Friday, November 30, 2007

The Quotable Sippo #3 (Ode To Thomas Cranmer)

Over on the Envoy Forums, someone said Reformer Thomas Cranmer "...died a martyr, burned at the stake for heresy by Bloody Mary after England was restored to the R. Catholic Church. Accounts say that he put his right hand into the fire first since it was by this "offending" hand that he had written renunciations of his Protestant faith, which renunciations he again rennounced prior to being executed."

Likewise, in the same discussion, Catholic apologist Art Sippo took a stab (so to speak) at describing Thomas Cranmer:

"Cranmer was a smarmy four-flusher who had married the niece of the first Lutheran 'heretic' Osiander when he was studying in Germany. he never told Henry VIII and the poor woman lived in semi-seclusion. His views were heterodox long before he was the Archbishop of Canterbury. All one needs to do is read his views on the Eucharist immediately after Henry's death to see that he was not a functional Catholic."

"He was duly convicted of heresy, schism, and apostasy by a Church court, turned over to the secular arm and executed as a criminal. There is absolutely no doubt that he was guilty as charged and in fact guilty of far more than that of which he was convicted. Heresy, schism, and apostasy were captial crimes. He knew that. He committed them openly and with contempt for the Church. He knew the penalties and he still persisted in his course of action. He got what deserved. A Catholic cannot be a 'martyr' to a false religion to which he has apostatized."

"In the words of that great western philosopher Barretta: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Don't do it!" Cranmer knew what the penalty was and he still broke the law openly and willngly. Sorry. No sympathy from me. Besides, he presided over the torture deaths of numerous Catholics who refused to go along with his heterodoxy. This included not only the 83 Canonized Martyrs, but the many monks and nuns, lay people, and victims of the repression of the Western Rebellion. The total goes into the thousands. This was a case of the chickens coming home to roost.Cranmer was guilty. He was convicted. The appropriate sentence was carried out according to the law. End of story. Sic semper tyrannus"

Source: Envoy Forums

I tell you what, if the Roman Catholic Church ever needed a new inquisitor.... I know who should send a resume.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Southern Baptists Building Bridges: Reflections


I don't want to fill-up James' blog with SBC stuff, but some readers here may appreciate the conference I just attended. So I'm referring them to my personal blog if they wish to go read about it. I had great fellowship and enjoyed meeting some key SBC leaders.

If you're SBC these are messages and conversations that need to be heard.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


David Waltz has informed us that the Scriptures are not Trinitarian.

I have two questions for our Roman Catholic friends. I don't know how to put a poll in here but I guess the combox will serve as the poll.

1) Let "the Scriptures are Trinitarian" mean that the Scriptures of OT, NT, and DC present a doctrine of God that reveals Him as a Trinity (the customary definition of "Trinity"). Do you agree with David's statement that the Scriptures do not teach thus?

2) Is it your understanding that the Roman Magisterium would agree or disagree?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Melanchthon's Letter to Calvin.... or Rather, Cranmer

Once again I received admirable mention over on on Romanist's blog:

"On a humorous side-note, the presumed pseudo-expert on Luther, anti-Catholic Reformed apologist James Swan, doesn't trust Catholic books to tell the truth about Anything Luther-Related....." infinitium, get the idea (By the way, I love the extended description, it's almost something I could rap, if it rhymed a bit better...hey, wait a minute, he's already changed it to ''the pseudo- Luther expert, and anti-Catholic James Swan". Hmm, it must've been because I said I liked it).

Will someone explain to me why this man keeps mentioning me almost every week, after he clearly stated,

"I'm through with this clown. He can write whatever he wants against me. I'll ignore it. We know, after many many examples, that it'll hardly be worth reading, anyway. If I reply rationally, he comes back with this hogwash. He doesn't deserve anyone's time.To the extent that I deal with anti-Catholics at all, I'll stick to at least influential ones like James White. He affects a lot of people, and so, needs to be countered and refuted. But Swan is a lightweight in the anti-Catholic apologetic world. Let him write posts like this, then. I have better things to do than to waste my time reading them, let alone responding."

As to the current admirable mention, it has to do with some issues raised last year. He had posted a letter correspondence between Melanchthon and Calvin some time back, and if I recall, has used this dialog on his website for some time. I first came in contact with it back when he posted it on the CARM boards (I believe I still have a copy of it somewhere).

I did some poking around, and couldn't locate anything to substantiate the dialog he claims Calvin and Melanchthon had, or more precisely, Melanchthon's response to Calvin. I have done a good amount of study on the letters between Calvin and Melanchthon, and the dialog he presented very much intrigued me. I figured he probably read it in some secondary source, and couldn't actually produce Melanchthon's response to Calvin. But yet, he posts things as if he's read them and researched them, because he, being an ex-Protestant, is in the "know." If I've proved anything to him after all these years, it should be to actually read the source your information comes from before claiming to be a professional apologist.

Now, his letter from Melanchthon to Calvin he's been mentioning for years has become a letter from Melanchthon to Cranmer. His earlier research work on this has been qualified as "speculation". I don't really care enough to check and see if he's changed his initial entries and writings to change them to say "speculation", or "Cranmer". It satisfies me enough to know that I proved my point, once again. And, like any exercise in futiltiy, we're back to the beginning: now we need to search out Melanchthon's letter to Cranmer to read a context that he hasn't read.

Update: He's has now changed his earler Calvin / Melanchthon research from "speculation" to "surmising".This is a bit worse, because "surmise" is simply "a guess". Well, I've been saying that all along....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

For more on Steve Ray's Luther quotes, see When Footnotes Attack!

Luther: Sola Scriptura Had a "Devastating Effect"?

"There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; . . . There is not an individual, however clownish he may be who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams" - Martin Luther

I wrote about this Luther quote in early 2006, that entry can be found here. This is one of those quotes put forth by Roman Catholics attempting to substantiate Luther’s opinion of the failure of sola scriptura, as well as the need for the infallible interpretive authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The strategy goes like this: use the above quote and then put forth something like- “…see, even Luther realized how much of a failure sola scriptura was.”

It seems Catholic apologist Steve Ray is fond of this quote (as noted in my previous entry). Now Google books has made one of Ray's book available, Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church. Ray again uses this quote on page 45, footnote 62:

"In his commentary on the Psalms, Martin Luther wrote, 'Scriptura sui ipsius interpres' or, in English, 'The Bible is its own interpreter.' It is not difficult to see where that idea led. Even Luther saw the devastating effect. He wrote, 'There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; There is not an individual, however clownish he may be who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams' (cited in Leslie Rumble, Bible quizzes to a Street Preacher [Rockford Ill.: Tan Books, 1976], 22). See also O'Hare, Facts About Luther, 208.

In my previous entry, I was able to investigate the quote enough to at least find out it is from Luther's Letter to the Christians of Antwerp (1525). Now though, thanks to Google Books, I've found a large portion of this letter, if not the entire letter, reprinted below.

Note, Ray claims Luther saw the devastating effect of sola scriptura, and then uttered the words quoted. However, read this letter for yourself. Luther does not blame sola scriptura at all, but rather Satan. Luther never mentions sola scriptura in the letter.

Rome's claim for unity in interpreting Scripture is simply laughable anyway. Very few verses, if any, have an infallible interpretation, and Catholics are free to interpret and speculate on verses and doctrines not yet dogmatically defined. Thus, for Ray to even raise this as an issue while being part of a body that doesn't have infallible interpretations on the majority of biblical passages is indeed a double standard.

Over on Steve Ray's site, he lists a bunch of quotes that had an impact on his decision to convert to Roman Catholicism. Guess which quote makes the list? The very quote this blog entry is on.

