Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Journey Home

I'm not overly fond of using conversion stories as an apologetic tool. The recent trend in Roman Catholic apologetics though, is. From time to time, I do listen to The Journey Home, where "Former non-catholics discuss their personal conversion stories and reveal how their search for truth has led them home to the Catholic Church." I came across a very interesting episode, "Baptism-Host - Marcus Grodi with guest Ken Guindon." You can also read about this man's journey to Roman Catholicism on the EWTN website, and also read his very interesting material on the Jehovah's Witnesses hosted on the Envoy website.

Ken Guindon has also recently written a book. A description of it states,

"The number of evangelicals joining the Roman Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox Church has markedly increased during the last thirty years. Church history definitely played an important role in their decision. This phenomenon is noteworthy because many of these converts are well-educated, former evangelical ministers. Following the apostles’ death, how did church life evolve under the influence of sacramental teaching and worship? This study provides a detailed discussion of the two great Christian sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and of the ancient churches’ views concerning salvation, Mary, the saints and their images. Ken Guindon provides us with a passionate discussion of the questions Christians face today as they examine history for foundations for faith."

So what makes this man's new book and his "Journey Home" to Catholicism so interesting? The book description goes on to state,

"Written with a loving heart, this work is worth reading by everyone interested in authentic Christianity and is particularly helpful for anyone who is tempted to think that age and claims to infallibility are criteria of the true church."

Wait a minute...."age and claims to infallibility are criteria of the true church"? Why, those are the claims Roman Catholic apologists make about their church! Why would a Catholic convert want to dissuade people from such a criteria? You see, Ken Guindon is no longer a Roman Catholic. You can purchase Ken's book here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Luther on Reprobation: "This mightily offends our rational nature"

From the Beggars All mailbox:

James, I am reading Loraine Boettner's book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. The section on "the doctrine of reprobation" is interesting in regard to the emotional resistance to the doctrine of election. He states a quote from Luther saying, "This mightily offends our rational nature". But I don't understand the book source of the quote: In Praefat, and Epist. ad Rom., quoted by Zanchius, Predestination, p. 92. I tried asking others in the chat room, they sent me to you...

One of the weaknesses of Boettner's book is his method of citation. While his book on Predestination is doctrinally sound, his scholarly methods are less than adequate. This isn't such a problem with this text, but becomes a real challenge with his book on Roman Catholicism.

Only the last quote in the paragraph on page 106 in Boettner's book refers to the citation. That is, all the previous Luther quotes on the page do not refer to the citation offered by Boettner. Boettner is quoting Luther via Jerome Zanchius's (1516-1590) book Absolute Predestination, chapter 2. Zanchius is quoting Luther's preface to Romans (one of his most famous writings), but for only this part:
"Luther observes that in Rom. ix., x. and xi. the apostle particularly insists on the doctrine of predestination, "Because," says he, "all things whatever arise from and depend upon the Divine appointment, whereby it was preordained who should receive the word of life and who should disbelieve it, who should he delivered from their sins and who should be hardened in them, who should be justified and who condemned."
As to the quote you want, Boettner is probably still quoting Luther via Zanchius, see this link. The primary source for the quote is Luther's Bondage of the Will, and the quotes come from different sections as well. Here is probably the section you are looking for, from an older translation of Bondage of the Will . If you have the Packer/Johnston translation this section begins on page 218.

Sect. 94.—BUT it is this, that seems to give the greatest offence to common sense or natural reason,—that the God, who is set forth as being so full of mercy and goodness, should, of His mere will, leave men, harden them, and damn them, as though He delighted in the sins, and in the great and eternal torments of the miserable. To think thus of God, seems iniquitous, cruel, intolerable; and it is this that has given offence to so many and great men of so many ages.
And who would not be offended? I myself have been offended more than once, even unto the deepest abyss of desperation; nay, so far, as even to wish that I had never been born a man; that is, before I was brought to know how healthful that desperation was, and how near it was unto grace. Here it is, that there has been so much toiling and labouring, to excuse the goodness of God, and to accuse the will of man. Here it is, that distinctions have been invented between the ordinary will of God and the absolute will of God: between the necessity of the consequence, and the necessity of the thing consequent: and many other inventions of the same kind. By which, nothing has ever been effected but an imposition upon the un-learned, by vanities of words, and by "oppositions of science falsely so called." For after all, a conscious conviction has been left deeply rooted in the heart both of the learned and the unlearned, if ever they have come to an experience of these things; and a knowledge, that our necessity, is a consequence that must follow upon the belief of the prescience and Omnipotence of God.
And even natural Reason herself, who is so offended at this necessity, and who invents so many contrivances to take it out of the way, is compelled to grant it upon her own conviction from her own judgment, even though there were no Scripture at all. For all men find these sentiments written in their hearts, and they acknowledge and approve them (though against their will) whenever they hear them treated on.—First, that God is Omnipotent, not only in power but in action (as I said before): and that, if it were not so, He would be a ridiculous God.—And next, that He knows and foreknows all things, and neither can err nor be deceived. These two points then being granted by the hearts and minds of all, they are at once compelled, from an inevitable consequence, to admit,—that we are not made from our own will, but from necessity: and moreover, that we do not what we will according to the law of "Free-will," but as God foreknew and proceeds in action, according to His infallible and immutable counsel and power. Wherefore, it is found written alike in the hearts of all men, that there is no such thing as "Free-will"; though that writing be obscured by so many contending disputations, and by the great authority of so many men who have, through so many ages, taught otherwise. Even as every other law also, which, according to the testimony of Paul, is written in our hearts, is then acknowledged when it is rightly set forth, and then obscured, when it is confused by wicked teachers, and drawn aside by other opinions.
Sect. 95.—I NOW return to Paul. If he does not, Rom. ix., explain this point, nor clearly state our necessity from the prescience and will of God; what need was there for him to introduce the similitude of the "potter," who, of the "same lump" of clay, makes "one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?" (Rom. ix. 21). What need was there for him to observe, that the thing formed does not say to him that formed it, "Why hast thou made me thus?" (20). He is there speaking of men; and he compares them to clay, and God to a potter. This similitude, therefore, stands coldly useless, nay, is introduced ridiculously and in vain, if it be not his sentiment, that we have no liberty whatever. Nay, the whole of the argument of Paul, wherein he defends grace, is in vain. For the design of the whole epistle is to shew, that we can do nothing, even when we seem to do well; as he in the same epistle testifies, where he says, that Israel which followed after righteousness, did not attain unto righteousness; but that the Gentiles which followed not after it did attain unto it. (Rom. ix. 30-31). Concerning which I shall speak more at large hereafter, when I produce my forces.
The fact is, the Diatribe designedly keeps back the body of Paul's argument and its scope, and comfortably satisfies itself with prating upon a few detached and corrupted terms. Nor does the exhortation which Paul afterwards gives, Rom. xi., at all help the Diatribe; where he saith, "Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded;" (20), again, "and they also, if they shall believe, shall be grafted in, &c. (23);" for he says nothing there about the ability of man, but brings forth imperative and conditional expressions; and what effect they are intended to produce, has been fully shewn already. Moreover, Paul, there anticipating the boasters of "Free-will," does not say, they can believe, but he saith, "God is able to graft them in again.." (23).To be brief: The Diatribe moves along with so much hesitation, and so lingeringly, in handling these passages of Paul, that its conscience seems to give the lie to all that it writes. For just at the point where it ought to have gone on to the proof, it for the most part, stops short with a 'But of this enough;' 'But I shall not now proceed with this;' 'But this is not my present purpose;' 'But here they should have said so and so;' and many evasions of the same kind; and it leaves off the subject just in the middle; so that, you are left in uncertainty whether it wished to be understood as speaking on "Free-will," or whether it was only evading the sense of Paul by means of vanities of words. And all this is being just in its character, as not having a serious thought upon the cause in which it is engaged. But as for me I dare not be thus cold, thus always on the tip-toe of policy, or thus move to and fro as a reed shaken with the wind. I must assert with certainty, with constancy, and with ardour; and prove what I assert solidly, appropriately, and fully.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another Catholic politician

I hate to say, actually, I don't hate to say it at all. Nancy Pelosi is an utter fool.
I can't recommend this video of her with Tom Brokaw enough.

So much to say in review!

1) She's trying not to come across as an obvious cafeteria Catholic, but she's about as subtle as a dead skunk.

2) She's not a very good TV speaker, but at least she's better than Barack Obama.

3) Her response to the conundrum of her own creation is a jumbled mess. When I hear this kind of mishmash escape national politicians' lips, it makes me think I should move to DC and offer my own services. I'm 100% certain I could write way beyond whoever these bozos have working for them. And yet, since virtually all these politicians' positions are in some way indefensible, and perversely are examined at only the shallowest levels by the media and public-at-large, those responsible for thinking up these talking points are left trying to walk a bizarre and invisible fine line.

