Sunday, April 27, 2008

"they mean at least this much."

I ventured over to a discussion board (something I haven't done in a while), and noticed the following question:

"What is the official RCC teaching on the verses I bolded? Can you show me something from an official catholic document."

This is asking for something Roman apologists cannot give you. Just this month, Jimmy Akin, one of the main hosts of Catholic Answers admitted the Roman Church can't give you an infallible, official interpretation of exactly what any particular Bible verse means. The Roman Church, according to Akin, can only tell you, in some instances a Bible verse "mean[s] at least this much."The clip can be found here , or in the imbedded audio player below:

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blogging Break

The post previous to this one is my last for awhile. I am taking a self-imposed blogging hiatus for a couple of months to get some reading done and catch up on life. My hope is to cut out all blogging (including reading) which means you shouldn't see me in any comboxes either (never say never).

I will be back...

The Dead Letter of Scripture

Following on a discussion in this combox, I shared a few quotes from Catholics on the Bible. I think my use of the quotes wasn’t quite understood, so I thought I would break the quotes down here.

"It is the Church, the holder of Tradition, that gives life to the dead letter of Scripture. Experience shows that it is only in the life of the Church, the Bride of Christ, that Scripture, divinely inspired as it is, becomes 'living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword' (Heb 4:12)"
-A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 (pg 2)
with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII

1. Scripture is a dead letter in need of life.
2. Only the Roman Catholic Church gives life to Scripture.
3. Therefore, without the RCC, Scripture is dead and ineffectual.

"In regard to these truth [faith and morals] the authority of Tradition and of the Bible is equal...Nevertheless, as we shall see later, the Church is superior to the Bible in the sense that she is the Living Voice of Christ, and therefore the sole infallible interpreter of the inspired Word, whenever an authoritative interpretation is required."
-A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1951 (pg 2)
with imprimatur and acknowledgment of Pope Pius XII

1. The Roman Catholic Church “is superior to the Bible".
2. Therefore, the Bible is inferior to the Church.

"A competent religious guide must be clear and intelligible to all, so that everyone may fully understand the true meaning of the instructions it contains. Is the Bible a book intelligible to all? Far from it; it is full of obscurities and difficulties not only for the illiterate, but even for the learned...The Fathers of the Church, though many of them spent their whole lives in the study of the Scriptures, are unanimous in pronouncing the Bible a book full of knotty difficulties."
-The Faith of Our Fathers

1. A competent religious guide must be clear to all.
2. The Bible is not clear to all.
3. Therefore, the Bible is incompetent.

(this one is directly related to the previous combox discussion - lack of clarity equals incompetence.)

"We must, therefore, conclude that the Scriptures alone cannot be a sufficient guide and rule of faith because they cannot, at any time, be within the reach of every inquirer; because they are not of themselves clear and intelligible even in matters of the highest importance, and because they do not contain all the truths necessary for salvation."
-The Faith of Our Fathers

1. Scripture is not accessible to all.
2. Scripture is not clear, even in very important matters.
3. Scripture does not contain all the truths necessary for salvation.
4. Therefore, Scripture alone is an insufficient rule of faith.

FINAL SUMMARY: God's breathed-out revelation to his creation is dead, ineffectual, unclear, incompetent, insufficient, incomplete with regards to salvation and inferior to the Roman Catholic Church.

What does that say about God?

In contrast, what God's Word says about itself:

"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isa 55:10-11

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Ps 119:105

"And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." Deut 8:3

"The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple." Ps 119:130

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." 1 Thess 2:13

"Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" Jer 23:29

"and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Tim 3:15-16

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mark Shea responds to the Gerry Matatics ISI show:

Matatics Completes His Transition Back to Protestantism
So I open my email this morning and get this ad from somebody who is apparently part of the James White Axis of Realio-Trulio Reformed Anti-Catholics. The guy's got a radio show and his special guest is none other than Gerry Matatics, shilling his latest assault on Holy Church with the musical question "GERRY MATATICS: Is John Ratzinger a True Pope?"I can confidently answer that question with a solid negative: John Ratzinger is not a True Pope.The ad informs us that Matatics only "grudgingly" uses the term "sedevacantist" to describe himself. Is that because he doesn't deny that the Pope is the Pope. No. He denies it alright. The name for people who deny that the Pope is the Pope is "sedevacantist". So why deny what he in fact professes? I suspect it could have something to do with the fact that, as the ad says, "Prior to Gerry's adoption of sedevacantism ... he was one of the most highly sought after Catholic apologists in America, and was one of the most highly praised contemporary defenders of the Catholic Faith." Now that he has chosen to regard himself as smarter than Holy Mother Church and to do radio shows aiding and abetting professional anti-Catholics, it's hard to persuade Catholics that he isn't the best person to turn to for information on the Church. "Sedevacantist" doesn't help enhance that reputation. So while advocating a sedevacantist position, Matatics prefers not to *name* that position too loudly.The refusal to give things their proper name is always one of the marks of hell at work.PS: a new ad showed up just now, with Matatics denying that Joseph Ratzinger is the Pope. Matatic's not a sedevacantist or anything though.