Luther's Letter to the Christians of Antwerp (1525)

We believed, during the reign of the pope, that the spirits which make a noise and disturbance in the night, were those of the souls of men, who after death, return and wander about in expiation of their sins. This error, thank God, has been discovered by the Gospel, and it is known at present, that they are not the souls of men, but nothing else than those malicious devils who used to deceive men by false answers. It is they that have brought so much idolatry into the world.

The devil seeing that this sort of disturbance could not last, has devised a new one ; and begins to rage in his members, I mean in the ungodly, through whom he makes his way in all sorts of chimerical follies and extravagant doctrines. This won't have baptism, that denies the efficacy of the Lord's supper; a third, puts a world between this and the last judgment ; others teach that Jesus Christ is not God ; some say this, others that ; and there are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads.

I must cite one instance, by way of exemplification, for I have plenty to do with these sort of spirits. There is not one of them that does think himself more learned than Luther ; they all try to win their spurs against me ; and would to heaven that they were all such as they think themselves, and that I were nothing ! The one of whom I speak assured me, amongst other things, that lie was sent to me by the God of heaven and earth, and talked most magnificently, but the clown peeped through all. At last, he ordered me to read the books of Moses. I asked for a sign in confirmation of this order, ' It is,' said he, ' written in the gospel of St. John.' By this time I had heard enough, and I told him, to come again, for that we should not have time, just now, to read the books of Moses. . . .

I have plenty to do in the course of the year with these poor people: the devil could not have found a better pretext for tormenting me. As yet the world had been full of those clamorous spirits without bodies, who oppressed the souls of men; now they have bodies, and give themselves out for living angels . . .

When the pope reigned we heard nothing of these troubles. The strong one (the devil) was in peace in his fortress; but now that a stronger one than he is come, and prevails against him and drives him out, as the Gospel says, he storms and comes forth with noise and fury.

Dear friends, one of these spirits of disorder has come amongst you in flesh and blood ; he would lead you astray with the inventions of his pride: beware of him.

First, he tells you that all men have the Holy Ghost. Secondly, that the Holy Ghost is nothing more than our reason and our understanding. Thirdly, that all men have faith. Fourthly, that there is no hell, that at least the flesh only will be damned. Fifthly, that all souls will enjoy eternal life. Sixthly, that nature itself teaches us to do to our neighbour what we would he should do to us ; this he calls faith. Seventhly, that the law is not violated by concupiscence, so long as we are not consenting to the pleasure. Eighthly, that he that has not the Holy Ghost, is also without sin, for he is destitute of reason.

All these are audacious propositions, vain imaginations; if we except the seventh, the others are not worthy of reply. . . .

It is sufficient for us to know that God wills no sin. As to his sufferance of sin, we ought not to approach the question. The servant is not to know his master's secrets, simply his master's orders: how much less should a poor creature attempt to scrutinize or sound the mysteries and the majesty of the Creator ? . . .

To learn the law of God, and to know his son Jesus Christ, is sufficient to absorb the whole of life.

. . . A.D. 1525. (Luth. Werke,tom. ii. p. 61,sqq.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

MySpace Music Page

I set up a MySpace Music page:

James Swan: MySpace Music Page

I never thought I'd do something like this, but my dear friend Alice was up from Nashville and "inspired" (for lack of a better word) me to set up a music page. She's an extremely gifted songwriter and singer. My friend Alice is the real deal when it comes to music. Please visit her webpage and listen to some of her songs. In order for me to access certain features of her MySpace music page, I had to have an account. Alice was the last person I performed with. We had a 3 piece (guitar, violin, stick) doing her songs. I never thought I'd really share any of the musical things I did, because I no longer feel like that person.

I played guitar as a kid. In my 20's I switched back and forth between guitar and bass. In my 30's I bought a Chapman Stick as a joke, and fell in love with the instrument. I played it fairly regularly for a few years. I play all the instruments on the MySpace page, except drums. I was typically interested in Rock, Jazz, Progressive Rock, New Age, and Avant Garde type of stuff.

I lost interest in practicing and playing in the late 90's. This of course, was around the time God's grace really was poured out on me, and my realization of my stubborn rebellious heart against the Lord. I began really delving into understanding God's Word, and trying to live my life corum deo. I'm not one who is good at multitasking. It's either practicing music, or studying the Word of God and theology. It was a simple decision to make as to which would fill up my time.

I never really considered myself a musician anyway. I never really felt I had any natural talent for it (and some of you listening will most likely agree). I would practice for hours, and then feel as if I haven't gotten anywhere. Then I would stop playing for 6 months, only to start up again with zeal and fervor.

Music could become a real idol for me, even to this day. It's one of the reasons I can't go to churches with worship bands. I'm too busy during the service critiquing the guy playing guitar and bass, or actually worshipping the guy playing if he's really good. In my church, we have an organ and piano, and the pastor leads a hymn sing. It's perfect, at least for me. The emphasis is on worship.

On the tracks posted on the MySpace page, I played everything except the drums. I even sing on one of the tracks (my German Shepherd used to howl when he heard me singing). For the guitar tracks, I used a left-handed Gibson Les Paul, and a late 50's Gibson L-4 acoustic. For the bass tracks I used a Fender right-handed Fender P-Bass strung up left handed. The Chapman Stick I play right handed, because I couldn't figure out how to reverse the strings to make the instrument function for a left-handed person.

The Songs
1. "Sparta on Stick" was one of the first things I wrote on Stick. I had probably been playing the instrument a few months. It may sound like a guitar, or keyboards and bass, but it is actually just Stick and drums. The Stick is an incredible instrument, and can sound like different instruments at the same time.

2. "Possible Worlds" is actually an edited version of a 13 minute acoustic track I put together. I had planned on doing a bass line to it, but never got around to it. I used my Gibson L-4, which gives it a different sound than say, your typical Martin acoustic.

3. "Choirs and See What I See" is three songs combined. The track begins with an instrumental new age stick thing featuring a sample of the late Walter Martin (author of "Kingdom of the Cults), called "A Miracle Could Happen". Don't ask me why I picked him- it was actually an improv'd thing I did on a Tascam 4 track recorder one night. If I recall, the Martin tape just happened to be within reach. The second song "Choirs" is kind of like a Yes meets U2 instrumental. I recorded all the bass parts, and then recorded the guitar parts. The third song, "See What I See" is my only attempt at doing something very "hard rock". I wrote the lyrics while going through the Philosophy program at college. The lyrics speak of my worldview confusion at the time. Now, by God's grace, I look back at the person I was, and praise God for His salvation in Christ. Feel free to howl along like my German Shepherd did.

4. "Leaving All the Angels" was also done around the same time, and features multiple guitar tracks, and some odd time signatures. This track is probably 3 minutes too long, but I still enjoy listening back to all the parts working together as a tight package. I had lyrics for it, but never recorded them.

5. "Happy Trauma" is a live basement 4 track recording of a Stick and Drums, with a sax (I did not play the saxaphone). While it is a bit sloppy at times. It kind of flip flops between country and jazz. I also overdubed some keyboards in the far background.

6. "Then Get Out" is a 4 track Stick recording that I improv'd one night with a drum machine. The sampled vocal is an avant garde Jazz musician being interview on the radio. I always found it funny how the avant garde crowd takes their noise so seriously. They have such a contradicting worldview. They play (allegedly) without rules, while when they discuss their music, they do so with much logic and thought. Kinda like how John Cage would've never applied his musical standards to collecting mushrooms.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Sacramental Road to Salvation

A very large part of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is the sacramental system. The RCC teaches that God’s grace is given chiefly through the sacraments of which there are seven: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

When looking at this system as a whole, it is clear that the salvation of the Roman Catholic is tied up in their church membership. The normative means for obtaining (and maintaining) the grace to merit salvation is through the church-provided sacraments.

