Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roman Catholics get New Testament Canon issues precisely backwards

I’ve been continuing to follow the Green Baggins thread, From Natural Revelation to Special Revelation. For anyone interested in the differences in how Roman Catholics discuss the development of the canon of the New Testament, and how Protestants view it, check out the comments of Pastor D.T. King, Steve Hays, Ron D., and others in this thread.

In the comments, Bryan Cross has staked his life (seemingly) on the concept that the Protestant argument for the development of the canon of the New Testament is merely an “ad hoc” argument; we can’t know the canon infallibly, whereas, Rome has defined the canon “infallibly”.

I haven’t done a thorough study of this, but according to Wikipedia, the word “infallibility” wasn’t even a concept in the church until the 9th century, applied to the papacy by the megalomaniac Gregory VII (“the Roman church has never erred; nor will it err”) in the Dictus Papae. No doubt he said this with a straight face. [And we’ve certainly seen Bryan Cross’s straight face in his gravatar.]

So what genuinely seems “ad hoc” is the thought that this concept of infallibility was superimposed on the canon development process. There is no historical warrant for it.

I would suggest to you that a better principle in terms of this issue particularly is, "what did they know, and when did they know it?" That, after all, is the essence of what the study of history is all about.

In other places, I've traced some of the theological reasons for the development of the canon. The early church, once beholden to the preference for "oral tradition" (as Cullmann described, citing Papias in the early 2nd century), faced with questions such as those produced by Marcion, came to the conclusion that it needed its own "canon" -- the heretical ideas of those early Gnostic years were just becoming too pervasive; the development of the authoritative bishop, the notion of "succession" as a kind of proof of authority, and also a fixed canon all came into focus during those years.

Especially with regard to the fixing of the canon, I'd commend to you the works of David Trobisch. In his work Paul's Letter Collection (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), he studies manuscript evidence as well as the our understanding of the simple development of "the codex" as a form of communication. He makes the case that Paul himself began collecting his own letters into a collection. This is confirmed by Stanley Porter in his contribution to Exploring the Origins of the Bible, Craig A. Evans and Emanuel Tov, Editors (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008).

Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger place the New Testament documents into the concept of "covenant documents." The earliest church was thinking in terms not only of "new covenant" ("new testament") but also "covenant documents." Kostenberger and Kruger trace this process through their The Heresy of Orthodoxy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010). One of the more striking images was that of the "beehive of activity" involved with the process of creating and distributing books and codexes of the Scriptures during the first half of the first century.

As Steve Hays noted, the Pentateuch was what it was, because of who Moses was. He did not require some sort of imprimatur to come along at a later date and certify those five works as Scripture. Moses's works were "covenant documents"; they were Scripture at the moment he wrote them. And Kostenberger and Kruger argue that the New Testament documents were also viewed as covenant documents, created and ratified by the Apostles, again, the unique eyewitnesses to Christ himself, the total revelation of God (Hebrews 1), and treated in a similar way.

Finally, Trobisch (again) traces both the need for and the development of "the canonical edition" or The First Edition of the New Testament, (Oxford: Oxford Unity Press 2000).

Trobisch notes this about "the Canonical Edition":
The atmosphere created by the conflict with the Marcionite movement and the Easter Controversy contains characteristic features of the implied readership of the Canonical Edition. The edition portrays Paul and the Jerusalem authorities in a harmonious unity, presuming that the readers are conscious of the worldwide unity of the church. The success of this publication did not depend on an authoritative decision of the church; rather, readers found their convictions better expressed in the Canonical Edition than in competing literary works. During hard times of persecution, this book was capable of defining or reinforcing the identity and the unity of its readers. At the end of the second century and in the beginning of the third, Irenaeus was reading this edition in Lyons; Tertullian read it in Carthage and Asia Minor; Clement had it in Alexandria, and Origen in Palestine. This particular edition, in other words, was read worldwide.
In the New Testament Scriptures were found the unity and truth of the early church. In truth, none of this is "ad hoc". It is a historical process, unfolded by the Providence of God, and New Testament scholars like Cullmann and Ridderbos and Trobisch and Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger are investigating the sources in a detailed manner, and the history of this process is coming more sharply into focus.

Really, it's the quest for "infallibility" that is an ad hoc concept, superimposed on the process, many centuries after the process occurred, and at best "infallibility" (as an ad hoc idea) was superimposed at Trent, when Rome really had no other response to the Reformation but to try to assert its own authority with a made-up, ad-hoc concept (infallibility).

For more, extremely thorough documentation of how the New Testament came together, see also this complete treatment by Jason Engwer at Triablogue.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Luther: the Commandments are the cloak of all evil, heresies and blasphemies

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "The Commandments":

"If we allow them - the Commandments - any influence in our conscience, they become the cloak of all evil, heresies and blasphemies” (Comm. ad Galat, p.310).

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show that while Christ said keep the commandments, Luther says they become the cloak of all evil, heresies and blasphemies.

Luther, Exposing the Myth cites "Comm. ad Galat, p.310." I'm not exactly sure which edition of Luther's Galatians commentary is being referred to. There is a three volume Latin version of Luther's commentary on Galatians from the Erlangen edition of Luther's writings in which the quote is in volume 2 on p. 145:

Luther, Exposing the Myth probably took this quote from the reprint of Patrick O’Hare, The Facts About Luther (Illinois: Tan Books, 1987), 311 (page 315 from the original). O'Hare states,
In studying Luther, we must remember, that his cardinal dogma when he abandoned Catholic teaching, was that man has no free-will, that he can do no good and that to subdue animal passion is neither necessary nor possible. He insisted that the moral law of the Decalogue is not binding, that the Ten Commandments are abrogated and that they are no longer in force among Christians. "We must," he says, "remove the Decalogue out of sight and heart." (De Wette, 4, 188.) "If we allow them—the Commandments—any influence in our conscience, they become the cloak of all evil, heresies and blasphemies." (Comm. ad Galat. p. 310.) "If Moses should attempt to intimidate you with his stupid Ten Commandments, tell him right out: chase yourself to the Jews." (Wittenb. ad. 5, 1573.) Having thus unceremoniously brushed aside the binding force of the moral law, we do not wonder that he makes the following startling and shameless pronouncements. "As little as one is able," he says, "to remove mountains, to fly with the birds (Mist und Ham halten), to create new stars, or to bite off one's nose, so little can one escape unchastity." Alts Abendmahlslehre, 2, 118.) Out of the depths of his depraved mind, he further declares: "They are fools who attempt to overcome temptations (temptations to lewdness) by fasting, prayer and chastisement. For such temptations and immoral attacks are easily overcome when there are plenty of maidens and women." (Jen. ed. 2, p. 216.)
O'Hare actually uses the quote two other times in his book. On page 114 he documents it as "Wittenb. V 272. b," and on page 119 as "Epistle to the Galatians." Exactly which book "Comm. ad Galat. p. 310" is uncertain. Perhaps it's an earlier Latin translation. In English the quote is easy enough to find. It can be found in Luther's Works vol. 26 (Luther’s Galatians Commentary) on page 365, commenting on Galatians 4:3. An older English translation can be found here.