So...when do you think Mark Shea will agree to go on ISI in the future with Gerry? [Answer: Never].

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

You can take the Catholic out of the Church...

11Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.
12Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Listening to Gerry Matatics on Iron Sharpens Iron today made me laugh at one point in particular, when host Chris Arnzen asked him this question (around minute 38):

(Your mainstream Catholic friends may say): You are acting as a Prot, certainly your Gospel is not Protestant and your sacraments and so on are not Protestant, but in you standing in defiance of bishops and a Pope, you are merely relying on private interpretation and so on, if you could comment on that.

Here is Matatics' response (as I have transcribed it):

Absolutely, no, the... the argument is totally fallacious, the claim is totally false and falls to the ground. I don't depend upon my private interpretation of Scripture, tradition, or anything the Mag has taught. I rely upon what the Catholic Church herself, the pillar and foundation of the truth, as St Paul calls the church in 1 Tim 3:15, has faithfully taught down thru the years. That teaching is clear, it is capable of being understood, or there's no point in having a teaching church. And it's very clear when we look at that church's teaching, for example, that what Luther was teaching at, uh, during his "Reformation", what John Calvin was teaching, what other Protestant "Reformers" were teaching about the fact that we can be justified by faith alone, is a heresy. No one could read the documents of the Council of Trent which met, you know, in the 1500s to address the errors of Luther, and come away thinking, "Gee, I'm a little confused. Is Luther a good guy or a bad guy? Is Calvin correct or incorrect?" It's very unambiguous that what these men are teaching is a heresy that is contrary to Scripture... so that's very clear, that the Catholic Church has always condemned Protestantism... so the Protestant here, Chris, is not Gerry Matatics, it's the guy who would follow Ratzinger. Ratzinger says in his book Principles of Catholic Theology that Protestantism is not heresy. So if somebody wants to look around for who are the Catholicss who are really Protestants masquerading as Catholics, it is the followers of Vatican 2. Vatican 2 teaches a Protestantised version....I say, Vat 2 teaches that Protestants do not need to convert to Catholicism in order to enter the one true church and in order to save their eternal souls.
(emphasis and quotations his)

I love it. Here Arnzen does us the favor of reflecting back on a Romanist the same question that so many Roman apologists (and indeed, Matatics himself in the past) LOVE to pose to Protestants - "Isn't _____ just your private interpretation, though? Don't we need an infallible interpreter to inform us of the true interpretation so that we will not fall into the disunity of multiple 10s of 1000s of denominations as we've seen in Protestantism?"

Listen to Matatics' response! All he does is answer in the same way as Protestants sometimes do - no, the teaching of the church is totally sufficiently clear, it is wholly adequate to communicate the truth of God. The teachings of the Council of Trent are easily understood.

Herein lies the blasphemy implicit in this kind of question. Church Fathers, papal encyclicals, conciliar decrees, etc are clearer than Scripture. God apparently is unable or unwilling to make His revelation clear enough in the Scripture, but He gets it right or chooses to make it happen later on, in the teachings of the Church throughout history.

Such pitiful arguments have been answered over and over again, notably here and less notably here among countless other places. What I love most about this is to see the infighting among the "unified" Romanists, and a Roman apologist getting a taste of his own medicine.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gerry Matatics Live On ISI Today

Today at 3 PM, Catholic apologist Gerry Matatics will be interviewed on Iron Sharpens Iron. Iron Sharpens Iron is a live broadcast. It can be heard live streamed here between 3 and 4 PM, eastern standard time.

Do you have a question Gerry? Call in TODAY 1-631-321-WNYG (9694) between 3 and 4 PM.

GERRY MATATICS, Founder & President of a Traditionalist Catholic apostolate known as Biblical Foundations International , and the very first ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America ever to convert to Roman Catholicism, who subsequently in recent years has adopted an extremely controversial position adhered to by a minority of self-professed Traditionalist Catholics called "sedevacantism", will address the theme: "IS JOSEPH RATZINGER A TRUE POPE?: A Sedevacantist Catholic's View."

Sedevacantism, a term derived from the Latin "while the seat is empty", referring to the "Chair of St. Peter" or the papal office, is a belief that although the papacy is still an office ordained by God Himself, there have been no legitimate popes for half a century, and that all those bishops alleged to have ascended to the papacy subsequent to the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958 up through the present (which would include John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI) are not only counterfeit popes, but are also counterfeit Catholics, since they have espoused modernist heresies such as maintaining ecumenical relations with Protestants and other non-Catholics, and have perpetuated other teachings and practices upheld by Vatican II which were deemed to be heretical by previous Catholic councils. Sedevacantism received a lot more media attention than is typical several years ago during the publicity surrounding the blockbuster film "The Passion of the Christ", produced and directed by Academy Award winner Mel Gibson, whose father Hutton is a sedevacantist (whether or not Mel Gibson himself could correctly be described as a sedevacantist is debatable, albeit the fact that the church he privately funded, Church of the Holy Family in Malibu, CA, appears to have sympathies with some controversial sedevacantist positions). Although our guest today, Gerry Matatics, was featured providing theological commentary on the DVD of the "Director's Cut" of "The Passion of the Christ," Gerry insists he has no close affiliation with Mel Gibson nor any connection whatsoever with Mr. Gibson's privately funded congregation.

