sight of all, have determined to profess and declare the salutary doctrine of Christ, after contrary errors have been proscribed and condemned by the power transmitted to Us [i.e., “to Me”] by God.

The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses .... (from Denzinger, the selection cited by Vatican II.)
Some day, when I have time, Lord willing, I’ll try to reproduce some of the things that Pius IX actually said about any of the bishops who dared to challenge his program.

Nevertheless, it is said that Vatican II completed the teaching of Vatican I on the subject of the relationship of bishops to popes. There is now an ongoing effort to try to understand the proper role between bishops and popes, because there are some very different looking images put forward.

Karl Barth jokingly referred to Cullmann as “an advisor to three popes.” And there can be no question that Cullmann’s work on Peter was one of a number of scholarly works that, shall we say, provided the impetus to re-explore and even to “reformulate positively” the actual role of Peter vis a vis the other apostles (and hence, the role of “the successor of Peter” vis a vis the successors of the other apostles).

It would seem as if a Protestant work that had the impact that Cullmann’s work had, coulda, woulda, and shoulda been responded to. And yet, here is Cullmann’s own account of the Roman Catholic response to that work:
In … most of the Catholic reviews of my book on St. Peter, one argument especially is brought forward: scripture, a collection of books, is not sufficient to actualize for us the divine revelation granted to the apostles.
This, as we have seen, is “The Roman Answer,” no matter what the question is in these discussions. “Scripture, a collection of books, is not sufficient to actualize for us the divine revelation granted to the apostles.”

This is precisely the objection that Michael Liccione makes in his response to Keith Mathison’s piece. Entitled Mathison's Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique, Liccione, in a way similar to the way described by Cullmann, largely ignores Mathison’s work – deliberately choosing to avoid the historical challenges to the Roman position, instead focusing on the “interpretive paradigm”.

And of course, “the interpretive paradigm” comes down to this:
For example, the Protestant has no way, other than fallible arguments, to secure his account of what belongs in the canon, which account, in the case of the OT, runs counter to what the older traditions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy eventually concluded. Therefore, he has no way, other than the use of fallible arguments, to show how the canon should be identified. And if he doesn’t have more than that, then he has no way of making certain that the way he identifies the norma Normans for the other secondary authorities is correct.
In other words, “Protestants can’t infallibly “secure” the New Testament canon, therefore, the “interpretive paradigm” put forth by Rome is the correct one.” Liccione throws out thousands of words for the purpose of re-hashing the canon issue.

In my initial response to the Called to Communion discussions about Mathison’s article, I spoke of the need to “take Rome’s claims off the table”. If the Roman Catholic claim to authority does not stand on its own, then no amount of other objections will make it right. I mentioned that these apologetic arguments, from the Roman Catholic side, always seem to boil down to this: “Protestantism has problems; therefore, the Roman Catholic Church is what it says it is.”

Liccione’s article is merely a distraction. Liccione is avoiding the bulk of Mathison’s article – the historical challenges to Rome’s claims – because he cannot make a cogent response to them. And yet, the historical work that’s being done has persuaded official Rome to adjust its theology of the papacy, and of the Roman church itself. It is a slow, laborious process, and some are only being dragged kicking and screaming.

Mathison dealt squarely and thoroughly with “The Church that Christ Founded.” He showed it really to be as much of a fairy tale as “The Great and Powerful Oz,” with fire and smoke billowing. But that Oz, that Roman Catholic Church, is just a hollow image.

The real “Church that Christ founded” us dispersed among Christ’s true believers who “gather in my name,” who understand what Christ has truly done for them (Gal 1:6-9) and who are united by the Holy Spirit. It is a Spirit who “blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

On the other hand,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Taking Roman claims off the table

All too often, the argument is put forth in these discussions: “Protestantism has problems; therefore, the Roman Catholic Church is what it says it is.”

This question has certainly become one of them.