I am not saying this with the intention that the Law should be held in contempt. Paul does not intend this either, but that it should be held in esteem. But because Paul is dealing here with the issue of justification—a discussion of justification is something vastly different from a discussion of the Law—necessity demanded that he speak of the Law as something very contemptible. When we are dealing with this argument, we cannot speak of it in sufficiently vile and odious terms either. For here the conscience should consider and know nothing except Christ alone. Therefore we should make every effort that in the question of justification we reject the Law from view as far as possible and embrace nothing except the promise of Christ. This is easy enough to say; but in the midst of trial, when the conscience is contending with God, it is extremely difficult to be able to accomplish this. It is especially difficult when the Law is terrifying and accusing you, showing you your sin, and threatening you with the wrath of God and with death, to act as though there had never been any Law or sin but only Christ and sheer grace and redemption. It is difficult also, when you feel the terror of the Law, to say nevertheless: “Law, I shall not listen to you, because you have an evil voice. Besides, the time has now fully come. Therefore I am free. I shall no longer endure your domination.” Then one can see that the most difficult thing of all is to distinguish the Law from grace; that it is simply a divine and heavenly gift to be able in this situation to believe in hope against hope (Rom. 4:18); and that this proposition of Paul’s is eminently true, that we are justified by faith alone.
From this you should learn, therefore, to speak most contemptuously about the Law in the matter of justification, following the example of the apostle, who calls the Law “the elements of the world,” “traditions that kill,” “the power of sin,” and the like. If you permit the Law to dominate in your conscience instead of grace, then when the time comes for you to conquer sin and death in the sight of God, the Law is nothing but the dregs of all evils, heresies, and blasphemies; for all it does is to increase sin, accuse, frighten, threaten with death, and disclose God as a wrathful Judge who damns sinners. If you are wise, therefore, you will put Moses, that lisper and stammerer, far away with his Law; and you will not let his terrors and threats affect you in any way at all. Here he should be as suspect to you as an excommunicated and condemned heretic, worse than the pope and the devil, and therefore not to be listened to at all [LW 26:364-365].
Luther, Exposing the Myth and Father O’Hare are engaging in a fallacious selective citation process. Luther is here speaking with a law /gospel distinction in regards to justification. Just a paragraph later Luther says, “Apart from the matter of justification, on the other hand, we, like Paul, should think reverently of the Law. We should endow it with the highest praises and call it holy, righteous, good, spiritual, divine, etc.”[Source: LW 26:365].

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Scott Windsor (3): Defense of the Papacy from the Early Church

In the process of trying to find some merit in the document known as “The Donation of Constantine,” Scott Windsor also posted something of a popular defense of the early papacy. He posted a “Scriptural defense” of which he said “This one verse alone is enough for one who has The Faith” (and I provided an exegetical commentary on that verse in my previous responses to Scott here and here.)

I’d like to look now at some of his “testimony from the early fathers,” and in particular, the history behind this, his first citation:
Testimony from the Early Fathers:
In 517 the Eastern bishops assented to and signed the formula of Pope Hormisdas, which states in part: ‘The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who said, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church” [Matt. 16:18], should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied.’ (qtd in This Rock, October 1998).
I wonder if the Roman Catholics who parrot these things actually look at the history of them. Probably not; in the firmly convinced Roman Catholic mind, for someone who has “The Faith,” if something says “Peter,” that means “full-blown papacy.” But nothing could be further from the truth.

This incident here should not be something that Roman Catholics are proud to say is a part of the “divine foundation” of the papacy. In fact, while this is a “foundational event” in the creation of a papacy that had jurisdiction throughout the empire, it is not the “great moment in papal history” that it is sold as.

Until this time, it should be noted, that Eastern churches, represented by the other patriarchates, almost universally rejected any notion that Rome had any “jurisdiction” over them whatsoever.

Describing the period from approximately 400-900ad, a period during which the Church was “unified under the papacy,” Klaus Schatz, in his “Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present” (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, ©1996 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.), Schatz points out that “for five hundred years the role of Rome in the imperial Church was determined essentially by the relationships among three entities: the ecumenical councils, the patriarchates, and the imperial establishment.”

Keep in mind that the Roman church had always been marked by a lust for power and expansion.
150 ad: the church at Rome is ruled by a plurality of presbyters who quarrel about status and honor. (Shepherd of Hermas). “They had a certain jealousy of one another over questions of preeminence and about some kind of distinction. But they are all fools to be jealous of one another regarding preeminence.”

235: Hippolytus and Pontianus are exiled from Rome by the emperor “because of street fighting between their followers” (Collins citing Cerrato, Oxford 2002).

258: Cyprian (Carthage/west) and Firmilian (Caesarea/east) both become incensed when Stephen tries to exercise authority outside of Rome. [Stephen is the first pope on record to cite Matt 16:18 in support of his own authority.]

306: Rival “popes” exiled because of “violent clashes” (Collins)

308: Rival “popes” exiled because of “violent clashes” (Collins again).
What genuinely gave bishops of Rome the impetus to expand further was the conversion of Constantine. Eamon Duffy noted that this event “propelled the bishops of Rome into the heart of the Roman establishment. Already powerful and influential men, they now became grandees on a par with the wealthiest senators in the city. Bishops all over the Roman world would now be expected to take on the role of judges, governors, great servants of state (“Saints and Sinners,” New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997, 2001, pg 37). Duffy had previously recounted the story of the young Ambrose (b. 340-397), “fascinated as the women of the family clustered around Liberius (352-366), kissing his hand, and the boy had amused and infuriated his relatives by imitating his stately walk and offering his own hand to be kissed by the womenfolk” (36).

In 324, though, Constantine moved the capital to the East. According to Duffy, he:
“washed his hands of Rome,” and “departed to create a Christian capital in the East. It would fall to the popes to create a Christian Rome. They set about it by building churches, converting the modest tituli (community church centres) into something grander, and creating new and more public foundations, … Over the next hundred years their churches advanced into the city – Pope Mark’s (336) San Marco within a stone’s throw of the Capitol, Pope Liberius’ massive basilica on the Esquiline (now Santa Maria Maggiore), Pope Damasus’ Santa Anastasia at the foot of the Palatine, Pope Julius’ foundation of the site of the present Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Pudenziana near the Baths of Diocletian under Pope Anastasius (399-401), Santa Sabina among the patrician villas on the Aventine under Pope Celestine (422-32).

These churches were a mark of the upbeat confidence of post-Constantinian Christianity in Rome. The popes were potentates, and began to behave like it. Damasus (366-382) perfectly embodied this growing grandeur. An urbane career cleric like his predecessor Liberius, at home in the wealthy salons of the city, he was also a ruthless power-broker, and he did not hesitate to mobilize both the city police and the Christian mob to back up his rule His election had been contested, and he had prevailed by sheer force of numbers – as the Liber Pontificalis puts it, ‘they confirmed Damasus because he was the stronger and had the greater number of supporters; that was how Damasus was confirmed’. Damasus’ grass-roots supporters included squads of the notoriously hard-boiled Roman fossores, [actually a minor order in the church, made up of catacomb diggers generally armed with picks], and they massacred 137 followers of the rival Pope Ursinus in street-fighting that ended in a bloody siege of what is now the church of Santa Maria Maggiore” (37-38).
I’ve heard Roman Catholics say that, “well, it was the highest office in the church, it’s no wonder people would fight about it. First, that’s no excuse, for Christians (1 Tim 3), and second, that’s not the real reason people fought about it. Here, Duffy cites the secular historian Ammianus Marcellinus:
I do not deny that men who covet this office in order to fulfill their ambitions may well struggle for it with every resource at their disposal. For once they have obtained it they are ever after secure, enriched with offerings from the ladies, riding abroad seated in their carriages, splendidly arrayed, giving banquets so lavish that they supass the tables of royalty… (38).
It was noted above that Liberius pranced around prompting women to kiss his hand, and Damasus himself was known as “the ladies’ ear-tickler”.

As a side note, in the discussions of the compulsion of clerical celibacy, Duffy notes that on account of such like Damasus, “an imperial decree in 370 forbade clerics from visiting the houses of rich widows or heiresses” (38).

J.N.D. Kelly, in his “Oxford Dictionary of the Popes,” points out that Basil the Great (d. 379) had a “less than happy” relationship with Damasus and that “like the west generally, [Damasus] failed to understand the new developments and, when Antioch was split between rival bishops, [Damasus] persisted in backing Paulinus, the unrepresentative leader of a reactionary group, instead of Meletius, on whom eastern hopes for unity were centred; …In despair Basil described him as impossibly arrogant.”

