Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Catholic Answers, Let Me Introduce You to: Orthodox Answers

I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that there is a website named, Orthodox Answers.

What is Orthodox Answers

We are a partnership of Orthodox Christians working together to provide sound answers to any questions you may have about the Orthodox Faith. We contribute our time and effort to try and make sure that there are good resources available to those who have questions about Orthodoxy. We hope you can sense the love of God in our work of apologetics.
This website includes answers for (in this order):

Roman Catholics
Evangelicals
Calvinists
Atheists

On the Roman Catholic page appears the following:
We recommend that you take some time to read the stories of people who have converted from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy.  Hearing from those who have been down this same path, working through the same questions and challenges as you, is a powerful witness to the truth of Orthodoxy.  You are definitely not alone in your journey. 

And well, just like Catholic Answers, Orthodox Answers wants to make sure to provide answers to none other than.... James White.  And of course:
We recommend that you take some time to read the stories of people who have converted from Calvinist Protestantism to Orthodoxy.  Hearing from those who have been down this same path, working through the same questions and challenges as you, is a powerful witness to the truth of Orthodoxy.  You are definitely not alone in your journey.

Addendum
Here's an interesting quote from an advocate of Eastern Orthodoxy on the CARM boards:

Many Orthodox love to believe that the RCC is a few cups of coffee away from complete doctrinal unity, but as an ex-RCCer, I know better. The sheer volume of things the RCC would need to repent of at the church level, not to mention the individual level of all her clergy, is staggering. So many truths have been lost, the RCC would have to collectively spend years unlearning what it has invented, and then more years catching up to the Holy Spirit revealed truth. The entire Western concept of salvation would have to be almost completely dismantled. The Catholic Catechism would have to go, along with the Magisterium, the college of cardinals, the jesuits, most of the ministries, and then all of the various errors that have crept in to each of the liberal Catholic churches that have sprouted up across the globe over the past few centuries would have to be dealt with as well. Even the Eastern Catholics would have to unlearn and relearn quite a bit. All of this would have to be entered into prayerfully, fearfully, and reverently. The reintroduction of icons in the West would certainly be a big step and would help immensely with the reeducation part.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 6) The Intercession of Mary

I've been intrigued by the alleged "Mariology" of the Reformers for years because of the argumentation of Roman Catholic apologists. I recently came across Wikipedia's John Calvin's views on Mary entry. I didn't get far into the entry before I came across a few facts that appeared odd. Not everything though in the article is suspect, as will be demonstrated below. Previous entries are as follows:

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 1)

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 2)

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 3) Perpetual Virginity

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 4) Calvin Did Not Refer to Mary as "Mother of God"?

