Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Closer Look at David Waltz’s Objections

In comments below, David Waltz, noting that he “Could not sleep, so I jumped online and checked in on my blog and BA [‘Beggars All’]” said:
You accuse me of being "simplistic", and yet, in a number of the threads at Articuli Fidei where I have delineated the “methods” and “presuppositions” of liberal scholarship, you have been noticeably absent, and have failed to supply a conservative critique of the liberal paradigm.
Elsewhere, he had said, “perhaps John will give some thought to Garry Williams' reservations...”

And so, yes, in a recent blog post, I commented on his objection that a conservative Presbyterian had called Eamon Duffy a “revisionist historian,” and I had commented on David’s failure to suggest precisely how “Duffy’s work on the English Reformation intersects with what he has written about the early papacy” was a good reason to characterize his objection as “simplistic”.

But if he is inclined to suggest that his other materials offer more substance, well, that’s questionable too. For example, this post of his seems to contain and summarize his strongest objections to, and remedies for, the work of Peter Lampe. In this thread, which gets posted around the internet by some of David’s followers and fans who seem to be less thoughtful and sophisticated even than he is, which he seems to proclaim as his “magnum opus” against Lampe, I want to summarize his “objections,” just to show how absolutely “fluffy” they are.

After providing a series of links to my various blog posts responding to him (and which I have supplemented here), here, unvarnished, is his devastating criticism:
I do not believe that John has adequately addressed the most pressing issue—which I have mentioned on more than one occasion—here it is again:

The premise/presuppostion [sic] that archeology and secular history must take precedence over Biblical historicity.

This is the method that is foundational for Lampe (and so many other liberal scholars), and he applies it not only to Biblical historicity, but also to the history provided in the writings of early “Catholic” bishops and authors.
Look again at that most pressing issue: “The premise/presuppostion [sic] that archeology and secular history must take precedence over Biblical historicity." And that Lampe (and so many other liberal scholars) apply this method “also to the history provided in the writings of early “Catholic” bishops and authors.”

For gosh sakes, I hate to bring this up, but the Bible is history. And “archaeology and secular history” do not take precedence over “Biblical historicity” – these things confirm and provide a backdrop for “Biblical historicity.”

What in the world is David actually saying here? I grant that “Liberal Scholarship” has relied on the methodology of “historical criticism” (which incorporates – gasp – “archaeology and secular history) to challenge the Bible – Old Testament, New Testament, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the missionary journeys of the Apostles, the letters of Paul and the other New Testament writers.

Yes, using the tools of “historical criticism” – yes, “Liberal Scholarship” has provided the very Revelation of God [to which I hold most dearly] with the most intimate rectal exam that any school of thought or body of literature has ever undergone in the history of the human race.

But in doing so, two things have happened (and I have noted this repeatedly):
1. The facts and historicity of the Bible, especially the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, have been confirmed as true, in and by “archaeology and secular history,” to a degree that far exceeds virtually any other body of knowledge that we can point to, and

2. In the process of #1, “Liberal Scholarship” has beaten itself upon the Rock of Truth in such a way that it can no longer protest against the factuality of the Bible, Life of Christ, etc. Such things are now well-established facts. And thus, “Liberal Scholarship” has been reduced to one thing, and that is, to a denial of the supernatural character of the Bible.
And so, from a factual point of view, especially with respect to the New Testament, there are very few unresolved questions about persons, dates, places, events, etc. “Liberal Scholarship” and “Conservative Scholarship” largely have come to a consensus on these things (there are some outliers, but I am speaking of a vast majority). The one key difference is an allowance for the Supernatural or not. Conservatives embrace the supernatural, and take it for what it says it is; Liberals seek to explain it away.

And thus, when in Acts 2, for example, when Peter says, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know …” – there is not much question between Conservatives and Liberals as to what Jesus said and what these folks are reported to know. There is not much disagreement about what “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it” means. Conservatives and Liberals, having both adopted methods of “historical criticism,” largely agree on the events that Peter was talking about.

Does everybody get this so far? Does anybody have any questions?

Representative links on the topic of Biblical Interpretation

The role and misuse of Authority

Biblical Interpretation 1

Biblical Interpretation 2

Ratzinger Part 1

Ratzinger Part 2

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How does an infallible Magisterium cause such quandaries for itself?

I intend to get back to David Waltz vs. Peter Lampe, Lord willing, I really I do, but I ran across this opportunity to provoke the kind of cognitive dissonance that only “The Catholic Champion” could deny without a thought, with just a wave of his mighty hand.

Da Champ” has decided to comment on my recent blogpost, Vatican II vs Trent on “Holy Orders”. I had posted this from Kilmartin:
In Trent’s Decree on Holy Orders, Canon 6 states that there is in the Church “a hierarchy instituted by divine ordination, which consists of bishops, presbyters and ministers.” While this teaching conforms to the idea of existence of such offices from the beginning of the Church, it does not harmonize with the historical facts. The Second Vatican Council’s Lumen Gentium [28] offers a more realistic view based on a more secure historical consciousness and exegesis of Scripture. Here we read “Thus the divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times (ab antiquo) have been called bishops, priests, and deacons.” Hence in no way does Vatican II affirm that the priesthood was instituted at the Last Supper in the sense understood by Trent (pg 378).
Da poor Champ, he doesn’t like Kilmartin. He says:
Unfortunately the Church hierarchy has been rather lax in formally condemning individual theologians who have dissenting opinions, who then publish them all over the internet to be consumed by those seeking information on a particular theological subject. … Further down in the article Kilmartin also attacks the scholastic definition given by the Church at Trent concerning Transubstantiation.
Lord willing, I’ll get to that, too, Champ. Meanwhile, in discussing this work yesterday with Raymond, it came up that Vatican II had caused all kinds of problems for understanding Vatican I. I was recalling a work I had read some time ago: Michael J. Buckley, S.J., “Papal Primacy and the Episcopate: towards a relational understanding,” New York: Crossroad Herder, © 1998, from the “Ut Unum Sint” series. I’m wondering if Buckley is one of Da Champ’s favorites? Ratzinger certainly likes him. From the Acknowledgements:
As this book goes to press, its author should pause over the gratitude he owes to others, a debt he would gladly pay:

To Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for his gracious invitation to participate in the symposium sponsored by the Congregation on the “primacy of the successor of Peter”;

To Archbishop Tarcissio Bertone, S.D.B., secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for his unfailing kindness and facilitation of the symposium in innumerable details;

To my colleagues in the department of theology at Boston College for their discussion of an earlier draft of the monograph that is now this small book;

To Joseph Komonochak, Peter Hunnermann, and Clifford Kossel, S.J., for their review of the several drafts of the document and their suggestions for its betterment.

To the members of the doctoral seminar at Boston College on primacy and episcopate for the analysis, interpretation, and arguments that occupied many hours of the Wednesday afternoons of the fall of 1996;

To Francis A. Sullivan, S.J., and Michael Himes for their insightful and collaborative direction of this doctrinal seminar that provided the context in which this book was written;

And above all, to my two generous research assistants, Joseph Curran and Brian Hughes, for their hours of scholarly digging in libraries together with their unflagging, competent help in the completion of this work.
I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “what, pray tell, is the fruit of this love-fest?”

Certainly you recognize some of the names. Ratzinger, Sullivan, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Yes, we’re all one big happy family.

Here’s what Buckley has said, what Ratzinger asked for, was improved upon by the colleagues at Boston College, and completed with the generous, unflagging, competent help of the research assistants.
The development from Pastor aeternus to Lumen Gentium, from speaking of the bishops as the episcopate to speaking of the bishops as “a college...or a college of bishops” (collegium ... seu corpus episcoporum), is far more considerable than a simple semantic shift. “Episcopate” is somewhat more abstract than “college of bishops,” and it fails to express the dynamic relationship of the bishops among themselves… (pg 77).
Just wait until you’ve got to take into account a millennium’s-worth of Orthodox (and Oriental) bishops who have been slighted.
By no means is that the only problem which the college of bishops initially poses. Lumen Gentium, no. 22, did not include in its description of the Episcopal college the local churches of which the bishops were shepherds and representatives. If one fails to place this section within the context of Lumen Gentium no. 23, one would have an understanding of the college of bishops without the simultaneous and explicit recognition of the communion of churches, indeed, without mention of local churches at all. The perspective would remain that of a universalist ecclesiology, and the college of bishops would read as if it were primarily a governing board of the whole Church (80).
Then there are the vital relationship between the bishop and the local church within which he is to represent the leadership and the sanctifying presence of Christ (81) … and the Apostolic Tradition which insists that the bishop is to be chosen by all of the people and that this selection is to be approved by the assembled [local] bishops and elders (86). Buckley writes, in summary:
Two questions arise in this context. Whether the present settlement actually detracts from the full vigor of the episcopate and whether papal restoration of ancient legislation on the selection of bishops and their stability within their sees could contribute significantly to the strengthening of the episcopate and the local churches today. Could the apostolic See further effectively its responsibilities simply by restoring what has been taken [or, what the papacy has usurped for itself] over the centuries? This would be to retrieve in a very different way that papal leadership whose bent was the strength and freedom of the local church. Neither problem is an easy one to resolve, but both merit serious study and each touches upon both components of this essay (94).
So, Champ, it appears that not only has the divinely instituted hierarchy “been rather lax in formally condemning individual theologians who have dissenting opinions,” in “stopping those modernists who recreate history to deny the definitive teachings of the Catholic Church,” of squelching those with “modernist opinions who contradict her at every turn.” It appears as if they are inviting them to write these things.