Kelly also notes that while “he took no part in the ecumenical council (the second) held at Constantinople in 381, and made no contribution to the constructive détente between east and west which was now under way,” nevertheless ”Damasus was indefatigable in promoting the Roman primacy, frequently referring to Rome as ‘the apostolic see’ and ruling that the test of a creed’s orthodoxy was its endorsement by the pope.” (Kelly 33)

So even by the time of Damasus, while the eastern churches were embroiled in some of the most intensive deliberations over Nicene orthodoxy and the Nicene creed, “pope” Damasus was busy tickling ladies’ ears, promoting his own importance, and fomenting division among the Eastern churches. Damasus is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Built on Sinking Sand: The “Scriptural” Foundation for the Papacy (2)

I wanted to follow up with my look at the defense of the papacy that Scott Windsor gave (in conjunction with his “defense” of the Donation of Constantine).

I’ve already noted that he misunderstood or misrepresented what William Webster was saying about that document; I’ve also commented his “scriptural evidence”:
Scriptural Foundation:
Matthew 16:18 – “And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Here we have Jesus bestowing upon Peter (whose name means “rock”) the foundation of the Church. In fact, in the Aramaic, which is what Jesus was likely speaking when speaking to His Apostles, and also the likely original language that the book of Matthew was written in, there is no distinction between the name “Peter” (Kepha) and the term for “rock” (kepha). Hence, if we stuck closer to the original language (instead of transliterating it to Greek and then English), that same verse would read something like: “… thou art Kepha, and upon this kepha will I build My Church.” This one verse alone is enough for one who has The Faith....
This notion is very thoroughly dismantled by an investigation of the earliest translations of the Gospel into the Syriac language, which itself is a later version of the Aramaic.

In my first response to this Scriptural argument, I cited David Garland (“Reading Matthew”, New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1995) contending that there is a very good possibility that the possible “underlying Aramaic” for the “petros/petra” wordplay (possibly “kepha/kepha” in the unknown Aramaic) may well have been “kepha/tnra” – which then separates the Greek “petros/petra” by more than just gender issues; it changes the whole meaning of the wordplay. And this “changed wordplay” greatly advances the (already likely) scenario that Peter is not “the rock” of that verse.

Following on what Garland pointed out, Everett Ferguson, in his “The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today” (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), also affirms that in the Syriac language, which is a later form of Aramaic, does indeed make the “kepha/tnra” distinction in existing Syriac translations of the Gospel of Matthew:
The difficulties of applying the rock to Peter come in the text of Matthew 16 itself.

(1) The wording does not naturally lend itself to this interpretation. On the surface level there is the change from the second person of direct address (“You are Peter”) to the third person of indirect address (“on this rock”). If the author of Matthew had wanted to say that Jesus intended to build the church on Peter, there were certainly less ambiguous ways of doing it.

(2) The Greek text of Matthew and some strands of the Syriac tradition (pertinent here because Syriac is a later form of Aramaic) make a distinction between the words for Peter and the Rock. They seem to understand a different referent for Jesus’ words.

(3) Aramaic perhaps could have made a distinction, as Syriac did, either by different words or by the distinction between masculine and feminine (preserved in Greek by different endings).

(4) At any rate, if Jesus used the same word with the same sense in both cases, the wordplay is lost. There is no wordplay if the same word is used twice with the same meaning [“kepha/kepha”]. A play on words requires similarities of sound, different meanings of the same word (possible here if Jesus used the same word, once for Peter and once for another “rock”), or different words with the same idea (again possible here if Jesus used two different expressions represented by different but similar words in Greek). The difference in Greek and some Syriac texts indicate that a wordplay was intended here.

(5) Nowhere else in the New Testament or earliest Christian texts is Peter understood as the foundation stone of the church. Where Matthew uses rock elsewhere in a symbolic sense, the reference is to the teachings of Jesus (Matt 7:24).
So like Garland, Ferguson here is citing Caragounis’s intensive look into the Syriac. The argument that many of us former Roman Catholics have heard all of our lives, that Jesus used the same word for both Peter and for the rock upon which he would build the church [“Thou art Kepha, and on this kepha”] is literally without foundation.

In a private email, “Constantine” has pointed out that, at Vatican I, Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick pointed out that there were no less than five different scenarios for that verse extant in the early church Schaff summarizes this:
But of the passage Matt. xvi., which is more frequently quoted by Popes and Papists than any other passage in the Bible, there are no less than five different patristic interpretations; the rock on which Christ built his Church being referred to Christ by sixteen Fathers (including Augustine); to the faith or confession of Peter by forty-four (including Chrysostom, Ambrose, Hilary, Jerome, and Augustine again); to Peter professing the faith by seventeen; to all the Apostles, whom Peter represented by his primacy, by eight; to all the faithful, who, believing in Christ as the Son of God, are constituted the living stones of the Church.
Truth Unites ... and Divides had also pointed this out in a comment, here.

The Schaff citation is Volume 1, “Creeds of Christendom,” pg 186, and can be found at this link.

And as for the “five different patristic interpretations,” that would be corroborated by primary-source research by William Webster.

Caragounis’s work supports the interpretation that it was “Peter’s confession” that is the “this petra” of Matt 16:18 – and according to Vatican I’s Archbishop Kenrick, this particular interpretation is supported by no less than forty-four patristic interpreters.

As another aside here: Ratzinger makes mention of the Caragounis work in his “Called to Communion.” He says that Caragounis’s work is “just as unconvincing as earlier interpretations of this sort.” (Pg 60, n. 14. But one wonders if he is exercising the Roman practice of “lying without lying” otherwise known as mental reservation. Ratzinger says that Caragounis's study “is just as unconvincing [to me] as earlier interpretations of this sort.” He of course concludes his note here without any effort at all to say precisely why it is unconvincing.

Needless to say, I'm not inclined to accept Ratzinger's word on this topic.

As Windsor says, "This one verse alone is enough for one who has The Faith, but for the Protestant opposition, they require more so let us go on."

In upcoming posts, I'll look at his treatment of this topic in the early church.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Luther: All the Commandments are Impossible to Us

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "The Commandments":

“Thou shalt not covet,’is a commandment which proves us all to be sinners; since it is not in man’s power not to covet, and the same is the drift of all the commandments, for they are all equally impossible to us” [De Liv. Chris. Tom. 4:2].

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of 'reformation' in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Christ said keep the commandments, while Luther says the opposite: the commandments can't be kept.

This quote may have been taken from this secondary source: Verbum the newsletter of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Ridgefield, CT, Spring 1985. Note the similarities:

Luther, Exposing the Myth originally cited "De Liv. Chris. Tom. 4:2", but later removed this reference. In current versions no documentation is given. A few years back I pointed out this reference didn't make any sense. I've since uncovered the quote was taken from this source, which documents the quote correctly as "De Lib. Chris. Tom. 4:2." This reference is to the first collected publication of Luther's writings, The Wittenberg Edition (1539-1559). Some years back I speculated the quote appeared to be a condensed version of a section from Luther's "The Freedom of a Christian." "De Lib. Chris" is an abbreviated title of this treatise in Latin: De Libertate Christiana. In context, the quote is not as it appears as presented by Luther, Exposing the Myth, it is condensed. Note the sentence breaks in similar citations of this quote from the 1800's:
" 'Thou "shalt not covet,' is a commandment.... it is not in any "man's power not to covet; and the same is the drift of " all the commandments, for they are all equally impossible to us."—(Luther, de lib. Chris., tom. iv., 2.). 
Whoever originally put this quote together was careful to point out it was condensed from a larger context. Luther, Exposing the Myth took no such care.  Here is the page this reference is citing:

The quote in question can be found in the three paragraphs that occur after the large letter "Q" in black type. There are two primary versions of this treatise, a German and Latin.  The more precise version is the Latin version (WA 7:49-73).  In a more clearer font, the specific Latin text from which this quote comes from can also be found in WA 7:52,

This Latin text has been translated into English: The Freedom of a Christian (1520) [LW 31:327-376; PE 2: 312-348], otherwise known as Concerning Christian Liberty [part one, part two].