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 5) Immaculate Conception

The wiki article makes some good points on Calvin denying the role of Mary and the saints in salvation. This section from the Wiki article, while not helpfully documented, does demonstrate how different Calvin's views on Mary were as compared to the Roman Church of his day:
Calvin's soteriology was grounded in the belief that Christ alone is sufficient for salvation. He regarded any opposition to this doctrine as "pure defiance",[12] and consequently denied any notion of Mary as a participant in the mystery of salvation. He rejected the Roman Catholic belief that Mary acts as a mediator between man and God as idolatry, since only Christ can fulfill this role.[13] Calvin forbade prayers and supplications to Mary for the same reason, further arguing that praying to the dead is not a practice supported by Scripture.[14]
What's unfortunate is that the documentation is unhelpful. Footnote #12 simply refers to a French phrase. Footnote #13 refers to "Quant a L’intercession de la vierge Marie et des Saincts trespasses, revenez tousiours a ce principe, que cw n’est pas point a nous faire des Advocats in Paradies, mais a dieu, lequel a ordinne Jesus Christ un seul piur tous, Ep 1438, Vol 14,21."  This appears to be a reference to a 1551 letter to Richard Le Fevre. There Calvin states,
Concerning the intercession of the Virgin Mary and departed saints, come back always to this principle, that it is not for us to appoint advocates in paradise, but for God, who has ordained Jesus Christ a single one for all. Also, that our prayers ought to be offered up in faith, and therefore ordered by the word of God, as saith St. Paul in Romans 10. Now, it is certain, that throughout the word of God there is not a single syllable of what they say; wherefore all their prayers are profane and displeasing to him. If they further reply to you, that it is not forbidden to us, the answer is easy: that it is forbidden to us to set about anything according to our own proper fancy, yea, in matters of far less moment; but above all, that prayer is a most high privilege, and too sacred to be directed according to our fantasy. Nay more, they cannot deny that their having recourse to the saints arises from pure distrust that Jesus Christ alone would be sufficient for them.
The later part of the quote discussing prayers to the dead is from a source that's not available to me, Algermissen's article on Calivn in Marienlexikon. Such sentiment from Calvin is easily documented from the Institutes:
When my adversaries, therefore, raise against me the objection that prayers for the dead have been a custom for thirteen hundred years, I ask them, in turn, by what word of God, by what revelation, by what example, is this done? Not only are testimonies of Scripture lacking on this point, but all examples of the saints that one may there read of show no such thing (III.5.10).
The Wiki article goes on to assert:
[Calvin] regarded the Catholic belief that Mary can intercede on behalf of the dead to be "nothing but blasphemy" ("exsecrabilis blasphemia"), on the basis that only God has the authority to determine the amount of grace given to each individual in his divine will. He therefore did not condone praying to Mary for the salvation of dead sinners, as their eternal fate was already sealed long before creation.[14]
The documentation once again refers to Algermissen's article on Calivn in Marienlexikon. It's very possible the reference is to The Articles Agreed Upon by the Faculty of Sacred Theology in Paris (1542). There Calvin states,
For the Sorbonnists, who so often make mention of their herd, (gregis,) have here proved, that they are a herd of swine. That invocation of the Virgin which they have hitherto used in seeking the grace of the Spirit, who sees not to be execrable blasphemy? to say nothing of those titles full of anathema, by which, while they would honor the Virgin, they most grievously insult her, calling her “the Queen of Heaven, and Treasury of Grace.” We hear how Christ tells us, that he will send the Spirit of truth from the Father, and bids us ask in his own name, (John 14:26; 15:26.) This, therefore, is the right rule of asking, and the sure method of obtaining. But to flee to the Virgin, passing by Christ, and in prayer to address her instead of God, who sees not to be a profane practice? It is assuredly altogether alien from the Word of God. Nay, there is extant a Canon of the fourth Council of Carthage, forbidding the invocation of saints at the altar. Here, also they (the Sorbonne) give a still clearer manifestation of their absurdity, when they say that this salutation is prescribed to us by the gospel. It is true, Gabriel was sent, as Luke relates, to salute the Virgin in these terms; but are we Gabriel? When was this ever commanded to us? What access have we to the Virgin, for the purpose of holding conference with her? Besides, why use the salutation at the time when they implore the influence of the Spirit, unless to pervert it into a form of prayer?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 5) Immaculate Conception

I've been intrigued by the alleged "Mariology" of the Reformers for years because of the argumentation of Roman Catholic apologists. I recently came across Wikipedia's John Calvin's views on Mary entry. I didn't get far into the entry before I came across a few facts that appeared odd. I'm going to work through the entry, time allowing. Previous entries are as follows:

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 1)

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 2)

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 3) Perpetual Virginity

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 4) Calvin Did Not Refer to Mary as "Mother of God"?

 Immaculate Conception
The wiki article states, "John Calvin did not accept the doctrine of immaculate conception, considering it conflicted with the aforementioned doctrines and with Romans 3:23 that all have sinned." Roman Catholic writer Peter Stravinskas in a published book states the opposite. Contrary to this, Stravinskas elsewhere states,
Did Calvin have anything specifically positive to say about Mary? Yes, he "commonly speaks of Mary as 'the holy Virgin' (and rarely as simply as 'Mary' preferring 'the Virgin', etc.)." Calvin "rarely depicts Mary expressly as a sinner" although he did object "to her specific exclusion from the reach of original sin by the Council of Trent." At Cana, for instance, Calvin considers the failing (sin) of Mary to have been her desire "to exceed humanity and to make herself an intermediary, which is to forget that grace is totally from God and at His disposal." Bouwsma recounts the charming story that "when Mary rebuked the boy Jesus for His truancy, Calvin apologized for her. 'The weariness of three days was in that complaint,' he explained." It seems that, often enough, Calvin went to particular lengths to assert that "Calvinists are not foes of Mary, but [that] they feel that they have given her true honor, whereas others have taken from God and given to Mary. Throughout Calvin's sermons on the Scriptures, there are occasional references to the dishonor rendered to Mary and to God by her various titles and by Roman theology."
What Stravinskas states above is from a few secondary sources: David Wright, Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989), p. 175; Thomas O'Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology, (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1965) 133; William J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p.123. What all these sources Stravinskas has strung together have in common is they point towards Calvin not being a supporter of Mary's immaculate conception.