Prior to Gerry's adoption of sedevacantism (a term he only grudgingly uses as shorthand when describing his views), he was one of the most highly sought after Catholic apologists in America, and was one of the most highly praised contemporary defenders of the Catholic Faith by his former colleagues at Catholic Answers , a well known apologetic organization within the mainstream of Catholicism. While Gerry was himself within the pale of the mainstream, he was invited to participate and engaged in frequent public, moderated debates with such noteworthy Evangelical Protestant apologists as Dr. James R. White of Alpha & Omega Ministries .

Although Gerry is still very actively traveling and speaking, it has been extremely difficult finding a capable, noteworthy apologist within the mainstream of Catholicism willing to participate in a public forum with him to debate or discuss the sedevacantist controversy. Many unsuccessful attempts were made to find such a Catholic to oppose Gerry's positions on this radio/Internet program. A more extensive biographical sketch of Gerry can be found here . Two earlier programs on "Iron Sharpens Iron" on the topic of "Sedevacantism", one with Gerry alone, and one featuring an exchange between Gerry and Evangelical Protestant apologist Dr. James R. White, can be heard on free, downloadable mp3 .

CAVEAT LECTOR: This interview is not to be mistaken as an expression of "modern ecumenism" between the Reformed Baptist host and his Traditionalist Catholic guest on this radio broadcast. The host merely believes that a critical examination of Pope Benedict XVI from a scholarly Catholic perspective is not only something that may rarely be heard or seen elsewhere in the media, but is a valuable topic for discussion in a day and age where the desire to preserve theological purity has been replaced with sentimentalism in both modern Catholicism and Evangelicalism.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Great Apologetic Resources

Saint & Sinner has had some excellent posts on his blog lately. I wanted to quickly highlight a few:

The Infallible Knowledge Argument
The Doctrinal Chaos Argument
The Argument from Apostolic Tradition and Succession
The Argument from Canon Certainty

S&S also has a great apologetic website with lots of great material. I highly recommend his Roman Catholicism page which contains many well-researched articles.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

"One particular area of theological study is joint study of the Bible and the Qur'an. We need to read our scriptures together and, let me suggest, we need to bring our scholars together for sessions of joint exegesis. By interpreting our scriptures together, we gain valuable insight not only into the message of the scriptures but how the scriptures themselves have been lived by the generations. Common themes will be found, and differences in teachings and beliefs will be noted. We will also learn from one another how we approach the diversity of texts in Scripture and how Scripture relates to that body of literature we call, for want of a better term, Tradition. We can open for one another classical methods of interpretation and commentary on Scripture and modern methods too. The benefits could be enormous, not only for mutual understanding but also for broadening our own views and growing in our respect for the ways that God continues to work among all of us."

-United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tiber Swim Book Club #1

I wanted to provide some book recommendations for all of you getting ready to swim the Tiber and convert to Roman Catholicism. You know how you're reading the Early Church Fathers, and how wonderful it is? You know that feeling you're getting that now you've plugged into ancient Christian history? Well, as you're ordering your books by Hahn, Madrid, or Ray, (the ones telling you all about Church history that you think are "unanswerable"), for the sake of both sides of the issue, because we know you're trying to be as honest and careful as possible in your research, I think you need to secure a copy of this book:

A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in the Decision of Controversies Existing at This Day in Religion by John Daillé (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1856)
The book covers such topics as:

-On the difficulty of ascertaining the opinions of the Fathers in reference to the present controversies in religion deduced from the fact that there is very little of their writings extant of the first three centuries

-Those writings which bear the names of the ancient Fathers, are not all really such; but a great portion of them supposititious and forged, either long since or at later periods

-The writings of the Fathers, which are considered legitimate, have been in many places corrupted by time, ignorance and fraud, pious and malicious, both in the early and later Ages

-The testimonies given by the Fathers, on the Doctrines of the Church, are not always true and certain

- The Fathers testify themselves, that they are not to be believed absolutely, and upon their own bare assertion, in what they declare in matters of religion

- The Fathers have erred in divers points of religion; not only singly, but also many of them together

- The Fathers have strongly contradicted one another, and have maintained different opinions in matters of very great importance

-Neither the Church of Rome nor the Protestants acknowledge the Fathers for their judges in points of religion; both of them rejecting such of their opinions and practices as are not suited to their taste; being an answer to two objections that may be made against what is delivered in this discourse

You owe it to yourself, your family, and your friends to be as honest and diligent as possible in your studies. I plan on posting more books for you to consider.

Pope Says No More Pedophiles

In a Yahoo news release Pope Benedict XVI is quoted.
"It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children. "I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the pope said.

I say that's great! But I also say that it's about time. During the time the events of the movie listed below Deliver Us From Evil occurred, the current Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

According to the movie and Wikipedia, Cardinal Ratzinger was responsible for those engaging in pedophilia. Another Wikipedia entry states:
Due to special canonical legislation, it also has competency for cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors.

