Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mr. Swine Gets a Room

I'm currently on the 8th floor of a fancy hotel overlooking downtown Durham, North Carolina.All I really need is a quiet, smoke free room. I checked in yesterday, the woman handed me my room key saying "Mr. Swine your room is 327." She was instantly embarrassed, and I enjoyed a good laugh as well.

When I got up to 327, the room was still rock band trashed... so Mr. Swine headed back down to see his front desk friend. This time she gave me a room on the second floor. This turned out to be the handicapped room. I didn't even open the door, and went back down for a new key. This time it was a little more tricky finding a room in the hotel system, but she managed to track one down on the eighth floor.

What could go wrong? The locked connecting door in the room appears to contain a young Robert Plant behind it. This little guy screamed and cried for hours yesterday. In fact, he just woke me up. At one point during his scream fest yesterday, I thought I heard him actually screaming the Atlanta Braves war chant, so I played it on my laptop while he was screaming. It actually sounded great. By the way, click here from one of my favorite pow wows.

Driving down here I let the radio simply scan through the stations. I landed on a sermon by Alistair Begg on patience. It was classic Begg, one in which you forget you're listening to a sermon as it turns into a stand up comedy routine. Little did I realize, I wouldn't be laughing about poor Alistair struggling with patience, once I got to Durham, North Carolina.

The Adventures of Mormon Missionaries

Sitting in my hotel room this morning I came across this clip of a man confronted by two young Mormon missionaries. In the end, it was rather a man confronting two Mormon missionaries. These Mormon kids end up like deer caught in the headlights by the end of the clip. Sure, it's easy to chuckle at them squirming. But as you watch the clip, notice... that's all that happens.

Perhaps these young men were challenged to rethink their Mormonism. Perhaps.

If you're going to rip someones beliefs down, I don't think that is enough. That's just... riping someones beliefs down. Wouldn't a less harsh approach against these particular Mormons been more appropriate? Wouldn't at least an attempt to present the Gospel have been a requirement of interaction? Lest anyone thinks I'm pointing fingers, the first finger pointed was directly at myself.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Child Denied First Communion

Carrie sent this over a few days ago:

Child Denied First Communion: Family Of Floresville 8-Year-Old Fighting For Holy Sacrament

Interesting, the child was denied because he "was not able to understand the meaning of receiving the body of Christ." I find that to be discrimination because seventy percent of Roman Catholics do not understand the Eucharist.

A Sola Scriptura Tidbit

I posted this a few days ago as part of my review of Franz Posset's book, The Real Luther. By the way, Posset is a Roman Catholic scholar.

The most interesting section of this book so far has been Posset's treatment of Luther and the Scriptures. He mentions in passing, "As an aside, on the eve of the 'Reformation' there was a canonistic tradition supporting the assertion of the supreme authority of Scripture over councils or ecclesiastical authorities"(p. 63). He then argues that the reformed friary Luther joined had Constitutions (this document is still extant). In Chapter 17 of the Augutinian's Constitutions "the following directive is given which suggests the meaning of the maxim Scripture Alone,"

[A friar] is to read the Sacred Scripture avidly, listen to it devoutly, and learn it fervently. Sacram scripturam avide legat, devote audiat et ardenter addiscat.

Posset provides a footnote for his "aside" which I plan on exploring.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sungenis Update

"When we consider the fact that, in the sixth century, Pope Honorius was condemned as a heretic by two popes and three councils, and that his name was displayed as a heretic in the Liber Diurnus for the next one thousand years, for merely writing a private letter to bishop Sergius in which he stated that Christ had one will instead of two – an esoteric doctrine that was not easily understood then or now – how is it possible that John Paul II can do all the above in public and not only escape being censored but actually be put on the fast-track to sainthood? By his own admission, John Paul II read the Koran every day, a book denying not only that Jesus had two wills but also denying that he had two natures. And we are going to make him a saint yet condemn Honorius for a private letter? What does this tell us about the condition of the Church today? [source]

While digging around, I found a very interesting tidbit about the debate Dr. White had with Robert Sungenis on Honorius. Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes?

David Palm:
The most famous of these is probably that of Pope Honorius. Gerry Matatics and Tim Staples in public debate argued that Honorius was not wrong and they were soundly defeated by a knowledgeable opponent. Robert Sungenis was all set to try the same approach, but Steve Ray and David Palm convinced him that the approach to the question taken by the famous patristic scholar Dom John Chapman was the correct one: “The Pope and the Council were in agreement as to the necessity of condemning Honorius, and they were certainly right in doing so under the circumstances” (Chapman, The Condemnation of Pope Honorius, p. 9). Chapman goes on to argue that, although this was indeed an official papal document and did address a doctrinal matter, Pope Honorius did not convene the Roman Synod, did not invoke the authority of St. Peter, did not do any of the things Popes of his day were wont to do when authoritatively addressing a doctrinal issue. He was wrong on a doctrinal matter, but he manifestly did not bind the Church to his error.

R. Sungenis:
Yes, Mr. Palm is correct. He, Steve Ray and I agreed in a phone conversation before my debate with James White that it is best to say that Honorius made an error but did not do so while invoking papal infallibility. But Mr. Palm’s mistake here is his attempt to tie that issue to the Galileo issue. The reason is, unlike geocentrism, no one before Honorius taught that Christ had one will, but all the Fathers taught geocentrism, without exception. No one after Honorius taught Christ had one will, but all the medievals, all the saints, all the theologians, all the popes, cardinals and catechisms taught geocentrism for the next thousand or more years. No pope or council condemned what the Tradition taught on geocentrism, nor condemned or rescinded any decree against geocentrism issued by Paul V, Urban VIII, Alexander VII or Benedict XIV, but all of them condemned the idea that Christ had one will. [source]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Never Ending Canon Debate

I recently found this blog entry critiquing something I posted a few months back: Sproul: "The Bible is a fallible collection of infallible books". In that entry, I sought to simply explain what's meant by that phrase. In his response, this particular blogger presents a long basketball analogy and then sums up my position on the collection of the canon saying, "The Church wasn't protected from missing, but in history managed to get the right answer." Does that sounds like something a Reformed person would say? Hardly. This blogger though provoked me to at least stop for a moment and ponder again, the never ending canon debate.

My actual position is that it is God’s sovereign power and providence which protects and  reveals His Word to His church, for His purposes, in the unfolding of history.  Think of it this way: God has providential control over His Word, to the last detail. He is the Divine Author.  A.A. Hodge notes,

God providentially produced the very man for the precise occasion, with the faculties, qualities, education, and gracious experience needed for the production of the intended writing, Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul, or John, genius and character, nature and grace, peasant, philosopher, or prince, the man, and with him each subtle personal accident, was providentially prepared at the proper moment as the necessary instrumental precondition of the work to be done. (Outlines of Theology, Libronix Electronic Version).

As creatures we are dependent on God's purposes in giving us His inspired Scriptures. God "providentially preserves the Scriptures and leads His people to a functional sufficient knowledge of the canon so as to fulfill His purposes in inspiring them" (James White, Scripture Alone, p. 103). For God to do this, His Church need not be infallible. It simply doesn't logically follow nor can it even be proven from Scripture itself that a stamp of approval from an infallible magisterium is needed. Rome thinks it is the true church and that her authority comes from God. It thinks church history is specifically her history.

God's people though have recognized God's Word long before any alleged infallible magisterium came along. Herman Bavinck points out:

As the various writings of the OT originated and became known, they were also recognized as authoritative. The laws of YHWH were deposited in the sanctuary (Exod. 25:22; 38:21; 40:20; Deut. 31:9, 26; Josh. 24:25f.; 1 Sam. 10:25). The poetic products were preserved (Deut. 31:19; Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18); at an early stage the Psalms were collected for use in the cult (Ps. 72:20); the men of Hezekiah made a second collection of the Proverbs (Prov. 25:1). The prophecies were widely read: Ezekiel knows Isaiah and Jeremiah; later prophets based themselves on earlier ones. Daniel (9:2) is already familiar with a collection of prophetic writings including Jeremiah. In the postexilic community the authority of the law and the prophets is certain and fixed, as is clear from Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah. Jesus Sirach has a very high view of the law and the prophets (15:1-8; 24:23; 39:1f.; 44-49). In the preface his grandson mentions the three parts in which Scripture is divided. The LXX contains several apocryphal writings, but these themselves witness to the authority of the canonical books (1 Macc. 2:50; 2 Macc. 6:23; Wisdom 11:1; 18:4; Baruch 2:28; Tob. 1:6; 14:7; Sir. 1:5 [marg.]; 17:12; 24:23; 39:1; 46:15; etc.). Philo cites only the canonical books. The fourth book of Ezra ([= 2 Esdras] 14:18-47) knows of the division into 24 books. Josephus counts 22 books divided into three parts. In the opinion of all concerned, the OT canon of Philo and Josephus was identical with ours. [Reformed Dogmatics I, 393-394].