But Champ, I’ll make this easy for you. I’ll give you an exit, one that preserves the integrity of both hierarchy and theologians: blame it on the research assistants.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The normative value of the truth

David Waltz is here again and is nagging me about Dr. Peter Lampe. He says,
I label Lampe a "liberal" and a "revisionist" because I KNOW (as do you) that he rejects inerrancy (I provided clear examples), and IS revising early Church history. He embraces the methods and presuppositions that pretty much ALL liberals and revisionists accept. I do not see this as a "slur by innuendo", THESE ARE FACTS; but I do wonder why you see it as such.
Just what “methods” and “presuppositions” are these that ALL liberals and revisionists accept? David is painting with a broad brush here, and in fact, as I’ve argued many times in the past, I’ll say that his accusations are simplistic, generalized, and they have no correspondence with what’s really happening either in history or Biblical studies.

I’ve resisted getting into some of the specifics of his accusations, simply because so much background material needs to be presented, that’s not necessarily going to make for interesting reading. And I’ve had more important things that I’ve wanted to say. But I’m going to spend a bit more time here and show where David’s accusations fit (or rather, don’t fit) into the world that we are discussing.

First, listen to his condescending tone.
I have cautioned John about using liberal/revisionist historians like Duffy and Lampe in the AF threads linked to above (and in a number of combox posts)—but alas, my reflections have pretty much fallen on 'deaf ears' (I suspect because I am not Reformed)—perhaps John will give some thought to Garry Williams' reservations...
If he were making good “cautions,” it would be one thing. But his charges have no substance. He thinks, “if I cite a conservative Presbyterian who says that Eamon Duffy is a “revisionist,” then Eamon Duffy is a revisionist.” But that’s just name-calling. Second-hand name calling, in fact. He does nothing to show how Duffy might actually be a “historical revisionist.”

Take a look at the first link he provides. The Exiled Preacher published some notes from a conference talk given by Garry Williams, who appears to be Director of the John Owen Centre in Wales, and someone who would be highly familiar with all of the nuance of the Reformation in England. Here seems to be the core of Williams’s complaint against Duffy and one other writer:
1. They provide a re-examination of the state of church in England at the time of the Reformation. The Anticlericalism in England that seemed to drive the reform was not as popular as once thought [Duffy says]. There was no great cry for reform of the pre-Reformation English Church. The Church was part of everyday life for most people.

2. Slow speed of the English Reformation caused the Reformation to take time to settle in because it was not generally embraced by the masses.

3. Mary Tudor’s reign was more successful [than once] thought; she was a competent monarch. England was more conservative than once believed. People were happy to revert to Rome under Mary's reign.
It is on these views that Williams seems to consider Duffy “a revisionist.” He then moves on from this point. I’m wondering if David Waltz can speak to the issues? What, precisely, is being revised? Does David even know, or care to know? Or is it just an opportunity to smear a person’s work because someone else called him a “revisionist”?

This is a specialized conference (“The Westminster Conference for theological and historical study with special reference to the Puritans”), and it doesn’t surprise me at all that these folks would disagree with some of the opinions put forth by a Roman Catholic historian. Especially not English folks, talking about the English Reformation. On the other hand, Williams says nothing about Duffy’s writings on the papacy. I would tend to think he’d find those writings to be accurate and agree with them.

Williams’s statements about the English Reformation [the nuances of which most of us are unfamiliar with] are no reason to throw out everything else that Duffy has ever said. We’re not even sure what Williams actually said. This report comes to us through the filter of another, who was taking down notes. Davies’s own notes are unclear (and I’ve written to him for clarification, but as yet have not had a response from him). It is not clear in what way Duffy wishes to “overturn the traditional Protestant view of the English Reformation.” Davies does not state what specifically about the “Traditional Protestant View of the English Reformation,” (other than that Mary Tudor was a better Queen in Roman Catholic eyes than Protestant eyes), nor is it clear, what precisely about the “Traditional Protestant View” that he thinks Duffy is hoping to overturn. Nor is mention made of the fact that Duffy, as a Roman Catholic, is going to have historical views about the Reformation that may be at odds with “Traditional Protestant views” at any rate.

Further, David provides no clue as to how, precisely, Duffy’s work on the English Reformation intersects with what he has written about the early papacy. Or how any alleged “revisionism” here, in a discussion of the English Reformation, affects Duffy’s work with regard to the papacy. For all we know, Duffy may in fact provide a more sophisticated view of the English Reformation than the one that has come down to us through “traditional Protestant sources”.

Duffy’s alleged “revisionism” did not prevent WSC Professor Scott Clark from passing on two selections that quote from Eamon Duffy’s work, including my own article and a selection from Reformation Italy, a URCNA missionary church plant sponsored by a Southern California church that maintains close ties with Westminster Seminary California.

If David wants his charges to have any credibility at all on this, he will be able to tell us something specific about what Duffy’s view is on the English Reformation and how, precisely his work either distorts or in any way “revises” that history. And further, he will need to say how this affects what Duffy, a Roman Catholic, reports about the papacy. Merely citing someone (however well-meaning) who calls him a “revisionist,” while providing no documentation for that charge, is simply name-calling.

Steve Hays has said on a number of occasions, “truth is normative”. The Scriptures are what they are, because, being “God-breathed,” they are the ultimate truth. How do we respond, then, when we are presented with new information? If a thing is true, if Galileo, for example, through his observations, determines that the earth revolves around the sun, and those observations are determined to be true, then our understanding of Scriptures such as such as 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, Psalm 104:5, Ecclesiastes 1:5 need to be revisited. The Scriptures themselves are true and normative. Galileo presents additional (and true) knowledge. The Scriptures stand; we are the malleable ones. We acknowledge that it is our understanding that is lacking.

When you are presented with new and verified information, and you change your views because you have new information, that’s not being “revisionist”. That is a matter of accepting reality as it is. Of accepting the truth.

Such a thing is difficult, and it takes hard work. But this is precisely the type of thing that conservative Biblical scholarship has done over the centuries. In recent years, when someone like Peter Enns puts forth the theory that the Old Testament relies on myths of the Ancient Near East (ANE) culture. There is no substitute, however, for doing the hard work of truly understanding the ANE [more specifically, Egyptian culture and education], and determining what the true relationship between those two is. And at this point I’ll say that I’m no expert on this topic, but I’ll heartily recommend this brief lecture series from Dr. John Currid, “Crass Plagiarism? The Problem of the Relationship of the Old Testament to Ancient Near Eastern Literature”.

If you download and listen to this series, you’ll understand a great deal about why I don’t concern myself with David Waltz and his criticisms. Enns is a scholar who panics, and says, “gee, there are lots of parallels between ANE culture and literature and the OT. It must be that the OT borrows from that information.” The implication, of course, is that the Old Testament is not truly inerrant. On the contrary, Currid (and scholars like Gregory Beale and the administration at WTS that forced Enns to resign) is not afraid to take on that thesis on its own terms.

In fact, Currid dismantles Enns’s theory and presents a compelling account that it is Moses, educated in Egyptian myth and culture, and Yahweh himself, who is demonstrating who is the true power in history, in the face of Egyptian myths and legends. In reality, it is Yahweh who is laughing in the face of Egyptian myth, not by “copying” those myths, but by demonstrating where the true power in the universe is seated. At the end of Currid’s lectures, there is no question but that it is Yahweh who is absolutely humiliating the greatest world power of that era.