Some of the early objections to Keith Mathison’s article came up this way:
There are plenty of people who come see the lack of difference between sola and solo who never even dip a toe in the Tiber! Many of them embrace solo! The difference (principled difference) becomes invisible upon examination of the supposed differences. The differences do not do what they claim to do, namely to give an objective authority to the reader of scripture. I am not sure why Catholicism (or EO or whatever) even enters into the discussion at that point. The sola/solo differences are a distinction without a real difference on its own merits, judged within its own framework. I personally know men who saw this lack of difference and embraced SOLO scriptura. They were unconvinced of the claims of Catholicism but saw the fundamental problem with sola scriptura. Catholic “rosary” colored glasses are not needed to see the flaw in sola scriptura Keith.
* * *
I have not read the reply yet but I share the concern which everyone is bringing up. It is perfectly possible that the Catholic Church is wrong about her fundamental claims while sola scriptura reduces to solo scriptura. e.g. The Eastern Orthodox Church could be the true Church or perhaps Hinduism is true. Both of those scenarios would be compatible with sola reducing to solo. For that reason, attempts to show the Catholic Church are wrong are irrelevant and do not show Bryan and Neal’s argument to be false.
There is a major problem with this objection. This is not a philosophical question. The Reformation occurred in history. Roman claims were being made in history, and were rejected in history by the Reformers.

From my perspective, having grown up as a devout Roman Catholic, it was natural for me to try to find some way to understand whether or not Rome’s claims were true. I was being bound to them. And one method of conducting this investigation was precisely, like an investigation. And here is something that's a guiding rule:

How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible whatever remains, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must be the truth? -- (Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Four, emphasis in original.)

Right now, I’m not going to take sides in the Protestant debates on this topic, nor am I going to say that sola Scriptura is improbable, however unlikely it seems to some of these Roman Catholics.

Rather, I believe Mathison was correct in his methodology to bring up the absolute, utter impossibility of Rome’s claims.

These are the claims that the early Reformers dealt with. And despite the differences that emerged among themselves, they all agreed upon one fundamental thing: Rome’s claims to authority must be rejected. (And this is another thing they had in common with eastern and farther eastern churches.)

The question that the Reformers had to ask in their time was not “what’s the most philosophically perfect system we can find,” (and I grant that Rome has had centuries-worth of time to craft its philosophical story – and it is a very pretty story -- but it is just that -- a fictional story); once Roman claims were rejected, the true question was became, “how then should we live?” Or it is a question of epistemology: “how can we truly know what God is saying, upon which we base our lives and our belief?”

Protestants don’t always agree on the answer to those questions. But one thing is in absolute agreement: The claims of Rome are impossible from both a Scriptural and a historical perspective.

Dr. Mathison does give this explanation as to why he proceeds the way he does:
I’m sorry all of you find it disappointing. When I started writing it over a year ago, it began with a response only to the criticisms of the solo/sola distinction. The farther I went and the more additional article by Bryan that I read, the more I realized, I couldn’t even address that issue without first addressing the primary underlying issue – namely the church. That assumption (that Rome is the Church Christ founded) underlies everything said in every paper Bryan has written that I looked at. I wouldn’t expect otherwise. But given that fact, it has to be addressed first.

This became especially clear to me after reading Bryan’s response to Michael Horton. He makes it perfectly clear that the issue of the church’s identity is everything in these discussions. Thus the 30 or so pages I had to spend looking at it.

For those who commented before finishing it, I do get to the solo/sola issue in the second half.
He is absolutely correct to reject Roman claims as impossible. They are impossible to reconcile with any historical and Scriptural evidence we have. God in his graciousness has given us the time and opportunity to work out some of the other questions.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Far Do You Take Sola Scriptura?

I remember the late 1970's craze, Beyond and Back. A friend sent me over this video of a little boy who went to heaven during a near-death experience. It was 1978 all over again:




I've had some weird experiences in my life, but they're just that experiences. I don't trust them as giving me absolute truth, divine truth, or perhaps any personal truth for that matter. I've had some things happen that are beyond explanation, but they don't serve as a witnessing tool or as divinely imparted knowledge.

If I'm going to tell a story, I'm going to tell Christ's story to an unbelieving world, not mine, no matter how uncanny and ear-tickling it may be. Do I take sola scriptura too far? Many probably would say I do. When it comes to the Scriptures and God's revelation, we need to defend absolute truth to our deaths. I see this kid's story as spiritual candy for itching ears. The Scriptures are concerned about the sin of mankind and Christ's work. If you want a certain example of what God and the afterlife are like, click here.

By the way, Mary seemed to be busy the day this kid was in heaven, as she didn't make it into this tale. Perhaps though, some unscrupulous Protestant edited her out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"The term 'catholic' in the Nicene Creed"

Dominic Bnonn Tennant provides "four reasons to think that the term 'catholic' in the Nicene Creed should not be read as involving communion with the Church of Rome."