Should you ask how it happens that faith alone justifies and offers us such a treasure of great benefits without works in view of the fact that so many works, ceremonies, and laws are prescribed in the Scriptures, I answer: First of all, remember what has been said, namely, that faith alone, without works, justifies, frees, and saves; we shall make this clearer later on. Here we must point out that the entire Scripture of God is divided into two parts: commandments and promises. Although the commandments teach things that are good, the things taught are not done as soon as they are taught, for the commandments show us what we ought to do but do not give us the power to do it. They are intended to teach man to know himself, that through them he may recognize his inability to do good and may despair of his own ability. That is why they are called the Old Testament and constitute the Old Testament. For example, the commandment, “You shall not covet” [Exod. 20:17], is a command which proves us all to be sinners, for no one can avoid coveting no matter how much he may struggle against it. Therefore, in order not to covet and to fulfill the commandment, a man is compelled to despair of himself, to seek the help which he does not find in himself elsewhere and from someone else, as stated in Hosea [13:9]: “Destruction is your own, O Israel: your help is only in me.” As we fare with respect to one commandment, so we fare with all, for it is equally impossible for us to keep any one of them" [LW 31:348].

Luther, Exposing the Myth's usage of this Luther quote implies they have an underlying Pelagianism. They seem to be implying that mankind with God's grace has the ability to keep the commandments. In context, Luther is saying what Jesus did in Matthew 19. No one as a member of sin-filled humanity can keep the commandments and knowledge of that inability leads to despair and drives one to Christ. Christ is the one has done the work of the law perfectly, and faith in he and his work becomes our by faith.  Once in the arms of Christ, Luther goes on a few sections later to point out that a Christian is the only one who can now do good works. A faith-filled Christian does works to the glory of God. In other words, Christians are those who seek to lead godly lives, and not covet, or break the other commandments. They also strive to serve their neighbors. Luther states:
From this you once more see that much is ascribed to faith, namely, that it alone can fulfill the law and justify without works. You see that the First Commandment, which says, “You shall worship one God,” is fulfilled by faith alone. Though you were nothing but good works from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head, you would still not be righteous or worship God or fulfill the First Commandment, since God cannot be worshiped unless you ascribe to him the glory of truthfulness and all goodness which is due him. This cannot be done by works but only by the faith of the heart. Not by the doing of works but by believing do we glorify God and acknowledge that he is truthful. Therefore faith alone is the righteousness of a Christian and the fulfilling of all the commandments, for he who fulfills the First Commandment has no difficulty in fulfilling all the rest.
But works, being inanimate things, cannot glorify God, although they can, if faith is present, be done to the glory of God. Here, however, we are not inquiring what works and what kind of works are done, but who it is that does them, who glorifies God and brings forth the works. This is done by faith which dwells in the heart and is the source and substance of all our righteousness. Therefore it is a blind and dangerous doctrine which teaches that the commandments must be fulfilled by works. The commandments must be fulfilled before any works can be done, and the works proceed from the fulfillment of the commandments [Rom. 13:10], as we shall hear [LW 31:352-353].
Although, as I have said, a man is abundantly and sufficiently justified by faith inwardly, in his spirit, and so has all that he needs, except insofar as this faith and these riches must grow from day to day even to the future life; yet he remains in this mortal life on earth. In this life he must control his own body and have dealings with men. Here the works begin; here a man cannot enjoy leisure; here he must indeed take care to discipline his body by fastings, watchings, labors, and other reasonable discipline and to subject it to the Spirit so that it will obey and conform to the inner man and faith and not revolt against faith and hinder the inner man, as it is the nature of the body to do if it is not held in check. The inner man, who by faith is created in the image of God, is both joyful and happy because of Christ in whom so many benefits are conferred upon him; and therefore it is his one occupation to serve God joyfully and without thought of gain, in love that is not constrained (LW 31:358-359).
We do not, therefore, reject good works; on the contrary, we cherish and teach them as much as possible. We do not condemn them for their own sake but on account of this godless addition to them and the perverse idea that righteousness is to be sought through them; for that makes them appear good outwardly, when in truth they are not good. They deceive men and lead them to deceive one another like ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing [Matt. 7:15] [LW 31:363].
Man, however, needs none of these things for his righteousness and salvation. Therefore he should be guided in all his works by this thought and contemplate this one thing alone, that he may serve and benefit others in all that he does, considering nothing except the need and the advantage of his neighbor [LW 31:365].
Accordingly Paul, after teaching the Philippians how rich they were made through faith in Christ, in which they obtained all things, thereafter teaches them, saying, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” [Phil. 2:1–4]. Here we see clearly that the Apostle has prescribed this rule for the life of Christians, namely, that we should devote all our works to the welfare of others, since each has such abundant riches in his faith that all his other works and his whole life are a surplus with which he can by voluntary benevolence serve and do good to his neighbor [LW 31:365-366].
Behold, from faith thus flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one’s neighbor willingly and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame, of gain or loss. For a man does not serve that he may put men under obligations. He does not distinguish between friends and enemies or anticipate their thankfulness or unthankfulness, but he most freely and most willingly spends himself and all that he has, whether he wastes all on the thankless or whether he gains a reward. As his Father does, distributing all things to all men richly and freely, making “his sun rise on the evil and on the good” [Matt. 5:45], so also the son does all things and suffers all things with that freely bestowing joy which is his delight when through Christ he sees it in God, the dispenser of such great benefits [LW 31:367].

Addendum (2016)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2010. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to all

On behalf of all of the folks here at Beggars All, I'd like to extend our thanks to you, our readers, who give us the best reason of all to write. With just a few exceptions, we're blessed by your input and your feedback. Thanks for staying with us.

At a personal level, I'd like to thank my co-bloggers, from whom I've learned so much. Carrie, I still consult your works on Trent. Mark, thanks for your friendship; best of luck to you as you move through Seminary. Their names are listed on the roll but their lives don't at the moment permit them to contribute. For those who don't know, Ken is a missionary who risks his life for Christ on a fairly constant and regular basis. Your devotion to Christ, your passion for knowledge, and your knowledge of languages amazes and blesses me.

Matthew and Alan, you are among "the best of the best of the best," and I can't thank you enough for the help and encouragement you've provided to me behind the scenes. I pray you Godspeed in all of your future plans. You will change the world. And James, thank you for the invitation to be here, which has changed my life. Your ability to perceive dishonesty, wherever it is found, your love for the truth, and your propensity for doing the hard research work needed to set things aright, are going to bring the spirit of the Protestant Reformation to a generation of believers who never had any idea that all of this happened.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Luther: Moses is an executioner... Let us send Moses packing forever

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "The Commandments":

"Moses is an executioner, a cruel lictor, a torturer a torturer [sic.] who tears our flesh out with pincers and makes us suffer martyrdom . . . Whoever, in the name of Christ, terrifies and troubles consciences, is not the messenger of Christ, but of the devil . . . Let us therefore send Moses packing and for ever"[D. Martini Lutheri Exegetica Opera Latina, published by Elsperger (Erlangen, Heyder, 1829-84), Vol. 18 pg. 146].

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Luther blatantly rejected Moses and devalued the law of God.

Luther, Exposing the Myth cites "D. Martini Lutheri Exegetica Opera Latina, published by Elsperger (Erlangen, Heyder, 1829-84), Vol. 18 pg. 146." This reference is only partially correct because the quote being cited is not one quote, but two quotes. The first part of the quote is on page 142.

The second part of the quote is on page 146-147.

