Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Alister McGrath on Augustine and Justification

Those of you that read this blog probably realize I’m interested in citations and sources. One of the most curious sources that I’ve found used by Roman Catholics is Alister McGrath’s book Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. McGrath is quoted as follows:

A fundamental discontinuity was introduced into the western theological tradition where none had ever existed, or ever been contemplated, before. The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification ­ as opposed to its mode ­ must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum." (Alister McGrath - Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. Vol. I. .....Pg. 186)

The point being made by this quote via Catholic apologists is that the Protestant understanding of justification was unknown in church history previous to the Reformation. Further, it is not a Roman Catholic saying this, it is Alister McGrath, a well respected Protestant theologian. The argument also implicitly assumes the Roman Church has always taught the same thing on justification. This similar quote was cited by another Roman apologist:

Whereas Augustine taught that the sinner is made righteous in justification, Melanchthon taught that he is counted as righteous or pronounced to be righteous. For Augustine, 'justifying righteousness' is imparted; for Melanchthon, it is imputed in the sense of being declared or pronounced to be righteous. Melanchthon drew a sharp distinction between the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous, designating the former 'justification' and the latter 'sanctification' or 'regeneration.' For Augustine, these were simply different aspects of the same thing . . . The importance of this development lies in the fact that it marks a complete break with the teaching of the church up to that point. From the time of Augustine onwards, justification had always been understood to refer to both the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous. Melanchthon's concept of forensic justification diverged radically from this. As it was taken up by virtually all the major reformers subsequently, it came to represent a standard difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic from then on. In addition to differences regarding how the sinner was justified, there was now an additional disagreement on what the word 'justification' designated in the first place. The Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic church's definitive response to the Protestant challenge, reaffirmed the views of Augustine on the nature of justification, and censured the views of Melanchthon as woefully inadequate . . . the concept of forensic justification actually represents a development in Luther's thought . . . .(Alister McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993, 108-109; emphasis in original)

Note what the quote said, "From the time of Augustine onwards, justification had always been understood to refer to both the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous."

There are a few things that should be pointed out about Alister McGrath and his explanation of Augustine and justification, which I'd like to reference from Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. This book is his magnum opus on the topic of justification.

Historically, one can make a case that Augustine didn't know Greek and the entire direction of the Church was redirected away from what the Bible means by justification. Commenting on a point made by Alister McGrath, R.C. Sproul notes, “McGrath sees Augustine’s treatment of justification as pivotal to the subsequent development of the doctrine of justification in the Roman Catholic Church..." Sproul then quotes Mcgrath:
Augustine understands the verb iustificare to mean ‘to make righteous,’ an understanding of the term which he appears to have held throughout his working life. In arriving at this understanding, he appears to have interpreted -ficare as the unstressed form of facere, by analogy with vivificare and mortificare. Although this is a permissible interpretation of the Latin word, it is unacceptable as an interpretation of the Hebrew concept which underlies it. [R.C. Sproul, Faith Alone : The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification, (Grand Rapids: Baker books, 1999), 99].
In other words, McGrath is saying that Augustine misunderstood the term justification. He used it in its Latin sense, not in a Hebrew sense. Since he didn't know Greek, how could Augustine arrive at an accurate interpretation? McGrath goes onto say:
The term iustificare is, or course, post-classical, having been introduced through the Latin translation of the bible, and thus restricted to Christian writers of the Latin west. Augustine was thus unable to turn to classical authors in an effort to clarrify its meraning, and was thus obliged to interpret the term himself. His establishment of a relationship between iustificare and iustitia is of enormous significance, as will become clear[Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 31].
McGrath also points out:
[For Augustine]...[t]he righteousness which man thus receives, although originating from God, is nevertheless located within man, and can be said to be his, part of his being and intrinsic to his person. An element which underlies this understanding of the nature of justifying righteousness is the Greek concept of deification, which makes its appearance in the later Augustinian soteriology [Ibid, 31-32].
McGrath notes in his introduction,
As we begin our study of the development of the Christian doctrine of justification, it is necessary to observe that the early theologians of the western church were dependent upon Latin versions of the Bible, and approached their texts and their subject with a set of presuppositions which owed more to the Latin language and culture than to Christianity itself. The initial transference of a Hebrew concept to a Greek, and subsequently to a Latin, context point to a fundamental alteration in the concept of 'justification' and 'righteousness' as the gospel spread from its Palestinian source to the western world [Ibid, 15].
What conclusions can be made?

First, one must wonder about unquestioned Roman Catholic allegiance to Augustine’s understanding of the term justification. They’re putting all their chips with a guy who didn’t know Hebrew (or Greek on level needed to do Biblical exegesis), and simply used private interpretation to arrive at his etymological understanding.

Second, was Augustine’s view a “theological novum” (a favorite phrase Roman Catholics culled from McGrath)? Who previous to Augustine understood the term the way he did? Consider what McGrath notes: "The pre-Augustinian theological tradition, however, may be regarded as having taken a highly questionable path in its articulation of the doctrine of justification in the face of pagan opposition" [ibid. 18-19]. McGrath mentions that "For the first three hundred and fifty years of the history of the church, her teaching on justification was inchoate and ill-defined"[ Ibid. 23]. So, where is Augustine's view in the early church?

Third, McGrath notes that "...Tertullian has frequently been singled out as the thinker who shackled the theology of the western church to a theology of 'works' and 'merit'..." but notes the blame for this is probably due to the "Latin language itself" [Ibid. 14]. In other words, the concept of merit that means "to be worthy of something" is a Latin meaning, not a Greek meaning. This concept was linked to the word iustitia previous to Augustine. On what basis does a Roman Catholic pick Augustine as interpreting the Bible correctly, rather than the pre-Augustinian theology?

Fourth, that there was a great ambiguity as to what exactly "justification" was even at Trent is documented by Alister McGrath:"The Council of Trent was faced with a group of formidable problems as it assembled to debate the question of justification in June 1546. The medieval period had witnessed the emergence of a number of quite distinct schools of thought on justification, clearly incompatible at points, all of which could lay claim to represent the teaching of the Catholic church." [Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (New York: Cambridge University Press, 259)]. McGrath goes on to point out "...[T]here was considerable disagreement in the immediate post-Tridentine period concerning the precise interpretation of the decretum de iustificatione" [ibid. 268]. In other words, even after Trent made its decree on Justification, Catholics were confused as to how to interpret it!

Fifth, one must question the infallibility of Trent who "reaffirmed" Augustine's view, when Augustine put forth a misinterpretation of a Hebrew concept, and also put forth a "theological novum".

Sixth, there is also the problem of Roman Catholic apologetic double standards. The Roman Catholic apologists assume Trent was following the tradition of the church, and there was no teaching of “faith alone” previous to Luther. In other words, Luther invented “justification by faith alone”. It didn’t exist until Luther. It can’t be verified in church history. It can’t be true. On the other hand, when the same historical standard is applied to certain Roman Catholic dogmas, like Mary’s Bodily Assumption, Purgatory, Indulgences, etc., this same historical standard is swept under the rug and hidden. One has to seriously question why a standard that Catholic apologists hold Protestants to is not likewise applied to their own beliefs. Wade through the corridors of church history and search for the threads of all Roman Catholic dogma. One falls flat of linking many of them back to the early church, or in some instances, even the Bible.

Now some of you may think that all I've done here is point out this historical debate between Roman Catholics and Protestants is at a standstill. This might sound shocking, but in my opinion, it really ultimately doesn't matter if I were to conclude that sola fide finds no support in any of the Early Church Fathers. Sola Fide is based on grammatical and exegetical work on the Biblical text, not on the testimony of history. In speaking of the word iustificari, McGrath notes: "...[I]t would appear that the Greek verb has the primary sense of being considered or estimated as righteous, whereas the Latin verb denotes being righteous, the reason why one is considered righteous by others. Although the two are clearly related, they have quite distinct points of reference" [Ibid. 15].