”The sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, are efficacious signs of grace perceptible to the senses. Through them divine life is bestowed upon us. Compendium of the CCC, #224

The Sacraments have been instituted as a special means through which we are to receive the grace merited for us by Christ. As Christ is the giver of the grace, He has the right to determine the manner in which it shall be given, and one who refuses to make use of the Sacraments will not receive God's grace. Baltimore Catechism #580

The sacraments are not just signs of something sacred, but actually give grace to the recipient. As such, the sacraments are considered necessary for salvation.

"The outward sign is not used merely to indicate that grace has been given, for the use of the outward sign with the proper intention also gives the grace of the Sacrament. Hence the right application of the outward sign is always followed by the gift of internal grace if the Sacrament be administered with the right intention and received with the right dispositions." Baltimore Catechism #584

"For believers in Christ the sacraments, even if they are not all given to each of the faithful, are necessary for salvation because they confer sacramental grace, forgiveness of sins, adoption as children of God, conformation to Christ the Lord and membership in the Church." Compendium of the CCC, #230

Through the sacraments Catholics are initiated into the Church and into Christ. This initiation usually begins with the Baptism of an infant followed later by Confirmation between the ages of seven and sixteen (USCCB).

”Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.” Compendium of the CCC, #251

”Baptism is a Sacrament which cleanses us from original sin, makes us Christians, children of God, and heirs of heaven… We are the heirs of Christ because at His death we came into the possession of God's friendship, of grace, and of the right to enter heaven, provided we comply with the conditions Our Lord has laid down for the gaining of this inheritance. The conditions Our Lord has laid down for the gaining of this inheritance are: That we receive, when possible, the Sacraments He has instituted; and that we believe and practice all He has taught.” Baltimore Catechism #621, 624, 625

”Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.” CCC 1250

”Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe... CCC 1253

Obviously an infant does not have a faith in Christ in Baptism so the parents are expected to make the profession of faith.

”Everyone who is to be baptized is required to make a profession of faith. This is done personally in the case of an adult or by the parents and by the Church in the case of infants. Also the godfather or the godmother and the whole ecclesial community share the responsibility for baptismal preparation (catechumenate) as well as for the development and safeguarding of the faith and grace given at baptism.” Compendium of the CCC, #259

After receiving the sacrament of baptism, the recipient becomes “a new creature” and belongs forever to Christ. Through baptism is given the grace of Justification.

"Baptism takes away original sin, all personal sins and all punishment due to sin. It makes the baptized person a participant in the divine life of the Trinity through sanctifying grace, the grace of justification which incorporates one into Christ and into his Church. It gives one a share in the priesthood of Christ and provides the basis for communion with all Christians. It bestows the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A baptized person belongs forever to Christ. He is marked with the indelible seal of Christ (character)." Compendium of the CCC, #263

"The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
- enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
- giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
- allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
Thus the whole organism of the Christian's supernatural life has its roots in Baptism."
CCC 1266

If the baptized "falls" from grace through mortal sin, they must re-establish their grace through the sacrament of penance. Hence, the ability to remain in grace requires continuing in the church system not only to access penance, but also to increase grace through the eucharist and the mass to protect from falling into mortal sin in the first place.

Such is the sacramental road to salvation.

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

Monday, November 19, 2007

Muslim-led Interfaith Service Unwelcome


Fox News reports.
A Muslim-led interfaith Thanksgiving service in Austin, Texas, was forced to move to another location at the last minute after a Baptist church objected to non-Christians worshipping on its property.

Apparently Hyde Park Baptist Church didn't realize that "interfaith" meant different religions rather than different Christian denominations. When the leadership realized they essentially said "no" and definitely didn't want non-Christian prayers promoted on their facilities.

I thought "good for them" and I still do. It's their right to make that decision. But then I thought...what if the pastors asked for their own time to share the Gospel and the exclusivity of Christ with everyone at this interfaith meeting? Would that have been a better way to handle it? I'm thinking not. That may send mixed and wrong signals about Christianity. One of the most unloving things a Christian can do is pretend all religions are equal, IMO. Unloving towards God and your fellow man. People in the community need to know the difference which is the Gospel.

Now that this story has national exposure it may be time for a dialogue to take place. As the Fox story indicates letters are being written and the interfaith folks seem to be looking for understanding. This is exactly what should happen a public meeting to reach an understanding. Even in this free country we don't always get these types of opportunities.

I think the pastors should agree to a meeting and explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ and help those seeking "understanding" to understand there is only one way, truth and life.

What do ya'll think?


Luther and the Peasants Revolt

"Some are even so crazy as to say that it is not proper for Christians to bear the temporal sword or to be rulers; also because our German people are such a wild and uncivilized folk that there are some who want the Turk to come to rule. All the blame for this wicked error among the people is laid on Luther and must be called 'the first fruit of my Gospel,' just as I must bear the blame for the rebellion [the Peasant's Revolt of 1525], and for everything bad that happens anywhere in the world. My accusers know better, but God and His Word to the contrary, they pretend not to know better, and seek occasion to speak evil of the Holy Ghost and of the truth that is openly confessed, so that they may earn the reward of hell and never receive repentance or the forgiveness of their sins." - [Luther's letters to Philip of Hesse October 9, 1528 [Works of Martin Luther Vol. 5 (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1931), p. 79]

Martin Luther's book, "Against The Robbing And Murdering Mobs of Peasants" is sometimes cited as evidence that Luther had the peasants killed. That is, his writing directed the princes to slay the peasants, so on his order, they did. This common caricature views Luther as somehow in charge of Germany. The princes simply waited for Luther's command and then followed this advise he gave: "Stab, smite, slay, whoever can. If you die in doing it, well for you! A more blessed death can never be yours, for you die obeying the divine Word and commandment in Romans XIII."

For instance, a person I critiqued some time back, after citing these words from Luther, stated, "As a result, thousands died when the German nobility, spurred by Luther's words attacked and killed those they disagreed with in the Peasant's War." The idea is, had Luther not written harsh words against the peasants, the peasants would not have been killed by the princes. Luther was thus directly responsible for murdering thousands of people by his cruel words. Catholic writer Patrick O'Hare states, "The civil powers obeyed Luther. They wielded the sword unsparingly. They drove the common people before them like mules; they whipped, choked, hung, burnt, beheaded, tortured and slaughtered to teach them to 'learn to fear the powers that be' " [The Facts About Luther, p.236]. "The cause of all history proclaims that Luther was the cause of the insurrection of the peasants and of their subsequent massacre"[The Facts About Luther, p.237].

In my earlier research on this subject, I recall reading that Luther's harsh advise came out after the wars began. That is, the princes were already in progress of using their force to kill the peasants to suppress their revolt. I recall reading Luther's book, "Against The Robbing And Murdering Mobs of Peasants" was actually delayed in printing (See the Bainton quote below). However, I did find a book actually verifying my overall conclusion, that Luther's advise to kill the peasants did not provoke the princes to begin killing the peasants. They had already been doing so before the book came out. The Roman Catholic author John Todd states the following:

"As the spring lengthened, the violence in the country worsened rapidly, the Elector became more ill, and all things seemed to be moving to some terrible crisis. Then the Count of Mansfeld, near his old home, invited Luther and Melancthon to go and organise a school in Eisleben. While any journey was now dangerous, it would be an opportunity to preach to the peasants en route through Thuringia. Luther decided to go, and took Melancthon in his party. They found unrest everywhere,and Luther wrote Admonition to Peace, which eventually appeared too late to influence those peasants who were already committed to massive violence by extremist leaders. In Nordlingen, where Karlstadt had been for a time, Luther's sermon was heckled. However, they reached their destination and Melanchthon provided guidelines for a school there, which was duly established.

On the way home they visited Luther's parents and other relations. And suddenly the decision was made. His father was still longing to see grandchildren from Martin's loins. There was one nun left unmarried at Wittenberg, living with the Cranachs, and she had set her cap at Luther herself. Having declined two successive suggestions for husbands after a previous abortive engagement, she had said she would consider Amsdorf- or Luther. Katherine von Bora seemed to have some spirit about her. She was twenty-six, rather old for marrying at that time.