Also consider his piece on Christianity before the Reformation.

“The only relevant question … is whether certain claims are true …”

Keith Mathison responds to Bryan Cross at Turretinfan’s blog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Medieval Church History Lectures

One of the benefits of removing television and video games from daily life is that it affords ample time to pursue more meaningful activities. In order to cultivate a greater appreciation for the Reformation, I recently began listening to a series of lectures on the Medieval Church by Dr. Carl Trueman through Westminster Theological Seminary's iTunes University listing.

In the first half of his introductory lecture, Trueman sketches the popular and sophisticated reasons for why there is a disinclination to study medieval church history within Protestantism, while there exists a competing preference for sixteenth century and early church material. He then presents an effective case for caring about medieval church history, part of which includes the significant points of continuity between Protestant thought and earlier medieval thought.

The connection between the Reformation and earlier centuries of thought is neither new nor radical to anyone who has spent time engaging medieval source materials. (This was apparent even during my studies at NYU in the half-dozen courses I took on the medieval era, courses not even geared to strictly theological issues.) So there is much we can learn from the medieval tradition, and, of course, this information has, among its many other benefits, direct and practical application in refuting the banal claims of some lay-Catholic apologists that the Reformation represents a total innovation and complete break with earlier Christianity.

From what I've heard so far, I commend Trueman's lectures to you (which can be found through a simple iTunes search), especially since he isn't interested in reducing his presentation to a tally of who is and isn't orthodox. He seeks to have the class engage the medieval period in a critical, reflective manner, with the student coming to his or her own conclusions after properly wrestling with some of the era's major texts.

Two Evils : Leftist secular Education by Government and Political Islam

David Horowitz hits a home run with this analysis. Thanks to David Wood at Answering Muslims for posting this.



Two Evils:
1. Leftist Secular Liberal Education run by government
2. Political Islam (stealth Islam, stealth Jihad, civilization Jihad, slow creeping Sharia law) along with the more violent Islamic Jihadist terrorism.

I would add that homosexual rights (rights to adoption and marriage) and laws and tribunals against "hate speech" (against calling homosexuality sin), abortion rights, pornography, and Darwin's theory of Evolution as pure dogmatic science, and relativism are also part of the secular liberal leftist government education.

Horowitz "nailed it". I am glad he investigated the details and has communicated it well here. This needs to be published far and wide. This is probably the best 12 minute summary of these issues I have ever heard.

Horowitz's phrase, "Political Islam" is somewhat redundant, because Islam by nature is political; but it is necessary for communication and emphasis so that people will see Islam for what it really is.

The Muslim brotherhood of Egypt founded by Hassan Al Banna and encouraged by Sayyid Qutb (who was executed by the Nasser government in Egypt and who wrote the books who inspired Osama Ben Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri) spawned many Jihadist movements, including Al Qaedah and Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and they got their philosophy from the Qur'an, the Hadith, the Tarikh (history of Islam), the Sirat (the life of Muhammad), the Tafsirs ( the commentaries), and the Fiq (Islamic Jurisprudence) and the Ijtima (consensus of Islamic scholars). Sharia law comes from the application of all those things.

These modern Jihadist movements also want the Khalifate (office of the successor of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, a leader for all Sunni Muslims; kind of like a Roman Catholic Papal office) to be restored. The Khalif ( or Caliph is a person, the Khalifate is the office. It was abolished by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the secular founder of the modern state of Turkey, in 1924. [The Shiites believe in either 5 Imams (Zayidis) or seven Imams (Ismailis) or 12 Imams (The Iranian government, Hezbollah in Lebanon, most southern Iraqi Shias.)

It is amazing that so many people are so blind to the truth of where these violent and stealth political movements came from.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Popes Against the Jews, Part 6: The Show So Far

Before going any further with this series, I think it’s appropriate (given some of the comments in the latest thread) to reiterate where we’ve been. A Roman Catholic Commentator who identified himself simply as “Matt” suggested that I was somehow “Stacking the deck.” He provided a couple of links that basically made the appeal, “let’s stop bringing this up,” but until the “Infallible Church” truly repents, officially, for its own official responsibility – its own “irreformable teachings” on this subject – there could and should be no “statute of limitations” on the extent of Rome’s crimes.

I picked up this series at the suggestion of Constantine, who first cited from Kertzer’s work in some comments. But I became fascinated enough with the topic to go this far with it. My hope is to continue, although, the amount of information that I’ve come across in the meantime, supporting Kertzer’s work and even going far beyond it, is very staggering.