Guest Blog: The Purpose Driven Life – A Review

by Frank Marron (Lutheran)

Summary: Although the book The Purpose Driven Life (TPDL) begins well by insisting the purpose of life is not about man but rather God, author Rick Warren devotes the entire book on how to improve the spiritual life of people, similar to any self-help book. Rather than emphasizing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what God has accomplished in His Son, Warren presents over 160 legalistic rules by which men can obtain and live a victorious “purpose-driven” Christian life. In reality, TPDL offers nothing more than the repetition of ancient heresies and false teachings which sparked the 16th century Reformation. St Paul addressed similar heresies when he wrote his letter to the Galatians and which have continued to plague the Christian faith throughout history. The book is written from an Arminian or semi-Pelagian theological viewpoint, rather than orthodox Christianity as found in the bible. The author illustrates the system of theology known as Theology of Glory(TG), which is the exact opposite of the Christocentric system referred to as Theology of the Cross(TC). The bible is centered in the works of God as shown in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, not the works of man. However, author Rick Warren devotes his entire treatise on convincing readers that they need to perform good works in order to ensure their status in heaven. Warren maintains that all men have free will and our acceptance by God is based upon our choices and obedience to God’s will. This is a throwback to the heresies of Medieval Roman Catholicism confronted by Martin Luther. Readers of TPDL are not pointed to Christ as their Righteousness, but instead are directed to dedicating themselves to “40 days of purpose”.

One of the most popular books in Christian bookstores is The Purpose Driven Life (TPDL) by author Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California. Even secular authorities, including President George Bush, have praised the insights of author Rick Warren. Many news reporters have seen fit to interview this highly successful writer. After all, TPDL has sold upwards of 25 million copies worldwide, an incredible accomplishment by any standard. I will attempt to provide insights as to why this book is so successful and whether it is in conflict or harmony with basic Christian doctrine as found in the Scriptures, as rediscovered during the 16th century Reformation in Germany.

Merely reading through TPDL shows it’s appeal to the masses. It is well written and appeals to the logic and common sense of the average person. All well written self-help books are always successful in the marketplace and Zondervan Publishing is certainly capitalizing on this fact in their sponsorship of TPDL. Basic Christian doctrine asserts that everyone is born in spiritual depravity having absolutely no inclination to love, trust, and obey the true God as revealed in Holy Scripture(Ps 51:5;Rom 3:23;5:12). St Paul refers to this basic degenerate nature within each of us as the “Old Man” or “Old Adam”, inherited from the original Adam(Col 3:9;Eph 4:22;Rom 6:6). This sinful, prideful, and arrogant nature remains within all men throughout their earthly lives. The reason for the overwhelming success of TPDL is that it appeals to the Old Adam within each of us. The Old Adam is delighted in hearing that there is a purpose to his life and that by focusing on finding and fulfilling that purpose he can have fellowship with God. This book is a repetition of the Galatian heresy, where St Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia and lamented:

Galatians 3:1-3
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. [2] Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? [3] Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

The basic human nature in Adam is to believe that man has to do something to please God. The fifth century heresy of Pelagius taught that man is not totally corrupt and can be saved by an act of his will. This theological error continued throughout history with notable adherents such as Jacob Arminius, Charles Finney, and modern Evangelicals such as Billy Graham and Rick Warren. Arminian theology rejects the total depravity of natural man and this is the underlying assumption throughout TPDL. This book is written to everyone, not just Christians.Christian theology derived from Holy Scripture teaches that by the Grace of God through the vehicle of Faith, natural degenerate man can become a temple of the Holy Spirit. The perfect life, suffering, and death of Jesus of Nazareth resulted in the New Covenant in His blood, enabling saving faith and the grafting of men into the body of Christ through Word and Sacrament. This regenerated man is referred to as a New Creation or “born again”(John 3:3ff;2Cor 5:7;Gal 6:15). The biblical message is that the Old Adam cannot be corrected and improved, as suggested in TPDL, but instead must be crucified and buried so that an entirely new life emerges in the waters of baptism.

The difficulty most readers of TPDL have is that everything Warren states seems logical and reasonable. This is what makes this book so insidious: there is a mixture of some truth interspersed with much heresy.

The primary message of TPDL is that although faith in Christ may get a person into heaven, what a believer does with his earthly life determines his status in heaven. On page 34 Warren states this premise clearly by saying that one day each of us will stand before God for a final audit of our lives. The underlying premise of TPDL is that the bible is a guidebook as to how God expects us to live our lives and forms the basis for our final exam by God on Judgment Day. Warren states that there are two questions God will ask each person:

1. “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?”
2. “What did you do with what I gave you?”

The majority of TPDL expounds how believers can obtain high marks on their final exam, thus securing prominence in the Kingdom of Heaven. This type of thinking is what is referred to as Theology of Glory(TG). A TG believes that God’s ways can be generally understood by human reason; that God’s favor is manifested in the circumstances of life-our successes and victories; and that God is pleased with sincere human effort. All men, including believers, to one extent or the other, are TG. This system of theology attempts to transfer human experiences in the world to the Kingdom of Heaven. In the world a man is rewarded for achievement and penalized for poor performance and the TG applies this concept to his theology. Rick Warren provides a good example of this philosophy in his explanation to the above questions on page 34 of TPDL:

The first question will determine where you spend eternity. The second question will determine what you do in eternity.”

Is this what the Scripture teaches? Hear the words of Jesus Christ:

Matthew 11:11
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Luke 9:48
... and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great."

Apparently the Kingdom of Heaven operates differently than the temporal world! The Scriptures are clear that the basis for the Kingdom of Heaven is the Grace of God as shown in the perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world, while the temporal realm operates on merit. Could it be that Rick Warren is confused regarding his theology?

The other system of theology is the Theology of the Cross(TC). Such a believer views everything through the lens of the cross of Christ. While the TG bases his theological understanding primarily on his experiences, the TC views everything based upon the revelation of God in His Word, the Holy Scriptures. The TC understands that God’s ways are paradoxical and hidden to human reason; that His favor is manifested in Jesus Christ, especially His suffering, death, and resurrection; and that God is only pleased with His Son. The Scriptures form the basis for correct theology in the life of a TC, not his reason or experiences. To a TC Jesus Christ is the center and purpose of God, not man. Everything in the universe was created by and for Christ, not man. St Paul contrasts these two theological systems when he wrote:

1 Cor. 1:18-25
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The TG and TC are mutually exclusive. They are two completely different ways of understanding God. The TG speculates that if all is going well with him, then God must be pleased. The TG believes God is pleased with him because he attempts to please God. However, in Isaiah 45:15 we read “Truly, Thou art a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!”. The reason for this is a paradox: God hides Himself in order to reveal Himself. St Paul writes that God reveals Himself in weakness, foolishness, and in death. As a TG, Rick Warren does not comprehend such truths and as Martin Luther stated in Thesis 19 of his Heidelberg Disputation he does not deserve to be called a true theologian. Warren’s book TPDL is pure TG, professing to understand God through his human reason and insisting that man can actually please God through his human efforts. The TC understands that the true disposition of God towards humanity can only be known through the cross of Christ. The TC understands that God is only pleased in His Son and that the cross of Christ continues to be foolishness and shame to the TG. All believers are tempted by the TG assertions as contained in TPDL, which present a god who is easily understood and pleased, where the cross is not the center of theology. There is always the tendency to exchange the shame, weakness, and foolishness of the cross for human glory, strength, and wisdom through a system of good works as presented in TPDL.

As a good Arminian theologian, Rick Warren naturally emphasizes the life and obedience of mankind as a measure of the Kingdom of God on earth. That is why all the chapters in TPDL are man oriented rather than Christ centered. Everything Warren sites is based upon the premise that man must cooperate with God in his salvation and that the success of his Sanctification, or Christian life, depends upon the extent of man’s obedience to the will of God. The problem with what Warren says throughout the book is that it merely assumes that people can begin to love, trust, and obey God based upon their human will. For example, on page 38 Warren says:

The most damaging aspect of contemporary living is short-term thinking. To make the most of your life, you must keep the vision of eternity continually in your mind and the value of it in your heart.

This Arminian thinking simply ignores the fact that all men are born dead spiritually and do not want to love, trust, and obey God, but rather live in the futility of their minds. Natural man is in bondage to sin. Sinners are unwilling to come to God, hostile to Him, and unable to receive the things of Christ. Jesus says in John 6:44 and 45 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day... no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." St Paul says in Romans 9:16 “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy”. Faith is a gift from God(Ephesians 2:8-9).

Luther was well acquainted with the semi-Pelagian thinking expressed by Rick Warren, which is nothing less than Medieval Roman Catholicism. In his treatise against Erasmus, Luther maintained that the issue of the inability for natural man to come to God by his own free will was the primary theological issue in the entire Reformation. From God’s perspective, the only free will natural man has is to continue to sin. He is in bondage to it and can do no other.