Greg Bahnsen argues the canon is self-establishing, not built on human authority. That is, "There is no created person or power which is in a position to judge or verify the word of God... men are not qualified or authorized to say what God might be expected to reveal or what can count as His communication... Only God can identify His own word. Thus God's word must attest to itself -- must witness to its own divine character and origin." Does this sound far-fetched? Bahnsen explains:

Those works which God gave to His people for their canon always received immediate recognition as inspired, at least by a portion of the church (e.g., Deut. 31:24-26; Josh. 24:25; I Sam. 10:25; Dan. 9:2; I Cor. 14:37; I Thess. 2:13; 5:27; II Thess. 3:14; II Peter 3:15-16), and God intended for those writings to receive recognition by the church as a whole (e.g., Col. 4:16; Rev. 1:4). The Spiritual discernment of inspired writings from God by the corporate church was, of course, sometimes a drawn-out process and struggle. This is due to the fact that the ancient world had slow means of communication and transportation (thus taking some time for epistles to circulate), coupled with the understandable caution of the church before the threat of false teachers (thus producing dialogue and debate along the way to achieving one mind).

Historical evidence indicates that, even with the difficulties mentioned above, the Old and New Testament canons were substantially recognized and already established in the Christian church by the end of the second century. However, there is adequate Biblical and theological reason to believe that the canon of Scripture was essentially settled even in the earliest days of the church.

Bahnsen argues that Christ ultimately establishes the canon through the apostles (the once and for all spokesmen for Jesus Christ). They were those who were given the authority to speak in God's name, and who spoke with the authority of Christ. It was they who ultimately imposed certain writings as the law of the church. In essence, since they spoke for God, they themselves "the Lord intended for the New Covenant church to be built upon the word of the apostles, coming thereby to recognize the canonical literature of the New Testament." The tradition of the apostles, which is the authority of Christ, was set down in writing so the Church could have their teaching once they died. This isn't simply a position that insists a book merely had to be written by an apostle to be the teaching of Christ. As B. B. Warfield points out,

Let it, however, be clearly understood that it was not exactly apostolic authorship which in the estimation of the earliest churches, constituted a book a portion of the "canon." Apostolic authorship was, indeed, early confounded with canonicity. It was doubt as to the apostolic authorship of Hebrews, in the West, and of James and Jude, apparently, which underlay the slowness of the inclusion of these books in the "canon" of certain churches. But from the beginning it was not so. The principle of canonicity was not apostolic authorship, but imposition by the apostles as "law." Hence Tertullian's name for the "canon" is "instrumentum"; and he speaks of the Old and New Instrument as we would of the Old and New Testament. That the apostles so imposed the Old Testament on the churches which they founded - as their "Instrument," or "Law," or "Canon" - can be denied by none. And in imposing new books on the same churches, by the same apostolical authority, they did not confine themselves to books of their own composition. It is the Gospel according to Luke, a man who was not an apostle, which Paul parallels in 1 Tim. 5:18 with Deuteronomy as equally "Scripture" with it, in the first extant quotation of a New Testament book as Scripture. The Gospels which constituted the first division of the New Books, - of "The Gospel and the Apostles," - Justin tells us were "written by the apostles and their companions." The authority of the apostles, as by divine appointment founders of the church was embodied in whatever books they imposed on the church as law not merely in those they themselves had written.

The early churches, in short, received, as we receive, into the New Testament all the books historically evinced to them as give by the apostles to the churches as their code of law; and we must not mistake the historical evidences of the slow circulation an authentication of these books over the widely-extended church, evidence of slowness of "canonization" of books by the authority or the taste of the church itself. [The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), 441-442].

Christ and the apostles intended the church to recognize the authority of the New Testament writings. Is this not the same process that God used for His Word previous to the New Testament?  Why then should it be assumed the infallible magisterium of the Roman Church is needed to settle the canon? Indeed, God gives His Word to His church. As Bahnsen points out, "Scripture teaches us that only God is adequate to witness to Himself. There is no created person or power which is in a position to judge or verify the word of God. Thus: 'when God made promise to Abraham, since He could swear by none greater, He swore by Himself...' (Heb. 6:13)."

Of interest on this subject  is this mp3 lecture from Greg Bahnsen on the canon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: The Real Luther by Franz Posset (Part Two)

Executive Director of Concordia Publishing House Paul McCain kindly sent me over their new book, The Real Luther by Franz Posset. This is the second instalment of my review (the first can be found here).

Posset is a Roman Catholic scholar. Yes, that's right, the Lutherans published a book by a Roman Catholic. I'm not sure if there is anything reciprocal going on (I assume it's within the realm of possibility for a Roman Catholic publisher to release a book written by a Lutheran scholar).

As I mentioned previously, there's a lot to be thankful for with this book. As I've worked through over half of it now, it's very easy to forget the book was written by a Catholic scholar. That is, it isn't pro-Roman polemical.  It really is a work of scholarship rather than a work of polemic. I would have no problem recommending this book for anyone seeking to go deeper into Luther studies.  I can understand why Concordia published it.

Part Two: Philip Melanchthon's Memoirs as Guide
In order to get to the "real Luther" Posset uses Melanchthon's short biography of Luther. Who better to know Luther than his closest friend? Posset considers this "the best available source for biographical data" (p. 44). Keep in mind, what's focused on here is Luther pre (and including) 1517. What this means is that Posset considers Melanchthon an honest biographer.

One interesting fact in this section is in regard to Luther's entering the monastery. True to his use of sources, Posset considers Luther's thunderstorm vow to St. Anne an unreliable Table Talk entry "thirty-four years removed from Luther's decision to join the friars at Erfurt" (p.53).

Sola Scriptura?
The most interesting section of this book so far has been Posset's treatment of Luther and the Scriptures. He mentions in passing, "As an aside, on the eve of the 'Reformation' there was a canonistic tradition supporting the assertion of the supreme authority of Scripture over councils or ecclesiastical authorities"(p. 63). He then argues that  the reformed friary Luther joined had Constitutions, and this document is still extant. In Chapter 17 of the Augutinian's Constitutions "the following directive is given which suggests the meaning of the maxim Scripture Alone"

[A friar] is to read the Sacred Scripture avidly, listen to it devoutly, and learn it fervently. Sacram scripturam avide legat, devote audiat et ardenter addiscat.

Posset states,

The notions "Scripture principle" and "Scripture alone" are often used as watchwords to distinguish Protestants from Catholics. However, the notion "Scripture principle" is an invention of the nineteenth century and "Scripture alone" as a fundamental concept is much older than Luther, although known primarily as a post-Reformation slogan. As to Luther's biblical theology that follows from the focus given by his order's Constitutions, one should not get trapped in the later theological debate about Scripture and Tradition at the Council of Trent. For the historical Luther the issue was not so much Scripture versus Tradition, but biblical theology versus philosophical theology.

The expression "Scripture Alone" is not found verbatim anywhere in the historical Luther's vocabulary. The young friar simply faithfully obeyed the directive that was given him through the Constitutions. The priority of the Scriptures has a long pre-Lutheran tradition inside and outside of his order. What was new with the developing Reformer is his determination and also his radicalism in the handling and employing of the Scripture principle which he had inherited from the tradition in his religious order, with its practice of Scripture meditation to which any young novice was introduced.

The real Luther wanted to read the Bible without philosophical (Scholastic) filters, and thus without a specific hermeneutics: "Luther demanded for the interpretation of the Scriptures quite a special theory of understanding—namely none." Luther wanted to read the Bible "with closed eyes" (clausis oculis), i.e., closed to any philosophical speculation or other influences such as private revelations, etc., in strictly following the monastic tradition of reading the Sacred Page in the prayerful way of lectio divina, reading it "avidly, listening to it devoutly, and learning it fervently."

He was convinced that Scripture can interpret itself. The eminent Lutheran theologian Gerhard Ebeling (1912-2001) clarified what Luther meant by "Scripture alone" (even as it is not verbatim Luther's own slogan). He meant to express with this concept the self-sufficiency and clarity of the biblical message that brings us life as it is the living, spoken Word of God.

He did not want a "rational" but an "orational approach," praying over the Scriptures instead of reasoning about them (ratio). Luther himself used the paradoxical expression of "reading" the Scriptures clausis oculis and to chew (ruminare, ruminate) on the Word of God alone. Luther was thinking of Saint John, his favorite evangelist, and declared that with closed eyes Saint John sees farther than we do as he remains with the Word of God alone. (p. 67-68).