It's highly unlikely Luther, Exposing the Myth actually mined this quote out of the original Latin. Rather, it probably came from a secondary source. I'm fairly confident the secondary source is: Antonin Eymieu, Two Arguments for Catholicism (Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1928 ) p. 44. This book documents the quote as "Opera exeget. XVIII, 146 seq." The "D. Martini Lutheri Exegetica Opera Latina, published by Elsperger (Erlangen, Heyder, 1829-84)" part used by Luther, Exposing the Myth is on page 37. Luther, Exposing the Myth appears to have a taken a number of quotes from this secondary source.

These two quotes being cited are from "Psalmi XLV" (Luther's classroom lectures on Psalm 45, 1532). Technically, Luther did not write this text. They are the result of  Luther's scribe, Georg Rörer. LW 12 points out that Luther's commentary on Psalm 45 was published in 1533-1534 but with reluctance on Luther's part. His health issues did not allow him to any  revisions of the text (LW 12, Introduction to Volume 12).  This text has been translated into English in LW 12 "Selected Psalms."  These two quotes in question can be found in LW 12:207 and LW 12:211.

The caricature presented by Luther, Exposing the Myth is that Luther despised Moses and slandered Moses. The context though says something quite different. Luther is commenting on Psalm 45:2. It is a comparison is between "King" Moses and the Law (imperfect) and "king" Jesus and the Gospel. The first part: "Moses is an executioner, a cruel lictor, a torturer who tears our flesh out with pincers is found here:
This is the first sweet and delightful thing in this lyric, which sings about and promises a kingdom with such a King. There will be no imperfections in Him, but a will full of virtues and a mind full of wisdom, with glowing love toward all miserable, damned, and sorrowful sinners. Moses is not such a king. He is a tormentor and cruel executioner and torturer, who torments us and troubles us with his terrors, threatenings, and displays of wrath. He forces us to do good outwardly; or, if we do our best, he inwardly humbles us and makes us long for grace. But our King, who is celebrated here, is full of mercy, grace, and truth. In Him love for mankind is to be found and the greatest sweetness; a person who, as we find in Isaiah 42:2, “does not cry in the streets,” is not austere and rough, but patient and long-suffering. He exercises judgment against the wicked and blasphemers, and shows mercy toward sinners. Therefore He is a most pleasant and fair King, and there is no one like Him in the whole world. In Him is to be found the highest virtue and the highest love toward God and men. It is with these adornments that His person is decorated, so that there is no overweening pride, desire, lust, or any other base affection in Him. We see Him described this way in the Gospels, and the facts themselves point to His having been so. He did not keep company with the holy, powerful, and wise, but with despicable and miserable sinners, with those ruined by misfortune, with men weighed down by painful and incurable diseases; these He healed, comforted, raised up, helped. And at last He even died for sinners. He did not frighten, and He did not kill, as Moses did, but He drew, gladdened, comforted, cured, and aided all who came to Him. He is therefore the King of kings, without equal. Yet this is true only if you look at the spirit and not at the external appearance of the flesh. This is simply one aspect of the description of His person, pointed out briefly and with few words. The holy Evangelists and St. Paul in his Epistles describe it more fully and enlarge upon it; they paint this King in His true colors and point out what kind of person He is, and these things are most helpful for those of us who find ourselves in difficulties and vexations of conscience [LW 12:207].
The second part: "Whoever, in the name of Christ, terrifies and troubles consciences, is not the messenger of Christ, but of the devil . . Let us send Moses packing and forever" is found here:
So Christ should not be depicted with gall or a sword in His mouth, as they always portray Him, unless it is to be understood spiritually. He should be depicted in such a way that His lips seem to be pure sugar or honey. Whoever depicts His mouth otherwise errs, and we should rather listen to this poet than to the papists and Satan, the authors of this horrible picture. For this poet will not deceive us when he ascribes to Christ the loveliest mouth. This must be noted carefully. For Christ should not make hearts sad with His words, He ought not to terrify. Whoever terrifies and vexes consciences in Christ's name is not a messenger of Christ but of the devil, for Christ's name is: "A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench." He is gentle: "He will not cry or lift up His voice or make it heard in the street" (Is. 42:3, 2). He is not rough, severe, biting like Moses, who looks like the very devil and speaks in a way that our heart almost vanishes before him. For he has lips overflowing with gall and wrath, that have been embittered with laurel and gall, in fact, with hellish fire. So away forever with Moses! But our King has pleasant lips; that is, His Word is the Word of the remission of sins and of comfort for the lowly, the Word of life and salvation to recall the damned and dying [LW 12:211].

Contrary to Luther, Exposing the Myth, Luther’s theology did have place for the Law of God and its use in the life of a Christian. The Law for Luther was dual purposed: it first drives one to see their sin and a need for a savior; secondly it functions in the life of a Christian to lead one to a correct understanding of the good one ought to do. Moses and the law were important in his theology. Luther taught that anyone who is to preach must be able to preach the law:
First, he must preach the Law so that the people may learn what great things God demands of us; of these we cannot perform any because of the impotence of our nature which has been corrupted by Adam's fall [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 1:131].
Luther also points out that only by knowing God’s law does one even "know" what a good work is:
O]nly those things are good works which God has commanded, just as only that is a sin which God has forbidden. Therefore, he who wants to know and do good works need only know God’s Commandments… These Commandments of God must teach us how to distinguish among good works [Ewald Plass, What Luther Says Volumes 1-3 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing house, 1959) 3:1499].
These examples show that Luther valued the law. Luther scholar Paul Althaus points out for Luther:
The Ten Commandments have their place not only ‘before’ but also ‘after’ justification; thus they not only exercise the Christian in the theological function of the law but also lead him to a right knowledge of the good he ought to do according to God’s will [ Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 272].
Luther composed a hymn on the Ten Commandments in which he states, “To us come these commands, that so- Thou son of man, thy sins mayst know- And make thee also well perceive- How before God man should live” [LW 53:279]. Elsewhere Luther said of the Ten Commandments, “They are the true fountain from which all good works must flow” [Martin Luther, as cited by Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1963), 272, footnote 124].

In Luther’s Small Catechism the Ten Commandments were placed first because he wanted people to understand that God is wrathful against sin. The negative prohibitions in the Ten Commandments clearly showed our need for a savior. also in the Small Catechism, Luther suggests a daily regiment of prayer and includes a verbal reading of the Ten Commandments. In the reciting of the Ten Commandments along with the Apostles Creed and Lord’s Prayer, one hears both law and gospel at the beginning and ending of each day. Luther says,
[N]o man can progress so far in sanctification as to keep even one of the Ten Commandments as it should be kept, but that the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer must come to our assistance, as we shall hear, through which we must continually seek, pray for, and obtain the power and strength to keep the Commandments" [What Luther Says 3:1501].
Luther placed a strong emphasis on the First Commandment, which was one of the key factors in the shape of his entire theology. Luther believed God spoke the word of creation bringing human creatures into existence was repeated in the First Commandment. The whole of the Scripture can be summarized in the First Commandment. It was both law and gospel. It is law because it invokes a demand with a burden that can crush us. When we do not place God at the center of our lives, we are lost not living the full life of a human creature. This command is also gospel: it is good news that God says He is our Father, that He is our God, protector-provider, Lord and Savior. It is His gift of being His child. The implication of this for Luther’s entire theology is that he derived all of God’s gracious promises from the First Commandment. As Roland Bainton has rightly said,
One might have expected the great line of demarcation for [Luther] to have lain between the Old Testament and the New. It did for some Protestants, like the Anabaptists, who rejected the wars of Yahweh and took literally the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount. Luther on a different count might have used his distinction of law and gospel to repudiate Moses as law, but Luther did not. Law and gospel, said he, lie side by side throughout the whole Bible. That which relies on man's good works is law. That which relies on God's good grace is gospel. The Ten Commandments can witness to grace and the Sermon on the Mount can be treated as a new law. Therefore, the Old Testament is not to be rejected or relegated to a lower rank. Here one must recall that Luther interpreted the Old Testament in terms of the pre-existent Christ, who was speaking through Moses and through David [Roland Bainton, Studies on the Reformation, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), p. 6-7].
Luther said of the entire Old Testament,
Christ must first be heard in the Gospel, then it will be seen how beautiful and lovely the whole Old Testament is in harmony with him, so that a man cannot help giving himself in submission to faith and be enabled to recognize the truth of what Christ says in John 5: 46, "For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me, for he wrote of me [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 1:151].