Of these sources, the author that delves deeply into Calvin's view of this topic is Thomas O'Meara. He states, "There was no time in Calvin's life when he had any respect for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. He found it unfounded, unscriptural, and unsubstantiated in Christian revelation" (p.131). Unfortunately, O'Meara documents this statement by referring to CR 45, 87-88 which is Calvin's comments on Luke 2:22-23. while Calvin does write on Mary and sin, the statement is not as explicit as O'Meara states:
22. And after that the days were fulfilled. On the fortieth day after the birth, (Leviticus 12:2,4,) the rite of purification was necessary to be performed. But Mary and Joseph come to Jerusalem for another reason, to present Christ to the Lord, because he was the first-born. Let us now speak first of the purification. Luke makes it apply both to Mary and to Christ: for the pronoun aujtw~n, of them, can have no reference whatever to Joseph. But it ought not to appear strange, that Christ, who was to be, made a curse for us on the cross,” (Galatians 3:13,) should, for our benefit, take upon him our uncleanness with respect to legal guilt, though he was “without blemish and without spot,” (1 Peter 1:19.) It ought not, I say, to appear strange, if the fountain of purity, in order to wash away our stains, chose to be reckoned unclean. It is a mistake to imagine that this law of purification was merely political, and that the woman was unclean in presence of her husband, not in presence of God. On the contrary, it placed before the eyes of the Jews both the corruption of their nature, and the remedy of divine grace.

This law is of itself abundantly sufficient to prove original sin, while it contains a striking proof of the grace of God. for there could not be a clearer demonstration of the curse pronounced on mankind than when the Lord declared, that the child comes from its mother unclean and polluted, and that the mother herself is consequently defiled by childbearing. Certainly, if man were not born a sinner, if he were not by nature a child of wrath, (Ephesians 2:3) if some taint of sin did not dwell in him, he would have no need of purification. Hence it follows, that all are corrupted in Adam; for the mouth of the Lord charges all with pollution.