Perhaps in this early period Luther was indeed more concerned with freeing Biblical interpretation from philosophy, yet not long after that, "Tradition" was indeed an issue.

One final point of interest is the debate over Luther's subjectivism. Catholic historian Joseph Lortz criticized Luther for his subjectivism, individualism, and one-sidedness. Posset though argues "Luther's drive to reforming Bible studies and pastoral care was not caused by 'subjectivism,' a typical Catholic charge..." (p.73). He notes "The issue deserves to be discussed in terms of hermeneutic, but not of psychology" (.73).

These are only a few issues that jumped out at me, particularly since the author is Roman Catholic. Posset cover a lot more territory in this second section than these particular issues. Again, one may think such statements coming from a Roman Catholic theologian are outrageous, but that simply means you've read too much of the Catholic Answers type stuff. A lot of Roman Catholic scholarship is far removed from the simplistic hostile polemic.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Review: The Real Luther by Franz Posset (Part One)

Executive Director of Concordia Publishing House Paul McCain kindly sent me over their new book, The Real Luther by Franz Posset. There is a not-so-subtle irony at play here. I am a staunchly Reformed person reviewing a Luther book written by a Roman Catholic published by Lutherans. This is indeed ecumenicism with irony.

Why would a conservative Lutheran publishing company release a book by a Roman Catholic scholar? This was the first question that popped into my mind when Reverend McCain announced the forthcoming book.  Reverend McCain responded they did so because it is "a very fine book" and I'd have to see so for myself.

Dr. Posset appears to be strongly motivated by underlying ecumenical concerns. He points out early in the book that the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification promoted Christian unity between Lutherans and Catholics who together confess salvation is "By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part" (p. xiv). In an older blog entry, Reverend McCain echoes many of the same concerns I have for this document, noting that the precise formula is rather "justification by grace alone through faith alone" and this "is the only way to avoid obscuring the glory and merit of Christ" that the Joint Declaration betrayed.

Part One: Toward the Anniversary in 2017 (pp. 5-42)
Simply because Dr. Posset affirms this slippery ecumenical formulation doesn't mean he's not able to write an accurate and helpful book on Luther. It's very obvious from his credentials that he's well learned in Luther, being himself the associate editor of Luther Digest. If one were to simply rely on the Internet-anti-Luther polemic put forth by Roman Catholic apologists, one would think it impossible for a Catholic to write a fair or helpful book on Luther. Posset though is one of a number of modern Catholic writers that avoid and decry the vilifying caricature of Luther presented in generations past. These recent Catholic scholars have gone far beyond attacking Luther the person by seeking to truly understand him as an honest theologian. One hundred years ago a book entitled The Real Luther from a Roman Catholic would have attempted to prove Luther to be the spawn of Satan. Today, Catholic Luther scholarship often functions very similar to Protestant scholarship: Luther had his faults, but Luther was also a theologian of the highest rank; a profoundly religious man, a true Christian who lived by a deep faith in Jesus Christ.

Challenging The Reformation Day Story
There's a lot to be thankful for with this book. First of all, it's not simply revisiting the Luther story outlining his life from birth to death. That book has been written thousands of times. If someone is looking for a straight nuts and bolts biography of Luther's life, this isn't the book for you. This book is for someone familiar with Luther's story. Perhaps you've read Bainton or Oberman's biography, or perhaps have seen one of the Luther movies.  You know the basic outline of Luther's life, and you know who some of the key players were. If that's the case, you'll find this book interesting. It will challenge some of the basic historical facts, but not in a confrontational way in which a Roman Catholic author attempts to tear Luther apart in order to have Rome triumph in the end.

The first section of the book scrutinizes the facts and myths of Luther's early years, but not with tedium and dryness. Older Catholic sources have attempted to do the same, but their accounts are often top heavy, droning on for what feels like a small eternity. One need only compare Posset's book to say, anything on Luther written by Hartmann Grisar. Posset sifts the data in a concise reader-friendly manner.

For instance, one tedious Luther debate handled aptly is that made popular by Erwin Iserloh's The Theses Were Not Posted: Luther Between Reform and Reformation. Here Posset concisely sifts through the evidence to determine if the Luther of legend heroically posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg door. Posset also inquires as to how exactly the document disseminated across the land, and what exactly was its correct title? Posset notes the differences between Melanchthon's account and Luther's written statements, but not with indicting either Reformer of fraud. Posset though presents Melanchthon as following hear-say in perpetuating the "door" story, when in fact it would be prudent to simply accept Luther's own account of what transpired October- November, 1517. Posset also brings out the interesting fact that Luther never referred to this document as the Ninety-Five Theses, and the popular commemoration of "Reformation Day" wasn't even celebrated on October 31 but rather on June 25. This lasted up until the 19th Century.

Posset's Use of Primary Sources
His handling of the historical sources is also refreshing. Pointing out how difficult it is to actually handle the primary sources correctly is not mentioned enough by scholars! I can think of very few books that so openly describe what a scholar must really know in order to read Luther as purely as possible. I've had many people over the years suggest I write a book on Luther, but when one reads Posset's overview of what one needs to know to do so, you'll understand why I've refrained. Let's put it this way: It's a lot more complicated than simply learning German.

In many Luther related historical treatments one typically will find references to Luther's Table Talk. With this source one can supplement the historical record with juicy tidbits. These tidbits are often portrayed as a glimpse of the real Luther.  While earlier Catholic writers like Grisar pointed out that they aren't certain fact, he went on to heavily use them, and in the end the reader of his books probably considered them fact. Posset though does no such thing.  It's refreshing therefore to read a Catholic scholar turn away from heavy reliance on Luther's Table Talk, a trait Old Catholic sources gravitated to. Probably half of my Catholic Luther studies involve tracking down obscure Luther quotes, and more often than not, they find their way back to the Table Talk. Luther didn't write the Table Talk. The statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther.  Posset though rightfully argues that the Table Talk does not qualify unconditionally as a primary source (p. 1, 30-31). With insight he states "the real distortion of the Luther image occurred with the Table Talk" (p.30) and that the Table Talk should be read for entertainment rather than as a serious historical guide. Posset himself seems to have undergone a transformation on this score. In an earlier work  he appears to have accepted the truthfulness of the legend of Luther killing a man in a duel found in the Table Talk. This episode is said to have provoked Luther to become a monk. With his current book,  Posset leaves it as an ambiguity (p. 51) and I've been assured he no longer believes it. Posset's emphasis on using the Table Talk without any corroborating historical evidence is a point his fellow Roman Catholics need to hear. While it's true scholarly Catholics have realized this for quite a while, in practice many Catholic laymen still gravitate to this unreliable source exclusively.

The Protestant Sainthood of Luther
Posset argues for dismantling the image of Luther "without the halo" saying "If we want to get to know the historical Luther, present-day 'Protestant triumphalism' needs to be toned down" (p. 35). That's true enough, particularly as he locates the genesis of this image in medieval Catholic iconography.  In doing some research a few years ago, I came across perhaps the height of this image (Robert Scribner, Incombustible Luther: The Image of the Reformer in Early Modern Germany). Scribner documents the way that many turned Luther into a saint after his death. Stories circulated that paintings of Luther refused to burn (Luther's special saint miracle was his incombustibility). It's here though where some sort of ecumenically fair comment from Posset would have been most appropriate. The same sort of disclaimer should be applied to those Roman Catholics likewise consider to be saints. Some sort of statement leveling the playing field would have been a certain sign that underlying commitments were not formulating his view of "The Real Luther." I would have liked to know exactly what presuppositions served to inform his view. Is this Catholic scholar of the opinion that determining the "real Luther" is the same process one should use with all canonized saints? Or, does Roman Catholicism get a free pass in which the saints are not to be scrutinized in the same way? Are stories verifying the saints taken as fact when they may indeed by myth? I would've appreciated a brief discussion of his Roman Catholic presuppositions on this matter.