Addendum (2016)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2010. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Roman “Church” still misunderstands the Reformation

The Roman “Church” still misunderstands the Reformation; and whether it does so intentionally, as we see among the Called to Communion gang, when they constantly say that it “is simply a voluntary association of like-minded people” which then reduces to chaos, or whether it does so unintentionally, as in the case of all of those unschooled minions who believe whatever “the Church” tells them, the result is the same.

In 1950, G.C. Berkouwer wrote in his work “Conflict with Rome,” in a chapter entitled “Unshakable Authority?” that:
To the mind of Rome, there is a causal relation between the Reformation of the sixteenth century and the tensions of modern times. At bottom [for Roman Catholics who don’t want to truly understand the Reformation] they are one and the same revolution: that of the subject against the legitimate authority given by God. The moment this revolution was proclaimed the tensions arose that were ultimately discharged in the chaos of the modern world.

The problem thus posited ought to alarm every Protestant if it is really possible to demonstrate convincingly that Rome accepts the authority of the church and the Reformation does not.
It’s time to note here that the definition of the word “church” already is at question. Or it should be. I’ve often believed that to really understand “the definition of the word ‘church’, one ought to try to understand ‘what they knew, and when they knew it.’” That is, to go back and ask the people who made up the church -- in the year 35, in the year 50, in the year 100, in the year 140 -- “describe the church for us. Tell us what it is, how it operates,” and how these things came into being”.

The modern Roman Catholic, following Roman Catholics of the last several centuries, is not content with that method. The modern Roman Catholic wants to start with the conceptions of Roman authority, as they are defined today, and to anachronistically read that authority back onto the people of an earlier time.

That is, modern Roman Catholics say of the ancients, “they believe what we believe, only they just didn’t know it.”

That is the biggest line of BS the world has ever known.

Some astute Roman Catholics recognized this, and so they sought to hide that awful truth [that the Roman conception of authority is BS] in a metaphor. “They believed [Roman authority] it in seed form.” Acorn and oak.

But that metaphor (like all metaphors) breaks down in real life. In real life, an acorn immediately sends down a strong and straight taproot, and it sends up a straight and tall trunk, and the shape of that oak seedling is very much the same as it will be for the rest of its life. It does grow branches in time. But it is as straight as it is ever going to be. There is no semblance at all to the twisted and contorted chains of doctrines that Rome has assembled over the centuries, which it calls its “infallible teaching”.

Berkouwer continued:
But the situation is quite different. The Reformation did recognize and accept authority. In reaction to an objectivistic conception of authority the Reformation did not reject all authority. But it did oppose the absolute ecclesiastical authority claimed by Rome. ... When the Reformation had to determine its position in the church of all ages it was not led by a confused subjectivism to prefer relativeism to absolutism, but it had a conception of the church entirely different from the Roman view. When the Reformers called the authority of the church ‘relative,’ they understood its original sense, ‘in relation to.’

The Reformation refused to detach the structure of the church from the revelation transcending it. Ecclesiastical authority was relative, i.e., it stood in an absolutely dependent relation to the Word of God which alone made it possible for the church to exist.

On this point the Reformation denied the Roman view. The struggle of the Reformers was not directed against authority and stability. It was not a revolution of individualism, but the establishment of the life of the church in the Word of the living God. The issue was the truly free and liberating authority of God.
What prompted me to bring this up was something that Ryan said down below, in comments to Nick.
We receive a multiplicity of blessings by faith. These blessings are given to every child of Abraham. You don’t avoid my point that you are collapsing all the spiritual blessings into one blessing by appealing to a contextually irrelevant difference between my understanding of the nature of saving faith and your own. Also, since I have already explained in what manner regeneration can be said to be not merely incidental to justification but rather an instrumental cause of it and in such a way that is fully consistent with the Reformed position, to be honest, I think your first paragraph was a swing and a miss. It didn’t really address any of the points it should have and seemed to have been intended to take us away from exegesis.
* * *

Pastor Lane Keister at Green Baggins has posted an item, and the comments from the Roman Catholics here have illustrated this Roman tendency to just say “nuh-uh” to what is genuinely said, and to assign their own parroted meanings to is being said, regardless of what is actually being said. I’ll let you look at Tom Riello’s comments, but here is the incredibly helpful and instructive “proof” that Lane started with:
Owen starts with something that Roman Catholics, Reformed and even Rationalists all agree on: the divine origin of natural revelation “declares itself to be from God by its own light and authority…: without further evidence or reasoning, without the advantage of any considerations but what are by itself supplied, it discovers its author, from whom it is, and in whose name it speaks…common notions are inlaid in the natures of rational creatures by the hand of God, to this end, that they might make a revelation of Him…, are able to plead their own divine original, without the least contribution of strength or assistance from without” (discussing Romans 1, in Owen, vol 16, p. 311). Muller’s comment on this: “If such a view of natural revelation is assumed, how much more ought its logic apply to Scripture!” (vol 2, p. 268). Then comes the killer quotation from Owen:

Now, it were very strange, that those low, dark, and obscure principles and means of the revelation of God and his will, which we have mentioned, should be able to evince themselves to be from him, without any external help, assistance, testimony or authority; and that that which is by God himself magnified above them…should lie dead, obscure, and have nothing in itself to reveal its Author, until this or that superadded testimony be called to its assistance (Owen, p. 311, quoted in Muller, pp. 268-269).

The substance of the argument, then, is that if natural revelation is acknowledged to be of divine origin and authority without the support of the church, then why shouldn’t special revelation also be acknowledged to have divine origin and authority without the support of the church, especially since the latter is much clearer than the former, and is given by God a higher priority and authority than natural revelation? Why would God not make natural revelation depend on humanity, but then make a more important revelation depend on humanity? Revelation is of God from first to last. God requires no human crutch to make His revelation authoritative. It is authoritative because of its Divine Author.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tying up some loose ends from yesterday: "The one true church"

Andrew asked: John I have a slightly off topic question for you. It is my belief that while Roman Catholicism itself is a non-christian religion, there is enough light there, mostly through the scripture, that there are probably individual Roman Catholics (many perhaps?) who do understand the gospel and are themselves, Christians. Where do you come down on this? I am interested in your view because of your having been a self-described "devout Roman Catholic".

Andrew, I believe there is one church. I believe the Westminster Larger Confession came very close -- very, very close -- to accurately describing this one true church in biblical terms:
Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

Q. 64. What is the invisible church?
A. The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.
So yes, I believe that Christ calls even Roman Catholics, and gives them union and communion with him in grace and glory. But in doing so, he ignores and defies Rome's methods and decrees.

Dr. William Witt, an Anglican who I've cited regarding Newman and Development, has not left that communion, but rather has decided to stay put where he is. And while I do not see myself becoming Anglican, he expresses some sentiments that I think we can largely agree with. Here is what he says:
So why not leave? I can only give my own reasons.

So, first. Leave for what? Rome or Orthodoxy would be the obvious choices. At least they are the ones that are usually offered. When as a young man I left the Evangelical denomination in which I was raised, I became an Anglican because I believed that the Reformation was a reforming movement in the Western Catholic Church, and I was convinced that Anglicanism had come closest to getting that job done right. For the Roman Catholics, Vatican II was successful just to the extent that it incorporated many of the changes that had taken place at some time or another in Anglican history. Liturgy in the vernacular? Check. Communion in both kinds? Check. Renewed emphasis on Scripture? Check. In good critical translations? Check. Religious liberty? Check. Focus on salvation by grace alone and reconsideration of justification by faith? Check. Married clergy? Well . . . Vatican II didn’t do everything.