It is in perfect consistency with this, that the Jews are spoken of, in other passages, as “holy branches of a holy root,” (Romans 11:16:) for this benefit did not properly belong to their own persons. They had been set apart, by the privilege of adoption, as an elect people; but the corruption, which they had by inheritance from Adam, was first in the order of time We must, therefore, distinguish between the first nature, and that special kindness through a covenant, by which God delivers his own people from the curse which had been pronounced on all. And the design of legal purification was to inform the Jews, that the pollutions, which they brought with them into the world at their birth, are washed away by the grace of God. Hence too we ought to learn, how dreadful is the contagion of sin, which defiles, in some measure, the lawful order of nature. I do own that childbearing is not unclean, and that what would otherwise be lust changes its character, through the sacredness of the marriage relation. But still the fountain of sin is so deep and abundant, that its constant overflowings stain what would otherwise be pure.
Some Roman Catholics may find Calvin's use of the phrase "holy virgin" an indicator of the immaculate conception. Rather O'Meara explains Calvin's view:
Sanctification signifies choice and separation, which take place in us when we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit in a newness of life. From the moment when we first touch Christ we live in the body of Christ, and Christ lives in us, or better, we live by his spirit.Separation for the work of God made Mary holy; her important role in the kingdom of God made her virtuous. She was, nevertheless, no different in justification and sanctity from any other Christian. She was given no special graces; there was no immaculate conception. Mary is privileged just as every man whom God justifies is privileged. Calvin's exegesis of the angel's words, "full of grace," brings forth a relative fullness. "Stephen was full of grace too (Acts 6:8). Christ alone has a complete fullness. Mary's grace is her approval by God for her faith, and this grace is a pure gift of God who does not consider persons when he bestows grace." Elsewhere Calvin notes Mary's dependence upon Christ for grace; she has nothing of her own. "It is certain that Mary cannot find grace before God without the Head [Christ]. She needs Christ as her redeemer as much as we do." Mary's grace came when she believed, not when she conceived, and her privilege of being the Mother of the Lord did not cause a more profound and complete sanctification. One aspect of Mary's sanctity is her mission among men. The secrets of Christ's birth were given to her so that she might tell the Apostles and tell us of the great mercy of God. The angel's words were addressed to Mary, but it is incorrect to see them as describing her, for they were addressed to all of us through Mary. Her blessedness among women exists because through her all women too will be blessed in learning of the salvation which has come (pp. 131-132).
O'Meara goes on to point out a specific example where Calvin may have attributed sin to Mary: "The particular sin which Calvin imputes to Mary (is it a sin, since Calvin says "she did not knowingly and willingly offend"?) is sufficient indication that the reformer of Geneva would eliminate any notion of Mary's special co-operation in the redemption of man and in the office of mediator. That precisely is her only error: to place herself between man and God. How often in the volumes of his works Calvin repeats the demand that Christ be the sole Mediator" (p. 133-134). O'Meara is referring to Calvin's comment on John 2:4-
4. Woman, what have I to do with thee? Why does Christ repel her so rashly? I reply, though she was not moved by ambition, nor by any carnal affection, still she did wrong in going beyond her proper bounds. Her anxiety about the inconvenience endured by others, and her desire to have it in some way mitigated, proceeded from humanity, and ought to be regarded as a virtue; but still, by putting herself forward, she might obscure the glory of Christ. Though it ought also to be observed, that what Christ spoke was not so much for her sake as for the sake of others. Her modesty and piety were too great, to need so severe a chastisement. Besides, she did not knowingly and willingly offend; but Christ only meets the danger, that no improper use may be made of what his mother had said, as if it were in obedience to her command that he afterwards performed the miracle.
The Greek words literally mean, What to me and to thee? But the Greek phraseology is of the same import with the Latin — Quid tibi mecum? (what hast thou to do with me?) The old translator led many people into a mistake, by supposing Christ to have asserted, that it was no concern of his, or of his mother’s, if the wine fell short. But from the second clause we may easily conclude how far removed this is from Christ’s meaning; for he takes upon himself this concern, and declares that it belongs to him to do so, when he adds, my hour is not yet come. Both ought to be joined together — that Christ understands what it is necessary for him to do, and yet that he will not act in this matter at his mother’s suggestion.
It is a remarkable passage certainly; for why does he absolutely refuse to his mother what he freely granted afterwards, on so many occasions, to all sorts of persons? Again, why is he not satisfied with a bare refusal? and why does he reduce her to the ordinary rank of women, and not even deign to call her mother? This saying of Christ openly and manifestly warns men to beware lest, by too superstitiously elevating the honor of the name of mother in the Virgin Mary, they transfer to her what belongs exclusively to God. Christ, therefore, addresses his mother in this manner, in order to lay down a perpetual and general instruction to all ages, that his divine glory must not be obscured by excessive honor paid to his mother. How necessary this warning became, in consequence of the gross and disgraceful superstitions which followed afterwards, is too well known. For Mary has been constituted the Queen of Heaven, the Hope, the Life, and the Salvation of the world; and, in short, their fury and madness proceeded so far that they stripped Christ of his spoils, and left him almost naked. And when we condemn those horrid blasphemies against the Son of God, the Papists call us malignant and envious; and — what is worse — they maliciously slander us as deadly foes to the honor of the holy Virgin. As if she had not all the honor that is due to her, unless she were made a Goddess; or as if it were treating her with respect, to adorn her with blasphemous titles, and to substitute her in the room of Christ. The Papists, therefore, offer a grievous insult to Mary when, in order to disfigure her by false praises, they take from God what belongs to Him.
One final example that perhaps clearly affirms Calvin did not support Mary's immaculate conception comes from a statement he made about the sixth session of the Council of Trent:
CANON 23.
We condemn those who affirm that a man once justified cannot sin, and likewise those who deny that the truly justified ever fall: those in like manner who assert that a man regenerated by the Spirit of God is able to abstain even from the least sins. These are the delirious dreams of fanatics, who either with devilish arrogance deceive, or with hypocrisy fascinate the minds of men, or plot to lead them to the precipice of despair. As to the special privilege of the Virgin Mary, when they produce the celestial diploma we shall believe what they say: for to what do they here give the name of the Church, but just to the Council of Clermont? Augustine was certainly a member of the Church, and though he in one passage chooses, in order to avoid obloquy, rather to be silent respecting the blessed Virgin, he uniformly, without making her an exception, describes the Whole race of Adam as involved in sin. Nay, he even almost in distinct terms classes her among sinners, when writing to Marcellinus, he says, They err greatly who hold that any of the saints except Christ require not to use this prayer, “Forgive us our debts.” In so doing, they by no means please the saints whom they laud. Chrysostom and Ambrose, who suspect her of having been tempted by ambition, were members of the Church. All these things I mention for no other end but to let my readers understand that there is no figment so nugatory as not to be classed by these blockheads among the Articles of Faith.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 4) Calvin Did Not Refer to Mary as "Mother of God"?

I've been intrigued by the alleged "Mariology" of the Reformers for years because of the argumentation of Roman Catholic apologists. I recently came across Wikipedia's John Calvin's views on Mary entry. I didn't get far into the entry before I came across a few facts that appeared odd. I'm going to work through the entry, time allowing. Previous entries are as follows:

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 1)

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 2)

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 3) Perpetual Virginity

Mother of God
The article contains a section on Calvin and the phrase Mother of God: "It has been argued that Mary was, in Calvin's view, properly called the Mother of God." This time, the Wiki article does an adequate job with some of the facts, but never arrives at an actual conclusion as to Calvin properly calling Mary the Mother of God. Calvin's use (or lack thereof) is an interesting topic, particularly as it relates to Roman Catholic apologetics.