4) I love how she tries lamely to chuck a barb at Republicans near the end, about their reticence to "support contraception". Obviously she doesn't accept abstinence-only education. But I thought she was a self-proclaimed Catholic - what is she doing politicking for contraceptive programs?

5) Why does she want abortions to be rare (minute 2:35)?
This is YET ANOTHER case of cognitive dissonance in our society (by now I'm losing count) - Joe Citizen has this strange idea flittering on the periphery of his mind that abortion is distasteful or not the best option for contraception, but he cannot bring himself to make the statement that it is morally wrong and repugnant. So, because he cannot state this with finality, he says that women should have access to it. Yet Pelosi wants it to be rare?

Is it just because women are frequently psychologically damaged and traumatised?
Is it just because women so frequently have medical complications?
Is it just because abortion providers never give the co-conspirator to murder (yes, that would be the pregnant woman, in case you were wondering) full information about just what the procedure would entail?
Is it because we think that it just might be human life in there?

Is it too much to ask that the #3 official in the US government, the "most powerful woman in America" at least ask the right question in this and any other discussion related to abortion? Is this a human being that is being dismembered/burned with saltwater/shop-vac'ed out of the woman? If not, then let's allow abortion to be the norm - who cares whether it's rare? I don't see her campaigning to make appendectomies rare. Let's have abortion parties and forget parental consent and all of that nonsense!

6) "Archbishop George Niederauer, in Pelosi's hometown of San Francisco will take up the issue in the Sept. 5 edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, his spokesman said."
Let's be clear here - if she were a member of my Babdist church, she would long ago have been excommunicated. We're not real fond of accomplices to murder. That's just how we roll.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this Archbishop reacts to this.

7) What in the world is he waiting for? Is he willfully ignorant of Pelosi's stance on abortion? How about on contraception? How has she escaped being called out and being forced to choose between repentance or excommunication on these issues until this time?
The Eucharist is the "medicine of immortality", and this accomplice to murder is able to take it, no problem? Why is it that I, Mr. Sola Fide, have to remind the Roman Church to take action (ie, to work)?

8) At least she said "Augustine" properly.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Catholic Quote: Tradition

Another vote for partim-partim:

"The truths of divine revelation, which have not been written down in the pages of Holy Scripture, but have been transmitted by word of mouth, are called Tradition.

The apostles received from Our Lord the command to preach, not to write. Their writings are concerned more with the doings than with the teaching of Christ, hence their instructions on points of doctrine are very incomplete. They themselves say that there is much that they have delivered to the faithful by word of mouth (2 John 12; 1 Cor. xi. 2; John xxi. 25). Accordingly we are referred to Tradition. It is by Tradition that we know that Our Lord instituted seven sacraments. It is by Tradition that we are taught that there is a purgatory, that Sunday is to be kept holy, and that infants are to be baptized. It is Tradition which teaches us what books belong to Holy Scripture, etc. Tradition comes down to us from the time of the apostles. Just as those who follow up the course of a stream gradually draw near to the fountain-head, and thus discover how far the water flows, so we can search out the historical sources of the teaching of the earlier centuries of the Church, and arrive at her true doctrine. Every doctrine that has always been believed in by the universal Church, comes down to us from the apostles. If therefore there is any doctrine of the Church that we do not find in Holy Scripture, we shall find it in the stream of Tradition, and shall be able to trace it up to the first ages of Christianity."

-The Catechism Explained, 1899 (pg. 88)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An argument FOR Perpetual Virginity from Epiphanius of Salamis (1)

I finally had some time to closely work through the argumentation in favor of Mary's perpetual virginity from Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403). I'd like to present some of his arguments. With the one below, I'm not going to comment on it, but let it stand as it is. The argument though concludes, "the holy Virgin cannot have had marital relations."

12.1 But if we need to take the matter [Mary's perpetual virginity] up from another point of view, let's examine the findings of the naturalists. They say that a lioness never gives birth but once, for the following reason. A lion is a very fierce, grim of visage, of extremely violent strength, and, as it were, the king of beasts. (2) A lioness conceives by one male, but the implanted seed remains in the womb for a full twenty-six months. Thus the cub comes to maturity inside its mother because of the time, and already has all its teeth before it is born, and its claws fully developed, and, as they call them, its "incisors, eye-teeth and molars," and all the beast's remaining features. (3) Thus while it is in the belly it rakes it with its claws in the course of its upward and forward movements and its other twists, and scrapes the wombs and ovaries that are carrying it. And so, when the mother has come to birth,that very day her belly becomes incapable of labor. (4) For the naturalists say that the ovaries and wombs are expelled with the cub, so that the lioness no longer feels desire unless, perhaps, she is forced. And even if it should happen that she is forced to mate, she can never conceive again because she has no wombs or ovaries.

12.5 Now even this series of events has given me a notion, beneficial rather than harmful, on the subject in question. (6) If Jacob says, "Judah is a lion's whelp," as a symbol of Christ, somewhere in John's Revelation it says, "Behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, and the seed of David,hath prevailed"—(when the Lord is compared to a lion it is not because of his nature, but symbolically, and because of the kingliness of the beast, bolder, strongest, and in all other respects the handsomest of the animals.) [If the Lord is a lion], then, I should call the mother who bare him a lioness; (7) how can any lion be born if the mother is not to be called a lioness? But a lioness does not conceive a second tine. Therefore Mary never conceives again; the holy Virgin cannot have had marital relations.

Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III, pp. 609-610.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baptist Roman Catholic?

Peter Smith of the courier-journal out of Louisville gives us an interesting story morning Married, ex-Baptist minister to become Catholic priest. Sad, but interesting story about former baptist pastor David Harris converting to Catholicism. So why the question "Roman Catholic Baptist?" Smith's story begins.
David Harris never considered his conversion to Catholicism six years ago to be a rejection of the Baptist faith that nourished him from childhood in Eastern Kentucky.

How does a man with an M. Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary come to this conclusion? I understand that there are areas in our seminaries that need improvement, but I didn't think that theological education touching on what Rome teaches vs. what Southern Baptists' teach was one such area. Nor did it seem that Rome was so unclear on the issue since calling us "separated brethren" sure tells us something is amiss from their position.

What is interesting is that he will be a married Roman Catholic priest. Since the Vatican will be giving Harris approval on this I doubt much, if any, opposition will be seen. Another interesting observation from a Catholic spiritual director is the very argument I've heard used as a reason why priests should be allowed to marry is practical experience.
"He understands what it's like to be married, to have children, to have that life, besides being a very spiritual person"

Harris is own pope?

Protestants get charged with being their own pope as basis for their spiritual, theological and biblical interpretive decisions. You can see one of many examples in Steve Hays' post Self-popery where he answers the charge. So what of Harris? On whose authority did he submit to Rome? Not only on his own authority, but it seems that it was his experience that drew him.
Harris said he was captivated by its vision of a deep contemplative prayer life and began reading more of Catholic spirituality, including works by 20th-century Kentucky author-monk Thomas Merton.

So not only do we have another warning to heed here about contemplative prayer, but this also shows that Harris was relying on self in making this decision. Some may argue that's a bit reductionistic, however, existentialism does reduce to self reliance.

The Lord's Supper

I have no idea what Harris' own thoughts are on the Lord's Supper, but the reporter in the story states.
Baptists believe the Lord's Supper is strictly a symbol, while Catholics see it as in essence the body and blood of Jesus.

While that statement is not necessarily inaccurate it doesn't say enough to its readers. Just take a look at some examples from the 1689 London Baptist Confession on the Lord's Supper.
...spiritual nourishment and growth in Christ, and to strengthen the ties that bind them to all the duties they owe to Him. The Lord's supper is also a bond and pledge of the fellowship which believers have with Christ and with one another. ...a spiritual offering up of all possible praise to God for the once-for-all work of Calvary. ...receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and receive all the benefits accruing from His death. This they do really and indeed, not as if feeding upon the actual flesh and blood of a person's body, but inwardly and by faith.

Now the Roman Catholic position of transubstantiation says that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ.
That the consequence of Transubstantiation, as a conversion of the total substance, is the transition of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, is the express doctrine of the Church (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, can. ii). -Catholic Encyclopedia.

There is just a greater difference than let on in the article.

On Rome's Authority

Moving from existentialism to Rome's teaching Harris apparently understood enough.
"I've come to understand enough of it that I began to believe and trust in the ... teaching arm of the church"

I wonder what "enough" is? I certainly wonder this in light of the beginning statement of not having to reject his baptist roots to become Catholic. This again comes back to Harris himself in deciding and accepting what he sees as correct. And if you accept "enough" does the rest just automatically follow? I believe that if one just accepts Rome's authority that this just may be the method of accepting all of her teachings. I wonder if Harris would fall along the same lines as Beckwith as seen in some of James White's questions.