[JB note: These are for the most part merely externals, which provide cosmetic changes but do not change the heart and core of Roman Catholicism. And the focus on "grace alone" is not really a focus on grace, but it is a call back to the works-oriented process described here, which really is just a sacramental treadmill.]

At the same time, one thing has not changed. As I have always understood it, one only has two choices about the Roman Catholic Church. One either must become a Roman Catholic, or one can not. There is no maybe about becoming Catholic. To become a Catholic, one is required to accept all of that Church’s claims, including its claims about itself. If one accepts those claims, then one has no choice but to convert. But if one does not, one also has no choice. In that case, one cannot become Roman Catholic. And the Roman Catholic Church itself says that one cannot.

I am unable to bring myself to believe Rome’s claims....

[JB note: This became true for me, too. The more I came to know about Rome's claims, through what I've called "having been a devout Catholic," the more strongly I heard the voice of the Spirit who made me uneasy with these claims. And one of the reasons I do not worry about those who are converting to Rome now ... if they are genuine believers, they are, or will soon be experiencing a kind of buyer's remorse.]

Well, then? What about Orthodoxy? I want to claim the Greek Fathers for my own, of course—Athanasius, Cyril, the Cappadocians. I am even excited about learning from such lesser known lights as Leontius of Byzantium and Maximus the Confessor. And I recognize that the Eastern Church never accepted the authority of the bishop of Rome in the way in which Rome came to understand it. And I think they were right in that.

However, as with Rome, there are a number of things that Orthodoxy demands that I cannot quite bring myself to accept. Some are doctrinal niceties, for example, the somewhat abstruse distinction between the divine essence and energies. Or the doctrine of the filioque. I think the Western view is correct on both points. But at bottom, as I said above, I became Anglican because I believed Anglicanism was a reforming movement in the Western Church, and I am a Western Christian.

Mine is the tradition of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, but also of Hooker, and Luther, and Barth. A Western Orthodoxy that was able to embrace and incorporate this Western tradition (including the Reformers) as well as its own would be an Orthodoxy that I would find attractive, perhaps irresistible. But, to the contrary, Orthodoxy often seems rather to be suspicious of this entire Western tradition, including Augustine, and all who followed him. And, of course, such a Western Orthodoxy would look a lot like . . . historical Anglicanism.

As for leaving Anglicanism for another Reformation Church . . . what would be the point? All of the mainline Protestant churches are struggling with the same issue as is Anglicanism. The Episcopal Church is just ahead of the parade. The non-sacramental free church Evangelicals alone have stood their ground, and I admire them tremendously. But I left that tradition for a reason.

Finally, there is another reason. And that is that I am not willing to make this decision as an individual. Many years ago, I left one denomination as an individual, and joined another. I do not regret that choice, but since making it, I am committed to those who have become my companions. I have discovered true companions along the Christian journey in the Episcopal Church, and I do not intend to desert them. You dance with the one that brought you.

...the last thing confessing Christians in all the churches need is once again to draw lines in the sand against one another, to refuse to recognize Christ’s face in those who affirm the same Scriptures and confess the same Creeds. I can only regard the voices of those who ask me to leave Anglicanism for either Rome or Orthodoxy or some other Reformation Church as asking me to deny that the face of Christ can be seen in this Church.
While I'm not totally in agreement with this vision, I like this attitude very much.

Viisaus said: I believe what we need is a combination of truly Protestant and truly Catholic feeling, in the proper sense of both of these words.

We need to be ever ready to energetically PROTEST against the evils of this world, avoiding adulterous friendship with the world (James 4:4) and its easygoing ecumenical ways. Courage to protest even against highly influential notions like the Darwinian evolution, and also protesting against the moral and doctrinal corruption of our church leadership - against both to those who add to and take away from Biblical articles of faith.

We also need a truly CATHOLIC, universal sense of solidarity with all true Bible-faithful Christians around the world - to whichever church or congregation of faithful they might belong to, excepting only those who stubbornly cling to and defend obviously rotten outfits (like the RCC). This will prevent us from becoming a small vindictive Pharisee-separatist sect.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jimmy Akin Comforts the Flock...

"Okay, first of all, this is an interview book. The pope is being interviewed. He is not engaging his official teaching capacity. This book is not an encyclical, an apostolic constitution, a papal bull, or anything of the kind. It is not published by the Church. It is an interview conducted by a German-language journalist. Consequently, the book does not represent an act of the Church’s Magisterium and does not have the capacity to “change the Vatican’s official stance” on anything. It does not carry dogmatic or canonical force. The book (which is fascinating and unprecedented, though that’s a subject for another post) constitutes the Pope’s personal opinions on the questions he is asked by interviewer Peter Seewald. And, as Pope Benedict himself notes in the book:

It goes without saying that the Pope can have private opinions that are wrong.

I don’t point this out to suggest that what Pope Benedict says regarding condoms is wrong (we’ll get to that in a moment) but to point out the status of private papal opinions. They are just that: private opinions. Not official Church teaching. So let’s get that straight." [source]


Of course, Jimmy Akin is fallible, even possibly with these posted comments. Jimmy is serving as the interpreter of infallibility here.

It's also interesting to watch Roman Catholics get a taste of what it's like to defend quotes either without a context, or taken out of context. Fun, isn't it?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Luther and the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)

"One of the seven Old Testament books rejected by Martin Luther and subsequent Protestants was the book of Ecclesiasticus, alternatively known by its “Old Latin” title Sirach." [source]

Well, why according to pop-Romanism?

"Hence, we see that all the arguments generally made against Ecclesiasticus, namely that it was unknown by Christ and the Apostles, is utterly false. The book’s general reception and circulation in the Patristic era also testifies to its divine origin." [source]

Luther's Preface to the Book of Jesus Sirach 1533
This book has heretofore carried the Latin title, Ecclesiasticus, which has been understood in German to mean “spiritual discipline.” Through reading, singing, and preaching it has been extensively used and inculcated in the churches, yet with little understanding or profit except to exalt the estate of the clergy and the pomp of the churches.

Its real name is otherwise Jesus Sirach, after its author as its own prologue and the Greek [50:27] indicate. This is how the books of Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, and all the prophets are named, after their authors. Yet the ancient fathers did not include this one among the books of sacred Scripture, but simply regarded it as the fine work of a wise man. And we shall let it go at that.

Since [the translator] admits in the prologue that he came to Egypt in the reign of King Euergetes and that he there completed this book (which his grandfather had originally begun), it seems to us that he has compiled the best from as many books as he could find. After all, there was a valuable library in Egypt which had been founded by the father of Euergetes, King Philadelphus. Moreover in those days both books and learned men were held in high esteem; and, having come from all over, especially from Greece, they constituted one great school of learning [in Alexandria]. There, too, the Jews had built a temple and instituted divine worship.
That the book must be a compilation is suggested also by the fact that in it one part is not fitted neatly to the next, as in the work of a single author. Instead it draws on many books and authors and mixes them together, much as a bee sucks juices out of all sorts of flowers and mixes them. Moreover, as one may deduce from Philo, it appears that Jesus Sirach was descended from the royal line of David, and was either a nephew or grandson of Amos Sirach, the foremost prince in the house of Judah, living some two centuries before the birth of Christ, about the time of the Maccabees.

This is a useful book for the ordinary man. The author concentrates all his effort on helping a citizen or housefather to be Godfearing, devout, and wise; and on showing what the relationship of such a man should be to God, the Word of God, priests, parents, wife, children, his own body, his servants, possessions, neighbors, friends, enemies, government, and anyone else. So one might well call this a book on home discipline or on the virtues of a pious householder. This indeed is the proper “spiritual discipline,” and should be recognized as such.