Catholic Scholar Hubert Jedin pointed out long ago, Roman Catholicism never condemned Luther by name at Trent. He argued no official judgment on Luther exists by which a loyal Catholic is bound. If I'm going to read a book on Luther by a Roman Catholic, I'd like to know exactly where he thinks Luther stands. Posset argues, "We come closer to the real Luther if we keep the following things in mind: First, let us employ the working hypothesis that Luther is neither exclusively and consistently a rebel or heretic nor exclusively and consistently a saint" (p. 36).  Rather than simply choosing one, Posset includes them all. Was he deliberately vague? Here would have been a useful spot where the author could have expressed his view on Luther precisely. For instance, Catholic scholar Jospeh Lortz said many insightful and kind things about Luther, but also said he was rightly condemned as a heretic. Is Luther a heretic or not in this author's mind? Some pop-Catholic apologists have no problem locating Luther in hell. Others don't know. Others think he's at least in purgatory. Here the author could have shown us how far (or not) his ecumenicism goes.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

In celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Ron DiGiacomo at his blog proclaims the resurrection because God’s word, the Scriptures, tell us that Jesus rose from the dead. God is reality and truth and God has spoken and acted in history. God cannot lie. (Titus 1:2) God’s word tells us the reality of what happened.

Dr. White's recent Dividing Line programs on Mike Licona's Evidentialist methodology here, April 19, second half of program and also here on April 21, 2011 are excellent examples and critique of the weakness of relying solely on this method.

"As to who raised Him, I am willing to allow the question mark stand." Mike Licona

I am not willing to let that question mark stand!

God the Father raised Jesus. (Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Acts 10:40; Acts 13:30; Acts 13:33; Acts 13:34; Acts 13:37; Acts 17:31; Romans 4:24; Romans 6:4; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 15:15; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 1:21)

Jesus, God the Son and Son of God raised Himself from the dead. (John 10:18)

And the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. (Romans 8:11, I Peter 3:18; Romans 1:3-5)

All three persons of the Trinity were involved in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Another Scriptural indication of the Trinity!

That convinces me that the Evidentialist methodology of Mike Licona (and William Lane Craig) is weak and insufficient and Mike L. needs to get rid of that aspect of his method - he has some good things; but that aspect really is weak, and anit-climactic and is very disappointing when he says that at the end of his debates. I noticed he said the same thing at the beginning and during and at the end of his debate with atheist Richard Carrier. Mike also said strange things like, “for the sake of argument, the Scriptures are full of mistakes” against Muslim Shabir Ally.

And we can still affirm that historical evidence conforms to the reality of the truth of God Himself!

Historical Evidence accords with reality for Jesus’ Resurrection

(Video from Tyndale House)

The Empty Tomb, the character and variety of the appearances, also show that Jesus rose from the dead. And this is all testified and proclaimed in Scripture. Notice all the Scripture references they give for the different appearances of Jesus.

Ravi Zacharias asks – “how do you frighten someone raised from dead?”; and also shows how Christ is Lord, and is over history as so many famous and infamous people die in history.

May we rejoice in the power of Christ's atonement on the cross and the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bart Ehrman’s “Forged”

On the topic of “why conservatives should read liberal books, and what we can learn from them,” conservative biblical scholars Ben Witherington and Darrell Bock have both now completed their reviews of Bart Ehrman’s “Forged”. To a large degree, the work is less about the New Testament, and more about forgery in the early church, which is an interest of mine. Ehrman, in fact, makes [a very legitimate case] that there were forgeries in the early church; from there he works backward in time and tries to make the charge that parts of the New Testament were forged. Bock and Witherington of course are able to deal effectively with these charges. But in the process, there are things to learn, as well:

Bock says, for example:
Ehrman also does nicely in treating the supposed Epistle of Peter to Titus, as well as The Apocalypse of Peter and The Acts of Peter (as well as the Pseudo-Clementines). These works are forgeries and Ehrman is right to point to them as examples of the phenomena when Peter (or Clement) is named.
These, of course, were works that prompted historians like Eamon Duffy to say that “These stories were to be accepted as sober history by some of the greatest minds of the early Church -- Origen, Ambrose, Augustine. But they are pious romance, not history, and the fact is that we have no reliable accounts either of Peter’s later life or the manner or place of his death.”

My hope is now to provide more specifics about these works, the stories they told, and the impact that they had on these later writers.

And Witherington notes:
On pp. 246-47 quite rightly takes on the Jesus Seminar (go Bart go) and shows they were often wrong, frequently made mistakes, and surprisingly ignorant about ancient writings. For example, Bart points to their statement that plagiarism was unknown in antiquity. Bart is able to show in a mere paragraph that this is absolutely false. Plagiarism was known and complained about bitterly in antiquity (see Vitruivius Book 7; Polybius Hist. 9.2.12; Martial Epigram 1.66; Diogenes Laertius 2.60; 5.93; 8.54). This discussion is all quite helpful, and correct. Equally helpful but unsettling is the evidence from the second century and later of Christians prepared to created forgeries, fabrications, and falsifications supposedly in the name of truth. Yes, this did happen, and not just by heretics either, and Bart has every right to bring it to light, as it can’t stand the light of day. His case for this going on in any of the books of the NT is another matter— it is weak, and more often than not, quite readily refuted and rebutted by those who have studied this material in depth and have written commentaries on all of this. I am one such person.
I’ve not finished all of this yet, but it promises to be fascinating.

For anyone who is interested in conservative responses to other Ehrman works, I’ve found that the videos at The Ehrman Project provide an excellent introduction to these works.

Finally, in looking up some other things, I came across this fascinating picture of “letter composition” in the ancient world. When Paul wrote a letter, he rarely, if ever, would sit down with pen in hand to write. Rather, ancient letter writing was more of an art form, as is outlined here by Robert Jewett in his Commentary on Romans:
Secretaries also routinely refined the rough drafts of dictation or composed letters themselves on the basis of brief instructions. In some instances the secretary acted as coauthor or wrote in behalf of more than one person. Secretaries frequently became the trusted administrative assistants of their owners or employers. But in every case, “the sender was held completely responsible for the content and the form of the letter.”

In the case of Romans, as the rhetorical analysis in the next chapter and the subsequent commentary will demonstrate, there is evidence of careful planning of the structure of the letter and attention devoted to making a varied and often elegant impression on hearers. It would have required weeks of intensive work during which Tertius must have been made available on a full-time basis.
This expense is most easily explained by the detail Paul reveals in 16:2, that Phoebe “became a patroness to many and to myself as well.” This is the only time in Paul's letters that he acknowledges having received funding from a patron, and it is likely that this patronage was directly involved with the missionary project [to Spain] promoted by the letter....

Most commentators assume that Phoebe had agreed to be the letter bearer, but a person of her social class would have her scribe read the letter aloud in her behalf. Phoebe and Tertius would then be in the position to negotiate the complex issue advanced by the letter in a manner typical for the ancient world. For example, a papyrus refers to a letter bearer as qualified to expand on the letter: “The rest please learn from the man who brings you this letter. He is no stranger to us.” (“Romans, A Commentary”, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press ©2007, 22-23).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sungenis Alone

A few days ago I provided a brief Robert Sungenis update: The Continuing Saga of Robert Sungenis. Robert's had an interesting theological journey, that's for sure. Raised Roman Catholic, Protestant convert, elder, preacher, adult Sunday school director (in various Protestant churches), worked for Harold Camping's Family Radio, Westminster Seminary graduate. Dr White reviewed Surprised By Truth, the book that documents his journey back to Rome.

As I pointed out a few days ago, Robert says he's no longer a "modern" Roman Catholic apologist. He's now "a prophet of warning." Here are some recent comments from Robert. He's very unhappy about some of the recent popes. In response to John Dejak of The Wanderer, Robert may indeed actually be a prophet to his church, as he's saying things probably no other Roman Catholic apologist would dare utter:

But why attack me? I didn’t invite pagans to pray to their false gods. I condemned it for the last 10 years in numerous articles and lectures. I didn’t shuffle pedophiles and homosexuals from parish to parish. I wrote a plethora of papers against it. I didn’t give them safe haven at the Vatican. I wrote several papers exposing the Vatican sin‐sanctuary. I didn’t exonerate Luther and allow the Luther‐Catholic Joint Declaration, signed by a high‐ranking Cardinal, to explicitly state that “man is justified by faith alone.” I wrote a book against it titled Not By Faith Alone that has a Catholic imprimatur. I didn’t go against the tradition by putting women in leadership positions and dispensing with head coverings. I wrote papers against it and sent them to the Vatican. I didn’t disobey the Fatima request to consecrate Russia. I wrote papers exposing the cowardliness of the last few popes who disobeyed heaven on this point. I didn’t protect Bishop Marcinkus and his entourage of financial hoodlums in the Vatican. I exposed it. I didn’t accept the tenets of evolution. I exposed it for the fraud it is. I didn’t make it appear as if God has given man universal salvation by using ambiguous language in my writings, and I never suggested that hell might not exist. I wrote papers saying that the Catholic Church has one task, which is to preach the Gospel of the Last Four things – the same Gospel our tradition preached. I didn’t kiss the Koran, or suggest that the Jews still have their Old Covenant, or write a catechism that contained theological errors and ambiguities. I didn’t change the canonization laws, or the marriage laws, or the capital punishment laws, or laws about women’s roles, or any law. I wrote papers showing that our tradition and our Scripture were against all of these novelties. I didn’t watch scantily clad women dance while Mass was being said. I didn’t marginalize and ignore the pleas of a bishop who was merely trying to preserve the tradition (Archbishop Levebre) but instead threw Assisi in his face. I didn’t fail to excommunicate heretical bishops and priests who were spouting heresies. I decried their heresies. These and many more aberrations happened by express order of John Paul II, yet Mr. Dejak condemns me for pointing them all out. I guess I must have burst the little bubble he lives in. I marred the fantastic and idolized image he has of the pope. So the only thing Mr. Dejak can do (since in his essay he decided NOT to defend any of the actions of John Paul II), is to attack the messenger. He hopes that if he can generate a low opinion of me to the audience, then the audience will decide not to listen to me.Clever. That’s what I would expect from the hit‐and‐run artist Mr. Dejak appears to be.