Calvin's comments on Luke 1:43 are most frequently cited by Roman apologists.  There Calvin mentions Elizabeth calls Mary "the mother of her Lord." To demonstrate how popular this comment from Calvin is within Romanism, note but a few examples. Citing this reference, John Pasquini states in his books Catholic Answers to Protestant Questions and True Christianity the Catholic Way, "Even John Calvin recognized the reality of Mary as the Mother of God!" EWTN hosts a webpage that states, "The French reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) also held that Mary was the Mother of God." The oft-quoted web article, The Protestant Reformers On Mary uses it. Roman apologist Scott Windsor has an article with the same Calvin quote. One Roman apologist cites Calvin's comment on Luke 1:43 as proof that,
"...anti-Marianism runs strong in Protestant circles, in reaction to what they perceive as an 'excessive Mariology' in the Catholic Church. So they become downright irrational in their opposition to 'Mother of God.' This opposition, however, is not intrinsic to Protestantism, since early Protestant leaders Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Bullinger all used the term 'Mother of God' (or at least described the same concept in slightly different terms)."
These Roman Catholic documents make bold assertions in regard to Calvin's comments on Luke 1:43. Keep in mind, in the context of Calvin's comments, the phrase "Mother of God" is not used. In fact, when Calvin states, "She calls Mary the mother of her Lord" the comment is simply the biblical phrase Calvin is going to comment on. That is, in Calvin's commentaries he picks a particular biblical phrase and then comments. Here's how Calvin's commentary on Luke 1:43 looks in context, as produced in my electronic version:

43. And whence is this to me? The happy medium observed by Elisabeth is worthy of notice. She thinks very highly of the favors bestowed by God on Mary, and gives them just commendation, but yet does not praise them more highly than was proper, which would have been a dishonor to God. For such is the native depravity of the world, that there are few persons who are not chargeable with one of these two faults. Some, delighted beyond measure with themselves, and desirous to shine alone, enviously despise the gifts of God in their brethren; while others praise them in so superstitious a manner as to convert them into idols. The consequence has been, that the first rank is assigned to Mary, and Christ is lowered as it were to the footstool. Elisabeth, again, while she praises her, is so far from hiding the Divine glory, that she ascribes everything to God. And yet, though she acknowledges the superiority of Mary to herself and to others, she does not envy her the higher distinction, but modestly declares that she had obtained more than she deserved.

She calls Mary the mother of her Lord. This denotes a unity of person in the two natures of Christ; as if she had said, that he who was begotten a mortal man in the womb of Mary is, at the same time, the eternal God. For we must bear in mind, that she does not speak like an ordinary woman at her own suggestion, but merely utters what was dictated by the Holy Spirit. This name Lord strictly belongs to the Son of God “manifested in the flesh,” (1 Timothy 3:16,) who has received from the Father all power, and has been appointed the highest ruler of heaven and earth, that by his agency God may govern all things. Still, he is in a peculiar manner the Lord of believers, who yield willingly and cheerfully to his authority; for it is only of “his body” that he is “the head,” (Ephesians 1:22, 23.) And so Paul says, “though there be lords many, yet to us,” that is, to the servants of faith, “there is one Lord,” (1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.) By mentioning the sudden movement of the babe which she carried in her womb, (ver. 44,) as heightening that divine favor of which she is speaking, she unquestionably intended to affirm that she felt something supernatural and divine.

In some English translations of Calvin's commentaries, the particular biblical Phrase Calvin is going to comment on is highlighted is some sense, usually by being italicized. One need only read Calvin's explanation of the text that he isn't concerned with securing the popular phrase "Mother of God."

The key argument though to Calvin's opinion on the title "Mother of God" is not found in this simple passing commentary of Luke 1:43. Rather, it's found in a letter Calvin wrote September 27, 1552 to the French Church in London. They had written to him and asked, "Is it lawful to call Mary the Mother of God?" Calvin responds,
Concerning the other debatable points, I doubt not but there may have been somewhat of ignorance in their reproving the way of speaking of the Virgin Mary as the mother of God, and together with ignorance, it is possible that there may have been rashness and too much forwardness, for, as the old proverb says, The most ignorant are ever the boldest. However, to deal with you with brotherly frankness, I cannot conceal that that title being commonly attributed to the Virgin in sermons is disapproved, and, for my own part I cannot think such language either right, or becoming, or suitable. Neither will any sober-minded people do so, for which reason I cannot persuade myself that there is any such usage in your church, for it is just as if you were to speak of the blood, of the head, and of the death of God. You know that the Scriptures accustom us to a different style; but there is something still worse about this particular instance, for to call the Virgin Mary the mother of God, can only serve to confirm the ignorant in their superstitions. And he that would take a pleasure in that, shews clearly that he knows not what it is to edify the Church.
This comment clearly expresses what Calvin thought of the title "Mother of God." The Wiki article goes on to mention,"Calvin never explicitly refers to Mary as the 'Mother of God'." I found this assertion rather unbelievable, but as I've sifted through my collection of Calvin's writings, I've yet to find Calvin using the phrase. Roman Catholic writer Thomas O'Meara mentions this lack of usage is sometimes used to prove Calvin was "a Nestorian in disguise." He states, "One reason for this which is commonly advanced is that Calvin nowhere calls Mary Theotokos, or the Mother of God."  He mentions Calvin does write at one point, "Mother of the Son of God." Ultimately, O'Meara arrives at the same letter from 1552 and states, "The reason for his hesitancy [to use "Mother of God"] seems to be based upon a fear of falling into what he saw as the excesses of the past."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Witnessing to some Muslims online (Part 1)