Warren simply ignores this basic biblical fact and writes hundreds of pages explaining how all men can please God by discovering their purpose in life and living it out experientially. The Scriptures are clear that there is no one good except God and that the heart of man is evil, wicked, and beyond imagination. The above quote from Warren once again shows his failure to distinguish between believers enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and unbelievers. To Warren, Jesus Christ is an example of “purpose driven” living. Here is what Warren says about Christ:

Jesus came to earth so we could fully understand God’s glory” – page 54

Jesus stood at a fork in the road. Would he fulfill his purpose and bring glory to God, or would he shrink back and live a comfortable, self-centered life?” - page 57

On page 58 Warren states that real life is committing yourself completely to Christ and “all you need to do is receive and believe”. What Warren fails to understand is that no unbeliever can ever receive or believe in Christ and His atonement for his sins – it takes a miracle of God, not an act of the will of fallen man. The bible is clear on this point: faith comes from hearing the Word of God. The Law of God convicts a man of his sins and begins repentance. The Gospel is then given to provide assurance that God has already reconciled Himself to the entire world and the substitutionary atonement of Christ declares him Righteous. As the hymn Thy Strong Word maintains: “Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous; Bright with thine own holiness…”. Warren maintains that any person can regenerate himself and cleave to the promises of Christ through an act of his will! Jesus did not stand at any “fork in the road”, but the Scriptures clearly state that He was the “lamb slain before the foundation of the world”. Jesus did not come to earth so that fallen man could understand God’s glory, but that through His perfect life of obedience and suffering and death for the sins of the world, believers would automatically receive His righteousness and their inheritance in heaven. Warren fails to understand that the bible clearly states that by Grace through Faith a man is declared Righteous by God, not through his human obedience. The Scriptures state that there are two ways a man can obtain eternal life: through absolute perfection and obedience to God throughout one’s entire life, or by Grace through Faith in the atonement of Christ for his sins. Option one is an impossibility, as expounded by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew chapter 5. Jesus explained that if a man desires righteousness under the Law, then he must keep all the commandments perfectly in thought, word, and deed. St James also adds that a man must never fail to do good, or else he sins by omission, and that if you break any commandment you have violated all of them. Upon closer inspection, no person can even keep the first commandment of loving God with your whole heart, mind, and soul. Consequently, it is impossible to keep any of the commandments perfectly. This leads a man to option two: righteousness is obtained by Grace through Faith in Christ. The perfect obedience and Righteousness of Christ is credited to a man through Faith alone. This fact is constantly denied by TPDL and the volumes of similar books produced by TG and sold in the popular bible bookstores across the nation.

Although Warren speaks about faith in Christ, he falls short of presenting the biblical position on how saving faith is attained. On page 118 Warren states “The only way to get into God’s family is by being born again into it. You become part of the human family by your first birth, but you become a member of God’s family by your second birth”.

Most Christians agree on what Warren says, but the question is: how does a man become born again? In Scripture, the new birth is described as coming through baptism:

John 3:3-5
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." [4] Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" [5] Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

St Paul testifies in Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” . In baptism, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit(Acts 2:38; 22:16), union with Christ(Romans 6:1ff), salvation(1Peter 3:21), etc. In Luther’s Small Catechism the benefits of baptism are summarized as: It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

However, Warren specifically denies the Scriptural benefits of baptism! On page 120 Warren states: “ Baptism doesn’t make you a member of God’s family. Only faith in Christ does that. Baptism shows you are a part of God’s family”. As a Southern Baptist preacher and TG, Warren is continuing the tradition of denying the Word of God with respect to the benefits of baptism. He plainly states that baptism is merely a symbol or act of obedience to God. For orthodox Christians(TC), baptism is a Means of Grace, a Sacrament by which the Word of God is attached to a physical element(water) through which the benefits of the work of Christ are delivered to men.

The rejection of the orthodox view of baptism by Arminian theologians such as Warren is consistent with their failure to believe that salvation is, and must be, by Grace alone. In baptism, Jesus comes to a helpless infant unable to even pronounce His name, much less live a “purpose-driven” life. The fact that baptism is Christ’s work, and not ours, makes it a powerful means of assurance. How does a man know he is saved? He is baptized! Since the benefits of baptism are grounded outside of the believer, in the words and promises of Christ, it is unshakable.

Of course, Warren removes this comfort and assurance from believers, replacing it with uncertainty and introspection, which will ultimately lead to despair. For believers, the Word of God pronounces them Righteous on account of Christ. Their baptism is a concrete physical declaration of this faith and salvation – their adoption papers. Baptism provides tangible physical proof of how God chose us. We didn’t choose Him(John 15:16). Baptism shows how believers have been grafted into the true vine, Christ Himself. Without Him we can do absolutely nothing(John 15). As a part of the Body of Christ, believers are nourished by Christ, and automatically produce fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 6:22ff), the only works pleasing to God. All other works, even those performed by Christians, are always imperfect, being a mixture of pure and selfish motives. Although many works of men may benefit their neighbor in the temporal realm, pleasing God and resulting in praise from men, they have absolutely nothing to do with eternal salvation. Only the work of Christ is pleasing to God in the spiritual realm, through which the forgiveness of sins and heavenly rewards are produced(John 3:16). Consequently, the continuing fruits of the Holy Spirit through believers are pleasing to God and recognized on Judgment Day as recorded in Matthew 25:34-40. These fruits are done automatically and spontaneously through believers without their knowledge. Only believers can please God because without faith nothing is acceptable to Him(Hebrews 11:6). Only believers are free to do good works, while unbelievers feel compelled to perform them. While unbelievers must always placate the god of their imaginations, the TG similarly feels compelled to perform good works to please his god, as presented in TPDL. On the other hand, believers(TC) are free to love and serve their neighbor because they no longer worry about pleasing God – Jesus has already done this. While unbelievers can only produce more sins as they try to imitate the works of the Holy Spirit, the TG acts in a similar fashion through his failure to understand the hidden God revealed in Scripture by undertaking the 164 step program to please God laid out in TPDL(see Appendix). God looks at the hearts and motivations of men. Only believers have received a heart transplant where the Holy Spirit rules and through Whom perfect motivations are produced(Ps 51:10). Martin Luther summed it up nicely in his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

It should also be pointed out that Warren’s viewpoint on Christian worship is also off-center due to his Arminian theology. Chapter 13 begins by quoting Mark 12:30 "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Right away a TC would be alerted that Warren cannot properly distinguish between Law and Gospel in the bible. Warren would be advised to devour the treatise on this subject by C.F.W. Walther written in the 19th century. As a good Arminian, Warren obviously believes whenever he encounters a command, or Law, from God in the bible, that mankind has the ability and responsibility to do it. Appendix B provides a discussion of this critical topic, illustrating that how a person reads Scripture influences whether he focuses on Jesus Christ or turns inward upon himself.

Rick Warren asserts that we worship for God’s benefit, not our own. He maintains that God is pleased only when we have a proper attitude that is thoughtful, authentic, and practical. Warren sees worship as a sacrifice whereby we offer ourselves as living sacrifices back to God. This is pure TG and fails to acknowledge that our lives are acceptable to God not because of our attitude, but on account of the Finished Work of Jesus Christ. As we are united to Christ in baptism by Grace through Faith, God is pleased and has fellowship with us. Hence, orthodox Christians understand true worship exactly the opposite of Warren. True worship consists of our repentance over sin and in receiving the gifts that God lavishly bestows through Word and Sacrament. The orthodox believer attends the Divine Service in order to continue the cycle of repentance over sin and reception of the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s Supper(1John 1; 1Cor 11; Matt 26:28). Then the believer is enabled to once again go back into the world and truly love his neighbor. We are able to love because He first loved us(1John 4:19).

Appendix A

It should also be noted that although Warren frequently quotes Scripture to make his case, a careful reading would reveal that he uses fifteen different translations and paraphrases to make a point(pages 325-326). The reason for this is because a good translation, such as the New American Standard Bible or English Standard Version(ESV), usually do not agree with Warren’s viewpoint. For example, on page 19 Warren quotes Matthew 16:25 using the The Message, a paraphrase:

Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.”

Consider a good translation of the same verse using the English Standard Version:

Matthew 16:25
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The Message version presents an emphasis on self-emprovement, while the ESV places the emphasis squarely where it belongs: on Jesus Christ.

Warren intersperses Scripture throughout his book in the attempt to appeal to the Theologian of Glory in each of us. For example, on page 40 he quotes 1John 2:17 using The Living Translation:

This world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.”

The ESV reads:
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

As a Theologian of Glory and good Arminian, Warren obviously wishes his readers to interpret such a verse as a desire by God that you begin to do His will by making purpose-driven decisions as presented in his book. However, a Theologian of the Cross would understand the same verse based upon other Scripture, as follows:

John 6:40
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

Hence, the will of God is not to dedicate your life to good works and making purpose-driven decisions, but to believe in Jesus Christ.