And also:

The only distinction Mr. Dejak and The Wanderer make is that they categorically decided to leave the pope uninvolved, uninterested and uninformed about what the bishops, that he appointed, decide to do. And if,perchance, the pope were the last man on earth to know of these sexually deviant clerics, even then,he consistently failed to remove them from the Church. The clerics rape our children; ordain faggots to say our Masses; and have a pope who looks the other way, but if we dare protest against him we are subjected to the same droning quotes from Vatican I and Lumen Gentium about “submission” from people like Mr. Dejak. Unfortunately, Mr. Dejak doesn’t understand the two‐way street God created for the Church. The hierarchy does its job, but the parishioners do theirs also. They both keep each other in line, albeit in different ways. A groundswell of protest from the parishioners is the quickest way to get the attention of the hierarchy and remind them of their God‐given responsibilities.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Roman Catholic Church "hemorrhaging members"

“The Catholic church is hemorrhaging members.”

Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese, former editor in chief of America, is a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington.

Thanks to Steve Hays at Triablogue for pointing this out:

Other significant quotes from the Jesuit priest Thomas J. Reese:

“They also cited the church's teaching on the Bible (55 percent versus 16 percent) more frequently as a reason for leaving. Forty-six percent of these new evangelicals felt the Catholic church did not view the Bible literally enough. Thus, for those leaving to become evangelicals, spiritual sustenance, worship services and the Bible were key.”

“Contrary to what conservatives [Roman Catholic conservatives] say, ex-Catholics are not flocking to the evangelicals because they think the Catholic church is politically too liberal. They are leaving to get spiritual nourishment from worship services and the Bible.”

Three General Categories (The first two are from the article cited, the last one is a different direction, summary from a different trend.)

1. Roman Catholic to Liberal Mainline Protestants: It seems, generally speaking, that Roman Catholics who leave the RCC for mainline Protestant churches (Liberal both in doctrine and political and social issues) do so because of disagreement with political and social issues of the RCC.

2. Roman Catholics to Evangelical Protestant: But the reason for Roman Catholics becoming Evangelical has to do with thirst for spiritual reality in worship and Bible teaching. They seem drawn to the Bible and wanting to hear the word of the Lord.

The third is conversions the other way - Evangelical Protestants who are becoming Roman Catholic (not in the article, but a summary from the recent trend of the Scott Hahn/based on the Newman thesis/Mattatics/Francis Beckwith and "Called to Communion" (Taylor Marshall, Bryan Cross, etc.) former Reformed folks.

3. Evangelical Protestants to Roman Catholic: And the reasons for Evangelical Protestants becoming RC is, in general, according to them, it seems to me, is a desire for deeper historical ties to church history and the development of doctrine (theory of Newman) over the centuries, and desire for certainty in authority and interpretation; unity in one church; the apparent appeal of mystery in the Liturgy, the Mass and Eucharist [why anyone would find that appealing is strange to me]; and all the strange attraction to statues and prayers to Mary and the saints and things such as “Gothic architecture”[although I personally agree that stone architecture with arches is more beautiful than the plain modern Evangelical churches, they are quite expensive]; and the seeming appeal of intellectual knowledge in more Latin and philosophy.

It seems that the desire for spiritual reality (# 2 – “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me” - John 10:27-30) is more important. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

“You must be born again”, Jesus said. If you are not born again, it doesn’t matter how much of the writings of John Henry Newman or Early Church Father’s * or Latin ** or philosophy *** you know.

* though I try to learn as much as I can now.
** I wish I knew it.
*** I want to understand it better, but under the Lordship of Christ. I Peter 3:15; Colossians 2:8

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Quotable Sippo #12

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.

I think Luther rejected good works because he did not believe in them. He was so depressed and introspective that he had difficulty in finding anything good in his motivation. I think he suffered from the typical scrupulosity problem. Unless he could find himself to be acting out of purely unselfish and disinterested motives, he thought that he was commiting a sin. This excessive pessimism is behind the Protestant idea of "Total Depravity".

Justification by faith alone (JBFA) was used by Luther as what psychiatrists call a catharsis. it is a strategy by which he was able to combat his depression and it kept him from committing suicide. (Read his autobiographical material and you will find this is literally true.)

If we obsessed about our motivations and kept worrying about whether or not we were acting with sufficient beneficence it would distract us from actually DOING good. Staupitz, Luther's confessor, told him to stop obsessing and just immerse himself in the work of his order. The idea was to ake his mind off himself and turn it outward towards doing good. Luther was far too self absorbed to do this and he wore himself out trying to excel at everything. This is what led him to postulate JBFA.

Based on this analysis, it is my opinion that the basis of Protestant theology is mental illness. You can imagine that this does not go over well with our sepbreth.[source]

Luther and the Scriptures by J.M. Reu

Here's a book I spent a lot of money on 10 years ago: Luther and the Scriptures by J.M. Reu. I just found this as a pdf, quite by accident. I don't know whose website put it up, but thank you.

In English, I don't think there's a better scholar on the construction and background of Luther's Bible than Reu. Many of his other books are available via Google and the Internet Archive, but this is the first time I've found this one.

His most extensive treatment of Luther's Bible was
Luther's German Bible: an historical presentation, together with a collection of sources. This is a book I've used, but don't have, and unless I'm mistaken, it's not either in print or on-line (if someone finds it online, please e-mail me). I've looked for a reasonably priced used copy off and on for probably 10 years as well. Most copies are usually between $75-$150.

Update: The link no longer works. I managed to save a pdf of this book, so if someone really wants a copy....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bart Ehrman unknowingly refutes Islamic Polemics

Even Bart Ehrman knows that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried!

This refutes the Qur'an at Surah 4:157, which denies that Jesus Al Masih (The Messiah) was crucified and died.

See “Bart Ehrman: A Hero for Islam?” by Keith Thompson

Keith Thompson has an excellent article that refutes Muslim dependency on Bart Ehrman. He not only shows how using Ehrman defeats the Muslim’s view of the crucifixion, but several other issues also that are key to the Islamic Polemic.

Even Bart Ehrman knows that:
Jesus was crucified,
Jesus was buried,
that Paul met with James and others of the 11 disciples/apostles,
and that the gospel of John really does teach the Deity of Christ!

"In any event, Tacitus's report confirms what we know from other sources, that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate." (footnote 2 in Keith Thompson’s article)

(Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Oxford University Press, 2000], p. 197)

Here are the topics that Keith Thompson covers and shows that each one of the Islamic polemic is not supported by Ehrman.

Topic 1: The Crucifixion of Jesus
Topic 2: Paul the Usurper or Real Apostle of Christ?
Topic 3: Jesus was buried & His Apostles Reported Visions
Topic 4: Does the Bible anywhere teach that Jesus is God?

Another example of Dr. James White's saying, "Inconsistency is a sign of a failed argument."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Further Comments on "Another Thing Needful"

I went back and re-read Carl Trueman's post, and with each reading, I tend to get even more agitated. Trueman is correct that the modern hodge podge of evangelicalism typically has no idea what to do with Romanism. Because of their usual disdain for Reformed theology, they wind up with stuff like Geisler's "Rome is a true church with significant error" or they ignore Rome altogether, and then wonder why their friends end up converting to Romanism.