I'm Okay You're Okay

Apparently his family is supportive of his move to Rome.
His wife and sons remain Baptist, but support him...

Why? How? How does one's spouse make such a drastic religious move like this alone? Who will now be the spiritual head of the home? Maybe his former baptist church should initiate church discipline.
"I'm real happy for him," said his brother, Mike, of Louisa. "My brother has always had a fantastic heart for people."

David Harris said his mother had the most difficulty with his conversion.

"At this point she's real supportive."

I wonder what brought Harris' mother from a position of difficulty to support. I would hope she'd change her mind. Pretending that Protestants and Roman Catholics are united doesn't make it so no matter how nice it sounds and feels. The differences are drastic hence the current and continued divide. Another example of why theology matters.

For what it's worth...


It is Monday, after all

James and EA have graciously offered to pray for me (or at least, I read their willingness between the lines). Just to make sure they get it...

O All-holy James and EA, light of my darkened soul, my hope, my shelter, my refuge, my consolation and my joy: I thank y'all that y'all hast accounted me worthy, although unworthy, to be a partaker of the immaculate Body and precious Blood of the Son of God. But do y'all, who know the true Light, enlighten the mental eyes of my heart; O y'all who witness to the fountain of immortality, quicken me who lie dead in sin. O compassion-loving servant of the merciful God, have mercy upon me, and grant me humility and contrition of heart, and meekness in my thoughts, and deliverance from the bondage of my vain imaginings. And account me worthy, even unto my last breath, to receive without condemnation the sanctification of the immaculate Mysteries, unto the healing of both soul and body. And grant unto me tears of repentance and confession, that I may hymn y'all and glorify y'all all the days of my life: for blessed and glorified art y'all unto all ages.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

It is Sunday, after all

A quick prayer, since it's the Lord's Day.

O All-holy Lady Theotokos, light of my darkened soul, my hope, my shelter, my refuge, my consolation and my joy: I thank thee that thou hast accounted me worthy, although unworthy, to be a partaker of the immaculate Body and precious Blood of thy Son. But do thou, who gavest birth to the true Light, enlighten the mental eyes of my heart; O thou who didst bear the fountain of immortality, quicken thou me who lie dead in sin. O compassion-loving Mother of the merciful God, have mercy upon me, and grant me humility and contrition of heart, and meekness in my thoughts, and deliverance from the bondage of my vain imaginings. And account me worthy, even unto my last breath, to receive without condemnation the sanctification of the immaculate Mysteries, unto the healing of both soul and body. And grant unto me tears of repentance and confession, that I may hymn thee and glorify thee all the days of my life: for blessed and glorified art thou unto all ages.


(Source: A Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians, according to the use of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Copyright 1956, 12th printing: 1999)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Epiphanius and Josephology

Carrie was kind enough to forward over the writings of Epiphanius on the Antidicomarians. In this writing Epiphanius strongly defends Mary's perpetual virginity. Below are some of my reflections on the document thus far.

The document states:

7.1 For I have heard from someone that certain persons are venturing to say that [Mary] had marital relations after the Savior's birth. And I am not surprised. The ignorance of persons who do not know the sacred scriptures well and have not consulted histories, always turn them to one thing after another, and distracts anyone who wants to track down something about the truth out of his own head.

Well so far, these words could be from a host on Catholic Answers: See- if you knew the Scriptures like we Catholics do, you would see that Mary is a perpetual virgin. Let's see the first proofs offered by Epiphanius, master of sacred Scripture:

(2) To begin with, when it fell to the Virgin's lot to be entrusted to Joseph she was not entrusted to him for marriage, since he was a widower. (3)He was called her husband because of the Law, but it plainly follows from the Jewish tradition that the Virgin was not entrusted to him for matrimony. (4) It was for the preservation of her virginity in witness to the things to come- [a witness] that Christ's incarnation was nothing spurious but was truly attested, as without a man's seed truly brought about by the Holy Spirit.

7.5 For how could such an old man who had lost his first wife so many years before, take a virgin for a wife? Joseph was the brother of Cleopas but the son of Jacob surnamed Panther; both of these brothers were the sons of the man surnamed Panther. Joseph took his first wife from the tribe of Judah and she bore him six children in all, four boys and two girls, as the Gospels according to Mark and John have made clear [Mark 6:3; John 19:25].

Obviously, the majority of argumentation is not from the Scriptures at all, but rather from the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal source. Interestingly though, Epiphanius arrives at the "brothers of Jesus" being step-brothers. He doesn't argue for cousins, as most of the current pop-apologists do. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes many of these unreliable tales about Joseph, and it appears to me their main thrust was to defend the perpetual virginity of Mary:

It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning St. Joseph's marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children, two daughters and four sons, the youngest of whom was James (the Less, "the Lord's brother"). A year after his wife's death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place. These dreams, as St. Jerome styles them, from which many a Christian artist has drawn his inspiration (see, for instance, Raphael's "Espousals of the Virgin"), are void of authority; they nevertheless acquired in the course of ages some popularity; in them some ecclesiastical writers sought the answer to the well-known difficulty arising from the mention in the Gospel of "the Lord's brothers"; from them also popular credulity has, contrary to all probability, as well as to the tradition witnessed by old works of art, retained the belief that St. Joseph was an old man at the time of marriage with the Mother of God.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sometimes I can figure these out, sometimes it's just guessing. This time, I'm guessing:

Is this an accurate quote from Luther? If so, where is it found in his writings?

"Both good and evil men, though by their actions they fulfill the decries and appointments of God, yet are not forcibly constrained to do anything but act willingly."

I found the quote cited here, by Augustus Toplady, and also here by William Shedd. Both writers mention it's from Luther's Bondage of the Will. I poked around in 4 different versions of Luther's Bondage of the Will. This may be the section these writers pulled from:

[I could wish indeed that another and a better word had been introduced into our discussion than this usual one, “necessity,” which is not rightly applied either to the divine or the human will. It has too harsh and incongruous a meaning for this purpose, for it suggests a kind of compulsion, and the very opposite of willingness, although the subject under discussion implies no such thing. For neither the divine nor the human will does what it does, whether good or evil, under any compulsion, but from sheer pleasure or desire, as with true freedom; and yet the will of God is immutable and infallible, and it governs our mutable will, as Boethius sings: “Remaining fixed, Thou makest all things move”; and our will, especially when it is evil, cannot of itself do good. The reader’s intelligence must therefore supply what the word “necessity” does not express, by understanding it to mean what you might call the immutability of the will of God and the impotence of our evil will, or what some have called the necessity of immutability, though this is not very good either grammatically or theologically.]

Source: LW 33:39

Notice the section is in brackets: "This bracketed paragraph is given in a footnote in the Weimar edition (WA 18, 616, n. 1), where it is cited as having appeared first in the Jena edition of Luther’s works (1567). Whether or not it came from Luther’s hand, it undoubtedly expresses his view, and the importance of its contents sufficiently explains its inclusion here."

See also the Revell edition, 1957 p. 81-

"The will, whether it be God's or man's, does what it does, good or bad, under no compulsion, but just as it wants or pleases, as if totally free. Yet the will of God, which rules over our mutable will, is changeless and sure..."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just a few unrelated things....

Patrick Madrid posted an article on the Envoy forums which laments, "Why are people on the Internet so rude?" Of course, this same Catholic forum allows and tolerates the disposition of Art Sippo.

After hearing Gary DeMar's review of the recent Batman movie, I went to see it. Despite Gary's very interesting commentary on the worldview represented by the character of the Joker (The Joker is an example of the Darwinian worldview without the restraints of the Christian worldview), I found the movie peaked with one violent scene after another, reminding me of a nightmare one is thankful for waking up from. I'm not saying it was a bad movie, just not my taste. Maybe if I were 15 years old again...ah, never mind.