On his return, Luther spoke to her and they agreed. The projected wedding then became part of a terrible threefold crisis in Luther's life: the Elector was dying, and a full-scale civil war was
now in progress. The 'peasants', who included numbers of underprivileged from the towns, were plundering the countryside massively and taking control of castles, religious houses, food supplies and some towns. The rulers were uniting their military forces to oppose and defeat them. Luther saw both sides to be in the wrong: the peasants suffered widely from injustice, but in the end they did not have the right to resort to violent revolt against the established rulers. He then issued his blistering advice to the princes to suppress the peasants ruthlessly in his
Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants - this again appeared too late, when the princes were already victorious and indulging in brutal vengeance."

Source: John M. Todd, Luther: A Life (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1982), pp. 260-261

Todd says also, "It was only towards the end of May that Luther’s Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants came into the hands of readers, when the rulers were already victorious and were indulging in revenge and unnecessary violence"[source].

Roland Bainton likewise states, "Unhappily Luther's savage tract was late in leaving the press and appeared just at the time when the peasants were being butchered" [source].

Mark U. Edwards points out that Luther's treatise, Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants was written when Luther returned back from his attempts at preaching to the peasants. Edwards, states,

"Peasant unrest had spread into the Thuringian area, and Luther's audiences were unruly, heckling him and interrupting his sermons. Luther was later to remark that he had been lucky to escape injury and even death, so hostile had his hearers been. Upon his return to Wittenberg on 6 May and with these experiences fresh in his mind, he wrote out his short and uncompromising Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants. "

Source: Mark U. Edwards, Luther And The False Brethren (California: Stanford University Press, 1975), p.64

Edwards goes on to point out that Luther's intent was to have this book published in one volume along with the earlier treatise, the Admonition To Peace. This earlier treatise considered the plight of the peasants, and exhorted the princes to consider the unstable state of affairs their rulership helped create. The Admonition was directed towards good peasants, while the newer treatise was directed toward the bad peasants. Edwards points out though, printers quickly split the volume in two. Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants found popularity with ruthless rulers, and had wide circulation. Thus, the overall intent of Luther's writings on this had been lost due to the actions of the printers.

One can conclude that Luther believed seditious peasants should be killed, and held that the governing authorities had the right to do so. As to Luther's actual writings being the cause of the peasants being killed, one must consider all the facts. The peasants were already being killed, and his intended book on this subject was popularly printed out of balance, leaving out the Admonition To Peace, thus serving as a tool of for ruthless rulers. My own opinion is, whether his book (or books) came out or not, the peasants would have been killed. Rulers intending to protect their lands and their power generally will take and use whatever they want to, and ignore whatever they want to. In fact, some Catholic lords used the peasants revolt as an excuse to kill the Lutherans working in their lands.

Richard Marius stated in his book Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, "The nobles did not require Luther to urge them to massacre; they were entirely capable of inspiring themselves to the bloody business that they pursued for several months" (p.432). Marius goes on to state, "Luther was not responsible for these atrocities. Yet to many people, the timing of his diatribe against the peasants made him seem a cause of the slaughter that followed." (p.432). Marius also points out that in Luther's follow-up defense of his harsh book, he condemned the killing of both the guilty and innocent together after the princes were already victorious. "Luther raged against the tyranny of the nobles in books and pamphlets over the next year or so and blamed their merciless conduct for continued peasant unrest" (p.433).

That Luther's Admonition To Peace is rarely brought up by cyber-criticizers of Luther is a good indication of bias. That is, why don't rulers get blamed for not following Luther's points in this earlier treatise? If Luther's words had the power of life and death over the peasants, why was the Admonition To Peace so ineffective in controlling those rulers who are said to be so motivated by Luther words? Obviously, Luther's words were not as crucial and important to the rulers as some make them out to be.

If one wants to chastise Luther, it would be for the harshness of his words against the peasants. Yes, I'm sure certain rulers found it comforting that Luther agreed with their cause to suppress the peasants (like Philip of Hesse). On the other hand, one must seriously ask what would've happened to the peasants had not Luther wrote against them? My gut feeling is they would've been slaughtered all the same. So, if they were to be killed anyway, what then was the actual force of Luther's harsh book?

Some argue, guilt by association. Luther agreed the peasants should be suppressed, and they were, so Luther was part of the problem, rather than the solution. It's a bit naive though to think somehow a person living in a peaceful country, hundreds of years later, can actually determine the guilt of Luther's writings in the entire peasants revolt. I would love to have the ability to stick these people back in 1524-1525, to see what they would think of the peasants while the peasants ransacked their house, or killed their family members, and threatened the stability of the land. I would posit the same people criticizing Luther now, would be the first to buy his book Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants, and ask Luther to autograph it. It is indeed ironic that we can be extremely critical of a situation we have never faced, but then, thrust into such a situation, we learn what it is to actually be in that situation.

Final ironies:

1. Roland Bainton points out, "Catholic princes held Luther responsible for the whole outbreak" of the Peasants War. Figures, doesn't it? Nothing has changed, except we're not dealing with princes anymore.

2. Luther actually went on to chastise the Princes for being too harsh on the peasants. Bainton notes, "All the devils, he declared, instead of leaving the peasants and returning to hell, had now
entered the victors, who were simply venting their vengeance.

For those of you interested, you can read the text Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants, the text is short, and widely available on-line. I've included a few different links of the same content, knowing that e-texts tend to appear and disappear over time.

Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants

Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants

Against the Robbing and Murdering Mobs of Peasants

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Piper, Justification, ETS and Theories


A theological issue came up on Justin Taylor's blog in his blurb about ETS from Christianity Today's interview about ETS's annual convention. In the interview, Francis Beckwith and the upcoming papers at ETS are mentioned about which I had my own blurb. The topic that came up on Taylor's blog, of course, was justification and rightly so. His short post has so far generated 89 comments. In these comments James White and others get some uncomplimentary responses from Beckwith himself, other Roman Catholics and at least one protestant, Michael Bauman. Okay, now we're caught up.

At the ETS meeting we have J.P. Moreland telling us that evangelicals are over-committed to Scripture. It'll be interesting to read the responses to Moreland's assertions, if any. More importantly we have John Piper step up to the plate defending the protestant and biblical understanding of justification at the ETS meeting. The audio and text are all ready available. I'm sure this is close to his heart as his book The Future of Justification was just released which you can purchase or read online for free. In his ETS talk he says that the "truth of justification has become increasingly embattled".
* The lines between evangelical faith and Roman Catholic teaching have been blurred.

* The doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s obedience has been denied.

* The New Perspective on Paul, especially N. T. Wright, has redrawn the map of New Testament theology in such a way that confusion is widespread as to just what justification is and how it relates to the gospel and conversion and judgment.
* Others have so merged faith and its fruits that the term “by faith alone” has ceased to provide a foundation for holiness but is now virtually identical with it.

* And some have so changed the ordinary meaning of the word “righteousness” that in the act of justification, it no longer refers to anyone’s right attitude or right action but only to a courtroom verdict of acquittal.

And also quoting from his newest book.
If we begin to deny or minimize the importance of the obedience of Christ, imputed to us through faith alone, our own works will begin to assume the role that should have been Christ’s. As that happens, over time (perhaps generations), the works of love themselves will be severed from their root in the Christ-secured assurance that God is totally for us. In this way, for the sake of exalting the importance of love, we will undermine the very thing that makes it possible.

Read or listen to Piper's presentation it's well worth it. I'm glad he's standing up for truth. I wonder who will challenge Piper on this issue. It would be a good and necessary discussion. I also wonder if Piper will address Rome directly.