My intention is, Lord willing, to continue to publish on this topic, and to give Kertzer’s work the fullest kind of treatment that I’m capable of giving. However, I’m fully aware that this may not be the kind of thing you’d like to read on a full-time basis. And so I’m going to do two things: (a) try and catch up on some of the materials I’ve come across, and (b) continue to publish this on a regular basis, while also commenting on some of the other incidents that Kertzer brings out.

I only have to say that Rome’s evasiveness is truly staggering, and as I mentioned in my latest post, in order to wash its hands of any guilt with respect to the Jewish people, (which it can’t do), it must hang its hat on the nonsensical distinction between “religious anti-Judaism,” which is the term Rome uses to define its own posture toward the Jews over the centuries, and a “racially-motivated anti-Semitism,” which is says are “based on theories contrary to the constant teaching of the Church”.

In “The Popes Against the Jews, Part 1”, this piece links to and provides long selections from William Rubinstein’s review of Kertzer’s work in “First Things”. Rubinstein does not contest the factual nature of what Kertzer presents. “Kertzer skillfully and not unsubtly traces the differences in attitude towards the Jews among the Popes between about 1740 and 1940,” he says. Rather, Rubinstein faults Kertzer’s piece for being ”The Case for the Prosecution”. In other words, “he wasn’t nice to us.”

What Rubinstein doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that Rome had already made its own evasive defense, which I discussed in Part 2: Roman Catholic Defenses and the Evasion of Responsibility.

In ”Part 3: Positing the ‘Big Lie,’ and getting people to believe it”, I begin to cite Kertzer’s introduction and several instances of the work itself. Here is one statement heartily endorsed by both Pope and Holy Office: “Unless Christians act quickly, the Jews … will finally succeed in reducing the Christians to be their slaves. Woe to us if we close our eyes! The Jews’ domination will be hard, inflexible, tyrannical….”

What I’ve been finding, and what Kertzer documents so thoroughly, is that this is one of those statements in which “religious anti-Judaism” can easily be seen to blend into “racially-based anti-Semitism” on the strength of these alarmist statements by the highest officers of the Roman Catholic Church. And despite Rome’s protestations, this is “the constant teaching of the Church”.

In Part 4, I cite from some conciliar documents, notably the Fourth Lateran Council, which also defined the doctrine of “transubstantiation”. And in Part 5, I challenge the notion that “The Church” can both issue forth with the kind of fruit it does, and still somehow provide Godly teaching.

In future installments, I hope to present some of the work of the Reformed theologian Heiko Oberman. Oberman’s work, Harvest of Medieval Theology, is one of the definitive works on that period. It is fascinating that he later shifted his emphasis to study The Roots of Anti-Semitism. Oberman, too, is much less likely to make that fine distinction between “anti-Judaism” and “anti-Semitism”. It promises to provide some fascinating character studies.

Before looking at some of those Reformation-era movements, I think it’s important to summarize that the medieval world, before the first Protestant ever existed, was thoroughly and immersively saturated in this “anti-Judaism”. The official Church was thoroughly and immersively saturated in anti-Semitism:
The tendency of Christianity to shut itself off is clearly apparent in its behavior towards the pagans. Already, before Gregory the Great, the Irish monks had refused to preach the gospel to their hated Anglo-Saxon neighbours, whom they wished to consign to hell. They did not want to run the risk of meeting them in heaven. For a long time the pagan world was a great reservoir of slaves for Christian trade, whether it was conducted by Christian merchants or by Jewish merchants in Christian territory. Conversion, which dried up this fruitful market, was not carried out without hesitation. Anglo-Saxons, Saxons, and Slavs (the last-mentioned gave their name to the human cattle of medieval Christian Europe) supplied the medieval slave-trade before being integrated into the Christian world and thus protected from slavery. One of the great criticisms which Adalbert bishop of Prague made in the late tenth century of his flock, whom he accused of having returned to paganism, was selling Christians to Jewish slave-merchants. A non-Christian was not really human; only a Christian could enjoy the rights of a man, among them protection from slavery. The Christian attitude towards slavery was a manifestation of Christian particularism, the primitive solidarity of the group and the policy of apartheid with regard to outside groups (Jacques Le Goff, “Medieval Civilization,” Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., ©1988, 1990, 151-152. First published in France as La civilization de l’Occident Medieval, Paris: B. Arthaud, © 1964).
* * *
With the Jews, Christians maintained a dialogue throughout the middle ages, which they interrupted with persecutions and massacres. The Jewish usurer, or rather irreplaceable moneylender, was hateful, but necessary and useful. Jews and Christians held debates, especially about the Bible. Public debates and private meetings between priests and rabbis occurred constantly. At the end of the eleventh century, Gilbert Crispin, abbot of Westminster, described in a bestseller his theological disputation with a Jew from Mainz. In the middle of the twelfth century, Andrew of St Victor consulted rabbis because he was anxious to revive biblical exegesis. St Louis narrated to Joinville a discussion between clerics and Jews at the abbey of Cluny. Admittedly, he disapproved of such meetings. ‘“So I tell you,” said the king, “that no one, unless he is an expert theologian should venture to argue with these people. But a layman, whenever he hears the Christian religion abused, should not attempt to defend its tenets, except with his sword, and that he should thrust into the scoundrel’s belly, and as far as it will enter.”’