Epiphanius and Mariology

I got caught up in a discusion on the early church father, Epiphanius. It was brought up that Epiphanius charged the Collyridians with worshiping Mary. A Roman Catholic responded, " seem to have failed to consider the ramifications of using St. Epiphanius' refutation of the Collyridians as an argument against the veneration of Mary. There, he explicitly lays out what Marian latria would look like..." Then, the following citation was given:
For certain women decorate a barber's chair or square seat, spread a cloth on it, set out bread and offer it in Mary's name on a certain day of the year, and all partake of the bread;[St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, Section VII, 1,6]
This is a classic example of reading with Roman Catholic glasses. Epiphanius does not specify a latria / dulia distinction. This is being read in to avoid the obvious. Here's the quote:
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): "And who but women are the teachers of this? Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited. As in our earlier chapter on Quintilla, Maximilla and Priscilla, so here the devil has seen fit to disgorge ridiculous teachings from the mouths of women. For certain women decorate a barber’s chair or a square seat, spread a cloth on it, set out bread and offer it in Mary’s name on a certain day of the year, and all partake of the bread; I discussed parts of this right in my letter to Arabia. Now, however, I shall speak plainly of it and, with prayer to God, give the best refutations of it that I can, so as to grub out the roots of this idolatrous sect and with God’s help, be able to cure certain people of this madness." Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 59. Against Collyridians who make offerings to Mary, 1,6-7 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 621.
Epiphanius also states,
Let no one eat of the error which has arisen on St. Mary’s account. Even though ‘The tree is lovely’ it is not for food; and even though Mary is all fair, and is holy and held in honor, she is not to be worshiped. . . . They must not say, ‘We honor the queen of heaven.’ Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 79. Against Collyridians, 7,7; 8,2 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 627.
But, there's always a response from Rome's defenders:
"Not sure what your point is supposed to be here. We both agree that offering sacrifice to Mary is idolatry. That is the line which we believe delineates "worship"....The whole of this section is perfectly in line with what we're saying - don't worship Mary. Worshipping her is an abomination."
The point is quite simple. This person is reading a later Romanist theological distinctive back into the words of Epiphanius. Epiphanius did not delineate aspects of Marian worship into latria, dulia, or hyperdulia. He did not delineate what he saw into the category of latria. The paradigm of latria/dulia was assumed by this Roman Catholic, not proven.

The Mariology of Epiphanius is not completely similar to modern day Roman Catholics. He didn't believe in the Assumption as it is currently stated, he says not to call Mary "Queen of Heaven," for him it is not a necessary matter of faith to embrace Mary's Perpetual Virginity, and he holds the least popular view as to the interpretation of the phrase "brothers of Jesus"- holding these are the children of Joseph from a previous marriage. In all these instances, from a current Roman Catholic paradigm, Catholics would disagree with Epiphanius.

Within current Roman Catholicism, lighting a candle to a saint is perfectly acceptable, and not "worship." Why? Because Rome says so. The situation described by Epiphanius is not, according to the Catholic I was dialoging with. Why? because Rome says so. One wonders what Epiphanius would think of lighting candles to Mary. I leave it to Roman Catholics to explain why lighting a candle is not an aspect of worship, while decorating a barber's chair or square seat, spreading a cloth on it, setting out bread and offering it in Mary's name on a certain day of the year, and all partaking of the bread is.

Epiphanius words are from long ago. Roman Catholics claim their faith today is the same as those from long ago. Epiphanius proves it is not. Catholics like to argue that those ECF's closer to the time of Christ and the apostles are somehow more "in the know" on things like Mariology. Obviously, Epiphanius presents quite a problem for a such a view.

Here are some other tidbits (Thanks to David King for his work and transcriptions of the quotes above and below)

Here's Epiphanius on Mary's Assumption- a tradition allegedly dating back to the first century, and if I recall, his comment below is the earliest "tradition" of Mary's death- that is, no one knows!
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): The holy virgin may have died and been buried---her falling asleep was with honor, her death in purity, her crown in virginity. Or she may have been put to death---as the Scripture says, "And a sword shall pierce her soul" her fame is among the martyrs and her holy body, by which light rose on the world, [rests] amid blessings. Or she may have remained alive, for God is not incapable of doing whatever he wills. No one knows her end. But we must not honor the saints to excess; we must honor their Master.
And for Epiphanius, it is not a necessary matter of faith to embrace Mary's Perpetual Virginity-
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): Now how could Joseph dare to have relations with the Virgin Mary whose holiness was so great? But even if she had sexual relations---and perish that thought!---what good would it do us to inquire into this? Which is the better choice, to leave the matter to God, or to insist on what is bad? Plainly, scripture has not told us that we may not have eternal life, but will go to judgment, unless we believe that Mary had relations again. Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 78. Against Antidicomarians, 15,4 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 619.
And one last thing, let's not forget this gem of alleged wisdom from Epiphanius: "Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In Dialogue

I've been visiting my old cyber-home, the CARM boards this summer. Here's a snippet from a recent dialog. The aspect of the discussion I was involved with was on perpetual virginity and quotes from the Reformers.

Dbechtel78: Catholics do exaggerate the importance of Luther and oft perpetuate myths about him. However protestants do the same Mr. Swan and you know that- perpetuating myths and exaggerations about the crusades and Inquisition, etc.

Argument analysis: justification for Catholic misinformation. Simply because group x incorrectly does y, does not give group z the justification to incorrectly do y as well.

Dbechtel78:However the reason we often point to Luther and make such a big deal out of him is that he was the champion of Sola Scriptura. Even IF it could be shown that the Church was always "Sola Scriptura" nowhere in history do we see someone like Luther champion the Bible and "Sola Scriptura" the way he does. You have to admit the Reformation slogan of "Sola Scriptura" changed Christendom forever.

Luther is one of a number of people throughout history that have held Scripture as the sole infallible rule for the church. This does not deny that there are other authorities over the life of a Christian, but it does deny that there are other infallible authorities over the life of a Christian. All authorities less-than-God are subject to the sole infallible rule. See William Webster and David King's, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Volume III- The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura (WA: Christian Resources, 2001). There are numerous people throughout history that look to Scripture as the sole infallible rule, and likewise recognize lesser authorities governing the life of the church. See some examples, here.

Dbechtel78:Our point then in bringing up Luther or Calvin is to try and show that these very same people who championed "Sola Scriptura" believed the Bible taught some unique Catholic things- the PV of Mary for example.

It is quite within the realm of possibility that Luther could be wrong on a Biblical interpretation. This in no way proves the failure of sola scriptura, nor the correctness of Perpetual Virginity.

Dbechtel78:In fact (with the exception of Calvin all of the reformers clearly believed the PV of Mary. Calvin is as I said unclear on his stance. At minimum what we do know about Calvin is that he believed certain verses in the Bible cannot be used to DENY the PV of Mary.) So Catholics wonder how it is that the very people who championed Sola Scriptura can believe so differently from the likes of protestants today? How is it Luther can find in Scripture the PV of Mary but you can't Mr Swan?

I base my understanding on Biblical exegesis, which has grown deeper and better since the 16th Century. Our abilities to study the Biblical languages far surpass any time that has come before (with the exception of the century in which the Biblical documents were penned). A Christian who adheres to the Scripture as the sole infallible authority will continually study the Scripture, and be humble enough to abandon non-Biblical tradition, and strive towards understanding the Scriptures coherently and consistently.

Dbechtel78:How is it Calvin can find Double Predestination in Scripture but Luther could not?

Well, I would suggest reading Luther's Bondage of the Will. I don't find too much different- however, they had a different way of explaining what they meant.

Dbechtel78:How is it sir that Luther could find in Scripture a very different (almost Catholic understanding) of the Last Supper then you and the other Calvinists?

I've read that Luther found Calvin's understanding of the Lord's Supper plausible, and said positive things about it. He recognized it to be quite different than what Zwingli was saying. Keep in mind as well, Catholics throughout history were not even completely united on the number of sacraments, let alone what they meant.

Luther, like all of us, was plagued with tradition. All of us have tradition. It is not surprising to me Luther retained many wrong traditions or interpretations. Simply because he was crucial in peeling off many layers of incorrect tradition from the church, doesn't mean he peeled them all off.

Dbechtel78:Catholics wonder at this rate how can the truth be known with certainty when it seems the Church is always moving from error to error, rather then from darkness into light?

Catholic interpretive "certainty" of the Bible is a myth. I wouldn't claim "certainty" if I were you, because Catholics don't have any infallible pronouncements on Predestination, nor was there complete Romanist unity throughout church history on the Lord's Supper. You can't logically criticize another position if yours falls from the same criticism.

Dbechtel78:Again sir, what is the truth? Where is the truth? Again, to point to Scripture and say "That is the truth" really doesn't solve anything does it? The arguments will go on and the Christian is left to judge for themselves what the truth is.

Again, apply your own standards to your own position before claiming to have "truth." Romanists do not have perfect unanimity now, or then, on important issues. Any study of church history both then and now clearly shows this. Catholics aren't even united on what the word "Tradition" means, and this is supposed to be an infallible authority!

Eric Svendsen has pointed out, variations among belief in a religious system among its advocates either invalidates that system or does not:

“One cannot…argue that his religious system is more legitimate on the basis that there is less disagreement within it than within other systems of belief. It is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either disagreements nullify a system, or they do not. Otherwise, the best one can argue is that his religious system more nearly conforms to a set standard of unity, but does not actually meet that standard. It is also important to keep in mind that the ‘diversity of belief’ argument is one that was invented by Roman Catholic Apologists….Any system that argues for an arbitrary criterion for being the ‘true’ church must itself conform to that criterion.” [Source: Eric Svendsen, Upon This Slippery Rock, 23].