In this generation, official Roman dogma has been responded to by a handful of Godly men including Dr. White, David King, Eric Svendsen, William Webster, to name but a few. In previous generations, a host of other older Reformed sources have done so as well. God out of his mercy raises up men who exhort us to recall that our differences with Rome boil down to sola fide and sola scriptura. Rome has not changed on her denial of these basic truths. Her theologians may play around with them. Her theologians may try to dress these denials up in new clothes. But the devilish dogmas of Romanism remain consistently against the sole infallible authority of the Scriptures and the pure gospel.

The authors I mentioned above have also engaged Rome's defenders. Each generation will produce Romanist sirens who attempt to woo sheep over to Rome. Anyone who has read through Pastor King's footnotes in his Holy Scripture book realizes he simply doesn't engage Rome's pop apologists (Sungenis, Madrid, etc.).  King also went up the Romanist food chain and dealt with statements from their more "official" theologians. He still continues to do this.

What agitates me about Trueman's blog post is that he seems completely unaware that there have been men in this generation who have done a tremendous amount of work in refuting both Rome's dogmas and apologists. I'm fairly confident though that Carl Trueman has some of the contemporary books by the authors mentioned above. Did he read them? I have no idea. He says, "We need a thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book on Roman Catholicism." I can't help but wonder if Dr. Trueman is simply being an intellectual snob. Maybe there's no "thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book" because the materials available come from a baptist (Dr. White), or from books published personally by pastors (Webster / King). I hear Trueman saying in effect, "We intellectuals need to put out books engaging Romanism. Until we do it, no one has."

Trueman says, "Küng and Benedict represent in many ways the two possible paths of Roman Catholicism into the future. These men are substantial, worthy of sophisticated engagement." I have a feeling that even if White, Svendsen, King, etc. were to write books interacting with Küng or Benedict,  I wonder if Trueman would still maintain a "thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book" was needed.

I have though come up with a plan for Dr. Trueman. Rather than help the evangelical world by writing a definitive book on Romanism, perhaps it would be best to figure out why a few WTS folks have ended up in Romanism or Eastern Orthodoxy. He could start by challenging these WTS folks gone Romanist to public debate. His choices? Robert Sungenis, Gerry Matatics, Kenneth Howell, Paul A. Sauer, Albert Scharbach, or Taylor Marshall, to name a few (these are the ones at least a basic Google search will reveal, there are probably others). Then maybe he could mold some of the WTS curriculum to address issues involving Romanism from the outcome of these debates.

Book Sale

A friend of mine sent me this link to a friend of his selling a significant number of theological books. Some good stuff, reasonably priced.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Jeff Steinberg, “This Land”

This is just a personal note.

When I was graduated from college in 1981, having studied journalism, it was into the recession of 1981. If I recall, it was the second dip in a “double-dip” recession, and Pittsburgh was in the process of having most of its major steel mills shut down. I spent the summer unemployed; in September, then, I saw Jeff in a concert, and I was tremendously moved, at first, by the awkwardness of his handicaps, but then, by the power of his voice, and his love for the Lord.

At the end of the concert, he announced that his current sound man was leaving, and that he needed someone to travel with him who could function as a sound man, driver, and personal assistant. He asked for one year; I traveled with him for the better part of five years.

This song is one of the best, most moving things I have ever heard.

Jeff Steinberg, “This Land”

There is more information about Jeff, and several more videos, at

Friday, April 15, 2011

Evidence for Jesus' Trial and Death as real history

HT: Justin Taylor's blog

The Presuppositional Method of Apologetics is not against using historical evidences.
We are to use these evidences also in apologetic outreach. One of the main points of the Presuppositional Apologetic approach, as I understand it, is that bare evidences are not enough to convince the sinner's darkened mind and hard heart to repent. (The "Noetic effects of sin") God has to change the heart, even after all the evidence is presented and argued for. The sinful heart of man is dead in sin; a slave to sin; and the effects of sin on the mind feed more rebellion and anger at God and His holiness and sovereignty, even after good evidence is presented; unless the Spirit of God does His work on the heart.

This video shows the oldest NT fragment, called P52, The John Rylands fragment from John 18:31-33 and on the back John 18:37-38. (Dated by many scholars as early as 120 AD) It was discovered in Egypt in 1920.

It confirms for us the trial of Jesus, the gospel of John as a whole, Pontius Pilate, and the reasons why Christ came and was to die by crucifixion.

This is very interesting that the oldest manuscript we have is about Jesus' and His statement about Truth (Arabic - Al Haqq الحق ; Farsi - حقیقت "Haqeeqat" and حق "Haqq" and راستی "Rasti"); and about His trial before Pontius Pilate and the reference to His death (John 18:32) "the kind of death He was to die". This is strong evidence against the Qur'an, Surah 4:157, which denies that Jesus was crucified and that Jesus died on the cross.

Even liberals and skeptics like John Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg, and John Shelby Spong know that Jesus really lived in history and died on the cross, under Pontius Pilate as procurator of Judea while Tiberias was Caeasr of Rome, by the instigation of Caiaphas, the high priest and the Jewish council, the elders, scribes, Pharisees, and Saducees; and when Herod was a puppet king of the Jews under Roman rule.

Again, it is ironic that Muslims believe in the miracle and supernatural work of Allah, and that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (see Qur'an 3:44-48; 19:19-21); and yet deny real history. The liberals believe the evidence and history, but deny the miraculous events like the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ from the dead. True believers believe in both the historical truth and reality and that God actually did the miracles in history that the Bible records for us.

John 18:31-33

31 So Pilate said to them, "Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law." The Jews said to him, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death,"

32 to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.

33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?"

On the Back of the Fragment - John 18:37-38

37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

38 Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, "I find no guilt in Him.

In Evangelism and missions efforts with Muslims, it is important to know historical evidences for the crucifixion of Jesus, because Muslims attack and deny the historical reality of the crucifixion.

It is very interesting that the oldest Greek manuscript is from the Gospel according to John, since most liberal scholars don't believe the apostle John actually wrote the Gospel of John; and they did not believe John was written in 90 AD or earlier (there is good evidence that John was also written before 70 AD. Even a liberal scholar, John A. T. Robinson, in Re-dating the NT, believed that the Gospel of John was written before 70 AD.) Before this fragment was found, liberals theorized that John was written much later in the second century.

Archeology confirms the Bible and its truth and its historical reality!

It is also very interesting that this fragment, coming to us by the Providence of God; is about Jesus trial and the statement about the kind of death He was going to die (by crucifixion) is a great evidence against Muslim attacks.

John 19:1-7 tells us later, that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus put to death for blasphemy, "because He made Himself out to be the Son of God".

6 So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, "Crucify, crucify!" Pilate said to them, "Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him."

7 The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God."

Mark 14:61-64
also confirms this for us. They asked Him, "Are You the Messiah, the Son of the blessed one?" This shows the Jews knew that the OT taught that the Messiah would be the Son of God. (Psalm 2:1-12; Proverbs 30:4)

But He kept silent and did not answer Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"


Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, "What further need do we have of witnesses?

"You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death." (Mark 14:61-64)

Mark was probably written between 48-55 AD; Matthew 50-55 AD; and Luke 60 AD; and although most scholars believe John was written around 80-90 AD, there is good evidence that it also was written before 70 AD.

Here is another excellent video on the historical evidences for Jesus, as attested by Tacitus the Roman historian, Josephus, the Jewish historian, and Pliny the Younger and his correspondence with the Roman Emperor Trajan.

HT: Lane's channel

Part 2 of this at Lane's channel is also excellent, with evidence from the early church fathers about Jesus from Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and others.

So, we see in Scripture that we must equip ourselves in the apologetic issues that come up in our evangelism and missions efforts, ready to give answers for people who ask questions and ask us about the hope within us. I Peter 3:15

And being ready in apologetics, Peter says, first, "set Christ apart in your hearts as Lord" or "sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts" or "treat Christ with honor and fear as the Lord in your hearts", in the same way that the Father is Lord (Yahweh) and holy, and we should treat Him as holy and fear Him, in the same way, treat Christ with the same respect. That is what the quote from Isaiah 8:12-13 is alluding to in I Peter 3:13-15. It points to the Deity of Christ. Fear and respect Christ as Lord-God before fearing man. Holiness in our lives, the fear of the Lord, and apologetics will prepare us for evangelism with Muslims.

Notice also the context of persecution, in I Peter 3:13-18; and in the rest of the book in I Peter 1:6-7; 2:12-15; 2:18-25; 4:1-2; 4:12-19; 5:9-10.