I have been witnessing and interacting with some Muslims on line recently, at Paul Bilal Williams blog.
Interesting that Paul Williams then grabbed a few "choice quotes" and says that they "go to the heart of the matter".  Indeed, the heart of the matter is the human heart, which is full of sin(Genesis 6:5), in bondage to sin(John 8:34), and causes us to be unclean and defiled, and is the root of sin and causes us to be guilty enough to be sent to hell.  Jesus said this in Matthew 5:21-26 (the roots of murder are anger and hatred); Matthew 5:27-30 (the roots of adultery are sexual lust) and Mark 7:20-23 (the roots of all sins are the evil thoughts within the heart.)

Here is some of it reproduced below, with 3 (or 4) Muslims, Muhammad Al-Hakeem, Abbas, and Erik, and also some one who goes by "Semsav12"   - with some editorial changes for space reasons.  There are some things I took out and some things I added, but the ideas were from other sections of our exchange, in order to make it understandable.  Feel free to visit the link above and see other details and more interaction in the com-boxes.  I am not reproducing everything here.



.    Muhammad Al- Hakeem wrote:

.     
.    Not to mention that God’s true love, justice and mercy is about simply forgiving those who sincerely repented;



Ken writes: 
You assume that humans can sincerely repent. (without the grace of God in regeneration) Romans 3:9-23 – there is no one who is sincere and no one seeks for God and no one has perfect repentance. Not committing physical adultery is not enough; for you have selfish lusts in your heart. (Matthew 5:27-30) And that lust sends you to hell. Isa Al Masih said this. Not committing actual murder is not enough, for you have hatred and anger in your heart, and that anger and hatred sends you to hell. (Matthew 5:21-26) That anger and hatred sends you to hell. The roots of sin are in the thoughts, and motives in the heart. (Mark 7:20-23) External washings cannot cleanse your heart of your jealousy, pride, selfishness, lust, anger, self-pity, foolishness, rancor, bitterness. God does not wink at sin. You denigrate the holiness of God. Forgiveness was based on the sacrifice/atonement in the Torah and Old Testament. Why do you think God set up the sacrificial system in the book of Exodus and Leviticus? Why did God substitute an innocent ram in the place of Abraham’s son? (Genesis 22) Yahya [the Arabic Qur'anic form for John the Baptist]  said and about Jesus (Isa Al Masih), “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)



Muhammad Al-Hakeem:  not by making the [cross/atonement/Christ's sacrifice] only way to wipe out sin –


The Scriptures are clear – Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. Hebrews 9:22  [see also 1 John 2:2; Revelation 5:9] The whole book of Hebrews, especially chapters 8, 9, and 10 explain how Christ’s death was the final sacrifice and final atonement for sin, and fulfillment of the sacrificial system in the Torah and Old Testament.


and not by punishing an innocent man (only the human nature died, as you claim) for the sins of billions of other sinners.
.     
This sentence is understandable and an objection to the Christian message from an Islamic viewpoint, ok. Since we believe that the Son voluntarily came and became flesh and voluntarily gave His life out of love for mankind, it is wrong for you to keep communicating what we believe without the aspect of voluntary love for sinners. Jesus said, “no one takes My life from Me, I lay it down voluntarily on my own authority and initiative. I have authority to lay it down and take it up again. (John 10:18)

 
I used to be quite curious about and respecting of the famous Christian “God is Love” statement, until I knew what it really is about. I now don’t know how much “love” can really be attributed to the Christian God. Please stop deceiving people.



Do you even know where the phrase “God is love” is located? I would encourage you to actually read and study it and think about it. It actually explains all the details. 

1 John 4:7-21 is the full paragraph that answers many of the questions and objections you have. 

Then read the entire book of 1 John (5 short chapters) slowly with aql (عقل = mind, reason, thinking) and ta'amoq (تعمق = deep thought)  and tafakkor. ( تفکر  = meditation ) 


7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only unique Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [satisfaction of justice/ turning away of wrath] for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.