The example Svendsen uses to dismantle Rome’s claim for absolute unity is the Vatican II document, Dei Verbum. He goes right to an extremely pertinent issue for anyone claiming the name “Christian”: the authority of Scripture. Dei Verbum states:

107. The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore ALL that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures." [Vatican II DV 11]

Svendsen points out that this statement itself is prone to multiple interpretations with the Roman community. Conservative Roman Catholic apologists see this as a clear statement that the entirety of Scripture is without error. Some Roman Catholic scholars though (like R.A.F. MacKenzie and Raymond Brown) see the phrase “for the sake of our salvation” as limiting inerrancy to only those sections of Scripture that teach about salvation.

Svendsen notes, “No one can tell us what the ‘official’ Roman Catholic teaching is on this issue, and Rome’s ‘infallible interpreter’ is of absolutely no advantage to the Roman Catholic apologist, for he has remained silent on the matter." [Source: Eric Svendsen, Upon This Slippery Rock, 24]. Thus, the actual teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are prone to interpretation. The Catholic apologist must use his own private interpretation to determine what the meaning of Roman Catholic teaching is. The conservative and liberal Roman Catholic can read the same document and come to two differing opinions.

So on a fundamental issue- what are, or are not, the very Words of God, Catholics are not unified. Svendsen also points out that these important issues likewise do not have an "official" clarification, thus granting divergent opinion:

- Predestination

- The Literal vs. Mythical interpretation of the creation account in Genesis

- The validity of the new mass

Dbechtel78:Now you would most likely at this point say something like "Oh Yeah? Well Rome hasn't offered a better solution, so there."

What I'm saying is for your argumentation to be sound, it shouldn't refute your own position. This is one of Rome's biggest problems. It can attack sola scriptura, but it can't offer anything consistent in its place. Romanists hope that if they cause enough doubt in the sola scriptura paradigm, that is enough to bring someone "home to Rome." what Romanists typically never do, is apply the same standards to their own position they attack Protestants with. I'm sorry- this is bogus argumentation that Catholic apologists put forth.

Dbechtel78:Whether "Rome" has offered a better solution is not the question right now. The question concerns protestantism and its nature.

If I outlined the actual position on sola scriptura, it is the better solution. An informed Protestant can outline a positive case for sola scriptura, defend it, and then tear Rome's authority claims to shreds. Rome cannot do likewise. They can only tear down, but not consistently apply the same standards to their own position. I think on a fundamental level, you misunderstand sola scriptura. If you did understand it, the majority of what you stated would not have been written.

A few days later, this counter response was put forth. I did not bother to respond:

Mr. Swan- if all you have ever read is the standard Catholic apologetics such as those put out by Catholic Answers and such I can see why you would think this is good argumentation. If all I ever read was the stuff they put out, I would agree with you.

Fortunately I have read more then Catholic Answers, and so let me just say your argumentation is flawed becasue it makes a number of misunderstandings, misapplications, misrepresentations, miscontructions, and the like. I will cite just one, though there are many: You complain there is no list of infallible interpretations of any Bible verses offered by "Rome." This presupposes "Rome" (whatever that means- I guess by "Rome" you mean "The pope.") is supposed to offer us such a list. Mr Swan, you confuse papalism (which "Rome" rejects) with the papacy which the Universal Church (excuse me sir, the "Romanist" or "Roman Catholic" Church) accepts, teaches, and believes, hence is also taught by "Rome." Furthermore even if there was such a list offered by "Rome" what good would that do? All it would do is push the problem back- becasue now the Catholic has to make a fallible interpretation of the infallible list! Even more problematic is the fact that "Rome" would then have to issue a list of infallible interpretations of their infallible list to clear up the mud- but it wouldn't. It would just create more mud and more lists! (and I am certain you would be happy to point that out if I provided such a list. Hence even if I produced a list for you, I couldn't win could I?) No, sir, again, you fail to understand the nature of the Church's mission, and the nature and purpose of its heirarchy. In any case sir you might want to read up on Catholocism. Catholic Answers serves a useful purpose and does quite well, but you must understand their mission is to the average Joe Catholic or Joe Protestant. Not the likes of scholars.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Catechismal Confusion

In light of some of the discussions here recently, I was quite amused to read Jimmy Akin’s latest post.

We are told by Catholic e-pologists that we need an infallible interpreter (magisterium) to provide clarity and certainty with regards to faith and morals, something the Bible (Sola Scriptura) cannot provide. Usually, a modern day example like contraception is used to illustrate our need for a "living voice" to define what is right or wrong.

Below is an excerpt from Akin’s post and a portion of the original question he was asked by one of his readers. Apparently this person sells items on Ebay for a profit, but was concerned that this activity might be prohibited by paragraph #2409 of the Catholic catechism:

2409 Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another

The reader asks:
"...I think this assumes ignorance when there may be none, but still to error on the side of doing good what does the Catholic Church teach? Ultimately what is most desirable is an clear explanation of what the CCC means with regards to those paragraphs.”

Here is Akin’s response:

"I'd like to provide such an explanation, but I don't know that I can. The CCC contains a substantial amount of material on economic matters that is not easy to cash out (pardon the pun) in concrete terms.

Part of the reason for this is that we are at an intersection between basic moral principles and how they are to be applied to real world situations in a way that requires the use of discernment. Part of the problem also is that the Church does not presently have a detailed theology of economics; it has a piecemeal system in which some matters are clearer than others, which has been developed over the course of time to address particular economic situations.

A fundamental problem, though, is that the folks in the hierarchy are not economists and are doing their best, based on real economic concerns, to provide pastoral guidance in an area that they don't have extensive familiarity with. The result is that they often write in an unclear manner.

It would be helpful if they provided examples to illustrate what they are talking about in passages like this, but either due to the concision with which the Catechism needed to be written or due to the fact that they had trouble thinking up clear and indisputable examples, we don't have any. Neither does turning to parallel texts, like the Bible verses cited in the footnote or the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church or the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, help.

As far as I can tell, the clause in blue is simply de novo to the Catechism. It's a first-pass attempt at expressing this, without clear parallels (at least ones that I've been able to find) in other relevant documents. (There may be some in papal encyclicals, but since these aren't cited in the footnote, I don't know where to look them up, and I am under an economy of time in composing blog posts, so I can't just go read all the economic-related encyclicals and addresses.)"

Here we have a Catholic who cannot get a clear answer to a moral issue from either the Catechism or Akin. In fact, he is left to “the use of discernment”, not to be mistaken with private judgment I am sure. Hopefully there are not too many Catholic Ebayers in a holding pattern of confusion over this one, especially in the aftermath of the prohibition on selling relics on Ebay.

But what struck me as funny were some of the admissions Akin has made about the Catechism considering the types of arguments Catholics use against Sola Scriptura (underlined above)

I realize the Catechism is not an infallible document, but if we were to judge the Catechism by the same results-oriented measure that Catholics use against Sola Scriptura (unity in ultimate understanding, clarity), it appears the Catechism could soon become a blueprint for anarchy. Here is at least one real life example of how the magisterium has not provided the clarity that so many Catholics insist is needed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

4 questions

Given the recent discussions surrounding the infallibility of the Roman Magisterium, I have 4 questions to help further mutual understanding.

1) Please name one, just one, Bible verse that the Roman Magisterium has infallibly interpreted.
2) Please state how you know the answer to #1. (Edit: I want to know the source for your answer and how you know that particular proclamation is infallible.)
3) Please explain whether the answer to #2 is infallible.
4) Please explain if you know the answer to #2 infallibly.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Quotable Sippo #6

I have an occasional feature called, "The Quotable Sippo." It's very simple, I just let Catholic apologist Art Sippo speak for himself. Recently, Dr. Sippo provided some of his insights, and well... let's just let the good doctor speak for himself:

"You have GOT to be kidding! Swan is a throwback to an era of Protestant apologetics where Luther's mental illness, vulgarity, moral ambiguity, hypocrisy, and open dishonesty were ignored. Not even Martin Marty (himself a Lutheran) or Richard Marius (another modern Protestant Luther scholar) make any pretense about this anymore. Read Marty's short biography of Luther from a few years back and Marius' two books "Luther: An Experiment in Biography" and "Luther: the Christian Between God and Death". Swan pretends there was no dark side to Luther and as if the Protestant apostasy of the 16th century was in continuity with the previous 1500 years of the historic Christian religion. The Catholic Faith is the Faith of the New Testament, the Apostles, the Fathers, and the Saints. Protestantism is a denial of that Faith, seeking to replace it with man-made wishful thinking."