We see this type of thing in our own day. Superman dies in the movie (or at least, is incapacitated by Kryptonite), but then he comes to life again to save the world. Is Superman the reality? Or rather, is the Superman story based on an ultimate reality (in this case, the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ) that rather resonates in our hearts (Romans 1:18-19)? The New Testament provides the compelling narrative that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, making claims to be the Son of God; His resurrection and ascension (and the attendant miracles of his life) are an exceedingly powerful testimony that He Is Who He Says He Is, and that other “messiah” types of stories in our world are copies of the true reality.

Fast forward to today (and in fact, to the last 1500 years of history – the true “Catholic Moment”). The Roman Church claims that it is the chief and sole representative of the authority of Jesus Christ on earth. Are Roman claims true? If they are true, then golly, we’d better snap-to. But if Roman claims to authority are not true, then what are we left with?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Should Reformed Christians Go to the Movies?

Have you seen any good films lately my Reformed friends? If you're anything like me, you've seen a few movies over the last twelve months. Perhaps you're a video-game-type-of-guy, and you drooled with delight all the way through Inception. Action and explosions! Give me more! Or perhaps you only see things like The Kings Speech. Yes, you suffered through a few worldly expletives, but the story and acting were quality, so you didn't run out of the theater in protest. You don't consider yourself a "legalist" anyway, so you're able to watch films through your Christian worldview glasses. Besides, you've thought, if certain  sections of the Old Testament were put to film, there would be a multitude of times a "G" rating simply wouldn't be appropriate.

Let's take a little trip down memory lane.  Let's pretend it's the 1920's. Silent films were still happening, and were transitioning to talkies. Film productions were getting grander. The great war had finished, and little did  everyone know the stock market crash would soon bear down on America. What was there to see in the theaters?  Rin Tin Tin was big. Robin Hood (1922) starring Douglas Fairbanks. There was King of Kings. (1927). The Taming of the Shrew (1929). Greta Garbo's first American film, The Torrent (1926). Lon Chaney did The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). There were a lot of movies to go see. Too many to list.

Now let's take trip down Reformed memory lane. Many Reformed folks are familiar with the name Abraham Kuiper, but I'd like to introduce another name: B.K. Kuiper. Some might say, "Yes I'm familiar with him from his book, The Church in History."

I recently was introduced to the tale of B.K. Kuiper. You've never heard his story? This link had some helpful facts, which I'll quote, along with some other sources I've recently tracked down.

The tale begins here.

"Barend Klaas Kuiper, known by his initials rather than full name, except to Calvin students who affectionately called him “Barney.” B.K. joined the faculty in 1900 to teach history and social studies."

"As an instructor Kuiper could be inspiring, imaginative, dynamic and effective. He was also absentminded and could come to class late or unprepared when answers to student questions filled the class period. According to students, these later classes could be the most interesting and exciting, though most had little to do with the subject of the class. John Timmerman later wrote that Kuiper had a gift for both managing and mismanaging his talents. All of these traits endeared him to students."

"Outside of the classroom he was an outspoken champion of what would be Calvin College beginning with his 1903 pamphlet, The Proposed Calvinistic College at Grand Rapids. In 1918, just before the college’s four-year curriculum began, B.K. quit, complaining of the workload and low pay."

And now, the main act:

"In 1926 the governing body of the Christian Reformed Church appointed B.K. to teach historical theology in the seminary. It was the same year this body concluded that church members should not dance, play cards or go to movie theaters."

"In the seminary Kuiper’s teaching skills again shone until a local church complained that he had been seen entering the Wealthy Theater. Initially Kuiper claimed he had simply stepped into the theater’s lobby to adjust his new dentures, but later admitted he had gone in to watch a film."

"At the meeting of the 1928 synod he was called to defend himself and spent almost three hours explaining that films were one of the means for better understanding American society, which facilitated Christians following the biblical instruction to go into the world. But he did not apologize for his action nor did he ask for forgiveness, which was what the members of synod wanted. Consequently synod voted overwhelmingly to remove him from the faculty for patronizing a movie theater."


The following is from John J. Timmerman, Promises to Keep (Calvin College, 1975), 36-37.

B. K. Kuiper was an eccentric, paradoxical, and enigmatic man. Outspoken and heroic in opinion, he urged intelligent Americanization with no deliberate speed; he wanted the English language to prevail without imperilling the Reformed heritage. He was appointed a professor in the Literary Department of the Theological School in 1900. There he taught, at times brilliantly, until 1918, when he resigned, complaining in De Wachter of intolerable pay. Obviously, as the records show and his writings attest, he was a man of imagination, scholarship, droll wit, and rigorous convictions. He was also prone, as the records show, to serene indolence, intemperate enthusiasm, and erratic behavior. According to his students, his preparation was fitful. He apparently hoped when unprepared to receive a few good questions; when he did he rose to the occasion with dramatic success and zest. Some students were permanently impressed by these imaginative flights; others took advantage of the outbursts and even wandered about the room. Kuiper was sometimes tardy as well as unprepared, apparently exhausted by weekend visits to his sweetheart. His absentmindedness was exploited. The teachers' desks in the old Franklin building were placed on little platforms eight inches from the floor. Once the students had moved Kuiper's desk to the very edge of the platform, and as he leaned heavily on it, he and the desk went on to the main floor. The best students waited for the vision; some enjoyed the interruption of duty. Professor Kuiper had a gift for mismanaging his talents as well as for using them.

After his resignation, he accepted work as Editorial Manager in the Eerdmans-Sevensma Publishing House. Synod urged him to return to his duties, but he refused. The same Synod of 1918 appointed him Editor of De Wachter, where he, as Dr. Beets of The Banner, loyally championed the cause of Calvin College. In a vitriolic exchange in 1922 with H. J. Kuiper, who had questioned the importance Calvin placed on academic excellence, B. K. Kuiper maintained the crucially important value of scholarship; without it the college would be inferior, however Reformed. He says, "If one is oh so very Reformed, but not scholarly, then as a professor he is worth exactly nothing." He resigned from Eerdmans in 1923, and in 1926 he was unexpectedly appointed to the chair of Historical Theology at Calvin Seminary. While at the seminary, where he proved to be a powerful teacher, he went to a movie—to several movies. Somebody saw him go. The Curatorium investigated and Kuiper explained that he had gone now and then "to understand the American people." He had quit, he added, when a minister told him he was a stumbling block to the young people. The Curatorium rejected his reappointment. Kuiper was exceptionally unfortunate that the stringent rules against worldly amusements were under consideration at this Synod. He had not danced; he had not played cards; no, but he had seen a movie! He insisted upon a public defense. My father, who was a member of that Synod, told me that Kuiper had talked interminably—more than three hours in fact. His talents were apparent as was his lack of good sense. If he had only said, "I'm sorry. I won't do it again," my father remarked, he would have been reappointed. But that was not his nature and he lost his position. I don't think the movies or even the idea of being free to go to the movies was worth the loss of his services.

The remainder of this talented man's life was mournful. His sources of income were spotty and uncertain; the patience and pocketbooks of his friends became exhausted. He, with much prodding, produced one good book, a biography of Luther. With all his talents he ended as a withered branch. While I was studying at Northwestern University, I often left for Chicago or came home from there around midnight. I saw him frequently between eleven and twelve walking the almost deserted streets, or just standing on a corner chewing a dead cigar. It must have been 3 a.m. in his soul I was reminded of the sad words of Edwin Arlington Robinson:

Familiar as an old mistake And futile as regret.

Anyone interested in more of B.K.Kuiper should track down the 17 page booklet entitled Something About BK by Henry Zwaanstra (Grand Rapids: Calvin Theological Seminary), 1977. I currently have a copy on my desk, and as far as I can tell, it is (sadly) the most extensive treatment of B.K. If ever there was a story that should be turned into a movie, it's the tale of B.K. Kuiper. A movie on B.K. would be an interesting twist to his story!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vatican II vs Trent on “Holy Orders”

Pastor David King has frequently cited Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J. (“The Eucharist in the West: History and Theology,” Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, © 1998, 2004 by the Order of St. Benedict. Edited by Robert J. Daily, S.J.) regarding the views of Pope Gelasius on the Eucharist. These are decidedly not the views of the Council of Trent.

I’ve recently picked up this fascinating work. I’m reading through it, and on another topic I’ve found another statement that I thought I’d pass along:
In Trent’s Decree on Holy Orders, Canon 6 states that there is in the Church “a hierarchy instituted by divine ordination, which consists of bishops, presbyters and ministers.” While this teaching conforms to the idea of existence of such offices from the beginning of the Church, it does not harmonize with the historical facts. The Second Vatican Council’s Lumen Gentium [28] offers a more realistic view based on a more secure historical consciousness and exegesis of Scripture. Here we read “Thus the divinely instituted ecclesiastical ministry is exercised in different degrees by those who even from ancient times (ab antiquo) have been called bishops, priests, and deacons.” Hence in no way does Vatican II affirm that the priesthood was instituted at the Last Supper in the sense understood by Trent (pg 378).
Interesting that, as I’ve suggested that Rome is “recalibrating” its understanding of the papacy, it is also “recalibrating” its understanding of succession.