Abbas wrote:
Your people saw the crucifixing from afar. That is what the Quran is saying that is a conjecture. Why didn’t they go close to witness it first hand?


         John(an apostle/disciple and eye-witness), Mary, Jesus’ Mother, and other women were close and witnessed the crucifixion. You left out that part that I gave you – John chapter 19. Since Mark wrote for Peter, we can conclude that Peter was further back, but close enough to witness it; same with Matthew, who was an eyewitness. Luke interviewed Mary and the rest of the apostles/disciples/ eyewitnesses. There are so many details of the trials, arrest, crucifixion, resurrection in all four gospels that you cannot just dismiss them. At first, when they arrested Jesus, the disciples fled out of fear that they would be arrested also. But the text says that Peter came back and followed at a distance. I already gave you all the references. There are so many details of the crucifixion in all four gospels, and in other historical writings, that it is the Qur’an that has been proven to be false in 4:157. 

.     

Erik wrote that the crucifixion and the Father punishing the Son was "child abuse" - "stop cosmic child abuse"


It is not child abuse if the Son voluntarily out of love for human sinners gave His life because He wanted to (John 10:18; Mark 10:45); and the victory of the resurrection over death and sin and Satan shows that God won the victory by humility and love and power – the power of allowing someone to defeat you – by not fighting back or taking vengeance/revenge. When you leave out the love and voluntarily aspect and when you leave out the victory and power of the resurrection, you distort the Christian message. 


So, Paul, your selective choosing of a few statements was not a good Da’awah.


Lord willing, more to come. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Doing evil that good may result


The gunmen have devastated this Christian monastery, taken away the church vessels, blown up the bell tower, and destroyed the chancel and the font, the Monastery's Abbot Gadir Ibrahim reported on Saturday.
On top of all that, according to the Abbot, they have demolished the statue of the Old Testament Prophet who is venerated in Syria by both Christians and Muslims.
(Source)

 I'm sure they didn't mean to, but the opposition did everyone in the region a favor, spiritually speaking, unwittingly preventing them from incurring further condemnation upon themselves.


2 Kings 18:1-5
Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 3) Perpetual Virginity

I've been intrigued by the alleged "Mariology" of the Reformers for years because of the argumentation of Roman Catholic apologists. I recently came across Wikipedia's John Calvin's views on Mary entry. I didn't get far into the entry before I came across a few facts that appeared odd. I'm going to work through the entry, time allowing. Previous entries are as follows:

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 1)

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 2)

My guess is that this is someone's term paper, and they decided to post it on Wikipedia. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but in this instance it serves as reminder to be careful with the information found on Wikipedia. Rather than being an informative source of knowledge on Calvin, the entry serves as a reminder to check facts.

Here's another odd fact from the Wiki entry:

In the Genevan Catechism, Calvin writes of Mary that she gave birth to Jesus through the Holy Spirit without the participation of any man, and hence he held her to be a virgin during her pregnancy and rejects the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin, citing flexibility in the terms used.[4] Likewise, he argues that in Matthew 1:25 ("[Joseph] knew her [Mary] not till she had brought forth her firstborn son") the term "firstborn" and the conjunction "till" certainly contradict the doctrine of perpetual virginity.[5]
Footnotes
[4] Calvin. "Commentary on Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3". Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 2. Retrieved 2009-01-07. "The word brothers, we have formerly mentioned, is employed, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, to denote any relatives whatever; and, accordingly, Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s brothers are sometimes mentioned."
[5] Calvin. "Commentary on Matthew 1:25". Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 1. Retrieved 2009-01-07. "Let us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called first-born; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin. It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time. What took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us. Such is well known to have been the practice of the inspired writers. Certainly, no man will ever raise a question on this subject, except from curiosity; and no man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation."
The Genevan Catechism appears to say something different than Mary "gave birth to Jesus through the Holy Spirit without the participation of any man, and hence he held her to be a virgin during her pregnancy and rejects the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin, citing flexibility in the terms used." I utilized a 1538 version. Perhaps the author of the Wiki article had a later revision?

The Catechism states:
He was born of the Virgin Mary that he might be recognized as the true son of Abraham and David, who had been promised in the Law and the Prophets; as the true man, like us in all things, save only sin, who having been tried by all our infirmities learned to bear with them. Yet that same one was conceived in the Virgin's womb by the wonderful and ineffable (to us) power of the Holy Spirit, that he might not be fouled by any physical corruption, but might be born sanctified with the highest purity.
The Catechism mentions the work of the Holy Spirit, but it doesn't explicitly say "without the participation of any man" nor does it explicitly say "he held her to be a virgin during her pregnancy." Certainly these statements are not contradictory to that expressed in the Catechism. It appears though whoever wrote this entry had some of Calvin's other comments in mind. This is best shown that in the Catechism, Calvin does not comment on his rejection of "the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin, citing flexibility in the terms used." Rather, the Wiki entry seems to be getting this from that cited in footnote #4, which is Calvin's comment on Matthew 13:55.