"Mr Swan refuses to admit the possibility that Luther was mentally ill. He just dismisses it all. IMHO he is dishonest in doing so. As a CAtholic, my main concern is that Luther CONTRADICTED 1500 years of Christian teaching and practice, creating his own religion and encouraging others to do so until they started contradicting his opinions. Then Luther wanted to kill them. The question to ask is: "Did Luther advocate REFORMING Catholicism or DESTROYING it?" The answer is that he wanted to totally annihiliate it. Furthermore he was condemned as a heretic and excommunicated. The excommunication remains in force. As a Catholic, that is all I need to know about him. That in itself is a greater crime than any of the mere pecadilloes that Swan wants to dismiss. And remember that the only Catholic Swan wants to emulate on Luther was Fr. Lortz, a card-carrying NAZI before and during WWII. When the Catholic bishops condemned Hitler's "Mein Kampf", Lortz wrote a pamphlet defending Hitler. Lortz's opinions about Luther were founded on the NAZI view that Germainc civilization was superior to the corrupt culture of non-Aryan Europeans. He was an asdvocate of totalitarianism and an opponent of democracy. Lortz's views are not held in high regard by Catholic scholars. But Swan thinks he was the BEES-KNEES. A murrain on Swan and his ilk! Follow where the Holy Spirit has led the Catholic Church, and let the dead bury the dead."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Luther Rides The Beast

Here are some highlights from a Catholic going overboard on eschatology. I found this gem over on the CARM boards:

Luther: the fallen star of the Apoc's 5th Trumpet

Luther fell from grace and opened the pit of heresy, to loose the formal heretics who would torture the innocent heretics, by causing their loss of five sacraments, five months of supernatural torture.

Father Kramer of 1934 saw this in his Catholic Book of Destiny.

...when I was 13 and fascinated by Hal Lindsay's books. but I came back to my Catholic God in 1994, when I was 24, and have devoured the Catechism and theology and apologetics since then. In 2002, on June 6 (4004 BC + 2002 AD = 6006, or 6/6/6006 since the Fall, hmm, interesting...) I began to return to the apocalypse... I couldn't believe all there was to it was preterism. but i could see futurism wasn't the way either. I began to ponder the Beast, and its mystical meaning. That began me on a journey that has been breathtaking. If you ever became Catholic, you would become my biggest fan.

... Believe me, I am NOT a liberal on this. I am NOT relegating the book back to the first century like the guy Scott Hahn, whom I would like to deck to wake him up from his alice in wonderland approach.

For the record, I don't advocate hitting Catholic apologists.
This gave me a bit of a chuckle- two guys in an Internet battle are shooting at each other recently via an old Beggars All blog entry: Mormons and Straight Answers. The entry was from January 2008. Scroll down to the comments from Arthur Vanick and JWL.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Magisterial snobbery

Alexander Greco has graced us with an exposition of the worth of the Magisterium.

He apparently can't tell when I am engaging his position on its own grounds. He and Dozie continually attribute the logical conclusions of the Roman position to my own.
Reading this post would do them some good.

Being aware that their understanding of my philosophy was flawed, I began to clarify my philosophy by both narrowly defining certain principles and outright condemning others on an ad hoc basis.

Holy Spirit's job, sometimes working thru people, sometimes not.

Surely after I have "Greco's Philosophy for Dummies" published there will still be people who just do not get it; however, there are those who would.

Correct. And presumably, one would not find, in a work on Greco's philosophy, absolutely nothing on a topic (say, the Assumption of the BVM or the Immaculate Conc) but go ahead and say it's there anyway, and then have you come and affirm that it really is there.
Or...maybe it WOULD happen like that.

Would I totally eradicate misunderstanding? Of course not!

So what you're saying is, it's not the Bible's fault if people misunderstand. Thank you - that is my point exactly.

if he were to do that, then why would he have allowed us to become sinners to begin with?).

Maybe b/c He has a perfect plan that you, as a limited human, don't fully understand.
I refuse to let someone get away with the argument-equivalent of putting God in the dock. You don't get to judge His plan. You are to submit to it.

You emphasis the erroneous straw man idea that the individual must know infallibly, or have infallible knowledge in order to have certainty regardless of the amount of clarification given to them

Actually, that would be you and Dozie who emphasise that very thing.

Have you not considered that certainty can be a gradual process?

Sure. But how does that leave a Magisterium-based epistemology in better position than Sola Scrip?

how does this take away from the objective value in an infallible Magisterium?

B/c the very grounds you use to criticise Sola Scrip - that people don't understand it, people misinterp it, people end up in disunity, people end up disagreeing - you've just admitted are the case or could be the case for your own position. But have you not considered that certainty can be a gradual process?

Can the Bible actively tell you when you have erroneously derived false doctrines?

The Holy Spirit does. This is not that hard, seriously.

you might claim that it could, by reading Scripture within context and exegetically.

1) That's part of what the HS uses to bring us into understanding.
2) You have to do that with Magisterial proclamations, the same as the Scr. Yet somehow Magisterial documents are better, more sure, have better communicative ability.

Could the Holy Spirit guided Church actively tell you when you have erroneously derived false doctrines?

Happens all the time. What do you think excommunication is for?
What do you think 2 Tim 3:15-17 and the surrounding context are talking about? Or 1 Tim 3:15, for that matter? An infallible Magisterium is not required to accomplish that!

Yes as evidenced in history.

And history also evidences loads of Church screw-ups.
See, on the one hand you say "the Church" will serve as the always-good guide. Yet the Church is made of people, and people, by your own admission, "are complex animals who contain the rational faculty, but due to other factors they do not always make the best use of this faculty". which is it?

Mind you that the Bible is only acting passively, dependent upon you to find the correct meaning.

Thank God for providing His Holy Spirit, for not leaving us alone.
You continue to strawman the Sola Scrip position. Is it really that hard to learn?

It cannot stop you and say, “Hey, you are not reading me correctly.”

Paul never does that in Romans 6? Mark never does it in Mark 7? The Psalm 119 Psalter didn't think the HS can, thru the Scripture?

You might claim that another believer could stop and correct you. However, you are still left with their possible erroneous beliefs which influence their reading of the text.

1) That's one reason why the church is there. God uses means to accomplish His will, you know.
2) If you are reading a Church document in error, you might claim that another believer, even a priest, could stop and correct you. However, you are still left with their possible erroneous beliefs which influence their reading of the text. when's the last time you received direct correspondence from the Magisterium? Could you scan the letter and post it somewhere, in photobucket? What did you ask them? What did they say?

On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit-guided Magisterium steps in to correct you via infallible proclamations, their corrections are infallible (when proclaimed to be)

When was the last time an infallible correction was made?
Then, when was it proclaimed to be?
Does the Magisterium ever make fallible proclamations?
How do you know the difference?
How do you know the difference infallibly? If you don't know it infallibly, does it matter whether you know the difference infallibly? What is the difference, if not, between that situation and a believer reading the Scr?

So the Protestant has his fallible teacher and fallible self, and the Catholic has his infallible teacher and fallible self.

The Sola Scripturist's teachers are the Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
John 6:45 - "It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me."
1 John 2:27 - As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
Jeremiah 31:34 - "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

The church's job, biblically, is to teach the Scr to believers and call out sin, etc.
The source is infallible. The guide is infallible. The individual teacher is fallible.

Contrast that with the Roman system, on the Roman position.
The Scr is (supposedly) infallible (though that depends on which Romanist you ask).
The Magisterium can be infallible, when it 'wants' to be.
The individual reader of a Magisterial/papal infallible proclamation and/or the priest who teaches it, expounds on it, and answers questions about it to his congregation is fallible.

Tell me again where the advantage is? At least with the Sola Scrip position, we KNOW that the Scr is infallible. We apparently can't know the Scr is infallible, and we certainly can't know when the Magisterium is speaking infallibly, on the Roman position.

(Edits in green, for clarification's sake - see Alexander Greco's first comment)
Dr. Eric Svendsen was on The Bible Answer Man radio show on Wednesday (8/13/08). The MP3 broadcast can be directly downloaded here. Dr. Svendsen spent some time talking about Mariology, highlighting a recent article he has written.

His quintessential work on the subject is the book, Who Is My Mother? The Role and Status of the Mother of Jesus in the New Testament and Roman Catholicism.

Also, a few months ago, Dr. Svendsen was on Iron Sharpens Iron. Part one can be downloaded here, part two can be downloaded here. These broadcasts covered a wide range of topics on Roman Catholicism.

I greatly appreciate and highly recommend Dr. Svendsen's work on Roman Catholicism.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rarely Infallible

"The world sees the public side of Pope Benedict XVI generally at big ceremonial events in Rome or on foreign travels, when he's under the glare of the media.

But over the last three years, the "real Benedict" has emerged most fully in a series of semiprivate encounters with an audience he feels at home with -- groups of priests.

...What distinguishes these encounters is that the pope obviously feels he is speaking as a priest among priests, not an authority figure doing an obligatory drop-by.