[The astute Roman Catholic apologist here will chime in and say, “oh yeah, well, it doesn't deny it.” See below on the use of fuzzy language.]

That statement by Kilmartin aligns with something else I’ve posted recently:
“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)
Roman Catholics and Anglicans both have a reason for pushing the “development” of the notions of “holy orders” for “priests” and of “apostolic succession” for “bishops” back as far into history as they can. And in doctrinal statements, both seem to agree, while some of these ideas were present around 100 AD (and though Ignatius spoke of “bishops”, it is clear that he attributed nothing approaching the kind of authority that the Apostles had!), it is clear that (a) neither of these certainly were instituted by Christ, and (b) neither of these existed in New Testament times.

Robert Reymond summarizes:
It is enough to say in response that episcopacy receives no support whatever from the New Testament. Whether it has been beneficial or not to the church is highly debatable, depending upon one’s view of its development in church history since Cyprian (c. 250), whose views of episcopacy gave rise eventually in the early medieval period to the papacy and to the papacy’s many subsequent doctrinal heresies and political and social abuses of power. As for the claim by the Roman Catholic Church and the other Episcopal church bodies that their authority has come to them through an unbroken line of succession from the apostles themselves down to the present, it is enough to say, first, that such a claim is simply unsupported by history and not verifiable, and second, that even were such an unbroken succession true in some instance, such Episcopal succession per se would convey no particular authority or guarantee apostolicity to the one so graced. Mere unbroken apostolic succession is not the New Testament criterion for ministerial authority (“A New Systematic Theology of the New Christian Faith,” Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., ©1998, pgs 905-906).
Kilmartin is a fascinating read, by the way. I was surprised to learn that it was Ambrose of Milan (d. 397) whose “metabolic understanding of the change of the nature of the Eucharistic elements” was “a new concept” [late 4th century!] which led to the medieval doctrine of Transubstantiation (pg. 22, and at least some of this work seems to be available through Google Books). So, again, while the early church was faithful to practice what the Lord had commanded, the uniquely Roman spin on what essentially had been a good thing, was changed by Roman [western] novelty.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Mustard Tree as an Image of the Church

There’s been a little dustup of comments on the Bryan Cross thread entitled “Ecclesial Consumerism”.

Bryan is one of those individuals that Matthew wrote about in his previous post. “A sensational conversion to Catholicism provides a kind of celebrity, authority and prominence unavailable to those who quietly and obscurely serve the Lord in a Protestant church.” Then of course, there are the gullible ones who will follow him.

Bryan puts up a couple of flamboyant photographs and elaborately explicates a phenomenon of his own creation. “In our contemporary culture, church-shopping has become entirely normal and even expected….[A person] weighs all the various factors and tries to decide which church best matches what he (and his family) are looking for in a church. He might even make lists of all that he is looking for in a church, and see which church comes closest to meeting all the criteria. This phenomenon is called ‘ecclesial consumerism.’”

Nobody else talks about “Ecclesial consumerism.” Only Bryan talks about “ecclesial consumerism.” Bryan is one of those individuals in search of “the correctly marketable term,” a new phrase he can coin and throw out there to “the academy,” which will have his name attached to it, and for which people will fawn over him. He used to throw out the word “monocausalism” and try to sell that concept, as a bad thing, until I pointed out to him that he’s simply trying to re-define the word “sola” as a bad thing. He has ranted and raved about the “invisible church”. Then there was “ecclesial deism”, which he used until someone pointed out that it was not that; then he picked up “ecclesial docetism.” Here’s another one: Branches or Schisms. Maybe, someday, Bryan can be known, like Bultmann, for having discerned “the separation of the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith.”

He misunderstands what the Kingdom of God is. Just as we can know the Character of God, we can know what the one true church is going to be like, because the Scriptures told us a lot about it.
Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)
One of the two images here is the Mustard tree, indigenous to Palestine, that Jesus was talking about.

A.A. Hodge wrote about this as well:
AA Hodge on “What is the Church?” (From “Evangelical Theology” pgs 174-177)

What is the Church? There is one thing certain about it: the Church has a great many attributes, but that which is absolutely essential is its absolute unity. There is no doubt if there be but one God, there is but one Church; if there be but one Christ, there is but one Church; if there be but one Holy Ghost, there is but one Church. This is absolutely settled—there is but one Church. We have heard about the visible and invisible Church, as if there were two churches. There cannot be two churches, one that is visible and another that is invisible. There is but one Church, and that Church is visible or invisible just according to the eye that is looking, just according to the point of view taken….

There have been two distinct conceptions of the Church: one is the theory that the Church consists of an organized society which God has constituted, that identity consists in its external form as well as in its spirit, and that its life depends upon the continuity of officers from generation to generation. This is held by a great many able men, men of intellect, and by many respectable, level-headed Christians as well.

I hold this to be simply impossible. The marks of the Church are catholicity, apostolicity, infallibility, and purity. Now, apply that to any corporation—to the Church in Jerusalem or to the Church in Antioch; to the Congregational Church, to the Presbyterian, or to the Prelatical Churches. I do not care as to the form; but there never did exist, and there does not now exist, any organized society upon the face of the earth of which these qualities could be predicated. Not one of these societies has apostolicity—that is, precisely the apostolic form as well as the apostolic spirit; not one of these societies has had an absolute organic continuity, or has, without modification, preserved it. Societies, like the Church of Rome, which are most conspicuous in claiming these marks for themselves, are most conspicuously unworthy of them, because there is no comparison between their ritual of service, their organization, and the apostolic Church with which they claim to be identified.

The only possible definition of a Church is that it consists of what is termed “the body of Christ”—that is, human souls regenerated by the presence and power of the Holy Ghost, kept in immediate union with Christ. Of this you can predicate apostostolicity, catholicity, and the sanctifying power and perpetual presence of the Holy Ghost, which belongs to the Church of Christ. This is the true Church, which exists through all the successive generations of men, which is united to Christ, and which shares in the benefits of his redemption through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. This great body is one because the Holy Ghost dwells in it and makes it one. This Church is apostolical, because it is unchanging as to apostolic doctrine; it is catholic, because it contains in one body all of God’s people in all worlds and in all time; it unites all from the creation of the world to the coming of Christ, and all from the coming of Christ to the end of the world in one body—absolutely one, both visible and invisible.…

Now, as to the unity of this Church I have something to say. A great many are agitated at present with regard to Church unity and its manifestations, and I think there is a great deal of confusion of thought as to the original conception of the Church itself. If the Church be an external society, then all deviation from that society is of the nature of schism; but if the Church be in its essence a great spiritual body, constituted by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost through all the ages and nations, uniting all to Christ, and if its external organization is only accidental and temporary, and subject to change and variation, then deviation of organization, unless touched by the spirit of schism, is not detrimental to the Church. I do believe that God’s purpose, on the contrary, has been to differentiate his Church without end. You know that the very highest form of beauty of which you can conceive, the very highest form of order, is multiplicity in unity, and unity in multiplicity; the higher the order of unity, the greater must be the multiplicity.

This is so everywhere. Go to the ocean: every drop of water is the repetition of every other drop, and there is union simply without diversity. Go to the desert of Sahara, and every grain of sand is the duplicate of every other grain of sand; but there is no unity, no life. You could not make a great cathedral by piling up simple identical rhomboids or cubes of stone. It is because you differentiate, and make every stone of a different form in order to perform a different function, and then build them up out of this multitudinous origination into the continuity and unity of the one plan or architectural idea, that you have your cathedral. You could not make a great piece of music simply by multiplying the same tone or sound. In order to obtain the harmony of a great orchestra, you get together a large number of musical instruments, or you have a great number of human voices in a choir, and you combine them; then you have an infinite variety of quality and infinite variety of tone. You combine them in the absolute unit of the one great musical idea which you seek to express.

But if this is true of such things, it is more true of Christ’s Church. If God had followed our idea, how simple a thing it would have been to make a united Church descending from Adam and Eve! We might think that was all that could be done, and there would be then no stones of stumbling. You could then watch this Church, and it would go on indefinitely and without limit.