Victims in the movie were also turned away from the Vatican by security. So why now? I'm glad at least the issue is being talked about although, given the past minimal action on this issue, I have little confidence anything major will be done. I also wonder if any current clergy will be looked at or if it's just potential new clergy.

My wife and I watched this movie in disbelief with our jaws dropped. I recommend it be watched with caution as it is a very difficult movie to watch.


p.s. James blogged about this movie in the past.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quick Musings on the Journey Home

I just watched about a half hour of The Journey Home. Andy McNutt recounted his journey (he has a blog here). I really don't want to be overly critical, personal, or mean spirited towards this gentleman. I'm sure he's a very nice man. However, I just didn't buy certain aspects of his story.

He stated something to the effect that there were not any good Protestant books to address his particular concerns while he was searching for the truth about Rome. This is just simply false. There are plenty of books, and they are NOT written by Jack Chick, but by qualified men who have presented factual and reasonable materials. I question how deeply he actually sought out materials to answer questions he had about Roman Catholicism. He managed to find books by Steve Ray and Mark Shea. You mean to tell me he could find these, but couldn't find any books by James White, Eric Svendsen, William Webster, or even books that consider aspects of Romanism like R.C. Sproul's books? I don't buy it. I would speculate this man had access to the Internet. If he was able to find Shea and Ray, he should have been able to find materials from the other side as well. I can even grant that Ray's books have a particular level of popularity, but Shea?

Second, he spent a lot of time talking about the Early Church Fathers, and how their writings helped lead him to Rome. I don't buy this either, particularly since he became acquainted with them in a seminary. I've read plenty of the Early Church Fathers. I find them to be fallible men, who at times said some good things, but other times did not. Simply because they lived closer to the First Century does not make them more correct. Even the Bible shows us error quickly came into the church. These men contradicted each other, and their writings do not exist in a purified form. I simply can't believe that an educated man like Mr. McNutt overlooked simple, basic questions about the Early Church Fathers, and their reliability.

Again, I'm not trying to be mean-spirited toward this man. I can appreciate the fact that he was bold enough to go on television to recount his story.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Catholic Quotes on the Bible

28 Q: Is the reading of the Bible necessary to all Christians?
A: The reading of the Bible is not necessary to all Christians since they are instructed by the Church; however its reading is very useful and recommended to all.

32 Q: What should a Christian do who has been given a Bible by a Protestant or by an agent of the Protestants?
A: A Christian to whom a Bible has been offered by a Protestant or an agent of the Protestants should reject it with disgust, because it is forbidden by the Church. If it was accepted by inadvertence, it must be burnt as soon as possible or handed in to the Parish Priest.

33 Q: Why does the Church forbid Protestant Bibles?
A: The Church forbids Protestant Bibles because, either they have been altered and contain errors, or not having her approbation and footnotes explaining the obscure meanings, they may be harmful to the Faith. It is for that same reason that the Church even forbids translations of the Holy Scriptures already approved by her which have been reprinted without the footnotes approved by her.

-Catechism of St. Pius

Friday, April 11, 2008

Luther on the Perspicuity of Scripture

"But the notion that in Scripture some things are recondite and all is not plain was spread by the godless Sophists... —who have never yet cited a single item to prove their crazy view; nor can they. And Satan has used these unsubstantial spectres to scare men off reading the sacred text, and to destroy all sense of its value, so as to ensure that his own brand of poisonous philosophy reigns supreme in the church. I certainly grant that many passages in the Scriptures are obscure and hard to elucidate, but that is due, not to the exalted nature of their subject, but to our own linguistic and grammatical ignorance; and it does not in any way prevent our knowing all the contents of Scripture. For what solemn truth can the Scriptures still be concealing, now that the seals are broken, the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light—that Christ, God's Son, became man, that God is Three in One, that Christ suffered for us, and will reign for ever? And are not these things known, and sung in our streets? Take Christ from the Scriptures—and what more will you find in them? You see, then that the entire content of the Scriptures has now been brought to light, even though some passages which contain unknown words remain obscure. Thus it is unintelligent, and ungodly too, when you know that the contents of Scripture are as clear as can be, to pronounce them obscure on account of those few obscure words. If words are obscure in one place, they are clear in another. What God has so plainly declared to the world is in some parts of Scripture stated in plain words, while in other parts it still lies hidden under obscure words. But when something stands in broad daylight, and a mass of evidence for it is in broad daylight also, it does not matter whether there is any evidence for it in the dark. Who will maintain that the town fountain does not stand in the light because the people down some alley cannot see it, while everyone in the square can see it?