During his first summer meeting with priests in 2005, he told his audience: "I also want to say that the pope is not an oracle, that he is infallible in only the rarest of situations, as we know." That's a point the pope has made more than once as a preface to his responses; he's there to provide reflection and some guidance, not prefabricated answers to pastoral dilemmas." Catholic News

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bending the Rules?

This is a curious article:

"Pope Benedict XVI said the church should be generous when it comes to administering the sacraments to young people, recognizing that Jesus would have done the same.

The pope made the remarks in a closed-door meeting Aug. 6 with about 400 priests and religious in the northern Italian city of Bressanone, where the 81-year-old pontiff was vacationing.

...One of six questions posed by priests touched on the pastoral care of children, Father Lombardi said. In his response, the pope spoke about the need to take a broad approach to the administration of sacraments, reflecting the merciful attitude shown by Christ.

"The pope said, 'I used to be more strict about this, but the example of Christ led me to become more welcoming in cases in which, perhaps, there is not a mature and solid faith, but there is a glimmer, a desire of communion with the church,'" the spokesman said.

...The spokesman said the pope answered questions with a combination of clarity and humility, underlining at times that what he was imparting was his own best advice, not an infallible response." Catholic News

I have to wonder what exactly could be less strict in adminstration of the sacraments? Is the Pope asking priests to overlook sinful behavior and not withhold the sacraments in such cases?

Considering how critical the sacramental system is to the Roman economy of salvation, this seems like an odd time for the Pope to be giving "his own best advice, not an infallible response". Why does someone need a Pope for simply good advice?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pop Apologetics

Jimmy Akin answered a question on his blog recently about answering Evangelicals on prayers for the dead. Considering Akin is a professional apologist with Catholic Answers, I would have expected him to be a bit better educated on canon history than his answer portrays.

"I therefore would question whether citing Maccabees is "not enough" as proof of prayer for the dead. It may not be enough for Protestants, because this book was removed from their Old Testament precisely in order to get rid of the passage dealing with prayer for the dead, but since this passage remains in the Catholic Bible, it should be enough for Catholics.

A Catholic thus might say to an Evangelical,'This passage is in my Bible. I accept it. So it is enough for me. It may not be enough for you because you do not find it in your Bible, but you should think about why that is: The reason is that your religious forebears took this passage out of the Protestant Old Testament precisely because they didn't like what it said.'" source

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

John Henry Newman Misquotes Luther

I've had the third edition of Alister McGrath's Iustitia Dei on my desk, and while thumbing through it I found a section I had completely forgotten about. McGrath spends a few pages (pp. 300-307) discussing Newman's views on justification, and also his understanding of Luther. He points out a few cases in which Newman misrepresents Luther, and then discusses what he calls, "the most serious case of misrepresentation" and particularly, Newman's use of ellipses (...). Imagine misquoting Luther by use of ellipses- where and when has that ever happened? [That was a rhetorical question!]. McGrath states, "The most serious case of such misrepresentation demands particular attention. Newman's view on justification is that faith and works both justify, although in different manners" (p.304). He then cites Newman:

"It seems, then, that whereas faith on our part fitly corresponds, or is the correlative, as it is called, to grace on God's part, sacraments are but the manifestation of grace, and good works are but the manifestation of faith; so that, whether we say we are justified by faith, or by works or sacraments, all these but mean this one doctrine, that we are justified by grace, which is given through sacraments, impetrated by faith, manifested in works."

McGrath states, "This view is to be contrasted with Luther's view, which is that faith (understood as trust) alone justifies.

In a remarkable section, Newman then asserts that Luther corroborates this (that is, Newman's view), 'not willingly . . . but in consequence of the stress of texts urged against him'. This frankly rather patronising statement is followed by a citation from Luther's 1535 Galatians commentary, as follows. In view of the seriousness of the charge which I am about to lay against Newman, I will cite the passage in full:" McGrath then cites Newman's Luther quote:

'It is usual with us', [Luther] says, 'to view faith, sometimes apart from its work, sometimes with it. For as an artist speaks variously of his materials, and a gardener of a tree, as in bearing or not, so also the Holy Ghost speaks variously in Scripture concerning faith; at one time of what may be called abstract faith, faith as such: at another of concrete faith, faith in composition, or embodied. Faith, as such, or abstract, is meant, when Scripture speaks of justification, as such, or of the justified. (Vid. Rom. and Gal.). But when it speaks of rewards and works, then it speaks of faith in composition, concrete or embodied. For instance: "Faith which worketh by love"; "This do, and thou shalt live"; "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments"; "Whoso doeth these things, shall live in them"; "Cease to do evil, learn to do well". In these and similar texts, which occur without number, in which mention is made of doing, believing doings are always meant; as, when it says, "This do, and thou shalt live", it means, "First see that thou art believing, that thy reason is right and thy will good, that thou hast faith in Christ; that being secured, work".' Then he proceeds: - 'How is it wonderful, that to that embodied faith, that is, faith working as was Abel's, in other words to believing works, are annexed merits and rewards? Why should not Scripture speak thus variously of faith, considering it so speaks even of Christ, God and man; sometimes of his entire person, sometimes of one or other of his two natures, the divine or human? When it speaks of one or other of these, it speaks of Christ in the abstract; when of the divine made one with the human in one person, of Christ as if in composition and incarnate. There is a well-known rule in the Schools concerning the
"communicatio idiomatum" when the attributes of his divinity are ascribed to his humanity, as is frequent in Scripture; for instance, in Luke ii the angel calls the infant born of the Virgin Mary "the Saviour" of men, and "the Lord" both of angels and men, and in the preceding chapter, "the Son of God". Hence I may say with literal truth. That infant who is lying in a manger and in the Virgin's bosom, created heaven and earth, and is the Lord of angels. ... As it is truly said, Jesus the Son of Mary created all things, so is justification ascribed to faith incarnate or to believing deeds'
[Newman, Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification, 300-1].

McGrath comments:

This passage, as cited, clearly indicates that Luther concedes that justification is to be ascribed to 'believing deeds', an excellent summary of Newman's own position, as well as that of certain earlier Anglican divines, including George Bull. On the basis of the biblical passages noted, Newman declares that Luther is obliged - against his will, it would seem - to accept this inevitable conclusion. Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone is thus to be set aside as irreconcilable with Scripture on the one hand, and with Luther's own words on the other. The strategic location of the citation within Lecture 12 - it is the final and clinching argument - indicates that Newman is aware of its importance. Like a conjurer producing an unexpected rabbit from a hat, Newman surprises his readers with the news that even Luther had to concede the case on this one.

But notice a curious feature of this passage. It has been cited extensively without any omissions. Yet suddenly, towards the end, we encounter an ellipsis, in the form of three periods. All of us who indulge in scholarship use this device, generally to save weary readers from having to wrestle with textual material which is not totally germane to the issue under discussion. Perhaps Newman has omitted part of a sentence, or maybe even a sentence or two, which is not relevant to the interpretation of the final dramatic sentence. Such, I imagine, would be the conclusion of many of his readers, although some would be puzzled as to the need for verbal economy at this stage, given the generous nature of the citation up to this point.

But to anyone familiar with Luther, the line of argumentation is suspicious. It is simply not what Luther consistently maintains throughout his extensive body of writings; nor would it be the kind of statement he would have made in such a significant work as the 1535 Galatians commentary. It is with sadness that I have to point out that the omitted portion is not a sentence but a section - and a section which so qualifies the meaning of the final sentence as to exclude Newman's interpretation of it. In what follows, we shall pick up Newman's citation at the penultimate sentence, and insert the omitted material, before proceeding to the final sentence. For the sake of clarity, the material which Newman included has been
printed in italics:

Hence I may say with literal truth. That infant who is lying in a manger and in the Virgin's bosom, created heaven and earth, and is the Lord of angels. I am indeed speaking about a man here. But 'man' in this proposition is obviously a new term, and, as the sophists say, stands for the divinity; that is, this God who became man created all things. Here creation is attributed to the divinity alone, since the humanity does not create. Nevertheless, it is correct to say that 'the man created', because the divinity, which alone creates, is incarnate with the humanity, and therefore the humanity participates in the attributes of both predicates. [A list of biblical passages relating to this point follows.] Therefore the meaning of the passage 'do this and you will live' is 'you will live on account of this faithful doing; this doing will give you life solely on account of faith. Thus justification belongs to faith alone, just as creation belongs to the divinity. As it is truly said, Jesus the Son of Mary created all things, so is justification ascribed to faith incarnate or to believing deeds'.

Throughout this analysis, we find Luther insisting that 'faith alone justifies and does everything'; works are implicated only in a derivative manner. The significance of the passage which is omitted is that it unequivocally qualifies the final sentence so that its only meaning can be that of 'faith alone justifies'.