On page 151 Warren attempts to emphasize the need for developing community within the church and he quotes the famous verse of Scripture John 3:16, using Gods’s Word Translation of which I have never heard of before:

We understand what love is when we realize that Christ gave his life for us. That means we must give our lives for other believers.”

However, consider the ESV rendition of this famous verse:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

The emphasis in the ESV and throughout the entire bible is that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. However, Warren wishes to place the emphasis off of Christ and back on the believer!

Warren maintains that men are to take the initial step and God plays an advisory role. Consider the plethora of Law oriented principles presented in TPDL for leading a purpose-driven life:

· discovering 3 insights into your purpose - page 20
· ascertaining the 5 reasons to live a purpose-driven life - pages 30-34
· applying the 3 metaphors of God’s view of life - page 42
· learning God’s 5 purposes for your life - page 55
· living God’s 5 plans for your life - pages61,115,169,225,279
· enacting the 5 acts of worship that make God smile - page 70
· uncovering 6 secrets of friendship with God - page 87
· developing the 4 characteristics of God-pleasing worship - page 100
· performing the 3 truths for fruitful fellowship - pages 139-143
· learning the 4 steps to cultivating community - pages 146-151
· creating a covenant using the 9 characteristics of fellowship - page 151
· following the 7 steps to restoring broken fellowship - page 154
· promoting 6 ways to ensure unity - page 161-167
· following the 3 steps to conflict resolution - page 165
· uncovering the 3 responsibilities in becoming like Christ - page 175
· practicing the 3 activities to abide in God’s Word - page 186
· following the 3 steps to overcome temptation - page 204
· learning the 4 keys to defeating temptation - page 209
· understanding the 5 reasons for slow spiritual growth - pages 219-221
· enacting the 4 steps in cooperating with God - pages 221-223
· examining the 6 experiences God uses to mold us - page 246
· discerning the 3 steps in uncovering God’s will for us - page 250-252
· uncovering the 6 steps of true servanthood - pages 258-264
· developing the 5 attitudes of a true servant - page265
· taking the 4 steps in allowing God to deal with weakness - pages 273-278
· establishing the 6 steps to discover your mission -pages 282-286
· discerning the 4 parts of your Life Message - page 289
· uncovering your 7 life lessons - page 292
· implementing the 4 principles for world-class thinking - pages 299-304
· participating in the 4 activities for purposeful living -page 306
· learning the 5 vitalsigns of worship -page 308
· realizing the 5 steps in your purpose statement - page 313
· remembering life’s 5 greatest questions - page 308

Appendix B

Most Christians I meet believe that they do the best they can and that God doesn’t expect perfection, but instead looks at their hearts to know if their motives are good. This sounds reasonable to most people and that is even how I myself always thought of spiritual matters in general. Unfortunately, this thinking is absolutely incorrect. God does require absolute perfection, in thought, word, and deed – throughout the entire life of each person. Just read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus explains to the people the realities of the Law of God. Jesus says that a man must not even look at other women with lustful thoughts. Jesus also says that if you hate another person you have already begun murder. And James says that if you break one commandment, you have broken them all(James 2:10). James also says that a person sins by even omitting to do good - sins of omission(James 4:17). If Jesus requires absolute God-like perfection for salvation(Matt 5:48), how can anyone ever be saved? The answer is: no person can ever be saved by their own works. Most people don’t understand the purpose of the Law. Most people believe that God would never tell you to keep His commandments unless He expected you to keep them. After all, Jesus is quoted as saying “Do this and you will live”(Luke 10:28) when referring to the commandments. If it is impossible for men to keep the Law of God perfectly as demanded by God, why would Jesus say such a thing?

The answer lies in what is referred to as the Proper Distinction Between Law & Gospel, unheard of in Roman Catholicism and most of Christianity in general. The first covenant between God and mankind was instituted at Mt Sinai as described in Exodus chapter 24. When presented with the Law of God the people all agreed that they would do everything in the Law to keep their part of the covenant(Exodus 24:7). History has shown that the Old Testament nation of Israel lied and became a harlot to God. Just read the Old Testament, especially the prophets as they attempted to call the people back to repentance. Fortunately for mankind, God instituted a replacement covenant, the New Covenant. This was a covenant of Grace, not obedience to the Law. In this New Covenant, God accomplished absolutely everything in reconciling Himself to the entire world through the sacrifice of His Son(2Corinthians 5:18-21;Romans 5:10). The only question that remains is whether mankind will in turn be reconciled back to God. This happens not through obedience to the Law or any works, but through FAITH in Jesus Christ as the atonement for your sins(John 3:16). If this is true, what purpose is the Law of God? The answer is that the Law’s primary purpose is to show you your sin and need for the Savior(Romans 3:20; Romans 4:13-15). Once a man is convicted of his sins through the Law, repentance can be produced. Then the Gospel is given which instills saving Faith in a man(Romans 10:17). This Faith is the means by which the perfection and Righteousness of Christ is imputed to a person. In this way, believers are credited with the Righteousness and perfection of Christ just as Abraham was in the Old Testament(Romans 4:20-25). Believers are viewed by God as if they had kept all the commandments perfectly their entire lives and had never sinned. They are viewed by God as wearing Christ’s Robe of Righteousness, “clothed in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:9; John 1:29; Luke 15:22; 1John 1:7). The Justice of God has already been satisfied by the punishment Christ received for the sins of the world. Christ was the perfect sacrifice acceptable to God for the sins of the entire world(Hebrews 9 & 10). Believers are immediately declared Not Guilty! The Scriptures definitely speak of this forensic Justification. This is the Gospel, the Good News, which most Christians are never given. John 20:30-31 summarizes the entire purpose of all Scripture: so that men may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing they may have life in His name.

Much confusion results from a misunderstanding of the Gospel. Many ask why anyone should do good works if they are already saved by Grace through Faith(Ephesians 2:8)? The answer is that believers are viewed as adopted children by God(Eph 1:5). We are loved regardless of our imperfections, similar to how an earthly father loves his children. As beloved children, the love of God which is poured out in our hearts motivates us to love our neighbor(Romans 5:5). Believers love their neighbors not out of fear of punishment or expectation of reward, but out of love. These works were prepared before the creation of the world(Eph 2:10). Good works by believers are referred to as “fruits of the Holy Spirit” (Galatians 5:22ff) and are spontaneous and automatic behavior in the believer. Believers are New Creations(2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), born again(John 3:3ff), having received a heart transplant where our evil hearts are replaced with a new heart(Psalm 51:10). True fruits of the Holy Spirit are done so automatically that believers are not even aware of them. The sheep on the Last Day were surprised when Christ praised their fruits(Matthew 25:37-39).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Babylon=Rome? Some Opinions on 1 Peter 5:13

"The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Mark my son."

This is the most popular proof text used by Roman Catholics to establish that the apostle Peter was writing from his residence at Rome. For example, the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “St. Peter's First Epistle was written almost undoubtedly from Rome…"Catholic Answers states, “Babylon is a code-word for Rome." Well, is there a Biblical basis for this interpretation? Is there an infallible “Tradition” that supplies this information about Peter’s use of “code words”? Below are some voices not normally heard by Roman Catholics.

Albert Barnes
From this it is clear that it was written at Babylon, but still there has been no little difference of opinion as to what place is meant here by Babylon… the apostles, when they sent an epistle to the churches, and mentioned a place as the one where the Epistle was written, were accustomed to mention the real place… It would be hardly consistent with the dignity of an apostle, or any grave writer, to make use of what would be regarded as a nickname, when suggesting the name of a place where he then was… If Rome had been meant, it would have been hardly respectful to the church there which sent the salutation - “The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you” - to have given it this name. Peter mentions the church with respect and kindness; and yet it would have been scarcely regarded as kind to mention it as a “Church in Babylon,” if he used the term Babylon, as he must have done on such a supposition, to denote a place of eminent depravity…) The testimony of the Fathers on this subject does not demonstrate that Rome was the place intended…[T]hey do not give this as historical testimony, but as their own interpretation; and, from anything that appears, we are as well qualified to interpret the word as they were.” [Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible, introductory comments on 1 Peter]

Believer’s Bible Commentary
“It is impossible to state with certainty who or what is meant by ‘She who is in Babylon, elect together with you.’”[ (MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 5:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson]

“There is no evidence that Rome was ever called Babylon until after the writing of the Book of Revelation in a.d. 90–96, many years after Peter’s death”- [Believer’s Bible Commentary, Electronic Edition 1991 by the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, Note on 1 Peter 5:13].