Back in the comments section on Justin Taylor's blog we had Michael Bauman respond saying that we are merely disagreeing on "various theories" of justification. So now I want to go back with John Piper to 1999 where he is dealing with and responding to the issue of open theism and Greg Boyd. In this article he deals with "theories of doctrines". Let's look at some quotes.
It falls into the trap of saying that doctrine is the words you use, but theory is the meaning of the words. Therefore you have to agree to say the words, in order to be orthodox, but you don't have to hold any particular view of what the words mean. This is very modern and very destructive to the cause of truth.

You can make anything you want a non-doctrine, if you can think of a higher doctrine that it happens to be an explanation for.

Another example would be the doctrine of justification by faith alone. That is an essential doctrine. One theory about this doctrine is that "by faith alone" justification happens through infused righteousness (Roman Catholic). Another theory about this doctrine is that "by faith alone" justification happens through imputed righteousness (Protestant). Does DC think that these theories are "peripheral things" and "non-essentials"?

There are many other examples. The point is, this paradigm of distinguishing "doctrine," which must be agreed on, from "theories about doctrine," which are "peripheral things," is of no help in deciding whether a "theory about a doctrine" is in fact important enough to be itself essential, as are the virgin birth and the inerrancy of Scripture and the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Good and much appreciated words again from Pastor Piper. Not much more really needs to be said. I hope that some pastoral and scholarly debate on justification will take place. I also hope the protestants who think the Reformation is over and justification doesn't matter will be convinced it's not over or will make the move to Rome. This would just keep the differences much cleaner unlike the blurring and obfuscation Vatican II caused.

I do look forward to finishing his new book on justification.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Catholic Powerball Apologetics


I was just doing some searching online and I came across a relatively popular blog run by a Catholic who is a DJ. As I scrolled down the right-hand side to learn more about this blogger I noticed several Catholic links with a box entitled "False Teachers" that contains an interesting array of people lumped together. I read down the list and see Osteen, Hagee, Jakes, Meyer and Hinn...


Then we read James White, Eric Svendsen, John MacArthur and James McCarthy. Now even in Catholic apologetics I believe most would admit that these names do not belong together. Not even close. But, whatever as this is not the real irony.

When you go to the links that talk about Osteen, Hagee, etc. being false teachers you find something interesting.

The Catholic Connection at the Deception in the Church site. This site even uses material by John MacArthur, Mike Gendron and Ken Silva who would both basically agree with James White and Eric Svendsen. I know Mike Gendron and the main purpose of his ministry is to proclaim the Gospel to Catholics.

The Let Us Reason site has a page of links against the Roman Catholic Church.

The Apologetics for Christians site claims Rome has a false Gospel.

And finally, the Biblical Discernment Ministries site which doesn't speak too highly of many also has a page against Rome.

Just thought I share my Saturday morning browsing accident that made me laugh.


p.s. The link to the blog is now hyper linked.

How to Avoid Purgatory

By Fr. Paul O'Sullivan

"The idea that nearly all of us shall, notwithstanding, have to pass a period more or less long in the excruciating fires of Purgatory after death seems to be at variance with this all-merciful and all-loving plan of our Divine Lord…The object of this little book is to show how we can avoid Purgatory by using the means God has so generously offered us, and, secondly, to show that the use of these means is within the reach of every ordinary Christian…The means we suggest are easy, practical and within the reach of all. Moreover, far from being irksome, the use of these means will only serve to make our lives on this earth holier and happier and will take away the exaggerated fear of death which terrifies so many.

…The reason why we have to pass through Purgatory after death is that we have committed sins and have not made satisfaction for them. Every individual sin must be expiated--in this life or the next! Not even the slightest shadow of sin or evil can enter the all-holy presence of God. The graver, the more frequent the sins, the longer will be the period of expiation and the more intense the pain…Most Christians, with incomprehensible rashness, neglect these means and so have to pay their debts in the dreadful prison house of Purgatory.

…The Second Means of avoiding Purgatory is to satisfy for our sins in this life by doing penance. "Do penance or you shall all likewise perish" Do penance, or you will burn long years in Purgatory, is a fact that there is no getting away from.This is a terrifying thought and one that makes the bravest man shudder.Which of us does not tremble when he thinks of those who have been burnt to death in a slow fire? What fear would not be ours if we had to face a similar death? Yet their suffering was of relatively short duration. The incomparably fiercer fire of Purgatory, which we may have to face, may last 20, or 50 or 100 years!

…The easy road to Heaven of Saint Therese, the Little Flower, is to do many little things. God was infinitely pleased with the widow's mite; He will be equally pleased with our little penances…As a result of little mortifications, we can deliver ourselves from the awful fires of Purgatory and amass rich merits for Heaven. To go into the matter further, there is not much difficulty about mortification or penance, notwithstanding the absurd fear that people have of it.

…God promises us in the most solemn and deliberate way (and He cannot fail to do what He promises) that He will give us everything we ask in prayer,if it is good for us. Now two conditions, especially, make prayer infallible, namely perseverance and faith. God cannot refuse such a prayer. These Catholics we speak of pray expressly every day of their lives that God will free them from Purgatory. In every single prayer they say, in every Mass they hear, in every good act they perform, they have the express intention of asking God first of all and with all their hearts to deliver them from Purgatory. How? That is for God to decide. It is not easy to see how God can possibly refuse such constant, unceasing prayer. The fact that such prayers are said daily and many times in the day, for 20, 30, 50 years, shows that they are said with undoubting faith and magnificent perseverance. We exhort all our readers to adopt this practice. The more they know and think on Purgatory, the more fervently will they make this prayer.

…For one recitation of short ejaculatory prayers, He grants 100 or 300 or more days Indulgence. These we may say hundreds of times in the day. Those who say the little ejaculation: "Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee" one hundred times a day gain 30,000 days Indulgence. Those who say it 1,000 times, as many do, gain 300,000 days Indulgence each day! Nothing can be easier than to acquire the habit of saying this little prayer all day long, countless times each day. Then, for each Hail Mary of the Rosary, one gains more than 2,000 days Indulgence!

…The Holy Souls whom we relieve or release by our Masses and good works pray for us with such indescribable fervour that God cannot refuse to hear their prayers. One of the principal graces they ask for their friends is that these shall have little or no Purgatory. No one knows better than they the awful intensity of the Purgatorial flames; no one, therefore, can pray for us as they do."

Friday, November 16, 2007

On just vomiting up throwaway labels

From here:

Dr. Michael Bauman said:
At least the Inquisitors let the accused speak for himself before condemning him. Not here.

It should almost go without saying, but this is a ridiculous statement.
-As if James White is somehow preventing Dr. Beckwith from speaking.
-As if James White is somehow threatening Dr. Beckwith with physical harm, imprisonment, or death!
-As if James White is pressing a self-professed member of his own religion in order to elicit a confession. I don't think Dr. Beckwith would call himself a Reformed Babdist. It's just something my gut tells me...

Dr. White doesn't need me to defend him, but let's all take this as a learning experience.
If you throw around allusions or comparisons to such extreme cases as the Inquisition, the Crusades, or the 3rd Reich, or when you throw around labels such as "misogynist", "racist", or "Bible-thumping fundy" (as our liberal friends are so fond of doing), you cheapen almost beyond measure the TRUE explanatory meaning and justifiable shock value of those things. Do it too much, and the Holocaust means nothing to anyone anymore. Prejudging someone as inferior and treating them like garbage b/c of different skin color can't be properly called out. And here we see the horror of a non-biblical model for inducing forced apostasy being brought to bear on a completely unanalogous situation. I smell something... smells like a conscience... on a frying pan...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Modern Day Judaizers

I wouldn’t usually highlight a post from Dr James White since I am sure 99% of the readers here also read his blog, but this post was so excellent that it just needed to be pointed out.