Now, what has God been doing? He has broken humanity up into infinite varieties. This has been his method. He has been driving it into every clime. He has been driving it into every age through the succession of centuries. He has been moulding human nature under every variety of influences through all time, until he has got men in every age, every tribe, every tongue, every nation, every colour, every fashion—in order to do what? Simply to build up a variety, to build up the rich, inexhaustible variety which constitutes the beauty in unity of this great infinite Church of the first-born, whose final dwelling-place is to be in heaven.
What is "the Church"? Who really understands what "the Church" is?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Seeking a Name For Ourselves

I recently listened to a twenty minute lecture by Carl Trueman titled "What Was Luther Doing on Reformation Sunday?" The lecture is a deeply practical and critically introspective application of 1 Timothy 1:1-11 to the motivations of the heart--to the reasons we seek to study theology. Trueman utilizes the passage from 1 Timothy as a sort of lens to interpret the motivations of Tetzel for selling indulgences, applying it as well to modern televangelists, bloggers and, last of all, seminarians. Why do we study theology? Is it to advance the Kingdom of God in humility? Or is it to increase our power and influence? If it is merely to increase our power and influence, then we might very well find ourselves defending whatever arguments are most convenient to this end.

While not explicitly mentioned in the lecture, Trueman's analysis supplies a possible answer to a question regularly enough posed in the combox of this blog--why do some Protestants, with degrees, grounding in Reformed theology, etc., decide to convert to Catholicism? Some, it seems, desire power and influence more than they desire to serve the truth. A sensational conversion to Catholicism provides a kind of celebrity, authority and prominence unavailable to those who quietly and obscurely serve the Lord in a Protestant church. And certainly this temptation is both apparent and increased given the celebration of "conversion stories" in modern Catholic apologetics.

Such an application of Trueman's analysis cannot be granted in the case of each and every convert, for the circumstances vary, often greatly, from individual to individual. But it certainly explains why at least some turn from the truth of the Gospel.

The talk is available for free through iTunes U. If it is not obvious already, I highly recommend it.

The Character of God

With respect to “Apostolic Succession,” one Roman Catholic provided this chain of events:
God the Father passed His authority on to Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:18), Who passed it on to the apostles (cf. Luke 10:16 and Matthew 28:19), who passed it on to their successors.
Before we begin to believe assertions like that one, we need to begin at the beginning, and work to understand “what we’ve known (as humans) and when we’ve known it.”

John Frame, in his two works, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing ©2002) and The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing ©1987), is very helpful in understanding both “God the Father” and “His authority” from a biblical perspective.

Knowing God
There is a very pious-sounding thread that runs through Christian theology known as apophatic theology, which, in simple terms, may be defined:
(from Greek ἀπόφασις from ἀπόφημι - apophēmi, "to deny")—also known as Negative theology or Via Negativa (Latin for "Negative Way")—is a theology that attempts to describe God, the Divine Good, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God.
Further, “In Orthodox theology, apophatic theology is taught as superior to cataphatic [positive] theology. While Aquinas felt positive and negative theology should be seen as dialetical correctives to each other [that is, “logically reasoned through the exchange of opposing ideas”], like thesis and antithesis producing a synthesis, Lossky argues, based on his reading of Dionysius and Maximus Confessor, that positive theology is always inferior to negative theology, a step along the way to the superior knowledge attained by negation. This is expressed in the idea that mysticism is the expression of dogmatic theology par excellence.”

There’s that faker, Pseudo-Dionysius, informing leading Orthodox theologians of what’s the right way to understand things.

Frame puts this into perspective. He says, “Scripture does teach that God is incomprehensible in a sense…. But it never denies God’s knowability. Scripture never suggests that the human mind is incapable of knowing God or that human language is incapable of speaking truly about him. Nor does it distinguish one aspect of God (his inner essence) from other aspects (his attributes and acts) and deny us knowledge of the former. Indeed, the covenant presence of God implies we cannot escape knowing him, for we cannot know anything else apart from him” (Doctrine of God, 110).
Scripture teaches that God has made himself known to man. This revelation is universal and clear. As we have seen, man’s ignorance of God is a culpable ignorance. As Paul says,
what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
And, beyond this revelation through nature, God has revealed himself through prophets, apostles, and biblical writers, creating a definitive written revelation, the covenant constitution of the people of God….(Doctrine of God, 200).
Frame here begins a section discussing what is “knowable and known” about God, and yet is “mysterious, wondrous, and incomprehensible.”
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deut 29:29)
He concludes from this and other passages that “the biblical writers never see the incomprehensibility of God as detracting from the reliability or authority of his revelation. The mysteriousness of God is never the basis of a general agnosticism. God’s revelation is mysterious, but it is a genuine revelation.”
My approach rejects the broad assertions of agnosticism that are often found in theological works.\... We should not press the way of remotion (via negativa), as did pseudo-Dionysius and John Scotus Erigena (but not Aquinas), to say that we can know only what God is not, not what he is. Negative statements by themselves are useless: for example, one can know a thousand things what a Siberian husky is not, without having any useful knowledge of what he is.

Nor should we accept the claims of more recent thinkers who have described God as “wholly hidden” or “wholly other.” This kind of general agnosticism is foreign to Scripture. The Lord of Scripture is not wholly hidden. He is knowable and known to all through nature, and his revelation in Scripture is perfectly adequate to its purpose. (Doctrine of God, 205-6).
The Authority of God
This is where God’s authority comes in. We can know God’s authority, and as Frame immediately follows, “As we have seen, Scripture tells us that God is the ultimate controller, and that we are his possession, not the other way around. The more we meditate on this clear revelation, the more it rebukes our pride, our claims to self-sufficiency. It is those who deny this revelation, preferring to think of God autonomously, who seek dominance over their Creator. Nor is clear revelation opposed to grace. Rather, it is itself a gift of grace, and it sets forth consistently the message that we have nothing and are nothing, except for God’s grace” (Doctrine of God, 206).

Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God begins by describing “God, the Covenant Lord.” The Old Testament in fact is extraordinarily clear that God Himself stresses that He is in charge, that he is jealous of His own authority, and He actively works to assert it.

What follows is thick with Scripture references, but thanks to Reftagger, it should be easy just to mouse-over and see what these references say about God and the authority which Roman Catholics wrongly assert ended up in the hands of the popes:
Who is this God that we seek to know? Scripture describes Him in many ways, and it is dangerous to seize on any of them as being more basic or more important than others. In seeking to summarize Scripture’s teachings, however, we can certainly do worse than to use the concept of divine “lordship” as our point of departure.

“Lord”(Yahweh in Hebrew) is the name by which God identified himself at the beginning of His covenant with Israel (Exodus 3:13-15; 6:1-8; 20:1f.). It is the name (Kurios in Greek) that has been given to Jesus Christ as head of the New Covenant, as head of His redeemed body (John 8:58; Acts 2:36; Romans 14:9). The fundamental confession of faith of both testaments confess God—Christ—as Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4ff; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11). God performs His mighty acts “that you may know that I am the Lord” (cf. Exodus 7:5, 17; 8:10, 22; 9:14, 29f.; 10:2; 14:4, 18; 16:12; Isaiah 49:23, 26; 60:16); Psalms 83:18, 91:14; Isaiah 43:3, 52:6; Jeremiah 16:21, 33:2, Amos 5:8).

At critical points in redemptive history, God announces “I am the Lord, I am he” (Isaiah 41:3, 43:10-13, 25, 44:6, 48:12; cf. Isaiah 26:4-8, 46:3f.; Deuteronomy 32:39f, 43; Psalm 135:13; Hosea 12:4-9, 13:4ff, Malachi 3:6, which allude to Exodus 3:13-15). In such passages, not only “Lord” but also the emphasis on the verb “to be” recall the name-revelation of Exodus 3:14. Jesus also frequently alludes to the “I am” in presenting His own character and office (John 4:6, 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19, 18:5ff; cf. John 6:48, 8:12, 9:5, 10:7, 14; 11:25, 12:46, 15:1, 5). One of the most remarkable testimonies to Jesus’ deity is the way in which He and His disciples identified Him with Yahweh of Exodus 3—a name so closely associated with God that at one point the Jews became afraid even to pronounce it.