Believer’s Study Bible
“Peter is probably alluding to the Babylon on the Euphrates, a part of that Eastern world where he lived and did his work, rather than Rome (with Babylon being utilized as a cryptic word). Evidence for this position includes the following: (1) There is no evidence that Rome was ever called Babylon until after the writing of the Book of Revelation in a.d. 90–96, many years after Peter’s death. (2) Peter’s method and manner of writing are not apocalyptic. On the contrary, Peter is a man plain of speech, almost blunt, who would not interject such a mystical allusion into his personal explanations and final salutation. (3) Babylon is no more cryptic than Pontus, Asia, or the other places mentioned when Peter says the elect in Babylon send greetings to the Jews of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. (4) Babylon, no longer a great world capital in the time of Peter, was still inhabited by a colony of people, mostly Jews, many of whom Peter befriended and won to Christ. (5) A study of the chronology of Peter’s travels argues for Babylon to be the Babylon on the Euphrates.

Lorraine Boettner
“…Paul's work was primarily among the Gentiles, while Peter's was primarily among the Jews. Peter ministered to the Jews who were in exile in Asia Minor, "to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (I Peter 1:1), and in his journeys he went as far east as Babylon, from which city his first epistle (and probably his second) was addressed to the Jewish Christians in Asia Minor—She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you” (1 Peter 5:13). As most of Paul’s letters were addressed to churches he had evangelized, so Peter wrote to the Jewish brethren that he had evangelized, who were scattered through those provinces. While there is no Scriptural evidence at all that Peter went west to Rome, here is a plain statement of Scripture that he did go east to Babylon. Why cannot the Roman Church take Peter’s word to that effect? But his testimony, of course, must be circumvented by those who are so anxious to place him in Rome, and they take a curious way to do it. The Confraternity edition has an introductory note to I Peter which reads: "The place of composition is given as 'Babylon'...a cryptic designation of the city of Rome."

But there is no good reason for saying that "Babylon" means "Rome." The reason alleged by the Church of Rome for understanding Babylon to mean Rome is that in the book of Revelation Rome is called by that name (Rev. 17:5; 18:2). But there is a great difference between an apocalyptic book such as the book of Revelation, which for the most part is written in figurative and symbolic language, and an epistle such as this which is written in a straightforward, matter of fact style. In regard to Peter's assignment to work among the Jews, it is known that there were many Jews in Babylon in New Testament times. Many had not returned to Palestine after the Exile. Many others, such as those in Asia Minor and Egypt, had been driven out or had left Palestine for various reasons. Josephus says that some "gave Hyrcanus, the high priest, a habitation at Babylon, where there were Jews in great numbers" (Antiquities, Book XV, Ch. II, 2). Peter's assigned ministry to the Jews took him to those places where the Jews were in the greatest numbers, even to Babylon. (Roman Catholicism, 120)

John Calvin
“As to the place from which he wrote, all do not agree. There is, however, no reason that I see why we should doubt that he was then at Babylon, as he expressly declares. But as the persuasion had prevailed, that he had moved from Antioch to Rome, and that he died at Rome, the ancients, led by this sole argument, imagined that Rome is here allegorically called Babylon. But as without any probable conjecture they rashly believed what they have said of the Roman episcopate of Peter, so also this allegorical figment ought to be regarded as nothing. It is indeed much more probable that Peter, according to the character of his apostleship, traveled over those parts in which most of the Jews resided; and we know that a great number of them were in Babylon and in the surrounding countries.” [Calvin’s Commentary on 1st Peter, introduction].

That is at Babylon. Many of the ancients thought that Rome is here enigmatically denoted. This comment the Papists gladly lay hold on, that Peter may appear to have presided over the Church of Rome: nor does the infamy of the name deter them, provided they can pretend to the title of an apostolic seat; nor do they care for Christ, provided Peter be left to them. Moreover, let them only retain the name of Peter’s chair, and they will not refuse to set Rome in the infernal regions. But this old comment has no color of truth in its favor; nor do I see why it was approved by Eusebius and others, except that they were already led astray by that error, that Peter had been at Rome. Besides, they are inconsistent with themselves. They say that Mark died at Alexandria, in the eighth year of Nero; but they imagine that Peter, six years after this, was put to death at Rome by Nero. If Mark formed, as they say, the Alexandrian Church, and had been long a bishop there, he could never have been at Rome with Peter. For Eusebius and Jerome extend the time of Peter’s presidency at Rome to twenty-five years; but this may be easily disproved by what is said in the first and the second chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians. Since, then, Peter had Mark as his companion when he wrote this Epistle, it is very probable that he was at Babylon: and this was in accordance with his calling; for we know that he was appointed an apostle especially to the Jews. He therefore visited chiefly those parts where there was the greatest number of that nation. In saying that the Church there was a partaker of the same election, his object was to confirm others more and more in the faith; for it was a great matter that the Jews were gathered into the Church, in so remote a part of the world.” [Calvin’s Commentary on 1st Peter 5:13].

The Editors of Calvin’s Commentaries
“…[T]he Romish communion, [say Babylon]… is to be taken figuratively for Rome, according to what was done by John in Revelation 17 and 18: What renders [this] opinion very improbable is, that to date an epistle at a place to which a figurative name is given, is without another instance in Scripture, and the thing itself seems quite absurd. The language of prophecy is quite a different matter. Paul wrote several of his epistles at Rome, and in no instance did he do anything of this kind. Such an opinion would have never gained ground, had there not been from early times a foolish attempt to connect Peter with Rome. And it is to be regretted that some learned Protestants have been duped on this subject by a mass of fictitious evidence which has been collected by the partisans of the Romish Church. — Ed. [John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Peter, in The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection (Ages Digital Library, 1998].

Adam Clarke
"It true that all the ancient ecclesiastical writers have ascribed to the word Babylon a mystical meaning; for though the Greek and Latin fathers commonly understood Rome, yet the Syriac and Arabic writers understood it literally, as denoting a town in the east; and if we are to be guided by opinion, an oriental writer is surely as good authority, on the present question, as a European.” [commentary notes on 1 Peter].

A. R. Fausset
“How unlikely that in a friendly salutation the enigmatical title of Rome given in prophecy (John, Re 17:5), should be used! Babylon was the center from which the Asiatic dispersion whom Peter addresses was derived. PHILO [The Embassy to Gaius, 36] and JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 15.2.2; 23.12] inform us that Babylon contained a great many Jews in the apostolic age (whereas those at Rome were comparatively few, about eight thousand [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 17.11]); so it would naturally be visited by the apostle of the circumcision. It was the headquarters of those whom he had so successfully addressed on Pentecost, Ac 2:9, Jewish "Parthians . . . dwellers in Mesopotamia" (the Parthians were then masters of Mesopotamian Babylon); these he ministered to in person.(Commentary on 1st Peter)

Matthew Henry
“[Peter] closes with salutations and a solemn benediction. Observe, 1. Peter, being at Babylon in Assyria, when he wrote this epistle (whither he traveled, as the apostle of the circumcision, to visit that church, which was the chief of the dispersion), sends the salutation of that church to the other churches to whom he wrote (v. 13), telling them that God had elected or chosen the Christians at Babylon out of the world, to be his church, and to partake of eternal salvation through Christ Jesus, together with them and all other faithful Christians, ch. 1:2. In this salutation he particularly joins Mark the evangelist, who was then with him, and who was his son in a spiritual sense, being begotten by him to Christianity”. [Matthew Henry's commentary : On the whole Bible (electronic ed. of the complete and unabridged edition.) (1 Pe 5:10). Peabody: Hendrickson]

D.M. Howard, Exploring Church History
“If the Babylon from which Peter wrote (1 Peter 5:13) was Babylon on the Euphrates instead of a symbolic representation of Rome, then Babylonia was also evangelized during the first century.” (Howard, D. M. (1997, c1993). An introduction to the Old Testament historical books (electronic ed.). Chicago: Moody Press.)

Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown: Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871)
“The PLACE OF WRITING [1 Peter] was doubtless Babylon on the Euphrates (1Pe 5:13). It is most improbable that in the midst of writing matter-of-fact communications and salutations in a remarkably plain Epistle, the symbolical language of prophecy (namely, "Babylon" for Rome) should be used. JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 15.2.2; 3.1] states that there was a great multitude of Jews in the Chaldean Babylon; it is therefore likely that "the apostle of the circumcision" (Ga 2:7, 8) would at some time or other visit them. Some have maintained that the Babylon meant was in Egypt because Mark preached in and around Alexandria after Peter's death, and therefore it is likely he did so along with that apostle in the same region previously. But no mention elsewhere in Scripture is made of this Egyptian Babylon, but only of the Chaldean one. And though towards the close of Caligula's reign a persecution drove the Jews thence to Seleucia, and a plague five years after still further thinned their numbers, yet this does not preclude their return and multiplication during the twenty years that elapsed between the plague and the writing of the Epistle. Moreover, the order in which the countries are enumerated, from northeast to south and west, is such as would be adopted by one writing from the Oriental Babylon on the Euphrates, not from Egypt or Rome. Indeed, COSMAS INDICOPLEUSTES, in the sixth century, understood the Babylon meant to be outside the Roman empire. Silvanus, Paul's companion, became subsequently Peter's, and was the carrier of this Epistle.”[source]

Martin Luther
“She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings. This is the way it is customary to write “Good night!” in letters. She—namely, the congregation at Babylon—sends you greetings, he says. It is my opinion—but I am not sure—that here he means Rome, for it is believed that he wrote the epistle from Rome.  Otherwise there are two Babylons. One is in Chaldea; the other is in Egypt, where Cairo is situated today.  But Rome is called Babylon only in a spiritual sense. As the apostle has stated above (1 Peter 4:4), the “wild profligacy” is meant. For the Hebrew word “Babel” implies confusion (cf. Gen. 11:9). Perhaps the apostle called Rome a confusion because such profligacy and such a jumble of disgraceful living and wickedness of all kinds were prevalent there, and because whatever depravity there was in the entire world converged there. In this city, says St. Peter, a congregation has been gathered. These people are Christians. They send you their greetings. But I am willing to give everyone freedom here to interpret this verse as he chooses, for it is not vital.” [LW 30:144]

“Commentators do not agree in regard to the meaning of the word Babylon, some taking it in its literal and proper sense, others giving it a figurative and mystical interpretation. Among the advocates for the latter sense, have been men of such learning and abilities, that I was misled by their authority in the younger part of my life to subscribe to it: but at present, as I have more impartially examined the question, it appears to me very extraordinary that, when an Apostle dates his epistle from Babylon, it should even occur to any commentator to ascribe to this work a mystical meaning, instead of taking it in its literal and proper sense.” [Michaelis, as quoted by Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, n.d., Vol. VI, p. 838.]

Philip Schaff
“Of a residence of Peter in Rome the New Testament contains no trace, unless, as the church fathers and many modern expositors think, Rome is intended by the mystic "Babylon" mentioned in 1 Pet. 5:13 (as in the Apocalypse), but others think of Babylon on the Euphrates, and still others of Babylon on the Nile (near the present Cairo, according to the Coptic tradition). The entire silence of the Acts of the Apostles, respecting Peter, as well as the silence of Paul in his epistle to the Romans, and the epistles written from Rome during his imprisonment there, in which Peter is not once named in the salutations, is decisive proof that he was absent from that city during most of the time between the years 58 and 63. A casual visit before 58 is possible, but extremely doubtful, in view of the fact that Paul labored independently and never built on the foundation of others; hence he would probably not have written his epistle to the Romans at all, certainly not without some allusion to Peter if he had been in any proper sense the founder of the church of Rome. After the year 63 we have no data from the New Testament, as the Acts close with that year, and the interpretation of "Babylon" at the end of the first Epistle of Peter is doubtful, though probably meant for Rome. The martyrdom of Peter by crucifixion was predicted by our Lord, John 21:18, 19, but no place is mentioned. We conclude then that Peter’s presence in Rome before 63 is made extremely doubtful, if not impossible, by the silence of Luke and Paul, when speaking of Rome and writing from Rome, and that His presence after 63 can neither be proved nor disproved from the New Testament, and must be decided by post-biblical testimonies.”

Smith’s Bible Dictionary
“We next have traces of (Mark) in 1 Pet. 5:13: “The church that is in Babylon . . . saluteth you, and so doth Marcus my son.” From this we infer that [Mark] joined his spiritual father, the great friend of his mother, at Babylon, then and for some hundred years afterward one of the chief seats of Jewish culture.” [Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary (electronic ed. of the revised ed.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson)]

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Biblical Evidence For Peter In Rome

The Biblical Evidence

There are no explicit verses or contexts in the New Testament establishing Peter ever being in Rome. In the handful of times the word “Rome” appears in the New Testament, Peter is not linked to it in any way that would substantiate Catholic claims. The historical information given by Luke documents Peter’s ministry in Palestine and Syria. When Paul wrote to the Roman Church, there is not even a hint or allusion to Peter being its bishop, nor is there any evidence that Peter founded the church with Paul. Similarly in the epistles written by Paul from Rome, any information linking Peter to Rome is absent. In Romans, Paul indicates he hadn't yet been to Rome:

Romans 1:8-13- “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.”

Romans 15 clearly contradicts the tradition that Paul founded the Church at Rome with Peter:

Romans 15: 20-24- “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written: "Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand." This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while.”

Scholars date Paul’s letter to the Romans around 58 A.D. Factoring this in the timeline of Peter’s twenty-five year Roman episcopacy, Peter would have been in authority at Rome for approximately sixteen years. Peter would have been well established. Search through Paul’s letter to the Roman church, and you will find no greeting or reference to Peter. While it is true that simply because no mention of Peter is made by Paul does not prove he was not in Rome, the absence of these references present some practical problems. As Lorraine Boettner has pointed out,

“[Paul] did not address his letter to Peter, as he should have done if Peter was in Rome and the head of all the churches, but to the saints in the church in Rome. How strange for a missionary to write to a church and not mention the pastor! That would be an inexcusable affront. What would we think of a minister today who would dare to write to a congregation in a distant city and without mentioning their pastor tell them that he was anxious to go there that he might have some fruit among them even as he has had in his own community (1:13), that he was anxious to instruct and strengthen them, and that he was anxious to preach the Gospel there where it had not been preached before? How would their pastor feel if he knew that such greetings had been sent to 27 of his most prominent members who were mentioned by name in the epistle (Ch. 16)? Would he stand for such ministerial ethics? And if he were the most prominent minister in the land, as allegedly was the bishop of Rome, such an affront would be all the more inexcusable. This point alone ought to open the eyes of the most obdurate person blinded by the traditions of the Roman Church.

If Peter had been working in the church in Rome for some 16 years, why did Paul write to the people of the church in these words: "For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established"? (1:11). Was not that a gratuitous insult to Peter? Was it not a most presumptuous thing for Paul to go over the head of the pope? And if Peter was there and had been there for 16 years, why was it necessary for Paul to go at all, especially since in his letter he says that he does not build on another's foundation: "making it my aim so to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation"? (15:20). This indicates clearly that Peter was not then in Rome, and that he had not been there, that in fact Paul was writing this letter because no apostle had yet been in Rome to clarify the Gospel to them and to establish them in the faith. At the conclusion of this letter Paul sends greetings to the 27 people mentioned above, including some women; also to several groups. But he does not mention Peter in any capacity."

While many Roman Catholics abhor the work of Boettner as extreme anti-Catholic bias, comments from the Jesuit scholar Joseph Fitzmyer echo his conclusions:

“…Paul never hints in Romans that he knows that Peter has worked in Rome or founded the Christian church there before his planned visit (cf. 15:20-23). If he refers indirectly to Peter as among the “superfine apostles” who worked in Corinth (2 Cor 11:4-5), he says nothing like that about Rome in this letter. Hence the beginnings of the Roman Christian community remain shrouded in mystery. Compare 1 Thess 3:2-5; 1 Cor 3:5-9; and Col 1:7 and 4:12-13 for more or less clear references to founding apostles of other locales. Hence there is no reason to think that Peter spent any major portion of time in Rome before Paul wrote his letter, or that he was the founder of the Roman church or the missionary who first brought Christianity to Rome. For it seems highly unlikely that Luke, if he knew that Peter had gone to Rome and evangelized that city, would have omitted all mention of it in Acts.” [Source: Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993), p. 30].

Regardless of the “Romans” problem, Catholics argue that simply because something is not explicitly in Scripture, does not mean it isn’t there in some less obvious form. Catholics cling to a small handful of verses (properly interpreted!) to substantiate their claims. In these verses utilized, keep in mind that no infallible declaration has ever been made by the Papacy as to their correct interpretation.