There is nothing, then, in your remark about the 'Corycian cavern'; matters are not so in the Scriptures. The profoundest mysteries of the supreme Majesty are no more hidden away, but are now brought out of doors and displayed to public view. Christ has opened our understanding, that we might understand the Scriptures, and the Gospel is preached to every creature. 'Their sound is gone out into all lands' (Ps. 19.4). 'All things that are written, are written for our instruction' (Rom. 15.4). Again: 'All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction' (2 Tim. 3.16). Come forward then, you, and all the Sophists with you, and cite a single mystery which is still obscure in the Scripture. I know that to many people a great deal remains obscure; but that is due, not to any lack of clarity in Scripture, but to their own blindness and dullness, in that they make no effort to see truth which, in itself, could not be plainer. As Paul said of the Jews in 2 Cor. 4: 'The veil remains on their heart' (2 Cor. 3.15); and again, 'If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, whose heart the god of this world hath blinded' (2 Cor. 4.3-4). They are like men who cover their eyes, or go from daylight into darkness, and hide there, and then blame the sun, or the darkness of the day, for their inability to see. So let wretched men abjure that blasphemous perversity which would blame the darkness of their own hearts on to the plain Scriptures of God!

When you quote Paul's statement, 'his judgments are incomprehensible,' you seem to take the pronoun 'his' to refer to Scripture; whereas the judgments which Paul there affirms to be incomprehensible are not those of Scripture, but those of God. And Isaiah 40 does not say: 'who has known the mind of Scripture?' but: 'who has known the mind of the Lord?' (Paul, indeed, asserts that Christians do know the mind of the Lord; but only with reference to those things that are given to us by God, as he there says in i Cor. 2 (v. 12)). You see, then, how sleepily you examined those passages, and how apt is your citation of them—as apt as are almost all your citations for 'free-will'! So, too, the examples of obscurity which you allege in that rather sarcastic passage are quite irrelevant—the distinction of persons in the Godhead, the union of the Divine and human natures of Christ, and the unpardonable sin. Here, you say, are problems which have never been solved. If you mean this of the enquiries which the Sophists pursue when they discuss these subjects, what has the inoffensive Scripture done to you, that you should blame such criminal misuse of it on to its own purity? Scripture makes the straightforward affirmation that the Trinity, the Incarnation and the unpardonable sin are facts. There is nothing obscure or ambiguous about that. You imagine that Scripture tells us how they are what they are; but it does not, nor need we know. It is here that the Sophists discuss their dreams; keep your criticism and condemnation for them, but acquit the Scriptures! If, on the other hand, you mean it of the facts themselves, I say again: blame, not the Scriptures, but the Arians and those to whom the Gospel is hid,who, by reason of the working of Satan, their god, cannot see the plainest proofs of the Trinity in the Godhead and of the humanity of Christ.

In a word: The perspicuity of Scripture is twofold, just as there is a double lack of light. The first is external, and relates to the ministry of the Word; the second concerns the knowledge of the heart. If you speak of internal perspicuity, the truth is that nobody who has not the Spirit of God sees a jot of what is in the Scriptures. All men have their hearts darkened, so that, even when they can discuss and quote all that is in Scripture, they do not understand or really know any of it. They do not believe in God, nor do they believe that they are God's creatures, nor
anything else- as Ps. 13 puts it, "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God' (Ps. 14:1). The Spirit is needed for the understanding of all Scripture and every part of Scripture. If, on the the other hand, you speak of external perspicuity, the position is that nothing whatsoever is left obscure or ambiguous, but all that is in the Scripture is through the Word brought forth into the clearest light and proclaimed to the whole world.

Source: Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Translated by J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston) (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), pp. 71-74.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Preservation, part 3. An objection - freewill.

Continuing our series on preservation, we come to a frequent objection to the concept of the perseverance of the saints, raised here and elsewhere.

"If, when we are saved, we don't have the choice to turn away from God again, doesn't that mean we have less free will than before, when we were sinners?"

There are numerous angles from which to tackle this. I'll focus only on the internal inconsistency of it here. Such a question is asked b/c of an unbiblical definition of freedom and slavery.

Romans 6:17-23 - But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Answer 1:
What is freedom? Biblically, it is living in Jesus. "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
To return to sin after having been set free from sin and made Christ's is not more freedom, it is less. The objection is caught in the vise of advocating that one has the free choice to return to a state of less free choice.

Answer 2:
Biblically, our nature is transformed upon justification.
2 Cor 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Ezek 36:27-28 - And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

We no longer desire to sin, to do evil. So is the objector telling us that we will return to the previous state of heart? God did the transforming, can we undo it?

Answer 3 (and most pointedly):
The objector himself also believes that we lose any ability to "choose freely" to walk away from God at a certain point in time. That is, at time of death, I know of no self-called Christian system that would say that a person can, after death and going to Heaven, subsequently turn away from God and go to Hell. Why? Don't they have free choice? Apparently not.
This leads to the question why the objector would say, therefore, that it is contrary to the idea of freewill that one will not turn away from God once converted. The objector obviously has no moral objection to such an idea, since he believes it as well. All that is left to him is to make a biblical objection, and we've seen how a few of those have failed already.

I'm still trying to decide whether more posts will follow, but that was fun enough!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My friend TurretinFan did some great work a few months ago confirming my suspicion that an oft-used Luther quote by Roman Catholic apologists was the result of Cochlaeus. Now TurretinFan did some work on the saying often attributed to Luther, that justification is like snow which covers dung.

Snow-Covered Dung-Heap - Luther / Langland / Chrysostom?