To summarize those points, throughout redemptive history, God seeks to identify himself to men as Lord and to teach and to demonstrate to them the meaning of that concept. “God is Lord”—that is the message of the Old Testament; Jesus Christ is Lord”—that is the message of the New (Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 11-12).
“As controller and authority, God is “absolute,” that is, His power and wisdom are beyond any possibility of successful challenge,” Frame says. When a Roman Catholic says “God the Father passed His authority on to Jesus (cf. Matthew 28:18), Who passed it on to the apostles (cf. Luke 10:16 and Matthew 28:19), who passed it on to their successors,” what is he truly saying?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Luther: We eat and drink to kill ourselves, up to our last farthing

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

Christ Taught (in the words of St. Paul): “Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: Neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers: Nor the effeminate nor liars with mankind nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards” [1 Cor 6:9 ]. Luther teaches: “We eat and drink to kill ourselves, we eat and drink up to our last farthing”[Weimar, Vo. 9. pg. 215]. We can also note on this point that the opinion of Luther’s contemporaries on the subject is unmistakable. They all agree that Luther “was addicted to over-drinking.” - Th. Brieger: “Aleander and Luther”, pg. 170, 307].

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 Luther promoted drunkenness, and that Luther was a drunk.

First, it should pointed out that it isn't 1 Corinthians 6:9 that refers to drunkards, but rather 1 Corinthians 6:10.  Luther, Exposing the Myth then cites Weimar, Vo. 9. pg. 215. This source and page can be found here (Schriften und Predigten 1509/21 ). There's nothing even remotely close to the quote cited on this page. The reason why is, it appears to me the quote was once again taken from Peter Wiener's Martin Luther, Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor, page 33. Wiener states,

More than once Luther says that he drinks in excess. “I am here,” he writes from the Warburg, “idle and drunk” (Enders III, 154). At other times he states, “I am not drunk” (Enders III, 317; E30, 363). In 1532 he writes: “We eat and drink to kill ourselves, we eat and drink up to our last farthing.” In 1540 he states: “God must count drunkenness as a minor sin, a small daily sin. We can really not stop it.” At another time he feels more guilty. “According to the saying, we have to comply with the habit. The days are bad, people are worse, our acts more than bad. Up to now drunkenness has prevented me from writing, or reading anything readable; living with men, I had to live as they do.” It is abundantly clear that Luther liked drinking—and often not within reason. “I have brought on headache by drinking old wine in the Coburg, and this our Wittenberg beer has not yet cured. I work little, and I am forced to be idle against my will because my head must have a rest.” “If I have a can of beer, I want the beer-barrel as well”. “I am but a man prone to let himself be swept off his feet by society, drunkenness, the movements of the flesh” (W9, 215, 13). And again, “What is needed to live in continence is not in me”.

Luther, Exposing the Myth simply took the first reference it saw, not realizing that Wiener's book is poorly documented, if documented at all. This part, "We can also note on this point that the opinion of Luther’s contemporaries on the subject is unmistakable. They all agree that Luther “was addicted to over-drinking.” - Th. Brieger: “Aleander and Luther”, pg. 170, 307]" is found in one of the immediately following paragraphs in the same secondary source:

His bad state of health in his later years, he ascribed himself to drink. “For almost a month past I have been plagued not only with noises but with actual thundering of my head, due, perhaps to the wine, perhaps to the malice of Satan.” “I am troubled with a sore throat such as I never had before; possibly the strong wine has increased the inflammation, or perhaps it is a buffet of Satan.” The opinion of his contemporaries on the subject is unmistakable. They all agree that Luther “was addicted to over-drinking” (Th. Brieger: “Aleander and Luther”, pp. 170, 307).

"Th. Brieger: “Aleander and Luther”, pp. 170, 307" refers to Brieger, Theodor. Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Reformation: I. Aleander und Luther 1521. Die vervollständigten Aleander-Depschen nebst Untersuchungen über den Wormser Reichstag. I. Abteilung. Gotha: Friedrich Andreas Perthes, 1884. Luther, Exposing the Myth has no idea who Theodor Brieger was, nor did they actually read pages 170 or 307 of his book.If they did, they actually translated the texts cited from the German. Used copies are reasonably priced and available.

Even with a bogus reference, I was still able to determine a possible reference. First, Hartmann Grisar uses a similar quote, "We eat ourselves to death, and drink ourselves to death; we eat and drink ourselves into poverty and down to hell." Oddly, Grisar doesn't document it (typically his documentation is vast and flawless). This at least is a clue that something similar to the quote used by Luther, Exposing the Myth exists.

Even with spurious documentation, Peter Wiener  (cited above) does provide a helpful clue: the year 1532. This source verifies the year by citing a similar scatological Luther statement,  "We eat ourselves to death; we drink, sleep, fast and s*** ourselves to death" and "We, he said, eat, grow fat and quench our thirst And fill our bellies till we burst. We s*** and f**t ourselves to death." The comment was said to be made in Wittenberg at the outbreak of dysentery in 1532. It also gives a reference to Luther's Tischreden volume II, no. 1781, which can be found here.


If this is indeed the text Wiener cited, the statement reads in part,

"Intemperance. We eat ourselves to death, We s*** ourselves to death, we drink ourselves to death, we work ourselves to death, we fast ourselves to death. The whole thing against intemperance. he said this since the illness was going around Wittenberg. What a cause to be proud.

The footnote:

We eat ourselves to death, drink ourselves to death; we eat and drink ourselves poor and into hell; we sweat ourselves to death. This is what Luther said when the "disease" reigned in Wittenberg. "We certainly have reason to be proud and haughty!"

It's quite possible the quote as cited by Luther, Exposing the Myth (or Peter Wiener) combined these two versions.  The only odd word cited by Luther, Exposing the Myth is "farthing." That though could be "We work ourselves to death." 

Luther, Exposing the Myth stated that Luther teaches drunkenness in this quote. Rather though, the quote is a description (or passing comment) on the 1532 outbreak of dysentery in Wittenberg. He wasn't promoting drunkenness in this quote, whichever translation one uses. One of Luther's most severe Roman Catholic critics, historian Hartmann Grisar thinks "Here Luther is merely speaking against the habit of drinking which had become so prevalent, and dominated some to such an extent that death and hell were the lamentable consequences to be feared." Since it's a mere few sentences without a context, speculating as to its precise meaning isn't an option.

Grisar also states, states, "Luther's enemies must resign themselves to abandon some of the proofs formerly adduced for his excessive addiction to drink." This appears to be one of those proofs. Grisar states of Luther,

It is not true that the scene of his conviviality was a tavern where he was wont to consort of an evening with his friends and pupils. The account in question is a fabrication. As a matter of fact Luther spent his evenings with his family, in the one-time monastery where, with Catherine von Bora, he was usually surrounded by those who were associated with him in his work, pupils or newcomers.

Nor is it true that he drank to excess. The so-called fanatics, the Anabaptists, who were often strict in outward appearance, as well as misinformed Catholic opponents, propagated unconfirmed rumors to this effect. Some controversial writers discovered a pretext for these accusations in certain misunderstood utterances of his. But these critics overlooked the fact that their charges were based upon jocose speeches or innocent quips by a man who was not always cautious in his utterances. It is nowhere credibly reported that Luther was drunk, even though there is evidence to show that he imbibed rather freely, according to the prevailing German custom. He was not exactly a model of abstemiousness, but he severely censured the excesses of princes and courtiers. In theory he was undoubtedly too compliant when he permitted a "good drink" (which in those days meant a considerable quantity) in cases of depression of spirit due to evil reports, worries, and heavy thoughts in general, oppression owing to troubles and labor, temptations of the "devil" resulting from sorrow and despondency. In his opinion, sleeplessness and spiritual exhaustion alone were sufficient to justify a "good drink."...

If Luther had been addicted to the use of wine and beer in an excessive manner, he would not have been able to develop his marvelous energy. A drunkard does not write books and pamphlets filled with serious and thought-provoking ideas with the ease and facility with which Luther composed his writings. Even the violent and indecorous controversial tracts of the later period of his life are not saturated with alcohol, as a Protestant writer in America has recently endeavored to demonstrate; but they evince the spirit of an infernal hatred which is to be adjudged pathological. The so-called "drunken doctor" (doctor plenus) must be obliterated from history. [Martin Luther, His Life and His Work, pp. 356-358].

Beginning on page 206 of an early edition of his book Luther in the Light of Recent Research, Heinrich Boehmer addressed Luther and alcohol. In part, Boehmer says,

Luther in speech and writing fought drunkenness more vehemently than any German of that day. He privately and publicly spoke his mind on this point also to princes and even censured his own Elector openly on this account, while he very drastically rebuked the members of the electoral court for the same reason. Nevertheless, he also judges a "good drunk" very mildly. He believed that people who grew violent and vicious from the effects of alcohol ought by all means to avoid drink like poison, but, on the other hand, he held that men who are engaged in dangerous work all week, as, for example, the miners, ought not to be judged harshly if on Sunday they permitted themselves a goodly quantity of liquor. Courtiers also ought not to be grudged a "drunk" after hard physical exertions, though he says that by no means must it be tolerated that they appear every morning as though their heads had been pickled in brine. This indulgent attitude will scarcely meet with approbation today. But in the sixteenth century even such a differentiation was looked upon as narrow-mindedness, pedantry and philistinism.