This observation forces us to confront a most difficult and vexing question: did Newman himself deliberately and knowingly omit the critical section of the passage, or did he encounter the passage in this mutilated form? My suspicion is that the latter option is much more probable, although I cannot prove this. None of us is infallible, and Newman may simply have copied the passage in this distorted version from another source. Evidence supportive of this suggestion can be found in the generally inaccurate citations which he provides from Luther, which suggest borrowing from secondary sources rather than an engagement with the original.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Handbook For Today's Catholic

I picked this book up in a used bookstore today.  As opposed to some of the current trends in pop-Catholic apologetics, this book actually has the Imprimatur. Here are a few choice quotes from page 31:

"Like a mother waiting up for her grown children to come home, Mary never stops influencing the course of our lives."

"This mother who saw her own flesh-and-blood son die for the rest of her children, is waiting and preparing your home for you."

Thanks Mary, but I think I'll stick with God's providence and the place Jesus mentions in John 14:1-4.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Blogger Problems: Sitemeter

I really sometimes do think about taking a hammer to my computer. It never fails- I finally get a chance to sit down and write, and some weird computer problem happens. Friday morning, my laptop died. It makes some sort of strange noise, and then freezes, and then shuts itself off. OK, I get the hint. Rest in peace my old friend.

Around 10:30 Friday night, I clicked on my blog, only to have an error message telling me Internet Explorer could not load the page, nor could IE load the Iron sharpens Iron blog. I'm not anywhere near being a computer expert. Normally, I'm too stubborn to call for help, and I take around 32 hours to figure it out for myself. This time, it only took me about 2 hours to figure out.

After troubleshooting, I figured out no one could view my blog using IE (though some Firefox people could). Something I had on both blogs was causing the problems (other people's blogs were working fine).

No, it wasn't Reformed theology, it was Sitemeter- a little widget that tracks Internet traffic to my two blogs. The Sitemeter site wouldn't work either. I'm mentioning this, because perhaps some of you likewise are having the problem. Remove sitememter, and you'll get your blog back. I'll put it back on the blogs in a few days if the Sitemeter site returns. something very bad must've happened over at Sitememter.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Swiss vs Luther on "Faith Alone"

The person I debated about Luther and Romans 3:28 asks on another blog post,

"I would like to know if anybody has any idea how Zwingli, whose 'reformation', which was concurrent with but independent of Luther's, could have failed to 'see' 'Salvation by Faith Alone', meaning 'belief only', in Scripture IF it is supposedly SO clear?"

He also stated something very similar to this in our debate:

"Interestingly, the independent but concurrent Swiss Reformation saw no such “doctrine” [faith alone] in Scripture, thereby proving that even those intent on reforming the Church “saw” Luther’s new concept of salvation in Scripture."

The question and information about Zwingli and the Swiss used by my opponent during our debate appears to be based on information taken from Alister McGrath's Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, a book he cited. When one reads the context, the point made by my opponent melts away. On pp.246-247. McGrath states:

"Luther's doctrine of justification won wide- but not universal- acceptance within early Protestantism. Zwingli and other eastern Swiss reformers of the late 1510's clearly entertained a vision of reformation that did not entail this idea and may even have been contradicted by it. Many Swiss and Rhineland reformers of the 1520's were nervous about the idea, believing that it suggested that Christians were relieved of any obligation to do good works. Bucer, perhaps showing his ethical sympathies with Erasmus of Rotterdam, set out a doctrine of double justification, which ensued a robust link between God's act of gracious acceptation and the human response of grateful moral action. Some Anabaptist writers also distanced themselves from it, again expressing anxieties about its biblical foundations and moral implications.

Luther responded by calming such fears- particularly in his 'Sermon on Good works"- arguing that all he was saying was that good works are the natural result of having been justified, no the cause of justification. Far from destroying morality, Luther simply saw himself as setting it in its proper context. Believers perform good works as an act of thankfulness to God for having forgiven them, rather than in an attempt to persuade or entice god to forgive them in the first place."

The context answers his question and point directly. It appears to me that the confusion by the Swiss (according to McGrath) was falsely thinking Luther's idea of "faith" was a mere mental assent. In our debate in which this was brought up, there appeared to be a lack of understanding by my opponent of Luther's position on the relationship between faith and works and law and Gospel. I have written extensively on it in my paper, Did Luther Say: Be A Sinner And Sin Boldly? A Look at Justification By Faith Alone and Good Works in Luther’s Theology.

In the Library of Christian Classics volume on Zwingli and Bullinger, the introductory essay explains,

Again in accordance with his basic teaching, Zwingli was impelled as Luther was to a new and evangelical understanding of the doctrine of justification. Justification became the sovereign and creative declaration of God by which those who are elected to faith in Jesus Christ are accepted as righteous on account of the merits of Christ. The true ground of justification is not the human act of faith, but the life and death of Jesus Christ in which the justice and mercy of God are conjoined in a single act of divine goodness. As Zwingli put it in The Exposition of the Faith, goodness as justice required the sacrifice and goodness as mercy provided it. The means by which justification is applied to the individual is saving faith, that faith which is not merely rational assent, but a movement of the whole nature by the direct action of the Holy Spirit. Good works still retained an honourable place in this view of the matter, for it was stressed that they are the necessary but spontaneous fruits of a true faith. But of themselves good works could have no power to justify, for it is God who reckons righteous and it is God who himself produces the acceptable fruits of righteousness. Again, the emphasis upon free justification by faith did not mean the negation of the Law, for as a permanent expression of the divine will for man the Law continues both as a guide to the believer and as a warning and restraint to the evil-doer. What Zwingli did negate was legalism, and especially that mediaeval form of legalism which had given rise to such corrupt and fictional notions as purgatory, indulgences, the power of the keys, the treasury of merit, prayers for the dead and the merit of works of supererogation." [G.W. Bromiley (ed.), Zwingli and Bullinger (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953), pp.34-35].

And also:

"In the handling of such controverted themes as justification, purgatory and the Church, Zwingli does not differ substantially from other Protestant leaders. He teaches justifcation by faith, but is careful to point out that the man of true faith will fulfil the works of the law by an inward compulsion" [Ibid. p. 243]

For Luther, faith was not simply mental assent. “Faith,” wrote Luther, “is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith.” Luther scholar Paul Althaus notes: “[Luther] also agrees with James that if no works follow it is certain that true faith in Christ does not live in the heart but a dead, imagined, and self-fabricated faith." The book of James describes a real true faith in Christ: a real saving faith is a living faith. If no works are found in a person, that faith is a dead faith (c.f. James 2:17). James then describes a dead faith: the faith of a demon. A demon has faith that God exists, that Christ rose from the dead- I would dare say a demon knows theology better than you or I. But is the faith of this demon a saving faith? Absolutely not. Luther says, “Accordingly, if good works do not follow, it is certain that this faith in Christ does not dwell in our heart, but dead faith…”

Some may question why I would even mention Luther and James in the same sentence. Luther eventually came to harmonize James and Paul, but still felt he was a second century writer, and therefore did not produce a canonical book. Note these citation and comments from Ewald Plass's What Luther Says (Volume 1):

THEREFORE if a man lives on in sin, the conclusion is justified that he does so because he lacks the justifying faith, which always sanctifies, Luther contended in the fourteenth and fifteenth conclusion of a series of theses on faith in 1520.

1471 A Faith Without Works Is Not Saving Faith

14 Works infallibly follow justifying faith, since faith is not idle. . . .

15 It is, therefore, correctly said:Faith without works is dead; in fact, it is not even faith. (W 6, 85 f — E op var arg 4, 340—SL 19, 1431 f)

THAT LUTHER referred to James 2:17 in conclusion fifteen became certain when, many years later, his own explanations of these sentences were found. He had the following to say about his fifteenth conclusion.

1472 St. Paul and St. James Agree

Fruits do not make the tree, but a tree is known by its fruits. Now just as a tree that does not bear any fruit is wood, a piece of hypocrisy that is similar to a tree, so faith is a piece of hypocrisy if it does not produce works. ... He (St. James) wants faith to justify its genuineness by works; not that man is justified before God by works, but that the faith which justifies before God is recognized by the witness of its works. We must, therefore, well understand his statement: "Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works?" (James 2:21). For Rom. 4:2 expressly contradicts this: "If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God." However, James speaks of the works of faith. (He says) that these manifest and show faith, not that they make it or that anyone is justified by them. This appears from the text, for he teaches that a person should show his faith by the good works which he does toward his brother and sister who are naked, etc. (2:15 f.). It is, therefore, a different matter to speak of faith and its power, as Paul does, and, on the other hand, to speak of faith and its manifestation and demonstration, as James does. (W 6, 95f—E op var arg 5, 281—SL19, 1432)