While the entry is not definitive, it certainly is interesting. In a way, I feel bad for TurretinFan that he can't copyright his efforts with this quote. I'm sure others will seize it, as if they actually found the same tidbits of information.

Luther Popping the Free Will Baloon

Have you ever wondered about all those verses in the Bible that say something like, "Do this and you will live"? That is, you've come across a lot of verses like Deuteronomy 30:19-20,

"I call heaven and earth as a witness against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey his voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."

This particular passage was brought up in defense of free will by Erasmus when he wrote against Martin Luther. Luther's response is one in which I've used in arguments, and I find most helpful :

"It is from this passage that I derive my answer to you: that by the words of the law man is admonished and taught, not what he can do, but what he ought to do; that is, that he may know his sin, not that he may believe that he has any strength. Wherefore, my good Erasmus, as often as you confront me with the words of the law, so often shall I confront you with the words of Paul: 'By the law is knowledge of sin'—not power of will! Gather together from the big concordances all the imperative words into one chaotic heap (not the words of promise, but the words of the law and its demand)—and I shall at once declare that they always show, not what men can do, or do do, but what they should do! Even grammarians and schoolboys at street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by verbs in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done? But there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip!—and things that you commanded and that were possible enough may yet not be done, so great a gulf is there between imperative and indicative statements in the simplest everyday matters! Yet in this business of keeping the law, which is as far out of our reach as heaven is from the earth and just as impossible of attainment, you make indicatives out of imperatives with such alacrity that the moment you hear the word of command: 'do', 'keep', 'choose', you will straightway have it that it has been kept, done, chosen or fulfilled, or that these things can be done by our own strength!"

Source: Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Translated by J.I. Packer & O.R. Johnston) (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), pp. 158-159.

This argument from Luther is crucial in debating the nature of the will. I realize, the Reformed would argue for three uses of the Law, but with Luther's basic point above, a myriad of arguments put forth defending free will are dismantled.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Preservation, part 2. Shepherd.

So, we've seen how we deal with Romans 11 and its warnings (and by extension other warning passages in the Bible). In this case, what do we have to account for?

John 10:25-29 - "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

So, in review, the answer to David Bryan's question is that we don't favor any biblical passage over any other when figuring out a biblical position on Issue X. We look at all the data and derive thence the position. There are some passages that are clearer than others, for which we thank God. There are those that are less clear, for which we also thank God and thank Him for the clearer ones that clarify the less clear ones. The clarity assigns priority, you might say, of chronology for figuring out where to start, then one moves on to the less-clear for harmonisation.

First, the interpretation that one can be at some point in his life in such a state that he would go to Heaven forever if he were to die at that moment, and later in life be in such a state that he would go to Hell forever if he were to die at that later moment demands the question: Can one be sealed, adopted, transformed, and then UNsealed, UNadopted, UNtransformed, and then REsealed, REadopted, REtransformed? How many times? How many times can one be cut off, grafted back in, cut back off, grafted back in?
A hint is that Hebrews 6:4-6 informs us that the answer is Zero; that is, if one can indeed be unsealed, unadopted, etc, then it's impossible to come back.

Of course, all that is based on false premises.

Anyway, I'd like to examine the John 10 passage. Many people end up focusing on the "no one can snatch them out" but there's a more central statement to it. Specifically, Jesus says that His sheep will never perish. Given that the biblical language of death, particularly spiritual death, is usually equivalent to being condemned b/c of sin and spending eternity in Hell, Jesus is saying that, whoever His sheep are, they will not perish, they will not go to Hell, they will be rather with Him, forever (since He says "never").
So, who are His sheep?

V. 24 informs us that Jesus is addressing "The Jews", which usually means some mixture of the Pharisees, teachers of the law, scribes, etc. And these Jews prove their unbelief by asking Him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
They do not accept Him as Messiah.
Jesus answers, "I told you, and you do not believe." These are unbelievers, called out for what they are by God Himself.
Next, v. 26-27, "you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
He compares and contrasts the 2 groups - these to whom He is speaking are not His sheep. In this life. Right now, at this moment in time, they are not His sheep. And there is another group in existence, His sheep, who DO follow His voice. Are these sheep people who have died in faith?
If so,
1) why say they will never perish?
2) why deny that someone could snatch them?
3) why describe the sheep as not hearing the voice of the stranger in v. 5?
4) why say that the sheep didn't listen to thieves and robbers who came before, in v. 8? Do these thieves and robbers have access to the faithful dead in Paradise?
5) why describe the wolf scattering the sheep in v. 12? Can that happen in heaven?

Etc. No, these sheep must be believers in this life.
The step is fairly simple now, for those who care what Jesus says. The sheep are believers in this life, and they will never perish. Thus, he who is a believer doesn't perish, ever.
Remembering that this is a separate question from assurance, that is, knowing that one is saved, the idea that one can fall out of a saved state, forwarded by David Bryan and his EO-dox brethren, Arminians, Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, semi-Pelagians, etc, lies refuted by God's direct statement. This is not unclear. Thus, as we said earlier, it is often an excellent and useful strategy to start here, take the concept as a given from now on, and work to harmonise other 'problem' passages and questions that may arise.