Theory in such manners is almost always the result of personal practice. Therefore, the question arises: Did Luther himself at times allow himself a "good drink" like his father, the old Hans Luther? Indeed, was the Reformer not perhaps a regular toper? It seems advisable that we first consult the physician also on this point. Medical experts teach us that alcoholics are wholly incapable of any fatiguing and continuous mental work. How about Luther in this regard? Let us pick out at random the one or the other year from the various periods of his life in order to determine exactly his working capacity. The year 1521 may be considered first, for it is in that year that, according to Father Denifle, he began drinking. In spite of this he wrote twenty larger or smaller treatises in that period, which in the Weimar edition fill 985 pages. In addition he translated a book by Melanchthon into German, and began the translation of the New Testament and the composition of his postil,besides writing a great number of letters, of which seventy-two are still available. And yet, he was in this eventful year forced to be idle for five weeks owing to travel and on many days was sorely hindered by illness. In 1523 the first attacks of the above mentioned headaches began to impair his well-being; also he traveled about two weeks. Nevertheless, in this twelve months he wrote twenty-four treatises of varying size, preached one hundred and fifty sermons, gave a course of lectures on Deuteronomy which takes up two hundred and forty-seven pages in the Weimar edition, completed the German version of the Pentateuch and began the translation of the remainder of the Old Testament. Besides this, we still possess one hundred and twelve letters of this year — "of course only a fraction of his correspondence." During the five and one-half months he spent at the Koburg in 1530 (April 25 to October 4), "he was so sick in his head" that, as he himself says, he had to rest and remain idle. Despite this fact he in this interval completed twelve works of varying size, finished the translation of Jeremiah, partially translated Ezekiel and all the lesser prophets, edited a number of Aesop's Fables in German, and furthermore, wrote quite a series of opinions and letters, some of which were of considerable length and of which one hundred and twenty-three are still preserved. Finally, we still have the year 1545, of which he spent two months in travel, and when he was already completely exhausted, broken and tired of life, a number of long treatises and a few short ones, also the concluding lectures on Genesis and more than sixty letters and arbitraments.

All told Luther published about three hundred and fifty treatises, among them, it is true, a series of translations and a great number of pamphlets. In literary productivity at best the Jesuit Gretscher (two hundred and sixty eight treatises), Augustine (two hundred and thirty-two) and Origen can vie with him. And this fertility is with Luther not merely quantitative, as in the case of Gretscher. The Reformer appears almost inexhaustible in expressions as well as in ideas. He certainly is the first great German man of letters, and at the same time among the writers of all ages one of the richest in form and thought. These observations for the medical expert do away with the "alcoholic" Luther. A drunkard would, alone from the point of view of physical endurance, not have been equal to such a tremendous burden of work, much less would he have been able to bear the excitement of the colossal battles which the Reformer had to fight.

Of course, this does not exclude the possibility that the great fighter occasionally indulged in a "good drink." We may say that whole generations of investigators and inquisitors have been at pains to collect evidence to substantiate this charge. Their great labors have, however, so far been futile, for all their proofs have later been shown to be invalid. If Luther, for instance, writes: "I am now not drunk nor indiscreet," this is only a forcible mode of assertion, for in the same sense he writes: Christ was not drunk when he spoke the sacramental words of the Holy Eucharist, God is not drunk, the Evangelists are not drunk. When Wolfgang Musculus, in 1536, at the time of the Wittenberg Concord reports: On May the twenty-first we accompanied Luther home after the meal, he was wonderfully hilarious (mire hilaris), . . . during the evening potion in his home he again was wonderfully hilarious and very amiable, and when just prior he says of Melanchthon: Wonderfully exhilarated he discussed astrology at the table, this all does not prove that the two Reformers were intoxicated but merely that they were cheerful. For "hilaiis" in this connection signifies only cheerful happy and not hilarious. When in March, 1523, Luther at Schweinitz vomited before the meal, this does not prove that during the meal he had become intoxicated from Grueneberger wine, but that at the time he suffered from digestive derangement. And if in this period the vomiting recurred daily it does not show that Luther every day drank until he became nauseated but merely that he was ill.

However, did not Luther once sign a letter with the significant words; Doctor plenus? (the "full" Doctor). Fortunately the missive has been preserved in the original. The word we find is naturally not "plenus" but "Johannes," the name of little Hans Luther, who is sending greetings to his sponsor. The situation is the same in the famous confession in the letter of the second of July, 1540, to his "Gracious Lady of Zuelsdorf at the New Hog Market," in which he says: "I am guttling like a Bohemian and toping like a German, thanks be to God, Amen." The tone of the whole document, and one must, of course, read it in full, shows that we have here a playful exaggeration. This is, besides, proven abundantly from a similar letter of the sixteenth of July to the same address. The message is also extant in the original and we read there: "Thank God we are here cheerful and well, glutting like Bohemians, though not very — and guzzling like Germans, though not much, but we are happy."

So these proofs, also, lead us nowhere. There remains the "notorious verse": "Who loves not wine, woman and song, remains a fool his whole life long." This is, indeed, perhaps the most frequently cited utterance of Luther. However, it is not by Luther but very probably originated with Johann Heinrich Voss. The latter first published it in 1777 in the Wandsbecker Bote, and when pressed for the exact source of his citation was not able to give it. It is possible that he merely translated a rhymed Italian saying: "Who loves not wine, women and song (canto) is either a fool or a saint (santo) and as a sworn adherent of Enlightenment suppressed the saint. It may also be that he made use of one of the Table Talks of Luther which, however, was meant in quite another way. It runs: "One must bear with the weaknesses of every country: The Bohemians gluttonize, the Wends steal, the Germans drink immoderately. For how would you now excel a German, except it be in drinking, especially one who does not love music and women?" These "proofs," therefore, all of them do not bear up under criticism, and others which are adduced besides have about the same value, as, for instance, the evidence about the supposed illegitimate son of Luther, Andrew, who in reality was his nephew.

Luther never says that he had been intoxicated, and no one ever saw him drunk, otherwise we would surely know about it, for if ever a man lived in a glass house it was Luther. This again naturally does not prove that the Reformer was an anti-alcoholic. In fact, Luther, as an advocate of prohibition would be as much an unhistorical fantasy as Luther the drunkard. When in August, 1540, he says: "I drink also, but not every person ought to try and imitate me," when he says that God ought to give him credit for occasionally taking a good draught in his honor, and when he writes to a melancholiac: "I frequently drink more copiously in order to vex the devil," this all proves sufficiently that Luther was by no means averse to a good drink. Without doubt he was very fond of good wine, either the Jueterbock, Grueneberg, Franconian, Rhenish or Rinvoglio vintage. Furthermore, he liked Torgau and Naumburg beer very much though he was given this pleasure very rarely, ordinarily he had to be satisfied with the murky and not very excellent home brew of his severe spouse.

However, there were times when in the Black Cloister there was a dearth not only of beer but also of money. Under those circumstances the Reformer was, willy-nilly, forced to forego his accustomed beverage for forty days or more. And it really seems as though this privation was not an easy matter for him. For Luther valued beer in the first place as a diuretic.

Secondly, as a remedy for his bad digestion he made medical observations about it at times — and finally,as a narcotic. In his last years he suffered greatly from insomnia so that "he had to seek his pillow and bolster in the tankard." This explains why some particularly conscientious investigators assiduously endeavored to determine the amount of alcohol he imbibed daily, and the maximum quantity which he on special occasions was capable of consuming. However, all such investigations and computations have so far brought no results. This problem of research on Luther will hence perhaps always remain unsolved and will vex many an inquisitor in much the samemanner as the devil vexed Doctor Luther.

Luther the drunkard and toper, therefore, never existed, and no one ever saw him intoxicated. Of all these accusations only the one fact remains that Luther regularly drank his beer and was fond of good wine, that on special occasions he loved to have a good drink, and that in his age he was wont to combat insomnia by taking "a more copious draught" in the evening. We may fittingly doubt, however, that this by no means overdue indulgence in alcoholic beverages was always good for his health. According to present-day opinion, at least, only the alcohol which they do not drink is beneficial to people who are nervous and suffer from the stone. But the medical art of the sixteenth century was still in the stage of complete scientific innocence. It had not the least notion as yet of the harmful effects of this poison. Therefore, it also did not make the slightest effort to curb the use and abuse of spirituous beverages. On the contrary, it advised copious drinking, without distinction as to materials as a remedy for the stone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What must the church salvage from her tradition and what must she, if the need arises, discard?