Should anyone like to know what labor it cost us to translate this book, let him compare our German with all the other versions, be they Greek, Latin, or German, old or new—the product will bear sufficient testimony concerning those who produced it. In all languages so many wiseacres have gone at this book that—quite apart from its inherent lack of order from the very outset—one should not be surprised if it turned out completely unrecognizable, unintelligible, and in every respect worthless. But we have put it together again like a torn, trampled, and scattered letter, and washed off the mud; we have brought it into shape as anyone can see for himself. God be praised and thanked. Amen. Christians will not criticize us for this, but the world will; in keeping with its virtues, it will manage to thank us as it has always done. [LW 35:347-348]


"One of the reasons Roman Catholics argue for a broader canon is that the oldest extant manuscripts of the Septuagint do contain a number of Apocryphal books. These manuscripts are: Vaticanus (early 4 th century), Sinaiticus (early 4 th century), and Alexandrinus (early 5 th century). The Apocryphal books of Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Judith and Tobit are included in all three, but there are also differences. Vaticanus does not include any of the Maccabean books, while Sinaiticus includes 1 and 4 Maccabees and Alexandrinus includes 1, 2, 3, and 4 Maccabees and a work known as the Psalms of Solomon. If inclusion of a book in the manuscript proves its canonicity, as Roman Catholics assert, then 3 and 4 Maccabees were canonical." [William Webster, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume II, p. 320]

Friday, November 19, 2010

Built on Sinking Sand: The “Scriptural” Foundation for the Papacy

Scott Windsor here says “that (James) White and (William) Webster try to make [the case] that the entire doctrine of the papacy hinges on and/or was created due to this forged document. This could not be further from the truth.”

First, this is not at all what they said. Here is what they said:
In the middle of the ninth century, a radical change began in the Western Church, which dramatically altered the Constitution of the Church, and laid the ground work for the full development of the papacy. The papacy could never have emerged [as a political force in the Middle Ages] without a fundamental restructuring of the Constitution of the Church and of men’s perceptions of the history of that Constitution.
And of course, this “radical change” was that Rome began “foisting” the notion that it not only had spiritual “primacy” (always in question), but that it now also had temporal primacy -- that it could exercise sovereign authority over kings.

The real point that William Webster is making is that Rome has no problem in using lies, forgeries, whatever misinformation it can find to press into service the notion that the pope is in charge of the whole world.

Of course, that use of lies, forgeries, and fictions, has been well-documented.

But the fact that Windsor can get away with mis-stating White and Webster's true intention (and apparently this is an argument he has made in the past) is evidence of the true impoverishment that he and his like-minded fellows unknowingly suffering under.

On to what Scott says is the “scriptural evidence”:
Scriptural Foundation:
Matthew 16:18 – “And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Here we have Jesus bestowing upon Peter (whose name means “rock”) the foundation of the Church. In fact, in the Aramaic, which is what Jesus was likely speaking when speaking to His Apostles, and also the likely original language that the book of Matthew was written in, there is no distinction between the name “Peter” (Kepha) and the term for “rock” (kepha). Hence, if we stuck closer to the original language (instead of transliterating it to Greek and then English), that same verse would read something like: “… thou art Kepha, and upon this kepha will I build My Church.” This one verse alone is enough for one who has The Faith....
This is the thing that I was taught was taught for years. Jesus spoke Aramaic, and so supposedly [no one can know this for certain] Jesus would have said, “You are Kepha, and on this Kepha I will build my church.”

This is ecclesiastical vaporware.

Never mind that we don't have any record of what Jesus said, other than the Scriptural record. So to base an argument like this one: the divine institution of the papacy, on the possibility that Jesus said “Kepha/kepha,” and then to require the rest of professing Christendom to accept this claim, is (a) arrogant, and (b) false.

Jesus did not ever mince words. If he were setting up a foundational structure of popes/bishops, we might have expected a clear and articulate word from him about what exactly he was going to “build”. According to Hebrews 1, Jesus Himself is “the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. He sustains all things by his powerful word.”

Where is the “powerful word” on the papacy? Where is the powerful word on this “leadership for all time,” against which the gates of hell will supposedly not prevail?

Instead, an Aramaic word-play -- I should say, a possible Aramaic word-play, that nobody really understands -- is foundational to Roman and papal authority.

Both David Garland (“Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the First Gospel”, New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1995) and Everett Ferguson (“The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today”, Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1996) point to the 1990 study by C.C. Caragounis, “Peter and the Rock” (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter)

Here’s Garland’s account:
C.C. Caragounis’s study of this passage carefully argues, however, that the rock refers to something other than Peter. The demonstrative pronoun “this” [in the phrase “on this rock”] logically should refer to something other than the speaker or the one spoken to and would be appropriate only if Jesus were speaking about Peter in the third person and not speaking to him. If Jesus were referring to Peter, it would have been clearer to have, “You are Rock, and upon you I will build my church” (Caragounis 89). Petros usually meant a free-standing “stone” that could be picked up; and petrausually was used to mean “rock,” “cliff,” or “bedrock.” But the two terms could reverse their meaning and no clear-cut distinction can be made between the two (Caragounis, 12, 15). If the two words were intended to refer to the same thing, petros could have been used in both places since it could be used to mean both stone and rock. The use of two different terms in the saying, petros and petra, implies that the two were to be distinguished from each other.

The appeal to a hypothetical Aramaic saying is not decisive. Caragounis contends that if an Aramaic word lay behind the Greek petra, it was probably tnra (compare the Syriac version). According to Caragounis, each of the two words in the word-play has a separate referent and a separate meaning (Caragounis, 90). The word-play (Petros, petra) has two foci, similarity and dissimilarity. ”Petros has given utterance to a petra, but the petra is not Petros.” The similarity is “in the sound and general sense.” The dissimilarity is in the meaning of specific reference. Petros, a man’s nickname, refers to a stone; petra refers to bedrock, the content of his confession (Caragounis, 109). The assertion “you are Peter” is a solemn affirmation formula to introduce what follows: “As surely as you are [called] Petros, on this rock of what you have just said I will build my church” (Caragounis, 108-113).
Ferguson takes Caragounis’s work even further, analyzing not only the Syriac, but also the language into the Old Testament, and I'll get into that in the next installment.

Meanwhile, if Jesus ever did speak of the papacy, he did it in terms like this:
Luke 14: Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The papacy is an office that clearly, having been invited to the table as a leader of the church in the capital city of the empire, made a conscious and sustained effort to take a place of honor, which Jesus himself said “is not mine to give” (Matt 20:23).

The New Modern Reformation Work on “Justification”

Take a few minutes and watch this little video introduction by Michael Horton to MR's new book "Justification". It's a great introduction to all of the many issues that are surrounding the topic of justification these days.

In an incredibly easy manner, Horton discusses all of these challenges to justification and really puts the whole topic back into perspective. And yes, he says, we have more "justification" for believing the Reformers' doctrine of justification, than even the Reformers themselves did.

This video is actually a commercial for Modern Reformation's new work "Justification", which is a compilation of articles from the last 20 years or so on the topic of justification.

In this brief 10 minute introduction, Horton first places "justification by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone" in the context of the Reformation Solas, as it leads to Soli Deo Gloria.

Then in short order, he introduces and discusses each of the following (beginning at about 2:35 of this video):

Lutheran World Federation 1999 "Joint Declaration" on Justification
"Evangelicals and Catholics Together"
The New Perspective on Paul
The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther
The Federal Vision
N.T. Wright's "inadequate" covenant of theology

All of these challenges to justification "collapse" sanctification into justification. That's the common element of theories of justification that don't hold to the Biblical norm.

In this new book, Horton says that the authors look at the doctrine of justification both historically and exegetically, and asking, "does the Reformation interpretation of these passages still holdl water?

And his answer is yes, unequivocally, we are more justified than we ever imagined in holding to the Reformers' doctrine of justification.

But don't just imagine.