Some kings, abbots, popes, and above all German emperors protected the Jews. Yet from the end of the eleventh century anti-Semitism unleashed itself in the west. People have blamed this movement on the crusades, and it is not impossible that the crusading spirit gave anti-Semitism an additional, emotive verve, although, if one believes Ralph Glaber, the earliest pogroms seem to have happened in about 1000. It is true that they became far more numerous at the time of the First Crusade. Thus, reported the Annales Saxonici, at Worms and Mainz:

the enemy of the human race did not hesitate to sow tares among the grain, to raise up false prophets, to mix false brothers and loose women in the army of Christ. By their hypocrisy, their lies and their impious suborning they perturbed the Lord’s army . . . . They thought it right to avenge Christ on the pagans and the Jews. That was why they killed 900 Jews in the town of Mainz, without sparing women or children. . . . It was piteous to see the large and numerous heaps of corpses which were taken out of the town of Mainz on wagons.

At about the time of the Second crusade in 1146 appeared the first accusation of ritual murder (the case of William of Norwich, who died in 1144), that is to say the murder of a Christian child whose blood was supposedly mixed into unleavened bread, and of the profanation of the host, a crime that was all the more serious in the Church’s eyes because it was regarded as deicide.

Thenceforth there was to be no lack of false accusations to give the Christians scapegoats in times of discontent or calamity. At the time of the Black Death in 1348 the Jews were accused in many places of having poisoned the wells, and they were massacred. Yet the chief reason for the fact that the Jews were kept apart was the evolution of the economy and the creation of the two worlds of town and countryside. The Jews could not be admitted to the social systems – the feudal system and the communes – that resulted. No one could do homage to a Jew or swear an oath to a Jew.

The Jews thus found themselves little by little excluded from possessing or even being granted land, and also from the professions, including trade. Nothing remained to them except the borderline or illicit forms of commerce or usury. However, it was not until the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation that the Church instituted and encouraged the ghetto. (Le Goff, 317-18)


Rubinstein, in his article, refers to some of these instances as “the Church at its least admirable.” Not to put a fine point on it, but Rubinstein is far too kind to Roman Catholicism. “You can tell a tree by its fruit.”

For Rome, this is all about covering its own story. About maintaining its own boastful claims that it somehow is “unique among all Christian bodies, a visible supreme court (the extraordinary Magisterium) whose sentences (i.e., doctrinal judgments) are rendered as binding upon all Christians.” Rome’s distinction between “religious anti-Judaism” and “racially motivated anti-Semitism” is meaningless to those in the grave.

In the first place, what we are talking about is not “the sins of the children of the Church”. We are talking about “the Roman Catholic Church,” acting as such, in its full, official teaching capacity.

Second, if there is a distinction between “religious anti-Judaism” and “racially motivated anti-Semitism,” it is only in that Pius XII did not, with his own finger, pull any trigger. In the meanwhile, for centuries, the infallible, official Roman Church prepared the soil for “racially-motivated anti-Semitism”, tilled the ground, planted the seeds, cultivated the fruit, and pruned and shaped it wherever it grew. The Roman Hierarchy, in its full, infallible teaching authority, comprised the roots and the trunk and the wooden structure of that monster, and its “infallible teaching” was the sap and nutrient. For the official Roman structure to make these evasions, and to get away with it, as it seems to be doing on so many fronts, is a travesty against humanity.