While searching the library for another title, I came across The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His Central Writings and Speeches. (It's a popular level work, at least judging from the content and reviews I've read so far.) Thumbing through the collection of documents brought me to an interview (from 1996) on the resolution of the contentious "canon of issues" (i.e., women's ordination, contraception, celibacy, the remarriage of divorced persons). One set of question and answer was particularly interesting inasmuch as it relates a certain conception of unity based on a gradation in the importance of beliefs (emphasis in original):

[Peter Seewald] Everything revolves again and again on this point: what must the church salvage from her tradition and what must she, if the need arises, discard? How is this question decided? Is there a list with two columns? On the right: always valid; on the left: capable of renewal?

[Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger] No, it's obviously not that simple. But there are various degrees of importance in the tradition. It was once customary in theology to speak of degrees of certitude, and that was not so wrong. Many say that we have to go back to that. The term hierarchy of truths does seem to point in this direction, namely, that not everything has the same weight, that there are, so to speak, essentials, for example, the great conciliar decisions or what is stated in the Creed. These things are the Way and as such are vital to the church's existence; they belong to her inner identity. And then there are ramifications that are connected with these essentials and certainly belong to the whole tree but that are not all of the same importance. The identity of the church has clear distinguishing marks, so that it is not rigid but the identity of something living, which remains true to itself in the midst of development. (The Essential Pope Benedict XVI [New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2003], 128-129)

A Legitimate Distinction

A distinction between essentials and non-essentials has, of course, been a staple of Protestant apologetic discourse. I'm not aware of any notable Catholic apologists who deny this distinction, but such a denial is common enough on discussion boards and blogs (a recent example may be found here here). If reasoning with those who deny the distinction seems fruitless, then perhaps the current Pope's articulation will be sufficient to convince such dissenters of its legitimacy.

The Whole Tree

The fact that we speak in such metaphors ("whole tree") when discussing essentials undergirds that the identification of these, being at its core an ontological project, is no simple task for any religious community. The learned Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges the complexity of the issue within the Roman Catholic community. And as experience shows (or will show, if you have yet to attempt it yourself), the task of absolutely delimiting these essentials is challenging; a precise periphery proves evasive. Catholic apologists should expect, then, to see some measure of difficulty on the part of Protestants to articulate a highly precise account of the essentials of Protestantism.

What should be acceptable to all is a general account. To extend Ratzinger's metaphor, we perceive the tree of our tradition and we know the trunk is essential to its identity. Let us also say that the boughs are essentials, but the twigs are non-essential. Any attempt to analyze the entire tree will encounter borderline cases where it is difficult to tell when a bough is a twig and when a twig is a bough. The existence of such borderline cases does not invalidate the clear identification of the trunk, nor of clear cases of boughs and twigs.

Each and every disagreement over the nature of the essentials does not count against the overall project of seeking essentials. It is not enough to simply note that one Protestant here disagrees with another Protestant there as to the exact list of essentials. This unreasonably bypasses the clear essentials that do unite Protestant groups; that one part of a project is difficult or unresolvable does not render the whole difficult or unresolvable.

Additionally, such an appeal is easily overturned with a similar comparison between what one Catholic here claims as the essentials and what one Catholic there otherwise claims as the essentials. If disagreement at the periphery disqualifies any and every attempt to identify essentials, then every religious community must be agnostic as to their nature.

What would be of significance is if Protestants could not even provide a general account. Here, of course, we run into that critical issue of defining our terms--just what is meant by Protestant will greatly affect the outcome of any potential critique along these lines. But I leave it to our theological opponents, should they so desire it, to fill out the rest of the argument.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Answering Muslim attacks on the Bible and Christianity when they use Mark 16:9-20

Recently I was interacting with some Muslims about the longer ending of Mark 16. One Muslim on his web-site says that the longer ending of Mark discredits all of Christianity itself!

Christians are honest about the manuscripts, so that is actually a very positive point about the manuscript evidence of Mark 16:9-20. We have nothing to fear from the archeological and manuscript evidence. The evidence is positive for the OT and NT.

Mark 16:1-8 includes the empty tomb, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which includes the crucifixion and the necessity of His death - so, this is not a strike against Christianity itself. (and solid manuscript evidence of His trial and sufferings and crucifixion and death in Mark chapters 14-15)

6 And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

7"But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'"

8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. " Mark 16:6-8

The fact that the last few verses (Mark 16:6-8), which are not disputed, contains the testimony of the crucifixion, empty tomb, and the resurrection, should stop the mouths of those who want to cast doubt on the rest of Mark and all of Christianity, just because of Mark 16:9-20.

The death and resurrection of Christ are included in the rest of Mark (1:1-16:8), including Jesus' predicting his trial and death and resurrection in chapters 8-9; so it is valid and contradicts the Qur'an denial of real history (the crucifixion and death of Jesus Al Masih) in Surah 4:157.

Islam denies real history - in Surah 4:157, (but believes the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ, which Muslims affirm in Surah 19:19-21; Surah 3:45-48), whereas even liberal and skeptic and unbelieving scholars in the west like John Dominic Crossan, the late Robert Funk, John Shelby Spong, and Bart Ehrman ALL agree that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and died in history under Pontius Pilate, the Romans, and the Jewish council (Caiaphas, Annas, chief priest, scribes, Pharisees, etc.) around 30 AD.

Furthermore, the correct doctrinal content of Mark 16:9-20 is testified to and repeated in Matthew, Luke, John, and Acts. (the resurrection appearances and the Great Commission in 16:15 are in Matthew 28, Luke 24; John 20-21; and Acts chapter 1) The only questions in the Mark passage are about
a. appearing to them in "another form" (that may be another way of talking about Luke 24:13-33 and that they did not recognize Jesus until He opened their eyes.)
b. including baptism as he does in Mark 16:16 - even so, baptism is not included in the condemnation.
c. the part about tongues and snakes. (although God did do a miracle and protected Paul from the snake bite in Acts 28)

The rest of it is all orthodox (correct) in doctrine.

I asked this Muslim, "Have you read Dr. White's discussion of the longer version of Mark (16:9-20) in his book, The King James Only Controversy??" ( pp. 225-227 in the first edition, 1995) (He has a newer edition out which is even better)

Dr. White answers the questions that arise about this passage, and shows the evidence that many manuscripts that do contain the passage.

So, the issues of the longer ending of Mark (16:9-20) in no way takes down the rest of the Scriptures of the NT or the Bible, nor Christianity itself.

There are no real contradictions in the gospels; (they have all been answered) and there is no evolution from Mark to John, etc. That idea of "evolution" of the gospels and "redaction", etc. is an anti-supernatural bias against miracles and against God being able to speak and reveal Himself through prophets and books. Since Islam agrees with the truth of God, monotheism, and that He send prophets and books; Islamic apologists should not use arguments from liberals who operate from the same anti-supernatural bias.

The telescoping and including some details that other Gospels don't; and other writers excluding details are not contradictions, they are actually stronger evidences of a real eyewitness testimony, because if it was the exact same words four times, they would know that there was collusion. (as a detective or policemen know when investigating the historical circumstances of a case.)

In 1993, on a street in Istanbul, Turkey, during the month of Ramadan, one of my Turkish neighbors asked me, "why do you have four gospels? there must only be one Injeel!" (Injeel is the word for "gospel".) As we stood there at the intersection, and he spoke his broken English and I my broken Turkish, other young men began to gather round. I asked him, "what do you think? If there is a car accident here at the intersection; then, in a Turkish court of law, what is better; one witness on one corner, or one witness on each corner, making it four witnesses?" He paused and said, "Doru!" ("that's right!") "Dort tane daha iyi tir!" ("Four of them are better!") Then he explained his new understanding to the other 10-15 or so other young Turks who had gathered around in curiosity. Then he asked me, "I would like an Injeel in Turkish, can you get one for me?" Yes, and I did. He enjoyed reading it in secret for about 3 months. Then his father discovered him reading it, pulled a knife on him (threatening), ripped it up and burned most of it. (he later told me) A few days later, one page of the Turkish NT (Injeel, "Incil" (In Turkish, the letter "c" is a "j" sound) was on my doorstep. It seemed to be a warning - "don't give the Injeel to my son!". My Turkish friend later also told me he was sad, because he enjoyed reading the Injeel; and that Isa Masih (Jesus the Messiah) was the most noble and sinless character he had ever read about. He said the Injeel was very different than what the Mollahs ("Hoca" - Turkish) had said that the Christian Bible was about.

"How shall they hear without a preacher?"