Acts 12:17
But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

In Acts 12, we read that King Herod had “arrested some who belong to the church”(v.1). Included in this detention were James and Peter. What follows is the account of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. After being released by an angel, Peter went to the home of Mary (the mother of John). Peter described his miraculous escape to those praying for him in Mary’s house. Peter’s last words to these believers that evening were, “Tell James and the brothers about this.” And then Luke records the crucial words: “and then he left for another place” (v.17).

Some Roman Catholics identify “Another place” as Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes, “…[B]y "another place", Luke meant Rome, but omitted the name for special reasons.” What these “special reasons” are, the Encyclopedia does not explain. However they do mention it is within the realm of possibility that “Peter made a missionary journey to Rome about this time (after 42 A.D.), but such a journey cannot be established with certainty.” E. Schuyler English though has pointed out:

The silence of the New Testament concerning a matter on which Roman Catholicism places so much emphasis is significant. Of course it is “possible,”… that Peter could have gone to Rome after his providential release from Herod’s imprisonment of him, when he “went into another place” (Acts 12:17). The date would have been around A.D. 42-45. But the Jerusalem Council was held in A.D. 49, and Peter was there (Acts 15:7). Other possibilities are numerous if not limitless, however. “Another place” might have been Bethany, or Caesarea, or Capernaum, or even another part of Jerusalem. Any of these would have been more accessible to Jerusalem than Rome. We know that at some time prior to the years A.D. 49-52 Peter was at Antioch (Gal 2:11), and before A.D. 56 he may have been in Corinth in view of the fact that there was a Petrine party in that city (1 Cor 1:12).” [Source: Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 124 (Vol. 124, Page 317). Dallas Theological Seminary].

John Gil suggests a far more probable explanation:

“...and he departed, and went into another place; to Rome, say the Papists, but without any foundation; if he went out of the city, and to any distant place for more safety, very likely he went to Antioch; but the words do not necessarily oblige us to conclude, that he went out of the city at that time, only that he went from Mary's house; "and went", as the Ethiopic version reads, "to another house": where another company of saints might be assembled, and where he might be more private and secure.”[Source: John Gil’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, note on Acts 12:17 ].

Some might wonder why Roman Catholics would interpret this verse as meaning “Peter went to Rome.” Is it really that important? Yes. The primary means of substantiation that Peter founded the Church at Rome is found in the “Tradition” from the testimonies of the early church fathers. Part of the “Tradition” states that Peter ministered in Rome for twenty-five years. This requires Peter to have arrived in Rome around 42 AD. Act 12:17 records events just previous to this date. This verse though, is only utilized by Roman Catholics holding to the “Tradition” that Peter (and Paul) established the Roman Church in the early 40’s. There are other Roman Catholics who hold to the “Tradition” that Peter founded the Roman Church towards the end of his life. Which “Tradition” then, is correct? No definitive statement has ever been put forth determining the correct “Tradition”.

Adam Clarke commenting on this verse said, “Some popish writers say that [Peter] went to Rome, and founded a Christian Church there. Those who can believe any thing may believe this”[Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, note on Acts 12:17]. “Tradition” forces some Roman Catholics to this interpretation, and as will be demonstrated later, the “Tradition” of Peter’s twenty-five year Roman episcopate is not well substantiated.

1 Peter 5:13
The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Mark my son.

This is the most popular proof text used by Roman Catholics. It is claimed that this verse establishes beyond question that the apostle was writing from his residence at Rome. For example, the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “St. Peter's First Epistle was written almost undoubtedly from Rome…” Catholic Answers argues:

These references [by Peter] can’t be to the one-time capital of the Babylonian empire. That Babylon had been reduced to an inconsequential village by the march of years, military defeat, and political subjugation; it was no longer a “great city.” It played no important part in the recent history of the ancient world. From the New Testament perspective, the only candidates for the “great city” mentioned in Revelation are Rome and Jerusalem.”

Similarly, The Catholic Encyclopedia states, “ “St. Peter's First Epistle was written almost undoubtedly from Rome, since the salutation at the end reads: "The church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark" (v, 13). Babylon must here be identified with the Roman capital; since Babylon on the Euphrates, which lay in ruins, or New Babylon (Seleucia) on the Tigris, or the Egyptian Babylon near Memphis, or Jerusalem cannot be meant, the reference must be to Rome, the only city which is called Babylon elsewhere in ancient Christian literature."

Many scholars as not so convinced. Albert Barnes has pointed out:

In regard to the objection that Babylon was at that time destroyed, it may be remarked that this is true so far as the original splendor of the city was concerned, but still there may have been a sufficient population there to have constituted a church. The destruction of Babylon was gradual. It had not become an utter desert in the time of the apostles. In the first century of the Christian era a part of it was inhabited, though the greater portion of its former site was a waste… All that time, there is no improbability in supposing that a Christian church may have existed there.”[Source: Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible, comment on 1 Peter 5:13].

E. Schuyler English has suggested:“If my chronology of the New Testament is reasonably accurate, there is one more intimation that Peter’s “Babylon” was literal Babylon. Mark, who was in Rome in A.D. 60, intended to travel in Asia Minor (Col 4:10). In the year 65 Peter, writing from Babylon, said Mark was with him there (1 Pet 5:13). Two years later Paul wrote to Timothy in Asia Minor (2 Tim 4:13; cf. 1:15 ), instructing him (Timothy) that when he came to Rome he should bring Mark with him (4:11 ). So Mark was prepared to visit Asia Minor in A.D. 60. Did he wait four or five years, until after Peter wrote from Rome (as a point of illustration supposing “Babylon” to denote Rome in 1 Pet 5:13), and then journey to Colosse in the year 67? Or did he depart from Rome at about the time that Paul wrote to the Colossian church (c. A.D. 60), arriving in due course in Babylon in Asia Minor and from there going to Colosse? An affirmative answer to the latter question appears to be more in keeping with reason; and if this be so, the First Epistle of Peter was sent from Babylon, not Rome.”[Source: Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 124 (Vol. 124, Page 318). Dallas Theological Seminary].

John 21: 18-19
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

Most Protestants agree that in these verses John records for us that Peter would be martyred, and crucifixion is possibly being implied. Interestingly, the phrase “Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God” somewhat parallels what John records earlier in 12:33, “[Jesus] said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” Thus, I find it within the realm of possibility that Peter did suffer martyrdom by crucifixion, and it is possible Jesus meant “crucifixion” here.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states,

That the manner, and therefore the place of his death, must have been known in widely extended Christian circles at the end of the first century is clear from the remark introduced into the Gospel of St. John concerning Christ's prophecy that Peter was bound to Him and would be led whither he would not -- "And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God"... Such a remark presupposes in the readers of the Fourth Gospel a knowledge of the death of Peter.”

I tend to agree with the Encyclopedia (yet no specific mention of Rome or crucifixion is present). As will be demonstrated later, Peter’s martyrdom in Rome seems very likely. Whether or not being martyred in Rome substantiates Peter’s founding of the Papacy is another question entirely.

Calvin though is a notable exception. In his Commentary on John 21:18 he denies the certainty that Peter was crucified. He says, “Another will gird thee. Many think that this denotes the manner of death which Peter was to die, meaning that he was hanged, with his arms stretched out; but I consider the word gird as simply denoting all the outward actions by which a man regulates himself and his whole life. Thou girdedst thyself; that is, “thou wast accustomed to wear such raiment as thou chosest, but this liberty of choosing thy dress will be taken from thee.” As to the manner in which Peter was put to death, it is better to remain ignorant of it than to place confidence in doubtful fables.”

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Was Peter in Rome? A Look at the Arguments and Evidence used by Roman Catholics (Part 1)

The following is from a paper I wrote in June 2004

The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is "head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth."-Catechism of the Catholic Church

Roman Catholics firmly believe that Peter established the church at Rome, served as its first pope, and was eventually martyred there. This historical information plays a key role in the establishment of the Papacy. The apologetics organization Catholic Answers states, “It is enough to say that the historical and scientific evidence is such that no one willing to look at the facts with an open mind can doubt that Peter was in Rome. To deny that fact is to let prejudice override reason.” Likewise the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “…[W]e may conclude that Peter laboured for a long period in Rome. This conclusion is confirmed by the unanimous voice of tradition which, as early as the second half of the second century, designates the Prince of the Apostles the founder of the Roman Church.” The claims are imposing, and the evidence put forth can appear compelling.