"O Lord, God Almighty in heaven, You are holy! - may Your name be treated as holy, since You are already Holy! May Your name be treated holy, first in my own life, and in my attitudes and thoughts and actions; and then may Your name be treated as holy among all the nations; May Your kingdom come and be spread on earth, may Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Give me the grace to fear You and treat You as holy today in all I do. I need You Lord! Glorify Your name!" Amen

see also
Matthew 6:9-10
Leviticus 10:1-3
Deuteronomy 32:51
I Peter 3:13-18
Isaiah 8:12-13

In sharing the gospel with Muslims about the crucifixion, using the lamb sacrifice substitution truth from Abraham, see my previous article here

Praise God for Tyndale House and the scholars and others who have put together these excellent videos

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Wobbly and Heretical Evolution of Rome’s Doctrine of “Real Presence”

Paul Hoffer has commented on Ken’s article on (a) Augustine’s errors, and (b) Roman Catholic misuse of Augustine in his errors.

Hoffer said:
I would suggest that the reader follow the link you have put up to Augustine's words. You may fashion an argument over how Real of a Presence he believed was present in the Eucharist here, but what you can't argue about is that he was talking about something else.

If God truly is in the Eucharist as Augustine writes, then it is entirely appropriate for us to bow down and worship Him there. As I hope to show in the near future, Augustine's views are entirely in line with those of Ambrose, his mentor and the Catholic Church at that time and what the Church teaches yet today. I do recognize that you are merely parroting the opinion of your particular denomination on this matter. I must wonder though how Protestants who do accept the doctrine of the Real Presence interpret the passage in question. How do you reconcile your denial of the Real Presence with those Protestants who do recognize to varying extents the truth of the doctrine?
Paul Hoffer here touches on one of those clearly heretical “developments” that Ron DiGiacomo was talking about, that we should not hesitate to bring up.

Edward Kilmartin, S.J., “The Eucharist in the West” (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press) sheds some light here.
In our day, many Catholic theologians of the Latin tradition favor the notion of the objective sacramental representation of the historical redemptive work of Christ “on the altar.” In other words priority is awarded to the notion that the Eucharistic liturgy is the means by which the historical redemptive sacrifice of Christ is represented sacramentally so as to become available to be encountered by faith. The advocates of this average modern Catholic position have attempted to support their position especially by an appeal to Greek patristic theology.

However, the ambiguity of the precise meaning of the Greek speculation on the link between the historical self-offering of Christ and the Eucharistic sacrifice provides a major obstacle to this argument from the authority of tradition.
I will say it here. Rome completely fouled up its own understanding of the Lord’s Supper; now it looks to the Eastern churches for some clarification of the “ancientness” of its beliefs in this regard.

Now, I don’t know all the angles on the eastern conception of the Eucharist. Paul Hoffer rightly cites Ambrose of Milan (c. 337-397) both as Augustine’s mentor and as one who played a formative role in the western church’s (i.e., Rome’s) understanding of the Eucharist.

However, the view that Ambrose helped to formulate is not the New Testament teaching on the Lord’s Supper, and nor is it the same as what was taught by earlier church fathers, either in the east or the west.

Schaff provides some perspective:
The doctrine concerning the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, not coming into special discussion, remained indefinite and obscure [during the period from 100-325 AD]. The ancient church made more account of the worthy participation of the ordinance than of the logical apprehension of it. She looked upon it as the holiest mystery of Christian worship, and accordingly, celebrated it with the deepest devotion, without inquiring into the mode of Christ’s presence, nor into the relation of the sensible signs to his flesh and blood. It is unhistorical to carry any of the later theories back into this age; although it has been done frequently in the apologetic and polemic discussion of this subject.
Now, where have we seen this theme before?

Nevertheless, Roman Catholics will of course cite various passages from Ignatius and the Didache to the effect that the earliest church, emphasis was not on the mode of Christ’s presence (i.e., “real” or “spiritual”), but on the “worthy participation,” as Schaff notes. And that was Paul’s insistence, too (1 Corinthians 11:27).

Keith Mathison, in his work “Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper,” (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, ©2002), notes that, in discussions of “real presence,” great care must be given to understand “to what extent were the early fathers influenced by Platonic thought?” Mathison cites Gary Macy on the history of the theology of the Lord’s Supper:
Nothing is more important in understanding Christian thought on the eucharist than the simple insight that for most of Christian history, people who wrote about the eucharist just assumed that Plato was right. The most “real” things were those grasped by the mind; the least “real” things were those things that were sensed. “Essences” (or “substances” or “forms”) were always more real than sense data (329).
That is, when an ancient said “real presence,” there was the greatest likelihood that he was saying “real” in the Platonic sense. What was “real” was not that which one could “touch with one’s hands,” – that is, for Plato, “there was a whole world of perfect objects (which he called “forms”) that serve as criteria for the objects of our knowledge, and he argued that we must know the forms with greater certainty than anything else” (John Frame, “Doctrine of the Knowledge of God,” pg 111).

So if something was “real” (consider the term “real presence”), it was not the tangible, physical presence that someone was talking about; “real” was something “out there,” “floating in space,” – quite the opposite of what people understand today when they say “real presence”. Schaff points out that there were, “among the ante-Nicene fathers, three different views” [of the Lord’s Supper], and Kilmartin notes that “the Latin Fathers show less concern for the speculative aspects of Eucharistic theology than the Greek fathers. Their interest is geared more to the pastoral and practical side of the efficacy of the Eucharistic sacrifice and Holy Communion. Also, although acquainted with a Platonic way of thinking about reality, they were less consistent about its application to the Eucharist.” Augustine’s view could be said to be more Platonic:
On the subject of the reception of the sacraments of the body and blood, Augustine describes the gift that is bestowed on the communicant as a virtus, unitas, caritas, by which one is integrated more deeply into the “society of the predestined, called, justified, and glorified saints and faithful.” Augustine views the grace of the Eucharist as that which unites the believers to Christ and to one another. He describes this grace as grace of the Spirit of Christ, signified by the sacrament, and bestowed on believers on the occasion of their participation in the sacrament. The grace is not conceived as though contained, as it were, in the external sacrament. Much less does Augustine teach that the body and blood of Christ are “contained” under the forms of bread and wine. The theology the fourth-century Antiochene [Eastern] School concerning the somatic real presence of Christ under forms of bread and wine is definitely not that of Augustine.

On the other hand, the Eastern theology of the fourth-century Antiochene tradition, as exemplified in the writings of St. John Chrysostom, was clearly and strongly reflected in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan. Ambrose confessed the somatic real presence of Christ under forms of bread and wine, effected through conversion of elements into the body and blood of Christ (5-6).
Kilmartin notes, This metabolic understanding of the change is a new concept which goes beyond what would develop from an image theology. Hence, at least in the early Middle Ages, Ambrose’s teaching also provided the basis for an alternative to the traditional fourth-century (realistic, metabolic-conversion) Antiochene explanation of the process of Eucharistic conversion (18).
On the question of the sacrificial character of the Eucharist, Ambrose provides an example of the difference of the orientation between the Eastern and Western traditions. The Greek Fathers of the fourth-century Antiochene tradition base the sacrificial character of the Eucharist on the concept of anamnesis: the commemorative actual presence of the one and unique sacrifice of Christ on the cross. … Ambrose teaches that it is precisely the liturgical assembly that is the subject of the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice … The idea that each individual Mass has a value in itself as a kind of new act of Christ performed in and through the sacrificial offering of the Church [derives from Ambrose].

Ambrose’s doctrine of the somatic presence of Christ under forms of bread and wine was borrowed from the fourth-century Antiochene tradition. But … it was not “received” within the Platonic horizon of the Greek theologians. However, his teaching on this subject, thus separated from its natural Platonic horizon, became the viable – and eventually triumphant – option in the Latin Church of the early Middle Ages over against the “spiritualized” interpretation of the content of the sacraments of the body and blood linked to the Augustinian tradition. Likewise Ambrose’s teaching about the Christological aspect of the Eucharistic sacrifice shows no signs of the influence of the Greek notion of commemorative sacrifice. This fact, which proves that Ambrose’s “reception” of Greek Eucharistic theology was only partial, is indicative of the difficulty which the Western theological mindset has traditionally experienced in its attempts to grasp the Greek notion of commemorative sacrifice.

By the end of the sixth century this Greek concept, which could have served the interests of a more balanced theology of the Eucharistic sacrifice, was no longer present to the Western tradition. At the same time the tendency of the Western theology of Eucharistic sacrifice toward postulating a complete disjunction between the historical sacrifice of the cross and the Eucharistic sacrifice received additional support from Pope Gregory the Great’s saying that “(Christ) in the mystery of the holy sacrifice is offered for us again (iterum)” [from Dialogorum libri iv 4.58 (PL 77.425CD). This text is one of the earliest that refers to Christ being “newly” offered. Supported by the authority of Gregory it became an important proof text for the notion that the sacrifice of Christ is repeated in each Mass in an “unbloody way” (19-22).
Thus we have come full circle: here we have papal affirmation (and it’s Pope Gregory The Great!) of the very opposite of what the Scripture teaches, in which Christ died “once for all,” and “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Modern Roman Catholicism has tried to play down that embarrassing “repeated in an unbloody way” language, and have made the effort to re-adopt the “re-presentation of the one sacrifice” imagery; but modern Roman Catholics should know that is a Greek concept that Rome once rejected.