There was a discussion on another blog about the Francis Beckwith conversion in which one of Beckwith’s friends responded to Dr White’s comments. Dr White’s response (posted on the AOMIN Blog) is a must read for anyone who cannot understand why 1) Rome teaches a false gospel, 2) Why we cannot call those who confess a Roman Catholic faith “brothers/sisters in Christ” and 3) Why we must oppose Rome rather than drink the ecumenical kool-aid.

Some highlights:

“How can one say "faith alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone" and then say "propitiatory Mass that never perfects, grace mediated through Mary, temporal punishments, purgatory, and satispassio"? Or to return to the Galatian context, what basis does anyone have to believe that one can say "faith alone in an all sufficient Christ" and "circumcision necessary to have true faith in Christ" at the same time without involving such a contradiction as to render words meaningless? What is it about the Galatian heresy that rendered its proponents anathema that is not present in the pantheon of Roman additions to the gospel? How many times does Rome have to say "no, no, faith alone is not sufficient, you need sacraments, you need the priesthood, you need indulgences, confessions, penances, and a never-perfecting re-presentation of Calvary" before she catches up with the Judaizers in Galatia?”

“Dr. Bauman, every single Judaizer in Galatia could have answered your questions above "correctly." Yet, they were pronounced anathema by Paul. Why?” [in response to Bauman’s assertion that Beckwith would likely answer yes to questions of believing in Christ’s death & resurrection]

“Frank Beckwith does not define Roman Catholicism. Rome gets to do that. If you truly believe that as long as a person says they are a Christian, it matters not what the substance of their profession is, then I must believe you find the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses good "brothers in Christ" as well? Why draw any lines at all? Maybe the Christian/Muslim woman up in the Northwest has it right?”

If you have not read the whole post, please do so.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A figure of original sin

CrimsonCatholic has made some interesting statements regarding original sin (OS) here. I appreciate his conversation b/c it is allowing me to work out a better understanding of the issue.

I don't see any authority elsewhere in Scripture for the proposition that someone who has not committed actual sin was punished by damnation, so it seems to be a matter of speculative reasoning.

In one sense, you're right that the case where some guy was born with original sin but never sinned HIMSELF in life and came to be judged either yea or nay by God has come up in Scripture.
OTOH, does not Rom 5 have explicit statements regarding his guilt? I don't see you dealing with Rom 5 at all in this comment, though I've pointed it out as important a couple of times and stated some initial points in a previous comment in the same thread.

You say that Jesus suffers by substitution or by being a sin offering,

We might be missing each other here.
Jesus suffers because He's the substitute for the elect. He suffers really, physically, spiritually, etc. Hopefully that clears up any confusion.

The entire idea of a substitution or a sin offering is a metaphor; it is not literal, because the person who actually committed the sin is not being punished.

I am sorry, but this is a strange thing to say.
Substitution is not literal b/c the guy for whom the substitute is provided doesn't suffer? Isn't that the point of substitution? Why would the recipient of the benefit of substitution suffer? Why would that change anything about the nature of the suffering of the substitute?

they would entail Jesus being punished for actual sin, which is clearly absurd by both reason and Scripture, since He never actually sinned

Agreed that He never sinned.
But He suffered for **MY** actual sin and the actual sins of all.

Hence, the passages cannot be literal and must be figurative.

Leaving aside that I deny the premises above, if it must be figurative, what is it a figure of? What is the greater reality to which it points, as all symbols do?

To put any sort of actual evil within the nature would make God its author, which is impossible.

Actual evil within the SIN nature (that's to clarify)? Why would God be the author of that? Sin was performed by a fallen angel and then a human. It's a corruption of God-given goodness, not created by Him. Romans 7 (as I also mentioned earlier) describes how it's the "law within my members", struggling against the Spirit-controlled "law of my mind".

The only places in the Scripture which describe men as "guilty" or "sinful" or "condemned" are clearly analogical and not literal.

I'm questioning your arrival at that, so I guess we go there.
Besides, I'll reiterate that you're not even interacting with Rom 5 here.

Jesus doesn't literally become sinful,

You're just repeating a rebuttal to a point that I don't make.
He literally becomes a sin OFFERING. A literal substitute. The Lamb of God.

He doesn't literally suffer punishment, and He is not literally judged.

OK, so He doesn't *literally* die on the cross.
His passion and death is not *literally* painful. They're figurative.
Is our forgiveness of sin based on His non-literal death therefore non-literal as well?

there cannot be any changes in the relationship between them (the Son is eternally begotten by the Father, eternally loved by the Father, etc).

Fine and dandy, but the persons of the Trinity DO different things throughout history. The Holy Spirit now indwells all believers as opposed to what He did in the OT. The Spirit gave spectacular sign gifts to the church, which He didn't do before, and He's not doing the same thing in the same way right now. The Son became incarnate in real space and time. The Son died on the Cross. The Son now, and for eternity in the future, has and will have a physical body.

the Father judging the Son as a sinner

As a sin *offering*. This changes your entire point.

There is no question of wrath or judgment of the Son

I'd say the question is whether the PUNISHMENT for sin, the wrath of God, comes UPON Christ.
1 Pet 2:24 - He bore our sins
Heb 13:13 - bearing the disgrace He bore
Heb 9:28 - Christ bears the sins of many
John 3:36 - the wrath of God abides on the guy who doesn't believe, but somehow not on Jesus, Who substitutes in place of the sinner who does believe?
Same thing in Rom 2:5, Rom 3:5, Rom 4:15, Rom 5:8-10, Eph 2:2-5, Eph 5:6, Col 3:6, 1 Thess 1:10, 1 Thess 2:15-17, etc.

Rhology: Was the Cross God's Plan B?
Certainly, in the sense that evil is never intended directly but only accidentally and conditionally.

Wow. May I ask *when* God's hand and purpose predestined Christ's passion and crucifixion to occur? From eternity past? Or right after the fall?

Supralapsarian Calvinists deny this

And so do I.

There is no evidence to the contrary

Except Rom 5 et al.

The GHM derives its validity from the truths of natural reason, so using any conclusion of the GHM to deny natural reason is irrational.

This is a side note, as we both acknowledge. That said, I wasn't contrasting the GHM with "reason". I was contrasting it with heavy-handed and clumsy uses of the expression "literal interpretation".

But it's an insult to God to say that He is asking you to deny what is known by the same natural reason that He gave you.

For the sake of argument, I grant that here. But when one has good reason (ie, divine revelation DIRECTLY speaking to the topic) to think A and human "reason" says B, one has to go A. There's a reason why 1 Cor 1-3 was written.

And for the grand finale, I'll just put these words of CrimsonCatholic here in boldface. Or should I say baldface?

To put it another way, you don't need the Bible to do what God gave you a brain today. If you make reason dependent on the Bible, then you spurn God's greatest gift to man, the one on which the Bible itself depends.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Just to add some juiciness to Carrie's post...

Doctrine of Purgatory

In the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, there remains a temporal punishment for sin for those who have died in God’s grace. Jesus’ work on the cross somehow paid for the “guilt” of the believer’s sins (keeping them out of hell) but did not pay the full penalty of sin – some satisfaction remains.

“Purgatory (Lat., "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.”

“…The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works has always been part of true repentance and the Council of Trent (Sess. XIV, can. xi) reminds the faithful that God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessary consequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God."
-Catholic Encyclopedia

At least some Catholic theologians admit that this doctrine has little basis in Scripture:

“There is not much in Scripture on Purgatory except that in Second Maccabees 12:45, Judas sends a collection to the Temple for those fallen in battle, found with amulets on, "that they might be freed from this sin." Luther saw so clearly that this referred to Purgatory--which he rejected--that he rejected this book too, declaring it not part of Scripture. Some have tried to see an implication of Purgatory in Matthew 12:32. There Jesus speaks of the sin against the Holy Spirit that will be forgiven "neither in this world nor in the next." But the expression quoted is known in Rabbinic literature, where it means merely "never." Still less could we deduce purgatory from First Corinthians 3:11-15. Paul means if the work of some Christian worker has been of such low quality that it burns down, he himself will be saved "as through fire." But the fire seems to mean the apocalyptic fire of the last day, not a fire of purgatory.