The notion that Calvin rejected the perpetual virginity of Mary "citing flexibility in the terms used" isn't quite correct. If one compares Calvin's comments on Matthew 13:55 with those on Matthew 1:25, Calvin's position is that the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards to Mary. Calvin calls it “folly” at one point, when describing those who wish to make a text say more than it does. Those who would make a necessary inference where the Gospel writer has only made a possible inference engage in folly (according to Calvin). In other words, he doesn't conclude if she was a perpetual virgin or not.

Similarly, the Wiki article states, "Likewise, he argues that in Matthew 1:25 ('[Joseph] knew her [Mary] not till she had brought forth her firstborn son') the term 'firstborn' and the conjunction 'till' certainly contradict the doctrine of perpetual virginity," citing Calvin's comment on Matthew 1:25. Calvin's comment, "It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time" could be construed to deny the perpetual virginity of Mary, but, he clarifies his comment by saying that the Scriptures don't give us information as to what happened afterward. I certainly would enjoy a clear statement from Calvin rejecting perpetual virginity, but Calvin's comment here certainly isn't it.

What's also odd about the Wiki entry is that earlier it states, "Calvin shows a decidedly positive view of Mary, and he did not hold to a number of the Protestant views on her that became common after the Reformation." One would think that the author of this Wiki entry would have argued that Calvin held to the perpetual virginity of Mary (as many Roman Catholics do, citing the same evidence). The entry then presents some interesting comments from Calvin:
At the same time, Calvin argues that the claims that Mary took a vow of perpetual virginity in Luke 1:34 ("How shall this be, since I know not a man?") is "unfounded and altogether absurd," and moreover he says that, had she taken such a vow, "[s]he would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and would have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage...."[6] Although Algermissen suggests that Calvin believed that Mary in this verse looked into the future and recognized, that in light of this special grace, any contact with a man would be excluded for her,[7] this interpretation takes an objection Calvin is refuting in his commentary and makes it his own position.[8]
 Footnotes
 6) Calvin. "Commentary on Luke 1:34". Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke 1. Retrieved 2009-01-07. "The conjecture which some have drawn from these words ['How shall this be, since I know not a man?'], that she had formed a vow of perpetual virginity, is unfounded and altogether absurd. She would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and would have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage; which could not have been done without mockery of God. Although the Papists have exercised barbarous tyranny on this subject, yet they have never proceeded so far as to allow the wife to form a vow of continence at her own pleasure. Besides, it is an idle and unfounded supposition that a monastic life existed among the Jews."
7)Algermissen 6418) Calvin. "Commentary on Luke 1:34". Harmony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke 1. Retrieved 2009-01-07. "We must reply, however, to another objection, that the virgin refers to the future, and so declares that she will have no intercourse with a man."
 Here again with these comments, one would be strongly tempted to say Calvin denied the perpetual virginity of Mary. One could probably read between the lines and conclude this. However, Calvin still doesn't come right out and say it. In fact, if one reads the context of that cited in footnote #8, it becomes apparent that the subject of perpetual virginity isn't to be considered, one way or the other, in Luke 1:34:
We must reply, however, to another objection, that the virgin refers to the future, and so declares that she will have no intercourse with a man. The probable and simple explanation is, that the greatness or rather majesty of the subject made so powerful an impression on the virgin, that all her senses were bound and locked up in astonishment. When she is informed that the Son of God will be born, she imagines something unusual, and for that reason leaves conjugal intercourse out of view. Hence she breaks out in amazement, How shall this be? And so God graciously forgives her, and replies kindly and gently by the angel, because, in a devout and serious manner, and with admiration of a divine work, she had inquired how that would be, which, she was convinced, went beyond the common and ordinary course of nature. In a word, this question was not so contrary to faith, because it arose rather from admiration than from distrust.   
One thing is quite certain from Calvin's comments on Mary and perpetual virginity. Those Roman apologists that think Calvin held to the perpetual virginity of Mary haven't read these comments from Calvin closely.  One typical argument is the appeal to authority: that certain Calvin scholars say Calvin believed in Mary's perpetual virginity. Certainly the opinions of scholars are helpful, but this appears to me to be the same sort of situation that occurred when Rome's defenders try to argue Luther had a lifelong commitment to the immaculate conception. The evidence that the scholars use must be evaluated.