Let me deal here briefly with an easily-answered objection:
If I said that members of the Marlebone football club will never have to pay entrance fee to home games, does that have to mean that one cannot cease to be a member of the club and then have to pay?
In that case, would not the sheep perish? What then would be the point of saying what Jesus said?
Let's restate it like Orthodox would have us do:
"My sheep hear my voice except when they don't, and I know them except for the ones I don't know, and they follow me unless they don't follow me. I give the ones who don't unbecome sheep eternal life, and the ones who don't perish will never perish, and the ones that don't snatch themselves out of my hand, no one will snatch out of my hand. My Father, who has given the ones who don't perish to me, is greater than all, and and the ones that don't snatch themselves out of the Father's hand will not be snatched out."

Perhaps Orthodox knows of a textual variant in John 10 that I don't know about. It would be interesting to know.

I hope to address a different common objection in a 3rd post soon.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Augustine and the First Sin

This was a tidbit from one of the comment boxes. I stated, "Augustine, whom I think it was, argued the fall of man occurred before the eating of the fruit, with the pride of Adam and Eve craving for undue exaltation." I then went on to other points. The point here though, is sin is not just an action, it is a disposition of the heart. It isn't just an external act.

I was asked, "I’d be interested in seeing where Augustine said that."

Consider it done. Augustine assigned the cause of the fall of Adam and Eve to pride:

"Our first parents fell into open disobedience because already they were secretly corrupted; for the evil act [would] never [have] been done had not an evil will preceded it. And what is the origin of our evil will but pride? For "pride is the beginning of sin" [Ecclus. 10:13?]. And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction. . . . This falling away is spontaneous; for if the will had remained steadfast in the love of that higher and changeless good by which it was illumined to intelligence and kindled into love, it would not have turned away to find satisfaction in itself. . . . The wicked deed, then that is to say, the transgression of eating the forbidden fruit was committed by persons who were already wicked."

Source: Augustine, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods et al., in Augustine, Basic Writings, 2:257-58 (14.13). [Or, help yourself to the entire section here].

R.C. Sproul comments:

"Augustine does not so much explain the fall as describe it. He identifies the cause of the first transgression as pride. But he recognizes that the presence of pride is already evil. He does not shrink from declaring that the first actual sin was committed by creatures who were already fallen. They fell before they ate the fruit. When Augustine says the falling away was "spontaneous,"he describes the problem but does not explain it. How can a creature with no prior inclination to evil suddenly and spontaneously become so inclined? This is the great poser of the fall, and it remains the most difficult question we continue to face about this event."

Source: Sproul, R.C., Willing To Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), p.53.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Preservation, part 1. Warnings.

My friend David Bryan, an Eastern Orthodox blogger, has made a statement in a recent post that bears analysis, since I see it all too often. The post's comments have been taken down temporarily, but they should return in a little while and I'll quote from it sufficiently here. Anyway, this is a question that needs to be answered when thinking about what we do in biblical exegesis.

-When I asked about how we determine which passages of scripture get "interpretive precedence" over others -- for example, say that Romans 8 keeps us from reading any kind of warning into Romans 11 -- Rhology told me that I "can't do that b/c John 10 says that we will never perish."
...Why could I not say that Romans 11, with its warning against those truly grafted into Israel being cut off by not continuing in the belief that originally saved them, could not color our view of John 10?

This illustrates why discussing things like the perseverance of the saints can be so important, so revelatory. It might not be a primary doctrine, of the most central importance, but it can bring out and shed light on other problems that underlie and surround it.
Now, it's a good question, but it's not that good once you think about it.
Why is it not that good? B/c I already answered the premise in a comment:

-Well, OK, but I'm sure you would agree that one's position on Issue X must be able to take into account all that the Bible has to say on the subject. If it can't, it does not earn the label "biblical" and I would say needs to be rejected.

We have several choices when we face a difficulty between two or more psgs of Scripture.
1) They contradict each other.
2) They are mysterious and we don't know.
3) They are harmonisable, reconcilable.
4) One is to be ignored.
5) Appeal to another authority, which diverts and may or may not even answer the question, but at least the pressure is off, kind of (if you're into that kind of thing).

It should go without saying that option #3 is that which is to be sought after. If you disagree, have fun living life that way.

Romans 11: Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

Now, why did I paste such a large portion of the text of each, especially Romans 11? Well, for one thing, if someone proposes a biblical interp that disagrees with another possibility (say, Jesus' discussion of His preserving His people in John 10:25-28 [whose discussion is next in line]), then the 1st place we check is the context of the passage(s) in question, as opposed to throwing brief phrases at each other "The Bible says 'Otherwise you too will be cut off!'", etc, closing the Bible, and being done with it.

Here David Bryan proposes that Romans 11 teaches that an individual can be at some point in his life in such a state that he would go to Heaven forever if he were to die at that moment, and later in life be in such a state that he would go to Hell forever if he were to die at that later moment. Which I deny.