But our belief in Purgatory rests on the tradition and definitions of the Church, at the Councils of Lyons II, Florence, and Trent.”
-The Basic Catholic Catechism

What Christ could not do alone, the Church faithful can. Through prayers and indulgences, the faithful on earth can relieve some of the punishment for those in Purgatory.

“Hence, since our prayers and our sacrifices can help those who are still waiting in purgatory, the saints have not hesitated to warn us that we have a real duty toward those who are still in purgatorial expiation.” Catholic Encyclopedia

”In the communion of saints, "a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things." In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.” CCC 475

“An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted” CCC 478-479

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Does Justifcation Matter at ETS?


Earlier this year Frank Beckwith stepped down as president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). His actions were the right thing to do as he returned to the Roman Catholic Church, IMO. But maybe I and others who agree with me were wrong. Upon reading CT's short q&a State of the Society with ETS's current acting president, Hassell Bullock, I can't help but wonder if it would really matter had Beckwith stayed in office.

When asked about the current debates on justification and the hopeful outcome.
Since the doctrine of justification was the "watchword" of the Reformation, and thus the one doctrine, perhaps above all others, by which Protestantism distinguishes itself from its Catholic and Orthodox communions, it is only wise that we should talk about it and try to understand why our understanding distinguishes us from other Christian brothers and sisters. <emphasis mine>

If the doctrine of justification doesn't matter so that the Gospel isn't affected in anyway and we're all brothers and sisters in Christ then why couldn't Beckwith stay? What difference would it really make?

As for discussing Beckwith's resignation. I think this further strengthens my questioning of his resignation.
The executive committee issued a statement that we considered to be honest and balanced. We wanted to respect Professor Beckwith, a brother in Christ, while lamenting his loss to our society and to Protestantism more generally.

If the doctrine of justification doesn't matter in the ETS then why not just admit it? It almost seems a smoke screen to say that he should have stepped down, but he's still our brother in Christ as the Gospel wasn't affected.


p.s. I am only using Beckwith as a real life example not meaning to single him out.

Works that Justify

Discussions with online Catholics around justification can get confusing, especially Catholics who are former Protestants. The confusion comes when certain Catholics try to minimize the works portion of their justification and emphasize the faith only portion of justification ("initial justification"). The intent seems to be to convince others that Protestants and Catholics are actually not that different with regards to their doctrines on justification (the Reformation was apparently a big misunderstanding).

I was, however, able to find other online Catholics who are more upfront about their works in justification:

“The Catholic Church teaches that although faith is critically important, it only begins the process of justification, a process which also has a middle and an end. Justification is not a single event of faith alone, nor are works merely the fruit of such faith, but a process whereby the individual grows in justification by his faith and good works, a growth which can be retarded, or even terminated, by faithlessness and bad works, ending in damnation.

… If Paul lifts the doing of works for obtaining eternal life to such a height as he does in Rom. 2:6-10, what, then, can we conclude about Paul’s understanding of works in relation to justification? The conclusion must be that works are necessary for justification, and, in fact, are one of the principle determining factors in whether or not one obtains salvation. We say this with the proviso that Paul outrightly condemns works done from boasting with a view toward obligating God to pay the worker with salvation (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5).” Robert Sungenis

“In any event, if one wishes to use the language the Bible uses, one would say that one is justified by faith apart from "works of the Law" (Rom. 3:28), but not by "faith alone," apart from works (Jas. 2:24).” James Akin

“But we Catholics insist that James 2:14–26 shows that works are more than mere evidence of faith. Works actually justify. James is speaking about works growing out of faith. If works of faith are not a part of our justification, then it is hard to understand why James would say, as he does, that "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?" (Jas. 2:21). You may remember how Paul said that Abraham was not justified by works but by faith. Paul means that Abraham was not justified by keeping the Old Testament law, while James means that Abraham was justified by doing a work that grew out of his faith in God.”

Thursday, November 08, 2007

John MacArthur's Truth War


I picked up The Truth War by John MacArthur on CD. So far I've only gotten through the first of three CDs. For the folks who think MacArthur is somehow mean and unloving maybe listening to him read his book will change your mind.

For that matter, just listening to his sermons should help understand his demeanor. I think sometimes when people write things we don't like or agree with that we develop a certain tone in how we read to ourselves in these instances. My understanding is that John MacArthur is not writing out of hate with a tone of nastiness, rather, he's writing out of concern and love. Concern and love for how God has revealed Himself to us in Scripture and for his fellow man that they might not be drawn into or will leave apostasy.

Should MacArthur be concerned? I believe he should and hearing some of the quotes from folks like Brian McLaren gives good reason. The whole position about truth or more specifically propositional truth just puzzles me. MacArthur is reacting to people like McClaren who have been influential in presenting their views of Christianity. McLaren isn't just presenting his views in a vacuum, but is reacting against those who hold to a propositional truth. So in one sense MacArthur is just defending himself and the many who agree with him. Yet, it's MacArthur who is charged with attacking and not vice versa. How loving.

Furthering the point of propositional truth in these disagreements is something I found ironic. If McLaren and his ilk claim MacArthur is wrong in his critique and positions from where are they arguing? Is MacArthur wrong just because you say so? There has got to be something that grounds one's beliefs which would be a propositional truth. If one believes the true God is the Triune God of the Bible that is a definitive propositional truth position. It's a starting point. Now from there if that same person believes that the rest of what we know of God is virtually unknowable and we are all left to seek God through our own experience then all positions that start here should essentially be accepted. So why the argument from the non-propositional truth folks? In other words, if the truth of God is so unknowable then why write books, articles and tell others they are wrong?

So if we can't really know certain things about God then every position should essentially be accepted. Why even accept the Trinity and that salvation is through Jesus Christ? If Christianity should really be understood through the lens of church practice above doctrine what informs this practice? From where does the instruction come that we should even understand Christianity this way? Isn't church practice itself a doctrine? When we abandon propositional truth we are left with no truth at all. We might as well argue with ourselves and agree to disagree.

Ramble off...


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Listening, Or Not Listening...That Is The Question.

I have been peaking over at a recent Haloscan comment thread found on a Romanist's blog. I'm swamped with work, and really should keep my priorities focused elsewhere, but one particular comment really makes me question whether or not he actually listened to the radio interview of mine he critiqued on his blog for a few days. He stated,

"The irony is that Protestants decry "man-centered" religion and the Catholic notion of saints, yet when it comes to Luther they are often so afraid of showing any of his faults, that they engage in pseudo-hagiography and historical revisionism. Many Protestant historians freely admit these faults. Indeed, it is common knowledge as a scandal, just as was the incident involving the bigamy of Philip of Hesse (and Calvin's role in executing Servetus). But Swan won't because it goes against the agenda he is pushing: building up Luther more than the facts will support, and always opposing Catholics and Catholicism, no matter what. Particular truths and even attempted semi-academic (since he is no academic, nor am I) neutrality and objectivity are quick casualties, with that mentality. Homepage 11.06.07 - 8:24 pm # "

I've been under the assumption that this guyactually listened to the interview, because the part about the anabaptists and peasants was presented at the very end of the show. Perhaps though he didn't- the comment above suggests that I'm afraid of showing Luther's faults. But if you actually listen to the interview, I pointed out Luther's involvement in the bigamy of Philip of Hesse, and also, when asked if Luther persecuted the Jews, I provided an example of a form of persecution committed by Luther. Ironically, while not mentioned in the interview, I actually stated in his Haloscan thread that Calvin had a role in the Servetus execution.