While certain facets of the tradition of Peter’s martyrdom in Rome seem probable, it is my contention that the overall evidence does not support Peter establishing the church in Rome. The “Tradition” that Roman Catholics utilize as substantiation for their beliefs about Peter in Rome comes with a set of insurmountable historical difficulties. This entry will evaluate the claims made by Roman Catholics on this topic. It will be shown that neither the Biblical evidence nor the testimony of “Tradition” establishes what seems so certain to Roman Catholics. F. J. Foakes-Jackson, in his book Peter: Prince of Apostles, rightly says, “It must strike every student that, whereas the unanimous voice of the Church from the first acknowledges and reverences St. Peter as the founder of the Roman Church, when we search for a strictly historic proof of even his having ever visited Rome, we have to acknowledge that it is wanting”[Source: F.J. Foakes-Jackson, Peter: Prince of Apostles (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1927), p. vii].

Roman Catholic Claims About Peter

In order for Rome to validate its supremacy over the Christian world, Peter had to establish the Papacy in Rome. It is claimed that Christ ordained Peter head of the church in Matthew 16:18, thus the church is said to be built on Saint Peter. The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “Here then Christ teaches plainly that in the future the Church will be the society of those who acknowledge Him, and that this Church will be built on Peter."

Since every sovereign has a kingdom from which to rule from, Peter established his “throne” in the city of Rome. Since “the gates of Hell will not prevail” over the church, the Roman Church must always exist as the ecclesiastical head of all Christendom. The office that Peter held in Rome is passed on from generation to generation. It is essential that Peter went to Rome at some point in his life.

However, Catholic Answers argues: “if Peter never made it to the capital, he still could have been the first pope, since one of his successors could have been the first holder of that office to settle in Rome. After all, if the papacy exists, it was established by Christ during his lifetime, long before Peter is said to have reached Rome. There must have been a period of some years in which the papacy did not yet have its connection to Rome”) . What makes this answer interesting is that it allows for the possibility of uncertainty that Peter was actually in Rome. The answer suggests that it is not essential for Rome to be the headquarters of the Church and the Papacy. This would contradict the Catholic Encyclopedia which sees it as “essential” for Peter to be in Rome: “The essential fact is that Peter died at Rome: this constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome to the Apostolic Primacy of Peter.

The Catholic Encyclopedia argues, “…Christ conferred upon St. Peter the office of chief pastor, and that the permanence of that office is essential to the very being of the Church. It must now be established that it belongs of right to the Roman See. The proof will fall into two parts: (a) that St. Peter was Bishop of Rome, and (b) that those who succeed him in that see succeed him also in the supreme headship.”

And also:

The significance of Rome lies primarily in the fact that it is the city of the pope. The Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter, is the Vicar of Christ on earth and visible head of the Catholic Church. Rome is consequently the center of unity in belief, the source of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the seat of the supreme authority which can bind by its enactments the faithful throughout the world. The Diocese of Rome is known as the “See of Peter,” the “Apostolic See,” the Holy Roman Church, the “Holy See” — titles which indicate its unique position in Christendom and suggest the origin of its pre-eminence." [U. Benigni, “Rome,” Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911), XIII, p. 164.]

“Tradition” posits that Peter (and Paul) established the Roman Church in the early 40’s. Peter is said to have remained in Rome for twenty-five years, preaching the Gospel, and eventually writing the epistles of 1 and 2 Peter. Some versions of this twenty-five year period include Peter’s travels, with Rome serving as his “home base” when he wasn’t on missionary trips or attending church councils. For instance, Roman Catholic writer Art Kelly states, “As the Vicar of Christ, St. Peter had a universal responsibility. Like Pope John Paul II, who has visited 117 countries and traveled the equivalent of nearly 28 times the circumference of the earth, St. Peter undoubtedly traveled frequently throughout the known world.”

Other versions have Peter going to Rome shortly after the Jerusalem council in 49 AD, and then returning to Rome just prior to 60 AD. Yet another version has Peter going to Rome one time only: towards the end of life during Nero’s reign.

Roman Catholic accounts speak of Peter’s martyrdom (with Paul) in Rome by Nero in the late sixties. According to “Tradition,” Peter was crucified at Rome. Since earlier in his life he had denied the Lord, Peter is said to have requested to be crucified with his head downward. Peter felt himself not worthy to die in the same exact manner as Jesus Christ.

There are three lines of evidence used by Roman Catholics to substantiate these claims:

1. Biblical evidence
2. Historical evidence from “Tradition”
3. Archaeological evidence

Continued: A look at the Biblical Evidence allegedly saying Peter was in Rome.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Infallible Pronouncements Based On Possible fallible Proofs: The Folly Of Rome's Claim For Certainty

I began a CARM discussion based on my previous blog entry. In that entry, I pointed out that the certainty Roman Catholics have is not in the text of Scripture, but in the doctrines infallibly declared by the Roman Catholic Church. My understanding is that the Roman Catholic Church says that a doctrine can be defined, but the scriptural proofs used to support it utilized by the Church’s theologians might not actually support it. In other words, one can have certainty for a doctrine, but not have certainty in the scriptural proof texts for that doctrine. The infallibleness is in the decree, not in the reasoning to that decree.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states,

“…the validity of the Divine guarantee is independent of the fallible arguments upon which a definitive decision may be based, and of the possibly unworthy human motives that in cases of strife may appear to have influenced the result. It is the definitive result itself, and it alone, that is guaranteed to be infallible, not the preliminary stages by which it is reached.”

Also note this statement from Roman Catholic theologian, Johann Mohler:

Catholic theologians teach with general concurrence, and quite in the spirit of the Church, that even a Scriptural proof in favour of a decree held to be infallible, is not itself infallible, but only the dogma as defined.” [Source: Johann Adam Mohler, Symbolism: Exposition of the doctrinal Differences between Catholics and Protestants as evidenced by their Symbolic Writings, trans James Burton Robertson (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1997), p.296. I cited this quote from David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground And Pillar Of Our Faith Volume 1 (WA: Christian Resources Inc, 2001), 224].

Most of the Catholic responses in the CARM thread were rabbit trails. Only one response so far, has attempted to delve into this issue. A response from “STJ” said:

I would like to comment on your opener from an oblique angle. Every criticism that you might wish to raise against an infallibly defined doctrine or the idea of infallibility faces difficulty for your position. Every on fire protestant that I know claims to speak infallibly although they deny it. When one claims with certainty the doctrines of "sola scriptura" and "sola fide" they are operating as if these are infallibly defined. The scriptural planks underlying these two non-Catholic doctrines are subject to the same criticisms that you level against the Catholic Church in how she arrives at an infallible doctrine. There exists substantial dispute as to whether or not scripture supports these two vital planks of Protestantism.

Protestants agree with Catholics and for the most part rightly proclaim the Trinity. They do this as if the Trinity is infallibly defined and are rightly horrified at JW's and Mormons for denying it. If this doctrine has no doubt or question about it and if denying it is truly heretical then it must have been infallibly defined. If not it was simply arrived at by consensus. Consensus is not how such doctrines are defined and scripture does not make such things perfectly clear. JW's, Mormons, and others that use the Christian scriptures are proof that doctrines are not arrived at by consensus. Moreover, the pluralistic views of Protestants are also evidence that doctrinal protections and definitions are not achieved by consensus.”

I find these comments an exercise in evasiveness. What is the defense of a dogmatic infallible conclusion substantiated by possible fallible logic? I’ve been reading and hearing for years about the “certainty” that Roman Catholics have, yet when scrutinized, it really boils down to nothing more than a façade. One should be willing to take a very close look at one’s beliefs before diverting the discussion another way. In other words, before evaluating my beliefs, defend yours.

How is it possible to have certain conclusions with uncertain facts substantiating the conclusion? Why do you accept this? Did you use your own private judgment to determine that conclusions can be infallible while the proofs don't need to be? Or do you have an infallible ability to determine this? How is it you are able to use your fallible judgment and determine that Rome is true, while I’m in error for placing my fallible judgment in the words of Scripture?

The fallible/infallible game goes on and on in discussions like this. Ultimately, Catholics have to admit they use fallible judgment all the time, and do so especially when they place their faith in the Roman Catholic Church. In other words, you can't on any reasonable ground criticize protestants by using a paradigm of fallible/infallible, when Catholics, unless they claim to be Pope and have the gift of infallibility, also use their own private judgment in determining truth.

What divides us is this: Catholics have decided to trust in Jesus according to Rome, I have decided to trust in Jesus according to the Bible. Recall, Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus continually challenged the Jews to reexamine their beliefs and traditions by examining the Scriptures. He says often, “Have you not read…” Recall John's words about his Gospel: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." Are John's words so confusing that they can't be understood? Do I need an infallible pronouncement on this verse to explain it to me?