Look at Rom 11's whole topic - Paul is completing his 3 chapter long discussion of the Jewish people as a whole and now introduces the idea of 'competing' peoples - Jewish and Gentile.
The Jewish people in general have received a hardening from the Lord such that most will not come to Jesus in faith (v.7). This has occurred in order that the "fullness of the Gentiles (might) come in" (v.25) and in order to make Israel jealous (v.11).
V. 17 begins Paul's thought about the branches, where some branches (the Jews) were broken off in order that wild branches (Gentiles) might be grafted in. And yet the Gentiles (to whom he's writing, after all) must not become prideful but fearful, reverent that they were grafted in by God's favor and not b/c of anythg good that they were or had done.

The warnings are for the group as a whole. Do not think that you (all) (y'all) have anythg to offer to God. Just as in Deuteronomy 7, God has chosen the GentileS (as a group) to receive salvific blessings. Let's follow Paul's thoughts through the previous chapters:

Rom 9:5-8 - They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

22-24 - What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

30-32 - What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.

10:16-21 - But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”

But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Then the psg I cited above (13-23), then v. 25 seems to be tying up the thought:
Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Alternatively, we must also remember that warnings in Scripture are for real consequences -
  1. of suffering consequences of sin in this life
  2. of losing assurance of God's presence in our lives and our forgiveness of sin (how ironic that we have the least assurance of forgiveness when we are the most in sin!)
  3. to warn us that falling into unbelief/disobedience would prove that we were never of God to begin with but had been deceiving ourselves all along.
  4. to warn us against losing our heavenly rewards, which are based at least partly on our actions after we are justified.

Further, such warnings are part of the means God uses to preserve His saints. Consider what another blogger recently had to say:

Calvinism doesn’t take the position that God would never cast us away under any circumstances. The warnings are conditional. If we did such things, God would cast us away. It’s just that those circumstances will not eventuate. And the warnings are part of what restrains us from doing such things. They serve as a disincentive to apostasy. So the worst-case scenario does not play out—thanks, in part, to the fear of consequences. It’s easy for Christians to take revelation for granted. After all, we have divine revelation. So we know what’s expected of us. But suppose we didn’t? We do not enjoy an inborn knowledge of everything that’s expected of us. So we depend on divine revelation to inculcate some of our duties to God and man. Suppose I don’t know that a certain type of mushroom is poisonous, but you do. So you warn me not to eat that type of mushroom. As a result of your warning, I refrain from eating that type of mushroom.

The warning was hardly superfluous. It furnished me with some important information I wouldn’t otherwise have—information which enabled me to act prudently in that situation. ...the road signs would only be bogus if the bridge wasn’t washed out. But if the bridge is, indeed, washed out, and you disregarded the cautionary signage, then your car will plunge into the river below and you will drown.

--“Thus even if fear and coercion unto holiness were the sole intent of the consequences in God's warnings to the saints, the teaching of a doctrine that absolutely no saint can fall away directly contradicts such an intent.”

This is like saying that if I tell you not to eat those mushrooms because you’ll die of food poisoning should you do so, and you refrain from eating them as a result of my advice, then the warning was meaningless.
The statement "God uses means to preserve His children" might be more easily understood if reworded: God warns that Action X would result in loss of justification, so that the person would be condemned if he died thus. Thus God preserves him who is truly justified (whom God alone knows with infallible certainty) by preventing that person from committing the action warned against. As an example, Rom 11:22: "...provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off."
Thus, God protects the elect from not continuing in His kindness. Works by means, as opposed to by an invisible, 'magical' power by which He snaps His divine fingers and zaps the guy who just sinned his way out of justification back into justification in the blink of an eye.

My discussion of John 10's application to this question will follow soon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Catholic Co-Redeemers

“In order truly to venerate the Cross, however, we need to do more than just kiss it. We need to EMBRACE it as a way of life. That’s what Jesus clearly WANTS us to do and CALLS us to do. He never said to us, “I’m taking up the Cross so that you don’t have to.” Rather he said, “If you wish to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, pick up your Cross every day, and follow me” and “whoever does not pick up the Cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” We’re here because we want to be the disciples of the Lord, we want to follow him all the way to heaven. But to do this, we need to follow him to Calvary, we need to walk the Way of the Cross. To be a disciple, as Archbishop O’Malley stressed in his installation homily a month ago in Boston, means to embrace the Cross. Many Catholics when they hear this command think that embracing the Cross means “offering up” their hardships, their difficulties, their pain, bearing with peaceful resignation the contradictions of the day. That is part of it, but, actually, a small part of it. To embrace the Cross means to kiss Christ’s love and to imitate it. Jesus said, in the greatest of all commandments, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Picking up our Cross and following the Lord means following him down the path of self-giving sacrificial love. Jesus, in fact, gives us the Cross so that we, like him, might DIE on it, die to ourselves for others, so that he might live fully in us...The most beautiful reality is that when we do this, we not only abide in Christ and he in us — and share in the fullness of salvation — but we become co-redeemers with Christ. St. Paul experienced this reality as well, when he said, “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross — which saved the world — always intended to be united to our sacrifices united with him on the Cross. That’s what occurs when we are his disciples, picking up our Crosses every day, dying to ourselves on them, so that he might live in us and we may co-redeem with him.” source

Tuesday, April 01, 2008