In charity, I'm giving this Romanist the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he actually did not listen to the interview, but rather was sent the clip by one of his readers. This is within the realm of possibility. For instance, I probably am not wrong when I say this particular person (BenYachov [Jim Scott 4th]) did not listen to the interview, nor has he ever read anything I've written on Luther: "Why does James Swan need Luther to be morally near perfect? He won't believe in the sinlessness of Mary(unlike Luther who DID believe that) but he can't bring himself to believe Luther ever did anything grieviously wrong?"

In the same thread, Jonathan Prejean states of me, "The point wasn't that he was trying to white-wash Luther " (he goes on to make an argument that I simply nitpick errors to vilify Catholics, while when Catholics criticize Luther in the same way, they are vilified). I'm not sure if Prejean listened to the interview, but at least he has spoken accurately- I try to let Luther simply be Luther. Recall, I'm not even a Lutheran, nor do I believe that Luther was the Protestant pope, or immaculately conceived. In fact, I'm thankful for Luther's faults, because it shows that God uses people in mighty ways, despite the sin in their lives. I find this a comfort.

What I have tried to do, is point out that some Catholics tend to vilify Luther, and cite his words out of context. Further, I have tried to demonstrate that Luther is treated with double standards by Roman Catholics (for instance, in regard to the issues of justification, the canon, or Mary). This does not mean I think Luther was a faultless man, and needs to be "cleaned up" a bit. This should be obvious to anyone who listens to the radio interviews I did on Iron Sharpens Iron.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Jesus can't justify Himself

CrimsonCatholic has responded, and while I find his response quite foreign-sounding (which is probably my own fault), he said sthg that concerns me a GREAT deal. How ironic that I started out questioning the legitimacy of the link between Christology and justification, and now I'm following that trail! Oh well...

-Even a perfect human can't justify himself, not even Jesus, so the notion that Jesus saved us through His perfect obedience is likewise Pelagian.

I actually once heard a charismatic pastor trying to defend the idea that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is evidenced by speaking in tongues - "Jesus was born saved!" Strange to hear the same repeated by a Roman Catholic!

So, a few questions to flesh out the most important thing CC said here:
1) Why would a perfect human need to be justified? Do you mean b/c of the original sin?
2) If #1 is b/c of original sin, how could a perfect human exist at all?
3) If #1 is b/c of original sin, that human wouldn't be perfect, right? He'd have sin, wouldn't he? And therefore not be perfect?
4) Did Jesus have original sin?
5) Why would Jesus need to be justified?
6) If Jesus did not save us thru His perfect obedience, then why does the Scripture say this?
Heb 5:7-8 -
7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation...

And especially,
Rom 5:18-20 -
18So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more...

7) Was it not, then, Jesus' actions that provided salvation for fallen humanity? If not, what?
8) Related to #7, are not Christ's passion, crucifixion, and resurrection actions that were performed in obedience to the eternal plan of God?

'Course, anyone is welcome to chime in. If you're RC or EOx, I'd also like very much to know your estimation of what CrimsonCatholic has said.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Linking justification with Christology

CrimsonCatholic has raised an interesting point and I'd like to ask a question about it, for discussion.
It began when Lucian made this interesting (and, uncharacteristically, not off-the-wall) comment:
I think it highly unwise to try to understand the Biblical concept of redemption, save through the prism of the Person of the Redeemer Himself: the God-Man Jesus Christ. ...I think there are at least 4 (possible options for a salvation concept) 1) 100% God, 0% man. 2) 100% man, 0% God. 3) X% God, (100-X)% man. 4) 100% God, 100% man.

A little later on, I wrote a post that ended up in 120+ comments where I contended that Ephesians 2:8-10's use of the two "works" provides unequivocal support for the idea of Sola Fide.
CrimsonCatholic stopped by and offered his thoughts, repeated in a recent post at his blog.
Here is what he said:
You once said that you rejected the idea that works could be both 100% God's and 100% man's, one of four options, because that option pertained to Christology and not justification.

In light of v. 2:10 and the rest of the book of Ephesians (espec. vv. 1:9-10, 22-23 and ch. 3), do you truly believe that Paul's doctrine of justification and Christian works is not Christological? And if the dichotomy between divine works and human works is false in Christ, why is it not false for those in whom Christ is working as well? Moreover, in the work of Christ, what cause do we have to boast of ourselves? (Compare Rom. 3:27 with Rom. 15:17-18, Gal. 2:20, Phlp. 2:13.)

So, leaving aside the fact that I also dealt with his question about boasting (which went unanswered), the central statement seems to be that, since Christ Himself is 100% God and 100% man, so must we regard our justification as 100% by the grace of God and 100% by the works of man.
This is interesting on several levels, really. My answers at the time were here and then here as a reiteration.

Eph 2:10 tells us that Christ created us for good works. Eph 2:8-9 tell us that it's apart from works that we are saved by grace thru faith. These works are the same works; the ones in v. 10 that don't save us in v.9 are what we do after we're created in Christ Jesus. Any distinction I make is what is made in the text; indeed, I'm forced into it. Nobody has yet dealt with that here.
What I hear you saying seems to me to be similar to the common RC argument about the Assumption of the BV Mary, that it "would be fitting" for Christ to show the honor shown to Enoch and Elijah to His mother as well. Ergo, she was assumed. Game, set, match.
Here, you seem to be saying that since Christ was 100% God and 100% man, it is fitting that our salvation might be 100% God and 100% man as well. But how can we justify that connection biblically? It's a just-so story, b/c *you* think it would be fitting that it be that way. But God apparently disagrees.
Just a sidenote - we don't find our doctrine in "linkages" that could be seen in between biblical passages when obvious statements are made about the same, such as Eph 2:8-10 and Rom 4:6-8. This is a hallmark of Roman Catholic apologetics, as the way they go about defending the Assumption of Mary demonstrate.

CrimsonCatholic's argument would seem to require that Christ working in us is like God working in Christ and hence the works are the same. To make his argument work it would need to be modified to 100% God + 100% (perfect) man. We do not qualify for the second half and hence we are unable to contribute to our justification. Only Jesus fills that holy place. But the Roman Catholic may object that it is Christ's work in us, so it is still God's work. But how can you meaningfully say that it is not our works when we used our hands and mouths to do the works even if they were from God's work in us? The works Jesus does in us are our works too, just as the works God did in Christ were Christ's works too.
Also, that response fails miserably in taking into account just how bad the human is. He doesn't seek to do good. He doesn't want to. He hates the light. This "100% man" thing would lead to our utter damnation, by logical consequence.

Now, CC's argument seems to me to be similar to:
  • Since Jesus is the High Priest, then we are also co-high priests because we are in him.
  • Since Jesus is the Mediator, then we are co-mediators in him.
  • Since Jesus is at the Right Hand of the Father, we are also at his right hand.
  • Since Jesus is the King of Kings, we too are king of kings.
  • Since Jesus worked for our salvation, we too work for our salvation in him.

It is taking Jesus' uniqueness and distributing it inappropriately to the redeemed. I think it is a tighter argument if you say that it is appropriate to use the God-man as a prism to interpret salvation but CC's approach fails because it generalizes from the unique God-man to humanity, which is a major problem.

But I want to ask a different question as well: Why choose Christology as the link to justification?

Here's an example: Why not link justification to the Trinity? Is not the Trinity a direct consideration in the justification of the sinner?
Instead of justification being 100% by grace (from God) and 100% by works (from men) (as Christ), why not 100% from God the Father, 100% from Jesus Christ, and 100% from the Holy Spirit?
Another example: Why not link justification to the resurrection of Lazarus? It was 100% of Jesus.
Another example: Why not link justification to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? It was Trinitarian as well.
So I'd ask CrimsonCatholic and anyone else who is so inclined to defend that linkage in preference to the other examples posted.

Posted for Christ's Glory,