For those Roman Catholics who think that Rome’s doctrine of the Eucharist is somehow the Eucharistic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper that was held by the earliest church, you are just simply deceived. You are putting more faith in the vascillating “traditions” of the Roman church, than you are in either the genuine early traditions of the church, or the clear teachings of Scripture on this matter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Roman Catholic wrong use of Augustine

Augustine is invoked a lot by Roman Catholics in his comments on on Psalm 99's Expositions on Psalm 98 (Actually, Psalm 99)

see here also at the ccel site

Otherwise known as
"Ennarations (Expositions) on Psalm 98"

There are 2 big problems with this.

= לַ"L" = "at"; הֲדֹם = "hadom" = footstool. Psalm 99:5 and 9 - both have the "L" preposition. "at the footstool of His feet" and "at His holy hill". לְהַר

"L" = "at"; הַר = "har" = hill

Augustine's sermon on Psalm 98 is Psalm 99 in English.

He didn't know Hebrew (as even Augustine admitted in his disputes with Jerome; and He didn't like Greek, as he also admitted, and he did not know Greek very well either. He and Tertullian before him contributed a lot of good things, but the reliance upon Latin rather than the original languages of the God-breathed Scriptures was a devastating mistake for the Church in history.); it is obvious - God does not say "Worship His footstool for His feet"; rather it says "worship [the Lord] at His footstool for His feet." Worship the Lord at His holy hill. ie "at the temple" or "at or in the earth, on the hill, the temple", etc.

1. Augustine was wrong on Psalm 99 - the Hebrew is clearer than his commentary. Hence, again; the great need for the Reformation and the clarity it brought in separating the good of Augustine from his mistakes and extra biblical traditions.

2. Augustine did not mean any transubstantiation type of doctrine or literally bowing before bread and wine as if they had become Christ - nowhere does he say this kind of thing. He just says that since Christ is both God and man (His human nature is "of the earth"), then it is appropriate to worship Him - which Protestants do without the transubstantiation idolatry and genuflecting, etc. - He is in heaven sitting at the right hand of God the Father; He is not in the bread or wine. The bread and wine are symbols/representations of His once for all sacrifice for sin.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Communicating in America: Advice for Carl Trueman

Recently, I’ve been reading some of Carl Trueman’s work, and I’ve listened to the Medieval church history lectures that Matthew has linked here.

One of the more entertaining elements is that he brings his English culture to America, and one of the funniest lines to come out of that is the statement that “Being born an Englishman is like winning first prize in the lottery of life.” Now, that’s a very quaint thing to say, and I joked about that one for weeks with my wife. (A 12-lecture series takes me about two weeks to listen to, given my commute). Trueman also made jokes about trips out west in which he made some [for him] memorable purchases of cowboy boots and cowboy hats. I really like him a lot.

Back when I was leaving Roman Catholicism, I looked for all the help I could find when it came to “leaving,” and on a consistent basis, I found that help in works I read from the Reformation era. Another thing I found was that these works were consistently grouped with works from the great Princeton lights, Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, and B.B. Warfield. So I followed that lineage, and once liberalism infiltrated Princeton, then J. Gresham Machen carried the Reformation torch across the river from Princeton into Philadelphia, where he organized the OPC as a response to liberalism within Presbyterianism. I attended an OPC for several years before a fire shut them down. (And today I am a member of a PCA church that is probably just a few miles up the road).

I know that the Westminster seminaries have come under fire for one reason or another in the past. I think that this may be because they’ve adopted some positions that are less than popular, and in some cases, they’ve been criticized with good reason. The net effect is one of disappointment because, from my perspective, looking at the tradition of the Reformation, Westminster was the thought leader in America, and when a leader in whom you have some hope fails to lead properly, it is disappointing.

So I, for one, want them to succeed. And now, Trueman is taking some steps toward leading a Reformed effort to understand the Roman Catholic Church in our day, and I, for one, find that to be a very hopeful development. He is noticing that we, in our day, “need a thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book on Roman Catholicism.”

But, if Dr. Trueman believes he is the person to write the book, I hope he would take a cue as to how to approach this topic in a way that will be meaningful to Americans, and not confusing in any way.

For example, my hope is that he does not invent an unpleasant word, like “Refortholics” or something like that. There are clear differences between the Protestant Reformers and the Roman Catholics. And such differences are hugely meaningful, even today.

And here is another caution for him. Speak and write in American. Don’t say things like “Roman Catholicism is the default position,” and “we need good solid reasons for not being Catholic.” I heard him say that in those lectures, and I understand why he’s saying it. It’s rhetorical hyperbole, and he admitted as much. But such use of the language confuses some people and even prompts them to dishonesty.

In this vein, I’d recommend that Trueman consider emulating someone who truly understood what it meant to wear a cowboy hat and be an American.

Before becoming President, Ronald Reagan, among other things, was a prolific writer, and one of his regular contributions was to write, and deliver, daily radio commentary. As it turned out, Reagan wrote his own commentaries, and in the process, he crafted his own policies that, with some historical hindsight, have turned out to have been remarkably successful, not only for himself politically, but for the US and the world.
We the people need more common sense economics and a lot less demagoguery if we are to make or support decisions affecting our welfare. I’ll be right back.
Now, Economics is a difficult topic, but Reagan knew how to boil it down in ways that Americans could understand it. This radio address, entitled Economics I, was delivered July 31, 1978. Reagan was commenting on a California tax-cutting initiative that was known as “Proposition 13”. (I am old enough to remember the news stories on this issue). Labor unions officially opposed the measure, which nevertheless passed. Reagan used the issue to provide a simple lesson in Economics, and this is the style that I think Trueman could adopt.

Reagan perfected a combination of sound policy with straightforward rhetoric that Americans could understand. Cue Ronald Reagan:
Early in July the leadership of the California AFL-CIO met in convention and made a few decisions that will affect the livelihood of the workers they represent. These leaders of organized labor were more than a little upset about the passage of Proposition 13. Meaning no disrespect, I feel compelled to say, the remedies they proposed reveal that they believe too many of the economic fairy tales widespread in our land today.

In the first place they must be out of step with their own rank and file members because those members voted for Prop 13 in large and enthusiastic numbers.

But where the fairy tale shows up is in the conventions decision to battle for reimposing the property tax that Prop 13 cancelled back on business and industry. They said it was a $3½ billion break for business and therefore by their reasoning bad for the individual citizen. If they have their way, that $3½ billion will end up being paid by the very individual citizens they claim they want to help.

Let’s take the case of a corner grocer in a nice middle class neighborhood. The store keeper rents the building. Everyone who shops there can understand that he must charge enough to cover the wholesale cost of the things he sells, wages to helpers and his rent, plus a fair return for himself so he can make a living. But now supposing he buys the building? There is no more rent but there is interest on the mortgage and property tax instead of rent. Obviously he can’t stay in business if those costs can’t be recovered in the price of the things he sells. And just like his wage earning customers (many of them union members), he has to make enough gross income to pay his living costs—after he has paid his income tax.

What this all adds up to is that government can’t tax things like businesses or corporations, it can only tax people. When it says it’s going to “make business pay,” it is really saying it is going to make business help it collect taxes. Into our corner store comes a regular customer to pick up a loaf of bread on his way home. We’ve already covered the fact that the grocers mark up includes a share of the property tax on the store. But the truth is that the wholesale price the store keeper paid to the bakery includes [the bakery’s] taxes, and more than 150 others going all the way back to the farmer who raised the wheat. If he can’t get a price for his wheat that will cover the real estate tax on his farm, he can’t stay in business either. If the trucker who hauled the wheat can’t charge enough to cover his license fee and gasoline tax, he can’t stay in business.

Union leaders will serve the men and women they represent a lot better if they’ll drop the demagoguery and take a simple course in economics. This is Ronald Reagan. Thanks for listening.
So Dr. Trueman, I hope you will continue to write about Roman Catholicism. In our day, it truly is a needful thing. But what’s most needful in this respect is to call an Evil Empire an Evil Empire. That kind of honesty, unpopular though it may be, is the kind of thing that helps to accomplish genuinely meaningful things.